It almost seems too soon to be celebrating such a minuscule achievement, but I can’t help but feel grateful for having not given up already. The main reason behind the Challenge is to encourage daily practice, rather than encouraging a ‘counting down’ of sorts whereby the legacy of Bikram Yoga ends at the end of the Challenge. I did say I would try and psychologically persuade myself to stop my countdown… however, maybe this is premature as well.
Alexis led the dialogue this afternoon, and what’s great about her teaching style is that a) she’s considerate, b) she corrects you and c) she pushes you. When I found out she was instructing the class, a part of me was relieved (as I knew I would improve)…. and another part of me was disheartened (as I knew I couldn’t slack off!). The end result was that I sweated a lot, found the heat particularly challenging, but did notice a significant increase in my own effort to improve on certain postures.
I don’t know whether other Bikram Yoga practitioners get a similar sensation, but I know I’ve worked hard and I have progressed in a certain posture when, during Savasana (Dead Body Pose), I get a tingly sensation in my limbs or on my shoulders. I also feel I’ve been successful when I suddenly sense a very, very short gust of cool air crawling up the bottom of my spine. It only lasts a second, and I often fail to notice it when it occurs, but when I do manage to observe this change in temperature, it motivates me to get through the full 90 minutes of class.
Today, I felt particularly strong when completing the Awkward pose (Utkatasana). Hmmm…How can I describe the Awkward pose? You stand straight with your feet about 6 inches or so apart. You raise your hands and arms parallel to the floor, keeping your palms down with all of your lovely, sweaty fingertips together, side-by-side. Whilst exhaling, you slowly sit down, as if about to sit on a real chair, keeping your back absolutely straight, with all of your weight on your heels. I always feel as though I’m about to fall over during this posture, and somehow, I’ve managed to escape this. I’m quite confident I sat fairly straight on the chair today, albeit with thighs so tight I felt like the ligaments and tendons along my leg were about to snap and go inside-out. (If that’s possible).
What I’m particularly bad at, however, is the Standing Bow Pose (Dandayamana-Dhanurasana). For those of us who are less familiar with the posture names, this is one of the balancing postures of the standing series that aims to firm up the abdomen muscles, thighs, upper arms and mum, as well as strengthen the lower spine. You literally stand on one leg, with the knee locked. You bend your opposite leg at the knee, and use the same arm, palm gripping the front of your foot, with your opposite arm straight up in front of you. You then kick the leg your holding up and simultaneously push your body down towards the ground. You kick and go down in opposite directions as high as you can until eventually you achieve a standing split.
I’m most certainly no where near a standing split; I can barely see my toes at the top of my head as is encouraged by the instructors. For the longest time, I felt as though I wasn’t becoming more flexible or strengthening any part of my body, as I spent most of my energy trying to keep my balance. My greatest improvement to this posture occurred when one of the instructors, Karen, had encouraged us to kick up with our leg as much as we could before attempting to bring our bodies down. This, she said, would automatically lead our backs to arch and bend in the way that could attract the highest amount of medical benefit. I did feel as though this extra advice to the dialogue really helped to improve my own flexibility and understanding of this posture. I still, however, need to practice further to truly feel confident with this.
Plenty of time to improve, I suppose! Focusing on improving individual postures is most certainly much more constructive during this Challenge than focusing on the Challenge’s end! Wish me luck, and I’ll share how day 4 goes tomorrow.