Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Doing Camel Pose for Two Minutes Makes Me Cranky

I go to Bikram Yoga for a lot of reasons. James, if you are reading this, it's debatable whether or not self-imposed torture is among them.

If you like summer in the deep South ... For those who didn't read my other post where Bikram Yoga was referenced, I'll repeat and elaborate: Bikram Yoga is two sets of 26 postures done over a period of 90 minutes in a hot, humid room. Some of the postures are easy, well, easier than the rest of the postures. Most of the postures are hard for me because I'm not double-jointed or limber, and I'm not terribly strong physically.

Mind over matter. Bikram teaches the teachers that the mind commands the body. "Oh this is a mental posture," the teacher says when instructing the class to stand on one leg and hold the other at a 90 degree angle with foot flexed, with head to knee, if possible. Yeah, right. My body isn't buying that theory on most days.

The dreaded Camel pose. A couple of the teachers like to lengthen the Bikram-approved timing for the Camel pose from about 30 seconds to two or three minutes. In the Camel pose, one's body basically simulates a wagon wheel ... a complete 360 degree backbend. If I leaned one inch further back, I'd be rolling toward the door. By 30 seconds into the Camel, my legs are in screaming pain, which incidentally is a justifiable reason to "get out of the posture" and begin Savasana (dead body pose, imagine that). And most of the time, I do escape, though if I am not feeling pain, I have held the posture for as long as 75 seconds, or got back in for a second round before the two minutes expired.

Breathe. The teachers say the secret to holding the Camel is in the breath. I've never been a fan of breathing. Maybe this is a side-effect of my asthma, which incidentally has improved with almost six months of yoga practice. The goal here is not heavy breathing but normal breathing. Normal breathing? Through the nose with breath at a normal rate and volume.

A final thought. I suppose if we can breathe normally amidst incredible exertion or extension, maybe that which happens to us outside of yoga will be bearable, almost effortless. And some days, life outside yoga is comparatively effortless, even when perhaps it shouldn't be, which is why I keep going.

That said, I still hate two minute Camels. Gotta run ... yoga class starts in 30 minutes.

Photos courtesy of Angela Fairbanks Photography

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