Monday, May 19, 2003

Okay, now I'm a little sore. My neck is sore from when I landed on it trying to exit the trapeze bar. My abs were stiff today. Don't recall ever having stiff abs before. I guess the swinging must have worked those muscles without me being aware of it. My trapezius (duh) muscles and shoulders were sorta tight today too.

While I was in savasana today, I was thinking of something that I thought would be interesting to put in the blog . Course, now I have no idea what it was. So much for the concept of focus. Sometimes I think helpful things in savasana, sometimes I just daydream, probably like most people. At least I hope that happens to other people and not just me.


I think I have a different fantasy of what is "supposed" to be going on in savasana than others may. I guess I heard somebody propose this concept and it made sense to me. Maybe I extrapolated it from Tim Miller's Alchemy of Yoga article. In the course of the asana practice, the practitioner undergoes a variety of changes as a function of his/her activities. First, and maybe foremost, is the change of attention, from a general awareness of everything around to a more internal focus. The student gradually trades the distracted awareness for one that attends to how the body is doing internally, both physically and energetically. As the student moves thru the asanas, some physical changes occur that we are all familiar with. We become more flexible and we generate considerable internal heat. The flexibility helps remove the distractions of the physical body, we can repose in comfort. The generation of heat is sort of like the body as a combustion chamber. The body is distilling the prana, the internal energies, purifying them, readying them for later use. The breath acts as the bellows, adding fuel to the furnace, creating a greater, more effective heating of the internal energies. The visual I think of for what is going on energetically thru the course of the practice is of a small team of barracudas that circle their prey, a school of some small fish. They herd them into a smaller and smaller and more concentrated ball of fish. Then, when they are packed in as tightly as possible, they take turns, knifing thru, getting huge mouthfuls in one pass. The exertion and focus of the practice is concentrating our energies inside us just like that balled up school of fish. Then, the finishing sequence allows us to begin to slow the physical aspect down while maintaining the focus of attention and keeping the prana or energy in its newly concentrated state. Then, once in savasana, we let everything else go. We no longer attend to our breath, we cease our exertion, we stop trying. We let what happens happen. We focus on whatever we are focusing on as we rest and release our attention to anything else. The energy, no longer needed to drive our bending, no longer held in and concentrated by the practice, can be applied to a single point of focus, our internal thoughts. Or maybe, even better, our internal thought. That's how I view it, the process of generating, concentrating and then applying energy to as narrow a field of attention as possible.

But, until I'm educated otherwise, my understanding is that we shouldn't necessarily be trying to control what that point of attention is. To do so is actually a diffusion of the focus. The trying to control a thought pattern would become a secondary, distracting focus. The attention should be on whatever our mind goes to. Over time, by applying the energy to a narrow point of focus on a regular basis, we possibly begin to learn how to engage the other arms of ashtanga: pratyahara -- sensory withdrawal, dharana -- concentration, dhyana -- meditation. Ergo, the "All is coming" aspect of asana practice.

Course, I may have misunderstood things. I discussed my understanding of savasana with somebody once. They agreed with some of it and some they didn't feel was accurate. They may be right, since half the time I forget what I was thinking about before I'm out the door of the shala.


And that wasn't even what I was thinking about today. I just felt the need to go on a tangent. Happens to me sometimes. Looking back over my previous posts, I guess it happens a fair amount.

I've had an unusually good run of practice luck this week. Four practice days in a row, today being the fourth. I went to the noon Prep class today. I get off work at 8:00 and mysore starts at 7:00 most days, so when I've been on call over night, mysore class is usually not an option. For today, the remaining options were the prep class or Tim's intro class in the evening. I like the prep teacher a lot. Much like in Tim's intro class, she gives a lot of very helpful verbal cues on the fundamentals of the asanas. We don't do all the postures in the first series, and we do some postures that aren't in the first series, but it all adds up to a stronger first series practice. It's kind of like an athlete breaking down their sport, say baseball for example, into parts and working on the segments to help refine the overall performance.

I was glad to be able to do the first series prep today. After doing improv on Saturday and 2nd series on Sunday, I didn't want to go another day without some forward bending. I can't practice tomorrow because I'm on call again. So, it helped to get this in today.

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