On the surface, Bikram Yoga might seem a bit repeatitive. We do the same postures every time we come to class. We hear the same dialogue. It’s the same thing day in and day out, and yet it’s not.
If you’ve been practicing long enough, you already know that one major difference anyone can experience day to day is how our body performs in any posture. Achieving – or not achieving – a particular depth in a posture on one day is no guarantee that we will achieve it the next. Our body is where it is at that moment in time. It’s going to do what it’s going to do. And this makes us learn to accept our bodies, ourselves, and not set expectations of what anything should be. In that aspect, the repeatition is beautiful.
But I’ve slowly started to notice another way that the practice is the same and not the same all at once, and it has to do with the dialogue. How well do you think you hear the dialogue? I’m not asking if you can recite dialogue. I’m asking how well you hear it. Because I have realized that no matter how well I think I am listening, or how much I assume I understand the dialogue, I really don’t hear it and grasp it as well as I might assume. Yes, even after three years of practice I don’t think I am fully hearing the dialogue.
I was reminded of how well we hear the other night when I was teaching class (not a yoga class because I don’t do that, but a university class). A student was relaying an experience with the class and made a suggestion for how I might approach an assignment differently next time. It was a great suggestion. I totally agreed with it – and it was also an option they always had available to them for the entire assignment.
A year ago I might have felt frustrated. I might have felt like this student wasn’t paying attention/reading/listening etc…. But the other day I smiled and said I agreed that what she had done, what she thought was her idea and her’s alone, was great. And no, I didn’t correct her. I didn’t see the value in that. And right there, in the middle of this moment with her, I made a connection back to the dialogue in Bikram.
About a year ago, I was visiting another studio out of state. I don’t recall what posture I was in or what was said. I only know that during the class I had a moment where I believed the instructor had gone off dialogue for a moment in a posture. And, at that moment, the instructor said the most perfect thing in the world to help me with that posture. It increased my understanding tremendously.
When I returned home, I paid attention in class and learned that the instuctor had not gone off dialogue. What I thought had been a moment of free-styling had always been present in the dialogue. These words that helped me so much in the moment were words that had been said in my presence for years, and yet I had never actually heard them.
Why is that? Why is is that years in we are still hearing the dialogue – those same words – in new ways?
My current understanding is I heard something new that day because I was ready to hear it. I was ready to take in that information, process it, and work with it. This means that there is always something new to hear. Even though we may have been to class 1000 times, we probably haven’t really heard all the dialogue (and keep in mind, our minds wander during class too making our hearing selective!).
I also suspect that there are moments when we hear the dialogue in new ways. Something that we have been aware of suddenly becomes clearer , more relevant or even raises questions for us where there were none before.
It means that desipte the seemingly repeatitiveness of Bikram yoga, that repeatitivness is only what you see on the surface. Dig in, spend some time with it, and it becomes clear that this practice is anything but repeatitive.