Turns out, the skills I learn in Bikram yoga come in handy all the time and in the most interesting places. Last time I blogged, I said I would fill y’all in on my rappelling experience in Puerto Rico. And I really want to get to that because it involves applying several things from Bikram yoga: (a) locking the knee, (b) focusing on breath, and (c) staying in the moment.
I was very excited to get to the rappelling portion of my trip with Acampa. I had never been rappelling before, but I wasn’t worried. In fact, that was one of the main draws of the trip. I was going to rappel 100 feet down alongside a waterfall. I knew the guides would be in control of the situation.
When we got to the rappelling portion of the trip, I happened to be at the end of the line. The last person. The last place I wanted to be to tell you the truth. I had about 11 other people in front of me. As I watched each person go, I realized we averaged about 10 minutes a person from start to finish (no one knew what they were doing). Do the math, and you will see that I had a very long time to stand around and imagine what my rappelling experience would be like. But that’s ok because that’s when I started using what I had learned in Bikram to make it a good experience.
Lock Your Knee!
As we began our rappelling adventure, one of the guides stayed at the top and the other went to the bottom. As we watched the first one go, we got a brief explanation of what to do. Once you get hooked up, the basic directions were to lean back as far as you could and extend your knees.
I remember thinking, “Extend your knees???? Wha???” But then I realized they wanted us to lock our knees and keep them locked all the way down. Lean back, lock your knees, and away you go. I am real good at locking my knees. I get the concept. Once it clicked for me I actually got a little happy. I get to lock my knees outside the hot room for a non-yoga pose. How cool is that? So locking my knees – not a problem. I actually felt bad for all the non-Bikram people on my trip (which was everyone) who were not familiar with the lock your knee concept.
Focus on Your Breath
Focusing on my breath came in handy more than once during this portion of the trip. First, it came in handy when I was the last person in line. The thing is, I couldn’t actually see where I was going when I went rappelling. All we could see from where we stood was the very beginning. Once a person dropped over the edge we lost sight of them. So I had no idea what awaited me. I watched people struggle in the beginning, and I started to panic a bit. But then I realized that panicking for an hour or more while I waited for my turn would do me no good. So I breathed and did the last thing which was…
Stay in the Moment
For awhile, my moment was all about standing in line. I realized I had an opportunity to listen to our guide at the top repeat the directions to 11 other people before I went. So I took advantage of listening fully to those directions each time they were given. I had the opportunity to talk to other people in line. I did that. What I did not do was let my brain wander off and make up stuff about what would happen when it was my turn. Believe me, it tried.
All Together Now!
Finally it was my turn to go. I admitted to my guide that I was nervous. I also decided to go as slow as I wanted to (a turtle could have beat me down and I do not care). Then I started in. The first thing everyone had to go was conquer a giant rock. I had to lean back, lock my knees(!) and drop down next to a large rock. Then, I had to swing around to the left of the rock. From there, I was supposed to continue down to a ledge. I would land on a ledge, take a few steps back, and go down a slick wall of rock. I would eventually land in a pool of water.
I leaned back and locked my knees no problem. Assuming the stance for rappelling was easy for me. I started going down making my way towards the rock. When I got alongside it, my guide at the top called down, “You can look down now and see where you’re going.”
Look down? “I don’t know if I want to look down,” I said. I certainly didn’t have to. He just thought I might want to see what it was I was getting ready to do.
Ok- I looked down and saw – oh crap what the hell have I gotten myself into?
I panicked. I lost my focus. I lost my breath. I lost me locked out knees. Do you know what happens when you lose your stance and your focus when you are next to a giant rock in this situation?
You eat the rock.
I slammed hard into that rock. My left knee landed on top of it and dragged across it a bit. My guide wanted to know if I was ok. Yes, I was ok. No, I was not bleeding. Yes, I was panicked. But where was I gonna go? I was at the very beginning. I had a long ways still to go. It was too soon for this!
Somehow I resituated on the left side of the rock like I was supposed to. I focused on leaning back, keeping my knees locked, breathing, and slowly going down. Eventually I hit the ledge, and then I was on slick rock before I knew it. I could hear people talking, but I didn’t dare look down to see where I was in relation to them. I somehow lost my posture and smacked the wall, but I managed to get myself back in place.
I thought a lot about my yoga practice after I had gotten unhooked. It reminded me of being a beginner again where the main focus is staying in the room and doing what you can to make it through the class. Sit down if you need to. Take water if it helps. If you panic, try to find a way to let it go.
For everyone that has been practicing for awhile, and has lost the mindset of a beginner, put yourself in situations that challenge you in some way. It’ll bring you to a space that will help you recall what it’s like to be new in the room again, and it’ll help you (well, it helped me) feel some compassion for the beginners if you’ve lost it. It’ll also show you all the ways you can apply what you do in the room outside of it and show you just how connected this practice is to everything we do.