“PHEW, THAT WAS A STRUGGLE” “I struggled tonight”, “is it always such a struggle?”. Hardly a day goes by when I don’t hear the word ‘struggle’ exclaimed after a class by someone new to this practice. Yes, such exertion and discipline can be a struggle whether you are new or old to practice.
Ask yourself (after making a commitment to practice wholeheartedly for some time): Is my life overall enhanced by this effort I am putting in that I currently call “struggle”? is it worth it? Do I write ‘stuggle’ off as a modus operandi and give up? Should I just accept that sometimes I will ‘struggle’?
Dear new Bikram Yogi ~ overcome your struggles patiently. Struggle is not equivalent of failure; struggle is a stepping stone to success. The struggle must be keen and effort must be sincere. You are making your body your obedient servant, the tool that it is. Don’t give up simply because you ‘struggled’ through a class. ‘Struggle’ as long as you can each time. Each time you will be nearer success. When you are new, coping with your struggle may be as much as part of the practice as the asanas are.
Once you have been practicing for a while consider ‘tho: IS ‘STRUGGLE’ THE PRACTICE? You don’t always want to be struggling do you? Do you learn HOW TO be better at struggling? OR learn HOW NOT TO struggle?
HOW DO YOU ELIMINATE STRUGGLE? MMMMM
There ARE techniques to help you with your personal struggle. Take this from one who has done their fair share of it 🙂 . Much of this you have heard me say in class; I thought I would try to put it all together in written form as sometimes this is absorbed more easily outside of a the class environment where you have so many things to think about when you are new.
1 ~ BREATHE: but this is not news! Bring your breath to the forefront of your practice today.
2 ~ Initially, DO WHAT YOU NEED TO DO to get you through class – remember its only Yoga and you have taken your first step in the right direction by just turning up. Yes, I’m the boss 🙂 but you’re in charge; rest when you need to. Struggle on if you must, and break some rules of thumb if you must, you’ll be constantly reminded of them in class anyway so what does it matter, you will get them in the end…
3 ~ STOP repeating the familiar old unhelpful phrases in your head they will put you in a mode of struggle with your practice: phew its hot in here, how much longer, is it hotter than usual, not making progress, not getting anywhere, this is too hard today, how much longer. Forcing yourself to proceed against a wave of these does not produce the best outcome. Find a new “mantra” or happy thought/phrase to repeat, it will act as a shield to block negative thoughts. It can be simple; one of mine when I first took up practice, although I see now it could be considered not so kind towards oneself, it did serve for a time, was Nike’s “Just Do It”.
4 ~ LEAVE YOUR EGO OUTSIDE THE ROOM: Each class is not the Yoga Olympics. You don’t have to go for gold. You don’t have to blow anyone away with your adeptness at the postures… and you don’t have to pour every ounce of energy you’ve got into your first backward bend (believe me I learned the hard way on this one). Let go of your last good performance; every time you measure yourself against it you will probably come up short for the most part, further struggle and frustration are the most likely outcome of this. Forget about it, it is in the past. Start each class anew as if you have never done it before and you will have a good class every time “There are many possibilities but the expert has few” Suzuki.
5 ~ MINDFULNESS: read “The Power of Now” or something like that. Or don’t read it. Just be present in your head during your 90 minutes keeping your mind on the job in hand; don’t be deciding what your having for dinner or what your going to wear to work tomorrow. ‘BE in the present moment. The only place where life truly exists.’
6 ~ FOR GOAL-DRIVEN TYPES: It’s a practice not a perfect. Although you will hear the teacher use the word, there is no such thing as a “perfect” posture in the sense most people think (visually) it has to be a combination of the physical and occupying the posture mentally. Rather than muscling your body into form turn your focus to moving gracefully from one pose to the next, being in the moment, being on the right journey and not at the wrong destination. Being present, easy and relaxed. Do this and as your reward you will get an increasingly limitless capability to create any reality you want both inside and out; the world’s your oyster. You only need to put that understanding into how you practice and then it infiltrates how you live.
7 ~ MINIMISE YOUR REST TIME MOVEMENT: e.g. see ‘Happy Hydrating‘ for suggested efficient times to drink water. Make sure your hair is secure before you start class so you don’t have to mess with it when you could really do with a few extra slow deep breaths. Try breaking that old habit of hand wiping to free up some more time for breathing. Forget about the wrinkle in your towel or that your water bottle has accidentally fallen on its side and rolled, nobody around you cares, they are all working too hard.
8 ~ SQUEEZE TO RELEASE!!! this is a great way to get rid of excess… Whatever your ‘hot’ issue is, it is probably sapping a huge amount of your energy. It is ok to feel tearful, frustrated, or other emotions. Expect and accept that a regular practice might bring up “stuff”; we could all do with a bit of decluttering of the body and the mind. (This method works for many things but these words are not to diminish the issues, please see my profile where I say Yoga is not a cure for life but it does provide a proven method for dealing with what life throws at you.)
9 ~ WORK WITH INTENTION and deliberately and methodically on your body’s current needs each day. Everybody has their one pose that is a bigger struggle; but no matter how much you struggle and try to force it, it doesn’t make it any easier. One day, you will just let go, and your body will find its way into the pose. It will just click. Breakthrough! That’s Yoga!
10 ~ AND THE BIG ONE – SO IT’S HOT IN HERE, ISN’T IT?: You can have an exceptionally strong classes in a scorching hot room and had to sit several times in a relatively cool room, it almost seems like there’s no rhyme or reason! There are so many variables and trying to get the exact right combination and keep everything external to you perfectly under control is nigh on impossible. Temperature can vary a little from class to class, studio to studio, country to country. Climate, season, heating technology, class numbers, hydration, what you ate, what you didn’t eat, timing of alcohol, sugar consumption, other activities you have done that day, day before, immune system compromised, frequency of practice are just some of the variables that will determine your perception of how hot it feels for you. A Bikram Yoga environment is hot & humid generally; so in class consider taking a layer off, expose more flesh. In Bikram Yoga this is not a vanity thing it is a practical move to allow the sweat to evaporate from a larger area of exposed skin. Obviously modesty must prevail 🙂 and I know some are shy; took 3 years to get me into a pair of shorts; best move I ever made, never looked back. Often it is not the environment but your response to it that gets you into trouble with struggle. Think: there is little you can do to change the variables once you have started your class. Trust me, the best you can do, is to adjust your level of effort based on your quick assessment of the environment and how you feel on any given day. If the heat doesn’t feel like much to contend with, concentrate on checking your technique and hold your poses stronger, lift your leg a little higher, sit a little deeper in awkward. When you are tired, back off effort slightly and concentrate on surrender and relaxation. Do these and you will have a practice that is a more authentic reflection of where you are at.
You will always work hard ‘tho and you will always sweat! The asanas are challenging – except for those that aren’t for your body (lucky you): NOW we are talking Yoga. We are talking discipline, working in a challenging environment and your body learning to use its own intelligence. So Yoga is a lot like life. You struggle and you struggle and you struggle. But you have no control over it (albeit we think we do). Ultimately you have to just stick with it and see what happens – the truth will out.
Om Om Om Resistance is Futile! The Yoga is gonna getcha! 🙂
Namaste ~ Trisha
written around Oct2011