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I’ve been attending relatively regular Bikram yoga classes since late May, and it occurred to me yesterday that the time might have come to take stock of my practice and reflect on how it’s going.

I took extremely well to Bikram right off the bat; the intensity of the heat and humidity took some getting used to, but the poses were largely familiar from past yoga experiences, and, with a few exceptions, my body likes them. I had a fair bit of soreness for the first couple of weeks, mostly in small connective tissues that hadn’t really been worked to that extent before. Like the muscles that hold your rib cage together; most of my back was fine, but those tiny little muscles between my ribs ached like mad.

That soreness has since faded, as has the tendency to feel completely dopey and out of gas after class. I’m still going to late-afternoon classes, mostly because that’s best for my summer work schedule, but I’m optimistic about my ability to attend morning classes in the fall and still manage to be functional during the day.

I realized yesterday that I’m learning something new — something small, but clear — at almost every class of late, that there’s some moment at which I make a tiny adjustment and the lightbulb goes off over my head: “oh, that’s what he’s talking about!” Yesterday it was, in a couple of the back-bending postures, that I wasn’t really letting my head fall back as far as I could. I thought I was; I thought that’s all the backward bend my neck had. But, in fact, I was protecting something, keeping myself from letting go. Yesterday, for the first time, I really relaxed, and really let my head fall back, and it completely changed the feeling of the poses.

There’s a lot of physical stuff left for me to work on yet — my hips, for instance, have always been a problem; they simply will not open. But there’s also a lot of non-physical stuff that it would be good for me to focus on — how much of my ego, for starters, is bound up in the idea of being good at this; how much of my mind is focused on invidious comparisons with the other students in the room. Physically, the bikram is doing very good things for me (honestly, between the yoga and the weightlifting I’ve been doing, I think I’m in the best shape of my life), but I could stand to let it do a bit more psychic work for me, I think, letting go of some of the thought patterns that protect me, too.

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