Bikram Yoga: A Lesson in Laziness

After a class, maybe 9 months to a year since starting a regular (twice a week) yoga practice, I remember a lady coming up to me and saying, “Was it just me or was it really hot where we were today?”

We were practicing beside each other in class and when I looked at her, completely shattered responding in barely a whisper “Yeah it was hot.” She answered, “Oh good.  If you say it’s hot then I feel better about how I felt in there.”

When I looked at her like what are you talking about woman?  She qualified her statement saying,  “I really like practicing next to you ’cause you’re so focused and have such a strong practice so if you found it hard then I feel better about finding it hard too.”

I didn’t just find it hard, I was dying in that class but I was so shattered I couldn’t say anything.  It was nice for me to hear those words from a fellow student though especially since I thought the same of her (ie that she had  a good strong, focused practice).  The thing is, when I practiced next to her, I barely noticed she was there.  She was so still and serene, calm and strong that she never once distracted me and so I could focus quite easily.

These days,  I’ve been practicing a lot more with Little Miss Fidget to the left and Sir Breathe a Lot to the right and focus has taken a hell of a lot more effort.

In the last couple of weeks (yes, it only  just dawned on me), although I’ve known for a long time that I do more when someone else is pushing me, I’ve noticed that even with a teacher pushing these days, unless they specifically call me out or are standing next to me, staring at me, I’m actually quite lazy.

Last year I was so concerned about the pain in my leg and backed off so much that my practice regressed.  When the pain in my leg eased off, I was so used to backing off all the time, I had formed the habit of not pushing beyond a certain point regardless of what the teacher was saying.  I learned how to be even lazier!

The problem with laziness these days is that I’ve improved enough over time that I can now get into postures and make them look like I’ve given a legitimate effort even though I’ve only exerted as much effort required to make the posture good enough to get away with.

Well, the only person I’ve been cheating by being that way is myself and I can blame it on my leg, Little Miss Fidget or whoever but at the end of the day, I’m just making excuses to give myself permission to be lazy.

Talking to Tones about this, he actually was surprised that this is what I was doing because according to him, he gives 100% to all his postures.  He said that every single time he does a posture his attitude is “What if this is the last posture I’ll ever do in my life?” and when he thinks this, he resolves to give it his all and he does this with every posture until he’s so tired he can’t do anything anymore.

When he said that to me, all I could think was, “Why would you even think this would be your last breath or last posture?  That’s a bit morbid, thinking you could die any minute, 52 times in 1.5 hours.  Plus, if you gave it your all right at the beginning, how would you last the entire class?”  I obviously missed the point and don’t take my yoga practice as seriously as he does.

Anyway, after some reflection and consciously realising just how much my laziness was affecting my attitude and therefore my progress, I’ve resolved to start pushing again.

I’m not quite at the “this is my last posture ever” attitude but I’m better than before.  My attitude now is… go as far as you know you can go.  When I get there, push to as far as you think you can go today and then go a little bit further and if that’s OK, then… go a little bit further again… go on…. just a bit more… you might just surprise yourself.

And guess what’s happened since doing that?  You got it, I have surprised myself with lots of little breakthroughs and most importantly, all the Little Misses and Mr Men around me disappeared.

It turns out, that laziness isn’t due to not having enough energy or trying to conserve energy or backing off from pain.  And distraction/focus?  Well, although I thought this for a long time, it’s not actually who you practice next to that dictates that either.

Laziness is allowing your energy (and focus) to go wherever it wants with no direction, guidance or restrictions and if you don’t consciously move your energy towards something productive, it has nowhere else to go except towards something unproductive; just like water would go everywhere without the earth to channel it into rivers and streams.

It doesn’t pay to be lazy.  Instead of a beautiful landscape with a stream, you end up with mud.

So as mentioned, I’ve stopped being so lazy that I have time and energy to go towards noticing and reacting to everything else around me.  Now I’m making extra effort to rebuild the habit of keeping my focus on my own breath and using whatever energy I have to strengthen and improve my asanas.  If I do get distracted then it’s a reminder that I’m exercising laziness as I have extra energy I’m not using on the asana.

It’s not easy and it’ll take time and lots of conscious effort to develop but it’s a positive step in a more productive direction!

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