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Wednesday, August 01, 2007

eyes wide shut

i like to do it with my eyes closed.

but i don't like doing it in the dark.

and yes, i'm talking about yoga. what else could i be referring to? :)

it all began over a year ago in bryan kest's power yoga class. he'd always tell us to mind our own practice. don't watch the people around you. don't try to compete with them. don't worry about what they're doing (or not doing).

at first, i found it hard to not focus on and observe others in class. after all, the room was always packed with students; it was hard to find a spot to look where there wasn't anyone there. so i starting staring at the floor right in front of me, which worked most of the time. but when certain poses required me to shift my gaze up towards the ceiling, i'd catch sight of the person in front of me. and then i'd find myself watching what she was doing. so much for minding my own business.

in time, i found the solution to the problem was to practice with my eyes closed. it was hard at first, but once i became more adept at knowing where all my body parts were without looking at them, i've been doing it ever since (of course, it annoys bikram teachers to no end when they realize that i'm not "focusing on my own image in the mirror" while i'm struggling to survive the oppressive heat in the room).

when my eyes are closed, i can focus on how i'm feeling. do i feel like i can go deeper, or do i feel that i should ease off because my muscles are tight? with my eyes open, the competitive side of me kicks in and i do things based on what i see. is my forehead close enough to my shins? are my thighs bent at the ideal angle? and next thing i know, i'm pushing myself past where my body wants to be at the moment.

strangely enough, i feel that i can open up more and relax into a pose when my eyes are closed. for example, vira 2, half moon, baddha konasana, and the like are so much easier when i mentally picture my hips opening up. plus my practice becomes more of a meditative experience. so no matter how hard i work at keeping up in class, i remain stress-free (at least most of the time).

and there's also a practical reason for keeping my eyes closed; it keeps the sweat from running down into my eyes and making them sting from the sunscreen on my face :(

of course, there are times when i have to look and see what's going on. like to check if my hands and feet are positioned correctly on the mat. or to focus on a drishti point so i can keep myself from toppling over while in a balance pose (which is why i need the lights on -- so i can see that focal point). or to make sure that i'm not raising my left leg when everyone else is raising their right. or just to make sure i'm doing what we're being told to do, especially if i'm new to the class. but what i always try to do is to least keep my eyes open long enough to make eye contact with the teacher. after all, smiling and showing him/her some form of acknowledgement and appreciation is always the polite thing to do.

so if you run into me somewhere and wonder why i don't recognize you, despite the numerous classes we've been in together, just know that it's only because i probably haven't been seeing you in class. so please introduce yourself to me, say hi, and hopefully, i'll remember you the next time i see you outside of class :)


Anonymous Anonymous said...

the studio i practice in, we have mirrors in front and i notice that 90% of the teachers make their students face away from the mirror. it wasn't the case one year ago and i think the trend was started by a foreign teacher and eventually passed down to many other teachers. apparently this teacher told students to focus and observe themselves internally instead of using a mirror to look at how perfect their poses or sexy their butt looked.

5:07 AM  
Blogger 180360 said...

Wow! It makes total sense, but I'm sure that I would fall over. Also, since I'm still pretty new to yoga, I have learned by watching other students do some of the harder poses. My teacher now has us face away from the mirror which I really like.

12:51 PM  
Blogger joni said...

some lucky students may have butts sexy enough to gaze lovingly at, but as for me, whenever i accidentally catch a glimpse of mine in a mirror, i just groan and quickly turn away :(

1:44 PM  
Blogger joni said...

and it's true that one of the reasons why i used to watch people was to learn the different modifications for the asana we were supposed to be doing. it was especially helpful when those around me in class were other teachers... boy, were they impressive!

1:49 PM  

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