It’s 7:30AM on a Saturday. I’ve just rounded the corner of the building on my bike where my Bikram studio resides. I smell the incense, Nag Champa would be my guess, a little tremor goes through my belly. It’s already hot and muggy – clouds are amassing in the distance but the sun is shining harshly overhead. What will today bring in the hot room? Will it be so hot and humid that I have to leave (again)? Will I have to lay in shavasana with heart thumping, sweat pouring, barely able to breathe just through my nose, wondering about my sanity?
Anything can happen in the hot room. That’s what makes my belly tremor. My summer practice has been
challenging, nay, hard. My hamstring injury is slowly, oh so slowly, healing- I have to sit through 3 postures because of it and I realize I’ve gotten into the habit of looking forward to that rest but pushing myself through the first series of postures prior to them. I end up exhausted. I know that this habit will be hard to break in a couple of months. I’m learning habits are different from mindful practice.
Lately, it takes everything I have to move through the 90 minute sequence with a soft gaze, non-judgmental thoughts and the energy to endure. Large classes, excessively humid atmosphere inside and 112 degree (F) days outside. But every time that 90 minutes has elapsed, I find myself anticipating the next class. It’s a weird kind of desire.
But one of my favorite things about class is getting there early so I can get into my head and prepare for class. I like to sit under the fan in the 2nd row on the far side of the room. My mat and towel go down. I start to feel the room’s warmth, smell the air – a mixture of hockey-bag funk and eucalyptus…sort of a miasma but not really. I kind of like it. I take myself to the bathroom for one last pee – a peek at my feet, which may or may not be completely black from walking barefoot 90% of the day- possibly a little wash to keep my fellow yogis from the abject horrors of my bohemian ways.
I bring myself back into the room and lay down. I like to do a little spinal twisting – but I mostly lay down and listen to the room. As it starts to fill, I start to watch. This is the only time I’m truly aware of the other people in the room is during setup. I find is fascinating to watch people, especially the people I’ve been practicing with for a while. We all have such interesting habits. Me included. I don’t know what I’d do if I wasn’t in the 2nd row under/near the fan on the far side. Would I expire immediately? Quite possibly but I’m not going to risk coming late to see if it happens. I’m always amused when the room is still quite open and someone sits their mat right next to mine – and it’s because that’s ‘their’ space – regardless of the fact that we are almost hip to hip. But I can respect that – I have my habits – and I also have to ignore those things as part of process of meditation. Most of the time, no one sits next to me until the end. This has been a phenomena that has happened my entire life – classes, movies – I always wonder if I have spinach in my teeth. Of course, if there’s a weird (as in deranged not interesting) person in there – they sit next to me… right. next. to. me. But I digress.
Habits. We all have them – some stronger than others. One of my favorite instructors talks about habits and trying not to get into them in the hot room – change your hand grip, turn around and lay down going left and then going right, anything to get out of the mindless habit into the mindful practice. The ironic thing is that his saying these things is probably a habit – it comes in the same place in his instruction. Like clockwork. So mindless habit or mindful practice? Where is the line? How do you describe it?
For me, I know I need to move my mat around – I feel safe there. I might feel weird over in that other place. But here’s my question – if I moved my mat for every class, would that eventually become a habit? When did my mindful practice become the mindless habit? And now why is it ‘bad’?
Tell me your thoughts – I want to know…