Somewhat Random – Habits, Yoga and Observation

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…

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About Rutabaga the Mercenary Researcher

I'm a research librarian for Public Television, story teller, bike commuter, baker, music fiend, lover of reading & books, mother, wife, friend - and many more descriptive adjectives and nouns.
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46 Responses to Somewhat Random – Habits, Yoga and Observation

  1. tlhicksglow says:

    I have favorite spots at each one of the studios I teach at too. The way I deal with breaking the habit of always choosing these spots is if I can’t remember the last time I moved to a different place (who was teaching, what time of day it was) I have to go somewhere else. It’s always good to get out of your comfort zone 🙂

    • I actually have started moving around since that original posting. Since I had to sit out of 3 poses, the teachers asked me to move from the 2nd to 3rd row (which, at first, broke my heart that they were talking about me not being a strong enough student to be up front – but then realized that was EGO talking and it was about being injured and needing to respect the room dynamics- but it was a painful lesson).

      I do like the right side of the room more 🙂

      And I’m ready to try row 2 again!

  2. robincoyle says:

    I am very proud of myself. Pat, pat, pat myself on the back. I did yoga for years and got out of the habit and didn’t practice for about 5 years. Yours truly is back at it! It took three months, but my renewed yoga practice feels like a habit again.

  3. Oh, I feel a little confused just thinking about it, Denise. Um…but I like the whole setting up, calming, and letting go for the mindful practice. How did you describe it, the letting go of judgements so you can endure the class. That’s a good practice for anything. Good to see you again! I was beginning to worry about you, but I know you’ve been through so much lately. xox

    • Hi! Thanks ~ I have had a dry spell in the brain lately – but I have some new content for tomorrow. I just haven’t been feeling the urge to write recently.

      It’s hard to let go of all the excess judgement (especially about ourselves) – but when you have to endure in the heat, it helps block out all that other stuff. Which is one of the big draws for me.

  4. Carrie Rubin says:

    90 minutes in a very hot room doing an exercise I grudgingly do to begin with? I couldn’t do it. Very impressive that you can, and I bet you feel amazing when you’re done. Perhaps that’s what motivates you to keep it up?

  5. Jennie Saia says:

    This was a lovely blast of heat and thoughtfulness in the middle of a chilly, routine work day. I love you even more knowing that your feet are black, because mine are also pretty atrociously smudgy most of the time. What can I say? It feels good to touch the world through my toes!

  6. Reblogged this on The Mercenary Researcher and commented:

    My muse is still dried up – so here’s a little re-blog-a-thog for you…welcome new readers and spambots!

  7. Pingback: Sidetracked by Science | Christina's Corner

  8. adam says:

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  9. battlingbikrambeingbig says:

    Good to see the foot check & maybe treating the toes with a quick wash is becoming a habit 😉

  10. calahan says:

    Almost everyone in our class has a set place, it seems. When I have to adjust my usual space or move completely, it feels weird.

  11. Rohan 7 Things says:

    Ha! I’m very much a creature of habit, and whenever I’ve done classes like martial arts I find my spot quickly and I’ll be damned if I give it up easily! I don’t think habits are the worst thing, providing we are at least conscious of them. Habits are just like shortcuts, they allow to go through our day without having to continually make the same decisions over and over.

    And we aren’t too bad, I find a habit can be broken or changed in around 30 days if we’re diligent 🙂

    It’s a worthy subject on which to ponder though!


    • In every sociology class I’ve taken – the first thing the prof does is point out that we will all probably stay in those seats b/c most of us need to have that kind of ‘habit’ to feel at ease during the class. And some of the ruder ones will point out that the person on our left is most likely going to drop the class or drop out 🙂

  12. Pingback: I Didn’t Expire | The Mercenary Researcher

  13. Like addiction, I know I need to change a habit when I become so attached to it that I can’t go without or feel rattled when I do. I always believed that I liked to operate outside my comfort zone until I realized that I couldn’t stand still – my habit was ALWAYS to challenge myself which sounds good in theory, until I realized that I didn’t know how to rest, recharge and renew myself. I think the key is to realize that anything in excess, habits included, can be problematic.

    I also agree with the above commenter, tlhickslgow, about the perspective of those that see you. How little we see sometimes when always looking from the same perspective, either physically or mentally.

  14. runningonsober says:

    This one really flowed well, Ruta, I liked it a lot. You always write “calmer” when you write about yoga, does that make sense? It seems to have a good effect on you–I’d keep that habit!

  15. Robin says:

    I like this post, thanks for sharing! I don’t think habits are that bad, until you decide they are redundant and stifling. I think it’s a good idea to try moving that mat, just to see, and then go back to your normal spot if it makes you happy. One thing I have noticed is when I am forced for some reason to do something different (as opposed to actually choosing to do so….), I often find benefits to this new way and it kind of makes you say “hmmm” should have tried that sooner! You always learn something. As for choosing to break a habit–very hard to do but worthwhile–I force myself to make changes when I feel like every day is groundhogs day. and need to shake it up….Anyway, thanks for the post!

    • Thank you Robin! I know what you mean about making changes (under duress!) and realizing that the change was something great. Being a human is so hard sometimes!

      I will move my mat around and wait for the “AH HA!” moment 🙂 I know it’s there….

  16. Cathy Ulrich says:

    I’ve done Bikram’s off and on for a number of years and I love the practice. I think the point is to make each day, each session individual and unique. I have noticed that my body is different every day. Some poses are easier, some are harder, some I nail, some I can’t get the flexibility that I had the last time, sometimes I just can’t concentrate for those darned balance postures. So maybe mix up your spot in the room, too, Denise. It all changes anyway. At least play with it and see how it feels.

  17. I think a habit or routine is harmless unless it prevents you from opening your mind to new possibilities. I think that some routines can actually enhance your experience because you’re preparing yourself to be receptive. I can also see how some habits can become restrictive. Don’t ever walk barefoot in my house before your yoga class. You’ll need more than a little wash!

  18. tlhicksglow says:

    Move your mat! We all have a favorite spot in the hot room, but when the teacher sees you from the same vantage point day after day, they have less and less corrections for you to help deepen your practice. It’s amazing how different someone’s practice can look when I see them take a different spot in the room. All of a sudden I can see they need certain adjustments that wouldn’t have been apparent had they stuck to the same spot. You don’t have to always move around – maybe every couple of days try a new neighborhood. It will be a good stretch for the mind and body.

  19. Thanks – I really enjoyed reading this. I took up yoga myself this last Spring. A new departure for me. I took up a lot of new things. Running a little more regularly too. I have a very mindful friend who constantly amazes me with how AWARE they are all the time. They too walk barefoot… even on mountains. They keep coaxing me to try “new” things. Things I’d never have dreamt I could do. Or want to do. I am learning what it is to be me. How much of “me” is just habit, and how much is essential to being who I really am. It reminds me of something I once read – about how we massively under-utilise our brain’s capacity. We float through our short time on Earth not really savouring the experiences we’re offered.

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