Teachers often talk about how one posture drives the next in the Bikram series, and even that some of the postures we do later in class set us up for the earlier parts of class the following day. I always understood that there was a flow within the class itself. For example, Camel comes alongside Rabbit so that the spine can work in both directions and Standing Head to Knee comes first after the warm-up so that the locked knee is firmly in place before other balancing postures are attempted. But I wasn’t always sure how the postures of one class set you up for the following day — until recently with Standing Head To Knee Pose.
Standing Head to Knee Pose has always been one of my favorite postures for many reasons. First, there are very specific instructions for entering and exiting the pose, which I always like, since it leaves little room for error or chance. Second, it is easy to see progress (or not) day to day. You are either keeping that knee locked or you are not. You are either kicking out or you are not, etc. Third, I like a mental challenge and this posture always provides one.
One of my first Bikram teachers explained the posture as primarily one of mental strength rather than physical prowess. Locking the knee is not particularly difficult physically, but keeping it locked is, and maintaining the mental stamina to monitor that knee, lock it again when it weakens and to balance this with kicking out and locking a second knee is always a challenge I enjoy. After almost 6 years of practicing, I can usually get my second leg kicked out and locked, my foot flexed back, and my elbows down close to my calf muscle, but rarely do they go below.
But recently, I have been making some progress, and I owe it all to Head To Knee Pose And Stretching Pose in the floor series. Since I don’t have to worry about balancing in the floor series, I can focus exclusively on kicking out the stretching leg (kicking leg when standing). This has been very helpful and I can now usually maintain the kick and also flex my foot back to get my heel off the floor. One teacher suggested tilting my wrists towards the floor while bending my elbows, which made a big difference. I can now usually get my elbows to the floor in this posture, and it is beginning to translate to Standing Head to Knee Pose in the standing series. My elbows are more consistently reaching my calf muscle, and I think overtime, they will begin to move slowly below it. Then I can take on the next challenge — getting my forehead to my knee…
I can finally see how the work you do in one posture can drive forward progress in another, and as is often the way for me in yoga, I see how this applies to life more generally. Learning to transfer knowledge and experience from one posture to another or from one aspect of life to another is a very valuable skill. In this way, not only does our work within the Bikram series help prepare us for our next class, it helps us build the skills we need to grow and learn outside the hot room as well.
Readers, do you see how one posture drives another?