Wednesday, February 8, 2012

"The healthiest competition occurs when average people win by putting in above-average effort."

So January 28th has come and gone, and you're probably wondering how the yoga competition went...but with a team of badass yogis like these, how could it go wrong?

COMPETITION WEEK! started off with me finally, finally grabbing my hands regularly in guillotine, thanks in part to advice from Zeb, from former competitor and erstwhile Bikram Yoga Cleveland student Becky, and also just me doing it over and over and over and over again.  So I was feeling pretty good about competition, except for, as you know, my inability to consistently land Standing Head to Knee.  
Then Friday morning, just before my usual 10am class, Zeb told me good news and bad news.  Good news: Mary Jarvis was going to stop by and check out our postures!  Bad news: His car was in the shop and he wondered if he could borrow mine to pick Mary Jarvis up from the airport.

Why is this bad news?  Well, before I became a car owner, I used to scoff at the filthy losers who would dirty up their car, throwing empty Starbucks cups and granola bar wrappers and so forth into the backseat without a second thought.  And in San Francisco I had a car place where, for a mere $20, they would clean (and vacuum!) my car inside and out, so it never got very bad.  But here in Cleveland, I practically live in my car as I drive to and from Pittsburgh, and I rarely have backseat passengers, and I haven't found a car cleaning place, and, well...

It was bad folks.  Zeb said he didn't mind...he could toss the BAG OF TRASH in my backseat.  But as I was signing people into that 10am class I was remembering all the crap in my car.  Oh no, like the mason jars that I make my green smoothies in and then I have so many that sometimes I just toss the empty dirty jars in the backseat and leave them there...

In any case, I decided to just accept the fact that two of my yoga idols were hanging out in my dirty dirty car.  And besides, it was worth it to have Mary Jarvis back at Bikram Yoga Pittsburgh, where she provided help, insight, and inspiration to all of us.  She's a special lady! (My mom after my last post: "you talked a LOT about that Mary lady."  also, "she was in your car? Does it still have that weird smell?"  So I'll wrap up the Tale of the Dirty Dirty Car here and move on to...)

COMPETITION DAY!  Saturday morning we took the 8am class at Bikram Yoga Pittsburgh.  It was PACKED, the whole back row peppered with competitors, and the lovely Maggie had us do our routines simultaneously for the rest of class at the very end.  The echo effect as we announced postures was fun, and I got some of my first-time jitters out.  I thought.

The Pennsylvania regionals took place at the Union Project, a renovated church in the East End.  Rebecca and Lisa of Bikram Yoga Squirrel Hill did a fantastic job of arranging the Yoga Expo, with a variety of free yoga demonstrations in addition to the competition itself (although the chanting during the first few competitors' routines was a little humorously distracting!)

The judges' GPS took them to the wrong side of the city, so we got started 45 minutes late.  My mom, meanwhile, asked when I thought I would go on, since she wanted to do some errands.  I said probably not until 1:30pm at the earliest.  But as soon as the judges were there, we were moving FAST.  There was very little time in between routines, contrary to my Northern California regional experience, which moved at a snails pace and took quite literally, all day.  HURRY UP AND GET HERE I texted my mom, but when I walked onstage at 1:25pm, I quickly scanned the audience and didn't see her.  Oh, well.

You've seen this, right?

So once I was onstage, my heart started POUNDING.  I've been onstage before - piano competitions, theatrical productions, that sort of thing - so I vaguely remembered this feeling.  But I've never had that feeling while doing an activity that actually required BALANCE and STILLNESS.  Um, what?  As I reached for my foot in Standing Head to Knee I was baffled...I'm still shaking, and I'm supposed to balance now?  

The good news - I nailed the posture!  The bad news - I fell out as I exited it!  That's okay.  Moving on.

Not too shabby.  I like to think that the lovely Suzan from Bikram Yoga Pittsburgh (and there were so many BY Pittsburgh students there to cheer us on, it really is such a wonderful community there!) snapped this photo before I was in the full expression, but I suspect that I didn't succeed in getting those two heels in one line.  Or my head up.  Or my arm down enough.  Will work on it.  Bow was good, Rabbit was good...and in the middle of Rabbit, in the middle of the silence that accompanied everyone's routines once they shut the door between the demo room and the workshop room, I heard the door to the hall loudly blow open.  That is totally my mom, I thought.  I was right.

Guillotine!  I need to get those shoulders behind my legs more, and LOCK MY KNEES, but I'll get there.

So overall, a positive experience.  But the BEST part was watching my fellow yogis.  I was just so impressed to see how far they've come.  It reminded me of taking classes from my fellow Spring 2011 teacher're just SO excited and proud you can't contain it!  Look at this awesomeness!

Yes, I am not in the video.  The videographer/friend of competitor shut off the camera when Ohio walked onstage...oops :)

They've since published the top scores by state and I scored a 62, which seems to be about average for 2nd place finishers nationwide, so I'm potentially not going to be the WORST yogi at Nationals (bottom 10? I can hope for bottom 10).  Because that's right...I'm going to Nationals!  In NYC March 3rd!  Crazy, right?  

Now I'm training like crazy, trying to learn Full Camel or Full Cobra to replace the little-too-beginner pose that is Pigeon.  My back hurts, my shoulders hurt, but I'm getting there.  Jeannine, my studio owner in Cleveland, has been really supportive, letting me do third sets of postures in class, and giving me full use of the yoga room during off hours.  I'll try to post more often between now and then, but in the meantime...wish me luck!

A few bits and pieces to share before I sign off, teach a couple classes, do a couple backbends...

President Obama spoke at a small high school in Cleveland and I WAS THERE!  Why?  Well, because of yoga, of course!  A visiting student from Chicago got a little ill during class and left the room, hung out in the lobby for a while getting chummy with front desk girl Sarah, and next thing I know, it turns out she's an event coordinator for Obama and I've got a ticket!  Yoga is the best.

I taught my biggest class ever!  We only have two classes on Saturdays and Sundays, so the Sunday classes have been geting bigger and bigger.  One 3pm class in mid January started filling up rather quickly.  The regulars were just slipping into the studio as we took care of the long line of newbies, figuring they would check in with us later - but as a result, we lost track of how many students were in there.  We've estimated capacity at 60 but figured we'd never fit more than 55 in there.  How many students did I count during that first savasana?  FIFTY-NINE!  Astonishing.

Even more astonishing...that the energy in the room was so amazing.  It could easily have turned into a grouch fest, given the mat-to-mat proximity, the extra heat and humidity (and sweat!) from so many bodies...but it was a really solid class.  THREE different students told me afterwards that they had accomplished something they'd never done before - wrapping their legs in Eagle, or holding Standing Bow for the full minute, for example.  It was exciting, exhilarating...and exhausting.  Good times!

My mom got a mild concussion from yoga!  Okay, that's not exciting news.  It is bad news.  She was taking her 3rd bikram yoga class ever with me, felt like vomiting, ran out of the room, passed out, and smacked her face on the bathroom tile.  She's still feeling not so great, and I doubt I'll ever get her back in the hot room regularly, which is a shame because I was so delighted that she was getting into it - but I tell you this story because it really underscored for me why we encourage people, over and over, to stay in the room.

I'm a little more direct now when my students start to leave the room, or at least have them sit in the lobby where I can see them for a few minutes, to adjust to the temperature change.  We don't tell students to stay in the room because we're control freaks...they can hurt themselves!  I've since told the story of my mom's concussion in the middle of class twice, to better express to students why we encourage them to stay.  So...thanks Mom :)

Last but not least...the best response to the New York Times article I've yet seen (because yes, I HAVE read that New York Times article.  Everyone and their mom has forwarded it or mentioned it to me):
Oh, even better, I'll leave you with this: Zeb's champion routine!  72.5! 


  1. CONGRATULATIONS! I was really happy to read about how you did at competition. That's awesome about going to nationals - can't wait to hear more about it.

    And I'm very jealous you got to see Obama's speech. :)

    I need to email you soon so we can hang out/maybe grab something to eat. And once Jump Back Ball is over and done with (soon!), I will be making my way to one of your classes (let me know which one is the smaller one because that's the one I'll probably go to).

  2. Congratulations! I am so impressed! I can't wait to hear more about nationals.

    Also: I had that car in Philly! The back seat was full of empty Wawa coffee cups and dunkin donuts bags, so yours is a step up.