Wednesday, November 7, 2012

One Month Later...Competition Recap!

The Pennsylvania regional yoga competition has come and gone, and perhaps you are still did it go?  Did Zeb show us how it's done in his spaceship-style Crane?  Did Leigh Ann blow us away in Split Arms?  Shouldn't your knees be a wee bit closer together in Bow Pose, in that new profile photo of yours up there, you show off, you?  Yes, yes, and yes!  Here's a quick recap of competition weekend for your reading pleasure.

Friday, September 29th Competition weekend dawned with a 6am class at Bikram Yoga Pittsburgh taught by the lovely Miss Shannon.  I can count the number of classes I've taken at 6am since becoming a teacher on one hand (maybe two), given that I am not anything close to a morning person.

So, though in this 6am class I was practicing next to fellow competitor Paul and soaking up some of his ever-present strength & energy, you can imagine my dismay when, as the class settled into their first savasana, Shannon said "Paul and Danielle!  Do your routines!"

It was not even 7am and I hadn't tried a single cobra or camel that day...WHAT?!  But it went surprisingly well, and afterwards I thought, if I'm bendy enough to do that nonsense at 7am, I can do it onstage in two days, no problem.  Self Confidence Booster #1.

Check out this website for all the photos from the event!

Self confidence Booster #2 occurred after I'd taught the 8am and 10am classes, practiced a few more routines, then driven to my mom's office.  She works at a church downtown, not far from the studio, and I wanted to give her a hug (and take back my cool boots) before I made my way to Philly.

She said "how is your routine?" and I said "I can show you!" - after all, I was warmed up from the morning and wearing stretchy pants, which at this point in training were my only two requirements for diving into a Standing Head to Knee.

 Apparently there is a musical about church ladies??

Thus I began my routine in front of a gaggle of church ladies - the kind and talented organist Cynthia, who owns three dogs and four cats; a little old lady volunteer who had stopped by to drop off food for the food bank; the other secretary Mary Lou; and my mom.

The ooing and ahing began before I'd even brought my head down to my knee in Standing Head to mom cooed "oh, that's so much better than last time" during Standing Bow...Cynthia hissed "now that would put me in traction" during Full Camel...yeah, by the time I got back into my car and started my drive to Philly, I was feeling pretty darn good about myself.

Mom is IS better!

The drive was relatively uneventful, although I probably should have planned better and NOT arrived in Philly smack dab in the middle of rush hour.  Also, this conversation actually happened:

Me (holding a ten dollar bill, expecting change): How much is the toll?
Toll Booth Dude:  Twenty four dollars.
Me (shocked & baffled): WHAT!? I only drove from Pittsburgh! You can't be serious!!
Toll Booth Dude:  I know!  It's ridiculous.  I call it "highway robbery.

Well, at least Toll Booth Dude was sympathetic.

The lady of the weekend

Saturday, September 30th started with an all-day yoga class & seminar by Rajashree Choudhury at the Sonesta Hotel in Philadelphia.  I was a little surprised upon arrival that the class itself was taking place in a chilly hotel ballroom rather than a hot yoga studio, but it turns out that's usually the case when Rajashree needs to teach to a roomful of 100+ people. 

The class was a lovely, meditative experience, we found the perfect spot for lunch, and the seminar afterwards included a discussion of every beginner posture, demonstrated by last year's international champ, Joseph Encinia.  He and Rajashree had a nice repartee...and while I don't know that I would spend the money on this sort of thing again, since I wasn't due for re-certification and it was geared more towards Bikram students than teachers, it was a nice way to spend a day.

That night we walked through the city with all its familiar sights & sounds (I lived there for five years, and was surprised to realize how much I missed it!) to Chinatown for a teacher dinner with Rajashree at Penang...which was basically the worst possible place for pre-competition dinner.  


Shannon and I decided to split the relatively healthy sounding Tofu Mango dish, which turned out to be both heavily sweetened and deeply deep-fried.  Oh, well.  We didn't talk much to Rajashree herself, but we got to know a few of the Philly folks!

A little bit of backbending in the hotel room and we tucked in for the night. 

Joseph demoing Full Cobra

Sunday, October 1st, after a marvelously warm sleep (I love hotels), we woke bright and early to walk to Bikram Yoga Philadelphia for our pre-competition class at 8am, taught by Joseph himself.  He told us the harrowing tale of a pre-competition class he & Zeb had experienced before internationals several years ago, when that year's international champ absolutely SLAUGHTERED them, so we were decidedly relieved when Joseph promised a more mellow class. 

Joseph was fun, warm, friendly and delighted by all the extra stuff with which the competitors were peppering their beginner class.  He was also eager to offer a few tips and tricks from his six years of competing.  Pre-competition class will never top the glorious window experience Leigh Ann and I had at Bikram Yoga Flatiron, but after class in Philadelphia you could stand on the fire escape in the sun to cool off and drink a bottle of it was a real treat.

Yogi Food?
Joseph's tip #1?  Drink cappuccino before class.  Apparently that's what he had right before his internationals-winning routine (with real milk and everything!).  I wasn't willing to go THAT far, but Leigh Ann and I decided to stop off at Starbucks so we could grab a tall cup of soy milk for her pre-competition smoothie, and a cup of coffee for me.  The line was ridiculous and our pre-competition makeup and dress routine was thus particularly rushed...but it was worth it!

Joseph's tip #2?  Just have fun and don't worry about winning.  Well, that was easy enough for me this year!  I knew I wouldn't be in the very bottom (like Nationals last year, oof) but I also knew I had no chance of being in the top, especially when my competition included folks like Rebecca and Leigh Ann (below).  This is not false modesty, by the way...I am a dachshund to their greyhounds!  So after an hour or so of warmup backstage, I stood behind the door to the stage feeling...well, surprisingly fine.

Now THAT'S what I call 10 Points for Smiling!
I chit chatted with Joseph before going onstage and he remarked "you don't seem as nervous as everyone else."  And I wasn't!  Why, you ask?  Well, for one, the week before I'd given up on Tiger as competition posture; I was nailing it maybe 50% of the time, and then one sad, sad day I nailed it one time out of ten.  

Zeb pointed out during my subsequent mini meltdown that Tiger was worth the same points as Camel, in regionals they wouldn't care if I did two deep backbends, and just because I didn't do Tiger onstage in my 3 minutes didn't mean all the work I'd done the past few months went away.  

So, onstage none of my optionals required balance, only some strength and a fair bit of bendy spine, and I'd been bending my spine for months!  I just wasn't very nervous about it, and sure enough, routine went by quickly and major disasters, although I wobbled a bit and almost lost my balance as I came out of Standing Bow Pulling, but much like Jermaine's sexy dance, I turned it into a "what? I didn't bring my arm all the way back up.  I MEANT to do that."

I also gave a ridiculously big smile during each posture, even ones like full camel (above) where you couldn't even see my face.  I was giving my competition mantra "10 Points for Smiling!" everything I had!

You may recall my very first competition, when my mom was running late and frantically texting, and I heard the door blow open in the midst of my Standing Bow and thought "yup, that's my mom."  Alas, history repeated itself; this time, my friend Susannah was updating me during my warmup on her mad dash to the hotel, but sure enough, as I walked offstage, I saw the door open and my ladies hurry in.  Oops!  But they got to see the rest of it, and I got to see them!

I was beyond proud of my fellow Pittsburghers, who made an impressive showing.  Leigh Ann KILLED it with a stunning routine, winning by a full three points.  Paul swooped into a peacock pose from a handstand, which made the audience gasp.  Myra was the only one there, from what I could tell, who nailed both Sleeping Yogi and Crow.  First timers Sophia and Yuliya were graceful and elegant and gorgeous.  First timer Mike had gone to a concert in NYC the night before, arrived in Philly at 3am, woke up in time for 8am class...landed a one-armed peacock and placed 3rd.  I know, right??

Yup, that's how we yogis sleep (or at least Myra does!)

And of course Zeb was the star of the show; from the moment he got onstage and maneuvered himself into his seemingly effortless, unshakeable Standing Head to Knee, the whole room held its breath.  "Y'all are cute," his posture said, "but let me show you how it's done."

...and THAT'S how it's done!
Overall, the experience this year was more fun, and less pressure.  The joy of training with a group of people for several months made the 3 minutes onstage seem almost like an afterthought...and it was over so quickly!  And I found out a week later that I'd placed 4th, which was a very nice surprise.

Now I have a whole year and a half before the next competition, so wish me luck - but first, be sure to cheer Zeb and Leigh Ann on as they make their way to Nationals in March 2013!

Two quick final notes:

1) Mary Jarvis is coming to Pittsburgh!
  The whole "Bikram is a cult" thing makes me laugh, but when Mary Jarvis is around?  You better believe I am giddily following her around like a puppy and listening to her talk till 3am.  She's doing two classes and seminars two weekends from now...and I can't recommend it enough!  Clevelanders, make the trip - you won't regret it!

2) Remember when I went to Aerial Yoga and wasn't such a fanI accompanied a few fellow Bikram teachers to Verve a few weeks ago (and learned the meaning of the phrase "busman's holiday"), tried a different style/teacher...and it was SO much fun.  Great abdominal workout too, I was hurtin' the next day.  Go give Verve a try, Pittsburghers - you won't regret it!

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