June 21, 2020, 10:30am - class 1001 Bikram 90 - Today was International Day of Yoga and I felt it quite appropriate to teach my class in Rittenhouse Square Park in Philadelphia. I attracted a number of onlookers, mostly children and older folks, who seemed fascinated by my practice. "You have such a great aura about you. It's magnetic and just draws people in," a boxing trainer at Front Street Gym said, filming part of my class. He asked plenty of questions during the latter part of the class. As with every one of my classes, viewers get to experience so much more than a typical Bikram 90 class. The importance of performing two sets of every posture is emphasized. Learning how to fall properly is discussed. Phoenix in the second set of Eagle and an alternate bind in Standing Separate Leg Head to Knee are shown. Esak's Toe Stand, with the hands never touching the ground, is demonstrated. Swinging the heel back in Triangle positions the back foot properly and at the correct angle. The importance of a pre-stretch before Fixed Firm is emphasized. On every sit-up, reach for the back of the feet rather than the big toes and try to reach your fingertips deeper and deeper down your feet until one day they touch the mat. Try to touch your forehead to your knees with every sit-up. The finer points of many of the postures, such as Camel, Rabbit, Head to Knee with Stretching, and Spine Twist are described. Prior to class, I watched Rajashee Choudhury's special live seminar on yoga. She advised, "You must practice yoga every day. It's got to be part of your everyday life. If you cannot practice in the morning, practice in the evening. We need to understand awareness, find time for ourselves, find our right time to do yoga, and accept the change in our lifestyle. That is yoga." She also stated, just as I do in all my classes, that every day is a different day and how you practice is affected by everyday events. If you have physical or mental ailments, it will affect your practice. You don't have to be perfect every day. Just by practicing every day, you will gain yoga's benefits, little by little, day by day.
June 23, 2020, 10:00am - class 1002 Bikram 90 - Today's class explored variants in the two sets of every posture. We did Eagle-to-Phoenix in the second set of Eagle. In the first set of Standing Head to Knee, we focused on standing tall and balancing. In the second set, we proceed with traditional Standing Head to Knee. In the first set of Standing Bow, we focused on standing tall and stretching the arm up while keeping the other knee down. In the second set, we proceed with traditional Standing Bow. In the second set of Standing Separate Leg Head to Knee, we went for an alternate bind, assuming our legs are straight. In the second set of Wind Removing, we did Lotus in supine position. In the second set of Fixed Firm, we practiced Fish in Lotus. You may be wondering if doing all of this strays from the traditional vibe of the 26+2. I don't think so. Take a look at Tree and Toe. Toe Stand happens in the second set of Tree and starts off as Tree, but transitions to Toe. Just because your guru never told you to do this doesn't mean it's not right! I see plenty of people in Bikram classes do Separate Arms Balancing Stick in the second set of Balancing Stick. Even changing the distance between your knees or feet in Standing Separate Leg Stretching, Bow, and Camel gives you a variant of the posture you did in the first set. Food for thought, my fellow teachers. While you're at it, do the alternate bind in Standing Separate Leg Stretching if you could already grab your heels.
June 25, 2020, 10:00am - class 1003 Bikram 90 - Some of my students may not be strong enough, flexible enough, or balanced enough to perform many of the postures in a Bikram Yoga class and that's okay. We're all working towards improving ourselves in whatever ways we can. By coming to enough yoga classes, you will begin to see subtle changes in your body. In Triangle, for example, some students may not be able to bend their knee at a 90 degree angle or extend their arms in opposite directions, up and down. Some students might not have very good balance or hip flexibility, so it may be better for these students to lean their lower elbow on their bent knee for support. This is all fine for beginning students who've practiced Bikram 90 in their first month or two. They will use modifications, such as this one, to help them get through a class. Over time, as the body gets stronger, the need to rely on an elbow on the knee will hopefully become less necessary. When I first started Bikram Yoga, even though I was pretty strong to begin with, I wasn't accustomized to the strength, flexibility, and balance needed in the postures. I started with modifications here and there. I kept practicing yoga almost every day with an intense focus and determination to get better. I became so good that I'm now a ranked yoga asana champion. With practice, you can do this, too!
June 26, 2020, 10:00am - class 1004 Bikram 90 - When drinking water during class, take a sip of water and move your water bottle away from your face so you can continue to breathe properly and not limit yourself to the air that's inside the bottle. If you feel your heart race or hear your heart beating inside your head, slow down! Breathe and calm your mind, lower your heart rate, and then proceed with the next pose when it feels right.
June 27, 2020, 4:00pm - USA Yoga Workshop "Stage Presence and Routine with Emily Avery" - Three-time national champion Emily Avery emphasized the importance of minimal, efficient movement, including the push-up between postures and graceful ways of getting out of postures.She showed us how to time our practice transitions using the following mini routines as examples:
- Standing Head to Knee to Standing Bow
- Standing Head to Knee to Standing Bow to Split Arms Balancing Stick to Tree
- Crow to Separate Leg Stretching to Cobra to Spine Twist
Prior to the transitions, Emily had the class practice Salute to the Gods and Goddesses, Surya Namaskar, and the Standing Series. I didn't enjoy this workshop as much as others, because I found it to be a lot less accessible than others. I feel that Emily's ballet background gives her a distinct advantage in many of the poses she demonstrated.
June 28, 2020, 10:00am - class 1005 Bikram 90 - I taught my class at Rittenhouse Square Park again. I taught Phoenix in the second set of Eagle and Fish in Lotus in the second set of Fixed Firm. It's been a while since I could touch my forehead to the floor in Standing Separate Leg Stretching. It felt good to do so.
June 30, 2020, 10:00am - class 1006 Bikram 90 - I spoke about pain tolerance and the relaxation phase between every posture. During the floor series, I believe relaxation starts the moment a posture ends rather than during the time you are strictly on your back. If you're not performing a posture, you're relaxing or mindfully meditating. To be forced into a way of thinking where the teacher says, "Okay, you can relax now!" is not good for anyone. Relax when you want to. Relax when you need to. Never let anyone steal your peace, not even a yoga teacher!
July 2, 2020, 9:00am - class 1007 Bikram 90 - When practicing yoga, or any physical endeavor, it's important to realize that improvements do not come on a daily basis. What ails us mentally and/or physically can affect our yoga practice on any given day. We should monitor our progress over a period of time rather than scrutinize what we do today versus yesterday. In a large way, yoga teaches us patience. Physical changes do not happen overnight. They come about slowly through focused efforts over a long period of time.
July 3, 2020, 10:30am - class 1008 Intermediate Series - Today's hybrid class had two breathing exercises to start, two sets of Salute to the Gods and Goddesses, two sets of Surya Namaskar, two sets of Chandra Namaskar, two sets of the Standing Series that include Phoenix, Separate Arms Balancing Stick, and Beach, two sets of arm balancing postures (Crow, Baby Crow, Crane), one set of the Floor Series that included Lotus, Separate Leg Stretching, and Frog, and two breathing exercises to end. Everyone's body is different, so just because you might not be able to do a particular posture well doesn't mean you won't be able to do other postures well.
July 5, 2020, 10:00am - class 1009 Bikram 90 - I taught my class at Rittenhouse Square Park again. My photographer suggested we try a different location next time. I taught another hybrid class with Phoenix, Bound Extended Side Angle, Pyramid, Beach, Fish in Lotus, and Mudra in the second set of Eagle, Triangle, Standing Separate Leg Head to Knee, Tree/Toe, Fixed Firm, and Half-Tortoise.
July 6, 2020, 10:00am - class 1010 Bikram 90 - I tried to teach simultaneously on Facebook Live and Zoom today, but Zoom crapped out. Like yesterday, I covered alternate postures in the second set for those who want to explore them more deeply.
July 8, 2020, 10:00am - class 1011 Bikram 90 - I used my secondary computer to project my class on Facebook Live because my primary computer was still uploading Sunday's class to my YouTube page. It took 48 hours to upload a 100GB 90-minute video!
July 10, 2020, 10:00am - class 1012 Intermediate Series - A beautiful class today with five students from my music group projecting my Facebook Live session onto their Zoom screens and everyone practicing together.
July 12, 2020, 10:00am - class 1013 Bikram 90 - Students got to see two versions of Cobra and Salabasana without the single leg parts in the latter as seen in 84 Yoga Asanas by Buddha Bose. I also taught Bow the way it was originally taught. According to Bose, "Pull the arms by trying to stretch the legs. This will lift the knees and upper body simultaneously from the floor. The arms should not be bent. The pressure required to raise the chest comes from the legs and should be twice the pull exerted by the arms. Try to look up as far as possible by throwing the head back. Balance the body on the lower and upper abdomen only." Note that Bose's instructions do not include any rocking back and forth motions. Just like the shoomph technique in Eagle or the arm stretch in Spine Twist, the rocking motion in Bow can be eventually eliminated with experience. We also discussed how our bodies, and, consequently, our strength, flexibility, and balance, change over time. Teachers should not apply the same teaching principles to a 45 year old as to a 25 year old. Also, don't beat yourself up over things you cannot do and don't praise yourself too much over things you can do, because everyone's skeletal structure and muscles are different and no two bodies are the same. We talked about how to get a deeper sit-up. I also spoke about the reason why I believe a lot of teachers don't practice and teach at the same time. It's not that they can't do it - many can - but some may feel concern or potential embarrassment that their postures aren't strong enough. Here's the thing... don't deny your students all of what you can teach them. You know what the postures are supposed to look like. So long as you can demonstrate them in a decent way, you don't have to be the best at every posture. I hope to inspire more teachers to demonstrate and teach, so they can help their students achieve their greatest potential.
July 13, 2020, 10:00am - class 1014 Bikram 90 - I discussed the concept of "beams of energy" shooting out the fingertips in many of the postures. This gives students an idea of how much they should be stretching in a posture. I included detailed instructions for coming into and out of Fixed Firm. Actually, if you watch all of my teaching videos, you'll note I give more instructions than many teachers. After class, I enjoyed a fabulous vegan meal from Mantra Lounge: veggie kofta balls in tomato curry, lemon rice, garden salad, and blueberry cake with vanilla icing.
July 14, 2020, 10:00atm - class 1015 Bikram 90 - We practiced Split Arms Balancing Stick in the second set of Balancing Stick. We did a slightly more advanced version of Cobra and Locust in their second sets. Is it dangerous to lift your head up in the double-leg lift of Locust? No, because it's very similar to Full Locust and Bow. We discussed how some yoga lineages say that there is really just one yoga posture from which all the other postures are derived. We even discussed a safer way of performing Bow than Buddha Bose's original instructions. We reiterated what we learned the previous day about the importance of gripping the feet in Fixed Firm as we go into and out of the posture.
July 17, 2020, 10:00am - class 1016 Intermediate Series - A beautiful class today with six students from my music group projecting my Facebook Live session onto their Zoom screens and everyone practicing together. "Thank you, Clare. I woke up to your beautiful voice this morning," one of them said. Another complimented me and said how she liked how the class flowed. Although we didn't do the Splits Series or Archer, we were able to practice many additional postures that weren't in my 55+2, including Side Triangle, spine warm-ups, more of the Abdominal Series, Yin Spine Twist, and Upward Stretching. So long as there are at least 55 postures in our practice, we are good. We talked about the thin line dividing your mat and keeping your feet snug up against this line rather than lining one heel in front of the other in Standing Separate Leg Head to Knee.
July 19, 2020, 10:00am - class 1017 Bikram 90 - Some of you might be able to do two or three postures really well. However, other postures might not be so great. One thing to bear in mind is everyone's skeletal system, muscles, and flexibility are different. So long as you continue your yoga practice as often as possible, you will see improvement over time.
July 19, 2020, 1:00pm - USA Yoga Workshop "Drills and Tips on SH2K, SBP, Tiger and Peacock with Michelle Vennard and Thomas Forbang" - 130.2 today. Michele gave us some coaching tips and inspirational quotes from books by Michael Jordan, Tony Robbins, and others. Thomas demonstrated two postures: Tiger and Peacock. "Avoid using a wall when you're practicing Tiger or Headstand," Thomas advised, "because once you start using a wall, you won't get away from the fear factor of not using it. Use a spotter instead or learn how to fall on your hands or feet like a cat." As you raise your legs up, push your hips forward, bring your legs back, and finally lift your head up. In Peacock, balance on five points of each hand (tip and base of thumb and index finger, and base of pinky finger), create a shelf with your elbows, and engage every single muscle in your body as you stretch your body forward and pick your legs up. Don't bear weight on your wrists! The hands are separated two inches apart, but this depends on your body type. Michele talked about the inner voices of self-doubt that could sabotage us in competition. You have to condition yourself mentally as well as physically.
From The Champion's Mind by Jim Afremow and Jim Craig:
- Train your talent in your practice
- Trust your talent in competition
- Repeat steps 1 and 2
Have all kinds of gratitude because you'll get more blessings onstage. Keep it simple, invoke previous success, then tell yourself what you need to focus on, and remember there is nothing to lose and everything to win. Lastly, make your decision and enjoy it. Maintain 80/20 breathing in every posture. Breathe in 100%, then breathe in and out the top 20%, and keep 80% breath in your lungs. This is all very valuable information for championship training.
July 20, 2020, 10:00am - class 1018 Bikram 90 - I described a technique to get the body straighter in Balancing Stick. I showed how the gluteus medius and maximus muscles engage, and are clearly defined, as you pull your spine down in Standing Separate Leg Stretching. I talked about the importance of letting your heart rate simmer down before proceeding to the next posture. I had both Facebook Live on and watched a Zoom telecast of my class sumultaneously. It was weird seeing Facebook Live a few seconds behind what was actually happening.
The USA Yoga National Championship is going virtual this year. The news came as a surprise to me and many others, especially since USA Yoga already announced that the event was cancelled this year. I'm going to resume training for it, which means I'll have to up my game every day until about August 15 when the video submissions are due. I made a conscientious decision to end my aikido training last fall. It was the best decision of my life. All the damage I kept sustaining from my aikido training did not pair well with my yoga training. Not only that, but the anxieties created through aikido training and trying to achieve my next rank led to deeper bouts of depression and a desire to isolate myself from society. Aikido was no longer fun for me. All of the bumps and bruises and permanent injuries costing me thousands of dollars to fix weren't worth it in the end.
July 21, 2020, 10:00am - class 1019 Bikram 90 - It was very liberating to lead and not teach today, because I could focus on my postures a lot more. I feel that students can see how much deeper I typically go in my postures, which they would not normally see in my classes with verbal instruction. The differences are sometimes subtle and, if you blink, you might even miss some very important things I do in my training to keep myself moving forward. "I can see a fire in you," Noelle Burgoyne once said to me. She noticed how serious I was in class every day. "You're very hard on yourself, aren't you? You're going to be a great teacher someday," Chris Fluck said to me. Chris knows how hard I push myself every single time I'm in his classes. Yes, most people say they do yoga, but I train in yoga. Training and practice are two different things. Others practice yoga so as not to hurt themselves. They want to improve their strength, balance, and flexibility in the process, but most are content with bare minimum effort to get by. I train to be the best. I may take the same class as everyone else, but I keep pushing myself really hard in each class so I can improve. The way I teach is very different. Most people just want to do yoga, not train in it, so I adjust my teaching style to those who just want to do yoga. If I see they want more, I give them my secret techniques. I completed all but one of the postures in 70 minutes, so I did additional postures from the Intermediate Series.
July 22, 2020, 10:00am - class 1020 Bikram 90 - I explained the reason for making postures as challenging as possible and how nobody ever really masters any of the postures. This may be a let-down to some, however, on the way towards trying to master postures, your body will improve as a result. I spoke about teaching yourself body awareness with the postures.
July 23, 2020, 10:00am - class 1021 Bikram 90 - Another silent yoga class with additional postures at the end, including my Northeast Regional Championship sequence as well as a few that I may incorporate later on, including Root, Crow, and Full Tortoise. I didn't wear a headset, but my laptop microphone captured ever joint crack and pop in the room.
July 24, 2020, 10:00am - class 1022 Intermediate Series - We did a three-set Bikram 90 class and completed everything in 90 minutes! All you need to do to successfully teach this is to halve the time of the minute-long first sets of postures like Half Moon, Standing Head to Knee, and Standing Bow, make Awkward into one continuous flow, skip the single leg parts of Locust, and not rest in between sets in the floor series. The third set of every posture is usually a variant of the posture or can be used to go a little deeper into the posture. I discussed the proper approach to go deeper in a posture.
July 26, 2020, 10:00am - class 1023 Bikram 90 - Try to breathe three to five honest breaths when you're in your maximum expression of a posture. Don't think about your struggles with your posture. Relax and calm your mind. There will be days in which you cannot bend or twist as far as usual in your postures. On these days, try to focus on strict alignment and fundamentals. You don't always need to go super deep if you stretch as deeply as you can wherever you're at. It's the pulling apart of two body parts on opposite ends of your body that will improve the overall flexibility of your spine.
July 27, 2020, 10:00am - class 1024 Bikram 90 - Like beams of energy shooting out your fingertips, keep stretching your arms in the direction of your fingertips. Work on stretching and lengthening moreso than going for an extreme bend or twist.
July 28, 2020, 10:00am - class 1025 Bikram 90 - I sweated my brains out and completed my entire class without sipping water. I don't advocate this. If you need to drink water in class, please do so. I just wanted to see if I still had the necessary endurance level for championship training. Unfortunately, stupid Facebook Live stopped broadcasting my class after 26 minutes. The people who telecast my classes on Zoom subsitituted a previous class in its place. They usually set the class to some background music. My students were still watching my class when I entered their Zoom room. I caught the tail end of it, from Camel onward. Wow, I looked like Shiva Rea teaching a Bikram class! "Hey, I'm frickin' good. I would definitely take my own class," I said to them. "You're a great teacher," one of them said. A couple of students asked me for advice on neck and feet issues. I gave them prescriptions for what to do in each case and they thanked me profusely. Knowing that I can help people be the best versions of themselves is why I teach yoga.
July 29, 2020, 10:00am - class 1026 Bikram 90 - If you're healing from a minor spine injury like I am, don't bend back or twist as far as usual. On your off-days when you don't feel like taking an entire class, pick a subset of postures that can help you work on problem areas. Make sure you are well-nourished. Eat a balanced diet. You know what you like to eat and drink. I won't tell you what to eat or drink. Now, how can your diet support your yoga practice? How can all of your other activities support your overall health? Eliminate anything that will not help you achieve the goal of long-lasting health. My bodyfat is 8.1% today, what I was when I was in competition form. I still have my quarantine belly, but that should shrink over time.
July 30, 2020, 10:00am - class 1027 Bikram 90 - Just when you think Standing Head to Knee is easy (it's not), your ego takes over and you fall out. Try to free your mind of chatter when practicing a posture. Acknowledge what you did well after a posture, not during it. After a myriad of yoga teacher trainings, I don't believe I've credited my very first yoga teacher training enough. It was at Evolation Yoga in Santa Barbara that I was rigorously trained by three-time Dutch gold medalist Zefea Samson. Almost every one of my classmates broke down in tears at some point during the training because the pressure and demands of training had gotten to them, unlocking hidden fears and anxieties. I was much more resilient, having already been through personal trauma many times in my life. I believe that's why I'm so steady in my execution of my yoga postures. When you're 52 and you've lived my life, you've already been through a lot.
Did you know that the Standing Series is just a warm-up sequence for the Floor Series? That's right, the "real" yoga class is actually the sequence you do on the floor! This might come as a surprise to most people, especially since the Standing Series is quite difficult. The Floor Series seems almost easy by comparison. Don't think that way! Most people who feel the Floor Series is easy may not be pushing themselves as hard as they should. After all, they've already spent all of their energy in the Standing Series. They now get to lie on their back or belly and just hang out for the rest of the class. Their energy level is about half of what it was at the start of the class and they do half-hearted postures towards the end. It's important to try to give 100% effort throughout class. Distribute your energy evenly across all the postures and devote extra attention to those postures you feel need improvement. I've made the mistake of being a showboat early on and showing everyone how well I could do Eagle, Triangle, and Standing Separate Leg Head to Knee, and I've always paid the price for it with exhaustion. Don't let this happen to you.
July 31, 2020, 10:00am - class 1028 Intermediate Series - My students said that today's front view was very helpful in their understanding of the postures, especially when I described the pelvic tilt in Standing Separate Leg Stretching. I originally recorded my online classes at an angle view in my living room, then switched to a front view in my dining room, and then finally to an angle view in my dining room. I may continue the front view for a while as a change. I talked about how everyone's body is different, so we all have postures we're good at and others we have to keep working on to improve. Also, everyone's class experience is different. Some are just going through the motions and making sure they're still able to achieve the basics. Others are competing for a championship medal, and their teachers know this, so their teachers will help them toward their goal. I had a very helpful teacher in Sandy Robin early on in my first 600 yoga classes. She would physically lean on my back in Half-Tortoise, hoist my legs up in the air in Locust, or twist me more in Spine Twist. Like a good gymnastics coach, she always pushed me harder than everyone else in class because she knew I could do it. I had the strength and determination to be the best.
When I enter a public class, I don't speak to anyone. I may acknowledge someone if I know them, but there are no pleasantries in class. I'm all business. I save my social time for after class. I made the mistake of joking around before class once and paid the price for it with premature physical and mental exhaustion. Needless to say, that won't happen again. I always go for a spot in or near the middle of the front row facing the mirror in any Bikram class. That way I can get used to being surrounded by people and potential distractions. Everyone gets to see me in class, so my successes and failures are amplified. During a championship, all eyes will be upon you, so you want to develop the ability to drown out visual and audible noise around you and learn to be steady in every movement you do.
July 31, 2020, 2:00pm - USA Yoga Workshop "Competition Rules, Requirements, and Words of Advice with Kim Tang" - This was not the usual workshop with theory and practice. Rather, it was a review and explanation of the rules for the upcoming virtual competitions from the head of the USA Yoga Technical Committee, Kim Tang. The video submissions for the virtual competition are due on August 15 and the same rules for the championships apply to it as well. We also learned that the top six candidates in each division move on to the final championship where we are to display a five-minute choreographed routine of our choice. Kim fielded questions at the end of the session and I took the opportunity to get answers to a couple of questions that had lingered in my mind for a while, such as how are postures scored coming out of them (answer: reverse out the same way you went in, but it's okay to be a little faster than going in) and how important is body placement on the mat during the entire routine (start and end on the X).
August 2, 2020, 9:30am - class 1029 Bikram 90 - Finally, after four months of quarantine, I'm back in the studio teaching students! It was difficult teaching with a mask on. My mask got so wet, I had to change to another one halfway into the class. Since these were advanced students, I felt they would be amenable to learning my version of Spine Twist.
August 3, 2020, 10:00am - class 1030 Bikram 90 - Teaching class from my partner's home was a challenge because I demonstrated the single-leg standing postures on soft carpet, but I did it!
August 4, 2020, 10:00am - class 1031 Bikram 90 - We talked about mudras, kindness towards oneself, lengthening the spine prior to such postures as Camel and Rabbit, economy of motion between postures, and an easier grip in Paschiomotthanasana (Stretching).
I often wonder why some people like to judge yoga athletes who can do perfect-looking asanas. "Oh, that's not yoga!" they are quick to say. I usually tell them, "It might not be your yoga, but it's their yoga, and everybody's yoga is different." Somewhere in the evolution of Westernized yoga, it became easier for anyone with minimal strength, balance, and flexibility to do it. There's no longer a challenge factor to get better, because Westernized yoga has been diluted. The flexions, twists, and tractions are not as deep and people are left with minimal to sometimes no improvement over the long run. Yoga is just another fad for these people, because you rarely see them practice it for more than a year or two before they move on to the next fitness craze. This should be proof enough that their yoga is not a worthwhile yoga to practice.
August 5, 2020, 10:00am - class 1032 Bikram 90 - To balance well in Standing Head to Knee, kick your leg out real hard. Real, real hard. Don't let your ego take over while you're doing a posture. Congratulate yourself on a good job after the posture is over.
August 6, 2020, 10:00am - class 1033 Bikram 90 - After today's silent class, we tried a new posture, Marichyasana D, that was recently added to the USA Yoga posture compendium.
August 7, 2020, 10:00am - class 1034 Intermediate Series - Stay safe when stretching. Unlike bodybuilders who work out hard to break down muscle to get bigger, yogis are not trying to stretch out our ligaments to get more flexible. It's getting close to the deadline for video submissions. I'm not feeling ready for it, but we'll see. I do have a deadly Archer pose and I'm working on a secret weapon that may be a slight gamble if I can pull it off. More to be revealed soon, but not too soon.
August 8, 2020, 10:00am - class 1035 Bikram 90 - We talked about achieving symmetry in your body by working with your non-dominant grip. If you want to practice yoga or your favorite physical activity until you're old and gray, you have to find safe ways to do it. You can't use a cookie cutter aproach to your exercise because everyone's age, body, and physical abilities are different. You can't necessarily do what you did when you were 20. As I told my viewers, "You have the guidance of someone who's been exercising for over 40 years. Most fitness instructors have 10 years or less of experience." I intend to do yoga until I'm 90 or 100. For most fitness instructors, it's just a temporary job for them. For me, it's life. Trust this wise, old lady!
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August 8, 2020, 2:00pm - USA Yoga Workshop "Competition Coaching and Preparation with Suzanne Elliott" - Suzanne advised that repetition is the key to skill. We started with warm-up exercises in Surya Namaskar (Sun Salutatiins), Chandra Namaskar (Moon Salutations), and Splits. We talked about timing and did eight practice runs of our routines in preparation for next week's virtual competition. Suzanne provided feedback on several of our postures. From the way she spoke, I gathered that she was probably one of the judges.
August 10, 2020, 10:00am - class 1036 Bikram 90 - I've developed modifications to the 26+2 postures for people who want to create a sustainable practice. Yoga is the type of practice that you can do forever. All of the wisdom I impart to you in all of my online classes are based on 40+ years of fitness experience. I've modified the more difficult postures so that you can still gain the benefits of the posture. My wisdom is not based on heresay from a supposed guru, but solid experience that I've gained over the years as a yogini, bodybuilder, martial artist, archer, and more. If you ever feel like you're losing your balance in a posture, don't give up. Repeat to yourself, Don't give up! Don't give up! Don't give up! That's the mantra of a champion.
How high are you supposed to stretch your arms up in Half Moon, Balancing Stick, and Half-Tortoise? Try to keep your elbows up higher than the top of your head. Squeeze your palms together with all your might and stretch your index fingers up as high as possible. When you first start your yoga practice, your arms might look like the first picture with your arms bent and your biceps not touching your ears. As you progress in your practice, you might be able to reach up higher and huge your ears with your biceps as seen in the second picture. When you're really advanced, you'll be able to reach up even higher and get the biceps behind your ears and your forearms parallel to one another with very little space in between like in the third picture. It's important to note that I don't have joint hypermobility, or "double jointedness." I started yoga with my arms looking like the first picture and worked hard to achieve what I can do in the third picture. Esak Garcia's Jedi Fight Club training in Huntsville, Alabama is now sold out after two weeks of its announcement. I'm glad I signed up and made all my travel arrangements for it early.
August 11, 2020, 10:00am - class 1037 Bikram 90 - I put it all on the line in today's practice. Viewers got to see my steadiness, focus, and resilience. They also got to see my impeccable timing, especially holding Standing Head to Knee for 60 seconds on each side in the first set. Yes, I wobbled and shook in some postures, but I held myself steady in every posture with my Don't give up! mantra. I reviewed today's broadcast and caught glimpses of the champion who ranked fourth in the Northeast Regional, the girl who had the intense fire in her eyes and the iron will to succeed. In spite of sharp neck and back pains over the past few weeks, the kinds of pain that would debilitate most people, I worked through my pain. At the end of class, I demonstrated a preview of my championship routine.
August 12, 2020, 10:00am - class 1038 Bikram 90 - Learn to reach high first before bending or coming down in Half Moon, Standing Bow, Balancing Stick, Standing Separate Leg Head to Knee, Half-Tortoise, and Stretching. We talked about how some teachers believe that pain is an illusion, but it's not. Pain is a very real thing and it affects everyone differently. Pay attention to what causes you pain and learn how you can avoid pain. Listen to your body and move through your yoga mindfully.
August 13, 2020, 10:00am - class 1039 Bikram 90 - I demonstrated my postures from a side view today. We talked about adding little flourishes to your postures to make them more challenging. At the end of class, I demonstrated a preview of my championship routine.
Many years ago, a teacher introduced me to kitchari, expounding its health benefits and seemingly magical properties. Seeing that it was no more than a simple spiced rice and bean paste, I sought to create a better version of it with add-in items, such as vegetables and meat. While it would be nice to follow ayurvedic traditions and eat kitchari three times a day for a week to "cleanse the colon," I feel the monotony of eating the same damn thing every day to be nothing more than a test of patience and how well you can endure a dare. I discovered that many yogis do mix other things in their basic kitchari and because it tastes much better this way, isn't eating kitchari more often better than just one-off seasonal colon cleanses?
August 14, 2020, 10:00am - class 1040 Intermediate Series - 128.0 today. We spoke about pain tolerances and why it's important to skip postures or certain actions in postures that feel painful and to allow other postures to help build up the muscles around weak or tender joints. We practiced Mountain Pose as a bonus today. I recorded several iterations of my championship routine today, but while each new iteration looked a little stronger than the last, the total time for each routine kept getting a little longer, past the three-minute limit, so I can't use the longer ones. The heat was definitely throwing off my timing. At noon, it was warm, but at 1pm, it was unbearably hot. My mat felt like hot coals beneath my feet. I'll use one of my sub-three-minute recordings from today in case I don't get to record again tomorrow. It's a shame, too, because I hit my championship weight today.
August 15, 2020, 10:00am - class 1041 Intermediate Series - Sadly, my microphone wasn't working, so it was a true silent yoga class. After class, I recorded several iterations of my championship routine. The weather was more agreeable. There are definite advantages to recording something like this indoors, including quiet space for better focus and protection from the sun and its damaging, blinding rays. My mat stayed cool, unlike yesterday. I felt better about today's performances, because I cleaned up some subtle details in my postures that would've cost me points. I originally had five takes, but decided to record a sixth just for fun. I was already exhausted and just wanted to record one with no expectations of using it. Strangely, oddly, the sixth take was the best of all of them. There were individual postures that were better in other takes, but the sixth take was the best overall. It must've been because I felt totally relaxed. Critiquing myself was as easy as it was difficult. I'm hard on myself. Very hard. I expect the same from my top students, so it's easy to be critical and nitpick every little detail and nuance about my postures. Postures that most people would score themselves a 10, I'd give a 7 and I could point out why. When I do my postures, I make everything look easy, but that's what a top asana athlete does. When I teach, I never push someone beyond their current capability unless I know they want that kind of special treatment. It's important to keep students safe and progressing toward their goals.
Watch my video submission for the 2020 USA Yoga National Championship here.
August 16, 2020, 10:00am - class 1042 Bikram 90 - We did a three-set version of the Floor Series in our class today. We spoke about how you do yoga for yourself, not for anyone else, and to always practice with safety in mind. Do not push yourself beyond your capabilities so much that you experience pain. I revealed several techniques to help students get a better stretch.
August 18, 2020, 10:00am - class 1043 Intermediate Series - We practiced Surya Namaskar with leg lifts and side leg bends, what Pranakriya calls Fire Hydrant Pose. I redid a couple of postures that I felt were weak today. We talked about how people should not be critical of other people's postures because everyone's body is different.
August 19, 2020, 10:00am - class 1044 Bikram 90 - Don't worry about how slowly you may be progressing in your postures. Everything should be done in baby steps. Don't push yourself to build Rome in a day. We have a lifetime to do yoga. Many fitness people limit what they eat. They become vegan, vegetarian, or paleo. Wouldn't it be much better if you could eat whatever the heck you want and just do your exercises to support your ability to eat whatever the heck you want? I'd go crazy eating those energy and protein bars all day! I say eat whatever you want, but exercise really hard to keep the weight off. Don't worry so much about your weight! What you are doing in exercise is building up muscle, and muscle weighs more than fat, so if you review pictures of yourself now versus when you started your exercise program, you will notice changes.
August 20, 2020, 10:00am - class 1045 Bikram 90 - Every day, every week is different. Try not to be too hard on yourself if your postures are not as good as last week. Just keep thinking about moving forward and don't look back.
August 21, 2020, 10:00am - Much of today's yoga class was filled with many of the therapeutic yoga exercises I teach to clients who request private sessions with me. There were Bikram postures in the class, but the postures were preceded with warm-up exercises.
August 23, 2020, 10:00am - class 1046 Bikram 90 - We spoke about how modified first sets of postures can build a strong foundation for the actual postures in the second set. We used the example of Tree and Toe Stand where Tree is basically a foundational posture to prepare for Toe Stand.
August 25, 2020, 10:00am - class 1047 Bikram 90 - Damn good Standing Head to Knee for me today. I performed a more flowing arm movement from Tree to Toe. I was able to do a regular Camel in the second set.
August 26, 2020, 10:00am - class 1048 Bikram 90 - Another steady Standing Head to Knee until the end when I started to lose my balance, but I regained it. To an outsider, it looks like a twitch, but, to the practitioner, it feels like much more. My neck was bugging me again, so I did a modified Camel. We talked about how some doctors shouldn't say certain things because it eats away at their patient's confidence. Imagine you're 25 and told by your doctor you have the body of a 50 year old. That is such a terrible thing to say! "Hey, I'm proud of my 50 year old body. You doctors only wish you had my body!" I mused. Since the start of quarantine, this was the one-hundredth class I taught online.
August 27, 2020, 10:00am - class 1049 Bikram 90 - Even in my silent yoga classes, I have to include some instruction in order to keep my viewers safe. I'm very chatty, so it's hard to keep my mouth shut. Sadly, I fell out of Standing Head to Knee today after two days of near-perfect stillness. I gave viewers two versions of Spine Twist to choose from.
I sometimes encounter interesting online groups I'd like to join. One such group was designated for Bikram Yoga teachers and had over 1,500 members in its ranks, including many of my fellow teachers and friends. The one criterion for membership is attending Bikram's training. Every teacher training has bad teachers graduating from it, even Bikram's training, so it puzzled me why this was the its sole requirement. The moderator of the group rejected me at first, to which I replied, "No worries. It's all good. I will say, though, that teacher training is just a very small part of a teacher's qualifications." I then listed a who's who of teachers who had mentored and trained me, some of whom are considered the elites and champions of the Bikram Yoga world. After a short dialog, the moderator finally concluded that I was a passionate teacher who would be a valuable asset to the group. He admitted me and said he was proud to have me as a member. He had some interesting opinions as to who should and should not be admitted to the group and was especially passionate about "locking the knee," which I have been teaching for quite some time in my Bikram classes. Quite honestly, because I've selflessly broadcasted over 100 videos of all of my yoga classes during quarantine, I think that tells you something about my dedication to yoga.
My neck and spine are not healing as I had hoped, so I've decided to take a break from yoga in order to allow my spine to heal from the rigors of near-daily training as my Jedi Fight Club training approaches. I want to be in top shape for it, so there's no use in aggravating my existing injuries. I'm going back to what made me successful in my preparation for the Northeast Regional Championship.
As many of you know, my left leg is longer than my right, making my pelvis and spine crooked. In fact, you can clearly see that there are marked differences between both sides in my pelvic X-ray. It's amazing I can walk straight or do yoga at all! So when a certain teacher tells me that I "should be able to get my legs straight in Padha Hastasana (Hands to Feet Pose) in the time I've been practicing yoga," here is proof that shows why it might not be possible at all, which makes it all the more amazing that I'm able do all the poses I can do.
The results of the USA Yoga National Championship were released and, unfortunately, I was not in the top 6 finalists to move on to the final round. I was, however, ranked number 7 in the entire country, so that's quite an achievement. Given the same competition and what I know about the competitors, I would've expected to be ranked similarly in the Nationals that were supposed to be held in Louisville, Kentucky this year. I just did something amazing if you think about it. Before this year, nobody in the competitive yoga world knew my name, but through a massive amount of hard work and dedication - all by myself and without a coach - I proved I can strut my stuff with the best of them.
I am not afraid to be my best in front of other people. I am not afraid to inspire. I've already inspired a number of people to compete next year.
Interesting in saving imperfect vegetables from going into landfills? Watch my latest Hungry Harvest unboxing video here.
September 6, 2020, 9:30am - class 1050 Bikram 90 - I resumed online teaching after a one-week recovery from neck pain. I felt good teaching and demonstrating the postures, but, several hours later, my neck was hurting again.
September 8, 2020, 10:00am - class 1051 Bikram 90 - I took another day off from teaching yesterday because I lost sleep from waking up in the middle of the night with severe neck pain. It felt like somebody had stabbed my neck with a knife! I felt better today, but I may have aggravated my neck again. I've been having this neck pain on and off since February. Today's class was supposed to be a Silent 90, but I found myself talking through many of the postures. Plus, I can't help but gab when I'm passionate about something. I criticized the harsh scoring in the National Championship, but I still gave props to USA Yoga for having a venue for people to demonstrate their skills.
September 9, 2020, 10:00am - class 1052 Bikram 90 - How do you get your forehead to touch the floor before your pinky fingers do in Half-Tortoise? You have to stretch your arms up so much that they are behind your head before you come down. How do you get your hands to come up first when coming out of the pose? You have to continuously stretch your arms forward so much that they stay behind your head before you come up. This is a very difficult pose to do correctly. Remember that Half-Tortoise is not Child's Pose, although you can turn it into Child's Pose if you feel like coasting through a class.
September 10, 2020, 10:00am - class 1053 Bikram 90 - Today we emphasized the lengthening of the spine in the floor series postures, from Half-Tortoise to Head to Knee with Deep Stretching. I also stated that teachers have a responsibility to their students to continually inspire them.
One of my neighbors and friend, Marian Garfinkel, a professor and researcher who showed that yoga could be used as a treatment for osteoarthritis of the hands and other rheumatic diseases, died on Friday, August 28 at the age of 88. Marian was a certified teacher and director of the B.K.S. Iyengar Yoga Studio in Philadelphia. I remember she and I had lengthy discussions on a number of yoga topics. A sprightly lady with a sharp wit and bard-like wisdom, she will be missed by many in the health and fitness community.
September 11, 2020, 10:00am - class 1054 Bikram 90 - Why do I teach Standing Quadricep Stretch as the first set of Standing Bow? I see a lot of poorly presented Standing Bows by a lot of people who are just going through the motions in class. They lackadaisically raise their arm up as if they are waving to someone rather than keeping their arm continuously streyching up and in line with their torso. Because they're not stretching enough, some students never experience the concept of shoulder to the chin and not chin to the shoulder. As shown in class today, the more you stretch forward, the more your shoulder corkscrews closer to your chin.
September 11, 2020, 5:30pm - class 1055 Bikram 90 - My second studio class since the start of quarantine. I wore a disposable mask this time and switched to a new mask halfway into class because my mask was soaked with sweat. I couldn't do hands-on adjustments due to COVID. All I can do is look and direct in person. I talked about the things we spoke about in Standing Bow this morning. Those of you who take my online classes know I'm chatty when I teach. I talk a lot more in a studio class, since I'm just teaching and not teaching and demonstrating. I provide more instruction and useful tips and techniques for your poses.
September 13, 2020, 9:30am - class 1056 Bikram 90 - Don't push yourself in any posture to the point where you risk injury, not even for a championship. It's not worth it. Your recovery time may be considerable.
September 15, 2020, 10:00am - class 1057 Bikram 90 - I had trouble twisting my arms, right under the left, in Eagle due to the Shingles vaccine shot I received yesterday. It felt like someone knuckle-punched me really hard in my arm. I noticed how much easier it was to keep my back flat and spine straight in Eagle this way.
September 16, 2020, 10:00am - class 1058 Bikram 90 - I was able to twist my arms again in Eagle. I talked about how teachers should inspire their students. Do you practice what you preach? Or do you just teach? Are you willing to put your reputation on the line by displaying your abilities in public? I believe perfect postures are not what most people care about when they look at your practice. They want to see that you are always striving to be the best version of you. I have one more week to prepare for Jedi Fight Club.
September 17, 2020, 10:00am - class 1059 Bikram 90 - In preparation for Jedi Fight Club, I practiced without sipping water in class. This is easy for me as I've completed many classes without water. If you lose your balance in a posture, such as Standing Bow, continual practice will help you learn to regain your balance as you learn how to shift your bodyweight properly. When you practice the 26+2 series, be sure to go to a class that has two sets of every posture. The first set gives you an idea of where you're at. The second set gives you an idea of how far you can go. If you only practice one-set classes, you'll never know how far you can go in your yoga. I believe single-set classes are best for those who practice at least twice a day. If you're willing to commit to two one-hour single-set classes a day, you may as well commit to one 90-minute double-set class a day. At Jedi Fight Club, we will be practicing two 90-minute classes every day with many hours of posture practice in between.
September 18, 2020, 10:00am - class 1060 Bikram 90 - We spoke about using video recordings to improve your yoga practice. Videos don't lie, so review your progress with a critical eye and examine the things you need to do to get better.
September 21, 2020, 9:00am - class 1061 Bikram 90 - "The harder you kick, you can balance in the posture forever" is not all about the leg in Standing Bow. The posture requires you to have your arm in the correct position as a counterbalance, otherwise you will lose your balance. Perpendicular thighs don't mean much in Rabbit unless your forehead touches your knees. We spoke about using words as a guide to enable your body to do things it normally cannot do. If you believe you can do something, you will be able to do it. This is especially true in Standing Separate Leg Stretching.