November 10, 2020, 10:00am - class 1101 Bikram 90 - Yoga helps with your physical and mental balance. The postures can make you burn a lot of calories and develop your focus. The concept of calming your mind when things seem hectic and crazy can be applied to many of the challenges you experience in your life. I believe this is why so many people gravitate towards yoga.
November 11, 2020, 10:00am - class 1102 Bikram 90 - Nothing is ever free. If you want to improve your health, you have to devote an honest effort into it. What if your entire life depended on yoga and how much heart you put into it? What if you could extend your life by five years with just 90 minutes of yoga every day? Five years not in a wheelchair or in a debilitated state, but five years of being able to keep up with the energy of your loved ones. Would you do it? I definitely would. Just do it.
November 12, 2020, 9:00am - class 1103 Bikram 90 - I may have overworked myself the past couple of days because my spine feels really sore. Hopefully, the pain will subside soon. I spoke about how some people might like to compare their 20 or 30 year old badass selves against me, a 52 year old. When I was in my 20s or 30s, I was a badass, too, and what they see now is what they'll likely be when they're my age, but, chances are, most people will not continue their daily exercise and won't be in the shape I'm in. Chris Fluck said it best when he observed that just 10% of his students will continue their yoga a few years from when they started and just 1% will continue their yoga ten years later. Many people have good intentions when they start yoga, but few really have the motivation to do anything for the long term.
November 19, 2020 - IYSF 2020 Americas Continental Exhibition - For this virtual exhibition, I did push-ups to prepare for my lifts and practiced my routine over and over in my head. 24 postures representing who I am. I didn't practice yoga for a week. I couldn't. I injured my back last Wednesday, more severely than I had thought, and kept it a big secret. I almost forfeited my spot in the exhibition. But one thing kept me going.
Champions never quit.
Most people look at a yoga routine and are quick to judge. They don't know about the hard work that goes behind it. The endless hours of practice and pushing yourself beyond your limits. Some of you might say that's not what yoga is all about and you'd be right... but this is yoga asana. Yoga asana is a sport like gymnastics. For me, this exhibition was my chance to show postures seldom done and the flourishes I do in all of my postures. I lost my balance twice, in Split Arm Balancing Stick and Eagle, but kept going. It was not my best performance, but it was pretty great considering I had a bad back and haven't practiced for a week. I had to rely on my ability to quiet my mind and just do it. As if my whole life depended on my performance tonight. In the past, my pièce de résistance was Eight Angle. Tonight, it was Root Pose. A fiery pain shot through my right calf muscle two poses prior to Root and I almost wasn't able to do Fetal Lotus. A little voice in my head told me not to disappoint the over 200 people watching my performance, so I pushed on and finished my routine with nobody knowing I had a debilitating injury just days before in which I couldn't even turn my torso 30 degrees in one direction! Hour by hour, day by day, I worked myself back into a decent spine twist, so I could perform my routine to the world.
Because champions never quit.
December 13, 2020, 10:00am - class 1104 Bikram 90 - It's been a while since I last practiced, so today I practiced slowly and therapeutically, focusing on alignment moreso than depth. The lesson learned here is yoga can injure you if you push yourself too hard, so try not to advance too quickly! Slow but steady wins the race.
December 15, 2020, 10:00am - class 1105 Bikram 90 - Like Sunday's class, I concentrated more on alignment than depth, but this time I resumed the pace of a typical 90 minute class. There were glimpses of my previous advanced level of practice, but it will take time for it to all come back.
December 17, 2020, 10:00am - class 1106 Bikram 90 - Feeling stronger today, I did my Eagle to Phoenix transition and Extended Bound Side Angle in the second set of Triangle.
December 19, 2020 - USA Yoga Workshop "Judge's Clinic Workshop: Routine Details with Cynthia Wehr" - Cynthia reviewed some common competition poses and explained important aspects and details athletes can work on to improve their scores. The workshop was designed to educate judges on the major components of postures and to serve as a resource to athletes and coaches who want to deepen their understanding of postures onstage. It also serves as a primer for the judge's exam. Wise bits of advice include, "Know the rhythm of your routine, like a song. Know what you're doing 100% in and out." and "In Standing Head to Knee, do a lift up, come down motion. A knee bend is a one point deduction, two feet not in one line is another -1, facing the wrong way is -0.5..." and so on. An obvious, but worthwhile tip worth repeating is "Instead of counting to 5, count to 7 to give yourself some extra cushion." You have to be in complete stillness for five seconds, not continually moving and going deeper into a pose, as in Standing Bow Pulling. In the olden days, there were no deductions for timing! Some poses were a challenge to analyze, but a quick consult with senior judges would culminate in a clarification of the rules. For example, "We judge the pose on its final expression, so in Full Tortoise you can touch your feet to the ground in the setup, but you'll get -1 in the final expression if your feet touch the ground." The rules are constantly evolving to strengthen the level of our sport.
December 20, 2020, 10:00am - class 1107 Bikram 90 - Practicing at home alone, it's always best to have a teacher demonstrate the postures while you practice your class so you can get a sense of what to do. You don't have the luxury of seeing and mimicking others in an in-person class, so your teacher is sometimes your only guide. While I may seem harsh towards those teachers who don't practice while they teach, know that my intentions are always pure and designed to help others achieve their best selves. My words especially hold true in demonstrations, such as Tuladandasna and Standing Separate Leg Stretching. Without someone showing you how it's done, you'll have a tough time achieving good poses on your own.
December 21, 2020, 10:00am - class 1108 Bikram 90 - In Tuladandasana, stretch forward and back in opposite directions as if someone is grabbing your wrists and pulling you forward and someone else is grabbing your ankle of your lifted leg and pulling you back to stretch, lengthen, and straighten your body so that it is parallel to the floor.
December 22, 2020, 10:00am - class 1109 Bikram 90 - I finally did Camel with my hands grabbing my feet after more than a month following my spine injury. That was my amazing feat of the day.
December 24, 2020, 10:00am - class 1110 Bikram 90 - Today's special class included three sets of some postures and advanced variants of other postures. Work on the weaker side of your body to create balance in your body.
December 25, 2020, 10:00am - class 1111 Bikram 90 - Merry Christmas and happy holidays! I spoke about my younger days when I was into bodybuilding. Through my foundation of strength, I was able to develop my flexibility to such an extent that I am more flexible now than when I was ten, twenty, and even thirty years younger. I spoke about how every place you practice your yoga is a blessing and offers unique advantages. I spoke about Camel pose and how the body doesn't have to look like a square. Get the hips above the knees so the thighs are parallel to the wall in front of you. Arms are parallel to the front wall, perpendicular to the floor. Grip the heels well. Lift the chest up high on every inhale. Push your hips forward on every exhale. Drop your head back. Let your head hang loose. Look behind you. Look towards your toes. Your spine will be arching backwards. Get the entire spine involved, not just a single point of flexion. I spoke about how everyone's body is different and how some people may need to modify a posture to suit their body.
December 27, 2020, 10:00am - class 1112 Bikram 90 - It's always good to follow along with a teacher and see the postures being demonstrated, but know your own body and stop when you feel it's a good time to stop in the steps of a posture. In Camel, I talked about the importance of extending the spine fully before grabbing the heels. Take your time stretching and lengthening your spine before you move forward with grabbing your heels. Make sure you're in the proper position first before you move on to the next step in any posture. Develop your body at your own pace, not anyone else's.
December 29, 2020, 10:00am - class 1113 Bikram 90 - You can use Savasana time to prep your spine for upcoming postures. Some teachers may frown upon this practice, but if you've been practicing yoga for a long time, you know what your body needs to get ready for the next posture. Consider Supine Spine Twists or neck twists during this time or just rest and relax. It's your choice.
December 29, 2020, 5:30pm - class 1114 Bikram 90 - We practiced the Bikram Floor Series with extra postures in this afternoon class.
December 30, 2020, 10:00am - class 1115 Bikram 90 - Relax your spine and hips in Standing Separate Leg Stretching. In other words, take a moment to "hang out" and let your body get a feel for being in the posture, then go for depth. You will find you can reach the top of your head further down towards your mat that way.
December 31, 2020, 10:00am - class 1116 Bikram 90 - Try to keep your body weight in your heels throughout Standing Separate Leg Head to Knee. This is easier said than done. What you learn from doing so will also improve how you come out of a posture like Rabbit.
January 1, 2021, 10:00am - class 1117 Bikram 90 - Hatha yoga is hard. It's not meant to be easy. It's an intense form of health and fitness, but most people don't have what it takes to carry on this form of exercise in a sustainable way. Start small - ten minutes at first - and increase the length of your sessions over time until you can complete a 90 minute class.
January 2, 2021 - In a freak accident, I slipped and fell cleaning my bathtub. I landed my full weight on my hand inside the tub, hitting the faucet along the way. My palm swelled up and I had to ice it for several hours. I was in intense pain at one point. The fact that this happened so close to the submission deadline for the USA Yoga Northeast Regional Championship, just two days away, was uncanny. Whenever it seems like I'll get a break, some higher power always throws a curveball at me, but you know what? I wouldn't have it any other way. I had neck and sciatic nerve issues at the Northeast Regional and spine issues at Jedi Fight Club and the IYSF Continental Exhibition. Working through pain seems to be a recurring theme for me. I thought about how easy it would be to just forfeit my chance to compete in the Northeast Regional, but something inside me just said no, you can't forfeit. Some of you might be curious as to what exactly happened the week before the IYSF Continental Exhibition. Here is the Cliffs Notes version:
IYSF Continental Exhibition T-8 Days (November 11, 2020): It was a day like any other. In class, I spoke about how you should perform your best yoga as if your whole life depended on it. Something didn't feel right after the final Deep Stretching Pose. I pulled a bit deeper than normal.
IYSF Continental Exhibition T-7 Days (November 12, 2020): I knew something didn't feel quite right. My Camel felt good and deep, but it was like I was forcing the issue to make the posture better rather than letting the posture come to me.
IYSF Continental Exhibition T-6 Days (November 13, 2020): I skipped today's class to rest my spine. Something felt terribly wrong. Just walking felt very painful. I shuffled forward like an old woman with bad hips. I had to hold onto a handrail or use my hands to grip the walls because I feared falling down the steps in my home. Even lifting my arms was painful and staying up late to deejay my usual weekly online parties probably exacerbated the situation.
IYSF Continental Exhibition T-5 Days (November 14, 2020): The worst thing happened. Today felt like hell. I couldn't get out of bed. My back hurt like hell and it felt like something was on fire. That wasn't good. I couldn't sit up. I had to tilt my body over the side of the bed and use my leg and arm closest to my dresser to push myself up. I still couldn't walk right.
IYSF Continental Exhibition T-4 Days (November 15, 2020): Today felt worse. I skipped my yoga class, opting to let my spine heal. Unfortuately, I woke up several times during the night with the feeling of fire shooting up my spine.
IYSF Continental Exhibition T-3 Days (November 16, 2020): The clock was ticking away. Just three days away and I didn't feel confident I could go through with the exhbition. Thoughts of forfeiting my spot at the exhibition went through my mind over and over again. I spoke to my girlfriend Kay about it.
||"It's getting closer and closer to the exhibition. I don't think I'll be ready. I can't even turn my torso 30 degrees, let alone 180 that Spine Twist requires! I can't do it."
||"Oh sweetie, you've worked so hard to be able to do this."
||"Believe me, not showing up is going to upset me more than anyone else."
||"I know... I know..."
Did you ever get that sinking feeling that the whole world was about to crumble because you worked so hard to achieve something and then the rug gets pulled right out from underneath you? I felt sick. I wanted to cry, but I didn't. All my life, I've beaten great odds to be where I am. The more you know about my personal life, the more you know this to be true. Who knew I would've risen so quickly in the yoga asana world within one year? I felt that this was my year. It's now or never. Next year would be more difficult and the year after that even more so. We cannot be phenomenal physical specimens forever. Age eventually creeps up on all of us. I slept three more hours than usual. I would make my decision the next morning.
IYSF Continental Exhibition T-2 Days (November 17, 2020): It was 9am. I sat with my legs and feet in prayer, eyes closed with the sun warming my body. Time stood still for a moment. I bowed forward and pressed my forehead to the floor, ignoring any pain this action caused. I needed a good prayer, to tell my inner self that I've got this. I said the following prayer to myself. It was the same prayer I said two days before the Northeast Regional.
All that you know, all that you taught me is here in this fractured body.
All that I am is because of you, my teachers, my friends.
All that I do, I do to honor those of you who spent the time to fix me.
To make me better, to make me be the best version of me. This is for you.
This is for you Sandy. This is for you Noelle.
Thank you both.
With that said, I went to work. Every hour, on the hour, I tractioned, I twisted, and I bent for just a minute or two, and then rested. Little by little, hour by hour, I twisted my spine more and more, working through intense pain, shaking off the cobwebs of not practicing for many days, and trying to achieve at least a modicum of the abilities from that awesome physical specimen I once was. Some hours were easier than others. Sometimes I would sit with a messed up looking face and cry to myself in pain, but I knew I had to go on. I conquered cancer, depression, three grueling surgeries, and more! I wasn't about to let an injured spine stop me. I walked through my entire routine in my head after enduring every set of excruciating exercises. I moved postures around and improved my sequence every step of the way. Even though I couldn't physically practice my routine, I mentally practiced it over and over again.
IYSF Continental Exhibition T-1 Days (November 18, 2020): Success! I was able to do a Spine Twist almost 180 degrees. It wasn't perfect, but it was as good as it could be, given my limitations. At 7pm, I practiced my five-minute routine for the first time. It was actually pretty good.
IYSF Continental Exhibition (November 19, 2020): After a few more practice runs of my routine that morning, I demonstrated my routine to the world at 4:40pm EST. As I stated previously, I could've easily forfeited my spot at the exhibition, but I didn't want to because I knew that champions never quit. I did a lot of soul searching in my moment of need and found that the inner strength I was seeking was there all along. Very few people knew the details of what went through my mind the days before the exhibition. Sometimes people take for granted the amazing things they see during the championships. They don't see all the hard work that makes an athlete's asana routine look flawless and easy. When an athlete messes up, these people simply think the athlete wasn't skilled enough or didn't work hard enough. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Understand that a yoga athlete is much more than any routine he or she displays.
January 3, 2021, 10:00am - class 1118 Bikram 90 - Thankfully, the Bikram series doesn't include very many postures that can potentially exacerbate a thumb injury. I spoke about proper foot placement in class today. If you have bunions on your feet, then don't keep your feet together. Instead, swing your heels out about half an inch to an inch to get each heel directly behind the second toe - the toe next to your big toe - to get both feet straight. We get a sense of this straightening of the feet in Awkward, but then there is an assumption that your feet will always be together and straight for the postures after that one and that's not always the case. Later in the evening, I practiced my routine for the first time. Holy shit, Eight Angle was hard on my injured hand. I didn't worry about timing. I just wanted to see if I could do some semblance of the postures.
January 4, 2021 - I recorded and reviewed two attempts at my routine this morning. It was the second and third time I practiced my routine. I thought my freak accident on Saturday would've prevented me from performing a lift posture, but, thankfully, it didn't. I practiced some warm-up exercises before the next recording and recorded three more attempts. I scrutinized each one and concluded that the final version was the best. Later that night, I helped my friend Toni record her video for the competition. I gave her a number of pointers to help make her routine better. The most important coaching tip I can give anyone is to reduce the amount of fidgeting before, during, and after postures. Many of us don't realize just how much we subconsciously move when we're told to stand still.
January 6, 2021 - Alas, the USA Yoga Northeast Regional Championship wasn't meant to be... just yet. The event was cancelled and my registration fee was refunded for both Toni and myself. It wasn't a well-promoted event, having a cursory mention on the USA Yoga web site, so there probably weren't enough contestants to make the competition worthwhile.
January 8, 2021, 10:00am - class 1119 Bikram 90 - Establish a strong foundation before you charge forward and bring your body down in Standing Bow. Keep that strong foundation as you come out of the posture. Firmly root your foot of the standng leg into the ground. Try not to bend the knee. Engage all the muscles in your standing leg. If you proceed without establishing a strong foundation, you will find it a lot more difficult to regain your balance if you happen to fall out. A posture should be strong at all points: beginning, middle, and end.
January 9, 2021 - USA Yoga Workshop "Judge's Clinic Workshop: Routine Details with Ky Ha" - Ky gave us insights on how he judges athletes' postures and explained important aspects and details the athletes could work on to improve their scores. The workshop is designed to educate judges on the major components of postures and to serve as a resource to athletes and coaches who want to deepen their understanding of postures on stage. It also serves as a primer for the judge's exam. Wise bits of advice include, "Be consistent in your judging. The most you can deduct from a charactertistic is -2. Minor deductions are -0.5 and there are minimum points to deduct for certain characterstics. Every wiggle of your foot is -0.5, so three foot wiggles is -1.5. As a competitor, your job is to hide imperfections. As a judge, your job is to spot imperfections. As a competitor, you should always put your best foot forward. Don't show your physical flaws, such as a longer leg, otherwise judges may deduct points off for misalignment of hips even though that's your body. We better ourselves as competitors and judges are like teachers, giving us feedback on our postures. When there are five judges, the highest and lowest scores are removed and the middle three are averaged. Sometimes judging can be subjective, but the key is to be consistent in your judging across a group of contestants. It's always better to do a standard posture well than a difficult posture poorly; execution scores are determined by what the competitor scores versus how high she could have scored. Scores don't define you as a competitor, but judges have to score you for consistency. Judges stress just as much as competitors onstage." It now makes sense why I'm usually ranked at the top when it comes to execution. It's because I do my postures better than others who try to do harder postures not so well. A higher execution score comes in handy when there are ties.
January 10, 2021 - USA Yoga Judge's Exam - The notion of an exam causes more anxiety than it should. After careful examination of what my goals are, I decided to take the exam because it was one of the requirements for being a coach or judge in the organization. Various descriptions of the exam stated that it would take either 45 minutes or two hours (120 minutes) to complete. Which was it? There is big difference between 45 minutes and two hours! A further point of confusion was the exam was available from 10am to 10pm today. I stayed up until 3:30am last night reading and reviewing the 121 pages of USA Yoga Competition Rules and Regulations and Posture Guidelines. When I took the exam, I discovered it wasn't nearly as difficult as I had thought, perhaps because I was well-prepared for it and also perhaps because I knew a lot of the rules and regulations already. The exam had a maximum time limit of two hours and I completed its 60 questions in less than an hour. About three-quarters of the way into the exam, the web site presenting the exam slowed to a crawl. Moving to the next page of the exam required a 30 second or more wait time. Up until that point, I was quickly breezing through its pages. Before I knew it, I finished the exam and thought to myself it was one of the easiest exams I've ever taken. Why did I get so worked up over it? The final page said that my exam would be reviewed by a USA Yoga head judge and the results would be available within a week.
January 11, 2021, 10:00am - class 1120 Bikram 90 - There should always be continuous engagement of the muscles from the beginning to the end of a posture. Go through a posture slowly to receive its full benefits. Don't jerk your body into a posture or come out quickly. Clear your mind of everything but the posture you are working on.
Jean Agress, one of the head judges of USA Yoga, wrote me today to review my exam and finalize the process for being a coach. I spoke to her over Zoom. "I remember you!" she said with a big smile. "I've seen you many times over the years. You're very good!" We reviewed the four questions I got wrong and discovered that it was an interpretation issue. "Don't worry, everyone else got those wrong, too," Jean said. I offered to help her rewrite those exam questions and other documentation that might be unclear to exam takers. She was immediately impressed when she learned of my book 1234 Yoga and said it would be great if I could help. She asked me if I wanted to be a coach or a judge. I asked her if being a judge would prevent me from competing and she said yes, so I said I wanted to be a coach, since coaches are still allowed to compete. "We would be happy to add you to the coaches list," Jean said. "We need someone to coach the 50+ competitors as there are a lot more 50+ competitors now. We're happy to have you join our organization." With that said, I'm now an official USA Yoga coach.
January 13, 2021 - Virtual JFC Homework Week with Esak Garcia - I signed up for a day pass for this week's Virtual JFC Homework Week to learn Esak's training techniques to assist us in developing our strength, balance, and flexibility in Leg Over Head postures, such as Compass and Goodbye. We practiced hip openers, including variations of Pigeon, Lizard, Wind Removing, and Side Angle. I can't do leg splits yet, so many of the advanced techniques were not yet accessible to me, but I felt they were achievable over time. The amazing thing is with the stuff I practiced in this one class, I was able to get my leg over my head much more easily than in recent attempts. Being able to get my leg over my head opens up many more possibilities for my future championship routines.
I'll be the first to admit I gained a few pounds resting from my spinal injury, but the most recent random text message to my cell phone promoting a miracle drug that will burn off 45 pounds easily was amusing. I responded, "If I lost 45 pounds, I'd be 90 pounds!" Another text promotion a few days later ensured that I would lose over 35 pounds in less than 17 days. I responded, "The first ad was for losing 45 pounds. I guess if I use both of your products, I would weigh 55 pounds and then a scarecrow would find me attractive!" I like playing with these silly product companies.
January 14, 2021, 10:00am - class 1121 Bikram 90 - Use the same grip for the single leg as the double leg in Wind Removing and you will find you can go deeper into the posture.
January 17, 2020, 11:00am - class 1122 Intermediate Series - After more than two months, it feels good to be teaching the Intermediate Series again. I forgot about how therapeutic some of the intermediate postures are and spoke about the difference between PT and yoga. The goal of PT is to return an injured patient to a fully functioning, pain-free state. You achieve this with very easy exercises that target specific muscles and joints. The goal of yoga is to help a person achieve maximum strength, balance, and flexibility for the body they have now. PT is like a baby form of yoga. Many doctors prescribe yoga to their patients whom they feel are healthy enough to do it. Some people poo poo yoga because they feel that many of the postures are not accessible to them. Rather than denigrate something they can't do or understand, they should try to graduate from their simple PT exercises to something more challenging and range expanding.
For years, I've interacted with people who brought out the worst in me. Their selfishness and narcissism would clash with my inner peace and ideals and their behavior would encourage similar behavior in me. I would be a narcissist-enabler to the narcissist, listening and nodding to every stupid thing that spews out of their mouths. Conversations with narcissists would end up being one-sided where they would do most of the talking and I was just listening. They believed I was agreeing with them just because I was listening or nodding. Anything I would say, any recent, happy achievement I told them about, would be turned into an opportunity for them to boast about how great they are... even if they're not that great. I've discovered that the best defense against such narcissists is to simply ignore them. They will want to talk to you again because they seek your narcissist-enabling behavior, but the best thing to do is simply limit your exposure to them and those people who bring out the worst in you. Why? Because a good person is inherently a good person. A good person tells others about their achievements, but doesn't turn someone's achievements around into an opportunity for them to tell you about how great they were ten or twenty years ago or what they could possibly do, but never have. Feeding the narcissist energy simply gives them more power to feel better about themselves and to feel superior to others, including you. We all have friends we know who are a bit narcissistic, however, do these friends also try to turn what you say into some achievement of theirs that are not really related? Do they try to justify their narcissistic behavior in some way by saying you're exactly like them just because they saw you nodding to what they said in the past? Do they try to say things that make you question your own feelings, instincts, or sanity? Do they try to trivialize what you do? Don't let these people steal your peace. You're better than that. You know you're better than that. We grow, we mature, and we change over time. Everyone changes over time, except for the narcissists who must cling onto the few achievements they have and their need to surround themselves with narcissist-enablers. There is hope for the narcissist, but they must be willing to acknowledge their behavior and seek therapy.
Although I've stopped broadcasting my yoga classes for a few weeks, I've continued working on my yoga poses in private. The demands of my workplace take precedence, but I try to get my training in as much as possible during my breaks to prepare for the next regional championship. Can someone do a class in a piecemeal way and still reap all the benefits of the class? I believe that doing what you can is better than doing nothing at all and I also believe that doing the postures the way I do them, with maximum intensity, will give me the benefits I'm seeking anyway. Some postures, such as Half Moon and Spine Twist, I do every day more than twice. Others, such as Standing Head to Knee and Toe Stand, I could skip without losing any strength, balance, or flexibility in my competition routine. I would be so bold as to say that some 26+2 postures are actually detrimental to my overall well-being, but we all do them because we're told to in class. I'm from the school of thought that says if you don't want to do a posture as described, for whatever reason, just do something similar to fill in the time. Do Phoenix instead of Eagle or Split Arms Balancing Stick instead of Balancing Stick or Extended Side Angle instead of Triangle. Do what your body needs to do. Listen to your body first, the teacher's dialog second.
February 7, 2021, 10:00am - class 1123 Bikram 90 - Haven't practiced a full yoga class in a while? You might need to shake off the cobwebs. Remember, it's never too late to start again. I push my students hard because I want them to succeed, but remember that you are your own best teacher. Take all the good things you've learned from all of your teachers and make the class your own.
February 9, 2021, 10:00am - class 1124 Bikram 90 - Continuing to work through injury seems to be par for the course in my life. I need to remember not to be too overzealous in my training, otherwise I'll risk further injury. For whatever reason, I could not broadcast my video in landscape mode today on my iPhone, so I had to do it in portrait mode. It worked out well anyway as you can see more of me in portrait mode.
February 10, 2021, 10:00am - class 1125 Bikram 90 - Respect your injuries and work with your body, not against it when practicing a class. Change comes in small, tiny increments. Work steadily towards your goals. You'll know when you're ready to do more. Never bite off more than you can chew.
February 11, 2021, 10:00am - class 1126 Bikram 90 - When practicing a difficult posture, eventually "I think I can" becomes "I know I can." That's when real change happens.
February 12, 2021, 10:00am - class 1127 Bikram 90 - I had to break up my class into two parts so I could take care of some scheduled appointments. I added Crow, Crane, and Baby Crow to the Standing Series class. How still should you be in standing postures, such as Standing Head to Knee and Standing Bow? You should be so still during the 60 seconds you are in them that someone watching you should mistakenly believe their network connection froze for that length of time. Make your yoga look effortless.
February 16, 2021, 10:00am - class 1128 Bikram 90 - Bikram Yoga classes are excellent for spine development. In today's class, I discuss the look of the spine as it develops over time. The spine very much resembles a coiled snake after a few month's of daily practice.
February 23, 2021, 10:00am - class 1129 Bikram 90 - Don't worry so much about seeing all five toes of your hooked foot behind your calf muscle in Eagle. If you have a big leg, you probably won't see your toes. Worry more about getting a secure hook behind the foot with the toes pointing downward. When you're in an inversion posture, don't hold your breath because bad things can happen. Keep breathing! We did two sets of Spine Twist, the Bikram variant and my variant.
February 25, 2021, 10:00am - class 1130 Bikram 90 - If the dialog were stripped from a Bikram class, you can complete it in as little as 60 minutes. Following the dialog maintains the pace of the class and it is useful for students who are used to holding a posture for the duration of the dialog.
February 26, 2021, 10:30am - class 1131 Intermediate Series - We practiced Root Lock (Mulabandhasana) as a bonus in class today. It's a posture I'm practicing for the championship, but is useful for those who want to develop their ankle flexibility. We also practiced Shoulderstand Lotus.
February 28, 2021, 10:00am - class 1132 Bikram 90 - Don't "charge" forward in Standing Bow. Charging implies forcefully thrusting yourself onward like a cavalry stampede, guns blazing and horses rushing forward. Instead, tilt your body forward with an intense stretch forward and back, keeping your exended arm and thigh of the kicking leg in line with your torso. Think about a drinking bird toy. Your arm and your thigh should be in one straight line with your torso, balancing on a single standing leg as you tilt forward. Keep your standing leg strong, engaging all the muscles in your leg. Keep your foot planted firmly into the ground, pressing your big toe down. Keep your gaze looking ahead. Do not lose your focus. Keep stretching your arm and leg in opposite directions as you tilt your body down, keep stretching while you're in the posture, and keep stretching when you came out of the posture. Do not lose your intensity at any point. Say to yourself, "I want to be the best that I can be." If you fall, learn how to fall gracefully. Mastering that will come in time.
March 2, 2021, 10:00am - class 1133 Bikram 90 - Remember to breathe before a posture, during a posture, amd after a posture. Breathe before a posture to calm your mind. Breathe during a posture to calm your mind. Breathe after a posture to calm your mind. Don't hold your breath while you're in a posture, otherwise serious problems can happen. As a beginner, you may find yourself losing your balance in postures that require standing on a single leg. Through continued practice over time, you will gain experience in learning how to use your powerful legs to cushion your fall once you lose that balance.
March 3, 2021, 11:00am - class 1134 with Justin Riley - 136.5 today. It's been almost a year since I stepped foot in my home base yoga studio, Bikram Yoga Philadelphia. The heat felt suffocating as it always does, but I persevered. Despite Justin's encouraging words, I knew I had some work to do in order to be in the competition shape that I once was. I was physically and mentally exhausted after class and needed an hour in Barnes & Noble to decompress.
March 4, 2021, 10:00am - class 1135 Bikram 90 - The Sitting Rising Test, invented by Dr. Claudio Gil Araujo, is a way to predict the longevity of a person. I've described the test in my book and talk about it from time to time in my online classes. You will always see me doing this at the very end of class. The best way to score higher in this test is to practice yoga. Today, I missed an entire posture sequence during class, but made up for it by practicing it towards the end. I think you will find my class flows quite smoothly even with this rearrangement in sequence. Vinyasa teachers play with their sequences all the time. Nothing should ever be etched in stone. In case you don't know, my 500-hour certification is in therapeutic yoga and the yoga we studied was, in fact, Vinyasa Flow based on Hatha Yoga.
March 5, 2021, 11:00am - class 1136 with Chris Fluck - I felt a bit more acclimated to the heat today. Justin and Chris both liked my high-arching backbends. I believe my grueling Jedi Fight Club training really helped develop my thoracic spine. I haven't been backbending as deeply in my lumbar spine, instead focusing on my thoracic as the competition nears. "Nice, Clare, for always keeping your quads engaged," Chris commented on my Janushirasana floor pose. I practiced Archer and Root Lock after class.
March 6, 2021 - USA Yoga Workshop "Judge's Clinic Workshop: Advanced Postures and Timing Details with Ky Ha" - In this two-hour workshop, we studied videos of past competitors and Ky gave us insights on the minute details judges look at in competition. "There are two departments for checks and balances," Ky said, "one for timing and one for technical details." Timing begins when you achieve your maximum expression. If you extend further, the timer is reset. You can lose points for so many different things. Some people don't realize how difficult it is to perform a posture to perfection every step of the way from going into the posture to coming out of it. A "fall" is not a fall to the ground, but an accidental coming out of a posture. It could sometimes be a simple movement of the leg that the untrained eye could not see. "We don't look at and compare competitors from year to year. We only care about what's happening this year. Some people will complain that they did better this year, but scored less than last year. My response is, 'Well, you didn't have as experienced a panel of judges looking at you. We will call you on your bullshit.' We see that in some top ten competitors every year. We don't care that there's some physical reason why someone can't do a posture. We only care that he's not doing it," Ky shared in his no-nonsense way. It was interesting to see videos of competitors I knew being used for our studies. The best way to understand postures is to practice them. We may try to cheat our way into a posture, because we want to see success, but that's why we need teachers to correct what we are doing wrong. Now I see why having a coach is valuable to a competitor. You definitely need someone to explain all the intricacies of the competition rather than just diving right in.
March 6, 2021, 4:00pm - class 1137 with Joel Pier - Both morning classes were full, so my walk to the studio to see if I could be lucky enough to be picked off the waitlist wasn't successful. The classes were packed with teacher trainees from the studio's teacher training program. There were many spots available in the afternoon class, so I reserved mine. It, too, was packed with many teacher trainees. I haven't done a Saturday class ever since I started DJing on Friday nights. It was good to come out of the studio in the evening and experience the vibrant city nightlife. I definitely feel stronger in the morning, so I didn't go as deep in today's class. My first sets were mostly strict alignment exercises and my second sets I would turn it on. I think that's better than going all out in the first set and being winded in the second set. "What is the biggest non-negotiable in Paschiomotthanasana?" Joel asked the class. "Heels up off the floor as you pull," he responded. The Ghosh Yoga folks actually don't tell you to lift your heels up off the floor, but we all love Joel, so we'll do what he says.
March 9, 2021, 10:30am - class 1138 Intermediate Series - Today's class was a more free-form version of my Intermediate Series 55+2 class. I added more Vinyasa poses on it, including Cat/Cow, Fire Hydrant, twists, and more.
March 10, 2021, 11:00am - class 1139 with Vulgar Yogi (Toni Rosenwald) - "Some teachers omit words like 'hurt like hell,' but that just takes away from the intensity of the class," Vulgar Yogi said. Yes, she "killed" all of us, so it was a good class. Toni demonstrated some of the postures with us, just as I would do. At times, I felt as if I were looking at a younger version of myself. Her ferocious intensity and enthusiasm on and off the mat precede her. I liked my slower Huckleberry Finn pace, but, sadly, the 60-minutes allotted to our class don't really allow for my slower moving meditation to shine. Unfortunately, the 11:00am classes are all 60 minutes long. I'm grateful I can get some exposure to the heat; I just wish it were for 90 minutes. My bodyfat is back down to 10%. Now I have to align my bodyweight with my bodyfat over the next month.
March 11, 2021, 10:00am - class 1140 Bikram 90 - Yoga is one of the best physical fitness methods to alleviate poor circulation. The 26+2 series is mostly lower body work, but working out the lower half of your body has a nice rippling effect from bottom to top through your spine. There are two flows in the 26+2 class. One is the continuous flow between the first and second set of Eagle. The second is the transition between Tree and Toe Stand. I spoke about slowing down your practice and moving through class slowly and methodically.
March 11, 2021 - USA Yoga Workshop "Champions Series: Yoga Sports Drill with Dev Kapil" - In this 90-minute class, world champion and Master Yograttan Dev Kapil led us through yoga drills that focus on the execution of advanced postures. These drills help yogis build muscle memory and experience a deeper execution and safe expression of common stage postures. It was a heavily attended workshop with 46 participants. I even saw a couple of my Jedi Fight Club colleagues in class.
March 15, 2021, 11:00am - class 1141 with Chris Fluck - Today was the first time, since autumn, that I actually saw my abdominal muscles. In Awkward, on the exhale, my stomach looked chiseled. In SH2K (Standing Head to Knee), I touched my forehead to my knee, but fell out in the last moment. Chris praised me for a graceful fallout. Those of you who've been taking my online classes have learned how to fall out gracefully. I touched my forehead to the floor in Standing Separate Leg Stretching. Today was also the first day since I restarted yoga in the hot room that I didn't feel exhausted after class.
March 16, 2021, 10:00am - class 1142 Bikram 90 - To reiterate how to do a graceful fallout in SH2K, if you feel you're losing your balance and have no hope of regaining your balance in the posture, quickly plant the foot of the lifted leg down to the outside of the other foot and use the spring action of your bent knees to cushion the fall. If you want to make Tree more challenging, stretch your arms up for Tall Tree, open your arms out for Palm Tree, bring your arms and hands together at chest level, and float your hands back to heart center. Repeat the flow.
March 19, 2021, 11:00am - class 1143 with Chris Fluck - 136.3 today. I got my second COVID vaccine on Wednesday and took all of Wednesday and Thursday to rest from the negative effects of the vaccine. I repeated my performance in SH2K and again fell out gracefully. I finally managed to get my leg straight on the left side. That was my breakthrough for the day. Chris liked what I was doing in Triangle. After class, I practiced Archer.
March 22, 2021, 11:00am - class 1144 with Chris Fluck - 135.3 today. Heat allows the muscles to relax and stretch more easily. The intense stretching I do in preparation for the championship necessitates the use of heat. I'm now understanding the heat component more and why it really doesn't make sense to do a Bikram class without heat. Chris spoke about hands-on adjustments, including the use of someone else's weight added to your own. "Don't ever let anybody step on your back, because you lose all control of your body's function," he advised. My feeling is a good teacher will know when you are in a stable, locked position before he or she proceeds to apply his or her own weight to yours. At least I hope so!
March 23, 2021, 11:00am - class 1145 with Justin Riley - 135.1 today. "Good job on the shoulders, Clare," Justin said to me during Cobra. After class, I said to Justin, "Thanks for class, Justin. Please critique me all you want. I'm going for top 5 this year. Last year, I was number 6 in the world, senior women's division." "That's awesome!" Justin said.
March 24, 2021, 11:00am - class 1146 with Vulgar Yogi (Toni Rosenwald) - 134.6 today. It felt pretty hot in the studio today. Toni practiced SH2K right next to me. I always like to practice my second set on the hardwood to similate a competition environment. We held the Standing postures for a bit longer than usual, so we had to skip a superset of Half-Tortoise, Camel, and Rabbit to fit the class in an hour. "Good correction with the shoulders on Spine Twist. Just giving you some of your own medicine," Toni said to me after class. "That's cool," I said, smiling. I always appreciate corrections. I discovered that Robyn, one of my inspirations in the yoga competition world, wasn't competing this year. I was sad to hear that because she always has a good routine.
March 30, 2021, 11:00am - class 1147 with Justin Riley - 136.6 today. It was ungodly hot in the studio today. After class, I felt faint and not able to hear out of my left ear... and no wonder... the thermostat read 138 degrees! I had trouble standing up in the shower, so I squatted while taking my shower. I didn't have enough strength to stand up. Thayne was in class and gracious enough to get me a coconut water to restore some electrolytes. I was in bad shape after class. I want you all to realize the dangers of a hot yoga class. Even a seasoned practitioner can fall to his or her knees from dehydration and, even worse, end up in the emergency room like I have. This isn't and shouldn't be a common occurrence, but when you're someone like me who likes to push herself to the limit every time she practices, bad things can happen. It probably didn't help that I had a cocktail the night before.
March 31, 2021, 11:00am - class 1148 with Vulgar Yogi (Toni Rosenwald) - 134.5 today. The heat was more manageable at 123. Still too hot, in my opinion, and the only thing you can do is adjust. Push yourself when you can; hold back if you feel dizzy or faint. It was a good class today. Toni corrected me on my shoulders in Cobra. They were curling in from the pain in my right shoulder. "Beautiful Bow, Clare!" she said. I kicked the fuck out of my legs. Rather than drink water throughout class, I drizzled water on my head. That kept my body temperature in check and woke me up at several points.
April 1, 2021, 11:00am - class 1149 with Dan Murphy - 134.3 today. Finally, a class with reasonable heat at 106! Dan's teaching style has certainly improved since I last saw him last year. He praises people a lot, which is good, and his class still has a relaxed vibe versus the tough style of other Bikram instructors.
April 2, 2021, 11:00am - class 1150 with Dan Murphy - 134.7 today. After taking several 60-minute classes, I've come to the conclusion that there really isn't a 60-minute class as everyone's class always ends late. Some end 3, 5, even 10 minutes beyond the alloted time. There is simply no way you can end in 60-minutes if you provide full instruction. I took a 60-minute class with Gerardo Candolino once. He ended on time because there was very little instruction. "Just hit the pose and take it home, all the way home," he would say during several postures. He would practice with us to provide examples of what each pose should look like. I feel a 60-minute class should be more like that.
Several members of my yoga (and aikido) community recommended the Tibet Healing Spa for a deep tissue massage. This is not the gentle, relaxing massage you get at the traditional massage centers where you are expected to fall asleep and enjoy a nice meditative experience. Absolutely not. This is a brutal road to Hell and back as all your muscle knots are kneaded and undone by petite, super-strong people who will use every trick in the book to loosen all the tightness in your neck, back, and joints. There are even hot stones thrown in at the end of the one-hour massage for a soothing, deep relaxation effect. I had a deep tissue massage done in 2014 and remembered it being a painful experience. This one was at least twice as painful, but really served me well today.
April 6, 2021, 11:00am - class 1151 with Justin Riley - 134.7 today. Justin liked how long I stretched my legs in Locust. "It's not how high you go; it's how long you can stretch your legs in Locust," Justin said. Considering all that I ate this past weekend, I'm surprised I didn't weigh more today. I was still feeling the effects of yesterday's deep tissue massage. I felt soreness on top of soeness. I've agreed to help out the studio I practice at in exchange for free classes. Apparently, I'm the only former teacher who still takes classes at my studio. It's interesting how students and teachers just stop doing Bikram yoga one day, almost as if it was just a fad or quick money-making scheme to them, whereas I'm still doing it purely because I love it and believe in it.
April 7, 2021, 11:00am - class 1152 with Vulgar Yogi (Toni Rosenwald) - 134.3 today. Battling through shoulder blade and rotator cuff pain, I sweated my ass off in greater than 116 degree heat working through the postures. Toni did the second set of Standing Bow with us. "Try to get your back straight," Toni said to the class in Standing Separate Leg Stretching."Do what Clare is doing. Lift your head up to get your back straighter." I remember saying that in my online classes.
April 8, 2021, 11:00am - class 1153 with Dan Murphy - 135.0 today. Ack, 120 degrees in class! It really didn't have to be this hot today. Every day I practice Rabbit, Shoulderstand Lotus, Spine Twst, Archer, and Root. At some point, I will need to add Eight Angle into the mix. Will I be good enough for the championship? Only time will tell.
April 13, 2021, 11:00am - class 1154 with Justin Riley - 134.3 today. It was 129 degrees today, so I practiced slowly and cautiously. I was dripping sweat in buckets. I ran out of energy when I got to Tree and skipped my first set of Camel.
April 14, 2021, 11:00am - class 1155 with Vulgar Yogi (Toni Rosenwald) - 133.6 today. There were just three students today: Justin, myself, and Stan. "These are the teachers who practice what they preach, going to class every day," Toni said, admiringly. She pushed me into doing a full Standing Bow in both sets. I sweated my ass off today, but did every posture. It's been rough losing these last few pounds to get myself in championship shape.
April 15, 2021, 11:00am - class 1156 with Dan Murphy - 134.2 today. The temperature was a little better today aat 116, but still too high. I persevered and made sure I didn't go down. It took splashes of water on my self to wake me up because I felt like I was about to phase out a couple of times during class. "There is no tomorrow..." I said to myself. "This is for the championship..." I did Phoenix during Eagle. I did a hand mudra flourish in Standing Bow. I did an arm flourish in Tree. I did a no-hands-touching-the-floor Toe Stand. I did hands in a back clasp in Standing Separate Head Forehead to Knee and Cobra. I did Lotus legs in Wing Removing. I'm in better shape today than when I recorded my qualifier video in January. Five more days to record my qualifier video.
April 18, 2021, 9:00am - class 1157 Bikram 90 - Rabbit, Shoulderstand Lotus, Spine Twist, Archer, Eight Angle, and Root. I practiced this routine in my head again and again, to the point where I was second guessing myself. I haven't practiced Eight Angle in quite a while. I tried today and couldn't lift myself off the ground. Houston, we've got a problem! Tomorrow is another day. We'll see if we can do it tomorrow.
April 19, 2021, 11:00am - class 1158 with Katelynn Ingersoll - 134.1 today. I will always have a soft spot for Katelynn's class because she approaches the postures from a therapeutic way rather than from a bootcamp perspective. Today's class was like "The Clare Show" as she pointed to me several times in class as an example of how to do things the correct way. "Have your hand, knee, and heel all touching, just like Clare," Katelynn said in Spine Twst. I liked how the heat was 110 rather than the crazy 120 to 140 degrees that the other teachers have been using. At home, I recorded four practice runs for my championship video submission. I can do Eight Angle with no issues today. I am in better shape than I believed, but we will see if this is good enough for the championship.
May 6, 2021, 11:00am - class 1159 with Dan Murphy - 135.4 today. My puppy had surgery, so it's been a couple of weeks since I've practiced Bikram yoga. Whenever I take a break from my yoga routine, I always find myself feeling rusty when I return and at about 75% of the flexibility I had last achieved. It usually takes two or three days to regain my former flexibility.
May 13, 2021, 11:00am - class 1160 with Dan Murphy - 135.5 today. Even though I hadn't practiced for a week, I somehow managed to do a full Standing Head to Knee. "Fuck yeahhh..." I said to myself. Sometimes you can do a pose if the stars align themselves right. Sometimes you can even surprise yourself. "Nice poses," Neil said to me after class. He's one of the long-time students at the studio.
May 20, 2021, 11:00am - class 1161 with Dan Murphy - The room was extra hot today. I don't know what it was, but I found myself starting to conk out after Triangle. I usually check the temperature of the room prior to the start of class and adjust how I practice based on that, but today I didn't check and I just went full force into it. My Half Moon looked pretty damn good. I'm always my own worst critic. I know when I suck and today wasn't that day. There are plenty of people out there who are better than me at yoga and yet somehow I'm ranked number six in the world. My partner believes I don't give myself enough credit.
The scores for the 2021 USA Yoga Northeast Regional Yoga Asana Championship have been released and I'm happy to say that my overall score ranks me third in my region, enough for the coveted bronze medal. My Pennsylvania colleague, Keri Palasz, has secured the top spot once again. The chair of the judging committee informed me that I'll be receiving my invitation letter to the finals soon. Typically, they invite the number ones in each state and then fill the rest of the field with contenders who ranked highest. My score ranks me sixth in the nation and exceeds many of the champions in other states. Sadly, I was subpar in Spine Twist compared to what I can normally do. Imagine what my score would be if I was in pre-quarantine competition shape! A big positive was I took a chance at performing Root - a difficult pose that few can do - and that pose ended up being my second best score. Another positive is something that is now confirmed by my score: I have one of the best Rabbit poses in the world. I will have to thank Joel Pier for kicking me in the shins on that one. Last year, when I won fourth place, he gave me valuable tips to improve my pose. Finally, the last positive I can think of in this celebratory moment is my execution score was one of the best in the entire championship, including the 18-49 women. I call myself "The Katana," because I always strive for precision and perfection. Breathe, believe, do!
|Northeast Regional Scores
May 26, 2021, 11:00am - class 1162 with Toni Rosenwald - 135.4 today. With the humid air outside and the crazy heat in the room, I found myself conking out as early as Standing Head to Knee. My practice today was probably one of my three worst classes ever, the first two being ones where I ended up in the emergency room. I didn't want to end up in the hospital again. I'd rather spend the $150 emergency room copay on my USA Yoga Nationals registration fee. I feel like Rocky in all of his movies where he starts off each movie out of shape and then intensely trains himself into competition shape before the big fight.
It seems like only yesterday that I won 4th place in the 2020 USA Yoga Northeast Regionals, 7th place in the USA, and 6th place in the world. This year, I won the bronze medal (3rd place) in the Northeast Regionals. I had to unseat some pretty stiff competition by taking a chance on a routine with a new pose. There are contestants who are stronger, more flexible, and more experienced than I, but few can perform a three-minute routine with the same steadiness, precision, and control. I see so many contestants quiver, shake, and even fall out in their poses. It makes me believe that they are not quite ready for what they are demonstrating. As many of you know, everything I do is done with great intensity and focus. Imagine me with this same intensity twenty, even ten, years ago! It would not be an exaggeration to say that someone like me would've had a good chance to upset the top spots in the women's 18-49 category each year, but don't just take my word for it. The scores above back up what I say. Many of you know how self-critical I am, always striving for perfection. When it comes time for me to be a judge, I'm going to be very well-prepared, because I can nitpick anyone's routine, including my own.
May 27, 2021, 11:00am - class 1163 with Dan Murphy - 135.1 today. The heat was still intense, but I finished class without conking out. I was so exhausted I must've napped after class ended, for at least ten minutes. I always get a nice little walk to and from the yoga studio, giving me about 10,000 steps each day I practice yoga. As if my list of injuries in the past year can't get any worse, I've felt tingling and numbness in my right arm for the past two weeks.
Due to COVID, students are now afraid to breathe intensely in Pranayama Breathing. There should be an otherworldly sound when you breathe, because you are trying to connect your breath to the universe. Your mouth is closed and your throat must be constricted to allow a slow, steady stream of air into your lungs. The air comes in and "scrapes" against your throat as you breathe in creating a hissing sound. The sound when you breathe out is equally otherworldly when done right. It's not just an "H-A-HA sound," but rather a guttural scraping of the air against the roof of the mouth.
June 1, 2021, 11:00am - class 1164 with Justin Riley - "Use the postures in dealing with your injuries. You can practice in a way that will heal you," Justin advised. This is sound advice, but the way some teachers teach the class, it's basically a bootcamp. While some people, specifically Type A personalities, thrive in such environments, others tend to shrink in defeat and quit class altogether. Today's class showed a different side of Justin as he assisted one of my classmates who was dealing with injuries. "If you're suffering from arm or wrist injuries, keep your arms under your body in Locust. You don't have to lift your legs. You want that tourniquet effect on your arms... letting the flow of blood rush back into your arms when you release them," Justin told her. This was the kind of stuff I learned from more senior Bikram teachers, so I knew this was true.
June 2, 2021, 11:00am - class 1165 with Toni Rosenwald - 135.5 today. Totally exhausted and drained. That's how I felt after today's class. I didn't conk out and I didn't skip any postures, so I'm fine with my practice today, but it took a Herculean effort to remove myself from the hot room afterwards. Lying on the floor for 20 minutes after class, I didn't even practice my championship poses today. That's how exhausted I felt. One thing is clear from my experiences: The less I socialize immediately prior to class, the better my practice. It's always been that way. I am all business when I'm at the studio. "You look like you're ready to kick ass," the teacher from the morning class remarked. I did kick ass and I kicked my own ass, too.
June 3, 2021, 11:00am - class 1166 with Dan Murphy - "I love the way you stretch up in the end," Dan commented as I came out of Hands to Feet. I had another strong practice today, but didn't feel exhausted like yesterday, I spoke with Katelynn after class and she offered to let me use the studio during its off-hours to train for the championship. "Your practice is looking really good. There's a big block of time between the morning and afternoon classes. You're welcome to train here if you'd like," she said.
June 8, 2021, 9:00am - class 1167 with Justin Riley - 133.9 today. The room felt murderously hot today, so much so that I had to sit down a few times during the Standing Series. I practiced Archer and Root after class. I acquired a new training supplement, GEM bites. These are all-natural, no-filler vegan vitamins similar to the raw superfood balls I had at Jedi Fight Club training. They're expensive, but include the best kinds of nutrients you can put into your body.
June 9, 2021, 11:00am - class 1168 with Toni Rosenwald - 133.9 today. No issues in the hot room today, but that was because the room wasn't adjusted to an extreme temperature. I spoke to someone today who liked the varying range of temperatures that different teachers use. "I like the idea of going to class just to survive the heat," he said. The problem with this way of thinking is surviving doesn't necessarily equate to practicing. I really don't think standing around in a hot room "just to survive" is going to help advance your practice. Practicing your poses every time you practice yoga will.
June 10, 2021, 11:00am - class 1169 with Rob Cancel - Rob gave a good class today with dialog that was an interesting amalgamation of Bikram and Evolation. At no point did I feel that the class was a beatdown, so I completed it with no issues.
June 11, 2021, 12:00pm - Bikram 75 - "Justin entrusted me to teach this class," I said to my class of three at Bridge Hot Yoga. "For whatever reason, fate or luck, I'm ranked number six in tthe world in the yoga championships, so I hope I can teach you some new things you may not have heard before." My students were open and excited to learn. After class, one student asked me for alignment tips in Floor Bow. "Being in competitions, you're probably really good at alignment," she said. I nodded. "There are people who are more flexible, more strong, and more balanced than I am, but I can honestly say I'm one of the best at alignment," I said.
June 14, 2021, 9:00am - class 1170 with Katelynn Ingersoll - 133.9 today. Katelynn gave Neil, a teacher trainee, the opportunity to teach the second set of Half Moon to the class. His dialog was crisp, clean, and by the book. He was a little forceful at a couple of places, reminding me of how I was right out of my teacher training. The heat was quite tolerable today, but I still felt a little sluggish. I may have to try taking my new GEM vitamins in the morning, a couple of hours before class. They really help, but I'm hestitant to recommend them to others because they're kind of pricey and formulated for women. However, if you have the money, get them!
June 17, 2021, 9:00am - class 1171 with Dan Murphy
June 18, 2021, 9:00am - class 1172 with Rob Cancel - 133.9 today. "Congratulations to Clare. She medalled in the USA Yoga Northeast Regionals," Rob announced at the beginning of class. It was almost surreal to see all the students congratulating me because I felt I was not much better than any of them. After all, we are a collective bunch of energy at the yoga studio. I acknowledged the applause and just went about my practice in my humble way, focusing on alignment in the first sets and practicing depth in the second sets. When it came time for Rabbit pose, Rob stopped the class to allow the class to see my Rabbit. "That was very beautiful. Thank you," he said. Everyone applaused again. Interestingly, two people asked for my advice on their knee and scapulae issues after class. "It was an honor to practice next to you," one of the work-studies said after class. As gracious as she was, the woman on my other side kept mumbling and complaining about the temperature not being hot enough in the room. Her complaints may have had merit if she actually did all of her poses rather than skip most of them.
June 23, 2021, 9:00am - class 1173 with Toni Rosenwald - 133.2 today. Since the weekend, I've been coughing and hacking from severe allergic reactions. Over the counter flu symptom medicines typically make you drowsy and a little less capable in intense situations, such as Bikram classes. I found myself sitting out the first set of Standing Separate Leg Head to Knee. My right arm has been experiencing tingling sensations and numbness over the past six weeks. I wonder if it has anyything to do with the freak accident that occured on January 2.
June 24, 2021, 9:00am - class 1174 with Dan Murphy - No issues with class today, since the heat was at a more normal 105. Some of you might wonder what goes on in the mind of a yoga asana athlete in class. It's not all sunshine and rainbows. It's about taking advantage of every physical and mental skill you have and giving it all you got, as if your whole life depended on the poses you do. I continue to practice Archer and Root Pose after every class. They're looking pretty good.
In my years practicing Bikram yoga, I've noticed that there exist certain types of practitioners and while I know that many people would like to consider themselves unique, they usually fall into these types. While I put a gender on some of these definitions, that's only because the most recent person in each category is that gender. Stay humble when you practice. You are part of a collective group of people who share the common goal of enlightenment through practice.
- The Lifer - This person has taken Bikram classes for at least five years. A True Lifer is one that has practiced a substantial number of classes in each of those years of practice. You will know what "substantial" means the more you practice. To me, it means at least 100 classes per year.
- The Dipper - This person has practiced Bikram yoga for a considerable time, but claims it doesn't do much for her. She continues to practice, but others will note that she doesn't have a very intense practice. She only dips into the pool without soaking herself with water in the deep end.
- The Snapper - This person takes a snapshot of herself after every class and posts it on her Facebook or Instagram page in order to gain the admiration and approval of her friends. The Snapper typically spends no more than one year practicing Bikram yoga because it is just a fad to her.
- The Complainer - This person loves to complain that it is not hot enough in the room and yet doesn't practice with the same intensity as everyone else. Typically, this person loves to mumble to herself, but is loud enough for others near her to hear.
- The Grunter - This person loves to make loud noises in the room to make sure everyone knows that he is in pain or discomfort.
- The Fartist - This person loves to pass gas in class, either audiby or in silence, especially during Wind Removing Pose. Note to all practitioners: We are not in a third world country, so keep your gas to yourself.
- The Showoff - This person typically does one good pose - usually Standing Bow - in order to be called upon and used as an example of that pose in class. Sadly, this person is typically not that good at other poses.
- The Prodigy - This person is typically called upon to demonstrate poses in class. A prodigy is typically a prized student of a teacher or a studio. A prodigy is typically not a showoff, but can be.
- The Pro - This person goes about her class in a very humble way with little to no expectations. As she is oftentimes a competitor in the USA Yoga circuit, she knows that the difference between her and the average student is sometimes very little, but that the tiniest bit of improvement can take twice the amount of work that the average person is not willing to give.
We all know people who are in these categories. Aspire to be a Prodigy or a Pro, and certainly a Lifer, but not one of the other categories.
June 25, 2021, 9:00am - class 1175 with Margaret Welsh - 132.9 today. Congratulations, Margaret, you just brought the sixth ranked yoga champion in the world to her knees. Actually, it was the humidity in the room that exhausted me. I found myself lying down for most of the floor series. I have never checked out like that, but my body felt dangerously close to shutting down again like the last time I went to the emergency room. "Listen to your body first, my dialog second," a wise woman once told me. After class ended, I practiced Archer, Root, Eight Angle, and Spine Twist. Toni noted how beautiful my Archer pose looked. "That's really hard," she commented. I don't know why, but poses like this are easy for me. She excels at poses I'm not good at.
June 29, 2021, 9:00am - class 1176 with Justin Riley - I completed class with no serious issues. I felt a little winded during the first set of Triangle, but made up my missed pose after class along with my practice of Archer, Root, and Shoulderstand Lotus. I'm obviously not at 100% given my allergies, numbness and tingling in my right arm, and scapulae issues, but dealing with everything is just par for the course for this world champion as she prepares for the national stage.
June 30, 2021, 9:00am - class 1177 with Rob Cancel - 132.9 today. Today was the hottest day in Philly in recent memory. The heat index made today feel like 105 degrees at 41% humidity, the typical temperature for a hot yoga class. As some of you know, hot yoga classes feel even hotter when the outside temperature is hot. I almost took a dive in Standing Separate Leg Head to Knee, but my mantra, "1-2-3-4 Yoga... 1-2-3-4 Me" kept me going. I also honored my teachers, Sandy and Noelle, with every pose. After class ended, I practiced Archer, Root, and my final bow. My friend Toni is training with former world champion Joseph Encina up in New York. That should be a great experience! I will continue to train myself in my own humble way for the nationals. I've already had some great teachers and world champions in Zefea Samson, Tony Sanchez, Ida Ripley, and Esak Garcia train me. It's up to me to put my knowledge to use.
July 2, 2021, 9:00am - class 1178 with Rob Cancel - 133.2 today. Rob is quickly becoming one of my favorite teachers because his pacing is excellent and his dialog is unobtrusive. I like that he occasionally demonstrates postures in class for the newbies and his dialog is sprinkled with fun things I remember from one of my other favorite teachers in the past, Malea. Some of my technical descriptions have even indirectly found their way into his dialog. He talked about how he learns new things from his regulars every day. "I love watching you practice in class. You're so devoted," Rob said to me after class.
July 6, 2021, 9:00am - class 1179 with Justin Riley - 132.9 today. Someone turned on the humidifier today, but it wasn't necessary as it was already 54% humidity outside. A steamy fog filled the room. The other side of the room was hazy. Still, the class pushed on. People were dropping like flies. Some of the more stalwart devotees, including myself, skipped a set or two. At any point, if you feel you are about to enter a danger zone, immediately stop what you're doing to regain your senses. Don't put yourself in danger, and in the hospital, like I did many times.
July 8, 2021, 9:00am - class 1180 with Dan Murphy - Class was manageable today at 41% humidity. I had a teacher on both sides of me motivating me to just do it. Unfortunately, the teacher to my left conked out at Triangle and the teacher to my right wasn't going at full steam, since she took class yesterday evening.
July 13, 2021, 9:00am - class 1181 with Justin Riley - 133.6 today. The Nationals are just around the corner and there's less than three weeks to go. I feel strong. I just need to make sure I stay on track. I'm basically working with a scapula injury and one fully-functioning arm. My life is about successfullydealing with injuries. I wouldn't want it any other way.
My oldest son always questions why I tell others I'm a yoga champion. The truth is I'm in a sport with very little recognition and not much promotion, so the promotion has to come mostly from the competitors themselves. If we are not proud of our achievements and our sport, no one else will be and the sport will die. Most of you probably don't know that I sit down and honor my teachers for an hour each day. They are the reason why I am here. I look at their pictures and thank them for all that they've done to help me. One teacher in particular, Noelle Burgoyne, is no longer with us, but her spirit lives on in our memories. My other teacher, Sandy Robin, no longer teaches yoga, but her disciplined approach in guiding me through the first three years of my Bikram Yoga practice has forged something in me that is so strong that I am able to guide myself to achieve extraordinary things. I studied with world yoga asana champions Zefea Samson and Tony Sanchez and they transformed the way I thought about my practice and my teaching. I also earned an advanced certificate in therapeutic yoga, learned from one of the masters of the Kripalu tradition, and wrote my own book on yoga. I tested the fires in my soul once again by completing one of the most intense yoga "bootcamps" known to mankind - the Jedi Fight Club - led by world yoga asana champion Esak Garcia. I've always approached everything I do in my life - education, yoga, archery, aikido, music, art, and more - in a very disciplined manner. My archery skills were so good I became a Level 2 instructor. My music production skills enabled me to have my songs played on four different MTV shows. My teaching skills are so extraordinary that I'm one of the top tutors for Sylvan Learning. I took my education to the next level once again by getting accepted into one of the top law schools in the nation (Penn Law accepts one out of every six of the brightest minds in the world, basically people who can walk on water). What I do is not easy. What I've done is meant to inspire.
July 14, 2021, 9:00am - class 1182 with Rob Cancel - 132.1 today. Rob paced us well and vigorously, so much so that we had extra time towards the end of class for a third set of Head to Knee with Deep Stretching. I took the opportunity to practice Archer instead. After class, I practiced Archer again as well as Root, Shoulderstand Lotus, Spine Twist, and other postures.
July 15, 2021, 6:30am - class 1183 Intermediate Series - 130.6 today. Open practice today. I practiced a grueling three-set Bikram class for two hours. If any of you have followed my online Facebook classes, I included such postures as Phoenix, Splt Arms Balancing Stick, Extended Bound Side Angle, Beach, Mudra, Archer, Separate Leg Stretching, and more.
July 16, 2021, 9:00am - class 1184 with Rob Cancel - 131.7 today. Shake out of it! Don't fall down! Wake up... wake up... WAKE UP! Just do it! There is no tomorrow! Any time I drink cocktails the night before, it's usually a recipe for disaster the next morning at yoga. "You got this... you got this..." Rob said as I slowly moved into Standing Head to Knee, touching my forehead to my knee for quite possibly the tenth class in a row. Today was especially difficult as I found myself starting to lose my balance in other postures. When I do Standing Head to Knee, I step a foot away from my mat and do it on the hardwood floor. This forces me to totally concentrate on what's happening with every part of my standing leg. All eyes are on me as I go all the way with it. Center of attention. Queen of the hot room. Big fucking showoff. Call it what you wish. It takes guts to do it and it's great practice for a championship.
A once devout no-water-in-class yogini, I now sip water when it feels right and I also pour it on my head, neck, or belly to wake myself up. I call my method "cooling the chakras." I practice my yoga poses just like everyone else, but I push myself harder than everyone. So hard that I ended up in the emergency room twice, once for dehydration and a second time for hemiplegic migraine. There were countless other times I pushed myself so hard I had to rest on the floor of a yoga studio for over an hour to regain the use of the right half of my body. What does that feel like? Imagine you feel numbness, then tingling in your jaw. You lose your sight momentarily. You lose your hearing. Everything suddenly sounds muffled like you're a little fish in a big aquarium. Imagine not being able to speak. What you uttter are no longer words. Imagine not being able to move your right arm or your right leg because you can't feel anything on the right side of your body. Some people think competitive yoga is easy. It is not. When you practice hard, it is the most physically demanding thing you've ever done. Any physical activity that takes you to a near death experience multiple times is fucking hard. Why do I do it? Because the end result looks beautiful. It looks like art when you can make your body do things that can make most people drop their jaws. The highest form of artistic expression is when you can make your body your masterpiece.
July 19, 2021, 9:00am - class 1185 with Robyn King - The windows were open on both sides of the room allowing for a cool breeze to pass through, a welcome change to the sweltering heat that filled the room in the past two weeks. Practice was easy today because of it. I found myself doing Standing Head to Knee next to Robyn. She asked me if I'd like to demonstrate my routine at the end of class. I said no, only because with all the sweat, I might slip and fall in Eight Angle Pose. I didn't want to risk injury before the championship. Robyn noticed I did some variations in class. "I like how you did Half Lotus and Lotus during the second set of Wind Removing. Are you practicing for Fish Pose?" she asked. "No, actually for Shoulderstand Lotus," I replied. I like that she has a deep knowledge of all the championship postures, having competed many times in the past herself. It's good to talk shop with someone who knows.6
July 20, 2021, 6:30am - class 1186 Bikram 90 - 133.1 today. Open practice today. I practiced my championship routine before class. Some people need to warm up a lot before their routines. They need to do a hot yoga class to get their bodies ready. Not me. If you're a yoga asana athlete and you can't perform your routine at the crack of dawn after you wake up, you might as well pack your bags and go home. I practiced the Bikram 90 series with advanced poses sprinkled throughout. One was Locust in Lotus, a pose I've never done before. I don't know what compelled me to do this. It just made sense.
July 21, 2021, 9:00am - class 1187 with Rob Cancel - 132.1 today. "Yes, do it like that... just like Clare," Rob would say several times in class to the new students around me. It felt good to be the demonstrator and the inspiration for others. Rob did have to say once to the man next to me, "No, no, no, don't do that, do this instead. Clare is doing an advanced version of the posture." When you've been practicing the 26+2 for a while and your body starts opening up, variations of many of the postures will just present themselves to you by divine intervention and it will make sense to practice the new version of the posture to further your physical and spiritual growth. I call this experience being connected with the universe, or enlightenment.
July 22, 2021, 6:30am - class 1188 Bikram 90 - My lumbar spine and hips felt a little creaky today, probably because I didn't get enough sleep, but I knew I had to grin and bear it. Building something great requires total dedication to your craft. I practiced my championship routine before class. I practiced the Bikram 90 series with advanced poses and two sets of Spine Twist.
July 23, 2021, 4:00pm - class 1189 with Robyn King - Continuing with my advanced poses, I did Lotus in addition to Wind Removing, Cobra in Lotus, Locust in Lotus, and Full Locust in Lotus. The idea is to increase the flexibility of my hips and spine in the final weeks before the championship. We practiced Spine Twist facing the back of the room so we could meet our eyes in the mirror when we twist.
July 27, 2021, 7:00am - class 1190 Championship Practice - I practiced my routine, then practiced each pose in my routine three times, analyzed each one, and then broke down what I needed to do in order to make each pose better. I spent 15 minutes working on each individual posture - 90 minutes total - conditioning my body with Bikram Series poses, Intermediate poses, therapeutic poses, and yin yoga poses and then practiced my routine again at the end. The National Championship schedules have been posted. Friday, August 6 is the semi-finals and Sunday, August 8 is the finals. I will be in the group that starts at 3:20pm on Friday. If I'm one of the finalists, I'll be in the group thar starts at 1:00pm on Sunday.
July 28, 2021, 7:00am - class 1191 with Dan Murphy - 131.5 today. The heat affected me again, but every time I sat down after a pose, I got right back up in time for the next pose. You miss a pose and you miss your chance at completing the sequence the way it was intended. The newly-graduated teacher next to me had a stronger practice than a few weeks back. I was impressed by her Standing Separate Leg Stretching pose and that's a big compliment, because I'm generally not easily impressed by anyone's poses. It was a good time to practice, because the heat would've been more hellish at 9:00am or 11:00am.
July 29, 2021, 9:00am - class 1192 with Dan Murphy - 129.9 today. The heat was a little worse today than yesterday, but I persevered and pushed myself onward to complete the class. Throughout the class, I substituted more difficult postures for the standard Bikram ones, including Root in place of Tree/Toe and Locust in Lotus. I have to be careful, because now that I'm in contest weight range, I'm more fragile than usual.
Despite my world ranking, I will be thhe first to admit there are many things I cannot do. I can never touch my shoulders to the mat with both legs up the air in Locust, for example, because my huge chest is in the way. I can never do a split, because I never practiced splits when I was a little. While some yoga teachers might try to convince everyone that they have the ability to eventually touch their shoulders to the mat or do splits, the wiser ones know it just isn't possible for some people. How we learn to live or cope with our limitations and discover the things that we can do well is the real lesson in yoga. I guarantee that nobody has a championship routine quite like mine. My routine is all floor-based. Even Bikram said that "the real yoga begins with the Floor Series." Everyone else is doing lots of single-legged balancing poses. It's a shame that the scoring is skewed in favor of these gymnastics style poses.
July 31, 2021, 11:00am - class 1193 with Joel Pier - 130.2 today. Class was atypically small with perhaps a dozen students. The only large classes at the studio seem to be the ones filled with teacher trainees these days. Surprisingly, I didn't feel the usual neck and back issues I feel in class during the week. I was able to do every pose without issue. Why? Because it was "only" 106 degrees! After class, I asked Joel to push my thoracic spine to release its tension. Crack-CRACK!!! He got it on the first of three pushes. Robyn and I spoke about her competition experiences in past years. I trust her because she is a seasoned competitor. The teacher trainees were practicing their poses in the lobby and asked me to demonstrate Full Tortoise. I told them the best way to prepare for it is by practicing Root Pose.
August 2, 2021, 9:00am - class 1194 with Katelynn Ingersoll - Class wasn't actually taught by Katelynn today, but rather by Chris, one of her teacher trainees. Chris taught a serviceable class that was well-paced and occasionally lighthearted. There were some small dialog issues, but overall it was a good class, especially for a first-time public class. Before class, I practiced my championship sequence starting with Shoulderstand Lotus, then moving to Spine Twist, Archer, Eight Angle, and Root. Root was especially impressive today as my heels stayed connected the entire time.
August 3, 2021, 9:00am - class 1195 with Justin Riley - My body felt a little creaky and sore today from all the preparations for the championship. One of the USA Yoga coaches - a former competitive cheerleading coach - likes to drill your championship routine over and over again until it's ingrained into you. I don't subscribe to this way of thinking. I believe that the best way to prepare for a routine is to work on conditioning exercises for each pose. In Eight Angle - the side angle push-up where your legs are out to one side - the best way to prepare for this pose is to do lots of push-ups and Captain's chair lifts every day multiple times a day until your arms and shoulders look like armor plates. Once you build up extraordinary conditioning for a pose, that pose will come naturally. Today I went the extra stretch - sort of like the extra mile of effort - in Standing Bow and Toe Stand. That elicited an acknowledgement from Justin.
Three nights before the competition, I wanted to see where I was at with Rabbit, my opening posture. Without a warm-up, it looks real good. I've learned to "let go" a little by not gripping my heels so tightly as I did in the past. I wanted to get a feel for what "thighs perpendicular to the floor" is supposed to feel like. I feel that this is a posture where a lot of competitors lose points because they aren't willing to take a risk on loosening their grip on their heels. It's one of those postures where you just have to place a great deal of faith in the universe. Breathe, believe, do!
August 4, 2021, 9:00am - class 1196 with Rob Cancel - 130.9 today. I practiced my championship routine before class. I had plenty of fuel in my tank to finish class without pausing. The 70+ degree temperature outdoors is the perfect weather for practicing hot yoga indoors. My right shoulder and scapulae are still bugging me, but some shoulder rotations in between poses seems to alleviate the discomfort. This is my last hot yoga class before the championship, so I figured it better be a good one. At the end of class, I did Khapalabhati Breathing while sitting in Root Pose. I think most people's ankles would probably snap doing this.
USA Yoga National Championship T-1 Days (August 5, 2021): No matter how much you prepare for a championship, it is never enough. You have to learn to calm your mind and empty it of all distractions. There will be distractions, such as the good-natured people who wish you well, but ask you if you are nervous. Of course, I'm fucking nervous! Wouldn't you be if you were in my position?! They ask you if you are "ready." To their surprise, I answer with a confident yes. You have to learn to accept your body as it is on any given day, at any given time, because there will be strong days and there will be weak days. We all work within a range of how strong, flexible, and balanced we are. This range changes every day. This is why I have come to accept all the injuries that plague my body every time I get ready for a championship. The neck pain, the back pain, my right arm going numb, and the minor injuries to my shoulders, legs, feet, wrists, and more. The stupid little injuries, such as accidentally hitting your shoulder into a sharp-edged stationary object or standing up and hitting your lower back against a heavy table. I am always dealing with injuries. But, you know what? I wouldn't have it any other way. Injuries are just a part of me. Injuries make us stronger, more resilient. They make us less of a baby and more of an adult. How we cope with our injuries says a lot about our character and that strength pervades everything we do. It makes us battle-proof.
USA Yoga National Championship Semi-Finals (August 6, 2021): My preparations enabled me to place third in the semi-finals, ensuring a spot in the final field of ten on Sunday. Glenn Brown, the 2018 Men's 50+ Champion, handed me my semi-finals participation certificate and said, "That was fantastic!" I made a choice as to how I approached my training. Most people opt for rote repetition over conditioning. Rote repetition is great for developing muscle memory, but I felt it was better to build muscles instead. When I'm not performing exercises to condition my body, I'd practice my routine in my head, visualizing every movement in minute detail. I would dream about my sequence and move through it slowly to study every last detail. I practiced the full routine two hours before starting time, one hour before starting time, and worked on last minute details in the last hour. I'm a solid believer in conditioning the body for any activity rather than just going through the motions of a sequence over and over again. My technique paid off. Keri, my fellow Pennsylvanian, congratulated me and thought my Root Pose looked perfect. I know it could've been better. "Your routine looked flawless," she and others said. Being the second contestant onstage was more nerve wracking than I thought. As one of the first contestants, you are setting the standard by which others after you will be judged. All scoring has to be consistent, so how the first few people are scored paves the way for what the rest of the scores will look like. My advice to all the idiots who think yoga competitions are a piece of cake: You will never know how difficult this competition is until you enter it. Everyone came here to win. You could tell by looking at the determination in their faces and you could tell by looking at their routines. Everyone made yoga look easy for their respective age and gender. When you have flawless routines like these, many average people watching them will think that they can do this, too. Don't be fooled. Very few people can perform these routines with the same fluidity and stillness that these competitors can.
|National Semi-Finals Scores (3rd place)
After the competition, my son Brandon and I treated ourselves to a steak dinner at the swanky Swizzle restaurant at the top of our hotel. The restaurant offers 360 degree panoramic views of Louisville in a slowly revolving restaurant format. We each had a filet mignon with accompaniments, including crabmeat with asparagus and truffle creamed spinach. It's 11:00pm. Lots of work to be done for Sunday's competition.
USA Yoga National Championship (August 7, 2021): Brandon and I had a great breakfast at Wild Eggs. I had the chicken and waffles. It looked like ordinary chicken and waffles, but inside the waffles was a thin layer of pulled chicken! The chicken was topped with Nashville hot sauce and the waffle was topped with chopped bacon and had a side of buttermilk maple syrup. We visited the Louisville Slugger Museum and The Muhammed Ali Center. Both had fascinating tours and movie presentations. I got to pose with authentic bats used by Johnny Bench and Babe Ruth. My friend Toni placed tenth in the semi-finals, earning her a spot in the finals. Just like me, she beat some world-class yoginis to get there. Glenn Brown ended the show with a demonstration that combined martial arts and yoga. My training resumed with stretches and conditioning exercises for the remainder of the night. There is an alternate way to do Root Pose that is a little more difficult to do. I was able to do it once during the 9:00pm hour. I believe the core principle is to keep the knees down the entire time. That's what the head judge is looking for because he's the one shown demonstrating the pose in the USA Yoga posture guidelines. If I feel confident I can do it without spraining my ankles, I'll do it during my finals routine.
USA Yoga National Championship Finals (August 8, 2021): My preparations earned me fourth place in the National Championship. "Great job!" Glenn Brown said as he handed me my participation certificate. I gave it my best. I'm satisfied with my scores, but the last one could've been better. I felt I did a better job with Root today than on Friday. Once again, my routine was the quickest of all at 2:17. I added additional little nuances in my poses to slow things down and show better alignment. It paid dividends in every pose but the last one. Unfortunately, I didn't earn a medal this year, but it would've been amazing if I did. I was three-tenths of a point away from a medal. I went toe-to-toe with the number three ranked yoga asana champion in the world, Nahoko Nakayama. She won third place today. Once again, everyone came here to win. Some had the look of a Buddhist monk on their faces: quiet, serene, and focused. Others looked nervous and jittery. The order of the finalists looked very different from the order of the semi-finalists. This shows that anyone in the top ten has a chance to be number one and that your order in the semi-finals never determines your order in the finals.
|National Finals Scores (4th place)
After the final competition ended, I met Rajashree Choudhury, the Grande Dame of yoga and founder of USA Yoga. She commented, "I sat in the front row and watched your performance. I loved your routine. Your postures were very beautiful!" Everyone I spoke to agreed my routine was silky smooth. Rajashree spoke onstage and announced that we are one step closer towards getting yoga asana into the Olympics. Yoga asana is now recognized as an official sport in India! I looked around the room. The audience was not filled to capacity. It was mostly the families and friends of the finalists in each division. The larger audience was yesterday when the large fields were reduced to the smaller groups for finalists. "I'm among the champions," I thought to myself. "The best of the best." So many familiar faces. I've seen most of them online in some capacity, but rarely in person. I watched demos by Emily Avery and Bruce Merkle. These people bring their own unique flair to yoga. Emily's dance background makes her a strong contender for the top spot every year. She has the type of body control that most yoginis only dream of having. Bruce's theatrical background brings a creative storytelling side to yoga that is rarely seen until now. My entire body felt sore later that night. I was not afraid to show my best in front of others. I was not afraid to inspire. "You make it all look easy, but I know very well it's not," a friend said after watching my performance. Brandon and I enjoyed excellent Southern barbecue - beef brisket, pulled pork, and bourbon honey fried chicken - with mac 'n' cheese and cheesy grits at Doc's Bourbon Room. All of the meats were delicious, tender, and juicy. I do not eat like a typical yogini. I believe in eating in moderation during training and then flooding my body with protein in order to give it added strength when competition time comes. Quite honestly, what I ate before my semi-finals performance would surprise many of you: a Popeye's chicken nugget meal for lunch and a White Castle fish sandwich meal for dinner the day before and a plate of greasy breakfast buffet food for breakfast on the day of. This goes to show that not everyone needs to be a vegan to be good at yoga. I did, however, eat a largely vegan diet for three weeks prior to the competition. This helped reduce my weight quickly and accentuate my muscle tone.
USA Yoga National Championship Finals T+1 Days (August 9, 2021): In the aftermath of any competition, you realize that you have to be grateful for whatever the outcome in life is. Number four in a field of seasoned competitors is pretty damn good. Still, it would’ve been nice to bring home a medal, because it really was within reach. There’s always next year when you can learn more about what the judges expect of you and show them that you should, without a doubt, be in the top three. Among the many things I am grateful for:
- I am grateful for being invited to the National Championship. I was first inspired to enter competitive yoga by watching the incredible Jennifer Vanderhart do her Goodbye pose in the 2016 Northeast Regionals in Philadelphia.
- I am grateful for my scores. The truth is you have to be pretty damn good to score four scores of 8.0 or more in front of the harshest judges in America. They do not award 8.0s very easily. Some competitors never get to see an 8.0 ever, even if they are pretty damn good.
- I am grateful that my unique floor routine could stand toe-to-toe with everyone else's standing routine so long as I strive for perfection in every pose and improve upon the transitions between each one.
- I am grateful I didn't choke and mess up in my routine. Had I competed when I was in my twenties, I would've likely messed up, felt disgusted with myself, give up, and not proceed with the rest of my routine.
- I am grateful for my resilience and stamina. I ate well in preparation for the championship and ate oddly during the championship days because of the lack of healthy food options available. I wonder if this was on purpose to test our ability to cope with adversity.
- I am grateful for being in Louisville. I got to visit two very important cultural centers in a city I've never been to before: the Louisville Slugger Museum and the Muhammad Ali Center. If the yoga competition were not in Louisville, I probably would never visit Louisville in this lifetime.
- I am grateful to see Rajashree Choudhury again. She carries herself with dignity and grace and is very approachable. She is true yoga royalty.
- I am grateful that Pennsylvania brought home a gold medal. I wish I had won the gold, but it was a very well-deserving Keri Palasz instead.
Injuries suffered as a result of training: right-side neck muscle pulls and spasms, torqued cervical spine, broken right collarbone, right scapulae muscle pulls and spasms, sprained left and right wrists, jammed left index finger, sprained right ring and pinky fingers, torqued lumbar spine, inner thigh muscle pulls, bruised right shin, sprained left and right ankles. Nobody likes to talk about the injuries that occur as a result of yoga, but remember that this is not yoga, but yoga asana! It takes lots of conditioning to be able to make a routine look beautiful and sometimes injuries can happen during intense conditioning. As soon as I decompress from this weekend, it's back to training for the next championship, the IYSF.
August 11, 2021, 9:00am - class 1197 with Rob Cancel - 130.1 today. The heat was brutal in class today. I sat down and performed floor variations of the first set of Standing Bow and Tree. When it came time to do Toe Stand, I stood up and felt nauseous again. I wanted to sit down, but strength of will kept me up. I didn't go down in Toe Stand without touching the ground with my hands as I normally do. I touched the ground and proceeded to do a perfect Toe Stand. So perfect that I said, "fuck it," and stuck my leg out... and it was easy! It looked similar to what the girl on the right is doing, except I went the extra mile by stretching my leg and toes forward. I returned my leg to my hip crease just as easily. The rest of the class was easy and straightforward. "A shout-out to Clare for placing 4th in the USA Yoga National Championship!" Rob announced to the class. Everyone clapped. After class, I mopped the upper floor studio as I always do, because the greatest display of a champion is the humility she shows every single day in doing the simplest tasks that can benefit others.
It's been a week since I practiced. You might be wondering how I stayed in top shape during the championship days. It's certainly not with yoga classes. I believe taking yoga classes will actually deplete your energy and take away from your performance at a championship. Conditioning is the key and, to do so, you need conditioning exercises, not yoga classes. While I like to admit that I did a less complex routine than others at the championship, how many others could've done what I've done with the same fluidity? From what I saw... very few... maybe a handful. You need the utmost muscle control and body awareness to make everything look as easy as I made it look. Most competitors look like they're struggling in their poses. Many of them seem to have lost their ability to be fluid in their routines and seem to not be enjoying what they're doing. That's why I can score more points with my Rabbit than most everyone else's Standing Head to Knee. I approach everything with love, not to beat a certain person or even anyone. Why be miserable at a place that's supposed to be about love and uniting with your fellow competitors? The senior division had women who were happy to be there and we all lifted each other up with our love.
August 19, 2021, 9:00am - class 1198 with Sue Finney - 130.3 today. Joel S, a long-time student at the studio, congratulated me today for a job well done at the Nationals. "You're in the Hall of Fame here!" he said. I smiled and thanked him. One of the new teacher trainees subbed for Dan today. Sue was a decent teacher and full of dialog. I smiled from time to time as she said words that few teachers say anymore, probably because they're too set in their ways. It was refreshing to hear these words, but Sue skipped sets in favor of the dialog as she taught one long set of Awkward, Half-Tortoise, and Rabbit. This was a 75-minute class, so it should've had a few more Pranayama breaths. The last two postures and Kapalabhati should not have been combined. We've had our fill of supersets from teachers in the past. This is not a 60-minute class! 75-minutes affords you the time needed for two sets of almost everything. Sue sprinkled lots of sayings and things she learned from her teacher training, which is cool, but not at the sacrifice of the class contents. I remember when Chris Fluck mentored me long ago. "These people don't owe you anything, so don't waste their time with chants, poems, or sayings. Just get through the class and finish on time," he said.
Many people would be surprised to learn that I worked a full day of remote work on Thursday and Friday, the day before and day of the USA Yoga Semi-Finals. In other words, I responded to a full day's worth of tickets in my work queue on both days, just as if I had been at work for eight hours each day. I ate crappy fast food the day before the Semi-Finals and somehow I managed to earn third place! How did I do this? Instead of sitting in my hotel room trying to contort my body beyond its limits, I decided that it was better to let my natural gifts shine. I felt that I was already amply prepared for the championship. My body conditioning was second to none at 129 pounds with OMFG muscles. Whatever the outcome of the contest, I showed the world what my body is like every single day versus one or two days of "cramming for the finals," so to speak. Instead of worrying about who was going to be ranked where or things I have no control over, I decided I wanted to live a complete life. My son accompanied me to Louisville and it was a chance for me to get some family time with him in a place we've never been to before. Having fun during a stressful time is so much better than staying stressed the entire time. Being ranked at the top for nothing other than self-aggrandizement is never the yogic way. Number one will come in time, but first we have to do it "little by little, day by day," just like my teacher Noelle always said. Noelle lived a complete life. She was an artist, a gallery curator, a classical dancer, and a yoga teacher. She never let one thing define her.
August 25, 2021, 9:00am - class 1199 with Rob Cancel - 130.6 today. Another crazy, stupid 90+ degree day outside made for a terribly hot yoga class. With my right shoulder and scapula aching, I skipped Locust. I thrust my leg out in Toe again, but was a little wobbly. I managed to do every posture but Locust. I sat in Root Pose during Kapalabhati Breathing.
August 27, 2021, 9:00am - class 1200 with Rob Cancel - Hopefully, this will be the last of the 90+ degree days this year. I repeated my Wednesday class efforts, even while fighting fatigue and imbalance issues caused by consuming alcohol last night. "The championship is over; you can drink now," my friend said during my victory dinner. Unfortunately, training for championships is never over. Once one championship ends, training for a new one begins. It's a neverending process when you are training to be the best.
The last handful of classes has been especially jarring on my body. I feel that some heat is good, but not so much that it makes all your systems shut down. Anyone who says that a class in this much heat is good for you should consult with me. After completing 1,200 Bikram classes, I know when people are saying things just to make themselves appear invincible. Yes, we would all like to feel as if we are invincible warriors after finishing a grueling Bikram class, but sometimes the serene and peaceful yoga classes can be beneficial, too.