June 24, 2022, 9:00am - Bikram 90 - "Raise your left hip up in line with your right hip. Bring the left hip back and the right hip forward. The hips are now in line, parallel to the front mirror and the floor," I said to my students. Standing Separate Leg Head to Knee is one of the poses I go in detail in. It's one of my favorite poses in the Bikram series, so when I see a good posture that I know can be made better with a little adjustment, I always help a student create a more beautiful pose.
June 24, 2022, 11:30am to 4:00pm - class 1301 with Breanna Brown - Today was Day 1 of the Miami Yoga Bootcamp, an intensive week-long training course with drills and yoga classes. This week the focus was on Leg Behind the Head, Goodbye Pose, Om, Full Tortoise, and Handstands. Handstands aren't my strong suit, but I agreed to do the bootcamp anyway. Normal people go on an exotic trip somewhere when they mention they're on vacation. My idea of a "fun" vacation is a bootcamp. Many of the preparatory exercises, such as wall-walking and handstands, were straight from Jedi Fight Club, but there were new exercises, such as Mary Jarvis balance beam exercises, sprinkled throughout. We worked on easier poses, such as Elephant, to prepare for harder ones. The drill class was two hours and the yoga class was an hour and a half, so today's training was three and a half hours. I ate very little in between the morning and afternoon sessions because they were only an hour apart. I didn't get to eat a full meal until dinner. Roughly half the attendees met in person and the other half, like me, were virtual. Even though we were on Zoom, Breanna watched us all like a hawk.
June 25, 2022, 12:30pm to 5:00pm - class 1302 with Breanna Brown - Day 2 of Miami Yoga Bootcamp. More people joined the bootcamp in-person, so now the split was two-thirds in-person, one-third virtual. Drill class included wall-walks, handstands, Mary Jarvis balance beam exercises, Frog, and various prep work for Compass, including Leg Over Head against the wall. Unlike yesterday, today I decided to refrain from eating lunch food or drinking Pepsi between sessions. Good thing, too, because the yoga class was another tough one. The style of the yoga class was patterned after an Esak Garcia e84 Intermediate class tailored with the poses and exercises we are practicing this week. Elephant pose was easier today. Expectations are high because we're all very experienced yogis. Another very tiring three and a half hours. Sadly, I upset my vertebrae at the base of my spine during backbending and walked a little funny for the rest of the evening.
June 26, 2022, 8:00am to 9:30am - class 1303 with Breanna Brown - 136.8 today. Day 3 of Miami Yoga Bootcamp. Today was thankfully a lighter day for virtual bootcampers as there were legal issues with broadcasting the afternoon drills session with special guest Ugi The Contortionist. We continued practicing handstands against a wall. This was especially challenging to me as handstands have never been something I was comfortable doing. "You've got to overcome your fear," Breanna advised. Even if I never do a handstand in the championships, this portion of the class will likely strengthen my arms and wrists for Eight Angle. We held ourselves up in Elephant for 20 seconds today.
June 27, 2022, 11:30am to 4:00pm - class 1304 with Breanna Brown - It's Day 4 and the midway mark of the Miami Yoga Bootcamp. The base of my spine is still feeling the effects of my overzealous backbending on Saturday. Drills included various handstand exercises using props. Breanna mentioned something about pressing up rather than kicking into the headstand or handstand. I think I found my abdominal muscles in my headstand because I experienced the uncanny feeling of effortlessly floating my legs over my head. We did more handstand and leg over head practice that culminated in Eight Angle in the afternoon class. We also practiced Mary Jarvis balance beam exercises.
June 28, 2022, 7:00am to 12:30pm - class 1305 with Breanna Brown - Day 5 of Miami Yoga Bootcamp. An early start. Unfortunately, I had to teach a class in between the sessions, so I missed the tail end of the first class and the start of the next. Thankfully, I have access to recordings of each class for later review. Our group of eight has shrunk to five. "Suck your stomach in!" Breanna said to me at several points during our training. I didn't want to admit that I really am sucking my stomach in. At 54, I will always look like I'm not sucking it in! I still can't do a legitimate handstand yet, so Breanna suggested I start by pressing my scapulae against the wall and kicking up. I still can't touch the wall with my feet yet. We dissected the parts of Eight Angle; Breanna teaches a very different way to enter the pose than the way I learned it from Tony Sanchez*. There's a lot more risk involved with getting your leg up in Elephant pose first and all the extra energy to keep yourself lifted before you even get into the maximum expression of the pose seems like an inefficient use of energy, especially if you have one or two more poses after this in your championship routine. However, the entry of this version of Eight Angle does look very pretty when done right and serves as a building block to Om, which we will work on next.
* Tony Sanchez was Bikram Choudhury's best friend and "right hand man" for many years when Bikram first started his teacher trainings. Back then, Bikram and Tony used to practice yoga for many hours together each day. Since Tony won the IYSF World Championship in 1994 and 1996, I have great faith that Tony's versions of the poses are just as valid as any other version in the championships.
June 28, 2022, 9:00am - Bikram 90 - Many students don't have Toe Stand in their practice, so if you have an entire class doing Tree in the second set, it's best to break down the elements in Tree so that everyone fully understands the "why" of what they are doing. "Let's dissect Tree," I said. "It's not about getting into the pose quickly and freezing like a statue. It's about learning how to balance on your foot every step of the way. First, you lift your foot off the ground, hold it with your other hand, and stand up straight. That's your first balance point. Next, you place one hand up in prayer. That's your second balance point. Next, you place both hands together in prayer. That's your third balance point. Lastly, you stretch your spine up towards the ceiling. That's your fourth balance point. You're testing your balance in each of these different poses that all represent Tree. Your Tree will be different than your neighbor's Tree, but they're all Tree." Some people believe that a good yoga teacher simply recites the dialog and gets out of the way so you can do the poses. My belief is a good teacher teaches you something new about the poses every time you go to class. To me, it's quite torturous to hear the same dialog over and over again without a correction or two every now and again. If you don't correct, then everyones assumes they're doing it all right when they may not be. They might feel a temporary sense of satisfaction, but, years later, they will feel cheated that they didn't get the necessary corrections to help them improve their yoga over time. "I like the advice you give in class. It's very helpful," one of my students said today. Another student, an older gentleman, surprised me with his flexibility. Typically, a lot of male bodies cannot do Spine Twist very well, but he did a good one.
June 28, 2022, 6:00pm - Bikram 60 - Even in a 60-minute class, I find myself teaching lots of alignment cues. I just speak a lot faster. Whoa, she just did Standing Separate Leg Head to Knee in an alternate bind just like I do! Whoa, another lady just did Toe Stand without touching her hands to the floor like I do! You see a lot of amazing things in an express class. I love the energy in them.
Like Jedi Fight Club, the training philosophy at Miami Yoga Bootcamp centers around extreme conditioning. Other training philosophies include extreme repetition, as Coach Suzanne Elliott prescribes, or extreme preparation, such as what I do when I practice floor postures on hard floors to get my body used to the pain. Perhaps a highly successful yogasana competitor adheres to some of all three. I tend to believe that extreme conditioning can often lead to fatigue and injury and extreme repetition can lead to monotony and complacency. Of course, extreme preparation has its issues as well. This is why I combine my extreme preparation philosophy with stretching and conditioning exercises and creative visualization to practice my routine. I noticed that the work we did in our drills and yoga classes kind of melded into one another. What would start as a yoga class ended up as additional practice of the drill exercises. This is why I counted all of the sessions as one big class with a short break in between rather than two separate classes.
June 29, 2022, 11:30am to 4:00pm - class 1306 with Breanna Brown - Day 6 of Miami Yoga Bootcamp. Two hours of drills and a two-hour 84 Asanas class to total four hours of training today. I will never know what compelled all of us to agree to three sets of eight wall-walks and three sets of palmstands against the wall for one minute or longer as just a warm-up exercise! Not eating much or anything before the long training sessions can make your body feel loopy and depleted. Feeling the effects of the intense training, I didn't backbend as far as I could today. I was basically saved by the bell in the 84 Asanas class when the studio's video feed stalled and I couldn't see what everyone was doing. I had to rely on my memory of the poses, but when you're exhausted, it's difficult to remember every detail. I couldn't even get my arms through my folded lotus legs in Fetal Lotus pose, a normally easy pose for me. Just like the previous five days, I've been lying in Savasana for at least twenty minutes after class. The takeaway from all of this is we get to catch a glimpse of how hard Breanna trains for competition. It's wonderful to see that she's a nice, down-to-earth person who doesn't have an emaciated body like many yogasana athletes, but she's also tough coach who tells it like it is. No doubt she learned this from her time with Esak Garcia.
June 30, 2022, 6:00am - Bikram 90 - Happiness is... a full class of eight students at 6am. The new students followed along with the experienced regulars. Some felt depleted halfway into the class. "Some people think yoga is all about meditation and sitting still, but this is physical yoga. It's hard. Every posture works different parts of your body and are designed to improve your strength, balance, and flexibility," I said. It was good that they sat and rested when they felt tired or dizzy because part of the class is about learning how to deal with the heat, or what I call heat management. You can get into a fight or flight mode in the heat, but you always want to stay safe. "Killing yourself," as Bikram says, is not about pushing yourself over the edge in your yoga, but about testing your limits. What you can do today will be different than what you can do tomorrow or the next day. Learning to accept yourself as you are each day is one of the most important lessons in yoga.
June 30, 2022, 2:30pm to 4:30pm - class 1307 with Breanna Brown - Day 7 of Miami Yoga Bootcamp. Our class on the last day of the bootcamp was a combination drills and yoga class. We did handstands, Compass, Leg Over Head, and Mary Jarvis bar work as part of our e84-style class. Comparing this experience to Jedi Fight Club, it's similar yet different. It's certainly equally challenging, perhaps more so. Even though I attended this bootcamp virtually, it was still quite a challenge and Breanna kept me on my toes as she watched me and others like a hawk. Even though I still can't do a proper handstand, the exercises I practiced have enabled me to find more confidence in attempting to do these kinds of poses. The Leg Over Head exercises gave me useful insights on leg placement and body part mechanics to decrease any aggravation in my joints. We got to practice Elephant, Eight Angle, Compass, Sleeping Yogi, and other Leg Over Head poses. The handstand work will develop your arms and shoulders very rapidly. By the end of bootcamp, your muscles will be rock hard solid. Lift your arms up horizontally and you will see immediate development, the fruits of your labor from the week. If you are into intensive training, then you will certainly find the challenges you seek here and I highly recommend it for all you Type A personalities. I feel a sense of relief that training is over because I haven't been sleeping or eating well the past week. A smoothie in the morning or in between classes and a full meal at the end of the day doesn't work for me. I feel really depleted with so little food. My meal philosophy has always been two meals of equal size every day and that's what I'll do to prepare for the championship. Reviewing my videos from last year's national championship, my body was in elite shape and I was damn impressive. I hope to be excellent like that again.
July 1, 2022, 9:00am - Bikram 90 - "Thank you! That was a great class!" one of my students said at the end of class. She loved my alignment cues. I always make sure I give enough alignment cues so that everyone has a chance to try something. I never assume that everyone knows the words to the class. When you do that, you get complacent with your job. You assume everyone knows what to do and you risk having the newbie do something not quite right or nothing at all. I feel that many teachers would rather have a student do nothing rather than something "to keep them safe," however, you have to look at all of this from a student's perspective and the only way you will know how a student truly feels is if you are a perpetual student yourself. As a student, I want to get my money's worth because $20 to $30 is a lot of money for a single class. I want to make sure that I'm doing something when everyone else is doing something, so if a teacher doesn't give me an alternate way to do a posture that's inaccessible to me, I feel as if I'm not getting my money's worth. If you just tell the class, "go ahead and get into the posture," that's not helping the newbies. Every time you do this, these people will feel as if you are stealing $1 from them, because the class is costing them about $1 a posture. How would you feel if someone was stealing $1 from you several times in class? Give your students their money's worth. I always do.
July 2, 2022, 10:00am - class 1308 with Kaitlin McKendrick - 132.4 today. I forgot my water bottle, but it was a good experiment to see if the need for water in class is just psychological. Typically, after Eagle, I press the mouth of my water bottle onto my forehead to cool myself down. I try not to drink water in class because it upsets my belly during the inversion postures. After class, I practiced Full Spine Twist. I was able to grab my knee with my hand, but I couldn't wrap my other arm around my torso. I could also wrap my arm around my torso, but not grab my knee with the other hand. One or the other, but not both. Doing just this would score me about as much as I would normally get in Spine Twist, maybe a smidge more. There are still a few more weeks to prepare. I've progressed amazingly well in a posture that less than 1% of all practicing yogis can do.
Perhaps the real secret to making a 60-minute class feel like a 90-minute class is to push yourself to the point of exhaustion in every posture and not touch any water for the entire duration of the class. Towards the end of class, you will probably feel like curling up into a ball and dying, but, if you can survive, then you've pushed yourself just as hard as you would have in a 90-minute class. This, of course, assumes you already push yourself to the point of exhaustion in a 90-minute class. I know when you've pushed yourself to your maximum when I see that steady stream of sweat pouring out of your head and hitting the back of your front heel as you come up in Standing Separate Leg Head to Knee. I've only ever seen a small handful of students achieve this. Most people take the 60-minute class because it's shorter, so there is less emphasis on holding a posture for the proper duration and a greater chance of resting and skipping a posture without anyone noticing. You get to be more of a fly on the wall in a 60-minute class because the teacher is concerned with ensuring that the class finishes on time. The onus is on you to do every posture. It takes a disciplined mind to complete everything in a 60-minute class to the point of exhaustion. This is why the 60-minute class is considered an advanced class. It is actually for people who do their yoga well.
One of the salient points about yogasana competition I haven't brought to my readers' attention is the execution score column on the scoring table. The execution score is your overall score for how close to perfect your postures are. If your score is 80% or higher, you are doing postures that are in line with your abilities. If your score is lower than 80%, you are probably doing postures that are at a higher level of difficulty than you should be doing. Your final ranking is not affected by this score. It is just for your reference. I'm usually ranked in the top three in this category, meaning I'm doing postures extremely well and within the parameters of my abilities. Scoring high in your final ranking is about choosing a routine that showcases your strengths and allows you to take some risks to score higher. There has to be a flow between the postures. You cannot alternate between standing and sitting postures in your sequence because you will consume too much time and energy between the postures. Your sequence should tell a story that flows smoothly from beginning to end.
July 4, 2022, 9:30am - Bikram 75 - A yoga teacher can ask for nothing more than a packed class full of dedicated students on a weekend holiday that is known more for gluttony and sloth than for fitness and health. Fourteen students devoted their energy into a bonafide Bikram class. As many of you know, it doesn't matter if you take my 60-minute, 75-minute, or 90-minute class, because they all feel like 90-minutes after you're done. You get alignment cues from a USA Yoga coach who practices yoga every single day. I feel so blessed to have taught this class today. From the first-timers to the advanced students, everyone gave it their best effort.
July 5, 2022, 9:00am - Bikram 90 - "Stretch up to the ceiling with intention, like you're shooting a cosmic beam of energy out your fingertips," I said to one of my students. The idea with Triangle is to feel a stretch across your chest as you try to lengthen both arms in opposite directions. "Take a peek at your side body and note how narrow you can get if you keep stretching your arms apart," I said. Turning and twisting your body "like in Spine Twist" is only a valid correction if the arms are not yet perpendicular from the side view, that is, the narrow view you can only see from the front mirror or a teacher can see. Thus, first you need to balance on your legs and then you use your strength to pull your arms apart and create flexibility. I recommend trying to look at your body in the side and front mirrors to check your angles and test your balance. The arm aiming towards the ceiling should be perpendicular to the floor from the front and the side. The palm should be facing the side mirror.
July 5, 2022, 6:00pm - class 1309 with Kaitlin McKendrick - 133.5 today. There was a marvelous energy in the room as all five of us pushed ourselves and each other through the grueling heat. One of the ladies standing behind me was at least as flexible as I am and had a really strong practice. I felt the cold water drip after the first set of Standing Separate Leg Head to Knee, which was unusual. While I can't explain this phenomenon scientifically - perhaps because maybe only a handful of people have ever experienced this - I believe it might be what happens right before your body shuts down and you're fighting to stay alert.
July 7, 2022, 6:00am - Bikram 90 - A new student joined my class today. She had not practiced hot yoga since before the pandemic, but she was keeping up with the rest of the class just fine. It's like learning to ride a bike. Once you know it, you know it, and she did a beautiful Standing Bow with great poise and confidence.
July 7, 2022, 9:30am - class 1310 with Kaitlin McKendrick - 133.7 today. It was hella humid, but no matter. The six of us pushed ourselves through and competed our class like bosses. In between the first and second combo set of Standing Separate Leg Stretching, Triangle, and Standing Separate Leg Head to Knee, I did the Dr. Claudio Gil Araújo squat without the use of hands and came right back up. That was my "rest" in between sets. For the rest of the standing postures, every time I felt like I was about to go down, I just laughed it off and continued. I must've looked a little crazy in class, but no matter. Sometimes you just have to face your obstacles head on and just laugh at them.
July 8, 2022, 9:00am - Bikram 90 - 133.3 today. One of my therapeutic yoga students took my Bikram class today and was very grateful to have taken my class. One of the owners took my class and said it was the best class he's ever taken. What makes my class special? I teach more than the dialog. Yes, I can recite the dialog like everyone else, but I also add my experience to all of it. Without experience - the right kind of experience - a student will never learn how a teacher's instructions can apply to them. They may be able to do a halfway decent posture, but what does every posture truly do? What can it do for them? Although you might not think this is something you should or can teach your students, you really can and that will make your classes special.
July 9, 2022, 10:00am - Bikram 60 - Do you teach at any other times? Normally, you like to hear that as a yoga teacher because you know the student likes your teaching methods and wants to take more classes with you. Only at 6am? Oh... Normally, you don't like to hear that because you would've gotten a repeat student had the time been different. That's what everyone said today: "6am? Oh..." That means they won't come. I've learned that it takes a special type of student to go to a 6am class. It has to fit into your schedule and you have to be ready for it, because 6am yoga is no joke. It can be the most grueling thing on earth and can bring you to your knees. It takes a dedicated teacher as well, because most teachers would never want to teach at 6am, let alone take a class at 6am. It's just too difficult for most teachers to fit into their schedules. To do 6am yoga, you have to go to sleep early every night and wake up at 5am to get ready for class. Teachers have to wake up earlier than that, so they can prepare the studio for class. It's truly a commitment.
"What the hell kind of sorcery is she teaching us?" is sometimes the kind of look I get in class when I teach something new that my students have never tried or done. You must realize that no matter how often you practice - me included - there will always be someone who knows something or who has developed experience in something that might be beneficial to you, so to close your mind off from new possibilities is never a good thing. Accept that there will always be people who will think intensely about something and draw valid conclusions based on their knowledge and experiences. That's how science is done and how we grow as a society. We hypothesize, experiment, and, when we can get consistent results and applicability across different bodies, then we know that what we say is true.
July 12, 2022, 9:00am - Bikram 90 - I taught a new student to point her toes inward in Fixed Firm. The insides of your feet should be touching your hips. You can keep your knees spread apart, but once you are comfortable touching your hips to your mat, begin bringing the knees closer together. My kids liked the Sushi Rice I brought home from Mom's Organic Market. One serving fed all of us.
July 12, 2022, 6:00pm - class 1311 with Cat Long - 132.6 today. I couldn't do Kapalabhati in Root today, because I tweaked my knee over the weekend practicing Full Spine Twist. That same tweak prevented me from getting my hands in prayer in Toe Stand.
July 14, 2022, 6:00am - Bikram 90 - "The secret to a deeper backbend is to lengthen up as much as you can before you begin backbending," I said in class. "Stretch your fingers up to the sky, keep stretching beyond your fingertips, and then backbend. Look behind you. Keep your legs straight, root your heels into the ground, and push your hips and thighs forward with all your might. Keep trying to look towards the floor behind you. Keep stretching beyond your fingertips and touch what you can see. Keep aiming your fingertips lower and lower and try to point to the ground."
July 14, 2022, 5:30pm - class 1312 with Kaitlin McKendrick - 132.9 today. The humidity made class really tough today, but I managed to push through it. Unfortunately, getting up after class posed a great challenge. Sitting up, I felt dizzy and the need to lay back down again. I did this five times before I finally mustered up enough strength to stand up. Nothing in the class was too unusual. I had hit a peak of 166bpm in several prior classes. The temperature wasn't too outrageous. Something just depleted me. I must've pushed myself a little harder here and there and that drained my energy.
July 15, 2022, 9:00am - Bikram 90 - The reasoning behind not demonstrating postures while teaching a Bikram yoga class is you're supposed to be studying your students at all times, examining their poses and providing alignment instructions to help them achieve their best poses. While I agree somewhat with this philosophy, the truth is many teachers don't even look at their students. They let their most experienced students do their own thing, recite the dialog, and ignore the newbies with the belief that not correcting the newbies' bad ways is better than correcting them for fear that they will not return to their class again. As an experienced teacher, I never fear this. I don't teach Bikram yoga to be loved. I teach it because I want everyone to achieve their best alignment, to get the most out of their poses and my class, and to enjoy healthier lives. It's cool when I see regulars signing up for my classes because they know what I'm about. No frills, no fluff, just the tough stuff... because Bikram yoga is hard... and the hard way is the good way.
July 16, 2022, 8:00am - class 1313 with Kaitlin McKendrick - 132.2 today. There are many options for Bikram yoga in or near Philadelphia, but the reason why I keep gravitating to The Bridge is the sunny studio and the amazing teachers. Most hot yoga studios are dark and murky. This one is bright and cheerful. The teachers here have years of experience and always take time to posture correct the newbies. I had to be extra careful with my knees today. As luck would have it, I banged my good knee into the wall a couple of times over the past few days and now it seems to be in a worse condition than the knee I tweaked while practicing Full Spine Twist. I also banged my right elbow in the dark the other day and now it is noticeably weaker than my left. I feel as if I am experiencing déjà vu as typically I have one good joint out of four when I compete in the championships.
July 17, 2022, 8:00am - class 1314 with Cat Long - 132.0 today. I practiced Eight Angle before class. Even with my bad right elbow, I got into the pose and noticed how easy it was to drop my right shoulder down to get both shoulders in one line. Holy Ganesha, is that all there is to it? If I had just practiced in front of a mirror all this time, I could've just done this and stop losing half a point every time? Class was slow and steady and I achieved a peak of 154bpm, much less than the crazy high bpm from a few days ago when it was super hot and humid outside. I sat in Root during Kapalabhati, but I favored my left side because my right knee felt like it was about to pop. I'm asymmetrical in Root at the moment. Hopefully, everything will correct itself within the next two weeks.
July 19, 2022, 9:00am - Bikram 90 - A new student attended class today. He was a former wrestler with a huge upper body. Unfortunately, his various shoulder and knee surgeries and injuries left him with limited mobility. "Before COVID, I could do all those things, like backbends and Triangle," he said. I could tell that his injuries frustrated him. "Don't worry," I assured him. "If you keep doing this, your mobility will return." I gave him some alignment pointers to help him with Standing Separate Leg Head to Knee and got him to try Fish instead of Fixed Firm, since he had tight hips and bad knees. "The idea of Fish and Fixed Firm is to get that little preparatory backbend in before Camel," I said. One of my favorite students was in my class today. She did a tremendous backbend and Standing Bow. I got her hips to come down more in Half-Tortoise. I did the correction Sandy used to always do to me to get my hips to come down completely. "You've got a lot of room there in your lumbar spine, so I know you can come down all the way," I said.
Sometimes you have to do things hundreds of times before you finally realize that the right way was well within your reach all along. That's how I feel about Eight Angle. I mistakenly thought for the longest time that shoulders parallel to the floor was inaccessible to me, but now I can do it again and again. Just get into the pose and drop the nondominant shoulder down. Perhaps my shoulders are stronger now after two Jedi Fight Club-style week-long trainings, but I doubt it. There was something in my brain that told me I couldn't do it until, one day, I just could. This is exactly what I see in a lot of my students' poses. I know when they can do better and I just help them over that psychological hump so they can do it.
July 19, 2022, 6:00pm - Bikram 60 - It was dangerously hot outside, so I had to manage the temperature of the room by judiciously cracking open the front and back doors at various times. My students appreciated that. I kept the room at exactly 105.
July 20, 2022, 5:30pm - Bikram 90 - It was even hotter outside today than yesterday, so I had to manage the temperature of the room again as I didn't want any of my students feeling nauseous or passing out. Heat is a good thing, but too much heat is never good. One student looked like she was being very conservative with her practice. "Would you like to try getting into a deeper Camel?" I offered, to which she agreed. She went back a little and then came up again. "At one time, I could go deep in my backbends," she admitted. She admitted that previously she may have been doing her backbends a little dangerously, dumping everything into her lower back. "The secret to a good backbend is to always lengthen your spine first before you backbend. You might not be able to get a deeper backbend at first doing this method, but you'll stay safe and be able to practice this yoga forever," I said.
Morning championship routine practice was baby steps as I wanted to find out where I was at after a three-day rest from yoga practice. I am quite certain I damaged the integrity of my knees by practicing Full Spine Twist over the past few weeks. At one point, I could barely walk and needed frequent breaks to sit down. I felt weak overall this morning. I didn't have much energy since I didn't eat anything yet. Evening championship routine practice was much better. I could bring my shoulders level in Eight Angle. My Spine Twist and Archer looks really good. My body looks symmetrical in Root.
July 21, 2022, 6:00am - Bikram 90 - 131.7 today. Every runner, golfer, racket sports athlete, and martial artist I've encountered has wonderful posture when performing their sport, but also very tight hips, so when it comes time to practice Half-Tortoise, I notice that very seldom do they touch their hips to their heels. The interesting thing is they all have more than enough space along their spine to enable them to touch their hips to their heels. The big problem is they've been conditioned to keep their spine erect all their lives, so much so that it seems unnatural to curve their spine any amount. When I push their hips down and remove my hands, most have the ability to keep their hips on their heels. It's as if their muscle memory is what's hindering their ability to get into their deepest poses in the first place. There is no doubt that you can gain many benefits from learning, and being very good at another sports discipline, but just like anything else in life, keep an open mind when you are practicing yoga because you might surprise yourself with how flexible you really are.
Morning championship routine practice was better than yesterday. I felt stronger today and there were glimpses of my championship form.
July 21, 2022, 5:30pm - class 1315 with Kaitlin McKendrick - Today was one of the hottest days in recent memory, so I expected to feel dizzy at some point in class, but I didn't. I just kept going from beginning to end. "There is no tomorrow!" I kept saying to myself whenever I felt like I was about to tap out of a posture. Just do it... just fucking do it... because if you don't, you're going to regret it for the rest of your life! At the end of class, I did Kapalabhati in Root. When you do Kapalabhati in Root, every sharp exhale causes your pelvis to rhythmically push the ankles into the mat, increasing their flexibility over time. My knees were feeling it here and in Fixed Firm. I will forego evening championship routine practice this evening as I feel I did a good job with Root.
July 22, 2022, 9:00am - Bikram 90 - 130.9 today. Five students, including one from California who has taken classes by the great Bikram teachers, including Craig Valanni (Craig was a teacher Chris Fluck frequently mentioned in his classes). "Is it necessary to bring your arms and elbows up in Pranayama?" he asked after class. "No," I replied, "there are many teachers, such as Tony Sanchez, who don't even bring their elbows up more than parallel to the arms. It's not necessary. It looks nice, but it's really a nice preparatory stretch for the postures later on in class. Think about how every backbend is followed by a forward bend in class. The arms raising up is a tremendous backbend of the wrist when the elbows are up high. To counteract, we have the arms and wrists straight in Half Moon and Awkward and then a forward bend of the nondominant hand's wrist when we go into Eagle. You get a backbend of the wrist followed by the eventual forward bend of the wrist in this "warm-up series."
July 23, 2022, 8:00am - class 1315 with Kaitlin McKendrick - 130.1 today. The heat hit me today and I sat down in Standing Separate Leg Stretching. Not wanting to just relax, I did similar as well as more difficult poses while on the ground: Separate Leg Stretching and Pigeon. Hopefully, I'm on the tail end of my knee recovery. When I press on my knee, I hear and feel crackles, which are most likely crepitus. I was able to do Locust in Lotus, Kapalabhati in Root, Extended Bound Side Angle in Triangle, and alternate grips in Standing Separate Leg Head to Knee and Spine Twist.
One of the things I learned on my pilgrimage to 14 different temples and mosques in India was how to live modestly and make the most out of situations where there were little to no creature comforts of home. We learned economy of movement, because if you moved around too much in the sweltering 90 to 100 degree heat, you would feel dizzy and fatigued. Don't take unnecessary steps and don't move when you don't need to. When you see my championship routine, it is the living embodiment of that philosophy. This is why it is the most precise and compact routine among all the competitors. Short, simple, and sweet, but also smooth, vibrant, and beautiful to watch. It embodies all that is yoga and India and also flows like any good story or dance routine. I've worked really hard to make it look easy to do.
Why I Never Listen to Health Nuts
I have met many people from all walks of life who have told me that I should do this or that in order to be more healthy, but when I look at them, I see fat, unhealthy people trying to tell a person who is more healthy than they are what to do. This doesn't sit well with me. One person chastised me for drinking too much Pepsi and I told him I drink juice as well. He said that that was equally as bad with all the sugars in juices these days. I asked him what he drank and he replied water. Water?! I looked at him as if were an alien that dropped out of the sky. Then why is he still fat? And why does he feel he knows so much about health when he's not healthy himself? This is not an isolated example. When I go to any so-called expert trying to sell health products and am measured on a variety of devices, they expect to sell stuff to unhealthy people, so when they meet me, they really can't bullshit me because the numbers on their devices don't lie. It's funny when they try to bullshit me and I reply, "So, do you use this stuff, too?" because if they did, and if I were a mean girl, I'd tell them that it's not working for them!
I don't listen to health nuts, health fanatics, or even health enthusiasts. I listen to what I know and what works best for me. I know that what works best for me isn't necessarily going to work for anyone else because very few people strive to be an elite athlete. Sure, a lot of people say they want to be thin with a low bodyfat percentage, but few have the motivation to do so. I have had dozens of women come up to me privately and say, "I wish I looked like you," but, trust me, it's hard for even me to look like me without dedication to my craft. Motivation to be the best and dedication towards achieving your goals are the keys to your success. If you are sitting there and mulling over my words, you've already wasted enough time. Just go out there and do it! Drink your Pepsi. Drink your juice. Eat whatever you want. Just be willing to work your butt off to be great. Don't be afraid to be great.
July 24, 2022, 8:00am - class 1316 with Kaitlin McKendrick - 130.4 today. During the floor series Savasanas, whenever I feel the heat getting to me, I put a hand towel over my face to force myself to account for my breathing. When you are in a dire situation, sometimes you don't focus on the important things. By covering your face and limiting your ability to breathe, you force yourself to calm down and focus on your breathing. After five long breaths under the towel, removing the towel so you can fully breathe makes you appreciate your breathing so much more. You will feel a renewed energy and a newfound ability to continue on to the next posture.
July 24, 2022, 3:00pm - USA Yoga Workshop "Therapeutic Yoga Workshop with Rajashree Choudhury" - Like Bruce Merkle's and Keri Palasz's workshops, this was a very different workshop than many of the USA Yoga workshops I've attended. We practiced different breathing and stretching exercises, self-awareness, and techniques for helping us be more present in the moment. "Effortless breathing is asana," Rajashree said. She talked about how our bodies change over time. "What I could do at 20, I know I cannot do at 60 and I have to accept that, but I can feel the same energy and balance," she said. She led us through a guided meditation and also discussed the chakra system.
I dare say that the Seniors (50+) category is quite possibly the most intriguing category in the USA Yoga National Championship and I'm not saying that just because I'm in it. Some people might erroneously think that doing well here is a walk in the park, but it's not. While the average score of all its competitors may be lower than the more popular 18-49 category, you have many seasoned professionals in this category, people who were once fierce competitors formerly in the 18-49 category. The more you watch these Seniors compete, the more you realize that most people at 50+ cannot do anything that these Seniors can do. People get old, lazy, and fat. Most lose their strength, flexibility, and balance as early as 30. Some will reminisce of their youth when they could do amazing physical things, but here's the thing... these Seniors are still doing these things! And sometimes better than most people their age or any age! You want to talk about competitive fire and spirit, sure, you get that in the 18-49 category, but the real stuff is in the Seniors category where most people would've lost that competitive fire and spirit long ago. Once a person has endured the trials and tribulations of life, that often changes his or her body. The fact that there are people who still have that competitive fire and spirit at 50+ is a sight to behold and that's why this category is more amazing than any other. Watch it closely.
The Government of India released an image purporting to show the dangers of eating too much junk food versus healthy fruits and vegetables. I modified the image to show a third option. It's a shame that the very place where yoga started has somehow lost its way. There is a common belief that people just get enormously fat after they get married and turn 40. The same holds true here in America. It doesn't have to be that way. You can be athletically thin like me at 54 and look like the third option and you don't have to limit your diet to rabbit food.
I will soon be releasing my championship practice techniques for how I practice while taking a 90-minute Bikram class. Stay tuned!
July 25, 2022, 9:30am - class 1317 with Kaitlin McKendrick - 131.7 today. This morning was a little hard. A bout with blood in my stool from stress. Dizziness, labored breathing, and 150bpm heart rate 20 minutes after morning yoga class isn't good. Nobody ever likes to talk about these things, but some of us athletes go through the same fears and anxieties as everyone else. We just find a way to hide it well. Overall. training is going well. My knee is getting better and I'm feeling stronger each day, but this year I don't have any of my senior teachers to talk to. They all passed away. I had a good class today. I could touch my forehead to my knee in Standing Head to Knee and Standing Bow was achievable. The rest of my practice looked good as well. I practiced Shoulderstand Lotus, Archer, and Eight Angle after class.
If I see myself in a mirror, I can correct my shoulders in Eight Angle without a problem. The challenge is to do so without a mirror. Can I do it before the semi-finals on Friday?
July 26, 2022, 9:00am - Bikram 90 - 131.7 today. Summer classes typically have light attendance. Sometimes we teach small classes of one to four students. It's still a class, but a very specialized class where students can ask questions and we give them very specific knowledge that helps them get the most out of their poses. "I don't really feel it in my upper back," said my student in Locust. I assisted him in feeling more of the goal of the posture by lifting his legs up higher and encouraging him to maintain that height on his own. By doing so, he could now begin to feel the muscle engagement move from his glutes up his spine towards his upper back, where he's supposed to feel it. The dialog does say to raise the legs at least 45 degrees. Once you exceed 45 degrees, you will start to feel the upper back muscle engagement.
One USA Yoga coach recommends rote repetition to get your routine permanently ingrained into your body. I do agree with this approach somewhat, but you do not always have to do repetitions physically. Sometimes mental repetitions can prepare you just as well as physical repetitions. This is how I won my sushi competition years ago. To the surprise of many of my fans at the competition, I had never physically created the sushi I made at the competition. I just knew they would turn out well, because I went through every step of the process in my head dozens of times each day until I could do the movements in my sleep. This is how I train for the yogasana championship, with a combination of physical and mental repetitions. If you do this all correctly, both will complement each other. The dangers in doing too much physical repetition is fatigue and boredom. Once those set in, doing your routine will feel like a chore rather than something enjoyable.
July 26, 2022, 6:00pm - class 1318 with Kaitlin McKendrick - I churned my way through the entire class. No rests. All but two of my postures looked textbook perfect.
July 27, 2022, 12:00pm - class 1319 with Justin Riley - 131.7 today. Class was briskly paced. I got through it with no issues. The lady practicing behind me was fantastic. It was a very different style of class than I was used to, since it had music, so I didn't sweat like crazy.
USA Yoga National Championship (July 28, 2022) - When I saw the 2022 USA Yoga National Championship program guide for the first time, I knew this was going to be a big deal. Held at the State Games of America in Ames, Iowa, 19 competitors were on the roster, five more than last year, including the return of some phenomenal yoginis who were medal winners before the pandemic. This was the level of competition I wanted to see. A medal must be earned, never guaranteed, and this was trial by fire.
I formed a "dream team" of the best photographer and videographer I knew. They saw firsthand what the competition was all about and all of the trials and tribulations on the road to a championship. This was not an easy time for me. I was stressed for weeks, but didn't show it. I'm normally a rock. But when I saw how close the other competitors' regionals scores were to mine, my heart raced.
"I could lose in the semi-finals!" I said to myself. I didn't want to. That's why I prepared myself the way I did. I prepared for several hours each day, loosening up or strengthening some part of my body, improving my body awareness, rehabbing injuries, eating right, and working on my breathing.
When we landed in Des Moines, my first goal was to get food. Many reviews said that pork tenderloin is a big thing in Iowa and Smitty's has one of the best pork tenderloin sandwiches in the state. The mixture of seasonings (ketchup, mustard, pickles, and onions) tasted great with the breaded pork, but the rest of it had no real flavor whatsoever. I can't say it was bad, because it wasn't. It just wasn't the amazing thing I expected.
Throughout the day, my hormone levels were out of whack and my emotions rose and fell like a rollercoaster. Self-doubt set in. What if I'm not good enough? If you think this is easy for any yogasana competitor, think again. We are human beings like anyone else. No matter how much we prepare, we will always wonder whether or not we are good enough.
Our suite was nice, but lacked the stellar view of the river we had last year. One good thing about our hotel was that it was in the middle of nowhere, so there were no distractions. It was 3pm and the pork tenderloin would hold us over for the rest of the day.
Time to get to work. For seven hours, I worked on strength and flexibility exercises on the hour, every hour, along with two-pose sequences followed by my complete routine. My team and I took one break in between to venture out to the Hi-Vee for dinner options. I got to a point of flexibility where my thighs were perpendicular in Rabbit. That was the goal. Your first posture paves the way for the rest of your routine. It has to pack a punch. I worked on the entries of all my postures, never practicing each one in full. Too much repetitive practice will lead to fatigue and even disdain for a posture. I sought a gentler approach to my practice. A smooth entry almost guarantees that the posture will end up looking good.
USA Yoga National Championship Semi-Finals (July 29, 2022) - I started the morning with preliminary stretches and a quick 26+2 practice. You can actually do one set of slightly modified versions of all the postures in a few minutes. For certain people in specific circumstances, this might be beneficial. I ended my morning routine practice with Eight Angle. My first Rabbit in the morning did not have perpendicular thighs. Over the course of the day, my Rabbit got deeper and deeper. It looked like my Rabbit.
After the semi-final round, I felt I had escaped with a top ten ranking by the skin of my teeth. I watched the first two competitors take the stage and felt a sinking feeling in my belly because they were really good. Holy shit, I didn't want to watch anyone else after those two for fear of psyching myself out. I went to the practice area and worked on my flexibility exercises over and over. All these ladies flew all the way here not just to compete, but to put their best foot forward and win.
These were legitimate champions, each and every one. Every one of them could be number one in the right circumstances because the point totals were so close to one another. These were not ladies who took a break from their yoga during the pandemic. These were ladies who built themselves up into powerhouses… just like me.
I had to shake myself out of my stupor and refocus. It's a lot harder this year, but I could do this! I needed to calm myself, so I spoke my prayer again:
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 be the best version of me. This is for you.
This is for you Sandy. This is for you Noelle. This is for you Joel. This is for you Dad.
Thank you all.
I started trembling. Tears started rolling down my cheeks.
I am not afraid to show my best in front of others.
I wiped away my tears. It was not the time to weep.
I am not afraid to inspire.
Let's get to work.
And with that said, I stood up. This was my moment to shine. “Are you ready?” the athlete ambassador, and stage director, asked me. I nodded. “Stand right here. That way you have a straight line to the steps.” The steps were close, but seemed so far away. You need nerves of steel to walk up on stage, demonstrate your postures, and have the harshest judges in America nitpick your every movement. A twitch, a muscle spasm, an extra breath… any are enough to warrant a deduction. Most people can't handle the pressure.
But Sandy and Joel made me bulletproof. All the times I made mistakes in class, all the times I fucked up and they let the class know I fucked up, all the times they physically corrected me in front of everyone as if I were some moldable clay that would do as they wanted, those are the moments when you realize that people like that picked on you for a reason. They didn't pick on some weak-willed person who might run off and never do yoga again. They picked on someone they knew who wanted not just to be better, but to be the best. They knew my physical limitations and they made me go beyond what I could normally do. They made me bulletproof.
I was good with sixth place. I know I could do better. I know the semi-finals are just an estimate of how everyone will do in the finals. The order can and will change. I learned that the hard way when I let my guard down at number 3 in the semi-finals and ended up number 4 in the finals last year. I won't let that happen again.
Many competitors surprised me by not making the top ten. Two were ranked above me in the Northeast Regionals two years ago. My fellow Jedis did not make the top ten. Other competitors were trained by coaches who had a lot more experience than I. They also did not make the top ten. Suzanne Elliott and Holly Raymond asked me if I would sign up for their yoga workshop the next day, but, unfortunately, my available funds were depleted from the trip, so I couldn't do it.
Both coaches, Suzanne Elliott and Kim Tang, have done a superior job with their athletes. Kim has her legions of fans and followers. Her athletes are always well-prepared. Suzanne appears to concentrate on a single protégé in Holly Raymond and her choice may well be cemented at the top of the 18-49 division for many years to come.
|National Semi-Finals Scores (6th place)
We had dinner at Culver's, a fast food burger and frozen custard restaurant that serves "fresh, not frozen meat." It seems to be what Wendy's strives to be. The burger was delicious and the buttered, toasted bun was a welcome change to the bland food served at most fast food restaurants.
USA Yoga National Championship (July 30, 2022) - We visited Pappajohn Sculpture Park where we took pictures of the various statues by famous artists, such as Mark Di Suvero and Robert Indiana. Later that afternoon, I was very sore from my prep work yesterday and today. Everything hurt... neck, right scapula, lower back, knees, wrists, and the list goes on. Even with the aches and pains, I continued to relentlessly train. I trained as if my whole life depended on it. When self-doubt would set in, I trained even harder. There was a moment during the day that distracted me, but I focused on the task at hand. The State Games of America is where elite athletes showcase their talent. I am honored to be a part of it. Hopefully, my muscles will be okay for tomorrow.
USA Yoga National Championship Finals (July 31, 2022) - I knew it would be a challenge to climb up the rankings. Yoko Jackson is a force to be reckoned with. A pre-pandemic superstar in the 50+ division, Yoko has the tools to rattle the 18-49 division. Jennifer Vanderhart and Nahoko Nakayama always find their way to the podium each year. Jennifer was a powerhouse in the 18-49 division not long ago and Nahoko is always a crowd favorite. Dominique Well was exceptional this year and showed excellent work in the semi-finals. Others whose names I didn't recognize also scared the daylights out of me as they ranked high in the semi-finals. Even tenth-ranked Donna Stallard is a force of nature. She walks onstage in the most unassuming way. She is slow and steady and makes time appear to stand still when you watch her routine. Do not be fooled. She is a master at work who finished fifth place last year. If you underestimate her, rest assured, she will beat you severely.
I had to go back to basics. I worked on my strength and flexibility exercises, entry and exit points, and breathing. Any time I felt I tired, I stopped and reminded myself that there is no tomorrow. I had to continue training. Relentless training. Thousands of Spine Rolls, Half-Tortoise Butterflies, Beach to Shoulderstand Lotus transitions, and other exercises to condition my spine. I said my prayer again and again. Each time, I developed more fortitude. I asked Lord Ganesha to remove any and all obstacles that would block my path towards my goal. I asked Lord Krishna to give me strength.
I am not afraid to show my best in front of others.
But this time, I said:
I am not afraid to shine.
I have a tanktop that says "Shine On." I didn't know what the hell that meant until the moment I was called up onstage. When it came time to perform my routine to the audience, I took my time. I didn't rush. Rushing can make you skip crucial steps worth fractions of points that could affect your rank. Most of these steps are undetectable to the untrained eye, but these judges look for these steps like a hawk. I had to move slowly, because my knees were shot. They hurt like hell and the sad truth is just before my first posture - Rabbit - I felt my knee give out as I lowered myself down. I tilted over to the right, but quickly regained my composure.
You want to talk about nerve-wracking... imagine all eyes are on you and it is dead silent in the room. The bright lights are on you. Everyone is waiting for you to do something. The moment you move, you are on the clock and you are judged. Your job is to make time stand still. Your job is to show perfection. Your job is to make the audience believe, even if for a brief moment, that they can do what you can do. If you can do that, you are not only a yoga champion, but a yogacharya, or yoga master.
My performance time was 2:38, about 30 seconds longer than my usual time. I wanted to make sure I didn't lose any points for timing, so I counted to eight on each pose and then I counted to eight again. Every posture I performed, I wanted to make it look as if I was moving through butter. I'm not as flexible as everyone else. I'm not as balanced as everyone else. I'm certainly not the strongest one there. But the synergy of what I have is truly amazing when it all comes together.
The six postures in each competitor's routine are supposed to demonstrate strength, flexibility, and balance, but I know that the contest is about more than just those three qualities. There are intangible qualities that you must demonstrate, too, and I believe that is where my strengths lie. There is stillness. Stillness is focus and calmness of the mind. There is flow. Flow is the connection between the postures and the path through the story that you tell with your routine. There is quality of breath. How you breathe reveals your strengths and weaknesses. Without these three very important qualities, the qualities of strength, flexibility, and balance do not make yoga. Yoga is all six of these qualities and more.
I beat very formidable challengers who ranked higher than me in the semi-finals. I could've caved in, but I didn't. I went to work conditioning my body on the hour, every hour. I worked around injuries and soreness. I reminded myself that rest time had to wait. My mission was to make my body a well-oiled machine.
I am proof that you are your own best teacher. I didn't have a fancy coach telling me what to do and I didn't have other athletes to train with. Us Dins have one very formidable trait among us and that is relentless willpower. You beat us down and we will get right back up. We won't stop until we are done. I promised myself I wouldn't let my guard down again by feeling complacent in the semi-finals and I didn't. I went to work. Whether I finished 1st or 10th, it didn't matter to me because I had proven that I could be in the same league with the best.
This is why 4th place feels sweeter this year than the last. I didn't achieve my medal like I had wanted, but I didn't have my secret weapon - Full Spine Twist - available to me. Once I get the mechanics of that posture down, I will be a very formidable competitor.
My friend Alison, a fellow Jedi and co-owner of the yoga ranch I did my Jedi Fight Club training at, also won 4th place in her division. I was the only Jedi who made it into the 50+ finals and the only Pennsylvanian in the top 10 in both the 18-49 and 50+ female divisions. I proved that a little girl from Brooklyn with no athletic ability can work hard to become the number 4 yogasana champion in the United States, two years in a row. Don't be afraid to be great.
|National Finals Scores (4th place)
We had dinner at Jethro's BBQ, a local chain that served heaping family platters, such as The Iowa Platter with four different meats, four sides, and your choice of Texas toast or cornbread muffins. Six different sauces provided ample variety for the most discerning palate. It was so good to eat this after the grueling few days that passed. We flew home the next day and all throughout the day I couldn't help but feel that I was part of something truly special. Even though my rank was the same as last year, it was against some fierce competitors who all upped their game. With the addition of several heavy hitters and battling through a myriad of injuries, that made my final rank feel all the more sweet.
While it is difficult to foresee what an 18-49 competitor would score when he or she enters the 50+ division, it is equally difficult to predict how the reverse situation would score. We all lose a little strength, flexibility, and balance as we age, but how much? We can run some statistics on this, but there isn't enough data yet, so I'm going to make an educated guess and say that all you need to do is subtract 5 points from an 18-49 competitor's highest score and that is likely the highest they will score as a 50+ competitor and add 5 points to a 50+ competitor's highest score and that's likely the highest they will score as an 18-49 competitor. We are talking about an age difference of at least ten years, so someone moving between the junior and senior divisions in just a few years will probably show a similar score in both divisions.
August 2, 2022, 9:00am - Bikram 90 - One of my students used to attend classes taught by my old mentor, Sandy Robin, for eight years before moving to the suburbs. She said she saw a lot of Sandy in me. "I remember Sandy used to tell us not to drop our bodies down until we could see our foot coming up over our head," she said in Standing Bow. Yes, Sandy taught old style Bikram, the way it was first taught, rather than the diluted stuff some of the youngsters teach today. In some ways, it's easier. In some ways, it's harder. It's all Bikram yoga.
August 2, 2022, 6:00pm - Bikram 60 - 129.7 pounds. I just saw something amazing. One of my students successfully did a textbook Camel. Two weeks ago, she didn't even attempt it until I encouraged her to do so. She said she felt better doing it recently and just tried it. Long ago, she did Camel like a champ. "Baby steps," she said with a smile.
August 4, 2022, 6:00am - Bikram 90 - One of my students returned after a two week break. He apologized for not being as flexible as he was prior to his vacation. Yoga class does not care if you are young or old, fat or thin, a beginner or a world champion. Yoga class is for everyone and we often create our own internal scripts for a what a class is all about even if the reality isn not like that. A yoga class is what you make of it. This is why there are different levels of people attending the same class. A rank beginner might find solace in knowing that going to a weekly yoga class will help him or her breathe better. An advanced yogi might find joy in touching his feet to his or her head in Cobra. The important thing is to find happiness in what you are doing.
August 4, 2022, 5:30pm - Bikram 60 - A former Division 1 athlete attended my class today, but she had to be extra careful with the postures because she had back surgery. "You had that look like you really wanted to dive right into it, but you have to be careful," I said to her. Indeed, I never force anyone to do anything in my class. I make recommendations and you can choose to listen to or ignore them. It all depends on how easy or intense you want the class to be. Another student who appeared to be a seasoned practitioner tried all of the advanced cues and really pushed herself hard. She seemed very pleased with the class. A yoga class is what you make of it, as I said earlier in the day.
August 5, 2022, 9:00am - Bikram 90 - A class of six makes the little studio in Bryn Mawr feel full. Five ladies and one gentleman followed my instructions and survived what could possibly be one of their most challenging classes yet. Although it's never advertised that way, my classes are pretty hard. You will definitely get your money's worth by taking my class. You may not like me when it's all over, but it's undeniable that you will get a fantastic workout on every part of your body when you are done. In the end, you and everyone else will simply describe the experience as "amazing." After class, the studio's camera crew interviewed me for a promotional video. "That was brilliant. You should be a broadcaster on top of all the things you do," the studio owner said.
One week after the USA Yoga Nationals, I felt much better now than last week. Instead of tossing and turning and waking up in cold sweats thinking about my competition, my sleep was peaceful and quiet. Initially, it wasn't that way, however, as all the repetitive exercise had taken a toll on my body. I couldn't move very well for two days. All my muscles and joints felt tight and I walked with a slight limp, yet somehow I managed to teach a full week of classes fom Tuesday to Saturday. As exciting as the trip to Iowa was, it put a severe dent in my finances, so I took up a lot of extra work to try to make up for the loss. If I'm chosen for the world championship, I don't know how I'll go because it's an in-person event this year held in Switzerland.
August 6, 2022, 8:00am - Bikram 90 - 130.3 today. Perhaps the best compliment ever to a teacher: "I've been to many Bikram classes and you're the only one who speaks the entire dialog," a student said today. Its easy to teach the way I do if you've had three of the best teachers in the world guiding you. "Nobody ever says to tuck my chin to my chest in Rabbit. Is it in the dialog?," she asked. "It is," I said, pointing to the words in a copy of the Bikram dialog manual. "I always say it and you can trust me because I just finished the national championships with the best score in the world in Rabbit," I said with a sincere smile. Lots of cheers followed. Another student said that I looked in fantastic shape and that I must be super-healthy. My readers here will note that I'm not always super-healthy. I like having an off-season just like many professional athletes and enjoy all the wonderful foods in life, especially high-carb and high-dairy foods. "I love my ice cream and I love my Pepsi," I admitted to her, but only in the off-season. When push comes to shove, I can get my body to an elite level of conditioning. As more and more people are coming to realize, I always put my money where my mouth is. I teach this yoga because I believe in it and the proof that all this works is I practice what I preach.
August 6, 2022, 10:00am - Bikram 60 - Initially, only a handful of students signed up, but ten people suddenly appeared in the final minutes before class started. Everyone was stretching and bending like a champ and the body heat generated in the room caused the temperature to skyrocket upwards to 111. I had trouble knocking the temperature down to keep the heat manageable. At one point, I had the thermostat set to 73, but it still read 117. Opening the doors provided some relief. When we got to the Floor Series, the room started cooling down. One person thought it was too hot, but the rest of the class thought the room and the class felt amazing.
August 9, 2022, 9:00am - Bikram 90 - My knees are starting to feel better. I wore knee braces for a couple of days to take the stress off of my knee joints. I really did a number on my knees this year. I'll have to carefully consider what I need to do for future championship preparations.
Some people think that they can be yogis just because they've lived a "hard life." A hard life is when you don't even have a dollar a day to spend on food. In India, when we had to go to the restroom, we learned how to use the “toilets” there, which were basically stepping into a pool of running water at your feet, squatting down, and urinating in the company of others. Your home was made of concrete and you slept on the concrete floor with no air conditioning, no windows, no carpet, and no laundry machines to wash your clothes. You washed all your clothes by hand. You ate vegan because sometimes that's all you could afford, not because you could afford to. You live on the top floor of your building? You'll need to climb steps to get to it. There are no elevators. There are also no handrails. In America, good luck climbing the stairs if you're over 40! You look around and you see all the 40+ people in India happily climbing up and down the stairs without a need for a handrail. Healthwise, they must be doing something right! Many are even genuinely happy. It is odd that people who live a less complex life are often happier than those who don't.