New Competition Rules

Recently, I received an email explaining the new rules for regional and national level competitions. Have y’all heard? There are new rules at the regional and national levels, and there are differences at each level. I just want to talk about the changes for regionals.  I am assuming most of us are not going on to compete at a national level. However, even if you don’t compete I think you might find the changes to the rules at the regional level to be very interesting.

First, let’s review the old rules. Under the old rules, each competitor had three minutes to do seven postures. Postures had to occur in the following order:

Good 'ole SH2K

My head is nowhere near my knee

1. Standing Head to Knee

2. Standing Bow

3. Floor Bow

4. Rabbit

5. Stretching

6. Optional

7. Optional

Postures 1-5 were worth a maximum of 10 points each. How much your optional could be worth depended on what you selected.

Here are the new rules for regionals

You still have to do seven postures in three minutes. However, you now have a range of options for the postures that you do.

1. Balancing Forward Bend: Balancing Stick (6.0), Crow (7.0) and Standing Forehead to Knee (8.0)
2. Balancing Back Bend: Split Arm (8.0), Standing Bow (8.0) and Dancer (8.0)
3. Spine Flexibility Option (Seated): Spine Twist (6.0), Bow (7.0) and Rabbit (7.0)
4. Stretching/Traction: Standing Separate Leg Stretching (6.0), Stretching (7.0) and Upward Stretching (7.0)
5. Optional
6. Optional
7. Optional

You’ll notice that the point values have changed for some of these postures. Where SH2K used to be worth 10 points it is now worth a maximum of 8. USA Yoga will eventually have all of this up on their site.

Reactions

The email I received from USA Yoga noted:

It is our mission to provide a safe and challenging format for all levels of competitor – beginning, intermediate and advanced. We understand that a format that will encourage a first time competitor to compete may not be the same format that will challenge an advanced competitor…The Regional Format is designed to give beginning and intermediate competitors more opportunity to select postures that are appropriate for their skill level – while also demonstrating mastery of asanas that are fundamental to any practice level. The format consists of four categories of postures with a choice of 3 postures in each category, plus 3 optional postures. As before, the optional postures must be chosen to cover the skills of strength, balance and flexibility.

My reaction to this was positive. I see the changes providing competitors (and audience members) with some great benefits including:
1. Pick what makes sense for you. I love that there are now a range of postures to select. For the first posture, anyone (I think) could do balancing stick. I’m not saying you could do it 100% perfect, but that’s not what this is about. You could get up there and do balancing stick. If you can’t do SH2K, so what? You can still demonstrate your practice on a level that makes sense for you.
2. Less stress. Because you get to select what makes sense for you, and where you are in your practice, I see regionals as far more enjoyable now. You can get up there and do what is right and good for you and not be concerned about pushing yourself in ways that don’t make sense for your body yet.
3. More participants. I can see more people wanting to participate and believing they can participate. I could understand how the previous rules limited who could participate. However, these new rules really focus on simply sharing your practice in a very reasonable way. I think they also recognize that not all of us – maybe even most of us – who compete at regionals are interested in competing at nationals. I know I’m not interested in being a national level competitor. Regionals just got a whole lot more fun.
Regionals just got more fun

Regionals just got more fun

4. Speaking of fun….I bet these new rules will be more enjoyed by the audience. I can geek out and get into watching 50 people do 50 versions of SH2K, standing bow, and so on. But I have to think that most of the audience gets a bit bored with this. These new rules mean that most every routine is different to some extent. I think it could increase attendance.
What Would Your Routine Be?
If I had to craft a routine today, it would look like this:
1. Balancing Stick (my back is still recovering so no SH2K)
2. Standing Bow
3. Spine Twist
4. Upward Stretching
5. Lifting Lotus
I have no idea what I would do for six and seven. I’d really have to think on that. Having an extra optional plus moving my old option (upward stretching) into one of the required postures is a bit tricky. But I also don’t feel the need to pick off the list of advanced postures. I’ve been told I have a nice tree pose. That could be a good one to end with.
What would you pick?
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A Weekend with Jim Kallett: Part II

As I wrote a few days ago, my studio recently had Jim Kallett in for a seminar. My first post focused on the Friday night lecture. Today, I want to talk about the day we spent with him on Saturday.

Jim’s seminar kicked off at 9:00 and ran until about 5:00 or so. We had a small break and then a 90-minute class. From the beginning until class, Jim went through every single posture minus final spine twist and final breathing (because we were running out of time). He covers every posture in great detail, takes questions, and then asks for people who would like to volunteer to do the posture.

There are any number of reasons why you might volunteer to do a posture (and in a seminar like this you really should make it a point to get your behind up in front of the visiting teacher at least once). First, it might be because you have question or need extra help, or just plain stink at the posture and want all the help you can get. It could also be that you have a great posture but need some finessing to get your up to the next level.

I didn’t volunteer for a posture so much as I was volunteered for one. Specifically, triangle.

Yes, this hurts.

Yes, this hurts.

No one volunteered for triangle so my studio owner volunteered me (I assume she knows how much I hate triangle). And all I have to say is she is never getting my homemade baked goods again.

I’m kidding. Maybe.

It was nerve wracking to get up there and do triangle in front of Jim because I don’t think very highly of myself in this posture. Notice he has a leg over me. He pushed me down into this and then turned my chin even higher to look up towards the ceiling. I honestly thought it was already turned as high as it could possibly go, but I was wrong.

Now the thing about this triangle, and the very cool thing about Jim, is that he knows exactly what I am ready to go into. He knew this with everyone. It’s not like he forced all the volunteers into the posture they were doing. That was never the case. But he knew what your body could do and where it could go even if you didn’t know how to get it there. And he got me into a deep triangle. It burned and hurt, but in a good way. And yes, he made me do both sides.

When I was done I felt like I had just had a very deep massage. I felt soooo stretched out and amazing. I try to remember this feeling and use it as motivation to keep me in triangle in class. I’d say it’s not working very well. But I am good at remembering how great I felt when Jim got me in triangle!

Now I just got to work on staying in the darn posture……

VC Day 18: We Have Lift-Off!!!

Today was my first day back in class since seminar with Joseph on Sunday. The first class back after a seminar like that is always interesting because I’m working on applying the things that really stuck with me.

First – triangle. I did get my chin to my shoulder every time in every set. Of course I probably looked a little funny in class doing it. I had to set myself up and get my chin to my shoulder and then move into the posture. I think it was a lack of confidence but also I’m new to thinking about how I set up my arms and shoulder going into triangle. I really needed to take a second and be thoughtful about it before I launched into the posture. I’ll get the hang of it in another class or two.

But the real big news come from floor bow. I have made it my mission to really work on getting a better floor bow for my second competition. Back in November, I could barely get my legs to go up off the floor and my hips were all out of alignment. I don’t think I ever mentioned this, but when I visited Bikram Yoga San Diego back in November, I got the wonderful Jim Kallett to give me some drills to help with my floor bow. What makes Jim even more wonderful is that he has never met me, and yet he still helped me.

I had communicated with Jim over email about his rates before I arrived. However, I never got to meet him when I was in town. I don’t even know if he was in town when I was. He’s a busy man.

Afterwards I followed up with him about my experiences at his studio (such a fantastic studio!!!) and asked for his help with floor bow. I gave him a general description of my problem and what I wanted to work on. He was kind enough to send me some drills. They were serious drills too. I had to build up stamina over a period of several weeks just to be able to do them all, and I did them at least five days a week. I was sore most of the time for a long time.

I’m not going to share the drills so don’t ask. That’s because Jim didn’t intend for them to be shared with anyone who reads this blog. They were intended for me to address my concerns. I don’t want anyone doing something that they shouldn’t be doing or making a mistake and getting hurt because of something I said.

But back to today…When we got to floor bow I remembered something Joseph had said about paying attention to my grip. I’m not going to remember his words well (sorry – I got the concept down which is what I was going for). The point was that sometimes our grip in bow is too tight and this can actually limit how high up we get our legs.

In first set I fumbled around with my grip and looked like a diaster trying to apply what he had said. I wasn’t even sure my grip was a problem, but I wanted to focus my attention on it.

Then, in second set, I nailed it – so to speak. I got the grip just right and bam! My legs came right off the floor. We have lift off! For the first time ever my thighs were off the floor. I was speechless. It also felt effortless. Usually I can get worn out in bow, but today, in second set, I felt like I could hold it forever.

Day 18

Today we had vegan risotto for dinner. Mark made it, and I don’t have the recipe. Vegan risotto is not hard to make. Don’t put in any butter or cheese. There, it’s done. Risotto is not hard. For some reason, there is the perception that it is hard to make, but I’ve never had that problem. Risotto takes a lot of time, and it always will.

Mark made a very lemony risotto, and the entire house smelled like lemons. At the very end he stired in arugula. I thought that would be strange (wilted, warm arugula? No Thanks!), but it turned out to be delicious.

Vegan risotto with walnuts

Vegan risotto with walnuts

I did notice that the butter and cheese were missing. I usually make the risotto, and I usually put in a lot of butter and cheese (because it’s yummy!). When it’s left out, you notice, but not in a bad way. Risotto is a heavy dish no matter how you slice it, but it was a lot less rich – and still plenty flavorful – without the butter and cheese.

That aside, today I decided to be pro-active about a lunch I will be at on Friday. It’s an all day event, and lunch is provided. I go to these things a couple of times a semester, and they are very good about accomodating vegetarians and vegans. But, here’s the thing, I don’t always like what I end up getting but I feel like I have to eat it anyways because: (a) someone went out of their way to make sure I got it and (b) I don’t want to starve.

This time I emailed the organizer, explained I was doing a vegan challenge, and said I thought it would be easier if I just brought my own lunch so don’t worry about me! I also know I am going to 4:30 Bikram on Friday. If my lunch is screwy then that could play out poorly in the hot room. I didn’t get a response back, but I didn’t expect one. I’m sure it’s a non-issue, but I will pay attention to what’s being served on Friday and see what I would have thought about eating it!

Adventures in San Diego: Bikram Yoga!

Adventures in San Diego

Part II: Bikram Yoga San Diego

While the main point of going to San Diego was to attend a professional conference (technically), the other primary objective was to squeeze in as much time at Bikram Yoga San Diego as possible. And let me tell you, at the end of the day I am a HUGE fan of Bikram Yoga San Diego. I’ll say more as we progress.

Let's go do some yoga!

Let’s go do some yoga!

First, making the time (and coughing up the money for a cab) was worth it. I managed to get someone to come to class with me on three out of four trips so my cab fare was not as bad as I had anticipated. Keeping up with my practice while on the road was worth the effort, but it was hard. Really, really hard. I had jet lag. Also, this studio is intense.

Let’s start with intense. The studio itself is larger than what I am used to, but that made it fun. Just making a guess, I would say it can hold about 80 people. My first class had around 40 people in it and there was still plenty of wiggle room. I didn’t feel crammed in at all (my studio holds 49 says the fire marshall). I walked in and got nailed with a giant wave of heat, stink, and sweat. I think it’s ok to tell you that because it’s owned by the fabulous Jim Kallett.

I did not get to take a class or even meet Jim while in San Diego. My schedule gave me room for one class a day at one specific time each day. It was what it was. But I can tell you I’ve had a couple of conversations with Jim over email, and he is a fabulous and wonderful person. If you are in town, don’t miss his studio. They’ve got an excellent deal for travelers. Trust me. I abused the heck out of that deal.

Anyways, I think it’s ok to tell you Jim’s studio is incredibly hot and stinky because when I returned to Raleigh and told the instructors this they busted out laughing and said that Jim makes no apologies for his studio being very hot and smelly because that’s how it’s supposed to be. Jim was also one of their favorite teachers from teacher training. I’m bummed I didn’t get to meet this guy!

There are no fans in Jim’s studio except for a giant industrial one in the corner that I assume is used to air out the room between classes. Instructors will not open the door and let a breeze in. You are in this hot box, with no circulating air, for 90 minutes. Get used to it. That’s all that can be done. Honestly, I stopped noticing the smell on day three and was getting used to the heat on day four. If I could have gone every day for a week I would have adjusted.

I was expecting the heat to be a bit stifling before I arrived. I had read Hell-Bent recently. In the book, there is a section that talks about a man named Chad Clark. Chad’s an expert in designing hot yoga rooms. It’s his thing.  He’s a heat expert, and he designed Jim’s heating system. In the book, Chad is quoted as saying, “Heat makes things hard. Point-blank. Studio owners want to use the heat to push people…Jim Kallett wants his regulars on their knees. That’s a direct quote…It’s a special kind of madness.”

Indeed it is.

Indeed I was on my knees, and I was never alone. So excellent work Chad!

Anyways, I knew I was in for something different when I arrived, and I was not disappointed. Add to that the fact that I had no choice but to take the 6:30 am class on days two and three and the madness becomes extra special. I had jet lag. Although I attempted to go to bed at 9:00 each evening, I often couldn’t fall asleep until 10 or 11, and the I started waking up at 3:00 am and was wide awake by 4:00. Doing yoga in this madness with almost no sleep (and what I had was poor quality) made for a different kind of class than what I was used to.

But you know what? I would do it all over again. The whole thing was a struggle of a different kind for me. Suddenly it became about being in the room, being in the moment, and doing what I could. I was forced to pay attention to my breathing and my body in ways that I don’t think I have in a long time. My postures did not look like what I was used to. My stamina? Forget that. I had no stamina in that room. Gone. I was forced to let go of how my postures should look and how class should be. I had to accept what it was. Well, I guess I could have fought reality but that didn’t seem like a great choice.

The instructors throughout all this were marvelous. I expected them to be wonderful, and they did not disappoint. I had three different ones (had one person twice), and I loved that I got to experience new people. The best way to describe the instructors at this studio is strong and compassionate. They all showed extreme compassion to everyone – not just the jet-lagged, sleep deprived woman wondering why it’s been two hours and we’re only on eagle (yes, those were the kinds of classes I had!). I believe if I was a member of this studio I could learn a lot from the instructors about compassion.

Of course my visit would not have been complete without adding to my collection of yoga clothes! We all know I have a slight problem with buying yoga clothes. But this wasn’t my fault! Honestly! BYSD sells clothes they don’t sell at my studio in Raleigh. What was I supposed to do? Not buy them? That would be silly.

These aren't meant to be worn together, but you can see how cute they are individually.

These aren’t meant to be worn together, but you can see how cute they are individually.

I already wore the top, and today I get to wear the bottoms! These are from La La Land in case you’re curious.

Can you believe that after this post and the one before it I’m still not done telling you about my yoga experiences in San Diego? Next time I’ll tell you the crazy weird yoga thing that happened to me while I was there plus more guerrilla yoga!

Adventures in San Diego: Guerrilla Yoga

Adventures in San Diego

Part I: Guerrilla Yoga

San Diego was an interesting experience in many ways. So many ways in fact that I have to split it up into at least two or three posts. I started off with a buddy, and we flew from Raleigh to Phoenix (flight time: 5 hours of not so much fun). Then it was an hour from Phoenix to San Diego.

I was way prepared for this flight. I was expecting to take a 4:30 pm class that day at Bikram Yoga San Diego (more on that in Part II). I knew I needed to hydrate and eat well. To do this, I wore an actual watch (which I never do anymore) to keep track of how much time had actually passed as I traveled west across time zones. I knew I needed to keep up with my eating. I also brought my trusty hydro flask so I could keep track of my water intake. The hydro flask holds 40 ounces, and my goal was to drink 80 ounces by the time I left for class.

Upon arriving in Phoenix, my buddy and I landed ourselves a really fantastic lunch in the airport. I had a salad and a cheese quesadilla. Then we were off in search of our gate to get to San Diego!

Once we found our gate I realized I needed to do something about my back and overall body which was  stiff and tight from the five hours of sitting on a plane I had just done. Enter Guerrilla Yoga.

The concept of Guerrilla Yoga is simple: Do yoga in a public space. This was a suggestion the judges gave all the competitors after our competition was over. Practicing in front of people, strangers, is a great way to get comfortable with performing as well as distractions.   It helps you learn how to be comfortable in a crowd too.

This was the perfect time to implement some guerrilla yoga. I started with a simple camel pose.

None of these people seem impressed.

None of these people seem impressed.

I did five camel postures just hanging out on the dirty airport floor in front of my seat. Yes, the floor was dirty, but I chose not to care. My back, and my spine, loved me for what I was doing. It felt so good.

I decided I needed to document my first go around at guerrilla yoga, so I made my buddy do a photo shoot. People were not too interested in my camel posture. Possibly because this was about the 1000th time they’d seen me perform it.

Having gotten through camel, and taken some pictures, I was inspired to do more. Of course I had to do standing head to knee. next to the seating area there was a separate area with wheelchairs and no people. It was perfect because I would be out of the way of traffic but very much visible.

I honestly didn’t know what would happen in standing head to knee. I wasn’t warmed up at all and had literally just stuffed food in me. But whatever. I figured I’d see what I could do.

It took me three times, but on the third try I was able to kick out and get my head on my knee. Well, in the picture it looks a little off, but I think it’s pretty good for someone who just sat on a plane for five hours.

Performing standing head to knee in the airport was an experience. First, think about the first step. You bend a leg, reach down, and clasp your hands together underneath your foot (note: I am not a certified Bikram teacher. I get to explain the posture however I want). Doing just that much got people’s attention.

Then, I kicked out and locked my left knee. You would have thought I was totally in the posture by the reactions I got. People gasped and I got a couple “Oh my God.” My buddy was trying to take a picture, and I was trying to explain that I wasn’t ready for the picture yet.

I fell out the first time. I fell out the second time. The third time, I found my space for lack of a better word. Yes, I was aware people were staring at me and talking about me. However, I somehow managed to turn my attention inward and focus on my knee. I relaxed into it and went down. I held it. Even after my picture was taken I could have held it longer. I came up with control and released with control. Yes, the posture needs work, but I totally owned it.

Not to bad after a five hour flight!

Not to bad after a five hour flight!

 In performing this posture in public, I learned something interesting. I take these postures for granted. By that, I mean that while I can appreciate the beauty of them if I see anyone performing them I am rarely in awe of them – at least such is the case of the beginning series postures. I have allowed them to become a little too commonplace.

I have been thinking that standing head to knee is no big deal. I don’t mean doing the posture is no big deal. I think it’s a big deal to get your head to your knee! I think it’s a big deal to just kick out and lock your knee! What I mean that doing these postures has become so ingrained in my life that I forget how extraordinary they can be to an outsider and to us all.

When I fell out the first and second time, I was bummed. I wanted to do the posture. But later I realized that just by kicking out my leg and locking my knee I was offering something to those who watched. Even if I had never gotten as far as I did in the picture, I created a space for people to think about yoga. Maybe I inspired someone to look into it or talk to someone about it. I don’t know. Maybe people thought I was a crazy lady at the airport seeking attention.

My motives in doing guerrilla yoga were initially selfish and driven by the desire to serve myself. But I now have a glimpse, even if I am not articulating it well, as to the importance of guerrilla yoga in helping others. I think guerrilla yoga has the potential to do that even if it shifts someone’s thinking just slightly.

Coming up next: My adventures at Bikram Yoga San Diego! In the meantime, do you have experiences performing or watching guerrilla yoga? What was it like for you?