Joseph’s Tip #6: Backbends

I think deep down I knew that a backbending tip would be coming our way. But hey, at least it’s reasonable:

Do at least five backbends everyday.

Ok – I’ll be honest, I am not a fan of the backbend. Actually, that’s not true. I am a fan of the idea of backbends. I would love to be able to do wonderfully deep backbends. I imagine it feels fabulous.

I hate backbends because my back is soooo tight. I went to my PT last week, and told him I was seeing my massage therapist on the weekend. These guys are in cohoots. The PT called up my massage guy and told him how tight my back was and to make sure he worked on it. So backbending is one of those things that I need but is incredibly uncomfortable and miserable for me to do.

But backbends are good. I suppose.

Ok. They are. Joseph is right. We all know we should do them. Want to know why they are good for you? I found a great article you can read.

I also found something from Yoga Journal that says:

Chances are very good that if you are miserable in backbends, it’s not that you don’t value the benefits; it’s more likely that you have never truly experienced them.

So very, very true for me. I don’t think I have done them enough to fully enjoy the benefits of any discomfort I experience.

I do hope Joseph will have time to add a bit of commentary about the backbends. I suspect, based on spending all of one day with him, that when he says do five backbends a day what these backbends look like isn’t the issue. It’s doing them.

Of course I’m not saying do sloppy backbends. What I’m saying is I assume Joseph means do five backbends that are appropriately challenging and do them well. For me, that could be camel or bridge pose. I’m not rocking a wheel by any means.  And I am also guessing that they don’t have to be the same type of backbend (like five camels or five wall walks), but I am only guessing. However, it would be great to have Joseph’s thoughts about how those of us who are not currently loving the backbends might start (you know, Joseph, if you’re not doing anything….) 🙂

I like the recommendation for five though. Five is do-able. And yes, I know he said “at least five,” but for now, I’m thinking five.

I used to do backbends regularly everyday. I hated them (for the most part), but I did them. I started to like them a bit more over time. But then I slacked off on them. Why? I think I just got overwhelmed with everyone telling me to do X, Y, and Z so many times a day. But now that I’ve gotten things prioritized, I think I can add these back in.

How do you approach backbending? Are you a fan? What benefits have you noticed from practicing them regularly?

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Joseph’s Tip #4: Do Your Routine!

Routine’s are (obviously) a critical part of the competition, and that’s where Joseph’s advice for today centers. Joseph says:

Do your routine at least 3 times a day two months prior to the championship.

Excellent advice. I couldn’t agree more. Let’s talk a bit about routines, practicing them, and performing them.

First, I would add (and I think Joseph would agree, but he’s only got 140 characters to work with in his tips) that watching routines is also a very important part of this process. By watching, you can see how people flow from one posture to the next. You can also see what postures looks like and get ideas about how to improve your own postures.

You can see the performances of champions like Joseph over at USA Yoga. These are obviously excellent and amazing routines. I use them to tweak the core five (head to knee, standing bow, etc…) that we all have to do and get ideas for what I might work on in those postures. You can also use them to get ideas about what advanced postures you might do or to see how they perform an advanced posture you are working on.

Don’t let the champions’ videos intimadate you. You don’t have to look like that now, next week, or ever. Use them as a learning tool. Use them for inspiration.

You can also watch videos from the first North Carolina regional competition. This isn’t everyone. It’s just people from my studio. Most of us were pretty inexperienced when we decided to compete. We didn’t know how to select an advanced posture. We were changing postures at the last minute because what we had hoped would work out wasn’t working out. I include these videos because they are not perfect. We fall out of postures. We make mistakes, but we did this. So can you.

If you don’t want to feel intimadated about competing watch my video. You’ll probably think, “I can do better than that!” and this will help you gain confidence. You can see all kinds of mess going on in my routine. My favorite is how I held head to knee for a second but it somehow felt like a minute. I was terrified. I also fell out of standing bow. It just happened.

Which brings me back to Joseph’s tip. Practice, practice, practice. Practice your routine! It’s so critical to get it down so that it’s pretty automated. You want to be able to move through it as seamlessly as possible, and the only way to do that is to practice it a lot. Actually, three times a day for two months (at a minimum) doesn’t require that much time. A routine cannot be more than three minutes. Assuming you took a break between each set, you might spend 20-30 minutes on it if you did it 3-5 times.

Another reason why Joseph’s tip is great is because you will be nervous if you have not competed before. I was told this, but I did not believe it. I expected a minimal amount of nerves to kick in. But I figured that since I have a lot of public speaking experience I would be able to handle it. I enjoy speaking to a room full of people. I’ve spoken to as many as 200 at once and had a great time.

Well, speaking to 200 people with all my clothes on is not the same as being half-naked and doing yoga postures in front of 100 people. For me, public speaking experience did not transfer to publicly perfoming yoga postures. I fell out of upward stretching because my legs were shaking so hard I couldn’t hold them up. I literally lost all control.

Did I practice like Joseph recommended? Eh….no. I did practice my routine, but I could have benefited from a more focused practice like he recommends. Will I do it this year? You bet.

And if all of this sounds like work (it is) and a bit scary (it was for me, it may or may not be for you), then consider my take on the whole yoga competition thing:

I didn’t compete to win. I didn’t compete to place. The last thing I wanted to do was end up on a stage in New York. I competed to challenge myself and push the boundaries of who I thought I was, and what I thought I could do. It was difficult and scary in different ways throughout the process, but I succeeded in what I wanted to do. I didn’t win. I didn’t have to go to New York. I did however, grow personally, professionally (this stuff seems to bleed over into my work life), mentally, and physically. Doing things that scare me is generally good for me.

What are your thoughts on competing? If you do compete, how do you approach practicing your routine as the day draws near?

Joseph’s Tip #2: Building Strength

So Joseph’s second tip might be a bit more specific to competitors or people who are interested in doing strength-based postures. Here it is:

Practice push-ups and pull ups daily to improve your arm balancing postures.

I could definitely benfit from this advice. I love push-ups and pull-ups about as much as I love backbending (the love is low), but I know it’s on the list of things that are good for me to do. I know that my attempts to do crow (which have stalled a bit) would benfit from having more upper body strength.

The second tip raised an issue for me that I have been grappling with for awhile. There’s so much to do. So many ways I could improve, and yet, there is always so much time in the day. I have a job and other responsibilties (ok – not much besides walk the pugs, give the pugs tummy rubs, feed the pugs, do laundry, eat). Lots of people have given me great advice about things I can do outside of class that would help with one or more postures. I have found myself overwhelmed with advice. I can do a lot of things and spread myself thin (and really, how much is that going to help?) or I can focus in a bit and then expand out to other areas later.

This is why I took my massage therapist’s advice to see a sports physical therapist. Side note: Getting my second myfacial massage Saturday (yeah!!!). I knew I needed to be doing additional exercises outside of class to strengthen my postures for competition or otherwise. But I needed help with focusing and getting my priorities straight. My PT said there were indeed many things I could work on but agreed that tackling my tight hips would be a good way to get the party going.

So, where does this leave me with Joseph’s second tip? Here’s my take:

(a) It’s a great and important tip, and it’s one I will eventually start to work into my practice outside of class

(b) While I do want to do arm balancing postures eventually, I don’t need to worry about it today. I have a focus, on my hips, right now. It’s good to work on that.

(c) Point C applies to us all and not me specifically. Have an idea of what you are trying to accomplish in your practice. Take in advice that will nurture that goal. Don’t shut out advice that doesn’t help you get where you want to be at that moment, but don’t feel like you have to do everything all at once. That’s not possible. I’ve only been practicing for three years, and I would say I have had a regular, focused practice for a year now. I’ve got a journey.

Ultimately, I see this tip as being mindful about what you are working on and mindful in your thinking about how you can move forward in your practice. For me, it’s all about my hips right now. But eventually, it will be about those arm balances. And you can bet I will be doing push-ups and pull-ups at some point in the future!

Joseph’s 10 Tips: #1 Moderation

Did y’all know that my yoga boyfriend, Joseph Encinia, is giving out his top 10 championship training tips over at USA Yoga? Follow USA Yoga on twitter to get them. I’ll be blogging about them each day for the next ten days. I will be one day behind. When I read the first tip last night, I thought we could all get a lot out of reading and discussing them. The first tip wasn’t specific to competitors. It IS relevant to competitors, and a great tip, but it is also generalizable to us all. Even if you don’t practice yoga at all, Joseph’s first tip has something to offer you. He’s that amazing.

So here’s Joseph’s tip #1:

Always practice moderation: Yogi is neither one who sleeps or eats too little or sleeps or eats to much. One should be in moderation with their training and practice and know when to give the body a rest.

I read that, of course, on the day I ate the gigantic burrito and tried to take class. So I was like, “Damn. I did not follow tip #1 at all today.” But I know this isn’t about being perfect. I read the tip as being mindful about what I do. I should be mindful about my daily habits in life. I should be mindful about my practice and the training I do outside of class. For me, being mindful means being in the present moment as best as any of us can do so with our monkey brains.

I was mindful for a second when faced with the gigantic burrito. I knew it was too big. I knew the cheese sauce was too much. I knew what to do about it, and I still didn’t do it. I practiced the opposite of moderation. I gave in to what felt good at the moment (but didn’t feel so good later) despite knowing it was a bad idea.

Ok, so this isn’t about being perfect. What matters now is that I can look back and reflect on the situation and be mindful about how I move forward from here. So I also take the tip as being mindful but also being reflective and those two things are constantly going on.

I also read the tip as saying it’s important to be aware of our bodies, how they work, and what they need. I knew after the competition was over that I needed to give my body a good month’s rest. First, my body told me it needed to rest by getting immediately sick. But mentally, my brain was not into doing more training. I needed time to rest physically, mentally, and emotionally. There’s nothing wrong with that.

If you’re not a competitor, I think Joseph’s first tip has a lot to offer how we go about our daily lives and how we practice, whatever it is that we practice, in our daily lives. I could reword his tip and make it relevant to my job or running or whatever it is that you do. It’s not what you do that’s important here but how you do it and how you live within what it is you do or are moving towards.

How did Joseph’s first tip impact you?

Sunday with Joseph

Just in case you are wondering, I will probably be blogging about Joseph for a few days over here. I have much to talk about not to mention the fact that I have made him my official Yoga Boyfriend (I think he might be ok with that). For starters, let me give you a run down of how day two, Sunday, went.

First we had a regular 90 minute class. This class was for anyone who showed up. No one paid extra. If you walked in and didn’t know Joseph was going to be teaching then SURPRISE, SURPRISE, SURPRISE. I think that may have happened to a few people. The room was packed, and it was a fantastic class.

But before we even got to class I learned that Joseph had been introduced to my blog, and he had read my post where I described how cute he is and how I gawked at him in class Friday evening. On Sunday, the studio owner’s husband came in and said to me that Joseph had seen my blog and had blushed while reading it (he’s a total sweetie that yoga boyfriend of mine). Then Joseph came in. I just cleared the air. I said, “I understand you read my blog, and you know how cute I think you are.” He blushed! It was awesome. Then we hugged and had a nice laugh. I told him I had sat up near the podium again – in front of it and to the side, not right next to it – and figured that since he had read my blog I would either get no corrections or ALL the corrections. He said I was getting them all. We laughed again, and I prayed he was joking.

He was joking.

However, I did get some good corrections and one nice back massage. It’s too bad for you that I got to Joseph first. He’s my yoga boyfriend now, and he can’t be giving the rest of you back massages.

Seriously, I must have busted my ass in class on Saturday because I was all kinds of cramping up in class on Sunday morning. Of course I busted my ass on Saturday. I was parked right next to him all day. I HAD to look good. In spine strengthening my lower back started to cramp (twice!). So in half-tortoise he gave me a nice massage which fixed that. I requested a third set of half-tortoise, but unfortunately that did not happen.

After class we had a 30 minute break and then Joseph led the competitors in a Fight Club. Note a couple of things here: (a) he did this free of charge, (b) this was open to anyone who had registered for the competition not just competitors at my studio, and (c) he did this free of charge (I feel the need to stress this). There’s no monkeying around in fight club with Joseph. That class moves! But of course he gets that not everyone can do everything. He was once in the same position. He’s very understanding. Fight Club went from 11:00-2:30 (you do the math). When we got to a posture that someone was doing in compeition we were instructed to stop him so he could watch us and give us feedback. As such, everyone got detailed feedback on the two advanced postures they were thinking about doing in November. Is this guy amazing or what?

While I cannot go into what all we did in Fight Club, Joseph did tell me I should tell you all that he got me into leg breaking pose. I tried to find a picture for you of the posture online but couldn’t. I’m not even going to try to describe it, but let me tell you what an awesome teacher Joseph is. Leg breaking is a posture you do on each side. The first time I did it on side one I was way off with the set-up. So for side two he came over and literally moved me around until I was in it. I was so tired at that point that I let him do whatever. Then, I tried it again on the first side and got myself into it fine. Once he set me up I understood it. Now, I don’t know if I could do it right this moment without looking at someone or hearing directions, but I think I could get back into it if I were in class.

Today, my Yoga Boyfriend is gone. I believe he was headed to Los Angeles for teacher training. I miss him already. He knows so much about yoga and literally has an answer to everything. If I have a question, and I think the only answers are A or B, Joseph will show me it’s neither but something else entirely that I hadn’t even considered. He’s changed my perspective on the practice, what I do, how I do it, and why. It’s going to take me awhile to process it all. I cannot begin to express how much the time I had with him meant. It was life altering.

In the meantime, I have to get the picture I have that goes with my story about doing four sets of camel on Saturday. I think y’all will like that one.

Staring at Joseph

As you know, this weekend my studio is hosting Joseph Encinia, the 2011 Bishnu Gosh Cup Champion. My weekend with Joseph got started a little early. On Friday, I showed up to the 4:30 class and learned that he was taking it. Not teaching it. Taking it. I was two mats down from him and one row back. This strategic position meant I could see him during class. Of course, it was also a challenge not to just stand on my mat and stare at him the whole time. I managed. But if I *happened* to fall out of a posture I might have sneaked a few peaks, you know, while I was regaining my focus to get back in the posture. Sure…right….

Just from Friday alone it was obvious he had beautiful, amazing postures. Duh. Of course he would. But you know what else? I didn’t speak to him once on Friday and yet he just radiated this energy that was calm and peaceful. Any stress I might have felt about taking class and seminar with him on Saturday has pretty much disappeared.  Also, I saw him drinking water in class (more than once!) and sweating like a mad man which tells me he IS human and not super yogi.

The best part about Friday came at the end of class. People were in final savassanah. I got up to leave. I gathered all my materials together and then – real quick – decided I would sneak one last peak at him. He’s absolutely gorgeous. You would stare too. I figured he would be laying in savassanah, you know, on his back and staring at the ceiling. Nope. Wrong. When I went to sneak a peak he was looking right at me. And he gave me a big grin.

Damn it! I was so busted.

And I don’t care. Today he is teaching class and seminar which means it will appear normal and not at all crazy to stare at him. Although I’ve already received word that class will go longer than 90 minutes. I don’t think it’s going to be a Mary Jarvis 3-hour marathon, but I’m guessing 2-hours. I’m sure I’ll have lots to share.