Joseph’s Tip #7: Get Out and Learn

Tip #7 reminds us that about the importance of experiencing new people and situations and then using those experiences to learn and grow:

Attend champion events and senior teacher seminars to learn and be inspired

Although I participated in the first regional championship for the state of North Carolina, it would have been very interesting to have been an audience member. After I performed, I joined the audience (all the way in the back so I couldn’t always see well) and watched most of the remaining competitors. I remember before the competition started someone telling the competitors that the vibe from the audience was positive. Everyone wanted us to do well and was rooting for us. I found that to be true both on and off the stage.

Off the stage, I don’t know what I learned. I was still calming down from having been on the stage. But I know that seeing everyone – even people I did not know – get up on the stage and do their postures was very inspiring. I knew how hard they worked. I knew they were showing us where they were with their yoga. In many ways, being an audience member for a competition is a privledge. We are being allowed a look into a competitor’s yoga journey which can be a very private thing. I think competitors are sharing something private, personal, and intensely intimate with the audience. We give ourselves to you, and that is a scary thing to do.

There is a very recent post about a yogi taking her children to a regional competition and all the benefits that came from it. I highly recommend it. It shows a different perspective on being an audience member.

Regarding senior teacher seminars, my understanding is that some people think these seminars are only for advanced practioneers. Nothing could be further from the truth! I’ve been to three – Craig Villani, Mary Jarvis, and Joseph. I’m doing Joseph’s again in a few weeks, but that’s because he’s in town. If Mary or Craig came back I would see them again too. I love these seminars. Each person has their own take on yoga and how to further your practice. I know that when I see Joseph a second time, I will learn new things even if he said the same things he said the first time. The second time around I will be ready to receive new information or my understandings will change. I always leave these seminars with 2-3 key things to focus on in my practice starting that moment.

I agree that attending champion events and seminars is important for competitors, but it is also relevant for anyone. In the seminars, you will learn and grow and be pushed in new ways. In the champion events you will also learn and grow, but you will also provide support for the competitors. I cannot express how much it meant to me when the door opened for me to go on stage and I saw the husband of one of our teachers. He was in the front row smiling away. He was the first person I saw as I made my way to the stage, and his happy, smiling face made me smile. Then I saw a second person I knew up front smiling away, and I relaxed a bit more. Afterwards, I talked to so many happy, supportive people from my studio. As an audience member, we play a vital role for the people on stage. We let them know we love them and support them, and we let them know how much we appreciate being given access to their yoga journay.

Joseph’s Tip #5: Watch a Video (EEK!)

Tip #5 is like eating broccoli. I know it’s good for me, but I don’t want to do it. I will do it, but ugh. Here it is:

Record and review a video of your routine.

See what I mean? Great advice. Do you want to watch yourself? I don’t. I can barely watch the video of myself at competition.

Ok. So if you’re comfortable doing this then good for you! Keep on keeping on. For the rest of us, let me start by saying why I agree with Joseph.

First, it will help you critique and improve your routine. Taking pictures can help you analyze your postures too, but seeing how you move in and out of them and flow from one to the next is important. I know I was doing things I was not aware of until someone else pointed them out to me (like swinging my arms between postures). A video will show you how you can improve.

Pictures are also good because you can see yourself still in the posture, but pictures don’t provide you with insight into how you are moving in, out, and across postures. I think there’s a place for both. If video freaks you out, start with pictures. Or maybe just acknowledge that video freaks you out and then do it anyway. This is kinda an only way out is through situation.

Second, a video shows you what you are doing well (or, if you are like me, what you did well at that moment in time). It’s not all about what you need to improve. A video will show you your strengths, and you can celebrate those.

Finally, a video can show you changes over time. For example, I don’t know what my advanced postures will be in my routine this year. However, I could do a video of the core five right now. I could do it again in a month or two. There should be some difference in some of the postures. The videos should, over time, reveal some level of growth even if it’s small.

Again, pictures can also do this but not entirely. For example, I have a great picture of me in mountain pose. I don’t know how the person captured it because I fell out of it as soon as I got in it. The picture speaks more to her abilities as a photographer than it does my ability to hold that posture. A picture won’t show you how long I held the pose and what I did with my body while I was in it. A video will, and a video will show how my ability to hold the posture changes over time. But, I still think both have value.

So now that I’ve thought about it, videos have more good about them than bad. It’s hard though for me to watch myself. I don’t really have a problem with the critiques. I want and need those. I think if someone else watched it for me and told me all about it that’d be great. But that’s not going to give me the full benefit (or you either!). The only part that stinks is watching myself. That’s not a reason to avoid the video. I imagine that with time I’ll just get used to it.

So will you.

Joseph’s Tip #3: Diets for Training

What you eat on a regular basis is important. We all know this. However, what you eat in conjunction with your practice can have positive and negative consequences. When I started practicting 5-7 days a week, I learned very quickly that what I ate the day before and the day of my practice influenced what I was able to do in the hot room.

Joseph’s third tip hones in on this and raises some nice questions for discussion. Here’s his tip #3:

Determine the best training diet for you. Vegetarian may work for some, for others – it may not.

I like this tip because it is so on the money. Just like people will give you tons of advice about how you should train, or what you could do to improve your practice (see tip #2), they will also give you advice on what you should/should not eat. And just like with the physical training tips, it can overwhelm you, but it doesn’t have to.

Like I said yesterday, I have been seriously practicing Bikram for a year now. I would say that I really started to consider my diet about one month into my first serious year. I don’t know what sparked it. I think I was just curious about what might happen in the hot room if I tweaked my diet outside it.

I started down the road to becoming a vegetarian last February and had officially crossed over by April. I made the transition slowly by setting monthly goals for myself (Mark was also down with the idea which helped). I figured out very quickly that most of my breakfasts and lunches were already meat-free. I made the committment right away to leave them that way. That part was easy. It was changing our dinners that was more of a challenge.

We accomplished our dinner challenge by setting goals. In the first month, I think we said 14/30 dinners would be vegetarian, and I tracked our progress on the refrigerator. We ended up doing more than 14. The next month we bumped up the target and so on until we were eating vegetarian dinners all the time.

Do I believe that being a vegetarian helps my practice? Yes, I do. Do I think it will help yours? I have no idea. It helps me in the following ways:

(a) my mind is clearer (this further improved when I cut my caffeine intake in half)

(b) I feel less bloated in general, espicially after eating, but also just all around

(c) I have more energy which translates into being able to do more in the hot room

(d) I sleep better which naturally helps me recover from my training and feeds into my energy levels.

If you are curious about how a vegetarian diet – or any diet – might influence your practice try making some changes for a period of time (maybe one or two months). You don’t have to overhaul your diet. In fact, that’s probably the last thing you should do as big dietary changes are often not sustained as well as small, gradual ones. You could try eating a vegetarian (or whatever it is you are doing – the word vegetarian in this post is a place holder for whatever diet you might take up except for when I am talking about my own habits) dinner the night before a morning class and see how it goes. You could integrate vegetarian meals into your week. Make a plan. Refine it as needed.

Finally, don’t worry about what you can’t do and focus on what you can do. For example, I used to say, “I can never be a vegetarian. I cannot give up chicken wings.” My love affair with chicken wings was legendary – at least in my mind. However, that statement literally stopped me from making positive progress in my diet and training. I could have said, “I like chicken wings. I am going to eat them now and then. But I’m also going to work on finding some vegetarian meals to eat in between.” I actually don’t eat chicken wings anymore, but that’s another story. You get my point. The second statement allows some new space to open up for making different dietary decisions. The first one shut it down.

Don’t shut yourself down. Do what you can and want to do.

What are your experiences with how/what/when you eat and how do your decisions influence your practice?

Saturday with Joseph

Oh my goodness, where do I even begin? Let me just start by saying that spending a day with Joseph is well worth your time. He’s amazing, nice, funny, smart, and an incredible yogi.

If this man shows up in your town by all means go see him.

I sat up in the third row near the podium. I had a good spot. I had some fan access, but not too much. I also had a great view of where he would be. Then it came time for class to start, and Joseph really, really wanted someone to move their mat over to the left of the podium next to him. No one moved a muscle. Finally, after the question had been posed a good three times I just got up and moved. I have learned that in class I am usually the person who will get up and do whatever it is that needs to be done. I am happy to give other people the chance to do it first, but if no one volunteers I’ll do it.

This is how I ended up spending a great deal of time with my butt literally parked right next to Joseph. I was sooo close to him that at times he just leaned over and gave me corrections. Other times he flung his sweat on me. I am ok with all of that.

Joseph gave us an overview of the day. I have been to two other seminars (Mary Jarvis & Craig Villani). Both Mary and Craig separate the class apart from the posture seminar. So with Mary, we had a grueling three hour class and then posture clinic. With Craig it was the other way around.

That’s not how Joseph does things.

Joseph embeds posture clinic into the class. So this means you do one set of something and then talk about it. Usually he watched what we did as a class with first set and then directed his posture commentary on what he thought we could most benefit from. He also made individual corrections and helped people out who asked for it. We sat down when he was giving commentary of offering demonstrations.

This made for a longer class. The good news is that he requested the heat be lowered (not turned off but lowered), that we have the fans on during class, and that doors be propped open now and then. I guess the heat was lowered. I couldn’t tell. My mat was drenched.

Anybody want to guess how long class was? We started right on time at 10:00. At 10:45 we were headed into the second set of half-moon. Yes, you heard me. Class was over at 1:40. That’s 3 hours and 40 minutes folks.

He did give demonstrations during and after class. During class he would have students do demonstrations and talk about form and what they (or anyone of us) might want to pay attention to. He also demonstrated postures from the beginning series and talked through them. I got to demonstrate two postures. The first was Standing-Separate-Leg Stretching Pose. I got the honor of demonstrating this posture because I asked a question about it.

In my version of the pose, I start out by grabbing my heels like we’re told. But, to get my head to the floor I have to wiggle my legs apart. When I start moving my legs farther and father apart my hands start to slide towards my toes. My question: Should I not worry about getting my head to the floor so my hands can stay on my heels?

The answer: According to Joseph I am perfectly capable of keeping my hands on my heels and getting my head to the floor. It’s a matter of using my arm strength more and doing a better job of engaging my quads. I understand what he said. I don’t think I can explain it well here.

After learning how to do all this, Joseph asked me to demonstrate. Since I LOVE this posture (for real!), I had no problem. I asked the question anyways because I seriously love the pose and want it to be better. I did not, for example, ask questions during triangle. So I did it in front of him and everyone, he helped me by walking me through what he had just explained to me, and it worked! Then we all did the posture again, his advice worked again, and he gave me even more corrections. I got to do three sets of one of my favorite postures!

Later, I got to do four sets of camel when I was asked to demonstrate it (boo! Four sets of camel!). The camel demonstration is a different story. It gets it’s own post. There’s a picture that goes with it that I am waiting to get.

After class, we had about a half hour break (during which Joseph took a short break and then worked with some people individually – the guy is amazing). Then we headed back to hear Joseph’s story of how he came to yoga, and he did a demonstration followed by a Q&A. I won’t go into his story. It’s really something you should hear for yourself. I will however, leave you with a picture from his demonstration:

So, how do I plan to spend my Sunday? More Joseph! Today he is teaching the 9:00 class (standard 90 minute class), then competitors get to do a Fight Club with him. I was already exhausted last night. Today may kill me, but I’ll die happy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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