Competition Struggles

You didn’t forget about the upcoming yoga competition did you? It’s coming! November 4th. How many days away is that? Wait, don’t tell me. I don’t want to do a countdown.

I’m managing to somehow not be nervous about getting on a stage and doing postures in front of God only knows how many people. Part of this I attribute to the fact that I have plenty of experience speaking to groups of people. Yes, I teach classes at UNC that require me to get up in front of adults, but that’s not what I mean. Those adults are my students. I know them, and knowing them makes it easy to get up and teach them.

Several times a year though I give talks or workshops – ranging from 20 minutes to one hour to five hours – in front of mostly strangers. These events have had as few as 10 people, probably average between 30-50 people, and have had as many as 200 and 1000 people.

When I first started giving talks I was terrified and probably was medicore at best. I am sure I gave some real stinkers. But now I’m good at it. I don’t get nervous anymore. I stand up, talk about my work, discuss it with whoever wants to, and have a good time. The only way I reached this point was by getting up again and again and again and continuing to talk to people I didn’t know. I don’t remember when it started to get easier and more enjoyable. It just did.

I think about this set of experiences in relation to the competition. If I get nervous, that’s normal, but maybe I won’t be that nervous at all. The only thing I can do is get up on the stage and do the postures. They will be whatever they will be.

I have struggled with the idea of doing mountain as one of my advanced postures. When Joseph was in town, he went over everyone’s advanced posture with them. When he found out one of mine was mountain his exact word were, “You’re doing mountain? You’re brave.” That’s not what you want to hear the international yoga champion telling you. He told me I needed to be able to balance on my knees for at least a five count. I said I could sometimes do that. If I did mountain five times I could probably hit a five count once. He said I needed to be able to do it 9/10 times. I get his point. I agree with his point. My mountain is unreliable.

Also, what Joseph was supposed to do was show me a super secret trick to keep me up in mountain forever. I’m sure he’ll be getting back to me on that as soon as he figures it out. 🙂

I don’t have to do mountain. I can do spider in it’s place. For spider, you sit in lotus. Then roll forward on your stomach (stay in lotus). Press your hips down. Put your hands on your back in prayer. Then push yourself back up (stay in lotus). Never leave lotus. I can do that, but I like mountain so much more. I still practice mountain, and I’m toying with the idea of doing it anyways and just seeing what happens. I’m not going to win this competition. It’s not like I’m struggling to make a decision about something that’s super important here. But I also don’t want to get up in front of everyone in mountain for a second and then come crashing down on my butt (which technically could happen) when I can do spider and be safe.

So that’s the real struggle. Do I do a posture I love, but am not 100% strong in, and risk smacking my butt down with a bang on the floor OR do I do a posture that I think is ok, but that I don’t love, and it totally doable?

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.