Joseph’s Tip #8: It’s the Little Things

We’re at tip #8 today:

Watch videos of your favorite champions for the past years & study their transitions

What I like about this tip is, for me, it is a reminder of how important it is to pay attention to the little things. In this case, transitions. I think of transitions in two ways. First, how a person moves between postures. Second, how a person moves within a posture.

The between postures transition is obvious. How do you get from standing head to knee to standing bow? Or, how do you get from standing bow to floor bow? You want it to look clean, smooth, and easy but with as few movements as possible. Not always as simple as it sounds. I think it requires a lot of focus and concentration. I think it’s easy not to think about how we transition between postures, and yet it’s the routine as a whole (and not just the postures themselves) that is important.

The second way I look at it is how I move within a posture. For example, in standing head to knee, after I get hold of my foot, what happens next? How do I move from point A to B and then to C? I don’t just slam my head on my knee, there are all these little steps in between, and I see those as transitions too.

Watching videos of champions, I would look at how they move within and across postures to get little tips on how to improve. Like anything else, you could probably make a list of all the ways you could improve your routine, but try not to get overwhelmed. For me, it’s about finding 1-2 ways I could improve my transitions. If I try to take on more than that at once, I can’t keep it straight in my head, and I will lose focus when I try to put it into practice.

How do you work on improving your transitions?

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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 #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?