***SPOILER ALERT!!* **
My routine for championships did not go exactly as planned.
My routine for championships did not go exactly as planned.
***END SPOILER ALERT***
As many of you know, last weekend I competed in the regional yoga championships for my area. I spent a decent amount of time working on advanced postures and getting my routine ready. I did lots of those backbends down the wall, which I've never done consistently before - they seemed to make a difference! - and I made a lot of progress on crane and full standing bow, which are kind of my dream postures. Neither posture ended up being ready for stage this year - I need to lock my elbows in crane and get my foot to STAY under my chin in full standing bow - but they are both a lot closer now.
I ended up choosing to do my two "back-up" postures as optionals, peacock in lotus and full cobra, which are still pretty respectable postures. I'd done full cobra on stage before, so I didn't need to worry about that one. I'd never done peacock on stage, or any kind of balancing/strength posture for that matter, so that was still a good challenge for me. (I discovered some new muscles in my butt that should be useful for all the lotus postures, too.)
I ran through my routine for an "audience" a few times during the week leading up to championships, and it felt really solid and good. I was able to nail all my balancing postures, no problem, and I was hoping that the little extra burst of adrenaline on stage would help make everything a tiny bit better. For example, I was about half an inch from being locked out in standing bow, but I had a feeling I'd be able to do it when it really counted.
Dun dun DUN....
I drove down to Richmond (the location of the championships) on Friday afternoon and spent the night with an awesome lady from my teacher training. (Thanks Marcia! Love the TT connection everywhere.) I got up early enough to take class on Saturday morning before the event. Suzanne Elliot from Florida taught. She was one of our judges for the day, and I already knew her from my visit to San Diego in October - we visited training at the same time - so it was fun to see her again and she taught a great class. I had a sweaty but rocking class. I actually held standing bow for the full length of time for three out of four sets, which is virtually unheard of for me. (Irony! Foreshadowing!) I finished class feeling really relaxed and energized.
With the aid of my trusty new GPS, I navigated around a major Christmas parade and made it to the theatre without incident. Our event was at a cute little dance theatre, 200+ seats. Being onstage in December (in a leotard!) reminded me of my Nutcracker days; I felt like Tchaikovsky should be playing. All the yogi and yoginis were hanging out backstage in the dressing rooms or on the stage warming up. I tried out my balancing postures on the stage, which went fine, and then spent the rest of the free time stretching and socializing. The backstage socializing is always the best part. It was a fun chance to meet new people and to catch up with some awesome yogis who I hadn't seen for a while.
Once the event started, we all had to be very quiet backstage, which made for a more stressful environment, lots of nerves in the air! We all get nervous for each other. I tried not to watch very much before my turn, because I didn't want to psych myself out. When my turn came, I did a quick pranayama and a little dance, put on a big smile, walked out onto the stage, and bowed to the judges.
First posture: Standing head to knee pose. Standing head to knee is often considered the toughest of the seven postures, because it is such a psychological test. The moment you doubt yourself, you fall! I had a teeny wobble when I went to pick up my foot, but I quickly pulled myself together, got into the posture, held it quite comfortably while I counted to 5, and came back out step by step. (The dreaded dismount.) Success!
Here is a very blurry picture that was taken by a friend's iPhone from the back row:
(There was an official photographer who took non-blurry photos, but I have to pay to get those. Might do that later.)
Second posture: Standing bow pulling pose. Because of the way I chose my sides for head to knee and standing bow, I had to change directions in between poses and face the opposite side. So after finishing standing head to knee, I turned a quarter turn to the right, paused for a split second facing the audience, and then turned again to face the other side. In retrospect, this may have been my fatal mistake; I think that it freaked me out when I had to see the audience again in the middle of the routine.
I confidently announced the name of the pose and picked up my foot, and then everything pretty much went to shit.
In the past week, I have done a few humorous re-enactments to describe exactly what happened next. For the purposes of this blog, since you can't see my attempts at acting, I have prepared a series of pictures. Here is what happened:
Here we go, standing bow!
Uh oh, what's this??
However, you are allowed to take a second chance (for only half the points) if you really fail at a posture, so I figured I might as well take another whack at it. When's the next time I'll have a chance to do standing bow on stage in front of hundreds of people, right?!
Okay, for real this time!
Tragically, my leg is still doing its "I'm a dead fish!" act.
Just make a standing bow!
ANY standing bow!!
Here is a close-up of my thoughts at this moment. The image below is a panel from my favorite online blog/comic-strip, and it sums things up perfectly.
(Click picture to see original comic.)
But hey, I'm still on stage, so...
Third posture! Bow pose. No problem. I am once again in control of all my facilities, and I am able to do a perfectly fine bow pose. I followed this with a respectable rabbit pose and a nice long stretching pose. Stretching is always a good one for me - knees locked, backs of the legs on the floor, spine mostly straight, eyes forward, forehead to toes.
Sixth posture, peacock in lotus. Goody, more balancing! Actually, this posture went okay. I was pretty determined to not fuck this one up, because frankly, one huge fuck-up per routine is enough. I got my knees up, held the pose still for the requisite 3 or 4 seconds, and got back out with control. No face-plants, hooray!
Seventh and final posture, full cobra. I took my sweet time with this one, because at this point I didn't really care about the clock and I was still on stage in front of a whole ton of people. I might as well do something nice before hanging up my leotard until next year! So I gave myself a moment, took a deep breath, came up niiiice and slow, put my toes to my lips, held it for a bit, and then came back out niiiiiice and slow with a big grin on my face. Ta-daaaa!
Blurry full cobra:
Then I went backstage and did a perfectly normal standing bow in the hallway just to see if I could. (Of course I could!) At the intermission I put on some clothes and went out to find my friends in the audience. My friend Eleanor came down from Baltimore with another yoga geek friend, which was awesome. (Thank you for coming and I can't wait to see you up there next year!) I sat with them in the back of the theatre for the second half of the event, and they were very tolerant of my un-yogic sulking. (I joked about it a lot, but I admit that I was kind of bitter for the rest of the afternoon - every time someone did standing bow, no matter how well or poorly they did it, I was like, "Well they did better than I did!!" Sulk, sulk, sulk...)
I continued to feel depressed about my inability to perform on stage - the one time when it "counts"!! - until the next afternoon. Then I watched a Christmas parade, bought a hat, had some hot chocolate, taught a yoga class, and realized that what happened on stage didn't really matter. I tried analyzing what happened, but just ended up running around in mental circles - "Did I try too hard? Did I not try hard enough? Was I over-confident? Was I over confident? Did I care to much? Should I have cared more? Am I thinking about this too much?!?" Oh, whatever. Forget it!
The fact is, I'm still really happy that I competed, because it gave me such good motivation to develop my practice. I liked doing a little bit of extra practice after class, and I'm going to try to stick with that next year. (Christmas vacation, of course, is an anything-goes time zone!) I'm really excited to get back into a regular schedule of advanced class. I feel like I'm on the verge of lots of tiny breakthroughs. It's been almost six months now (!!!) since I finished teacher training, and my traumatized body finally feels "normal" again (thank you hamstrings), so it's time to move things forward! By this time next year, I will be best friends with crane and full standing bow, and you can hold me to that. Also, all the students and teachers at the studio were really sweet and supportive of me competing, and now a whole bunch of people are interested in doing it next year. Yay, we can be a team!! That will be so much fun.
Plus, it's kind of hilarious when things go completely wrong. Nothing got hurt (except for my pride), I definitely had a new experience, and I managed to get people excited about competing! And it makes a good story!
Next on the agenda: I'm heading up to Massachusetts for the holidays next weekend, hooray! I'll have several great opportunities to teach for different studio owners and get feedback on my class while I'm up there. (I'm psyched and just a little bit nervous that D is finally gonna take my class!) Maybe I should go crack open that old dialogue...
Footnote: Just for the sake of my poor bruised pride, here is a picture of my standing bow pulling pose that I took 2 days after the competition. It's not totally locked out here, but please note these two developments: my grip isn't sliding down and my shoulder is really on my chin. (Those have always my two biggest issues in this posture.) I'm happy about this. I can't wait to do it on stage next year!!
Footnote #2: This post was written under the influence of "Hyperbole and a Half". Amazing hilarious blog, definitely worth a read. Don't try to read it while you're drinking water.