Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Run, Yogi, Run!

So I started a new running program about 6 weeks ago and it has been surprisingly great!

I've been doing the Couch to 5k program, which is designed for raw beginners, total couch potatoes, to ease into running a 5k rase (or about 3 miles). Now I am no couch potato, but the last time I did any sort of running was in high school and it was a moderate disaster, so I figured that this program might be a good idea.

Here is a visual depiction of the program which I've found super helpful:

You basically start off by alternating short intervals of jogging (60 sec) with short intervals of walking (90 sec), and then every week you run a little bit longer and a little bit more. It is a 9 week program designed to ease you into running.

I've always suspected that running was something people only did because they wanted to lose weight or they hated themselves, because those were always my reasons for getting on a treadmill! But I tested out the Day One workout in early March (just before I went to Baltimore), and I was surprised... I thought it would be easy and boring, but it was fun! Like, really fun! I enjoy being outdoors, I enjoy going fast, I enjoyed how the running got so much easier as I went along. I also like having a well-defined program to follow (hello, I've done the same yoga sequence every week for years now), and I like setting goals. So I decided that this program would be a fun and healthy thing for me to do.

It's been interesting to see the changes in my body as I go through the program. Running is notorious for wrecking bodies. As a yoga teacher, I have seen a lot of people who have virtually destroyed their bodies and joints after years of pounding the pavement. After years of running marathons, people have no choice but to start a yoga program and heal their bodies. A lot of Bikram yoga teachers are former runners and marathoners who turned to yoga when their bodies refused to run anymore.

For me, it's so cool, because I'm coming at it from the opposite end of the spectrum. I've been practicing yoga as my primary (often only) form of exercise for almost 6 years now, and I am just gradually easing into running. After every run, I go back and do a yoga class! I am only running a few days a week. After each run, my legs and hips are a little bit stiffer - I see the biggest effect in my hamstring, calves, and IT bands. But after a couple of yoga classes, everything is set back to normal, just in time for my next run! So I am doing this as a little experiment - I want to build up to running 3 miles non-stop at a good pace and still be able to touch my head to my toes. So far, so good. Last Saturday was my first non-stop run - 20 minutes with no walking - and I finished pretty easily, went to yoga immediately after, and had my head almost on my toes again by the end of class.

The main differences I've seen from running are that I feel stronger, it's improved my appetite, it tends to give me a ridiculous amount of energy (as if I needed it), it's a quick way to work out any stress, and I am going to get nice runner's tan. Running with a friend is fun because you can talk the whole time - my running buddy is basically my therapist. And wow, compared to a 90 minute yoga class, a 30 minute run fits into my schedule super easily. I can go in the morning before class, in the afternoon between classes, or at whatever random time I roll out of bed in the mid-morning. Even if I drive 10 or 15 minutes to get to one of my favorite running spots, it's still ridiculously convenient.

And just like yoga, running will knock you on your ass if you get too cocky or eat the wrong foods before a workout. My last couple of runs were especially awesome, so today I was feeling really good. I got a new app for my phone so that I could log my time and see how fast I am running - you know, because after 6 weeks I'm probably running like a 5 minute mile (I imagined). I also ate a bunch of cheese and crackers right before I went out. Naturally I died - I got a very unpleasant cramp in my stomach and had to take an extra long walking break in the middle. First time I've had to stray from the program. Whoops. I timed my last mile anyways, and went for speed. It wasn't my fastest running pace (being chased by a bear), but it was a lot faster than my usual jogging pace (still hauling ass), and I finished a mile in 8:47. This was not easy!! And there is no way I could sustain that pace over 3 consecutive miles! So I am not yet the speed demon that I thought I was, but I have a good baseline.

The biggest thing I've started to understand through this running program is pacing. I thought I understood pacing before, but not really. Most of the exercise I've done in my life - yoga and dancing - is essentially interval training. You work really hard, but never for more than a couple minutes at a time. The longest yoga pose we do in the Bikram class is only 60 seconds at most. Even that damn snow scene in the Nutcracker is only a few minutes long (although it always felt like an hour). So you're getting your heart rate up, but then you bring it back down. Running any kind of distance is totally different - it's endurance training. I keep comparing it to biking in my head because that's the only activity I've done that's comparable, where you measure effort in miles instead of minutes. It's not about giving 100% at all once. It's about giving maybe 60% and then sustaining that effort for a longer period of time. It's a completely different feeling, and it's something that running teaches you right away - if you start off running as fast as possible, you can't keep it up! So you have to slooooow dooooown. Very unexpected, than running is teaching me how to slow down, think long term, and be more patient.

There's a rule that I read about (when I was reading various training articles online) called the Rule of Ten Percent. It's a rule of thumb for increasing mileage. This rule says that you should never try to increase your mileage by more than 10% in one week. Even if you can, you shouldn't, because it doesn't give your body a chance to catch up. They emphasize this idea all over the Couch to 5k website.  Quote: "Too many people have been turned off of running simply by trying to start off too fast. Their bodies rebel, and they wind up miserable, wondering why anyone would possibly want to run in the first place."

I loooove this because you can apply it directly back into yoga! So many people want to do everything right away, and it's a mistake. After a week they overdo it, they're exhausted, they get discouraged, and they give up on the whole thing. This doesn't work! You have to start from your personal baseline, whatever that is, and then build up sloooowly, step by step, trying the right way, so that your body has a chance to adapt and you get maximum benefit. It's not a race. (Haha see what I did there?) Or more accurately - it's not a sprint. It's a marathon. You have to be patient and take your time.

Now that I have gotten you guys all excited about running, I need to clean up, eat some food, water my plants, and go to yoga! Hope everyone is enjoying the first day of May. Over here, it's finally looking like spring...

Thursday, April 11, 2013

April Showers

I planted a whole bunch of seeds on Monday. Basil, cilantro, parsley, chives, tomatoes, radishes, peppers, peas. I've never grown from seed before. I usually just get the little pre-grown plants from the grocery store. But I've got a nice big south-facing porch that gets tons of sunlight, and I am trying to make the most of it this year.

So I started all the seeds inside (with help from my boyfriend, a more expert gardener than me), gave them some water, and put them in little planters on the windowsills around my apartment. I guess this is the proper way to do it - start them off inside, and then when they get bigger and stronger, you can plant them outside.

I went around yesterday to check on all my seeds, and none of them have sprouted yet. Where are they?! It's already been two whole days! So I checked the information on the packets, and of course most of seedlings are supposed to sprout up after a couple of weeks, not days. So much for my instant gratification. I have to be patient! Again!

It's the same lesson in yoga class. This comes up all the time. We don't want to wait around for all those slow changes to happen. We want to make them happen. Serenity now! The beatings will continue until morale improves!

Sometimes that mindset works fine. Sometimes you really can make a change in a single session. The mental stuff is like that sometimes - you can change your mind in half a second. But the physical changes usually take longer. You can't force your body open overnight. You have to give it the right environment - sunlight, air, water - and then allow it to open up, "like a flower petal blooming"!

Before class last night, some of the teachers were talking with a student at the front desk. She wanted to know, "How long is it going to take before I can get into all these postures?" We told her, "It depends. Maybe weeks, maybe months, maybe years." She said, "Oh, ok! That makes me feel better." Turns out she'd only done 3 classes so far and was worried that she might not be able to achieve the postures fully like everyone else. Her joints are full of arthritis and the class is difficult for her, so she needed a little encouragement. We told her not to worry - nobody "gets into" all the postures in only 3 classes! Give it 3 years and then we'll talk!

This same student had some great news for us. After her first 3 classes, she went home and painted her toenails. This was a big deal. Because of the arthritis in her hips and spine, it was very hard for her to reach her toes.... she hadn't been able to paint her toenails in years! Great progress already! Her postures might not look too different yet, but all the important changes are already happening internally, underground.

I had a teacher once who said, "It's easy to forget about the things that you can't see." But that's where the interesting work always begins. It's invisible to the eye, at least in the beginning, but it's all happening underground, underneath your skin.

We had a few glorious sunny days here in Providence, and then the clouds came back and it rained all night. But I planted some new flower seeds out on my porch yesterday, in the afternoon sun, so now I don't mind the rain. It's supposed to be good for my flowers. April showers bring May flowers, so they say. We will see! I'm just trying to practice patience and love in everything I do, tending the garden one day at a time.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

NYC Follow-Up - The Journey Continues!

Here it is, the post that I keep putting off writing because I am too busy being lazy and going on yoga strike!

If anybody has been keeping track, you'll know that the National Yoga Asana Championships happened less than two weeks ago in New York City! (In fact I know that quite a lot of you were there, some of you as competitors and some of you in the cheering section.) Since I came in first place for my region in January, I went to nationals as a competitor this year for the first time. Woohoo!

It was quite an experience, and I've decided that I liked it. I liked it more than I expected... because to be honest, I was kind of dreading it. I love doing the regional events because they're fun and friendly and all my friends are there and it's not too much pressure. The national competition is a whole different ball game, much higher level. And I didn't have that long to get ready - there was only about a month between the regionals and the nationals, so I felt like I was cramming a little bit to get ready for the big one.

But in the end, it was a good time. It was pretty nerve-wracking waiting for my turn to get up on stage, and I certainly didn't give my best performance - I wobbled all over the place in standing bow - but I had a lot of fun being on stage! I just smiled through the routine, thought of all my friends and family watching from home, and tried to show how much I loved the postures, even when they didn't come out perfectly. I nailed my optionals at least, including peacock pose, which I had been working on like crazy all month. My other optional was full cobra, one of my all-time favorites. I came off stage grinning, hugged my friend Teri (who was giving out flowers), and walked across the backstage with Esak Garcia, who was on "hug the competitors" duty. This was actually my first personal interaction with the famous Esak. He put his arm on my shoulders and said, "Wow, you seem really happy!" and I said, "Yeah that was crazy, I just learned 20 new things in 3 minutes!" and he gave me a high five. So that was a nice moment!

The whole time I was there, I kept thinking about all the people supporting me at home. My studio held a donation class and raised enough money to cover all my expenses, which was amazing - shout-out to Ocean State Bikram Yoga, the best ever! And I got like 5 text messages on my phone as soon as I got off stage, including a couple from my boyfriend saying, "Good job!" and "The whole family watched you and they all clapped!" (He was visiting with his family that weekend.) I called him like 2 minutes later and said, "Aaah, did they all see me fall?" He said, "No, we had a problem with the internet connection when you were balancing so I couldn't tell if it was you or just the connection." I told him, "Ok, perfect! Just show your family a picture of how I usually do the posture and tell them it looked exactly like that!"

In NYC, too, everyone was so supportive. The audience, the judges, the other competitors, the support staff, the champions - everyone was really cool to us. Rajashree sat there with a big happy smile on her face the whole time. And honestly, it's great how no one thinks less of you if you fuck up a little bit. Everyone understands that if you've made it this far, you can do the postures pretty well, and it's just the nerves that get in the way. I saw some amazing yogis fall out of postures, and it didn't make me think any less of them. I told my friend Lauren from California, "Aah, I fell out," and she said, "Oh yeah, I fell out every year for 5 years before I got it." (She nailed her routine this year and made it into the top ten.)

That was my biggest revelation for the weekend, which I've been sharing with my classes, is that competition is done with the same spirit as the regular class. If you mess up a posture in class, the teacher is never gonna be like, "Hey, what the fuck happened to you today?! Your balancing stick was a mess!" They just say, "Hey, great job today, so good to have you here, come back again tomorrow." And even at the national competitive level, it's the same way. No one says, "Geez, what happened to you up there?" They just say, "Hey, that was great, come back again next year." Doesn't matter if it's your first day of yoga or if you've been practicing for (in my case) almost 9 years. The spirit is still the same.

Oh, and I had a great time watching the finals and demonstrations on Sunday, once I was finished with my part on Saturday night. On Sunday they had the youth division, the top 10 men, the top 10 women, and then demonstrations from 4 previous international champions (Cynthia Wehr, Esak Garcia, Ky Ha, and Joseph Encinia). Those were awesome, and I totally geeked out. Videos are all up here: USA Yoga Finals. The "champion of champions" demonstrations were great because all the champions put together totally different routines that really showed who they were. I was playing around trying to choose one word to describe each champion, and I came up with "clarity" for Cynthia, "classical" for Esak, "fun" for Ky Ha, and "flow" for Joseph. You guys should watch and see what you think - those demos start around the 5:00 mark in the awards ceremony video.

As soon as I finished my routine, I decided to go on a "yoga strike" for the rest of the week to re-set my body, and I almost made it. I only did one class last week, and what a glorious class it was! Apart from that, I did a lot of napping and watching Parks and Rec, and I went on a massive cleaning/organizing spree and totally overhauled my bedroom. Today I skipped out on my usual advanced class (woke up feeling kind of groggy) and went on a run with my brand new running shoes - Couch to 5k, Week 1, Workout 1! I loved it! It was much more fun than I expected and I felt so energized after! I'm still going to take beginners class later today before I teach, and I'm excited about that too. It's definitely a nice time to ease up on the yoga and add some new things into the mix.... before coming back stronger than ever! I've gotta get ready for competition next year - it is on!

Next on the agenda: I'm heading down to Baltimore on Thursday to guest-teach some classes for a week and a half at my old studio in Hampden (while the owner is on vacation). So that will be nice. I'm excited to see some familiar faces. The boyfriend is coming down with me for the weekend and we're going to spend St. Patrick's Day in D.C. Probably at the zoo, looking at animals. Or drinking. Or getting drunk and looking at animals. Should be glorious. Will write more later!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Ninety Seconds

I had a lovely visit with my chiropractor today. I am very stubborn about going to get adjusted, because I always think I can fix everything myself, but sometimes a professional touch is extremely helpful. Especially this month, since I've been working to get ready for Nationals (eek!), I've been trying to make good use of all the talented bodyworkers in my network...

So anyway, I was leaving the chiropractor feeling great - totally relaxed and de-stressed. As I got in my car, I was thinking about my plans for the rest of the afternoon. I thought, hmm, maybe I'll make that call to my car insurance company that I've been putting off. (I hate calling insurance companies.) Then I thought, nah, I don't want to put myself in a stressful situation and reverse all the good work that my chiropractor just did!

What's wrong with that picture?

Shouldn't I be able to deal with stressful situations and stay relaxed? What good is my relaxation and meditation if I can only stay calm when no one is bugging me? As Bikram says, let no one steal your peace, or you are the loser!

Now I have to give myself credit - I am an extremely level-headed person in most stressful situations. It's pretty hard to piss me off. I can usually just take a step back, take a breath, and be objective about things. But of course I still experience stress. And it got me thinking....

I just finished reading a book called My Stroke of Insight by Jill Bolte Taylor, Ph.D. Very interesting book. It's Dr. Taylor's personal account of a massive stroke that she experienced in the left side of her brain, and the recovery she went through afterwards. As a brain scientist, she was able to learn a lot about her brain through the stroke and the recovery process. She basically lost the left side of her brain - which in meditation terms is the "monkey mind", the ego, the storyteller - and was left with just the right side of the brain, which lives in the present moment. As she recovered, she was able to choose which functions of the left brain she wanted to re-develop - such as talking, puzzling, analyzing - and which programs she could live without - anger, frustration, judgement, and so on.

That's a pretty hand-waving summary, scientifically speaking, but I hope you get the idea. The book has all the details, of course.

Here's one of the passages that I found the most intriguing. From chapter 17:
I define responsibility (response-ability) as the ability to choose how we respond to stimulation coming in through our sensory systems at any moment in time. Although there are certain limbic system (emotional) programs that can be triggered automatically, it takes less than ninety seconds for one of these programs to be triggered, surge through our body, and then be completely flushed out of our bloodstream. My anger response, for example, is a programmed response that can be set off automatically. Once triggered, the chemical released by my brain surges through my body and I have a physiological experience. Within ninety seconds from the initial trigger, the chemical component of my anger has completely dissipated from my blood and my automatic response is over. If, however, I remain angry after those ninety seconds have passed, then it is because I have chosen to let that circuit continue to run.
That's so amazing. Only ninety seconds!

For me, this information helps to solve a classic problem that comes up again and again. We always talk about how the goal of yoga is to become still, to cease the fluctuations of the mind. Nothing should steal your peace. And then here's the question (which is a pretty good question): what does that actually look like, in practice? If nothing steals your peace, do you become a completely unfeeling person? Does that mean you can't have any emotional reactions? And then how do you interact with the world?

I love this answer, because it jives with my experience so well. If some unpleasant stimulus comes at you - you get a nasty email, you get cut off in traffic, somebody shouts at you - you're still going to have a physiological response. Your pulse shoots up, you feel hot, your mouth goes dry. Essentially you're feeling the flood of chemicals being released into your blood stream. This response happens automatically. But after ninety seconds, that response can be finished, if you're willing to let go of it. You still have to take that hit, but then you can bounce right back, shake it off, and let it go. It's like if someone tosses a pebble into a lake. The ripples will appear right away, but after a short time, the lake goes back to stillness... unless you keep tossing in more pebbles.

And I love this, because it goes along really well with how we practice and teach in Bikram yoga. We're always playing with that dynamic balance between stimulation and relaxation. Sometimes when you start it seems totally nuts - "kick back more, keep kicking, kick harder!" followed by "completely relax." But it makes a lot of sense. Especially in the floor series, where we alternate between active postures and relaxation in savasana, we're training you to go back to peaceful relaxation even when you've got a lot of stimulation coming in. During the posture, you might sometimes feel frustration, irritation, or anxiety. (It happens.) But when the posture is done, you have to let go of those feelings and just relax. You're learning to take the hit, and then move on. Do the best you can, and then go back to stillness.

It's amazing how quickly emotions can come and go during a yoga practice. For example, my friend always looks sad before triangle pose and happy when it's over - ha! It's just a matter of staying with the present moment. Those chemicals don't stay in your body for long - only ninety seconds. If you're still angry after that time goes by, it's because the left side of your brain picked up the feeling and is running with it.

I definitely recommend this book, and the related website (here). It seemed pretty simple when I first read through it, but it's got a lot of depth and insight. My thoughts keep going back to it.

I could probably say more (a lot more), but I'll leave it here for now.

By the way, I still have not called my car insurance company. (Sigh.) I was too busy writing this blog...

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Competition Success!

I promised myself that I would post an update on the competition before the end of the week, so here we go. For the sake of a quick update, this will be mostly just photos, because I don't want to leave you all hanging!

The venue was amazing. Check it out:

We were set up in one of the central courts of the mall, with chairs downstairs for viewing, but also with the whole second level overlooking the stage, so we drew a huge crowd! It was so much fun to hear everyone's reactions to the yoga poses - all the passer-bys were so impressed, and some of them were so mesmerized that they sat down and watched all afternoon.

As predicted, my kiddos stole the show and made everyone cry. Well not me - I was just grinning my head off. Here are a few pictures from their "half-time" demonstration:

Not too shabby!! Actually, they were brilliant. They practiced very seriously, and they had a great time on stage, especially one the audience started cheering and applauding for their every move. All our practice definitely paid off.

We had an amazing turn-out for Rhode Island. There were 10 women competing in the Rhode Island division, compared to ONE person last year, and 7 of us were from the same studio. All my students were first-time competitors, so they were all really nervous/bewildered/excited, but they all did really well. Everyone's been talking about what a crazy experience it is to compete. It's simultaneously empowering and humbling - you get the chance to show off your hard work for an adoring audience, but it also makes you realize how far you still have to go. I'm just so proud of all of them. Here are a few pictures:







 Don't they look great?! I'm so happy for them all. They had no idea what they were signing up for at the end of December, but they all made the commitment and did a fantastic job.

Here is also a picture I found of my friend Ashley, showing us how it's done. She placed first for Massachusetts and first overall. She's gonna be the international champion some day, for sure. Here's her awesome tumblr - 1hotGOAL - and here's her gorgeous standing bow!

And of course the news that you are all curious about (possibly).... yes, I managed to stick all my postures this year! (Unlike in previous years, which have been slightly traumatizing.) I wouldn't say that I did my best postures ever - looking at the pictures from the event, I still have a lot of little things to work on! - but I definitely gave my best performance to date and I ended up winning 1st place for Rhode Island. On to Nationals in NYC, March 2nd!!


Overall it was a really great day. Getting on stage is always nerve-wracking, but it was so much fun to do it in front of a big audience surrounded by wonderful friends and yogis, and it was so inspiring to see some of the other routines. I couldn't believe how many people from our Rhode Island studio made the hike out to Natick to support us - it means so much. Our community is simply the best, no question.

More soon....

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Competition Time!

Oh man - the countdown is on. The annual New England Regional Yoga Asana Championship is only a week away!

For those who are not familiar with this event, the regional yoga championships are held every year all around the country as qualifiers for the national USA Yoga event. The national event is the qualifier for the international event, and the international champions get the privilege of acting as yoga ambassadors for the year - touring yoga studios, visiting schools, giving demonstrations, teaching classes, and so on.

The mission behind USA Yoga is to bring the spirit of healthy competition to the United States, inspire yogis to improve their practice, and inspire more folks to take up yoga. I think Joseph Enicinia (last year's champion) explains this mission beautifully. He says that yoga sport will not "change" the yoga and make it more competitive - instead, the goal is to change sports into something more yogic. I love this. Instead of all the little girls wanting to be ballerinas and all the little boys wanting to be football stars, we're inspiring a generation of kids who want to grow up and be yogis!

The New England Event is being held at the Natick Mall, which I think is fricking brilliant, doing it in the middle of the mall. It makes the event more of a legit demonstration. Instead of a bunch of yogis sitting around in a closed room critiquing each other's leg position in standing head to knee, we're going to have a bunch of yogis getting up on stage and demonstrating their postures to people who are barely even aware of yoga. People will just be wandering around kids, going into Macy's to buy gloves or whatever, and then will be like, "Oh, Susie, what's that? Let's go see what they're doing!" Genius.

The organizers put it very nicely this year:
The more people who practice yoga the healthier our nation will be. We can reduce the rates of heart disease, diabetes, childhood and adult obesity, depression and so much more. By holding these friendly “competitions” or demonstrations in public places like malls, we can reach people who normally might not be aware of yoga and the many health benefits it offers. Those who are aware can be re-inspired to stay involved and to stay healthy.  
 There are some who feel competition seems contradictory to the philosophy of yoga. However, it is important to note that this is not battle to win a medal but instead a personal display for each athlete of what they have accomplished through their yoga practice. Many have come from places of injury or despair and put themselves back together with their yoga. To get up on stage and balance without wavering, to show how they have transformed body and mind is an act of self-realization and of personal fulfillment. This ability to maintain one’s peace in the midst of a challenge epitomizes the philosophy of yoga and is a shining moment in the life of the yogi. It is a beautiful thing to witness.
So that's all going down next Sunday, January 27th, at the Natick Mall, starting at 12:30pm. And it's free! So if you're in the area, you should come check it out! We'll be on the first floor near Macy's.

Logistically, the event is pretty straightforward. Each competitor has three minutes (maximum) to demonstrate his or her routine. The routine is made up of 7 postures. The first 5 postures are compulsory for everyone: standing head to knee pose, standing bow pulling pose, bow pose, rabbit pose, and stretching pose. The final 2 postures are the "optionals," which are the contestant's choice. These can be any 2 postures for the beginning or advanced classes - ideally postures which together demonstrate a combination of strength, flexibility, and balance. Each posture is scored out of a maximum of 10 points, with deductions for technical errors or incompleteness. (There is always room for improvement!) There is also a 10 point allocation for "grace," which includes breathing, composure, and stillness.

I've competed off and on since 2007, and my first competition was actually in New England, when I was practicing at Bikram Yoga Boston. That was the year that got me hooked on Bikram yoga! Since then, I've been all over the place and competed for various states. This year will be my return to the New England competition, and I'm psyched about it. No offense to the wonderful yogis anywhere else, but this is where I got started and these are my hometown peeps. It's gonna feel so good to be up on the New England stage again, for my brief 3 minutes of fame!

This has already been my favorite (and busiest) year of competition prep, because I've had the chance to coach a whole group of first-time competitors at the studio here in Rhode Island. Last year, there was only one person competing for Rhode Island. (She won. She's amazing, actually.) This year, we have seven competitors registered, just from our studio. Rhode Island is stepping it up! So I've been working with all these lovely and talented students on the weekends, plus a couple of folks who have been coming to work with us from Massachusetts. It's been so inspiring. With one exception (the amazing Dale K. who appeared from out of the mists to show us her stunning routine), none of these yogis have competed before. Our first meeting was like Competition 101 - this is the routine, these are the postures. Everyone was so nervous to get started. When we practiced this afternoon, we just flew through the routines at the end and everybody looked so good! Still some nerves, which is normal - but I'm so proud of all my students (and fellow teachers) for stepping up to the plate and doing this big scary thing. They are seriously bonding as a group, they are all getting more confident in their practice, and they are going to inspire so many people!

I've also been working with a group of kids on Sunday afternoons. They are all "pre-competitive," too young for the youth division (which is ages 11-17). Instead, they are going to give a little demonstration as a group, with music and everything. I've got two girls and two boys. They've been practicing very seriously. One of the girls, Emma, asked if she could take notes. She spells scorpion like this: "sqorpion." She and Athena can both do a killer scorpion in locust. It's been such a hoot. They're gonna steal the show, I can see it already.

It's kind of magical how everything is starting to come together. Even if my students forget the names of all their postures and fall off the stage, I'm still going to be proud of them. (Actually I have promised Mo that we'll bring her some cue cards for "standing separate leg stretching pose" in case she forgets the words.) I'm so excited to show the community what we've all been working on down here.

I think my own routine is coming along pretty well. I've been running through it every day. The coaching I've been doing really helps, because it makes me focus on all the little details. When it comes to doing it on stage... only time will tell! People always like to say that you're only competing against yourself, and this year I finally understand 100% what that means. If I miss one of my postures, it'll be because of my own tricky subconscious.The only person I need to watch out for is me! But I think this will be a good year. It will be so much fun to do the routine in front of all my friends, teachers, and students.

I'm still not sure which day I'm more excited for: January 27th, when this all goes down, or January 28th, when I will get to sleep in! It's coming soon. I will have to post an update at the end of the month and let you all know how it goes...