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!