My English professor at Michigan State University, besides being an incredible teacher and friend, wrote Hollywood screenplays. Throughout his film career, he was constantly encouraged to move to Los Angeles. However, Jim Cash, hated to fly. Jim’s fears were such that he lived in the biggest home in the greater Lansing area equipped with everything he needed to write for the film industry. Jim decided to write about his fear of flying. But instead of writing about the anxieties, he wrote of the passion for flying, creating the movie Top Gun. At the opening of this hit movie, he explained that he faced his anxieties about flying by imagining himself loving to fly. 

In a recent interview, Michael Buble explained how nervous he was singing on the hit reality TV series, “American Idol.” He found out the day before the show that he was to perform in place of the ailing Tony Bennett and sing one of the songs off his soon-to-debut album. “Tony Bennett is a legend and it affected me that he was sick,” observed Michael. “Was he okay? And then performing a fairly new song to 27 million viewers was overwhelming. I felt unprepared and what topped it off was when I walked out on stage and saw Simon (Cowell) shrug at me and turn the other way. I lost all confidence.” Are you kidding? He fooled me and I’m sure everyone else in the country watching the show. His performance, like others I’ve seen, was warm, charismatic and professional. 

Not long ago, I had dinner with a former professional baseball player, and he casually mentioned how uncomfortable he is in front of large crowds. I was floored. “What? How can you hit the ball in front of 50,000 people and do it for 11 years?” I asked. His response was so obvious to him, “I never thought about the crowd while I was on the plate. I was completely focused.”

These stories, while extraordinary, illustrate how human we all are, how resilient we can become, and how the very things that can stop us are the very things that can help us rise to the occasion. Each of these individuals faced fear, discomfort, anxiety, and pressure and by adding concentration and focus, used these emotions to inspire world-class performance.

Students, every time you decide to lock out the knee, you have a chance to invoke similar inspiration. Without absolute attention and awareness, there is no way that you can stand there and lock your knee for 60 seconds. As soon as “plans for dinner” pop into your head, you’ve fallen out of the pose. Concentration is a tricky thing and requires practice to master. However, once you’ve learned to control the distractions that interrupt your focus, you’ve won. Nothing can rock your peace. You’ve disabled the fear and tapped the magnificent reservoir of power that lies within. It is the ability to use this incredible energy that distinguishes champions.

It is with great excitement that I announce that, this year, the fifth annual Northern California Regional Yoga Championships are being held right here in San Jose! Bikram Yoga San Jose is hosting the event for the first time with proceeds going to the Autism Education Network. The event is being held on Saturday, January 5 at Archbishop Mitty High School in the Aymar Events Center. Come watch devoted yoga students (like you!), from Carmel to Sacramento, perform seven postures in three minutes exerting the same discipline and focus that you use while attempting to master “lock the knee” pose. Witness grace in motion as the best practitioners exhibit yoga’s combination of skill, strength, flexibility, and balance. Mark your calendars now and come watch your peers, and community of yogis achieve what you attempt to accomplish each day in class – stretching beyond what you thought possible.

I am very proud to host this event with the Autism Education Network. Together, we have titled the event, Asanas for Autism, demonstrating the power and beauty of the art of yoga in support of Autism research and community action. It is fitting that this event unites like-minded individuals, communities and businesses to help create awareness and relief where it is urgently needed. Join me and visit Asanas for Autism to contribute and learn more.