What an amazing weekend!

It held a little bit of everything: yoga competition; champion demonstration; heartfelt community; knowledgeable, energetic classes; moving testimonials; visitors from all over the state coming together; children and young adult participation; stage strength and vulnerability; humorous human moments; tough to swallow mistakes; and I bet more that you can add in as you read this. It was the weekend of the USA Yoga Regional California Championships!

While the judges were tabulating scores of the 27 athletes that competed, several members of the audience shared comments about their own yoga practice and the personal rewards it brings. When questioned to the audience in general if the reasons they originally started the yoga were now different to ones they held now, most everyone raised their hand. When we distill it down, what is it really that keeps us in the room? Isn’t it the competitors taking the stage, determined and on the path?

Joseph Encinia, our head judge and yoga champion 2011, shared quite the story of his own journey. Suffering as a child from rheumatoid arthritis taking heavy medication, overweight and depressed, led to a heart attack at age 13. Ugh. Just a few years later, he discovered Bikram Yoga, and motivated by a yoga championship he saw in Texas, he became inspired to “try”. He was feeling better and better and with hard work and determination, in just 10 years became champion while still suffering from arthritis, yet to this day he takes no medication. Those of you, like me, who took his class, were probably in shock seeing what he can do with his body that I bet most doctors thought would be impossible for his whole life! Joseph is not only a teacher, practitioner, and champion, but now also the president of Yoga Federation. He is doing his part to make this yoga a recognized sport which will instill a spark in everyone, especially our youth, to make it a part of our everyday lives.  The bigger the stage, the bigger the audience and the bigger the impact to get everybody moving on the yogic path!

Joseph had some many great tips and fun comments throughout his class and in his introduction at the championships Saturday. Honestly, I don’t believe that I’ve ever heard such long and powerful claps for anyone we’ve had visit like I heard for Joseph. Why? Maybe because Joseph was so generous in sharing his personal story and recognizing the competitors. To quote Joseph: “ Millions of people do yoga and yet only 27 of you have chosen to be bold enough to get on stage. It’s scary and intimidating.” However, he was quick to bring in all of us, “In the yoga room, your body is the stage and the competition lies in the tug of war that happens between the True self and the Ego self”. Could that be what keeps us in the room? When we distill it down, when we can be who we are (True Self) by becoming aware and even owning that ego side of which we are not (Ego Self), do we begin to feel good and right and just plain okay with ourselves?

One of my favorite TV shows is Blue Bloods. Call me silly, but I just love that family of cops, their Sunday dinners together and the wisdom that comes from Tom Selleck, who plays Frank Reagan, NYC police commissioner. He holds back; allows for room to breathe in tough situations and confronts with honesty any circumstance. Then he makes his best move without regard to the end result. He knows he’s acted in accord with his consciousness – and then what happens next is simply what happens next, and he’s okay with that. Good stuff. 

A recent episode had me especially thinking. Danny, the oldest son in this cop family and a detective in the NYC police department, had a celebrity shadow him on cases as part of this TV star’s next role in an upcoming movie. This TV Star was sort of the Brad Pitt in this fictional episode: good looking, popular with ladies, charismatic. Turns out he gets hurt badly in a gay neighborhood where he’s been hanging out. Danny finds him, saves him, and in doing so discovers that he is gay. The TV star is ashamed and asks Danny to keep this information to himself. The TV star goes on to say to Danny, “we all have three lives: public, private and our secret lives.” Danny says immediately, “Not me man, what you see is what you get.”

Are we drawn to the stage public or private to confront our secret lives? Do we use the stage in the classroom to accept all parts of ourselves lovingly or not? What an honor to control what our bodies do and in so doing control what our minds are thinking. I once read that the dangerous part of the mind is not what we are saying to our minds but what we are listening to our minds say. The stage is a great way to learn to quiet the mind and then talk to it with enriching thoughts. As I pondered this Blue Bloods episode and participated in the competition in the way I did this year, it made me think that all of us are in a relatable topic here – subject to sides of ourselves that we don’t necessarily want to look at. It’s super to have a public life and a private life but the one that bites us is the secret life. As we all watched the athletes do their 6 poses in three minutes, were we also watching our own yoga practice? The difference is these 27 were willing to expose parts of themselves on stage, but we too in our own private practice have to wrestle with uncomfortable parts of ourselves that would otherwise deprive us of being the champions we really are!

Yoga is a healing modality. It’s the most necessary tool in being the best we can be for ourselves: mind, body and spirit. It pushes discomfort and will surely surface any “secret” terrain. We win when we can willingly open up to all sides of ourselves thus accepting the totality of our unique being. Once we encounter a peace with that, it becomes easy to honor the differences that occur between us. Joseph did not become overwhelmed with the stats against him, nor the undoubtedly difficult moments that could have robbed him of the life he is living now. Instead, he rose up like an underdog in the biggest fight of his life. Look at him now sharing and gifting all of us with his story and giving us wisdom and compassion to get through and own ours. We may have seen the competitors face their story on stage but silently what draws us to watch and what draws us in the room and on this path is what we hope we can do to open up a little more to our own stories. Yoga is a good fight – competition to benefit a more transparent human being and like Danny – what you see is what you get.