Having completed five compulsory postures in the yoga competition, I felt a bit winded and my heart was pounding. It was time to begin Full Cobra pose. Only two weeks ago, I finally got up high enough to grab my knees with no help from my yoga pants! I remember laying on stage reciting the name of the pose, protocol for this type of event. During my next inhalation, it would be time to get up and get up high! Up I went and, for a moment, I got stuck! I was still in the space of struggling with my strength in the lower part of my spine to reach that sweet spot where I could lean back more easily and grab my knee. I wasn’t yet at the point where gravity could assist. All I remember was saying to myself, “you are not going down, you can do it. And I did.

I came in second place in the women’s competition. Congratulations to Paul Knisely, BYSJ instructor, for taking second place in the men’s competition. Both of us will now go on to compete in the Nationals of the Bishnu Charan Ghosh Yoga Asana Competition Feb 7-8, 2009, in Los Angeles. A big thank you to BYSJ students and staff for encouraging us to compete and to those who went to San Francisco and watched!

The first posture for all competitors is Standing Forehead to Knee. All Bikram Yoga students know how challenging this posture is no matter how many years of practice you have under your belt. Right away, in front of an audience, you must control your emotions and override any hormonal response or adrenaline rush as you assume and maintain this physically demanding pose. Having participated in the competition three years in a row, I noticed a huge difference in my ability. As in years past, I felt pressure, anxiety and a slightly shaky leg. However, this time my mental focus and confidence were dominant. I had transcended my fear. But, it was in Full Cobra pose that I really noticed the extent of my growth. Getting up as much as I needed to in order to finish the pose correctly took more than strength: it took immense willpower.

For over ten years, like you, I have heard over and over again about the power of a still mind. “Meditate, concentrate,” as the dialogue goes in class day after day. It is the ability to cultivate a single point of focus that allows us to travel further on the path of our hopes and dreams. We master the art of eliminating distractions in their various forms and exercise determination, faith, self-control, willpower, tolerance, and patience. Focus is the mental muscle strength that keeps us aware and enables us to move with clarity and purpose. On Bikram’s Beginning Class CD, he states that “our body is a medium that we use to keep the mind in the brain for at least 10 seconds.” Such discipline extends beyond the yoga room. One of my favorite artists, George Winston, said that before he starts a concert performance, he does what his father taught him: feel his feet on the ground after he sits down in front of his piano before he begins to play.

This year, I found real pleasure in three minutes of personal, authentic expression combining my mind, my body and my spirit. In each pose, I was able to hold in a moment of stillness. And, it’s as if that lingering has helped to instill a greater sense of freedom and peace within me even now! Don’t underestimate the impact of opportunities to get up on the “big stage” whether in yoga doing the “6 for 6” (completing 6 days a week of yoga for 6 consecutive weeks) or in another area of your life. Create a milestone marker to help you track the improvements you’ve made on YOU!

Many people have asked me why I do these competitions in the midst of everything else I have going in my life. I see competing as a chance to give thanks for something to which I’ve devoted ten years of my life. I also see it as a way to acknowledge the synergistic growth among all of us at BYSJ. “Inherent in every intention and desire is the mechanics for its fulfillment. And when we introduce an intention in the fertile ground of pure potentiality, we put this infinite organizing power to work for us,” states Deepak Chopra, from his book, The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success. It is my belief that in our efforts together day after day, that we represent an infinite organizing power and come to realize potential within each of us.