Games 3 and 4 of the Warriors vs. Thunder in the NBA playoffs were about as dismal as games can get.  If you are a Warriors fan, you probably noticed how lethargic and sluggish your players looked.  Even if you’re not a fan and happened to jump in and watch after hearing so much about the historical playing this team produces game after game, you might have said, “What’s all the hype about, they look lost.” Losing two in a row is bad enough for this Dub nation but by almost 30 points in each of the two games is straight out “unthinkable”.

I love to hear the interviews with the athletes post-game. It’s raw venting as it spills out insights and answers for the media to soak up, interpret, and analyze for their respective audience. For me, I like to scrutinize the player on the podium, especially our MVP, Steph Curry. I’m not alone when I say how wonderfully nice he is to everyone – media included. He took the questions or should I say “hits” for these losses with such grace, explaining in various ways that the team’s rhythm wasn’t there; his shots just weren’t going in; the team rushed plays. But when asked if there was something he needed to change for this opponent, he said “No, we just need to play our game better.” With their back against the wall, they had to win the next three games: two at home and one at Thunder Nation. It was win or go home every game. Historically, 85% of teams in this dilemma lose the series.

In “unthinkable” fashion, the Warriors did win the next three!  Down by as much as 16 points in Game 6, the team found their way back each time and as Steph explained, “we imposed our will and won.” I’m not a basketball analyst, but I can tell you that most commentators out there will say that either team deserved to win, but the Warriors have more “team” than single players. On a low scoring night for Steph in which the team still won, Steph said afterwards that his teammate, Klay Thompson, fed the team as “Klay had all the confidence tonight.”

I know we are not basketball players but we can take a lot away from these professionals. They practice drills over and over again. As yoga practitioners, we practice postures over and over again. Sometimes shots go in and sometimes they don’t. Sometimes our poses work and other days they don’t. It’s not about changing the yoga, just like it’s not about changing the game plan. In each instance, stay the course and try again. The basketball skills needed are similar to the ones we need in the hot room: determination, concentration, patience, tolerance, and willpower!  How many times have you imposed your will to hold a pose! These athletes are connected mind and body, focused, and move without hesitation. We are connected mind and body, focused and move without hesitation. Like us, they work as a team and feed from the energy each gives.  We may not see it but the energy of our peers in the room has a big influence on our practice and participation in that class.  How many times have you wanted to give up because the person next to you sat down or fell out of a pose? Or how many times did you work harder to give to the person struggling next to you?  Yoga has uncontrollable surroundings as does a basketball game. For Steph and the gang, it’s the repetition in skills used over and over again that overcomes doubt and sustains the confidence needed to defy the odds.  Much the same, our confidence in our poses isn’t given to us: we’ve earned it with the reps we take in that room day after day. As our confidence builds, we too defy the odds and become something once thought of as “unthinkable”!

The NBA finals is a grand stage, for sure, but it’s not as big as the stage you we are all on, the one called Life.  And each of us are the player on that field, so my suggestion is GO BIG!

It was recently my birthday (boy, do they come quicker as you get older) and this year was no different as I love to spend time hanging out with friends and appreciate the place they each have in my life – you included, members. For me, the take away from aging in the context of filtering life through years and years of a yoga practice is a heart growing in compassion, a mind fully accepting, and a soul that gives glory to the higher expression of what it all means. Sounds deep, but the irony is that it’s so uncomplicated.  It’s watching life downsize to supersize! Using yoga tools to control the dharma of a whacky mind, and bringing optimal health to a susceptible body creates a great home for that which you really are – spirit.  There is a great phrase, “The clearer the expression, the deeper the impression.”  A cleared-up mind and cleaned-up body pave the way for spirit to flow through you, deepening the impression you make on your life – not in a small way but in the “unthinkable” way.

Members, have you noticed how BYSJ 3.0 is bringing in lots of experts in the field of Bikram yoga and surrounding topics?  Your new team (Brad, Jessica, Matt, and Sarah) is on a mission to make sure our goal reigns – to empower you to be your best self! And boy, is it raining with events, posts, memberships, gadgets, tips, guests, and more to inspire you to dig in and supersize with yoga.

Our most recent guest was this past weekend, Teri Almquist. She owns a studio in Massachusetts and has started a great organization, Teach From Love, focused on continuing education for Bikram yoga teachers!  We brought her out with her business partner, Steven Haver, for a two-day teacher intensive which included classes taught by Teri for your benefit.

She has a great story in how this yoga healed her spinal cord. She was a medical sign translator and had a patient fell on her neck.  She discovered the yoga after desperately seeking alternative ways to heal and after 13 years from the help of a twice-a-day practice could finally move her neck. Teri is funny, relatable, and brilliant, offering options to any one injured on how to do this yoga.  She not only taught us teachers ways to work with injured students but also how to be better communicators on the podium using compassion and love.

I loved her corrections. In case you weren’t there, a few to make note of are:

  • Arms with your ears (and not behind your ears like some overly flexible students can do)
  • Keep that ½ inch off your heels in third part of Awkward Pose (and not three inches)
  • Chin UP in balancing stick
  • 90 degree angle with your arms in cobra pose
  • Grab the floor in locust pose, and
  • In Fixed Firm pose, sit Japanese style FIRST before you place hips between the heels – good stuff!

But even more remarkable was how throughout the class, she softened the suffering we often feel in the moment:

  • “You don’t do yoga to have a better Standing Bow Pulling Pose, you do yoga to have a better life.”
  • “Feeling great? Go to the beach! Feeling awful? Come in and do yoga.”
  • “Yoga is about taking the next step and once you’ve gotten that step, then take the next step.”
  • “I have four rules at my studio: 1) breathing is a must, everything else is optional; 2) don’t look down, look up; 3) once in a while give yourself extra love; and 4) when you see yourself in the mirror, notice how cute you look!”

My favorite though is this one: “We come into this life perfect and we leave this life perfect, what’s in between is you figuring THAT out.” – Brava!

Teri was much like Steph Curry – she took the court by storm and she challenged your game!  She held your mind with commands for the body while offering encouraging words to a spirit that was open to receive. What was impressive is that she is not impressive. She doesn’t possess a super yogi body. She’s just like you and me, an everyday person. Like Steph, she took the yoga drills and mastered some enough to have many injured and uninjured students do the “unthinkable”, healing their bodies by defying great odds. As I age, I believe we have more in us than what we deliver.  And lately, I’m realizing that it takes a prepared body and a detached mind to unleash the “unthinkable” – that’s spirit moving through you!

So members, you are already on the right court, in the right game doing the right drills. Stay the course. Use all things around you to be inspired or “in spirit”, like Steph and Teri. Know that your time on the mat in whatever shape it takes day in and day out is your portal to knowing the “unthinkable” in you.

–Michele Vennard