The day started at 5:08am when I peeled open my eyes, a good seven minutes before I was being picked up by the clown-car of yogis carpooling from Chicago to Naperville. Four bleary-eyed competitors and all our yoga gear piled into the car and drove the hour+ to the studio hosting the pre-show class. The studio was one of the prettiest I have seen (well-done, Mama Tam!) with a beautiful faux wood floor. It was flocked, making it carpet-like, but the pattern was so real my pre-noon senses were thrown for a loop.
Taking class pre-competition is a beautiful thing. Looking around you there are yogis of all sizes, skill levels and age brackets (so, yeah, a little like regular class I guess). In front of me was, I would later discover, one of the judges. To my left and right were fellow Bikram Yoga Andersonville friends. Kitty-corner was a little girl of maybe 10 that may or may not have been doing a dance routine throughout class. I attribute my excellent focus that morning (and maybe the lack of sleep and food) to the fact that I missed (and therefore did not break out laughing at) the little girl turning around mid-standing series and facing Borislava, the yogi next to me. Good job, little girl! Testing Borislava's concentration was key to her performance later that day. Maybe if we all had had a little tap-dancing cutie to challenge our focus that morning none of us would have fallen out of standing bow later.
|Borislava's Standing Head to Knee|
After class, we piled back into the car, passing Starbucks, Chipotle, Five Guys Pizza and many other drool-inducing stores on our way to the Wentz Concert Hall. Thankfully, green juice was in ample supply. In the warm up room, which counter-intuitively was quite chilly, the mood shifted from casual to anxious and back again. Camaraderie ruled supreme as people did each other's hair, gave last minute tips for transitions and shared green juice in the grand fashion of breaking-bread.
After a long wait for the on-stage dance, music and bowl meditation acts, the children were taken. This was especially sad as it took away our 6 year old entertainer, Christian, who had been showing us how he could use his foot as a telephone by holding it to his ear. The pied piper came back for the men and eventually for the first 5 women.
The thing about an impending performance is that there is both nothing you can do to prepare and everything you can do to prepare. Do you do backbends to make your spine limber, or will this just make you fret? Do you do a few cock poses, or will that tire your arm muscles? Do you sit and talk with others to calm your nerves, or concentrate on a spot to gain focus? I, at the advice of a pro, settled on pranayama breathing. I also figured I would get one solid standing-head-to-knee before going on stage. 20 standing-head-to-knees later I stopped, having finally achieved this goal. Maybe that wasn't such a grand idea.
My turn was announced and I cued up to the stage, careful not to watch whomever was on stage just before me. Stripping down to my leotard was fun. First came the leg warmers, socks, pants, hoodie, tank top. I felt a little like a stripper who wasn't aware there was supposed to be grace to her job. The pile of clothes next to me kept growing until eventually, I was naked enough to walk into the public eye. In seconds I would attempt to convey everything I've learned in my year and a half of practice through an odd but very precise dance lasting only 3 minutes.
Before going on stage, standing in that chilly stage-doorway I got hugs and well-wishes the likes of which true competitors would never give. This is why I take issue with the word, "competition." I have yet to find a word that truly grasps what we are seeking to accomplish here, but competition certainly isn't it. Yes, there is a winner, but that winner represents all of us. The winners got there because of all of us, and they know and appreciate it. There is an understanding that each one of us has a part on stage, virtually naked, proud and humble, with every demonstration. A part of my standing bow is trembling under the spotlight from the time it hits the first child to when the last woman shuffles off the tiny yoga mat taped to the palatial wood stage. I literally tighten my knee when I see a competitor shifting in standing head-to-knee, I feel proud when Gianna completes a full standing splits in bow. One could argue my tightened knee-cap will not help and I have no right to feel pride in another's actions. I will argue, they need my strength and my love.
It is that sort of spirit I find, waiting in the airy side-door waiting for my name to be called, as yogis twice my age, twice my size, half my experience, three times my hardships, seven times my strength, hug, kiss, wish me well and love me with all their beings, with all their honesty. In their hearts, they are about to walk on stage with me.
After the last of us joined the audience, leaving the warm-up room empty, things got chaotic as they are apt to do when one person organizes an entire regional. As if in sympathy, my mental faculties began to digress from hunger; I had not eaten since the evening prior. My brain had long since abandoned its post inside my skull and the hole left in its place was calling for Chipotle. I had been eating raw for a week* so, with the promise of a burrito the size of my head looming over the horizon, it was taking all my strength not to take the microphone and unceremoniously announce winners according to who's leotard I thought was the prettiest.
After the ceremony, of which I did not ruin, possibly my greatest accomplishment that day, a few of us ate ravenously at Chipotle before heading home. Post competition libations were consumed in a beer garden (rain be damned) and I got to bed after 22 consecutive waking hours.
At the risk of turning this blog into a cheese-fest, I would like to formally say, "thank you" to my instructors, fellow yogis, friends, family and the boy, making special note to those yogis to whom I have met only in passing, yet still show amazing interest in me, as they must to everyone. It takes an open heart to put that much love into every person you meet and I am grateful.
*Full disclosure: there were two relapses 1. pizza 2. bread with peanut butter.