Friday, January 25, 2013

Yoga & Competition

No matter the company, when I mention that I am a competitor in the Asana Championships the temperature in the surrounding room drops. From yogis who do not compete I have instantly become a viper, waiting to lash out and poison their practice with my egotistical Western ways. From non-yogis, I get confused stares. Sometimes I am lucky and the person asks, "How does that work?" While the question itself is phrased to inform me that I have obviously missed the point of yoga, I am eager to explain. It is far preferable to the judgement that hangs in the air unspoken when people don't ask.

Like yoga itself, yoga competition originated in India (according to the USA Yoga Federation, there have been asana championships in India for 2000 years) and are common (daily, according to the same source). While frequency does not make something right, it does relieve the competition from the burden of being, "Western," a word spit with spite from many yogis mouths. Many have nurtured an opinion that all Western thought is egocentric, while all concepts generated from Indian Gurus are sacred and the path to enlightenment. In the words of my dear friend and teacher, Aura, "Not all things in India are beautiful."* 

With the misinformation out of the way, I challenge you to look not at the words' juxtaposition, but only at competition itself. I believe it is actually this word that makes people's skin crawl. 

Let me use an internet meme to illustrate. 

The word, "competition" is derived from the Latin word, "competere," meaning "to strive in common." You band with other yogis to strive together, to support each other, to rejoice in growth, to bitch about how much your buttocks hurts.

There is a goal, certainly, and some people will come closer to reaching that goal than others. But everyone competing benefits. Winning itself is not the goal, merely to attain the closest proximity to perfection one can. Which, for me, is about like standing on a piece of paper to get to the moon. I do try to stack my little pieces of paper with each competition though. 

If you are questioning why would I do that knowing I will forever be so far from the goal, your focus is in the wrong place. It's not the winning, it's the striving that matters. For three months (6 months this year due to a schedule fluke) I dedicate myself as intensively as I can to my practice. For those months coaches and friends form a 360 degree support net for me. It takes a lot of dedication, a level of dedication I can not commit to year round. The training becomes a bit like a meditation retreat, or a detox program -- sometimes those are part of training. 

This support system is essential because there are so many days you just don't feel strong enough. Sometimes it's emotional, sometimes it's physical, sometimes you just have a case of the fuckits. For the days you just can't bring yourself to do backbends you have a friend willing to be strong for you…or just guilt you into it. You have a coach willing to say when you've gone too far, or when you haven't gone far enough. You allow your postures and mind to be open to intense scrutiny in the interest of becoming a better yogi.

So why not do all the work without a 'competition?' 

The final 3 minute demonstration offers closure at the end of an intense period of change. A culmination of all the emotional, spiritual and physical growth you have worked for. A time for you to acknowledge your hard work and give thanks to your support system, and yourself, for all that work. It is a beautiful release and intensely emotional. So intense, in fact, that I usually end up getting a wee snookered with my support system afterwards. I mean let's be honest, improved, yes, perfect, no. 

* She made this very pertinent remark after we both watched a documentary on pilgrimages in India. A man had left his family to reside with a guru. I was horrified, in that society the man essentially left his family to starve. She was pointing out the beauty of belief.

PS All that being said, much to my surprise, I managed to place this year (don't ask how I pulled that off, I'm in shock myself) and am going to compete in New York in a month. I am snowboarding in MT next week but will post all my adventures as they happen when I get back. I get to train with Mary Jarvis and a bunch of yogis I have total ga-ga eyes for, like Allan and Gianna and Zeb. I'm calling that week of training, "MJ and the All-Stars (+Kate)!" If they're cool with it, I'm going to blog about my experience with them. 

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Introducing the R&B Cleanse

I have invented a new diet. I expect it to be all the rage. Angelina Jolie will be singing its praise in Vogue by the end of the month. Am I a dietitian? No. Do I know if it has any medical benefits as opposed to the diets already out there? No. Is it really just a cleanse that I am too lazy to do properly? Yes.

I don't think that really matters. It's weird and has a catchy name: R&B. Hollywood will eat it up.

This is how the R&B diet came about:

I was attempting my first juice fast when I realized I do not own a juicer. No problem, smoothie fast.
Day 1 of my smoothie fast: Yum. But I realized I had leftover cheesy pasta. I hate food going to waste. I'll just finish it up real fast.

Day 2 of smoothie fast: I feel like I am just shoving whatever I can find into a blender. This inspires an idea, Can't I just shove a steak into the blender? I mean, technically that would still be a smoothie.

I don't purée a steak, but I decide maybe there isn't much difference between my smoothies and salads anyway. So I eat a few salads. I decide "raw" is a much better way to describe my diet. I mean, aside from that cheesy pasta.

Day 2, 12th hour of my raw diet: I don't have nearly enough seeds in the house to make anything remotely appealing and it is too cold outside to gather nuts from the grocery store 30 feet from my house. I spot the chocolate covered banana in my freezer. The banana itself is raw; it's just the chocolate that isn't. I peel most of the chocolate off, then procede to pick at the chocolate pieces. Close enough.

Day 2, 16th hour of my raw diet: I decide that I should have planned better, stocking up on nuts and spirolina like a squirrel before winter. I am so tired I am ready for bed at 4pm. I decide randomly that I must not be getting enough protein. I decide beans are okay. I make a salad with spiced beans. I eat the whole can. The R&B diet is born: Raw + Beans.

Day 3: I figure these are supposed to be short-term cleanses anyways and decide to let myself off the hook. If I can make it raw (and beans) for the rest of the day I will consider this cleanse a success.

I make it until 8pm. Good enough.

Contemplating the Nature of Leaves

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Salsa Recipe

In the spirit of New Years resolutions (and to appease the salsa god, Danielle, for the vegetarian post), I would like to post a helpful hint for keeping healthy.

For those of us who enjoy the occasional green juice but are massive fans of solid, hearty food, here is my favorite salsa recipe. Mainly, it's my favorite because it's easy, and cooking is more time consuming than any necessity has a right to be, but it's got good flavor too:

A bunch of tomatoes (4 maybe?)
A handful of fresh basil
1 TBSP olive oil
1/2 an onion

2 chili peppers (sloppily deseeded*)

Salt and pepper to taste (go ahead, indulge in salt, we sweat it out)

Throw everything in a food processor and give it a whirl. (Do the tomatoes last so they don't get all frothy.)

You can make this salsa in a minute and it will add massive flavor to your meals without many calories. Added bonus, by topping your food with chopped fresh veggies you're adding nutrients too.

Things to do with your salsa to make an instant meal:

Instead of salad dressing
Top a pile of beans
Top a pile of quinoa
Top a pile of steamed root veggies
Top a pile of ...well you get the idea.

Happy 2013 everyone!

* Sloppy = be lazy about it. No anal retentive cooks here. Get a good 60% out and call it good enough. The lazier you are the hotter the salsa will be.