Me and Bikram

Bikram Yoga is one of the most intense, punishing physical workouts you will ever experience. Each class is 90 minutes long in which 26 postures are performed in humid 105+ degree heat. The format of every Bikram class is the same no matter where in the world you go.

I joined a Bikram Yoga studio in January 2014 and have quickly progressed from knowing little about Bikram Yoga to being a dedicated six-day-a-week practitioner and completing my teacher training certification in April 2015. If you're ready for a mind-body fitness regimen like no other and are willing to give Bikram Yoga a try, please stop by Bridge Hot Yoga and check out one of my classes. Namaste!

My yoga journey:
Opinions expressed are solely my own. Please consult your physician for medical advice before starting a yoga program.

June 24, 2022, 9:00am - Bikram 90 - "Raise your left hip up in line with your right hip. Bring the left hip back and the right hip forward. The hips are now in line, parallel to the front mirror and the floor," I said to my students. Standing Separate Leg Head to Knee is one of the poses I go in detail in. It's one of my favorite poses in the Bikram series, so when I see a good posture that I know can be made better with a little adjustment, I always help a student create a more beautiful pose.

June 24, 2022, 11:30am to 4:00pm - class 1301 with Breanna Brown - Today was Day 1 of the Miami Yoga Bootcamp, an intensive week-long training course with drills and yoga classes. This week the focus was on Leg Behind the Head, Goodbye Pose, Om, Full Tortoise, and Handstands. Handstands aren't my strong suit, but I agreed to do the bootcamp anyway. Normal people go on an exotic trip somewhere when they mention they're on vacation. My idea of a "fun" vacation is a bootcamp. Many of the preparatory exercises, such as wall-walking and handstands, were straight from Jedi Fight Club, but there were new exercises, such as Mary Jarvis balance beam exercises, sprinkled throughout. We worked on easier poses, such as Elephant, to prepare for harder ones. The drill class was two hours and the yoga class was an hour and a half, so today's training was three and a half hours. I ate very little in between the morning and afternoon sessions because they were only an hour apart. I didn't get to eat a full meal until dinner. Roughly half the attendees met in person and the other half, like me, were virtual. Even though we were on Zoom, Breanna watched us all like a hawk.

June 25, 2022, 12:30pm to 5:00pm - class 1302 with Breanna Brown - Day 2 of Miami Yoga Bootcamp. More people joined the bootcamp in-person, so now the split was two-thirds in-person, one-third virtual. Drill class included wall-walks, handstands, Mary Jarvis balance beam exercises, Frog, and various prep work for Compass, including Leg Over Head against the wall. Unlike yesterday, today I decided to refrain from eating lunch food or drinking Pepsi between sessions. Good thing, too, because the yoga class was another tough one. The style of the yoga class was patterned after an Esak Garcia e84 Intermediate class tailored with the poses and exercises we are practicing this week. Elephant pose was easier today. Expectations are high because we're all very experienced yogis. Another very tiring three and a half hours. Sadly, I upset my vertebrae at the base of my spine during backbending and walked a little funny for the rest of the evening.

June 26, 2022, 8:00am to 9:30am - class 1303 with Breanna Brown - 136.8 today. Day 3 of Miami Yoga Bootcamp. Today was thankfully a lighter day for virtual bootcampers as there were legal issues with broadcasting the afternoon drills session with special guest Ugi The Contortionist. We continued practicing handstands against a wall. This was especially challenging to me as handstands have never been something I was comfortable doing. "You've got to overcome your fear," Breanna advised. Even if I never do a handstand in the championships, this portion of the class will likely strengthen my arms and wrists for Eight Angle. We held ourselves up in Elephant for 20 seconds today.

June 27, 2022, 11:30am to 4:00pm - class 1304 with Breanna Brown - It's Day 4 and the midway mark of the Miami Yoga Bootcamp. The base of my spine is still feeling the effects of my overzealous backbending on Saturday. Drills included various handstand exercises using props. Breanna mentioned something about pressing up rather than kicking into the headstand or handstand. I think I found my abdominal muscles in my headstand because I experienced the uncanny feeling of effortlessly floating my legs over my head. We did more handstand and leg over head practice that culminated in Eight Angle in the afternoon class. We also practiced Mary Jarvis balance beam exercises.

June 28, 2022, 7:00am to 12:30pm - class 1305 with Breanna Brown - Day 5 of Miami Yoga Bootcamp. An early start. Unfortunately, I had to teach a class in between the sessions, so I missed the tail end of the first class and the start of the next. Thankfully, I have access to recordings of each class for later review. Our group of eight has shrunk to five. "Suck your stomach in!" Breanna said to me at several points during our training. I didn't want to admit that I really am sucking my stomach in. At 54, I will always look like I'm not sucking it in! I still can't do a legitimate handstand yet, so Breanna suggested I start by pressing my scapulae against the wall and kicking up. I still can't touch the wall with my feet yet. We dissected the parts of Eight Angle; Breanna teaches a very different way to enter the pose than the way I learned it from Tony Sanchez*. There's a lot more risk involved with getting your leg up in Elephant pose first and all the extra energy to keep yourself lifted before you even get into the maximum expression of the pose seems like an inefficient use of energy, especially if you have one or two more poses after this in your championship routine. However, the entry of this version of Eight Angle does look very pretty when done right and serves as a building block to Om, which we will work on next.

* Tony Sanchez was Bikram Choudhury's best friend and "right hand man" for many years when Bikram first started his teacher trainings. Back then, Bikram and Tony used to practice yoga for many hours together each day. Since Tony won the IYSF World Championship in 1994 and 1996, I have great faith that Tony's versions of the poses are just as valid as any other version in the championships.

June 28, 2022, 9:00am - Bikram 90 - Many students don't have Toe Stand in their practice, so if you have an entire class doing Tree in the second set, it's best to break down the elements in Tree so that everyone fully understands the "why" of what they are doing. "Let's dissect Tree," I said. "It's not about getting into the pose quickly and freezing like a statue. It's about learning how to balance on your foot every step of the way. First, you lift your foot off the ground, hold it with your other hand, and stand up straight. That's your first balance point. Next, you place one hand up in prayer. That's your second balance point. Next, you place both hands together in prayer. That's your third balance point. Lastly, you stretch your spine up towards the ceiling. That's your fourth balance point. You're testing your balance in each of these different poses that all represent Tree. Your Tree will be different than your neighbor's Tree, but they're all Tree." Some people believe that a good yoga teacher simply recites the dialog and gets out of the way so you can do the poses. My belief is a good teacher teaches you something new about the poses every time you go to class. To me, it's quite torturous to hear the same dialog over and over again without a correction or two every now and again. If you don't correct, then everyones assumes they're doing it all right when they may not be. They might feel a temporary sense of satisfaction, but, years later, they will feel cheated that they didn't get the necessary corrections to help them improve their yoga over time. "I like the advice you give in class. It's very helpful," one of my students said today. Another student, an older gentleman, surprised me with his flexibility. Typically, a lot of male bodies cannot do Spine Twist very well, but he did a good one.

June 28, 2022, 6:00pm - Bikram 60 - Even in a 60-minute class, I find myself teaching lots of alignment cues. I just speak a lot faster. Whoa, she just did Standing Separate Leg Head to Knee in an alternate bind just like I do! Whoa, another lady just did Toe Stand without touching her hands to the floor like I do! You see a lot of amazing things in an express class. I love the energy in them.

Like Jedi Fight Club, the training philosophy at Miami Yoga Bootcamp centers around extreme conditioning. Other training philosophies include extreme repetition, as Coach Suzanne Elliott prescribes, or extreme preparation, such as what I do when I practice floor postures on hard floors to get my body used to the pain. Perhaps a highly successful yogasana competitor adheres to some of all three. I tend to believe that extreme conditioning can often lead to fatigue and injury and extreme repetition can lead to monotony and complacency. Of course, extreme preparation has its issues as well. This is why I combine my extreme preparation philosophy with stretching and conditioning exercises and creative visualization to practice my routine. I noticed that the work we did in our drills and yoga classes kind of melded into one another. What would start as a yoga class ended up as additional practice of the drill exercises. This is why I counted all of the sessions as one big class with a short break in between rather than two separate classes.

June 29, 2022, 11:30am to 4:00pm - class 1306 with Breanna Brown - Day 6 of Miami Yoga Bootcamp. Two hours of drills and a two-hour 84 Asanas class to total four hours of training today. I will never know what compelled all of us to agree to three sets of eight wall-walks and three sets of palmstands against the wall for one minute or longer as just a warm-up exercise! Not eating much or anything before the long training sessions can make your body feel loopy and depleted. Feeling the effects of the intense training, I didn't backbend as far as I could today. I was basically saved by the bell in the 84 Asanas class when the studio's video feed stalled and I couldn't see what everyone was doing. I had to rely on my memory of the poses, but when you're exhausted, it's difficult to remember every detail. I couldn't even get my arms through my folded lotus legs in Fetal Lotus pose, a normally easy pose for me. Just like the previous five days, I've been lying in Savasana for at least twenty minutes after class. The takeaway from all of this is we get to catch a glimpse of how hard Breanna trains for competition. It's wonderful to see that she's a nice, down-to-earth person who doesn't have an emaciated body like many yogasana athletes, but she's also tough coach who tells it like it is. No doubt she learned this from her time with Esak Garcia.

June 30, 2022, 6:00am - Bikram 90 - Happiness is... a full class of eight students at 6am. The new students followed along with the experienced regulars. Some felt depleted halfway into the class. "Some people think yoga is all about meditation and sitting still, but this is physical yoga. It's hard. Every posture works different parts of your body and are designed to improve your strength, balance, and flexibility," I said. It was good that they sat and rested when they felt tired or dizzy because part of the class is about learning how to deal with the heat, or what I call heat management. You can get into a fight or flight mode in the heat, but you always want to stay safe. "Killing yourself," as Bikram says, is not about pushing yourself over the edge in your yoga, but about testing your limits. What you can do today will be different than what you can do tomorrow or the next day. Learning to accept yourself as you are each day is one of the most important lessons in yoga.

June 30, 2022, 2:30pm to 4:30pm - class 1307 with Breanna Brown - Day 7 of Miami Yoga Bootcamp. Our class on the last day of the bootcamp was a combination drills and yoga class. We did handstands, Compass, Leg Over Head, and Mary Jarvis bar work as part of our e84-style class. Comparing this experience to Jedi Fight Club, it's similar yet different. It's certainly equally challenging, perhaps more so. Even though I attended this bootcamp virtually, it was still quite a challenge and Breanna kept me on my toes as she watched me and others like a hawk. Even though I still can't do a proper handstand, the exercises I practiced have enabled me to find more confidence in attempting to do these kinds of poses. The Leg Over Head exercises gave me useful insights on leg placement and body part mechanics to decrease any aggravation in my joints. We got to practice Elephant, Eight Angle, Compass, Sleeping Yogi, and other Leg Over Head poses. The handstand work will develop your arms and shoulders very rapidly. By the end of bootcamp, your muscles will be rock hard solid. Lift your arms up horizontally and you will see immediate development, the fruits of your labor from the week. If you are into intensive training, then you will certainly find the challenges you seek here and I highly recommend it for all you Type A personalities. I feel a sense of relief that training is over because I haven't been sleeping or eating well the past week. A smoothie in the morning or in between classes and a full meal at the end of the day doesn't work for me. I feel really depleted with so little food. My meal philosophy has always been two meals of equal size every day and that's what I'll do to prepare for the championship. Reviewing my videos from last year's national championship, my body was in elite shape and I was damn impressive. I hope to be excellent like that again.

July 1, 2022, 9:00am - Bikram 90 - "Thank you! That was a great class!" one of my students said at the end of class. She loved my alignment cues. I always make sure I give enough alignment cues so that everyone has a chance to try something. I never assume that everyone knows the words to the class. When you do that, you get complacent with your job. You assume everyone knows what to do and you risk having the newbie do something not quite right or nothing at all. I feel that many teachers would rather have a student do nothing rather than something "to keep them safe," however, you have to look at all of this from a student's perspective and the only way you will know how a student truly feels is if you are a perpetual student yourself. As a student, I want to get my money's worth because $20 to $30 is a lot of money for a single class. I want to make sure that I'm doing something when everyone else is doing something, so if a teacher doesn't give me an alternate way to do a posture that's inaccessible to me, I feel as if I'm not getting my money's worth. If you just tell the class, "go ahead and get into the posture," that's not helping the newbies. Every time you do this, these people will feel as if you are stealing $1 from them, because the class is costing them about $1 a posture. How would you feel if someone was stealing $1 from you several times in class? Give your students their money's worth. I always do.

July 2, 2022, 10:00am - class 1308 with Kaitlin McKendrick - 132.4 today. I forgot my water bottle, but it was a good experiment to see if the need for water in class is just psychological. Typically, after Eagle, I press the mouth of my water bottle onto my forehead to cool myself down. I try not to drink water in class because it upsets my belly during the inversion postures. After class, I practiced Full Spine Twist. I was able to grab my knee with my hand, but I couldn't wrap my other arm around my torso. I could also wrap my arm around my torso, but not grab my knee with the other hand. One or the other, but not both. Doing just this would score me about as much as I would normally get in Spine Twist, maybe a smidge more. There are still a few more weeks to prepare. I've progressed amazingly well in a posture that less than 1% of all practicing yogis can do.

Perhaps the real secret to making a 60-minute class feel like a 90-minute class is to push yourself to the point of exhaustion in every posture and not touch any water for the entire duration of the class. Towards the end of class, you will probably feel like curling up into a ball and dying, but, if you can survive, then you've pushed yourself just as hard as you would have in a 90-minute class. This, of course, assumes you already push yourself to the point of exhaustion in a 90-minute class. I know when you've pushed yourself to your maximum when I see that steady stream of sweat pouring out of your head and hitting the back of your front heel as you come up in Standing Separate Leg Head to Knee. I've only ever seen a small handful of students achieve this. Most people take the 60-minute class because it's shorter, so there is less emphasis on holding a posture for the proper duration and a greater chance of resting and skipping a posture without anyone noticing. You get to be more of a fly on the wall in a 60-minute class because the teacher is concerned with ensuring that the class finishes on time. The onus is on you to do every posture. It takes a disciplined mind to complete everything in a 60-minute class to the point of exhaustion. This is why the 60-minute class is considered an advanced class. It is actually for people who do their yoga well.

One of the salient points about yogasana competition I haven't brought to my readers' attention is the execution score column on the scoring table. The execution score is your overall score for how close to perfect your postures are. If your score is 80% or higher, you are doing postures that are in line with your abilities. If your score is lower than 80%, you are probably doing postures that are at a higher level of difficulty than you should be doing. Your final ranking is not affected by this score. It is just for your reference. I'm usually ranked in the top three in this category, meaning I'm doing postures extremely well and within the parameters of my abilities. Scoring high in your final ranking is about choosing a routine that showcases your strengths and allows you to take some risks to score higher. There has to be a flow between the postures. You cannot alternate between standing and sitting postures in your sequence because you will consume too much time and energy between the postures. Your sequence should tell a story that flows smoothly from beginning to end.

July 4, 2022, 9:30am - Bikram 75 - A yoga teacher can ask for nothing more than a packed class full of dedicated students on a weekend holiday that is known more for gluttony and sloth than for fitness and health. Fourteen students devoted their energy into a bonafide Bikram class. As many of you know, it doesn't matter if you take my 60-minute, 75-minute, or 90-minute class, because they all feel like 90-minutes after you're done. You get alignment cues from a USA Yoga coach who practices yoga every single day. I feel so blessed to have taught this class today. From the first-timers to the advanced students, everyone gave it their best effort.

July 5, 2022, 9:00am - Bikram 90 - "Stretch up to the ceiling with intention, like you're shooting a cosmic beam of energy out your fingertips," I said to one of my students. The idea with Triangle is to feel a stretch across your chest as you try to lengthen both arms in opposite directions. "Take a peek at your side body and note how narrow you can get if you keep stretching your arms apart," I said. Turning and twisting your body "like in Spine Twist" is only a valid correction if the arms are not yet perpendicular from the side view, that is, the narrow view you can only see from the front mirror or a teacher can see. Thus, first you need to balance on your legs and then you use your strength to pull your arms apart and create flexibility. I recommend trying to look at your body in the side and front mirrors to check your angles and test your balance. The arm aiming towards the ceiling should be perpendicular to the floor from the front and the side. The palm should be facing the side mirror.

July 5, 2022, 6:00pm - class 1309 with Kaitlin McKendrick - 133.5 today. There was a marvelous energy in the room as all five of us pushed ourselves and each other through the grueling heat. One of the ladies standing behind me was at least as flexible as I am and had a really strong practice. I felt the cold water drip after the first set of Standing Separate Leg Head to Knee, which was unusual. While I can't explain this phenomenon scientifically - perhaps because maybe only a handful of people have ever experienced this - I believe it might be what happens right before your body shuts down and you're fighting to stay alert.

July 7, 2022, 6:00am - Bikram 90 - A new student joined my class today. She had not practiced hot yoga since before the pandemic, but she was keeping up with the rest of the class just fine. It's like learning to ride a bike. Once you know it, you know it, and she did a beautiful Standing Bow with great poise and confidence.

July 7, 2022, 9:30am - class 1310 with Kaitlin McKendrick - 133.7 today. It was hella humid, but no matter. The six of us pushed ourselves through and competed our class like bosses. In between the first and second combo set of Standing Separate Leg Stretching, Triangle, and Standing Separate Leg Head to Knee, I did the Dr. Claudio Gil Araújo squat without the use of hands and came right back up. That was my "rest" in between sets. For the rest of the standing postures, every time I felt like I was about to go down, I just laughed it off and continued. I must've looked a little crazy in class, but no matter. Sometimes you just have to face your obstacles head on and just laugh at them.

July 8, 2022, 9:00am - Bikram 90 - 133.3 today. One of my therapeutic yoga students took my Bikram class today and was very grateful to have taken my class. One of the owners took my class and said it was the best class he's ever taken. What makes my class special? I teach more than the dialog. Yes, I can recite the dialog like everyone else, but I also add my experience to all of it. Without experience - the right kind of experience - a student will never learn how a teacher's instructions can apply to them. They may be able to do a halfway decent posture, but what does every posture truly do? What can it do for them? Although you might not think this is something you should or can teach your students, you really can and that will make your classes special.

July 9, 2022, 10:00am - Bikram 60 - Do you teach at any other times? Normally, you like to hear that as a yoga teacher because you know the student likes your teaching methods and wants to take more classes with you. Only at 6am? Oh... Normally, you don't like to hear that because you would've gotten a repeat student had the time been different. That's what everyone said today: "6am? Oh..." That means they won't come. I've learned that it takes a special type of student to go to a 6am class. It has to fit into your schedule and you have to be ready for it, because 6am yoga is no joke. It can be the most grueling thing on earth and can bring you to your knees. It takes a dedicated teacher as well, because most teachers would never want to teach at 6am, let alone take a class at 6am. It's just too difficult for most teachers to fit into their schedules. To do 6am yoga, you have to go to sleep early every night and wake up at 5am to get ready for class. Teachers have to wake up earlier than that, so they can prepare the studio for class. It's truly a commitment.

"What the hell kind of sorcery is she teaching us?" is sometimes the kind of look I get in class when I teach something new that my students have never tried or done. You must realize that no matter how often you practice - me included - there will always be someone who knows something or who has developed experience in something that might be beneficial to you, so to close your mind off from new possibilities is never a good thing. Accept that there will always be people who will think intensely about something and draw valid conclusions based on their knowledge and experiences. That's how science is done and how we grow as a society. We hypothesize, experiment, and, when we can get consistent results and applicability across different bodies, then we know that what we say is true.

July 12, 2022, 9:00am - Bikram 90 - I taught a new student to point her toes inward in Fixed Firm. The insides of your feet should be touching your hips. You can keep your knees spread apart, but once you are comfortable touching your hips to your mat, begin bringing the knees closer together. My kids liked the Sushi Rice I brought home from Mom's Organic Market. One serving fed all of us.

July 12, 2022, 6:00pm - class 1311 with Cat Long - 132.6 today. I couldn't do Kapalabhati in Root today, because I tweaked my knee over the weekend practicing Full Spine Twist. That same tweak prevented me from getting my hands in prayer in Toe Stand.

July 14, 2022, 6:00am - Bikram 90 - "The secret to a deeper backbend is to lengthen up as much as you can before you begin backbending," I said in class. "Stretch your fingers up to the sky, keep stretching beyond your fingertips, and then backbend. Look behind you. Keep your legs straight, root your heels into the ground, and push your hips and thighs forward with all your might. Keep trying to look towards the floor behind you. Keep stretching beyond your fingertips and touch what you can see. Keep aiming your fingertips lower and lower and try to point to the ground."

July 14, 2022, 5:30pm - class 1312 with Kaitlin McKendrick - 132.9 today. The humidity made class really tough today, but I managed to push through it. Unfortunately, getting up after class posed a great challenge. Sitting up, I felt dizzy and the need to lay back down again. I did this five times before I finally mustered up enough strength to stand up. Nothing in the class was too unusual. I had hit a peak of 166bpm in several prior classes. The temperature wasn't too outrageous. Something just depleted me. I must've pushed myself a little harder here and there and that drained my energy.

July 15, 2022, 9:00am - Bikram 90 - The reasoning behind not demonstrating postures while teaching a Bikram yoga class is you're supposed to be studying your students at all times, examining their poses and providing alignment instructions to help them achieve their best poses. While I agree somewhat with this philosophy, the truth is many teachers don't even look at their students. They let their most experienced students do their own thing, recite the dialog, and ignore the newbies with the belief that not correcting the newbies' bad ways is better than correcting them for fear that they will not return to their class again. As an experienced teacher, I never fear this. I don't teach Bikram yoga to be loved. I teach it because I want everyone to achieve their best alignment, to get the most out of their poses and my class, and to enjoy healthier lives. It's cool when I see regulars signing up for my classes because they know what I'm about. No frills, no fluff, just the tough stuff... because Bikram yoga is hard... and the hard way is the good way.

July 16, 2022, 8:00am - class 1313 with Kaitlin McKendrick - 132.2 today. There are many options for Bikram yoga in or near Philadelphia, but the reason why I keep gravitating to The Bridge is the sunny studio and the amazing teachers. Most hot yoga studios are dark and murky. This one is bright and cheerful. The teachers here have years of experience and always take time to posture correct the newbies. I had to be extra careful with my knees today. As luck would have it, I banged my good knee into the wall a couple of times over the past few days and now it seems to be in a worse condition than the knee I tweaked while practicing Full Spine Twist. I also banged my right elbow in the dark the other day and now it is noticeably weaker than my left. I feel as if I am experiencing déjà vu as typically I have one good joint out of four when I compete in the championships.

July 17, 2022, 8:00am - class 1314 with Cat Long - 132.0 today. I practiced Eight Angle before class. Even with my bad right elbow, I got into the pose and noticed how easy it was to drop my right shoulder down to get both shoulders in one line. Holy Ganesha, is that all there is to it? If I had just practiced in front of a mirror all this time, I could've just done this and stop losing half a point every time? Class was slow and steady and I achieved a peak of 154bpm, much less than the crazy high bpm from a few days ago when it was super hot and humid outside. I sat in Root during Kapalabhati, but I favored my left side because my right knee felt like it was about to pop. I'm asymmetrical in Root at the moment. Hopefully, everything will correct itself within the next two weeks.

July 19, 2022, 9:00am - Bikram 90 - A new student attended class today. He was a former wrestler with a huge upper body. Unfortunately, his various shoulder and knee surgeries and injuries left him with limited mobility. "Before COVID, I could do all those things, like backbends and Triangle," he said. I could tell that his injuries frustrated him. "Don't worry," I assured him. "If you keep doing this, your mobility will return." I gave him some alignment pointers to help him with Standing Separate Leg Head to Knee and got him to try Fish instead of Fixed Firm, since he had tight hips and bad knees. "The idea of Fish and Fixed Firm is to get that little preparatory backbend in before Camel," I said. One of my favorite students was in my class today. She did a tremendous backbend and Standing Bow. I got her hips to come down more in Half-Tortoise. I did the correction Sandy used to always do to me to get my hips to come down completely. "You've got a lot of room there in your lumbar spine, so I know you can come down all the way," I said.

Sometimes you have to do things hundreds of times before you finally realize that the right way was well within your reach all along. That's how I feel about Eight Angle. I mistakenly thought for the longest time that shoulders parallel to the floor was inaccessible to me, but now I can do it again and again. Just get into the pose and drop the nondominant shoulder down. Perhaps my shoulders are stronger now after two Jedi Fight Club-style week-long trainings, but I doubt it. There was something in my brain that told me I couldn't do it until, one day, I just could. This is exactly what I see in a lot of my students' poses. I know when they can do better and I just help them over that psychological hump so they can do it.

July 19, 2022, 6:00pm - Bikram 60 - It was dangerously hot outside, so I had to manage the temperature of the room by judiciously cracking open the front and back doors at various times. My students appreciated that. I kept the room at exactly 105.

July 20, 2022, 5:30pm - Bikram 90 - It was even hotter outside today than yesterday, so I had to manage the temperature of the room again as I didn't want any of my students feeling nauseous or passing out. Heat is a good thing, but too much heat is never good. One student looked like she was being very conservative with her practice. "Would you like to try getting into a deeper Camel?" I offered, to which she agreed. She went back a little and then came up again. "At one time, I could go deep in my backbends," she admitted. She admitted that previously she may have been doing her backbends a little dangerously, dumping everything into her lower back. "The secret to a good backbend is to always lengthen your spine first before you backbend. You might not be able to get a deeper backbend at first doing this method, but you'll stay safe and be able to practice this yoga forever," I said.

Morning championship routine practice was baby steps as I wanted to find out where I was at after a three-day rest from yoga practice. I am quite certain I damaged the integrity of my knees by practicing Full Spine Twist over the past few weeks. At one point, I could barely walk and needed frequent breaks to sit down. I felt weak overall this morning. I didn't have much energy since I didn't eat anything yet. Evening championship routine practice was much better. I could bring my shoulders level in Eight Angle. My Spine Twist and Archer looks really good. My body looks symmetrical in Root.

July 21, 2022, 6:00am - Bikram 90 - 131.7 today. Every runner, golfer, racket sports athlete, and martial artist I've encountered has wonderful posture when performing their sport, but also very tight hips, so when it comes time to practice Half-Tortoise, I notice that very seldom do they touch their hips to their heels. The interesting thing is they all have more than enough space along their spine to enable them to touch their hips to their heels. The big problem is they've been conditioned to keep their spine erect all their lives, so much so that it seems unnatural to curve their spine any amount. When I push their hips down and remove my hands, most have the ability to keep their hips on their heels. It's as if their muscle memory is what's hindering their ability to get into their deepest poses in the first place. There is no doubt that you can gain many benefits from learning, and being very good at another sports discipline, but just like anything else in life, keep an open mind when you are practicing yoga because you might surprise yourself with how flexible you really are.

Morning championship routine practice was better than yesterday. I felt stronger today and there were glimpses of my championship form.

July 21, 2022, 5:30pm - class 1315 with Kaitlin McKendrick - Today was one of the hottest days in recent memory, so I expected to feel dizzy at some point in class, but I didn't. I just kept going from beginning to end. "There is no tomorrow!" I kept saying to myself whenever I felt like I was about to tap out of a posture. Just do it... just fucking do it... because if you don't, you're going to regret it for the rest of your life! At the end of class, I did Kapalabhati in Root. When you do Kapalabhati in Root, every sharp exhale causes your pelvis to rhythmically push the ankles into the mat, increasing their flexibility over time. My knees were feeling it here and in Fixed Firm. I will forego evening championship routine practice this evening as I feel I did a good job with Root.

July 22, 2022, 9:00am - Bikram 90 - 130.9 today. Five students, including one from California who has taken classes by the great Bikram teachers, including Craig Valanni (Craig was a teacher Chris Fluck frequently mentioned in his classes). "Is it necessary to bring your arms and elbows up in Pranayama?" he asked after class. "No," I replied, "there are many teachers, such as Tony Sanchez, who don't even bring their elbows up more than parallel to the arms. It's not necessary. It looks nice, but it's really a nice preparatory stretch for the postures later on in class. Think about how every backbend is followed by a forward bend in class. The arms raising up is a tremendous backbend of the wrist when the elbows are up high. To counteract, we have the arms and wrists straight in Half Moon and Awkward and then a forward bend of the nondominant hand's wrist when we go into Eagle. You get a backbend of the wrist followed by the eventual forward bend of the wrist in this "warm-up series."

July 23, 2022, 8:00am - class 1315 with Kaitlin McKendrick - 130.1 today. The heat hit me today and I sat down in Standing Separate Leg Stretching. Not wanting to just relax, I did similar as well as more difficult poses while on the ground: Separate Leg Stretching and Pigeon. Hopefully, I'm on the tail end of my knee recovery. When I press on my knee, I hear and feel crackles, which are most likely crepitus. I was able to do Locust in Lotus, Kapalabhati in Root, Extended Bound Side Angle in Triangle, and alternate grips in Standing Separate Leg Head to Knee and Spine Twist.

One of the things I learned on my pilgrimage to 14 different temples and mosques in India was how to live modestly and make the most out of situations where there were little to no creature comforts of home. We learned economy of movement, because if you moved around too much in the sweltering 90 to 100 degree heat, you would feel dizzy and fatigued. Don't take unnecessary steps and don't move when you don't need to. When you see my championship routine, it is the living embodiment of that philosophy. This is why it is the most precise and compact routine among all the competitors. Short, simple, and sweet, but also smooth, vibrant, and beautiful to watch. It embodies all that is yoga and India and also flows like any good story or dance routine. I've worked really hard to make it look easy to do.

Why I Never Listen to Health Nuts

I have met many people from all walks of life who have told me that I should do this or that in order to be more healthy, but when I look at them, I see fat, unhealthy people trying to tell a person who is more healthy than they are what to do. This doesn't sit well with me. One person chastised me for drinking too much Pepsi and I told him I drink juice as well. He said that that was equally as bad with all the sugars in juices these days. I asked him what he drank and he replied water. Water?! I looked at him as if were an alien that dropped out of the sky. Then why is he still fat? And why does he feel he knows so much about health when he's not healthy himself? This is not an isolated example. When I go to any so-called expert trying to sell health products and am measured on a variety of devices, they expect to sell stuff to unhealthy people, so when they meet me, they really can't bullshit me because the numbers on their devices don't lie. It's funny when they try to bullshit me and I reply, "So, do you use this stuff, too?" because if they did, and if I were a mean girl, I'd tell them that it's not working for them!

I don't listen to health nuts, health fanatics, or even health enthusiasts. I listen to what I know and what works best for me. I know that what works best for me isn't necessarily going to work for anyone else because very few people strive to be an elite athlete. Sure, a lot of people say they want to be thin with a low bodyfat percentage, but few have the motivation to do so. I have had dozens of women come up to me privately and say, "I wish I looked like you," but, trust me, it's hard for even me to look like me without dedication to my craft. Motivation to be the best and dedication towards achieving your goals are the keys to your success. If you are sitting there and mulling over my words, you've already wasted enough time. Just go out there and do it! Drink your Pepsi. Drink your juice. Eat whatever you want. Just be willing to work your butt off to be great. Don't be afraid to be great.

July 24, 2022, 8:00am - class 1316 with Kaitlin McKendrick - 130.4 today. During the floor series Savasanas, whenever I feel the heat getting to me, I put a hand towel over my face to force myself to account for my breathing. When you are in a dire situation, sometimes you don't focus on the important things. By covering your face and limiting your ability to breathe, you force yourself to calm down and focus on your breathing. After five long breaths under the towel, removing the towel so you can fully breathe makes you appreciate your breathing so much more. You will feel a renewed energy and a newfound ability to continue on to the next posture.

July 24, 2022, 3:00pm - USA Yoga Workshop "Therapeutic Yoga Workshop with Rajashree Choudhury" - Like Bruce Merkle's and Keri Palasz's workshops, this was a very different workshop than many of the USA Yoga workshops I've attended. We practiced different breathing and stretching exercises, self-awareness, and techniques for helping us be more present in the moment. "Effortless breathing is asana," Rajashree said. She talked about how our bodies change over time. "What I could do at 20, I know I cannot do at 60 and I have to accept that, but I can feel the same energy and balance," she said. She led us through a guided meditation and also discussed the chakra system.

I dare say that the Seniors (50+) category is quite possibly the most intriguing category in the USA Yoga National Championship and I'm not saying that just because I'm in it. Some people might erroneously think that doing well here is a walk in the park, but it's not. While the average score of all its competitors may be lower than the more popular 18-49 category, you have many seasoned professionals in this category, people who were once fierce competitors formerly in the 18-49 category. The more you watch these Seniors compete, the more you realize that most people at 50+ cannot do anything that these Seniors can do. People get old, lazy, and fat. Most lose their strength, flexibility, and balance as early as 30. Some will reminisce of their youth when they could do amazing physical things, but here's the thing... these Seniors are still doing these things! And sometimes better than most people their age or any age! You want to talk about competitive fire and spirit, sure, you get that in the 18-49 category, but the real stuff is in the Seniors category where most people would've lost that competitive fire and spirit long ago. Once a person has endured the trials and tribulations of life, that often changes his or her body. The fact that there are people who still have that competitive fire and spirit at 50+ is a sight to behold and that's why this category is more amazing than any other. Watch it closely.

The Government of India released an image purporting to show the dangers of eating too much junk food versus healthy fruits and vegetables. I modified the image to show a third option. It's a shame that the very place where yoga started has somehow lost its way. There is a common belief that people just get enormously fat after they get married and turn 40. The same holds true here in America. It doesn't have to be that way. You can be athletically thin like me at 54 and look like the third option and you don't have to limit your diet to rabbit food.

I will soon be releasing my championship practice techniques for how I practice while taking a 90-minute Bikram class. Stay tuned!

July 25, 2022, 9:30am - class 1317 with Kaitlin McKendrick - 131.7 today. This morning was a little hard. A bout with blood in my stool from stress. Dizziness, labored breathing, and 150bpm heart rate 20 minutes after morning yoga class isn't good. Nobody ever likes to talk about these things, but some of us athletes go through the same fears and anxieties as everyone else. We just find a way to hide it well. Overall. training is going well. My knee is getting better and I'm feeling stronger each day, but this year I don't have any of my senior teachers to talk to. They all passed away. I had a good class today. I could touch my forehead to my knee in Standing Head to Knee and Standing Bow was achievable. The rest of my practice looked good as well. I practiced Shoulderstand Lotus, Archer, and Eight Angle after class.

If I see myself in a mirror, I can correct my shoulders in Eight Angle without a problem. The challenge is to do so without a mirror. Can I do it before the semi-finals on Friday?

July 26, 2022, 9:00am - Bikram 90 - 131.7 today. Summer classes typically have light attendance. Sometimes we teach small classes of one to four students. It's still a class, but a very specialized class where students can ask questions and we give them very specific knowledge that helps them get the most out of their poses. "I don't really feel it in my upper back," said my student in Locust. I assisted him in feeling more of the goal of the posture by lifting his legs up higher and encouraging him to maintain that height on his own. By doing so, he could now begin to feel the muscle engagement move from his glutes up his spine towards his upper back, where he's supposed to feel it. The dialog does say to raise the legs at least 45 degrees. Once you exceed 45 degrees, you will start to feel the upper back muscle engagement.

One USA Yoga coach recommends rote repetition to get your routine permanently ingrained into your body. I do agree with this approach somewhat, but you do not always have to do repetitions physically. Sometimes mental repetitions can prepare you just as well as physical repetitions. This is how I won my sushi competition years ago. To the surprise of many of my fans at the competition, I had never physically created the sushi I made at the competition. I just knew they would turn out well, because I went through every step of the process in my head dozens of times each day until I could do the movements in my sleep. This is how I train for the yogasana championship, with a combination of physical and mental repetitions. If you do this all correctly, both will complement each other. The dangers in doing too much physical repetition is fatigue and boredom. Once those set in, doing your routine will feel like a chore rather than something enjoyable.

July 26, 2022, 6:00pm - class 1318 with Kaitlin McKendrick - I churned my way through the entire class. No rests. All but two of my postures looked textbook perfect.

July 27, 2022, 12:00pm - class 1319 with Justin Riley - 131.7 today. Class was briskly paced. I got through it with no issues. The lady practicing behind me was fantastic. It was a very different style of class than I was used to, since it had music, so I didn't sweat like crazy.

USA Yoga National Championship (July 28, 2022) - When I saw the 2022 USA Yoga National Championship program guide for the first time, I knew this was going to be a big deal. Held at the State Games of America in Ames, Iowa, 19 competitors were on the roster, five more than last year, including the return of some phenomenal yoginis who were medal winners before the pandemic. This was the level of competition I wanted to see. A medal must be earned, never guaranteed, and this was trial by fire.

I formed a "dream team" of the best photographer and videographer I knew. They saw firsthand what the competition was all about and all of the trials and tribulations on the road to a championship. This was not an easy time for me. I was stressed for weeks, but didn't show it. I'm normally a rock. But when I saw how close the other competitors' regionals scores were to mine, my heart raced.

"I could lose in the semi-finals!" I said to myself. I didn't want to. That's why I prepared myself the way I did. I prepared for several hours each day, loosening up or strengthening some part of my body, improving my body awareness, rehabbing injuries, eating right, and working on my breathing.

When we landed in Des Moines, my first goal was to get food. Many reviews said that pork tenderloin is a big thing in Iowa and Smitty's has one of the best pork tenderloin sandwiches in the state. The mixture of seasonings (ketchup, mustard, pickles, and onions) tasted great with the breaded pork, but the rest of it had no real flavor whatsoever. I can't say it was bad, because it wasn't. It just wasn't the amazing thing I expected.

Throughout the day, my hormone levels were out of whack and my emotions rose and fell like a rollercoaster. Self-doubt set in. What if I'm not good enough? If you think this is easy for any yogasana competitor, think again. We are human beings like anyone else. No matter how much we prepare, we will always wonder whether or not we are good enough.

Our suite was nice, but lacked the stellar view of the river we had last year. One good thing about our hotel was that it was in the middle of nowhere, so there were no distractions. It was 3pm and the pork tenderloin would hold us over for the rest of the day.

Time to get to work. For seven hours, I worked on strength and flexibility exercises on the hour, every hour, along with two-pose sequences followed by my complete routine. My team and I took one break in between to venture out to the Hi-Vee for dinner options. I got to a point of flexibility where my thighs were perpendicular in Rabbit. That was the goal. Your first posture paves the way for the rest of your routine. It has to pack a punch. I worked on the entries of all my postures, never practicing each one in full. Too much repetitive practice will lead to fatigue and even disdain for a posture. I sought a gentler approach to my practice. A smooth entry almost guarantees that the posture will end up looking good.

USA Yoga National Championship Semi-Finals (July 29, 2022) - I started the morning with preliminary stretches and a quick 26+2 practice. You can actually do one set of slightly modified versions of all the postures in a few minutes. For certain people in specific circumstances, this might be beneficial. I ended my morning routine practice with Eight Angle. My first Rabbit in the morning did not have perpendicular thighs. Over the course of the day, my Rabbit got deeper and deeper. It looked like my Rabbit.

After the semi-final round, I felt I had escaped with a top ten ranking by the skin of my teeth. I watched the first two competitors take the stage and felt a sinking feeling in my belly because they were really good. Holy shit, I didn't want to watch anyone else after those two for fear of psyching myself out. I went to the practice area and worked on my flexibility exercises over and over. All these ladies flew all the way here not just to compete, but to put their best foot forward and win.

These were legitimate champions, each and every one. Every one of them could be number one in the right circumstances because the point totals were so close to one another. These were not ladies who took a break from their yoga during the pandemic. These were ladies who built themselves up into powerhouses… just like me.

I had to shake myself out of my stupor and refocus. It's a lot harder this year, but I could do this! I needed to calm myself, so I spoke my prayer again:

All that you know, all that you taught me is here in this fractured body.
All that I am is because of you, my teachers, my friends.
All that I do, I do to honor those of you who spent the time to fix me.
To make me be the best version of me. This is for you.
This is for you Sandy. This is for you Noelle. This is for you Joel. This is for you Dad.
Thank you all.

I started trembling. Tears started rolling down my cheeks.

I am not afraid to show my best in front of others.

I wiped away my tears. It was not the time to weep.

I am not afraid to inspire.
Let's get to work.

And with that said, I stood up. This was my moment to shine. “Are you ready?” the athlete ambassador, and stage director, asked me. I nodded. “Stand right here. That way you have a straight line to the steps.” The steps were close, but seemed so far away. You need nerves of steel to walk up on stage, demonstrate your postures, and have the harshest judges in America nitpick your every movement. A twitch, a muscle spasm, an extra breath… any are enough to warrant a deduction. Most people can't handle the pressure.

But Sandy and Joel made me bulletproof. All the times I made mistakes in class, all the times I fucked up and they let the class know I fucked up, all the times they physically corrected me in front of everyone as if I were some moldable clay that would do as they wanted, those are the moments when you realize that people like that picked on you for a reason. They didn't pick on some weak-willed person who might run off and never do yoga again. They picked on someone they knew who wanted not just to be better, but to be the best. They knew my physical limitations and they made me go beyond what I could normally do. They made me bulletproof.

I was good with sixth place. I know I could do better. I know the semi-finals are just an estimate of how everyone will do in the finals. The order can and will change. I learned that the hard way when I let my guard down at number 3 in the semi-finals and ended up number 4 in the finals last year. I won't let that happen again.

Many competitors surprised me by not making the top ten. Two were ranked above me in the Northeast Regionals two years ago. My fellow Jedis did not make the top ten. Other competitors were trained by coaches who had a lot more experience than I. They also did not make the top ten. Suzanne Elliott and Holly Raymond asked me if I would sign up for their yoga workshop the next day, but, unfortunately, my available funds were depleted from the trip, so I couldn't do it.

Both coaches, Suzanne Elliott and Kim Tang, have done a superior job with their athletes. Kim has her legions of fans and followers. Her athletes are always well-prepared. Suzanne appears to concentrate on a single protégé in Holly Raymond and her choice may well be cemented at the top of the 18-49 division for many years to come.

2022 Rabbit Shoulderstand Lotus Spine Twist Archer Eight Angle Root Final Score
National Semi-Finals Scores (6th place) 8.8 7.7 8.2 8.1 7.6 7.1 29.730

We had dinner at Culver's, a fast food burger and frozen custard restaurant that serves "fresh, not frozen meat." It seems to be what Wendy's strives to be. The burger was delicious and the buttered, toasted bun was a welcome change to the bland food served at most fast food restaurants.

USA Yoga National Championship (July 30, 2022) - We visited Pappajohn Sculpture Park where we took pictures of the various statues by famous artists, such as Mark Di Suvero and Robert Indiana. Later that afternoon, I was very sore from my prep work yesterday and today. Everything hurt... neck, right scapula, lower back, knees, wrists, and the list goes on. Even with the aches and pains, I continued to relentlessly train. I trained as if my whole life depended on it. When self-doubt would set in, I trained even harder. There was a moment during the day that distracted me, but I focused on the task at hand. The State Games of America is where elite athletes showcase their talent. I am honored to be a part of it. Hopefully, my muscles will be okay for tomorrow.

USA Yoga National Championship Finals (July 31, 2022) - I knew it would be a challenge to climb up the rankings. Yoko Jackson is a force to be reckoned with. A pre-pandemic superstar in the 50+ division, Yoko has the tools to rattle the 18-49 division. Jennifer Vanderhart and Nahoko Nakayama always find their way to the podium each year. Jennifer was a powerhouse in the 18-49 division not long ago and Nahoko is always a crowd favorite. Dominique Well was exceptional this year and showed excellent work in the semi-finals. Others whose names I didn't recognize also scared the daylights out of me as they ranked high in the semi-finals. Even tenth-ranked Donna Stallard is a force of nature. She walks onstage in the most unassuming way. She is slow and steady and makes time appear to stand still when you watch her routine. Do not be fooled. She is a master at work who finished fifth place last year. If you underestimate her, rest assured, she will beat you severely.

I had to go back to basics. I worked on my strength and flexibility exercises, entry and exit points, and breathing. Any time I felt I tired, I stopped and reminded myself that there is no tomorrow. I had to continue training. Relentless training. Thousands of Spine Rolls, Half-Tortoise Butterflies, Beach to Shoulderstand Lotus transitions, and other exercises to condition my spine. I said my prayer again and again. Each time, I developed more fortitude. I asked Lord Ganesha to remove any and all obstacles that would block my path towards my goal. I asked Lord Krishna to give me strength.

I am not afraid to show my best in front of others.

But this time, I said:

I am not afraid to shine.

I have a tanktop that says "Shine On." I didn't know what the hell that meant until the moment I was called up onstage. When it came time to perform my routine to the audience, I took my time. I didn't rush. Rushing can make you skip crucial steps worth fractions of points that could affect your rank. Most of these steps are undetectable to the untrained eye, but these judges look for these steps like a hawk. I had to move slowly, because my knees were shot. They hurt like hell and the sad truth is just before my first posture - Rabbit - I felt my knee give out as I lowered myself down. I tilted over to the right, but quickly regained my composure.

You want to talk about nerve-wracking... imagine all eyes are on you and it is dead silent in the room. The bright lights are on you. Everyone is waiting for you to do something. The moment you move, you are on the clock and you are judged. Your job is to make time stand still. Your job is to show perfection. Your job is to make the audience believe, even if for a brief moment, that they can do what you can do. If you can do that, you are not only a yoga champion, but a yogacharya, or yoga master.

My performance time was 2:38, about 30 seconds longer than my usual time. I wanted to make sure I didn't lose any points for timing, so I counted to eight on each pose and then I counted to eight again. Every posture I performed, I wanted to make it look as if I was moving through butter. I'm not as flexible as everyone else. I'm not as balanced as everyone else. I'm certainly not the strongest one there. But the synergy of what I have is truly amazing when it all comes together.

The six postures in each competitor's routine are supposed to demonstrate strength, flexibility, and balance, but I know that the contest is about more than just those three qualities. There are intangible qualities that you must demonstrate, too, and I believe that is where my strengths lie. There is stillness. Stillness is focus and calmness of the mind. There is flow. Flow is the connection between the postures and the path through the story that you tell with your routine. There is quality of breath. How you breathe reveals your strengths and weaknesses. Without these three very important qualities, the qualities of strength, flexibility, and balance do not make yoga. Yoga is all six of these qualities and more.

I beat very formidable challengers who ranked higher than me in the semi-finals. I could've caved in, but I didn't. I went to work conditioning my body on the hour, every hour. I worked around injuries and soreness. I reminded myself that rest time had to wait. My mission was to make my body a well-oiled machine.

I am proof that you are your own best teacher. I didn't have a fancy coach telling me what to do and I didn't have other athletes to train with. Us Dins have one very formidable trait among us and that is relentless willpower. You beat us down and we will get right back up. We won't stop until we are done. I promised myself I wouldn't let my guard down again by feeling complacent in the semi-finals and I didn't. I went to work. Whether I finished 1st or 10th, it didn't matter to me because I had proven that I could be in the same league with the best.

This is why 4th place feels sweeter this year than the last. I didn't achieve my medal like I had wanted, but I didn't have my secret weapon - Full Spine Twist - available to me. Once I get the mechanics of that posture down, I will be a very formidable competitor.

My friend Alison, a fellow Jedi and co-owner of the yoga ranch I did my Jedi Fight Club training at, also won 4th place in her division. I was the only Jedi who made it into the 50+ finals and the only Pennsylvanian in the top 10 in both the 18-49 and 50+ female divisions. I proved that a little girl from Brooklyn with no athletic ability can work hard to become the number 4 yogasana champion in the United States, two years in a row. Don't be afraid to be great.

2022 Rabbit Shoulderstand Lotus Spine Twist Archer Eight Angle Root Final Score
National Finals Scores (4th place) 8.4 7.6 8.2 8.0 7.2 7.0 29.040

We had dinner at Jethro's BBQ, a local chain that served heaping family platters, such as The Iowa Platter with four different meats, four sides, and your choice of Texas toast or cornbread muffins. Six different sauces provided ample variety for the most discerning palate. It was so good to eat this after the grueling few days that passed. We flew home the next day and all throughout the day I couldn't help but feel that I was part of something truly special. Even though my rank was the same as last year, it was against some fierce competitors who all upped their game. With the addition of several heavy hitters and battling through a myriad of injuries, that made my final rank feel all the more sweet.

While it is difficult to foresee what an 18-49 competitor would score when he or she enters the 50+ division, it is equally difficult to predict how the reverse situation would score. We all lose a little strength, flexibility, and balance as we age, but how much? We can run some statistics on this, but there isn't enough data yet, so I'm going to make an educated guess and say that all you need to do is subtract 5 points from an 18-49 competitor's highest score and that is likely the highest they will score as a 50+ competitor and add 5 points to a 50+ competitor's highest score and that's likely the highest they will score as an 18-49 competitor. We are talking about an age difference of at least ten years, so someone moving between the junior and senior divisions in just a few years will probably show a similar score in both divisions.

August 2, 2022, 9:00am - Bikram 90 - One of my students used to attend classes taught by my old mentor, Sandy Robin, for eight years before moving to the suburbs. She said she saw a lot of Sandy in me. "I remember Sandy used to tell us not to drop our bodies down until we could see our foot coming up over our head," she said in Standing Bow. Yes, Sandy taught old style Bikram, the way it was first taught, rather than the diluted stuff some of the youngsters teach today. In some ways, it's easier. In some ways, it's harder. It's all Bikram yoga.

August 2, 2022, 6:00pm - Bikram 60 - 129.7 pounds. I just saw something amazing. One of my students successfully did a textbook Camel. Two weeks ago, she didn't even attempt it until I encouraged her to do so. She said she felt better doing it recently and just tried it. Long ago, she did Camel like a champ. "Baby steps," she said with a smile.

August 4, 2022, 6:00am - Bikram 90 - One of my students returned after a two week break. He apologized for not being as flexible as he was prior to his vacation. Yoga class does not care if you are young or old, fat or thin, a beginner or a world champion. Yoga class is for everyone and we often create our own internal scripts for a what a class is all about even if the reality is not like that. A yoga class is what you make of it. This is why there are different levels of people attending the same class. A rank beginner might find solace in knowing that going to a weekly yoga class will help him or her breathe better. An advanced yogi might find joy in touching his feet to his or her head in Cobra. The important thing is to find happiness in what you are doing.

August 4, 2022, 5:30pm - Bikram 60 - A former Division 1 athlete attended my class today, but she had to be extra careful with the postures because she had back surgery. "You had that look like you really wanted to dive right into it, but you have to be careful," I said to her. Indeed, I never force anyone to do anything in my class. I make recommendations and you can choose to listen to or ignore them. It all depends on how easy or intense you want the class to be. Another student who appeared to be a seasoned practitioner tried all of the advanced cues and really pushed herself hard. She seemed very pleased with the class. A yoga class is what you make of it, as I said earlier in the day.

August 5, 2022, 9:00am - Bikram 90 - A class of six makes the little studio in Bryn Mawr feel full. Five ladies and one gentleman followed my instructions and survived what could possibly be one of their most challenging classes yet. Although it's never advertised that way, my classes are pretty hard. You will definitely get your money's worth by taking my class. You may not like me when it's all over, but it's undeniable that you will get a fantastic workout on every part of your body when you are done. In the end, you and everyone else will simply describe the experience as "amazing." After class, the studio's camera crew interviewed me for a promotional video. "That was brilliant. You should be a broadcaster on top of all the things you do," the studio owner said.

One week after the USA Yoga Nationals, I felt much better now than last week. Instead of tossing and turning and waking up in cold sweats thinking about my competition, my sleep was peaceful and quiet. Initially, it wasn't that way, however, as all the repetitive exercise had taken a toll on my body. I couldn't move very well for two days. All my muscles and joints felt tight and I walked with a slight limp, yet somehow I managed to teach a full week of classes fom Tuesday to Saturday. As exciting as the trip to Iowa was, it put a severe dent in my finances, so I took up a lot of extra work to try to make up for the loss. If I'm chosen for the world championship, I don't know how I'll go because it's an in-person event this year held in Switzerland.

August 6, 2022, 8:00am - Bikram 90 - 130.3 today. Perhaps the best compliment ever to a teacher: "I've been to many Bikram classes and you're the only one who speaks the entire dialog," a student said today. Its easy to teach the way I do if you've had three of the best teachers in the world guiding you. "Nobody ever says to tuck my chin to my chest in Rabbit. Is it in the dialog?," she asked. "It is," I said, pointing to the words in a copy of the Bikram dialog manual. "I always say it and you can trust me because I just finished the national championships with the best score in the world in Rabbit," I said with a sincere smile. Lots of cheers followed. Another student said that I looked in fantastic shape and that I must be super-healthy. My readers here will note that I'm not always super-healthy. I like having an off-season just like many professional athletes and enjoy all the wonderful foods in life, especially high-carb and high-dairy foods. "I love my ice cream and I love my Pepsi," I admitted to her, but only in the off-season. When push comes to shove, I can get my body to an elite level of conditioning. As more and more people are coming to realize, I always put my money where my mouth is. I teach this yoga because I believe in it and the proof that all this works is I practice what I preach.

August 6, 2022, 10:00am - Bikram 60 - Initially, only a handful of students signed up, but ten people suddenly appeared in the final minutes before class started. Everyone was stretching and bending like a champ and the body heat generated in the room caused the temperature to skyrocket upwards to 111. I had trouble knocking the temperature down to keep the heat manageable. At one point, I had the thermostat set to 73, but it still read 117. Opening the doors provided some relief. When we got to the Floor Series, the room started cooling down. One person thought it was too hot, but the rest of the class thought the room and the class felt amazing.

August 9, 2022, 9:00am - Bikram 90 - My knees are starting to feel better. I wore knee braces for a couple of days to take the stress off of my knee joints. I really did a number on my knees this year. I'll have to carefully consider what I need to do for future championship preparations.

Some people think that they can be yogis just because they've lived a "hard life." A hard life is when you don't even have a dollar a day to spend on food. In India, when we had to go to the restroom, we learned how to use the “toilets” there, which were basically stepping into a pool of running water at your feet, squatting down, and urinating in the company of others. Your home was made of concrete and you slept on the concrete floor with no air conditioning, no windows, no carpet, and no laundry machines to wash your clothes. You washed all your clothes by hand. You ate vegan because sometimes that's all you could afford, not because you could afford to. You live on the top floor of your building? You'll need to climb steps to get to it. There are no elevators. There are also no handrails. In America, good luck climbing the stairs if you're over 40! You look around and you see all the 40+ people in India happily climbing up and down the stairs without a need for a handrail. Healthwise, they must be doing something right! Many are even genuinely happy. It is odd that people who live a less complex life are often happier than those who don't.

August 11, 2022, 6:00am - Bikram 90 - In my hands-on adjustments today, I noticed I could have pushed against a body part a lot more because the student had a lot of space to go between one part of the body and another. The is especially true in Paschimottanasana on the floor, however, I chose to refrain from pushing hard because I felt the student may not be ready to move so far forward in his progression yet. Working on every posture slowly, day by day, will be more beneficial in the long run than the one big all or nothing effort to achieve the perfect posture.

August 12, 2022, 9:00am - Bikram 90 - 132.0 today. Midway into Standing Head to Knee, the studio owner stopped me for a moment to whisper something. "Three ladies from Philly are here and want to take your class," he said. "Could you spend a little time with them after class for the time they missed?" "Of course," I said, nodding. I could tell that these were three very sophisticated ladies who knew the Bikram series because they jumped right in and completed the class like pros. The average Bikram teacher would've turned them away, but having taught in a lot of suburban studios, I learned that it's always best to be as accommodating as possible. After class, we practiced the postures the ladies missed and I fielded their questions about the postures. They knew about the yogasana championship and said they were honored to learn from me. I was honored to have them as my students. It's not every day you get to meet yoga students who know about the yogasana championship.

Some of you might be wondering what I must've looked like when I was 22. I recently unearthed my fitness regimen and body measurements from that time 32 years ago before I started bodybuilding. All of my pre-bodybuilding measurements, except for my forearms and my waist, are exactly the same as now! My forearms were 10 inches in 1990; they are 9.5 inches now. My waist is two inches larger than before. It's a little embarrassing to admit that, since I did have a 36-24-36 figure at one time. Every other measurement is the same. My biceps are 11 inches. My thighs and calves are 19 and 13 inches, respectively. According to my fitness log, I was able to do leg presses of 570 pounds. I was even able to do one Amazonian leg press of 750 pounds, which was the full stack of weights on the leg press machine. Was I much bigger as a bodybuilder? No, but I was more of a toned bodybuilder like Rachel McLish than a mass bodybuilder like Iris Kyle. Nowadays, the toned bodybuilding category is called Ms. Fitness where the bodybuilders look like elite Bikram yoga teachers. Just like in competitive yoga, not everyone in bodybuilding follows one set regimen to achieve their goals. Legendary bodybuilder Frank Zane won the title of Mr. Olympia over a much larger Arnold Schwarzeneggar by focusing on symmetry, proportion, fluidity, style, and grace.

August 15, 2022 - I am almost feeling back to normal. My knees are feeling stronger each day. My arms and shoulders still look jacked. My yoga has been mostly therapeutic yoga in the past couple of weeks. I bought a vegan sushi bowl from Mom's Organic Market the other day. "You know, you don't have to eat that anymore. The competition is over," my son said. "I actually like this. It does taste like sushi, but without the fish," I replied. If I just purchased a filet of salmon from a seafood market, I could turn the sushi bowl into a phenomenal dish! This is technically my off-season again, and I've indulged in more soda and ice cream, but I still find myself gravitating towards healthier options like juice and yogurt when I have a choice.

August 16, 2022, 9:00am - Bikram 90 - 131.3 today. Four ladies pushed themselves to their edge today, slowly and therapeutically. One of them, quickly becoming one of my favorite students, wanted to do a little more in Camel, so I assisted her not only in Camel, but Full Camel. She once had the flexibility to touch her fingers to her toes. "I think you could get your head to touch your feet, but don't rush it! Little by little, day by day," I advised. I also assisted her in Deep Stretching. "Sandy Robin taught me hands-on assists. She pushed me hard every day, to the point where I went beyond what I could do, and that was enough to land me fourth place in the nation in the yogasana championship," I said, to the admiration of the class. If you think about what a yoga sequence is supposed to do, it's basically a prescription for your body. While the 26+2 sequence is suitable for all body types and is wonderful as a general health regimen, my championship routine was carefully designed as a prescription for my body. I believe that's why I appear so comfortable performing it. I'm not doing it for anyone else. I'm doing it because it feels right for my body. Other competitors might be doing their routines for points and that's why they bend, wobble, and shake in some postures.

My knees are almost back to being 100%, so it might be time to revisit Full Spine Twist training. I got to the point you see here in June. I was able to touch both hips to the ground and touch my knee with the fingers of my right hand in July. There is a spine stretch that needs to be done before turning my head and wrapping my left arm around my torso. The ironic thing is I have the flexibility to do Full Spine Twist, but I don't want to force it, because I would've caused permanent damage to my knees.

August 18, 2022, 6:00am - class 1320 Bikram 90 - 132.4 today. I practiced class alongside my student, reciting the dialog while performing each posture. I taught the transitional push-ups you can do in between the Floor series postures and the special way I prepare for Locust.

August 19, 2022, 9:00am - Bikram 90 - One of my students is a fan of Chris Fluck. "He was my first Bikram teacher," he said. "I remember Chris asked me in one of my first Bikram classes, which was better, strength or flexibility? At the time, I didn't know. He responded that strength was better, because you can use your strength to develop your flexibility," I said. "Makes sense!" he responded. Bikram Choudhury was a bodybuilder, so the poses in the 26+2 were chosen by his guru to suit his body. He had issues with the flexibility of his hips, so I gave him some exercises to try to help him develop greater hip flexibility. "I wasn't as flexible as I am now when I first started," I admitted.

August 21, 2022, 8:00am - class 1321 with Kaitlin McKendrick - 130.8 today. I had a bout with a stomach allergy this morning that left me dehydrated, but that didn’t stop me from going to class and pushing myself as hard as I normally do. I skipped the left side of one set of Standing Bow and did floor variants of the second sets of Triangle, Standing Separate Leg Head to Knee, and Tree/Toe. Dehydration on top of dehydration is never a good thing, but don’t let it be a crutch or an excuse. Commit to your practice and finish what you signed up for.

On one of my temple visits in India, we offered flowers and sweets as puja to the deity whose massive sculpture towered over us. I handed my box of goodies to the temple worker in the same humble way I've always known, with both hands outstretched, eyes closed, and my head bowed. It is the very same bow I use at the start of all my championship routines. I don't recall where I learned to bow like this, but I'm sure my mother, once a devout Buddhist, had some influence on me. The temple worker collected all the goodies from my box, placed something inside it, and returned the box to me. When I opened the box, there was a single flower. "That is a very fortunate sign and you will be blessed with extremely good luck," our native-speaking tour guide told me, "especially since your box touched the god's foot." The god whose likeness towered over us was Lord Ganesha, remover of obstacles and god of success.

August 23, 2022, 9:00am - Bikram 90 - A mom and her daughters joined my class today and I was very impressed that they all knew the 26+2 sequence. Earlier in the week, they came to the studio to take a Vinyasa class, but their class was cancelled and they ended up speaking to me. They felt I had a nice vibe, so they returned to take my class. The mom liked it so much that she wants to take evening classes with me to fit her fall schedule. "Why do I emphasize alignment so much?" I said in class. "Because with proper alignment, all your postures will improve. What you do in one posture affects the next one and even the ones you do when you return to class the next time. My class is hard, but if you stick with it, magic will happen." The studio owner must've liked my advice to my class, because he wrote "@clarejdin is magic" in his Instagram post.

August 25, 2022, 6:00am - class 1322 Bikram 90 - My usual students were out on vacation this week, but a new student appeared. She's in the midst of doing a 30-Day Challenge. Everyone trying to better themselves physically should be inspired by this, because a 30-Day challenge is a serious commitment. She asked me to practice with her in silence and she would follow along. I agreed without hesitation. She had a very nice practice with fluid movements. Without the words, class ended early. I made sure we held each posture to its recommended duration. A typical 90-minute class can last a little over an hour without words, however, the words are there for beginners who don't know how to get into each posture.

August 30, 2022, 9:00am - Bikram 90 - Four ladies and a gentleman were in my class today and all were in remarkable shape. One by one, each one pushed themselves into their best poses. When it came time to do Fixed Firm, the male student couldn't touch his butt to the mat. This is very typical of men who have really big thighs and calves. I taught him how to do Fish pose as a substitute. "Once you develop your hip flexibility in Fish, Fish in Butterfly, and then Fish in Lotus, you'll be able to do Fixed Firm like a champ," I said.

Cleaning up my deck one day, I knocked over my water hose holder with the intent of destroying the wasp’s nest inside. My son ran for cover while I stayed put, waving my electric tennis racket back and forth, hitting an errant wasp every so often. He was terrified as I stood in the middle of an angry bug storm, each soldier bee waiting for its chance to sting me for disturbing its home. I led my son along a safe path and we both headed indoors. Every now and again, I opened and closed my patio door and shot one of the insects with bug spray. "Why aren’t you afraid of wasps?" my son asked. It's difficult to explain why, but when you've seen and experienced all that I have, you're no longer afraid of things like that. Stupid little insects are nothing compared to the bad people I've met, having cancer, and being pronounced dead on an operating table. Some people are blessed for whatever reason and are given multiple opportunities to continue on with their lives even after facing unimaginable circumstances. I figure that so long as I live and breathe, I will not be someone who sits idly by while letting my life pass right before my eyes. I will occupy any free time I have by doing as many things as I can, learning new things, and testing the limits of my potential. I will never dwell on my past; I will always strive to be the best in the present.

August 31, 2022, 5:30pm - Bikram 90 - The studio owner mentioned my championship participation in her most recent studio newsletter. Perhaps that's why I had a decent sized class tonight. Everyone gave it their all and sweated their brains out. That's all a teacher could ask for. A student took the time to write a review of my class: "Wonderful teaching! I wish you taught more 90-minute classes in the afternoon, not only at 6am!"

September 1, 2022, 5:30pm - Bikram 60 - "Everything in my class is optional," I joked to my students, all women. They smiled, but knew that class was never as easy as I made it sound. "Nothing in this class should cause pain. If you ever feel pain or discomfort, you need to back off and go back to the previous step. This is a therapeutic yoga class. Remember to breathe," I said. The first three postures are always challenging and I see my Type-A's always pushing themselves to the limit. "Don't do it for me," I said to everyone in Standing Head to Knee. "Do it for the lady in the mirror. Test your balance in all three variations, whether you're standing, grabbing your knee, or grabbing your foot." The 60-minute class moves very rapidly, especially after Balancing Stick.

September 2, 2022, 9:00am - Bikram 90 - Today's class was more like a seminar as I answered student questions after many of the postures. I even offered advanced versions of postures for my students to try. "Do you have to keep the upper body and lower body at the same height?" one student asked in Full Locust. "No, you don't," I said. "If your upper body is stronger than your lower body, you're going to naturally lift your upper body higher. Why stifle your progress on the upper body by making the two halves the same? The left and right halves of the body is a different story. You want that symmetry, but the upper and lower halves of the body can definitely be different." While some teachers teach mainly from the dialog, I teach dialog mixed with experience. If you want to see what good postures look like, you need to look no further than the yogasana championships. There, you will get to see all kinds of bodies going deep in the postures. You can definitely learn from all of these masters.

September 3, 2022, 8:00am - class 1323 with Kaitlin McKendrick - 130.6 today. The humidity got to me today at 68%. I found myself sitting and resting in between the Standing Separate Leg postures. My first set of Camel was crap. I couldn’t get myself to backbend. My second set was much better. Rabbit was okay, not the championship version everyone knows I’m capable of doing. I often wonder what the other top athletes in my division, or any division, do in their off-season. Do they indulge in all sorts of joy-producing food, such as ice cream or pie? Do they eat to live or live to eat? Strangely, I haven't been packing on weight this off-season, but there are certain foods and beverages I can't eat or drink as much as I used to for whatever reason. My body just feels sick if I do so. Is this what an optimized body feels like, or is it just because I'm older? I look at my colleague, Nahoko Nakayma, and I see someone who has discovered a path to perpetual fitness. She is the living embodiment of what yoga can do for you as you enter your senior years.

I've been invited to compete in the IYSF World Yoga Championship held in Bangalore, India this year. This is an extreme honor and I'd be foolish not to accept the invitation. I'm proof that if you put your heart into anything you do, you can be the best at it and walk among the giants. Don't be afraid to be great.

Do you need to travel to some far away place to learn some fancy schmancy new breathing technique or posture variation? People who wish to believe will pay a handsome sum to go far away from their home to listen to the words of some "guru" they believe has more knowledge than they have. I have seen people revere and even immortalize people much younger than they because they felt those people were “the real deal.” The truth is you are all the real deal. Your best is inside you waiting to be released. You just need to find the right way to unleash your potential. The right way is never easy and always requires patience, persistence, and continuous practice to see improvement.

September 5, 2022, 9:30am - class 1324 with Kaitlin McKendrick - 132.4 today. Today's class was brutal. A 75-minute class is supposed to be easy, but the humidity got to me again and a full class of 14 knocked the temperature in the room right out of the park at 122 degrees. The only thing that kept me moving forward was the fact that the world championship was right around the corner. I couldn't even stand up in Toe Stand; I did Half Lotus Wind Removing instead. I found myself drinking two tall Hydroflasks of water and lying down on a park bench for several minutes to cool down after class. My knees were weak and my belly was grumbling. My eyes had trouble staying open. My body wasn’t happy. It took me about half an hour to reset before I could make the highway drive back home.

September 6, 2022, 9:00am - Bikram 90 - "Are you ready?" I asked one of the studio owners who was taking my class. He nodded. I pressed against his folded arms that were encapsulating his knees in Wind Removing Pose. "Now relax... just relax..." I said. It took a few moments and then I finally felt a release of tension and his spine flattened on his mat. "That's it!" I said. "You get an A+" When we wrap our arms around our knees in the third part of Wind Removing, there is a tendency to tense up rather than relax. You must relax your spine and relax your nervous system. Calm yourself down to allow the spine to touch the mat. It's a wondrous feeling to touch your coccyx to the mat. I helped the other studio owner to get deeper and straighter in Deep Stretching. "Your thoracic spine is here and it's rounded," I said pressing against his spine. "Now lengthen it, shoulders back, and pull and stretch forward," I said, gently assisting him by pushing against his spine.

September 6, 2022, 6:00pm - class 1325 with Kaitlin McKendrick - 132.1 today. Another class where I took half an hour to reset before I could drive. This time I didn't feel totally dehydrated. It was a rainy day today, so although the humidity was high, the summer heat wasn't there. That made the class feel much easier. I often wonder why more people don't come out to do hot yoga on rainy days.

September 7, 2022, 5:30pm - Bikram 90 - "Resist the temptation to look at yourself in the side mirror in Camel and Rabbit," I said to my class. "Don't turn your head. Keep your eyes gazing along the sagittal plane, the line that divides the left and right halves of your body." Especially in Camel and Rabbit, you want to move slowly into and out of these postures to stay safe. "This is a therapeutic yoga class. Nothing should be painful. If you feel pain at any time, you need to back up to the previous step. Listen to your body first and my dialog second," I said, "and everything in the class is optional, but please try. Try to do each posture as best you can. You might even amaze yourself. This is not a competition. There are yoga competitions out there, but this is not one of them. This is your practice."

September 8, 2022, 6:00am - Bikram 90 - A small class of three with a new student. The new student recently had a knee surgery, so I made sure to give him modifications to help him get the most out of each posture, especially those that involved a heavy use of the knees.

Why You Should Never Do Standing Head to Knee or Standing Bow in Yogasana Competitions

Many people wish to follow tradition and demonstrate the classic postures of the olden days of competition, the times when we all had to demonstrate Standing Head to Knee and Standing Bow. Now that we have a choice of which postures we wish to demonstrate, the scoring format for the competition has changed dramatically. However, one constant is how the judges evaluate the well-known postures. Two of the most scrutinized and difficult postures are Standing Head to Knee and Standing Bow, so if you do either or both of these, you will be compared to the legions of competitors who have done these postures. If you have a great Standing Head to Knee and Standing Bow, then by all means do them, but most people just aren't very good at these postures. You can see the struggle in their eyes as they try to maintain their balance. Unless you have truly outstanding postures, find something else to do because you will be compared to the great ones. Whatever postures you choose to do, try to score high on every one.

September 9, 2022, 9:00am - Bikram 90 - One of my students was new to the studio and wanted to learn from a bonafide Bikram teacher. My teaching is based on my training experiences with some of the best teachers in the Bikram world. It's also influenced by my experiences with a very different kind of yoga, that of Swami Kripalu. It's the kind of yoga that I feel every Bikram teacher should have but are too stubborn to admit they need. Many Bikram teachers need to balance the yang with the yin. In other words, as hard as Bikram yoga is, they need to see the softer, more therapeutic side of what yoga is all about. If teachers really want to teach the truth, they will need to learn from more than just Bikram Choudhury. "Thank you so much. That was one of the best classes I’ve ever taken," the new student said to me. She bowed to me and we saw each other's light.

September 9, 2022, 12:00pm - Bikram 60 - More people were congratulating me on my recent placement in the yogasana championship. The studio owner did a really nice job promoting me, which I appreciate. The class requested music, so I had some dance music and some new age music playing in the background. I'm not sure why people like music during the lunchtime classes, but if it helps people have a more satisfying experience, then it's fine.

September 14, 2022, 5:30pm - class 1326 with Kaitlin McKendrick - I powered my way through class. Standing Bow was a bit of a challenge today and I ran out of gas right before Tree, so I did one side of Tree on the floor, but I got right back up for the other side.

What many people don’t realize is I eat a lot of fatty food, fast food, and what many would consider to be junk food. I also eat healthy food, too, but these meals do not make up the majority of my diet. I’m also very intense when I work out, pushing myself beyond all boundaries until I reach a point of exhaustion. I call that workout optimization. My philosophy is, thus, you can eat whatever the hell you want so long as you work your ass off in a fitness class. Some people eat junk, don't work out or don't work out in an invigorating way, and end up fat. I would never want to eat only "healthy" stuff while doing my fitness classes. Why? Because healthy foods are not always available in certain places. What will happen if you end up going to a place where the only food is fatty, fast, or junk? You're going to have to eat something and instead of placing your body in shock eating nonhealthy food when you've conditioned your body to accept only healthy food, why not work out vigorously and allow your body to accept and process any type of food, healthy or otherwise? If you work your ass off in all of your fitness classes, your body will optimally process any type of food you eat. The only thing you have to do is work on moderation. You should never stuff yourself with any meal, especially if you haven't achieved workout optimization. I hear many complaints from people who work out every day, but are still overweight. Obviously, these people haven't achieved workout optimization for the amount of food they eat. Here'a a newsflash... let's say you get a "combo meal" from a fast food restaurant... you don't have to eat the whole thing! If you learn to save half of the meal for another time, you will be eating in moderation and it will be much easier to achieve workout optimization. If you simply want to get through a class by going through the motions, so long as you eat in extreme moderation, you'll lose weight. If you want to eat more than half of the combo meal, you have to work out as hard as I do. Period. Every single day. Trust me, your life will feel like doo doo, because you will be working out all the time and resting from soreness afterwards, so it's much easier to just cut back on your unhealthy food intake or eat better food and work out not so vigorously.

September 15, 2022, 6:00am - class 1327 Bikram 90 - 133.1 today. I helped one of my students achieve a better Rabbit by teaching him my "leap of faith" technique. I also helped him achieve a better Spine Twist.

September 16, 2022, 9:00am - Bikram 90 - 132.5 today. "In all the single-legged standing postures, you must learn to balance first. Strength and flexbility comes with continued practice. Then, when all of that is happening, you come back to your balance. Test you balance in Standing Head to Knee. Even if you are grabbing your knee or your foot or just standing there with one leg down and the other lifted slightly, you are testing your balance. Try to test your balance in all three. See where you're at," I encouraged. "In the second set, see where you can go... and remember to breathe! Always breathe before, during, and after each posture."

One of my students was amazed when she heard I was number four in the nation in yogasana. She happens to be from the very city the world championship will be held in this year. "You're so good you should have your own studio. I'm sure many, many people would come," she said. We had a discussion about branding. "In this day and age, you really have to promote yourself to get people to notice who you are. People almost expect that. There are yoga teachers who are not that good, but they promote themselves well, so they are well-known," she said. I tend to be someone who'd rather have everyone else say how good I am versus tooting my own horn. Just the other day in class, a fellow student jokingly remarked to the teacher about me, "Yeah, we have her in class. She always makes me look bad," to which the teacher replied, "She's a national yoga champion." Indeed, I always feel as if an accomplishment feels more real if others acknowledge it first. You will notice in all of my self-promotions that I never say that I am great or awesome or anything like that. In fact, I will tell you how I went up against the best and am honored to do so. I love bringing my experience with yoga into every class I teach. I'm a teacher who practices intensely, so you will learn techniques that I developed on my own that will help you achieve your best poses.

September 17, 2022, 8:00am - class 1328 with Kaitlin McKendrick - 131.2 today. Before you begin any yoga posture, think about stretching and lengthening your spine first. That simple tip will help you get deeper in all of your postures. It will help you get deeper in your backbends, your forward bends, your tractions, and your twists. When you get deep in your postures, you will most likely breathe heavy from discomfort or perhaps not breathe at all. Do not hold your breath in a posture! That is the easiest way to pass out, especially if you are practicing an inversion. Instead, allow yourself to breathe freely. It might be heavy, labored breathing at first, but the more you practice your yoga, the calmer your breathing will be.

When you stretch and lengthen in Half Moon, you will feel a tension release in your sidebends. A tension release is not a crunch, a crinkle, or a pop. A tension release is more like a vroomph! You might feel a crunch or a crinkle between your joins along with the vroomph. The vroomph usually happens in the lumbar spine. You are tractioning your spine so much that you are increasing the space between each lumbar vertebrae. Do not force your body into making any sounds. These are the sounds that will come naturally as your practice yoga more. Let them happen. On some days, your body will be silent. On other days, it will make all kinds of sounds. A good stretch feels so good, especially if you are breathing during the stretch.

September 19, 2022, 6:00pm - class 1329 with Ammie Morales - Ammie's Warm Vinyasa Flow class has some Bikram postures sandwiched in between traditional flow sequences. The class was pretty fast-paced and offered something for everyone. I liked that we did a Half Moon sidebend while in Tree. A couple of leg balances, including Bird of Paradise and Extended Hand to Big Toe, were pretty challenging, mostly because we were moving quickly. We ended class with a 20-minute Yoga Nidra. It was an invigorating class and definitely something worth trying to keep me on my toes.

September 21, 2022, 9:30am - Bikram 75 - One of my favorite students mentioned how she liked my emphasis on hip alignment in Standing Separate Leg Head to Knee. Some teachers understand that each posture builds upon the next, like a segue in a song. The hip movement you do in Standing Separate Leg Head to Knee will help you understand the positioning of your hips in space in Tree and Toe Stand.

September 21, 2022, 12:00pm - Bikram 60 - "Are you supposed to keep your hips in parallel to the mirror or twisting in Standing Bow?" one of my students asked. "You're really supposed to keep them parallel to the mirror," I said, "but you'll see a lot of yogis twisting their hips, especially if they're doing standing splits. That's not quite right." I've been asked to help teach an upcoming posture clinic in October. The teachers who are a part of this clinic are all exceptional yoga teachers who practice what they preach.

September 22, 2022, 6:00am - Bikram 90 - One of the most frequent comments I hear regularly goes something like this: "Thank you so much for the corrections. I've been doing this for over ten years and nobody has ever bothered to correct me." I feel bad for them, but I also find it troubling that there are teachers who just let their students go through the motions in class. That's not fair to the students who want to be the best that they can be. A yoga "class" should be a learning experience, not a pre-recorded lecture. If I wanted to hear a pre-recorded lecture, I'd just find one on YouTube.

September 23, 2022, 9:00am - Bikram 90 class 1330 - Sometimes tiny classes can be great. You get to practice with your students and they might have special requests. My student asked me to show her some fun stuff, so I showed her all the little things I do in the championship class. I slept on my side all wrong last night and woke up with a terrible pain in my shoulder. Half Moon fixed it.

September 23, 2022, 12:00pm - Bikram 60 class 1331 - I taught another one of my students the "leap of faith" technique and got her hips higher and her thighs more perpendular to the floor than she'd ever thought she was capable. I practiced with my students again, two classes in a row.

September 23, 2022, 6:00pm - Bikram 60 class 1332 - It's been a minute since I've taught a Bikram Beats class, unless you count the impromptu one I did two weeks ago at noon. This class is basically Friday night happy hour for the serious yoga people and there were serious yogis aplenty... to the tune of a packed class! Yes, I practiced with my students again, three times in a day. I haven't done that since my first teacher training. "I really like how you did the postures with us," one of the students said. I overheard another one thanking her daughter for taking her to this class.

A friend of one of my teachers, Noelle Burgoyne, who passed away in 2015 messaged me and sought answers to his questions about Noelle. I responded, "Yes, she will always be in my heart. She was the reason why I became a teacher. Her compassion and encouragement were two traits I always respected and admired. She was also very humble in her interactions with people. There were brighter stars at the studio where she worked in terms of popularity, but one thing I noticed was how much brighter she was without even needing to advertise it. She led by example. I am hopeful she is in a much better place now and can watch over her friends and family. I feel confident that she probably believed in reincarnation, so she is likely among us as a beautiful dove showing others what love really is."

September 25, 2022, 8:00am - Bikram 90 - A small class of five, but we had some very experienced yogis in the room. I love this one yogini who always has a fire in her eyes whenever she is in her poses. I admire and appreciate her intensity every time she's in class.

September 25, 2022, 10:00am - Bikram 60 - Ten people, a packed class, and everybody sweated like crazy. A perfect combination. Two new students had never practiced hot yoga before. One had practiced vinyasa, but not Bikram yoga. The other had never practiced yoga. I helped the vinyasa yogi unearth a very deep textbook-like Rabbit. She couldn't roll forward while gripping her heels, so I had her place her hands and elbows on the ground and roll forward in that position. As soon as she touched the top of her head to the ground, I got her to quickly grab hold of her heels. Voila! Rabbit.

I experienced two intense episodes that required immediate medical attention. The first was Tuesday night, September 27, 2022. I was driving up Broad Street, a heavily trafficked street, when suddenly I felt a loss of vision, grey spots in front of my eyes, and extreme grogginess, like it would be better to lay down. I immediately got off the main road to park my car and tried to walk it off, but it didn't help. I was fading fast. I went back into my car and started blacking out. My energy levels were depleting fast. "Oh, my God, Oh, my God!" I said to myself. I didn't want to die in my car in the heart of North Philly. Thankfully, a hospital was close by. I didn't even know if it was a regular hospital being that it was named "Einstein Medical Center." Still fading fast with my eyes starting to fail me, I walked a normally short distance that seemed like several blocks to get to the ER. I checked in and did an intake almost immediately, since I complained of shortness of breath. I had to wait a while for a hospital room to be available because I later learned that Einstein was the trauma center where they transported five injured people in a fatal open-fire shooting at a nearby high school; this incident happened at the exact time I stepped into the ER! My systolic blood pressure was 200 and over the course of several hours it got down to a manageable level at 161/86, so they released me. "Go see your cardiologist," they said. Normally, something like this shouldn't happen to someone who is typically perfectly healthy. When I got home at 11:00pm, I slept soundly.

I woke up the next day and started using my blood pressure monitor. 134/93 at 9:30am. 123/83 at 10:30am. Pretty good. My friends checked up on me and one of them even brought over a meal from a nearby food cart, but, in retrospect, I probably shouldn't have eaten it and last night's fried chicken meal as everything contained vast amounts of salt. I still felt normal for most of the day. Nighttime came fast and I ate another meal - a Jamaican beef patty - that likely contained a vast amount of salt. I went to bed a little before midnight in order to wake up to teach a yoga class at 6:00am. It was then that my life literally flashed before my eyes. I started to doze off and my blood pressure skyrocketed. My heart pounded in my chest and I felt my head and shoulders radiate intense heat, like my head was stuck inside a furnace. There was a ringing in my ears and everything looked orange. I could hear my breathing in my head now as if it were muffled. I started feeling a tingling sensation in my right arm. "No, no, NO, NO, NOOOO!!!!" I screamed. I got up immediately and kept hearing my heartbeat. My chest was visibly pulsating. BOOM BOOM. BOOM BOOOMM! I quickly took my blood pressure and Oh.My.God.Fuck... it was 232/197! I measured it again and it was similar. I stood up and the radiating heat in my head and shoulders intensified, like the furnace went on full blast. I scrambled to get my phone to call 911 and request an ambulance. The radiating heat in my head was not as intense when I sat down, so I squatted down and moved towards my front door that way, scooching down my stairs on my butt. As I waited for my ambulance, I called the only person I knew who knew me for most of my life... my ex. She worked in a hospital, so she knew the protocol to keep her patients calm. She stayed on the phone with me while I cried and said, "This is not how I want to die."

The ambulance transported me to Jefferson's ER. I was wearing only a tanktop, sweatpants, and sandals. It was freezing cold outside. The hospital wasn't warm, either. I thought I saw my fair share of nutty people in the waiting room at Einstein; there were more at Jefferson. I waited a long time for a hospital bed. I slept intermittently throughout my stay there. At 4:00am, I was released because my blood pressure was down to 157/96 . "Go see your cardiologist," they said, just like the Einstein ER people. Of course, it would help if Penn actually got back to me right away after I sent a message to my care team early Wednesday morning. My first message to them was lost on deaf ears. My second message yielded a response, so on Friday I saw a doctor about getting blood pressure medication.

Being in an ER for two nights in a row is no joke. Basically, an ER's entire mission is about reviving a person who's about to die, not solving a problem the patient has. As much as I like to coax and even push people to do their very best in my yoga classes, I push myself much harder, sometimes to the point that I break. Unfortunately, I'll have to dial it back several notches to keep myself healthy from now on. Yes, my vitals are back to "normal," but I don't feel normal. I feel run-down. Maybe this is what being normal feels like, but it's a terrible feeling for me.

My yoga journey:
Opinions expressed are solely my own. Please consult your physician for medical advice before starting a yoga program.