Tuesday, November 24, 2009

A Yogi's Experience at the 2009 Texas Yoga Championships

From TxYogaAsanaChampionships2009
I have trained for many events this year; a marathon, century ride, half marathons and a yoga competition. The Texas Yoga Championships ranks right up there as one of the hardest and most amazing events I have done this year. It was a wonderful journey where not only the body opens up but the mind opens too.

The 2009 Texas Yoga Championships were held in Woodlands, Texas on November 8, 2009 at the Cynthia Wood Mitchell Pavilion. Yogi’s from all over Texas came together to demonstrate their yoga practice and share their results of hard work and perseverance. It was so wonderful to share the stage with 9 juniors, 12 men and 32 other women competitors. I was impressed at the variety of people, flexibility and strength of the competitors. No two were alike and yet, all were beautiful and they performed their postures in such a way it could only have inspired the audience to want to get up and try themselves.

From TxYogaAsanaChampionships2009
The other students from Bikram Yoga Dallas and I got there early to check in and check out the stage area where we would be performing. After doing a few poses on the carpet and feeling pretty confident, a group of us decided to walk around the health and fitness expo. The junior competitors went first, then the men, then the women. I had most of the day to relax, stretch and prepare myself for the stage.

I think the best part of the expo had to have been the free Zico coconut water! It wasn’t the small size we have at the studio either, it was a huge container - it must have had 3-4 servings in it. I was so excited, I opened mine right away. I love coconut water, it is so delicious after class; I sometimes feel like I could drink gallons of it.

After walking around I decided to stretch and get warmed up. As I was doing that, I heard this bizarre gurgling sound in my tummy. Oh my….it is the coconut water! I must have had too much because goodness, my tummy was so full of coconut water, every time I bent forward or side to side it swished around and made noise. So nice right?! I was thankful I still had a few hours before I went on, I could only hope most of the coconut water would pass through my stomach by then.

From TxYogaAsanaChampionships2009
They call my name to get in line…almost time! I was amazingly not nervous. I practiced as much as I could, I did what I could and now it was time to show the results of that work…there was nothing else that could be done. And then they called my name….and I walked on stage…with a smile.

Smiling for me is perhaps the hardest part. I concentrate so much in class I rarely smile so I had to remember to smile and show I was happy. This is suppose to be fun! And it was. I started with Standing Head to Knee and almost got my head to my knee, just slightly wobbled at the end as I was coming out of the posture. Standing Bow Pulling was good I thought. The whole time I was thinking of armpit and crotch, which is something Mary Jarvis said in class the day before, your armpit and crotch should be at the same level. Bow was easy, I just had to remember to keep my knees in and wrists flat. And then a good forward bend, Rabbit. Rabbit use to be easy for me but lately I feel a tightness in my back that makes it difficult to roll the spine properly.

The key is to hold each posture at its fullest expression or what you can do for at least 3-5 seconds so the judges have time to score. Each posture I am counting in my head, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. Then there is Stretching, boom…pull and down. Hold. Oh the pain behind the legs can be awful. But who cares, it is only 5 seconds. Now onto my two optional postures, first I did Pigeon. After watching some of the competitors, I am convinced I do this pose wrong. My back hurt like hell. I grabbed my foot, rotated my shoulder, bend backwards and put my foot on my head but man it felt like my spin was going to crack from being so compressed. Not that compressing it in a backbend in bad, just that it felt as if I was bending backwards for the very first time! And now the last posture, Bow Leg, and I stick it! So great! I had just tried it a dozen times back stage and couldn’t get my foot to hold. I decided before I went on I would just push it down and I didn’t care if it hurt, I was going to make it stay. And I did! I looked up, hands in namaskar (prayer) and smiled!

From TxYogaAsanaChampionships2009

What an amazing feeling! I worked so hard, 3-4 hours of yoga on Saturdays and then yoga and coaching on Sundays; it all paid off when I was able to get on stage and demonstrate all I had learned, hopefully inspiring others as well. I didn’t win and it didn’t matter, for me that is not the purpose of competing. My measure of success is doing the best I can and sharing how wonderful yoga is with others.

This is the third year I have competed and I think I will continue to compete because at the end of the day, there is nothing better than knowing you did your very best and were able to share that experience with others. The best compliment perhaps came from Yassi Maige from Bikram Yoga Richardson when she leaned over to me and said “you have come so far from last year, you did amazing, and you smiled!”

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Do You Know How to Order at Starbucks?

A Story in How to Order at "Order as You Like It Places."

Do you ever feel you aren’t smart enough to order food at a restaurant anymore? Maybe it isn’t you. I recently went to Starbucks to get coffee, which I do often, and for some reason I fumbled through ordering.  Everyone knows Starbucks has a method to the madness, every word has its place.  My experience was not jaded in spite of my inability to fit into the “Starbucks” ordering process. This was not the case recently for a poor lady at Chipotle who’s experience was what I can only call typical restaurant employee behavior where they try and force you to order the “right way.”

 First, the Starbucks Story
I think most coffee places are the same now, they all offer complicated drinks with lots of variations, it is an opportunity for a person it step out from the crowd, to be an individual and show a little personality – that is what custom drink orders are all about. Starbucks is perhaps the master of this option and have gone so far as to print drink ordering booklets to help people order. If you haven’t noticed, Starbucks drink cups have boxes on the side and that is the order a drink should be called out. (here is how to order) I don’t really follow this, I do what I think is natural and order…hoping I get the right drink, which I usually do. On this particular day my brain was still asleep so it came out a little funny. As I started to say my drink order, it came out as “vanilla, skinny, coffee, wait, grande latte.”  The guy behind the counter smiled and clearly was about to cut me a break. He recited my drink to the barista, in the correct order, and smiled at me as if to say, it’s ok, it’s early. I just looked at him, laughed and said “I guess I needed coffee before I ordered my coffee!”

Isn’t it great? Even if you goof up the order they know what you want. I’ve thankfully never had a barista roll their eyes at me for not knowing the order system. I am certain Starbucks has their own language and it is more than just learning to call out your drink in the right order, it is about understanding the “language” of Starbucks.  I understand Starbucks language just slightly better than Spanish which puts me at a huge disadvantage when ordering. It pleases me that Starbucks baristas know not everyone knows their language and they take whatever broken Starbucks words customers can mange and they form them into real drinks, good drinks!

Second, Chipotle Experience
There is Starbucks…and then there are places that have a process of ordering and they like their customers to stick to that process. When you step outside of that process or don’t know how to order, often the person behind the counter will try and corral you back into the order process and you are usually met with ridiculing looks and glares from the other customers who are impatiently waiting for you to understand the menu and how to call out what you want. This happened recently to a poor lady behind me in line at Chipotle. All she wanted was one taco and guacamole. The lady, we will call her Sara, asked “can I just get one taco?” The lady behind the counter looked at her and said “you want #3?” Sara and I both looked up at the menu on the wall, quickly scanning for a “#3” so it was clear what the lady was asking. No #3. “I just want one taco” says Sara, a little more sheepish. “Number 3…you want #3” repeats the lady.  Sara just stares at the lady. Then, because it clear Sara doesn’t understand, the lady points to the “nose” glass that has a kids menu with a #3 that is a single taco. Sara sees this and says “yes a #3 please.”

Tacos at Chipotle come with all kinds of yummy stuff, rice, beans, meat, lettuce, cheese, guacamole, sour cream and lots of salsa choices. If you have never been, you tell the people what you want and you have to go in order or it mixes them up. So the lady behind the counter tries to add rice and beans and Sara says “no thanks, but can I have some of the peppers please?” The lady complies and down the line it goes. There is a guy a little farther down that says “what else?” Sara says “just guacamole please.” He plops it down on the plate and as he does it, Sara says “oh, on the taco please.” “You want it on the taco?” says the guy behind the counter. “Yes please says Sara.” Now lets think about this, so far the poor taco just has green peppers, it seems logical the guacamole would go on the taco, I mean, we are at the end of the line, what else can go in the darn thing? And then an odd thing happened.

Instead of scooping the guacamole into the taco, he gets a new tray, moves the taco and scoops the guacamole into the taco. This is weird only because it wastes a paper tray and Chipotle has changed to eco friendly pressed paper trays and he just wasted one.  But Sara now has a taco with guacamole and peppers, exactly what she wanted. It only took two people and a bit of interpretation to get through the line.

I wonder if Sara felt as awkward as I felt for her. It is hard enough to go eat lunch alone but to be chastised for not knowing how to order just makes the experience even harder!

Two “order your way as long as it is our way” places and two different experiences. I’ll still go to both only because I know HOW to order at both places. I empathize with people like Sara though. Had I had a clue what the lady meant by saying #3 I would have helped her out but I was just as clueless as Sara was! Here’s a helpful tip for restaurant employees…if the customer doesn’t understand what you are saying, repeating the same thing over and over doesn’t make it all the sudden understandable.
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