I have been trying to lose 5 kilos for the longest time. I know my life will be perfect once I lose those 5 kilos. I will win every Poker tournament, crush all the cash games and I will be doing these incredible things while wearing the clothes I have bought and stored for the past ten years in anticipation of the ultimate day I lose those stubborn 5 kilos.
It is with this goal in mind I joined Bikram Yoga and embarked upon an adventure that has been able to align my weight goals with my poker goals albeit in unforeseen ways. But then, God works in mysterious ways.
When one makes an idiotic decision to start a Bikram Yoga class, it is exactly like making the idiotic decision to play professional Poker tournaments. The heat is on in more ways than one. Bikram Yoga is a one and a half hour intense yoga class held in a closed room with the temperature rising to 41 degrees coupled with 40% humidity.
Each morning I wake up in a cold sweat with my first thought being, Holy Moly (actually, stronger curse words are my first thought each morning), I have to head to the torture chamber today. Not fun. So I gather my courage, look into the mirror and tell myself, “You go girl, you can do it.”
As the saying goes, everything you want is on the other side of Fear. In Poker, as in life and Bikram Yoga, you have to be brave. Don’t chicken out – make courageous moves even when you are seated at a live poker tournament table with the likes of those I am usually seated with. You know who you are “Imma coming for you next time. Just kidding. Really. I love you guys, please be kind.
So, I am now in the Bikram Yoga class, talking to myself, pumping myself up in the hopes that I can make it through the one and a half hour of heat and sweat. I have decided to shake everything off, be Zen and as Nike says, just do it. I look up and there’s a hefty, hairy man who has taken his place in front of me.
He is shirtless and nearly shortless, too, as the tiny spandex shorts he is wearing leaves little to the imagination. Now it’s a challenge of focus. I train myself to see only my own body in the mirror but since the mind is like a mischievous child, it keeps wandering to places where it should not. And definitely must not.
Focus is the foundation of everything in life. In Poker tournaments, I tell myself to focus only on the players on the table, determine opponents’ ranges, and find the right spots. Instead of daydreaming about meeting Elon Musk and requesting him to invent a technology that allows you to reach through the computer screen and strangle the players who continuously shove their entire stacks of 100 BB to gain 90 chips from the pot in online poker tournaments.
Now, half an hour into the class it feels like I’m in an early stage of a tournament. I’m cruising; I’m feeling great about the work I’m putting in. Working with balance and skill and I’m in a good place. I make a slight mis-step by losing focus and turn my head slightly to the right (mainly in a gloating manner, trying to show off my ability to contort myself 10% more than the previous day).
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The matronly seventy something lady to my right, wearing a thin cotton flowery salwar kurta, is now moving like a yogi samurai with such grace and flow, contorting herself into the best possible posture that she would undoubtedly be Bikrama’s student of the year. And she is doing all this while smiling. I sheepishly turn back to look at myself in the mirror and vow that I must be more disciplined and not be swayed by my own ego, even if I am pretty good at yoga. Pretty good is not good enough.
Do not let your focus waiver, be disciplined so that every move you make involves focus and deep thought. Do whatever it takes to stay on the path to your goal, whatever it may be, without any distractions. Remember, that in today’s hyper competitive poker world as in life, being pretty good won’t help you reach the brass ring. You need to focus on being legendary.
One hour into the class and I’m in the zone, or being one with the flow – my mind is clear, the moves automatic. I am thinking only of the yoga postures and my mind, surprisingly, does not wander. I don’t see the hairy man with the curvaceous bottom nor am I worried about the little geriatric gymnast to my right.
My moves are as good, if not better now than everyone in the class or so I choose to believe. It feels exactly right like I’m 3-betting and stealing blinds at the right time as well as making amazing reads. I’m feeling fine. let’s do this.
If you can grind with the will to win and keep reminding yourself to be focused and disciplined, you will find yourself in the zone or in the sweet spot of the flow. Your hard work will pay off – just keep getting yourself in line in the early to middle stages of the tournament. All the study and hours of practice will make your moves automatic and you will find the light at the end of the tunnel.
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It is nearly the end of class and I am dying now. No, really, I am literally dying. In the exact situation, I find myself every time nearing the money or FT bubble in tournaments. I am sweating, I am fearful of absolute collapse, I am about to cry. But then I force myself to think of all the hard work I have put into this insane activity, the hours of poker practice through sickness and health, how good it feels to get to the other side.
And then I also suddenly remember that I will be singled out and get lectured at by the instructor for being the ultimate wimp and all at once the cloud lifts. I am able to continue breathing through the heat, the sweat, the tears and I complete each posture with grace and aplomb.
To endure the long of hours of grueling poker tournament sessions – all the while keeping your mind sharp enough to make creative plays, gut wrenching decisions, basic poker calculations that are tough for the mathematically challenged like myself you have to keep yourself in peak physical condition. The mental strength required for these sessions should not be underestimated and it is important to focus on building up your physical and mental stamina.
So, to return to the title of this blog post, I’m not sure if Bikram Yoga helps me survive Poker or Poker helps me survive Bikram Yoga. All I know is that I believe that both have made me travel the path of self-improvement and that’s the point of our journey in life.
I am nowhere close to having the level of discipline and focus that is shared by my superheroes, Aditya Sushant and Sharad Rao, but I am inspired by them and will now work harder to achieve my weight and poker goals. Thank you, Aditya and Sharad, for being amazing and showing all of us that with hard work, dedication, and discipline, you can make your dreams come true.
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