Only in America, some critics might hold. Take a highly individual, deeply meditative health practice and shrink-wrap it inside the usual obsession about winning and losing. While you’re at it, you might as well vie to be the prayer champ.
But that’s not really how competitive yoga is, according to Erika Lasee, the director of Bikram Hot Yoga Vancouver. It’s never about crushing your fellow yogis. It’s about doing your best “physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually,” Lasee said. “No one is ever a loser in yoga.”
After a nerve-wracking round of applications, interviews and reference checks, Lasee’s studio was chosen by the United States Yoga Federation and Bikram Yoga College of India to host the 2013 Washington State Yoga Asana Competitions, beginning at 2 p.m. Nov. 9.
On that day, “yogis from all over Washington state will be descending on Vancouver with the hopes of placing first or second and then being sent to L.A. … to compete against thousands from all over the world,” Lasee said. “One of the main goals of the USA Yoga Federation is to eventually get yoga into the Olympics.” USA Yoga’s mission is to develop yoga as a sport, according to its website, usayoga.org.
The Vancouver event will involve individual demonstrations of yoga prowess. Yogis have three minutes each to step forward and do five basic yoga poses (“asanas”) plus two more of their own choosing. They’ll win points for things such as technique, strength and flexibility. Of course, Lasee pointed out, that’s the physical stuff you can see; there’s so much more to yoga that you can’t.
“Yoga is not totally about physical posture, but that’s what you’re being judged on” during competition, she said, whereas, in real yoga, “you’re using the posture to still your mind.” Stepping into the spotlight to show off your moves, solo, “can be very scary, yet you are surrounded by supportive people,” she said.
Yoga competitions are a long-standing tradition in India, she pointed out; according to New York Times coverage of that state’s 2011 regionals, “public performances” of yoga in India are meant not to determine a victor but to inspire, instruct and demonstrate the expertise of yoga teachers.
While Lasee’s “hot” studio is hosting, everything will be room temperature on Nov. 9. No heaters cranking the atmosphere up to the usual Bikram-worthy 105 degrees.
To get a sense of what competitive yoga looks like, take a peek at this year’s Texas regional contest. Or, if you want to check it out live, spectator admission is $5. Bikram Hot Yoga Vancouver’s east side studio is at 1801 S.E. 164th Ave. Learn more at vancouverbikramyoga.com.
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