MONTREAL — You could have heard a pin drop at the first annual Quebec Hatha Yoga championships in Town of Mount Royal on Saturday — not because the church hall was empty, but out of deference to the 13 competitors.
They had three minutes apiece to impress the judges by flexing, contorting and immobilizing their bodies in ways unimaginable and, occasionally, a bit frightening to people who don’t own a yoga mat.
And the more than 100 spectators helped them find their inner stillness with respectful silence.
Mike D’Abate, a 32-year-old teacher from LaSalle, and Rosalie Abbey, an 18-year-old environment student at McGill University, emerged as the first provincial Hatha Yoga champions, and will represent Quebec at the national championships in Vancouver at the end of the month.
You had to like D’Abate’s chances of capturing the men’s division Saturday.
He was the only entrant.
But Judge Brad Cowell of Vancouver said D’Abate did a lot more than win by default.
“He scored very well. He has a very good shot for the Canadian championship,” Cowell said.
D’Abate said he started doing yoga a couple of years ago at the urging of a female friend who is now a yoga instructor.
It didn’t bother him to be one of the few men doing it, he said. “I’m used to it. In the elementary schools where I teach, there are usually no more than one or two men.”
D’Abate, a former bodybuilder who performed his routine Saturday clad only in shorts, said he does yoga “six or seven times” a week, for an hour or two at a stretch.
“It’s helped me a lot, body and mind. I like learning, and with yoga, I’m always learning. That’s one of the things I tell my students; don’t be afraid to try something new. But I’m glad I wasn’t competing against the women today. They’re much better than I am.”
Abbey, the female champion, only started Bikram yoga a year ago.
“It helps everything. I feel so much more calm and strong outside the classroom,” she said.
Among the other competitors was Isabelle Boileau, 32, who gave birth to a son less than seven months ago.
She practised yoga until two days before the birth and was back at the studio four days later.
“Yoga for me is a way of life. I’ve practised for eight years, and always will,” she said.
Cowell noted that yoga, which will become an Olympic sport in 2020, is one of the few that competitors take up in their 50s, 60s and 70s.
While flexibility is what spectators tend to notice most, stillness, posture and the mind-and-body connection also are key considerations in judged competitions, he said.
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