Tag Archives: yoga competition

Hot and humid: Introducing Bikram yoga – The Independent

25 Apr

It’s not supposed to be competitive, but fans hope for Olympic glory. Matthew Bell reports from the national championships

Flamingos may find it relaxing, but for most of us, standing on one leg isn’t much of a tonic. Unless, that is, you’re a follower of Bikram yoga, in which case it’s the first step to fitness, flexibility and finding inner peace.

That was the message at yesterday’s National Yoga Asana Championships, held in the carpeted fug of a central London hotel. Now in its 10th year, the annual competition drew 26 female and nine male entrants, and, for the first time, a youth division, all battling it out to be crowned Britain’s bendiest yoga bunny.

Normally considered a form of relaxation, yoga as competition may seem like a contradiction in terms. But as with diving or gymnastics, there’s more than one way to flail a limb. In Bikram yoga, named after its creator, Bikram Choudhury, the temperature is cranked up to 30C, the idea being that a hot and humid environment improves joint relaxation. For the competition, each entrant is allowed three minutes in which to strike seven postures, of which five are mandatory, and two are chosen by the individual.

Obviously, the first requirement is to be able to contort yourself into position. So, how hard is it? Just before she goes on stage, Bridgett Ann Goddard takes me through a few moves. “Legs apart, arms out, lean, and head up!” There’s a lot to take in, but suddenly we’re doing “the triangle”. “And, touch your toes!” It’s tempting to topple over, except that dozens of Lycra-clad men and women are cheering me on. “Whoop! Way to go!” I hear through an armpit. It may be competitive, but this is a very friendly sport.

Once you’ve mastered the triangle – what then? “Judges award points for grace, style, accuracy, precision, strength – there’s a whole rubric they’re following,” explains Lorraine Bell, one of the organisers. The competition takes place in front of an X Factor-style panel of judges and an audience of 400 guests, each paying £15.

Competitive yoga is growing in popularity, and Ms Bell hopes it could one day become an Olympic sport. Why? “Yoga is very popular,” she says. “More so than curling. Why is curling an Olympic sport? There are more people who have a knowledge and understanding of yoga, who make it part of their lives, every week, every day. I think it would be nice for them to see another place for it to go. Not everyone is competitive and certainly lots of types of yoga are not, but there will be some people who will want to compete. This is just another avenue.”

An astonishing number of competitors discovered yoga because of health problems. Ky Ha, 32, is one. A former yoga world champion, he took up yoga 10 years ago, after suffering knee pain. “I was doing a lot of running, and I’d been in a lot of car accidents,” he says. “The running was really hard on my joints. A friend said practising yoga would really help me out, and it did.”

Most moving is the story of Ayesha Nauth, 37, who suffers from chronic rheumatoid arthritis. Last year, she came third. “From the age of 22, I was quite debilitated,” she says. “I was at home being looked after by my mum because I couldn’t do anything at all. I got a bit better through taking medication, and started working in the City, but it was really stressful, and the stress was inflaming it even more. A friend of mine recommended Bikram because the heat and the humidity would help my joints. After a few sessions, I noticed a big difference. Now, when I stop practising my joints really seize up. I can’t even turn the handle of a door.”

But why do it competitively? “My doctor told me I would be in a wheelchair by the end of my twenties. Since doing Bikram, I don’t even use a walking stick any more. So my teacher said I should do it to inspire others, and to show you don’t have to go into hospital all the time. It has completely changed my life.”

It’s certainly not for everyone, and the chances of it becoming an Olympic sport are, everyone admits, pretty slight. But maybe the flamingos are on to something.

viaHot and humid: Introducing Bikram yoga – Health News – Health & Families – The Independent.

Yoga competitors display inner stillness

7 Apr
Rosalie Abbey, holding flowers, an 18-year-old environment student at McGill University, receives congratulations from the participants after winning the gold medal at the Quebec Hatha Yoga championships in the women's category at Mount Royal United Church on Saturday.Photograph by: Marie-France Coallier , The Gazette

Rosalie Abbey, holding flowers, an 18-year-old environment student at McGill University, receives congratulations from the participants after winning the gold medal at the Quebec Hatha Yoga championships in the women’s category at Mount Royal United Church on Saturday.
Photograph by: Marie-France Coallier , The Gazette

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.


© Copyright (c) The Montreal Gazette

viaYoga competitors display inner stillness.