Thursday, October 28, 2010

Yoga as a Competitive Sport

452 classes (10 advanced) in 439 days.

As many of you may know, it is a goal of Bikram and his wife to get yoga into the Olympics as an official sport at some point down the road. This would of course greatly increase the visibility of Hatha Yoga in general and Bikram Yoga in particular. It would also make it possible to get Bikram Yoga being taught in schools because it would be considered an official sport, which would be absolutely fantastic. There are a few points which I believe would greatly facilitate this and make it happen much sooner.

The first point is there needs to be a clear distinction between Bikram Yoga as a form of exercise/healing/meditation and Bikram Yoga as a competitive sport. This can be quite a difficult task, as practically no one considers yoga as a competitive sport, including many people who practice it. Some people even have large objections to yoga competitions in general. I’m not going to get into those arguments here other than to say that promoting yoga as a sport would introduce more people to yoga than practically anything else.

Making the distinction between the practice of yoga for its many benefits and yoga as a competitive sport really isn’t that difficult. Almost every competitive sport you see is also done by people just for fun, or for health benefits. There are far more people that run or jog for fun and health reasons than run in competitive marathons. The same goes for anything you see in the Olympics, ice skating, skiing, basketball, whatever. Just because some people compete in those sports doesn’t mean the sports don’t have their own intrinsic benefits to anyone who wants to participate.

The second point is that in order to promote yoga as a sport, it needs to be covered in the media as a sport. This is almost entirely non-existent as far as I can tell. I scour the internet often for media on Bikram Yoga and it’s always covered as some sort of human interest or health story. This is fine, except even yoga competitions in different areas get covered as some sort of cute and quirky activity and not as a sport. There is an excellent website called which does provide data on the different regional competitions in the U.S., but the media coverage really needs to be expanded to the sports world.

Look, in addition to the “main” sports in this country, ESPN covers things such as fishing, bowling and poker. I think we can fit in yoga competitions somewhere in the sports media if these other activities get coverage. I’m not suggesting ESPN starts covering regional yoga competitions, at least right away, but local sports media should absolutely be informed when a yoga competition is going on, not to mention maybe some other websites dedicated to competitions (I already have some of my own ideas for this).

One more thing, if any of these media types balk and scoff at the idea of covering the yoga competitions as a sport, just bring them to the hot room for a class:)


Monday, October 18, 2010

Three Minutes

442 classes (10 advanced) in 429 days.

Three minutes – that’s how long the routines are for the yoga competition. As discussed earlier, you do seven postures, five compulsory and two optional generally taken from the advanced series. The five compulsory postures are Standing Head to Knee, Standing Bow, Bow, Rabbit and Stretching. You do these seven postures in a routine that has to be three minutes or less. This weekend we had the Nevada Regional Championships and I got to experience the longest three minutes of my life. Not even three minutes actually, I was a little under that. To end the suspense, no I didn’t win. Both the men’s and women’s winners were from Reno, and they were excellent. Second and Third went to people from Vegas, who were also awesome.

But back to the three minutes – I can assure you there is quite a difference doing postures in class in a nice hot room and doing postures outdoors on a stage in front of a bunch of people. We’re one of the only places I know of that holds the competition outdoors. We’re able to do it, because of the climate, but it was “only” about 75-80 degrees when we went on. While I was up there doing my routine, I got to hear traffic going by, a cell phone (turn off your phones!!), some kid screaming, and oh yeah, a big gust of wind while I was in Standing Head to Knee! I held Standing Head to Knee fine, but that wind freaked me out for a second there.

I knew I would be nervous, but it wasn’t as bad as I thought. I was quite calm when I walked on stage which was a nice. The big surprise for me was how I felt when I finished my routine and walked off stage – utterly euphoric. Hard to explain, but it was one of the best feelings of my life. It hit me at that exact point what I had actually accomplished. Countless hours of practice, doing advanced class, practicing my routine, etc. I saw various people waffle about competing and then drop out. Most people won’t even consider competing, but I stuck it out and in the end it was absolutely worth it. My practice is so much better because I trained for competition and I got to train with some absolutely wonderful people who went through the same things as I did. You get to know people pretty well when you spend lots of time in the hot room together!

The picture above is of me practicing my routine at my studio.

Thanks to my studio Green Valley, all my coaches (especially Sheri), all my fellow competitors (special shout out to Melissa who I think came to every single coaching session) and everyone who encouraged me along the way. And yes, I’ll be back next year, already working on my routine…


Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Never Too Hot

432 classes (9 advanced) in 418 days.

These are some actual conversations I’ve had:
Friend: “Was she hot?”
Me: “Not really, 106/35, I was really sore the next day.”
Another one:
Friend: “How was she?”
Me:”Smokin’, 114/45, thought I was going to die!”

I have conversations like this all the time, and they’re not some strange rating system for women, but of course discussions about the yoga room and how hot (or not) it is. This is most obvious talking point when asking how somebody’s class was. Word spreads fast about a particularly cold or hot class, and all of the regulars know who the “hot” and “cold” teachers are. I know many people that specifically take or avoid certain teachers because they are either too hot or too cold for them.

As gone over in previous blog postings, I prefer hotter classes, and I have a very hard time with a few “cold” classes in a row. I have all kinds of muscles that get sore if I don’t get hot classes in. As much as some people think I’m a “heat freak”, there are people that make me look like I’m downright arctic. These other people wear long sleeved shirts, sit next to the humidifiers and set up under heating ducts. They don’t want to have anything to do with cold classes!

It’s interesting to observe the conflicts between the “hot people” and the “cold people”. Our studio owner hears from both sides, and I’m glad I don’t have to deal with the complaints. I want the studio to be hotter, but it’s definitely better than other studios I’ve been to. I don’t hesitate to point out classes I think are too cold. I figure there are a lot more people that complain when things are too hot, so I try to balance it out by pointing out when the room is too cold.

My love for heat spills outside of the yoga room too. At work, I drive the people next to me nuts because I control the A/C and heat (hehe) and I like it much warmer than they do. They’ll come and complain to me that it’s too hot, and I’ll just say, “But it’s only 85 in here!”. They’re not amused.