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Bikram Yoga

6th Annual International Yoga Asana Championship held at LA

Los Angeles, Feb. 24, 2009
Ainslie Faust/ Gary Singh

6th Annual International Yoga Asana Championship, held at the Westin Hotel LAX on the weekend of Feb. 7, 2009. The competition involves five voluntary poses: Standing-head-to-knee; standing bow, in which you balance on one leg with one arm extended forward and the other arm drawing back the lifted leg; bow pose, in which, on the floor, you grab both feet with your hands and arch your back; rabbit, which involves scrunching up into a little ball; and seated forward stretch.

We have had great success over the past six years with our yoga championship. Not only has participation grown from 3 countries to as many as 28 countries worldwide, last year we also introduced a youth division. The International Championship is sponsored by the World Yoga Federation, and the US Championship was sponsored for the first time this year by the USA Yoga Federation. Our dream is to have yoga included as an Olympic sport. Although Bikram yogis have dominated the championships to date, this year the International Men’s division was won by a non-Bikram practitioner. Our ultimate goal is to include all forms of yoga in our championships. Yoga Championships inspire and encourage people of all ages to cultivate the discipline and focus required for a life-long yoga practice. Born in Kolkata, India in 1965, Rajashree Choudhury started her yoga training at the urging of her parents at the age of four. She was the unbeaten five-time winner of the All-India Yoga Championship Competition from 1979 to 1983.

In the west, most people who practice yoga are first drawn to it as a non-competitive physical exercise good for relieving stress. Thousands of people have gained tremendous health benefits from its therapeutic qualities. Even more are finding mental and spiritual fulfillment in their practice. Yoga, as it has been transmitted to us from the great sages through generations of master yogis, is an unparalleled vehicle for transformation and Self-Realization. We have proven our vast potential for creating fear and destruction in the world, but if we are to insure our survival, we must choose instead a path of enlightened living.

There has been some misunderstanding and dismay about the words “yoga” and “championship” being said in the same breath, let alone it being an actual event. While the concept of a yoga championship is fairly new in the United States, it is an age-old tradition in India, where yoga has its roots. What most people in North America do not know is that yoga championships have been held as far back as 2000 years ago. There are yoga competitions being held in India almost daily.

Contrary to popular belief, competition starts from the Bhagavad Gita, where it speaks of how one can control emotion in action, attain self-improvement, practice selfless love and strive for perfection—all through competition. It is through this type of competition that enhancement and self-discipline are created. Perhaps the misunderstanding of “yoga competition” lies, then, in how competition is defined. Though yoga is supposed to be non-competitive and non-violent, there is nothing that says yoga cannot give practitioners the basic roots of a disciplined mind and a disciplined body. Just like Olympic gymnasts, yoga competitors are judged on their own skills, flexibility, strength and poise—not against the next competitor. It is almost universal that people want to improve emotionally, physically and spiritually.

This concept does not only apply to adults. Children are the future in our life, the future of our world. To maximize a child’s potential we need to bring competition into their lifestyle that will spark a healthy motivation. Yoga competition is an excellent way to do this that also maintains health while at the same time teaches children self discipline. Without competition there is no ambition, and without ambition there is no life.




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