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Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Surely that's not very zen? The extreme yoga fanatics who do battle in competition

By TAMARA ABRAHAM

For most yoga fans, the practice is a highly independent and personal one. But a new book has shed light on the emerging world of the yoga competition.

Though it may sound like an oxymoron, author Benjamin Lorr says that the concept is not an impossible one, and is simply 'a system for determining who was demonstrating a posture best.'
In an article for The Daily Beast about his new book, Hell-Bent: Obsession, Pain, and the Search for Something Like Transcendence in Competitive Yoga, Mr Lorr explains that winning is not the goal as much as 'allowing others to inspire us to our best'.

Twist on tradition: Participants in the 2011 Yoga Asana Championships show off some seriously impressive poses. Yoga competitions are on the rise in the U.S. - but organizers say winning is not the goal

Indeed, at the yoga competitions that have been cropping up across the U.S., from Nevada and Florida to Utah and Wyoming, with the upcoming National Championship due to take place in New York City in March, the atmosphere is not one of a typical contest. 'There are no jeering yoga moms in the bleachers, nor any post-demonstration rumbles in the parking lot,' Mr Lorr writes.

Spiritual goals: Yoga competiton judges take into account 'the degree to which it is instructive about human potential, destructive to preconceived notions, and indicative of mental-physical alignment'

'Instead, there are a lot of hugs backstage and more than a few stevia-soaked compliments about how incredible and inspiring everyone looked up there.'
As one might in another sporting event, say gymnastics, each competitor is awarded points according to the difficulty of the pose they choose and the skill with which they execute it.
What is unique to yoga is the fact that judges also take into account 'the degree to which it is instructive about human potential, destructive to preconceived notions, and indicative of mental-physical alignment.'

Personal moment: Even experienced yogis are skeptical until they get the chance to take to the stage

Mr Lorr says the champion is almost 'elected' rather than a winner - an acknowledgement that 'he or she best represents the excellence in the room'.
But it seems even experienced yogis are skeptical until they get the chance to take to the stage.
Courtney Mace, the 2009 International Yoga Asana Champion, told the author: 'When I began competing I was very nervous. Here you are, all alone on stage, demonstrating something extremely personal.

Meeting of minds: The yoga competition has existed in India for decades, a practice endorsed by the most traditional and legendary of yoga teachers, BKS Iyengar

Skill: As one might in another sporting event, say gymnastics, each competitor is awarded points according to the difficulty of the pose they choose and how they execute it

Peaceful: The atmosphere at a yoga championship event is supportive, rather than competitive

'But there is a shift the more you practice. I realized it just wasn’t about me. Win or lose, I was a role player, a participant along with everyone else.'
Mr Lorr, who himself discovered yoga four years ago when he stumbled into a Bikram studio (where yogis practice in 105F heat), describes how he became hooked on the practice and fascinated by the U.S.-based guru, Bikram Choudhury, who came up with the hot yoga concept.

n print: Benjamin Lorr is author of Hell-Bent: Obsession, Pain, and the Search for Something Like Transcendence in Competitive Yoga



source: dailymail



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