On Saturday, February 20th I found myself on a stage, in a leotard, doing yoga postures, for a panel of judges. Now, my goal was not to impress a group of people I do not know and make them like me best. I was participating in the Mid West Yoga Asana Competition. Right now, I know that some of you are thinking, “How in the hell do you compete in yoga??!!” and others are instantly outraged that there is such a thing, thinking you and your practice is somewhat loftier than mine and could never be cheapened by such an experience, but I want you to know it is unlike any other competition out there. Yes, there are judges and yes, you do receive a score, but why you are “competing” is different for every person participating.
I am 39 years old. What would compel me to stand up in front of everyone in a leotard in order for them all to get a good look at the gorgeous cellulite on the back of my thighs and bend and stretch for an audience? Why would I put pressure on myself when life is quite crazy enough, thank you, to create a routine of postures and work tirelessly day after day to understand them better than before. For me, it’s simple. I love this yoga and I want to share it with as many people as possible.
Maybe someone in the audience will see that you don’t have to be 21 years old and skinny as a stick to decide to compete. And maybe that same person will be inspired to compete the following year. And maybe that person will learn more about themselves, their yoga practice, and all of the wonderful things that can come from competing in a yoga asana competition. Maybe not. Either way I am willing to take the chance because I have a debt of gratitude towards my yoga practice that reminds me day after day that my practice is not only for me, but for everyone else I happen to come in contact with.
It is why I take the podium each day and the only reason why I survived teacher training. It is why I sit down week after week and click away on the latest blog post. Yoga is meant to be passed down, shared, and appreciated. Yoga competition is meant to inspire and demonstrate what is possible regardless of age or disability.
Also, there is something about setting a goal that helps you deepen your practice and has you start asking questions not only about a specific posture, but about what holds you back in life. Every time I compete I realize where I still have blocks, physically and emotionally, that I need to start chipping away at.
My hope is that more and more yoga practitioners start to think about competing for the mere reason that they want to see what is possible for themselves and demonstrate what is possible for others. It’s not about kicking someone’s ass at Standing Bow Pulling Pose. It’s about appreciating the hard work that each person that decides to take the stage has put into working on a posture and truly noticing where it is today, knowing that next year, if they continue their devotion towards a regular practice, it will have evolved into something deeper.
If competing in a yoga asana competition scares the heck out of you, even better. I always find that the things that scare me the most are some of the most valuable experiences in my life. Don’t let fear drive you away from something that intrigues you, let it be a sign that this might be just the thing to shake things up and bring you to a place you never imagined you would be.
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