Yoga Competition: An Act of Devotion

This past weekend I was in Madison, Wisconsin attending the USA Yoga National Yoga Asana Competition. Sitting outside at a restaurant on a Friday night after an incredible yoga session with Kim Tang, one of the leading yoga instructors in our community, Jane and I were discussing what we had just learned and how I was feeling about taking the stage the next day to compete when we were interrupted by a young woman sitting at the table next to us.

“I couldn’t help but overhear you,” she said, “But are you a part of the yoga competition that’s in town?”

We both smiled, nodded and she continued on. “Can you tell me more about it? I was thinking about going to watch it. It sounds interesting, but I don’t get it. How do you compete in yoga?”

I have answered this question more times than I can count over the years and I’m sure that this will not even be close to the last time that I do.

“It sounds weird, right?” I replied, easing her into the conversation. She nodded and I went on. “It’s about setting goals. It’s like running a marathon. You train to run 26.2 miles and this is a lot like that. You train to compete. You take on new postures and work towards going deeper within your practice.”

“I get that, but how do you compete? What do you each do?”

With that I told her the format of competition: completing six postures within three minutes with each posture held for a minimum of three seconds. There are compulsory postures and optional postures. Each competitor puts together a set of postures that best displays where their practice is at this time.

“Sounds like fun!” she said, “I hope to check it out tomorrow.”

“I hope you do to,” I replied.

“Maybe next year, you’ll compete,” Jane said. And the woman laughed at the thought of it.

But that is what yoga competition is all about. It is about creating awareness of what a yoga asana practice can bring into your life. Each person that takes the stage to compete has a story of why yoga is important to them. They can tell you how a regular yoga practice has transformed their life and competition is an excellent way to give back to the community of yogis, as it’s a way to pass on the message of yoga.

Earlier this year, at the Midwest Regional Competition in Virginia, I took a class at the local studio in which the teacher urged the competitors in the room to make their time on stage an act of devotion. I loved that message. For me, that is what competing is all about.

When I am standing in the wings of the stage and waiting to hear my name announced over the microphone, these are the thoughts going through my head:

“I devote this demonstration of my practice to every teacher I’ve had and every lesson I’ve learned from them, to every student that’s trusted me enough to lead them through their practice and become their teacher, to every incredible person that has been a part of my life’s journey, and for all the love that I have for them and this inspiring community of yogis that I am so proud to be a part of. Let me take that love and demonstrate it here today.”

As I think this, I know that whatever happens within the three-minute routine is what’s supposed to happen and will be the perfect lesson for me within that moment. I am not stressed or nervous. There is no reason not to smile and be happy. Yoga, in so many ways, has made my life make sense and take on meaning. My demonstration of my practice lets me become and embody pure love, gratitude, and peace.

Congratulations to all of the yoga athletes in the 2017-2018 season! Looking forward to the coming year where we can do it all over again.



Love the blog? You will love the book! Follow my yoga journey and the accomplishments of five of my students, as well as, recount some of the most popular blog posts in my first book: Views from the Podium: The Life & Times of a Hot Yogi. 

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