A yoga competition? Isn’t that an oxymoron? Isn’t yoga about the union of body and spirit, heart and mind? Yes.
But Bikram Yoga is also about striving for mastery–of the beautiful postures, of the body, of the self. The audience at a competition is treated to poetry in motion. The competitors–their skills, focus, and love of the yoga are utterly inspiring.
The competition’s grand goal is to inspire. Rajashree Choudhury–an Indian yoga champion who served as a judge at the October 25 event in New York City’s Merkin Concert Hall–noted that seeing someone “better gives willpower.” And even envy, she said–which she experienced as a child–can inspire dedication, health, a better world. To that end, she and her husband, the founder of the discipline, Bikram Choudhury, are working toward yoga as an Olympic sport at the 2016 games.
It was indeed inspiring there at the regional tournament. Competitors performed five postures from the Bikram series and two of their own choosing. As some three dozen men and women flexed and balanced with shaking muscles and determination, ears were tucked past heels, heads arced backward until toes covered eyes, and entire bodies perched on elbows and fingertips.
The event was a study in the biomechanics of grace. Far from the tumult of winning and losing and egotism, the atmosphere was serene. The silence was such that the click of a pen closing, the snap of a camera, a competitor forcing the air from her lungs, were loud.
The men’s winner, Jared McCann, was clearly the most accomplished of his sex, but a tiebreaker ensued among four women. An improvised final round resulted in a win for Kyoko Katsura, a Bikram Yoga NYC teacher whose popularity was made clear by high-decibel applause. The two will travel to Los Angeles in February to compete in an international tournament.
Please note, however: the happiest competitor was the least skilled. Her optional poses were nothing fancy, her flexibility humdrum. But she was the only one to prance in delight off the stage.
Doesn’t fun enrich the spirit? Isn’t accomplishment inspiring? isn’t there something noble in a disciplined striving for a personal best?