Andrea Nicole Ortiz 2015 USA Yoga Adult Division Gold Medal Winner
After moving to New York and taking my first yoga class, I was immediately hooked. Yoga made me feel free. I was encouraged to take a 200 hour Vinyasa teacher training. In my training I met Jared McCann, and he discovered I'm a back-bender. He was the one who encouraged me to do the yoga competition. When I started practicing yoga I was like a rubber band: hyper flexible but with zero strength or stability. I was able to develop physical strength in my body and inner strength as a person. Yoga constantly reminds me that my body is a bridge to get to something higher; each pose has the ability to take us to that perfect stillness where time and space stop and everything just is. Yoga, this union, is so beautiful because it puts body and soul together. As humans we feel so broken sometimes, but through this practice we can join our pieces back together and realize we are and have always been whole and complete. As whole beings we are able to connect with others, with nature and with god, and realize we're all part of something bigger and far more beautiful.
John Schoggins 2015 USA Yoga Adult Division Gold Medal Winner
Early in my yoga practice, I learned about yoga competition and was intrigued. Since then, I have competed in three New York State Regional, two Texas Regional, and two National Championships. Perhaps the greatest lesson I have learned through competitive yoga is the ability to maintain a mind-body connection in the face of multiple challenges—judges, spectators, time constraints, etc. Yoga Asana truly becomes the present moment.
Michele Trufant 2015 USA Yoga Senior Division Gold Medal Winner
My name is Michele Trufant and I am 59 years old. I have trained event horses and race horses for twenty five years(I began riding at age 30) and found yoga at the age of 50. My yoga practice has changed my life both physically and emotionally. The physical benefits are obvious; the emotional are different for each individual. For me, I have found a peace and rhythm to my life that carries me along in all my endeavors. I believe these benefits allowed me to fully engage and revel in the entire yoga competition process and also in my riding competitions. Further, providing a master(senior)division, allowed our group to fully shine! Everyone I meet is thrilled to know that there are so many of us over the age of fifty, practicing yoga on and that many, younger and older, are actually considering competing in the future. My intention for the coming year is to support and encourage any and all students of yoga in their endeavor to compete.
Scott Marin 2015 USA Yoga Senior Division Gold Medal Winner
I began practicing yoga in Texas in 2005. Years of long-distance running had taken a toll on my knees and yoga worked to re-align sore joints and to heal my knees. Bikram Yoga Richardson became my home studio in 2007 where studio director, Yassi Maige, and the other teachers, inspired me to do several 60-day challenges. My business travels often take me to Asia, Europe, and various North American cities. I have had the pleasure of practicing at yoga studios in the US, Canada, China, India, Thailand, and South Korea. Having retired from most running, but missing the annual training for the fall Dallas running season, I felt the need to step up my physical activity. Yassi suggested that I train for the 2010 Texas Asana Championships. Training for the competition was a mix of fun, stress, and outstanding yoga. Each year since, I have competed in the Texas Regional competition. In 2014, when USA Yoga established the senior division, I scored high enough to be invited to Nationals, but couldn’t compete due to a business conflict. I was invited to compete at the 2015 USA National competition in the senior men’s division and won after almost being cut in the pre-qualifier round.
Annie Yanofsky 2015 USA Yoga Youth Division Gold Medal Winner
I began practicing Yoga when I was 11 in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. As a former gymnast, I was looking for a way to maintain my strength and flexibility in a more calming environment. I competed in my first competition at the New England Regional Yoga Asana Championship in 2013, placing first in the New Hampshire girl's division. I competed in the New England Regional Yoga Asana Championship again in 2015 and went on to win first place in the youth division of the USA National Yoga Asana Championship. I am planning to go to internationals in November.
I am so thankful for this yoga practice, my coach Sara Curry, and my family for taking classes with me.
Aiden LeMay 2015 USA Yoga Youth Division Gold Medal Winner
Yoga has changed me in an awesome way. I'm stronger both in my body and mind and it's helped my confidence. My sister says I've inspired her. But I hope to get more kids to do yoga and try competition. If you can practice your routine every day it will help you be less nervous when you are on stage. Enjoy all the great people you'll meet and the amazing routines you can watch.
Zeb Homison 2014 USA Yoga Adult Division Gold Medal Winner
Yoga is for everyone. It is a science developed to maintain and help heal the human body and mind. Zeb has studied yoga all over the world. After his intensive, nine week teacher training with Bikram Choudhury in Honolulu, Hawaii, Zeb set out to travel and bring the gift of yoga, of health, to as many people and places as possible. From the beaches of Mexico, all throughout the United States, Australia, and Southeast Asia, each new place has put him in touch with wonderful new cultures, new students, and new teachers. He now owns his own studio in Pittsburgh, PA.
2014 National Champion, Zeb has placed in the top four of the USA Yoga National Finals from 2008 to 2014. Held in India for many years, this international ‘yoga competition’ is founded on the ideal of spreading interest in yoga throughout the world and focuses on the individual improving their own practice, not competition against opponents.
Bringing with him a deep knowledge of yoga technique, Zeb also has an extensive background in voice, dance, physical theater, mask work, and the performing arts, holding a BFA in Theater Arts from the University of the Arts in Philadelphia.
Gloria Suen 2014 USA Yoga Adult Division Gold Medal Winner
A former colleague connected me with her yoga champion cousin, Ky Ha, who had also recently moved to Singapore to teach yoga - Bikram yoga. I bought a one week unlimited beginners pass at the studio and practiced three classes in three days. After the third class, I remember feeling so clean inside and out (after my shower, of course). Thus began my journey.
About three weeks later, Ky convinced me to compete in the Singapore Regional Yoga Asana championship which would take place about six months later. I practiced standing-head-to-knee and standing bow, two of the compulsory postures in the championships, day in and day out - waiting for the subway and even while brushing my teeth! My colleagues at work thought I had clearly gone nuts. Meanwhile, the financial crisis was going down, and I was working on a trading floor. I needed to breathe and backbend!
I represented Singapore in the International Championships for four years (2009 - 2012) placing 3rd (2010), 2nd (2011) and finally 1st in 2012.
I am so thankful for the yoga championships for providing a forum for me to take my hatha yoga practice to another level, and more importantly for the yoga community that I was able to meet and be a part of.
I am also forever grateful to all my teachers, especially...Ky Ha, Dev Kapil, Mary Jarvis, Maty Ezraty
Craig Culbertson 2014 USA Yoga Senior Division Gold Medal Winner
Craig took his first Bikram yoga class on September 11, 2009 at Bikram yoga Asheville, at the age of 53. Over weight, with high blood pressure and cholesterol levels that were in need of medication, it was time to add some type of activity.
Not having a clue as to where this journey would go, He jumped in with both feet, completely out of shape, and with a total lack of flexibility, he began his practice. His time is split between Asheville N.C. and St. Augustine Florida. Encouragement came from both schools with a plethora of amazing and diverse teachers.
In less than a year, he was 45 pounds lighter, with stellar cholesterol numbers, and taking only one blood pressure medication--the benefits from yoga were clear.
As time went on, during small conversations after class the "you should compete" came from both schools. Then he began watching the competitions, in complete awe of what the athletes could do.
Eventually, he accepted the challenge to try competition as a well-meaning complement. Thirty years too old, it just was not going to happen, but it was ok to dream. Yet he started to attend as many seminars as possible from senior teachers, and past and present champions, just to get as close to the competition as possible.
Then along comes a new category for 2014, the seniors division. Excited by the opportunity and a new chapter in yoga the entry was filled out for the Florida regionals. Thus a dream that could not happen did. Winning was just the astonishing conclusion.
Clare Nelson 2014 USA Yoga Senior Division Gold Medal Winner
Clare Nelson is happy to live Austin, Texas.Austin is a mecca for yoga, especially Bikram yoga. We have an abundance of talented, inspirational teachers. This sums it up: "The student reflects the light of the teacher."
AlanKane D'Quebec 2014 & 2013 USA Yoga Youth Division Gold Medal Winner
Alan-Kane D'Quebec is the 2014 and 2013 USA Yoga National Champion (youth). He is a 13 year-old "super-yogi" from Playa Del Rey, California. The last year has been very exciting for him. He has traveled to many parts of the world from China and India to El Salvador. Traveling has made him discover that although places, people's culture and food may differ- everyone has one thing in common: LOVE.
When he is not traveling, he enjoys time at school with friends. He practices yoga 5x per week alongside his parents. And although he wasn't born super flexible, he has shown that with constant hard work and determination you can attain anything you set your mind to. He hopes his practice can inspire other boys and girls to give yoga a try.
He is very excited to represent the USA in the International Championships in London on June 1st, 2014.
You can watch his current routine here.
Jared McCaan, 2012 & 2013 USA Yoga Gold Medal Winner
Yoga has given me peace. Before I began yoga I felt as though I was victim to the whims of life. Through dedication to my yoga practice I have learned to take control of my life, of my thoughts, of my actions, and feelings. I have gone deep inside myself to realize that I am the creator of this life, not the victim of it. I have become empowered to create the life that I have always dreamed of, and have also learned to take full responsibility for the moments that seem to go off course. Because of yoga I have exactly the life I want. And have learned to appreciate the life I have.
A yoga posture is a piece of art. It is a way of expression, like a painting, or a song. Within it, there is emotion, struggle, freedom, creative sensibility, and soul....just to name a few. And any good artist knows that real art cannot just be pretty. How boring! Its like dating a gorgeous person who isn't very bright. Sometimes you see a perfect posture on stage but it doesn't move you or grab you. Sometimes you see a not so perfect posture on stage and it brings tears to your eyes. There are people who are flexible or strong, or who can balance forever in a handstand but their postures are still not beautiful. Because the real beauty comes when a person brings his or her spirit into a posture. To fill your posture with feeling, emotion, love, fear, vulnerability, and everything in between. That is when yoga really becomes beautiful. It is the same with teaching yoga or anything you do. A person can be an amazing technician but the best teachers have their own personal style and can connect to others by being connected to themselves.
2013 USA Yoga Gold Medal Winner
In a yoga practice, I consider the most beautiful thing to be ease. When the body is ready to move into a pose, to a certain depth, like water it looks effortless? That's beautiful. A persons practice can be so telling.
I see the act of demonstrating yoga asana as insight to a persons being. They get to tell a story. Here is my spine, my support system. This is where I am today. It is a very vulnerable thing to do. For myself, demonstration is an offering. These postures have done and continue to do so much for me, now I present them to you to do with what you will. I get to communicate without words.
Emily Avery 2013 USA Yoga Gold Medal Winner
In addition to her yoga practice, Emily is a dedicated ballet dancer. She has studied at schools such as the Royal Ballet School of London, the Paris Opera Ballet School, the San Francisco Ballet School, and the Portland School of Ballet. Emily was also the valedictorian of her high school class and will attend Princeton University in the fall of 2013, where she plans to study neuroscience in addition to maintaining her love for ballet and Bikram yoga.
Afton Carraway, 2011-2012 USA YOGA GOLD MEDAL WINNER
Afton Carraway is a Florida native. She grew up in Orlando dancing from an early age. During her career as a professional dancer, a friend brought her to her first Bikram Yoga class. Thinking that the class would be a ‘walk in the park,’ and that she was “in shape” she had a rude awakening laying amuck on the floor afterwards. As she continued to practice, she began to realize she was flexible in all of the wrong places and owned not an ounce of true strength. Afton’s daily dance classes slowly evolved into daily yoga classes and three years into her practice, she found herself starting a new career as a yoga instructor.
Inspired by the rigors of the Bikram Yoga teacher training, two weeks after returning, Afton competed in the USA Yoga Florida regional and won 2nd place. After competing in Nationals that year, she began to see the championships not as a competition, but more of a celebration of yoga. Afton has continued to compete every year since then, placing 3rd at the USA Yoga nationals in 2010 before winning 1st place in 2011.
Afton has won first place in Florida 4 years in a row and is looking forward to sharing her practice on stage again at Nationals. Her postures continue to evolve as her love and understanding of yoga continues to grow. She aspires to lead by example through her teaching and her practice and hopes her students recognize – just as she did - that the possibilities of what you can accomplish are boundless with a consistent yoga practice.
Katherine Marshall-Kramer, 2012 USA Yoga gold Medal Winner Youth Division
I took my first Bikram Yoga class at my mother’s teacher training when I was four years old. Despite my mother owning a studio and always being around yoga, I took little interest in it until we hosted the 2005 Midwest Regional Yoga Asana Championship.
After this I practiced sporadically until I went and watched the 2007 National and International Yoga Asana Championships in Los Angeles. I was very inspired by the competitors and when I found out there would be a youth division the next year, I decided, just for fun, to train and compete.
The first year I competed I learned that even at the age of 11, training only a couple days a week, that I felt better if I practiced. I also learned that competing at the yoga championships was the only time I wasn’t afraid of being on stage alone. I continued to compete every year after that.
The people I have met through the yoga and the Championship are a continuous source of inspiration. I’ve found from personal experience that despite being a “competition,” training with the goal of winning will not usually serve one well. Training for the competitions gives me reason to keep practicing, to keep trying, and to keep improving.
Joseph Encinia, 2009-2011 USA YOGA GOLD MEDAL WINNER
Joseph grew up in Dallas, Texas very different from the person he is today. From an early age he struggled with rheumatoid arthritis, a heart attack, his weight, and the accompanying toll it took on his mental state.
After beginning Bikram Yoga in 2005 his life took a complete 185 degree angle turn- a new body, new mind, and new life. Within the first year of practice he shed pounds, threw away medications, and became a fixture in the Dallas studio.
This amazing physical transformation inspired him to try his first yoga competition in Texas in 2005. After years of dedication he won the 2009 National USA Yoga Asana Championship and placed 2nd internationally. He then went on to win again in 2010, and in 2011 he won both the national and international championships.
Because of the gift of life yoga has given him, his life’s ambition is to share competitive Yoga with others. Joseph teaches full time and enjoys travel, philosophy, and playing classical guitar.
Brandy Lyn Winfield, 2010 USA YOGA GOLD MEDAL WINNER
Brandy Lyn Winfield has practiced Bikram Yoga since 2004. She completed teacher training LA Fall 2006. Following teacher training, she embarked upon a traveling journey, one that led her to India, where she managed Bikram's Bombay studio.
She won the 2008 and 2009 Nevada Regional Yoga Asana Championship, thereby competing in LA, and winning both the 2010 USA and International Female Yoga Championship. This led her on a world wide journey as a yoga ambassador, with the 2010 male champion, Kasper van den Wijngaard.
Within the past year, she has traveled to over 20 cities within the US, and 14 countries abroad, the most recent Moscow, Prague and Riga, Latvia. She has performed at numerous public demonstrations, including magazine, television and radio interviews. Her love for the yoga and everyone she meets is special.
Brandy was coached in the 2010 competition by Sarah Baughn of San Francisco, who was also a USA champion. Brandy holds a Bachelor's degree in Communication from Westminster College and a Real Estate license in Utah and Arizona. She was born in Moab, Utah and currently resides in Los Angeles.Believing that continuing education is essential, Brandy has spent time on teacher training staff, attended advanced seminars, and has been fortunate enough to spend countless hours studying with Bikram, Raj, Emmy and a variety of senior teachers.
Her continued travels around the world has enabled her to deepen her yoga practice and sharpen and hone her skills as an instructor. She has been referred to as "the teacher's teacher". She is very dedicated to personal yoga practice and development. She has led Advanced series since 2008 and has been instrumental in every community that she has been in, to motivate many students to continue to this level, including coaching competitors."As I teach I learn, as I learn I become a more proficient teacher. Love and Light." Brandy Lyn
Courtney Mace 2009 USA YOGA GOLD MEDAL WINNER
A northern California native, Courtney Mace relocated to New York city in 2001, where she was first introduced to Bikram yoga. Though she practiced different styles of yoga, it was Bikram yoga that offered her the greatest opportunity for transformation and healing. This dynamic series of postures brought health and balance to her life. Inspired to share this platform for healing and self discovery with others, she graduated from Bikram’s teacher training in 2006. Courtney currently teaches in NY at the very same studio she took her first class. She has competed in the Bishnu Charan Ghosh Championship three times, each year setting new goals for herself and working to refine her practice. As the 2009 National and International Champion, she hopes to inspire people to believe in their unlimited potential.
Jeffery Rangel, 2008 USA YOGA GOLD MEDAL WINNER
Jeffrey Rangel began practicing yoga in the fall of 2000 while working as a doctoral candidate at the University of Michigan. Something powerful yet ill-defined happened in that first class: the "work out" was great and the sweat cleansing, but even more, Jeff intuited a way of balancing his intellectual pursuits with a physical practice that hinted toward spiritual growth. Sensing a life change at hand, Jeff jettisoned a career in academia to pursue his growing passion for yoga and within the year became a certified teacher in the Spring of 2001. Jeff has devoted himself to teaching yoga full time in Pasadena, California ever since. He has had the opportunity to travel and teach all across California, Hawaii and for a stint in Bangkok, Thailand.
Like many in our society, Jeff was at first suspect of the idea of putting yoga and competition together. However, after witnessing the incredible courage, grace and beauty demonstrated by the competitors, he wanted in. Curiously enough, just as when he took his first yoga class, Jeff's initial experience with competitive yoga was transformative in unnamable ways. This launched Jeff''s foray into yoga competition.
He met with some initial success as the men's runner up in both the 2006 national and international competitions, but more importantly, found a new pathway for developing his practice and his self as the three minutes spent on stage demonstrating yoga have been some of the most honest and self-revelatory times of his life.
Jeff is a four-time Southern California Yoga Asana Champion as well as the 2008 USA Mens National Champion and is grateful for the opportunities competitive yoga has afforded him to share the transformative power of yoga.
Alisa Matthews 2006 (tie), 2007 (tie), 2008 USA YOGA GOLD MEDAL WINNER
Alisa was born and raised in Honolulu, HI. For many years, her dream was to be a ballerina. Unlike most dancers, Alisa began her training very late, and was told at first that it would be impossible to dance professionally. Determined to follow her passion, she tripled her class and rehearsal schedule, often dancing and doing conditioning exercises from early morning until very late at night. She never gave up, worked extremely hard, and was able to train with several of the best Russian ballet teachers in the country. Alisa’s hard work and determination paid off, and she achieved her dream of becoming a professional ballet dancer.
Unfortunately, Alisa’s overloaded ballet schedule began to take a toll on her body, leaving her with severe back and leg injuries, and she wasn’t able to dance for several months. It was during this time that Alisa tried her first yoga class. She began to feel the benefits of yoga on her body and eventually decided to become a certified yoga instructor. Alisa has coached students and taught yoga around the world. She continues to teach yoga privately, with hopes of inspiring her clients to believe in themselves. Alisa won the 2006 (tie), 2007 (tie), and 2008 US National Yoga Championships and in 2008, she won the International Yoga Championship.
Cynthia Wehr 2005 & 2007 (tie) USA YOGA GOLD MEDAL WINNER
Cynthia Wehr has been practicing yoga for 15 years and became a Bikram Yoga Teacher in Spring 2003. She earned the USA and World Yoga Champion title in 2007. This gave her the opportunity to travel the world to teach and demonstrate. She spent a lot her time teaching in Tokyo, Japan for Bikram Yoga Japan and in Bikram Yoga San Jose until June 2011.
Cynthia opened her own Bikram Yoga Studio in Mountain View, CA in July 2011. Since 2008, Cynthia has judged regional, US, and International Championships as well as being on the board of the USA Yoga Federation, working closely with Rajashree Choudhury/USA Yoga board members to introduce Yoga as an Olympic sport.She also coaches competitors every year as well as being a part of bringing the Yoga community together by being involved in the social networks.
The constant inspiration and change Cynthia has witnessed and experienced feeds her soul daily to keep teaching Bikram yoga forever. To bring yoga to children and children to yoga is the ultimate destination, the big step for truly creating a more peaceful, honest planet. By bringing yoga championships into the light, into everyones home, can make this destination possible.
Ky Ha 2007 USA YOGA GOLD MEDAL WINNER
Born in Vietnam, Ky immigrated to the United States at the age of 3 where he grew up in Houston, TX. Ky grew up encountering a multiple auto accidents resulting in breaking his legs and arms. As a result of these accidents he suffered many ailments through his body including severe back, neck and joint pain. After beginning the practice of Bikram yoga; Ky discovered something that has truly transformed his body and life. "In the beginning, I hated going to class in the beginning. I was so weak and inflexible, I couldn't even touch my toes!" Through sweat and determination, Ky has managed to build strength and flexibility as a result of an everyday practice.
With the encouragement of his teachers, Ky attended Bikram's teacher training during the summer of 2004. Shortly after that Ky participated in his first yoga asana championships where he won first place at the Texas regional competition which qualified him into the national competition where he placed fifth. That year was extremely influential to Ky future as he was inspired by all those who were participating. The following year Ky returned to the championship finals securing second place in the U.S. and third place internationally. Participating in the championships each year, Ky has learn from each performance on stage. On his third year; Ky was privilege to be able to be coached and mentored by Jim Kallett; a very senior instructor of Bikram yoga. With Jim's aid, Ky competed in the 2007 championships where he was victorious as the men's United States champion as well as the men's international champion.
After winning the championships, Ky embarked upon a tour along with women's champion Cynthia Wehr. Together they travelled around the world promoting the yoga asana championships, performing demonstrations and coaching future competitors. Ky spent two years afterwards teaching in Singapore and currently now resides in London where he actively coaches competitors for the international championships each year. Ky is a dynamic and enthusiastic individual and his teaching skills has been responsible for a number of competitors in the top ten each year including 2009 men's international champion Dev Kapil. Ky also serves as an international judge. He has judged championships all around the world including Thailand, Czech Republic and Australia. Ky realizes the importance of the championships and how much he has grown from the experience, that is why he is so dedicated and focus to help others achieved the same goal.
Ashley Hooper 2006 (tie) USA YOGA GOLD MEDAL WINNER
Before starting her yoga practice in 2001 Ashley had a background in gymnastics and ballet. After a seminar in Vancouver BC where she met Bikram and Rajashree, Ashley decided to attend the teacher training in the Fall of 2002.
Ashley taught in the Los Angeles area for 4 years and continued her education of the yoga by being apart of the teacher trainings while they were held at the Los Angeles Headquarters. Ashley was a participant in the first yoga competition and continued to compete until she won the World championship in 2006.
Ashley believes she took first in the World Championships in 2006 due to her change in mindset of the competitions. More than anything that year she decided to have as much fun as she could while competing. Rather than focusing on the outcome of her performance, she decided she would enjoy the competition as much as she could, which resulted in her taking 1st.
Ashley now lives in her hometown of Kennewick WA, where she owns and operates a Bikram Yoga studio with her sister Angela Casassa. She is forever grateful to Bikram and Rajashree for giving her a life of doing what she loves and allowing her to spread the healing benefits of Bikram Yoga to her loved ones and her community.
Juan Manuel Martin-Busutil 2005 & 2006 USA YOGA GOLD MEDAL WINNER
Lesli Lounsbury 2003 Gold Medal Winner
I started practicing Bikram Yoga in 2000. I was a gymnast at an early age, and then transitioned to a professional dancer at 14. When I started my career as a hairstylist, at age 24, I moved away from dance and refocused my energies towards Bikram yoga. I became a certified Bikram teacher in 2001. In 2003 I entered the Bishnu Charan Gosh Cup and was titled the 1st International Yoga Champion. Since it was the first year it was held, the women's and men's divisions were combined.
Since I became the Champion it gave me the opportunity to teach, demonstrate,coach and judge around the world in India, Japan, Australia, England and throughout the US. Winning the Gosh Cup changed my life because this Milwaukee girl, who had never been out of the country before, became a world traveler. I was privileged to meet inspirational people all over the world, and I had the opportunity to learn about other cultures. I was given the chance to work in Japan and India. I also visited London and Australia to demonstrate and judge Regional Competitions and International Championships.
I am currently teaching at Bikram Yoga College of India in San Diego, Ca. Us When people discover that I was the first Yoga Champion, it seems easier for me to inspire them to develop their yoga practice.