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Wayne Campbell: Men’s 50+ Champion

Two months before Wayne Campbell’s first yoga competition, the 2014-2015 Texas Yoga Asana Championship, he found himself inspired by the five yoga athletes taking the same 84 Advanced Yoga Series Class as him. Seeing their energy, focus, and ambition made him want to compete that year. His fast training paid off when he advanced to the 2014-2015 USA National Yoga Asana Championship that same year.
 
After a few years of competition, Wayne continues to compete to train his body every day and progress further into more advanced yoga poses.
 
This daily practice, however, is something Wayne had to pause in the weeks leading up to the 2017 USA National Yoga Championship. Five weeks before nationals, Wayne strained his Rhomboid muscle, which made it difficult to perform one of his competition poses: Finger Stand. Wayne focused on healing, and paused his yoga practice and training to have chiropractic massages three times a week, and acupuncture and cupping every other week.
 
Additionally, Wayne decided to change Finger Stand Pose for another advanced pose: One Legged Peacock Pose.  
 
Through yoga competition, Wayne has learned the importance of stillness and slow breathing, which helps calm his nervous system, quiets his mind, and keeps his adrenaline low. This stillness is behind Wayne’s perspective on the seconds leading up to taking the stage at Nationals: he considers them calm and beautiful moments.
 
After Internationals, Wayne plans to continue to fine tune his training and prepare for the next year’s Yoga Champion season. He also plans to continue to spend time at home with his girlfriend, Moji, and their Jack Russell Terrier, Max.

Catherine McCauley: Women’s 50+ Champion

Catherine McCauley began practicing yoga in 2005 as an alternative to running.  Before long, yoga became part of her. For the past 12 years, her yoga studio in north Texas, run by Stacey Stier Herndon, has been a welcoming community and a haven of support.
 
Catherine started competing in 2008 as a way to dive deeper into the details of the postures. Almost a decade later, competition continues to offer this deeper focus.
 
However, Catherine admits that her own mind is a challenge to overcome through competition. In order to stay focused, she keeps a three-step mantra. First, she focuses on being present. As she explains “I only have this moment; I choose to be here, and I am excited to share her love.” Second, she stays grateful for her body, its abilities, and for her life. Finally, she tries to feel, know, and trust the love of the universe as present at all times.   
 
Through competition, Catherine has been pleasantly surprised to experience what she considers very sincere love, support, and encouragement from her fellow competitors. As she says, “[Competition] really is a beautiful experience and their love and support is such a great example to me, it helps to calm me, realizing it is not about ‘winning,’ it’s about sharing the experience, encouraging others, and doing your best, whatever that is, today.
 
Additionally, through competition Catherine has also learned how much her mind and thinking can impact her performance. It’s a lesson that carries through to other aspects of her personal life. Cautions against coming “from a place of ego,” which can make one fearful and negative. Instead, she promotes coming “from a place of love,” to allow that pure love to shine through.

Adult 50+ Competitor Roxanne Armstrong: No Limitations

Women’s Adult 50+ Bronze medalist Roxanne Armstrong sees getting older as an opportunity, not a limitation. The devoted yogi, Bikram yoga teacher and yoga competitor practices and teaches at Hot Yoga Pasadena, where she learns from both students and teachers such as Jeff Rangel, a former USA Yoga Federation champion.

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Kabir’s Kids Yoga

Kabir’s Kids Yoga

By Kabir Samlal



My personal yoga story starts at the age of five when I had my first yoga lesson in Singapore together with other children. I remember how surprised I was that my body could do so many things, and how enjoyable it was.

The teacher let me “fly” in the bow pose and I tried a hand stand. When we moved to India, we did yoga in school, and yoga became something normal to me, something that was part of life. Whenever I was upset or tensed, I took a deep breath. If I wanted to stretch my body, I did so through yoga exercise. Yoga teaches you to understand your body better, and I soon became more aware of my body. For example, it helped me how to avoid injuries for my soccer practice. Also, as a child, I was able to focus and concentrate. Was that on the account of yoga? Who knows, but it definitely contributed to it.

Back in Holland I joined my mom in practicing yoga and quickly got into the International yoga competition. Practicing for competition and championships was great fun, and I got to experience great adventures. Especially championships were highly motivating because it was a continuous challenge, and you were working very hard towards a specific goal. I made friends with people from all over the world, many of whom I am still in touch with.

However, there were no other children, I was the only one. That was something I would like to have seen differently. Other kids were always curious about my yoga and asked many questions. That gave me the idea to write on kids yoga. It had to be in book format with many illustrations or drawings to make it accessible for young children. I made up a story that was composed of the yoga poses that were my favorites when I was young. With my younger brothers and some of their friends, I tried it on them, and came up with a self-developed flow.

In 2014 we moved to the US where yoga is much more present than in Holland; yoga is a real business in the US. You can find a yoga studio on every corner of the street, at least, in the major cities. But also here, you will rarely find children who actively practice yoga. I started teaching yoga to kids, and used my own developed flow, which I named “Kabir’s kids yoga”. Meanwhile, I was also certified to teach yoga. I was only fourteen when I got certified which is very young for a yoga teacher. But at the same time, I did notice that children enjoyed having me as their teacher, exactly for the reason that I was a child myself.
Meanwhile, I worked with a graphic illustrator who made drawings from photos of my yoga poses. We worked closely together because I was eager to have the drawings capture what I felt and what I experienced when practicing those specific yoga poses. It was a lot of work consuming much time. At the end, the drawings were restyled to make them more presentable and smooth. I got in touch with a design agency who helped me with the design of the book. I had a clear image of how I wanted the end product to look like. The agency was just on the edge of getting freaked out by my stubbornness (….), but I was very firm on the details. The words and pictures should convey a very specific feeling to the reader with every single pose.

Then, in the summer of 2016 –after almost two years- the final version of the book was there! I gave the very first copy to Dev Kapil in Singapore where I got my teacher certification, and he also wrote the foreword. My yoga book has been published in Asia first and was well received. It also received a nice review from the Singapore yoga journal. In the US, there was also some demand for my book. I did a book presentation and the book is now available at various yoga studios. I hope that the book will inspire parents to try out the yoga flow together with their kids, or the other way round. I am now a member of the Youth Committee for USA Yoga with the goal to promote yoga for children. Hopefully, my book will contribute in achieving that goal!

One can practice the poses and exercise yoga together with their children by following the flow in the book, thereby inspiring your kids to attend yoga classes. Children cannot go to yoga class on their own, it is the parents who should value yoga and give it priority. From my own experience I can say that I can recall very little from the many times my parents were watching my soccer games from the side line, but I remember vividly when they joined me on the mat to practice yoga!

For more info on Kabir and his Kids Yoga, pls visit www.kabirsyoga.com

Eddie Hall: Adult Men’s Champion

Eddie Hall, the 2017 Adult Men’s Champion for USA Yoga, is the co-founder of Farmhouse Health & Fitness. The name for his business comes from the 127-year old farmhouse that he works on when he’s not in the yoga studio.
 
Caring for such an old structure requires patience—patience that Eddie has learned through his yoga practice. For Eddie, who has been competing since November 2009, practicing patience through yoga is an important way to avoid injury—he will not force himself into a posture if he doesn’t feel ready for it.
 
This patience became integral to Eddie’s progression from regionals through nationals this year. Eddie had not attempted Full Spine Twist at regionals in March due to a minor knee injury. He took some time off of yoga in order to heal and then slowly and therapeutically re-introduced the pose into his routine.
 
His almost nine years of competition have not only given Eddie the motivation to continually improve his practice but have also given him the right techniques to stay calm. As he gets ready to take the stage, he focuses on his breathing, trying to smile, relax, and enjoy every second of his time on stage.
 
After representing the United States in the Adult Men’s Division at the International Yoga Sports Championship, Eddie looks forward to continuing to learn more about becoming a better yoga teacher, coach, and practitioner.

Hard Work Pays Off


Photo by Jessica Onderwater

Adult 50+ Competitor Mitch Watkins: Hard Work Pays Off

Focus, discipline and determination are the characteristics of Adult 50+ Men’s Champion Mitch Watkins.

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Lauren Kaye: Being Herself


Lauren Kaye started competing in January 2012, just a few months after she finished her yoga teacher training. Because she came from a ballet background, she was eager to get back on stage, and her friend and mentor Juliana Olmstead, encouraged her to share her practice and passion through competition.

Lauren has come a long way in the past five years alone. As she says, "I was leaving a life behind where I weighed over 250 pounds and struggled with mobility from ACL reconstruction on my right knee.  I proved to myself and the world that you could heal yourself in many ways through yoga!" In her first year, Lauren was proud to place third in Maryland, and this year she took first place for Maryland during the Super Regional held at the Arnold Sports Festival.  

Over the last five years, Lauren has continued to compete because of the community of yogis as well as the fact that training for competition holds her accountable to her yoga practice. Finally, Lauren competes to encourage others to share their yoga practice.

As she explains, "I get up there not only because it gives me great joy, but also because it gives me great purpose!  When I'm told that I inspire others, perhaps to share their art (as my mom says) or love their bodies no matter how different they may be, it drives me to push myself.  To show that they too can be capable of anything they put their everything into!"

Lauren has put her everything into one pose in particular: locust pose. When Lauren first began to practice, she would frequently skip this posture because she found it difficult. Over time, however, Lauren began to realize the importance of the posture: "I started bringing more weight on to my shoulders and pressing my upper body down and all of the sudden one day, my legs were light as a feather!" With perseverance, she was able to kick up all the way and to go over on her own, followed by locust scorpion and full wheel.  

In her five years of competing, the best advice that Lauren has gotten came from her friend, 2007 International Champion Cynthia Wehr: Just be you up there. As Lauren explains, "It may have been something that seemed like a simple answer to her at the time, but it made a big impact on me.  It was like she was giving me permission to be truly myself and that I was enough.  Like letting the best of you shine is really all it took to become a champion!"

Although nationals are over, Lauren is looking forward to meeting up with many of her fellow competitors at an event she is founding, The Great Yogi Campout (www.greatyogicampout.com), October 6-8. You can follow Lauren on facebook: www.facebook.com/lauren.s.kaye

 

Adults 50+ Division Takes off!


By now you have heard that USA Yoga is rebranding the Senior Division to the more descriptive title Adult 50+. This is great news for our Division which includes anyone who turns 50 in the next competition year and those wise yogis who are already age 50 and older.


The Pure Om Fairfax Competition Team Adult 50+ athletes have been busy this summer – first, preparing for Nationals (where competitor Thomas Forbang took the Bronze medal), and now, preparing for the 2018 competition season. During the summer, we continued to meet regularly to give each other constructive feedback on our routines, and everyone has kept up a daily yoga practice. We mixed it up this summer with other forms of yoga as well: Vinyasa, Barre and Yin. These other practices have helped us to build strength, flexibility and balance, which gets even more important as we age.


We also have taken advantage of new perspectives. For example, we visited Bikram Yoga Alexandria to take a class with fellow competitor Zoha Vaezi followed by a Spine Twisting Posture Lab with competitor Jenifer Ruschell.  We have tried different Bikram studios when we have travelled to such far flung places as Paris, Amsterdam, Japan, New Orleans, New Haven, and New York City.


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Presenting Truth in Three Minutes



In November 2015, Robin Fox competed for the first time for reasons similar to why she had started practicing yoga in 2012: She was looking for something to help her manage and heal from her depression.

Fox found her first class terrifying for all the usual reasons: the length and the heat. But on top of that, Fox recalls the visible self-injury cuts she had on her body. From the beginning of that class, Fox felt like she couldn't escape her negative thoughts as she looked at herself in the mirror. However, by the end of the class she found that something incredible had happened. She wanted to return the next day, and she did.  

As she explains, "When you show up to your mat everyday in a sweaty room full of incredible people working through their own struggles, change is inevitable. I started to find joy, gratitude, and love within myself as I unfolded among a community of yogis."

After watching her current coach Michele Vennard compete, Fox was impressed by Vennard's grace and beauty on stage as well as the hard work she knew had taken place before the competition. The inspiration was enough for Fox to decide to compete the following year. As Fox explains, she fell in love "with the process of trying, failing, unfolding, and growing."

According to Fox, she thinks the two largest factors for success, both in competition and life in general, are dedication and time. That's why her training routine in the weeks leading up to a competition includes practicing yoga at least once a day.

This dedication and patience has also helped Fox manage her depression, and while she still struggles she finds that yoga has helped her be a happier person.

Fox says that the best advice she has gotten is to "tell your story with your spine," advice from her coach Michele Vennard. It's advice that, along with Fox's dedication and patience, has helped her with a posture she's excited to master: dancer. Fox says that she tries to practice the pose after every class, and the repetition has led to large changes and improvements for her spine, something she thought would never happen when she first started. She still shows patience towards herself, however, finding peace with the emotions that can sometimes arise when she comes out of the pose.

Overall, Fox competes because she wants to show others that yoga can aid with whatever struggles a person may have, whether they stem from mental health or anything else. As she says, "your story matters, and those three minutes have a beautiful way of presenting your truth."

Intense Concentration

Angel Rodriguez placed first for Virginia during the 2017 Regional Asana competition in Columbus, Ohio, his first live yoga competition.

Although this is Angel's first year competing, he already respects the dedication that it takes to do well on stage. As he explains, yoga isn't a "sissy" sport. "It requires intense concentration, strength, and determination in preparation for success." This intense practice and concentration is what first drew Angel to compete. In fact, he compares the rigorous training and dedication to how he felt when he used to wrestle and play football.

Angel carries this dedication through to his training schedule. He practices yoga six days a week, and attends circuit training sessions and lifts weights four days a week. In the days leading up to competition, he focuses more on his yoga practice and makes time to meditate.

Despite maintaining his focus during his practice, Angel admits that the best training advice he has received is counterintuitive: "don't think about it, just do it!"

Furthermore, Angel's focus has helped him improve the posture that drives him crazy: Locust Pose. Hard work and patience  has paid off for Angel in a pose that tends to improve by millimeters.

As Angel gets ready to join his other competitors in Grand Rapids in a few weeks, he is looking forward to meeting yogis from across the country and excited to see the other competitors practice offstage.

From injury to competition


It all started with a running injury. Jennifer Vanderhart had pulled her groin muscle as she neared the finish line. But for Jennifer, recovery wasn't a race; she felt like it was taking too long, and two months in she decided to take a yoga class at her local gym.
 
Jennifer didn't love yoga immediately. In fact, she thought her first class was boring. It wasn't until another two months had passed and she tried yoga again, this time at a different studio. She still wasn't convinced, but Jennifer kept up with her yoga practice. A year and a half later she was competing.
 
For Jennifer, competing gives her extra incentive to work on her postures, and it has helped her approach her practice with a more detail-oriented focus.
 
Best of all, Jennifer enjoys competing because it has led to her meeting an array of people, and she loves working with other competitors and would-be competitors.
 
Jennifer says that from her own experience, the best advice she can give her fellow competitors is not to "train" at a specific point in time before competition but rather to practice mindfully and consistently. Your practice is your training.  Although she tries to practice every day, Jenifer admits that it can be difficult. However, she makes the most of her classes by picking a few postures to practice after each class, no matter how tired she may be.
 
For her fellow competitors, Jennifer says, "Competition day is such a rush!  Try to enjoy the day, the people, the heightened awareness and energy.  Maybe this year you hit everything perfectly.  Maybe that's for next year.  It's a long yoga life."
 
A long yoga life indeed, where injury and setbacks can lead to competition and success.

Interview with Scott Marin

An Interview with Scott Marin, USA Yoga Senior Men’s Champion 2015 & 2016

 

  • What got you started practicing yoga?  About 15 years ago and before I started doing yoga, I developed pretty sore knees and hips from decades of running. My wife, Karen, had been doing yoga at a fitness center, and she invited me to attend a class. I found hatha yoga to be a great fitness program, and my joints improved. 

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