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Scott Marin: Excited to be on the USA Yoga Team



The Adult 50+ 2017 and 2018 champions are preparing to travel to Beijing, China to compete in the World Championship of Yoga Sports, December 1-2. This series of blog posts will explore their journey.

Scott Marin placed 4th for Adult 50+ Men in Grand Rapids, MI in 2017. Here’s a look at his journey to Beijing.

1) Why are you competing in Internationals? What drives you to make this journey?

I decided to compete in the 2018 internationals after receiving an invitation based on 2017 national results. I had competed in the 2016 internationals in Italy, and the thrill of training for and competing in another international competition was too much to ignore. I enjoy competition training as part of regular yoga practice.

2) How are you preparing for the International Competition? Include types of practice, diet, meditation, etc.

For preparation, I’ve increased my yoga practice at home and at the studio. At home, I concentrate on stretching tight areas and strengthening weak areas. At the studio, I do lots of beginner, intermediate, and advanced classes. I found that training is a delicate balance between improving postures, healing sore joints, and avoiding injury.

3) What are you most excited about?

I’m excited about being on the USA Yoga Team. The fellow yogis are great. I’m anxious to see old friends and meet new ones.

4) Will any friends/family travel with you? Who?

My wife, Karen, will travel with me as she has done for several past competitions.

5) How long have you been practicing?

I have been practicing yoga since 2005. Prior to that, I did distance running, which included several marathons. Around age 50, my knees and hips were chronically sore from the running. Yoga gave me a lot of relief.

6) What is your profession?

I’m a retired electrical engineer.

7) Where do you regularly practice/are you a yoga teacher (name the studio, including city and state)?

I regularly practice near Dallas, Texas at Bikram Yoga Richardson/Allen. In early 2018, I completed a 200-hour teacher training program based on Ashtanga flow yoga. I occasionally teach a Ghosh Flow (intermediate) class. I’ve also been leading competition practice sessions to encourage new people to get involved with yoga sport and to help past competitors prepare for their next competition.


Thomas Forbang: Meticulous Preparation to Compete



The Adult 50+ 2017 and 2018 champions are preparing to travel to Beijing, China to compete in the World Championship of Yoga Sports, December 1-2. This series of blog posts will explore their journey.

Thomas Forbang won the Adult 50+ Men’s Division Gold Medal at the 2018 USA Yoga Nationals in Madison, WI as well as the Bronze Medal in 2017 in Grand Rapids, MI.

1) Why are you competing in Internationals?
Because I ranked high enough in the 2017/2018 USA Yoga National Championship competitions and that earned me an invite to the Internationals.

2) What drives you to make this journey?
Sheer love for the sport and more exposure to the international world which potentially can land some advertising interests from companies.

3)  How are you preparing for the International Competition? Include types of practice, diet, meditation, etc.
I have begun my 90 days of competition training (since September 1) with drills that target spine flexibility, shoulder thawing and hip opening. I am also striving to maintain a Body Fat Ratio (BFR) of under 15% by meticulously balancing appropriate calories consumed versus calories burned.

4) What are you most excited about?
Stepping once again on the biggest yoga stage in the world - The International Yoga Championship competitions. Also, getting to visit Asia for the first time. We will be stopping by Tokyo, Japan on our way back.

5) Will any friends/family travel with you? Who?
Oh yes - my wife! She is my spine. She joins my head to my lower body using my mid body :)  

6) How long have you been practicing?
2018 is my 7th year practicing.

7) What is your profession?
I am a software developer and a design, data and application architect.

8) Where do you regularly practice/are you a yoga teacher (name the studio, including city and state)?
I practice daily at the YogaWorks Fairfax studio in Fairfax City, Virginia and just recently became Yoga Alliance certified (RYT 200) as a Hot 60/90 yoga instructor

9) Any other info you want us to know.
I am looking fervently to the Internationals again. More importantly, I want to be one of the members of Team USA who brings the ultimate  trophy home in the Men's Adult 50+ division  just like we did in 2016 in Pordenone, Italy.

Michele Vennard: Thrilled to Go on Stage



The Adult 50+ 2017 and 2018 champions are preparing to travel to Beijing, China to compete in the World Championship of Yoga Sports, December 1-2. This series of blog posts will explore their journey.

Michele Vennard won the Adult 50+ Women’s Division Gold Medal at the 2018 USA Yoga Nationals in Madison, WI as well as the Silver Medal in 2017 Nationals in Grand Rapids, MI.

1) Why are you competing in Internationals? What drives you to make this journey?  

I find it fascinating that at age 54, I can compete in something I love at an International level.  I think the push to traveling to Beijing (where I have never been) was knowing that I'd be announced as Michele Vennard from the United States - that is so powerful and I'm proud!  I'm not just proud of myself and the community that I'm in, but proud of yoga and the hard work everyone has done to expose it this way!

2)  How are you preparing for the International Competition? Include types of practice, diet, meditation, etc.
I don't overdo it because I recognize that it is a performance. I will go a bit harder in extra classes, doing homework and watching how I eat and sleep. But I also want to push the practice to show how this is available to everyone to build and sustain overall health even in older years!  It has to be a way of life for all if you want to live the life you were meant to have!

3) What are you most excited about?  
I'm thrilled to go on stage in another country - wow!  I'm thrilled to see and meet new people in a new country. But mostly, I am so excited to meet my peers from other parts of the world - that will make me cry!

4) Will any friends/family travel with you? Who?  
I am so lucky as I don't really "like" to travel and I have not ever done anything like this, but I have Lee (Seldon Dickinson) coming with me as he's lived there, and knows the language and the subway system - yay!  He's competed and he's so excited to go with me and help - I'm so grateful.

5) How long have you been practicing?  
I just celebrated on August 11th, 20 years of practice.  I wrote a blog about it on our website (blog section) and Changu did a story on me, Humans of Bikram Yoga if you care to read or share more.

6) What is your profession?  
I own and direct Bikram Yoga San Jose (and teach too).

7) Where do you regularly practice/are you a yoga teacher (name the studio, including city and state)?

Bikram Yoga San Jose, San Jose, CA.

8) Any other info you want us to know.

I've owned my studio for 15+ years.  I also coach athletes. I've hosted, along with Cynthia Wehr of Bomitra, several Regionals.  I've judged in the past.  I graduated from teacher training in Fall 2001!


Yoko Jackson: Grateful for Her Practice



The Adult 50+ 2017 and 2018 champions are preparing to travel to Beijing, China to compete in the World Championship of Yoga Sports, December 1-2. This series of blog posts will explore their journey.

Yoko Jackson won the Silver Medal for Adult 50+ Women in Madison, WI in 2018. Here’s a look at her journey to Beijing.

1) Why are you competing in Internationals? What drives you to make this journey?

Last year, I decided that it would be a good way to commemorate my 50th birthday by competing in the yoga competition. I had only been practicing Yoga for three years and thought that it would be a great way to assess my skills to better understand how to improve myself. I had never imagined that I would get the opportunity to compete in internationals.

2)  How are you preparing for the International Competition? Include types of practice, diet, meditation, etc.

On Mondays, I have my Ashtanga primary class, and Tuesdays are my Ashtanga Mysore class. From Wednesday to Saturday I continue my Ashtanga practice on my own. Also, on Wednesdays and Thursdays I practice hot yoga for 60 minutes and then 90 minutes Friday to Sunday.

3) What are you most excited about?

I’m very excited about learning more about the Chinese culture and competing with all the other incredible people at the international level.

4) Will any friends/family travel with you? Who?

No, I'll be traveling by myself, but my family and friends are always supporting me, and I know I will have their support.

5) How long have you been practicing?

I have been practicing hot yoga for three years.

6) What is your profession?

I take care of my 17 year old daughter and 22 year old son at home. I also take care of my adorable miniature schnauzer.

7) Where do you regularly practice/are you a yoga teacher (name the studio, including city and state)?

I practice at YogaWorks in Fairfax, VA and practice Ashtanga at Heart N Soul Yoga in Vienna, Va.

8) Any other info you want us to know.

Yoga has helped me recover and rehabilitate after a tennis injury four years ago. I have continued to better my health by trying all different types of yoga. I’m very grateful for being introduced to the practice, and I hope that all kinds of yoga are fully appreciated and understood by the yogis out there.

Roxanne Armstrong: Age Does Not Define Her



The Adult 50+ 2017 and 2018 champions are preparing to travel to Beijing, China to compete in the World Championship of Yoga Sports, December 1-2. This series of blog posts will explore their journey.

Roxanne Armstrong won the Bronze Medal for Adult 50+ Women in Grand Rapids, MI in 2017. Here’s a look at her journey to Beijing.

1) Why are you competing in Internationals? What drives you to make this journey?

I am competing because i don't want age to define me. I like that my yoga practice is ageless and timeless. This is what I would love to share with others: there are no limitations when you are open and free to possibilities.

I am a person who does better with a goal. Competitions help me too focus and prioritize my practice, my natural instinct is to be lazy but at the same time I value health and well-being and I know the value of community. Odd, but it's the perfect storm!!

2)  How are you preparing for the International Competition? Include types of practice, diet, meditation, etc.

I prepare by just being consistent with my practice, at this stage of life I am doing what feels right, not to push so hard that I injure myself, but more awareness of what feels good and what is possible. I want a balance, and that’s the message I want to share with others, be open and present in your body, be willing to receive and accept.

3) What are you most excited about?

I'm excited about a new adventure. The wonderful experience, connecting with other like-minded beings, the support, the encouragement and too be in inspired!

4) Will any friends/family travel with you? Who?

I will be traveling alone, but I will meet up with many that are friends and competitors who all are my Family!

5) How long have you been practicing?

I am entering my 16th year of practice.

6) What is your profession?

I am a Massage Therapist, a Yoga Teacher, and a Personal Assistant. I have many jobs, and I love them all! I feel I am here for the service of others but ALSO that I am here to live a life of balance, I really try to Walk the Talk and lead by example.

7) Where do you regularly practice/are you a yoga teacher (name the studio, including city and state)?

I practice at Hot Yoga Pasadena, CA. I love this studio. Val Sklar-Robinson is the owner, and we are celebrating our 20th Year!!

Mai Toomey: Honored, Excited and Motivated!

The Adult 50+ 2017 and 2018 champions are preparing to travel to Beijing, China to compete in the World Championship of Yoga Sports, December 1-2. This series of blog posts will explore their journey.

Mai Toomey won the Bronze Medal for Adult 50+ Women in Madison, WI. Here’s a look at her journey to Beijing.

1) Why are you competing in Internationals? What drives you to make this journey?

I started yoga as one of my hobbies. By joining yoga competitions, I feel more connected and committed with my practice. It was great every time I had an opportunity to see my yoga fellows in such a positive and healthy environment. This year, for the first time, I joined them in the National Yoga Championship. Unexpectedly, I placed 3rd in our 50+ Women Adult Division which advanced me to the International Yoga Championship in Beijing in December. I feel honored, excited and motivated. Yoga definitely enhances my quality of life.

2)  How are you preparing for the International Competition? Include types of practice, diet, meditation, etc.

Finding time to practice is very challenging. I have a very busy and intense full-time job, and I often feel drained at the end of the workday. However, I am always looking forward to free time I have for my practice. It seems funny but very often I practice my postures when I am cooking dinner; then on weekends, I go to a yoga studio to practice. In terms of diet, I eat a daily balanced meal of everything: carb, protein and vegetables. I eat a lot of carbs though. I like fresh-baked bread; I can’t help it. Then I burn calories by my yoga practice!

3) What are you most excited about?

I am extremely excited and looking forward to seeing our USA team and all athletes from different countries. Just thinking of watching their live performances and cheering them on makes me feel very emotional. I am very honored and proud to be a part of the event.

4) Will any friends/family travel with you? Who?

My husband and my daughter will go with me.

5) How long have you been practicing?

Four years.

6) What is your profession?

I am a Medical Coding Compliance Auditor. It is a very stressful job; that’s why I need yoga!

7) Where do you regularly practice/are you a yoga teacher (name the studio, including city and state)?

I practice at Baltimore Hot Yoga and Wellness in Parkville, Maryland.

8) Any other info you want us to know.

Warm regards to all yoga athletes and enjoy your yoga journey!

Nahoko Nakayama: Yoga Has Changed Her Life

 

The Adult 50+ 2017 and 2018 champions are preparing to travel to Beijing, China to compete in the World Championship of Yoga Sports, December 1-2. This series of blog posts will explore their journey.

Nahoko Nakayama won the Bronze Medal for Adult 50+ Women in Madison, WI. She is a truly inspiring athlete, having also won the Gold Medal for the 2018 Mid-West Regionals held in Arlington, VA at age 63. Here’s a look at her journey to Beijing.

1) Why are you competing in Internationals? What drives you to make this journey?



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Wayne Campbell: Diligent Pursuit of Greatness

The Adult 50+ 2017 and 2018 champions are preparing to travel to Beijing, China to compete in the World Championship of Yoga Sports, December 1-2. This series of blog posts will explore their journey.

Wayne Campbell won the Bronze Medal for Adult 50+ Men in Madison, WI. Here’s a look at his journey to Beijing.

1) Why are you competing in Internationals? What drives you to make this journey?

I am competing in the 2018 International Yoga Championship because I have diligently trained 4 years as a Yoga Athlete to reach a level or proficiency, skill, and ability that would lead me to this opportunity.  I have my health, vitality, energy, and no good reason not to compete.  To be rewarded and recognized for diligently pursuing the path of the Yoga Athlete has so much more value to me.  I love reaping the rewards of what I have put so much time, energy, focus, and intention into.

2)  How are you preparing for the International Competition? Include types of practice, diet, meditation, etc.

I am preparing very diligently for the 2018 International Yoga Competition.  
I use lots of video and visual feedback for guidance.  I take 6-7 Bikram Hot Yoga classes each week, 13 Stretch Flow Yoga classes each week, 3 Hatha Yoga classes a week, and 3 Mat Pilates classes a week.  I also have my own personal yoga and stretch ritual, which consists stretches, drills, and exercises to go deeper into my muscles and fascia, which varies between 1-3 hours daily.  Then I practice yoga poses in my routine as well as other poses I am developing.  

My diet is pretty simple......
Early Breakfast: Fruit.
Breakfast: Granola w/ Almond Milk.
Snack: Walnuts.
Lunch:  Meat & vegetables or starches & vegetables.
Snack: Walnuts.
Dinner: Meat & vegetables or starches & vegetables.

3) What are you most excited about?

I am most excited about the possibility of improving the scores of the yoga poses in my yoga routine and excited about successfully doing a yoga pose that I have been working on for months and years.

4) How long have you been practicing?

I have been practicing yoga for 13.5 years.

5) What is your profession?

I am a Yoga Studio owner of Urban Fit Yoga, a Certified Bikram Yoga Teacher and a Licensed Massage Therapist.

6) Where do you regularly practice/are you a yoga teacher (name the studio, including city and state)?

I am the owner of Urban Fit Yoga Houston in Houston, Texas.

7) Any other info you want us to know.  

I have a second chance at training and performing as a yoga athlete after a career-ending dance injury that left me living with chronic pain and tightness for 23 years.  I am grateful to be able to train, play, perform on stage, and for my body healing and recovering.  I wish every yoga athlete good luck and growth on their Yoga athlete journey.

Mike Peck: Yoga is a Gift to Myself

Mike Peck, the USA Yoga Federation West Coast Regionals Adult 50+ Gold Medalist, began practicing yoga on a regular basis in 1977, using Richard Hittleman's Introduction to Yoga.  Just before his 59th birthday six years ago, he stopped by the local Hot Yoga studio in Scottsdale, Arizona as “a gift to myself.  I had been curious about hot yoga, stopped in, and have been going ever since,” he reminisced.

Mike practices at The Foundry Yoga in Paradise Valley and Old Town Scottsdale, Arizona, training with coach Heidi-Jo Klingman. Despite his very demanding full-time job as a burn surgeon, he prepares for competition in three ways: practicing the classic 90-minute class at least three times a week; taking advantage of other classes (Pilates, HIIT, barre, power yoga) to help build strength and endurance; and taking private lessons with teachers and working on the homework they give him.

Mike has been competing for three years. Why did he first get interested? “I did it the first time because I appreciated the challenge and also because I got a lot of encouragement from my teachers,” he explains. “I went to my first regional competition about three years ago.  I fell out of standing bow but found the preparation for the event really helped my focus and my practice.”

Other benefits of training? “Not only was I now more focused on the postures in my routine, but I was also conscious of more attention to form and detail on the rest of the 90-minute sequence,” he says.  “Plus, it's a great group of people who compete!”

To stay fit, he starts most days with a cup of hot water and lemon juice followed by a Jamba Juice large Greens and Ginger.  He eats a light salad for lunch, and “then I come home and eat whatever my wife puts on the table for dinner.” He has mostly eliminated caffeine and reduced his intake of starches.  He drinks 3 liters of water a day.

Other hobbies include hiking and skiing. Mike has worked at burn centers all over the country, including Seattle, Cincinnati, Miami, and Chapel Hill, and have been in Phoenix for the last 10 years. He and his wife have three adult children.

“My daughter practices Hot Yoga off and on,” Mike says.  “My youngest son (who is 27) came once.  Unfortunately, I neglected to prepare him for class, and he had a cheeseburger for lunch -- that didn't go so well!”  

His advice for yogis considering competition in the 50+ Division? “Try it--there is nothing to lose, and it's a great experience!”

Mara Scaramella: Continually Challenging Herself


Mara Scaramella has a lot on her plate, but she still finds time to practice and compete, achieving the first-place medal for Arizona Adult 50+ Women for the past three years. Mara is one of the USA Yoga Federation scholarship winners for the 2018 Nationals and is looking forward to the competition in Madison, WI.


“I enjoy going to the competitions – the whole community is really nice and really fun,” she says. “I’m really looking forward to it and am really excited that there are so many Adult 50+ female competitors this year!”

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Cori Crawford Van Oss: A Beautiful Practice

Cori Crawford Van Oss, the Adult 50+ Women’s Gold Medalist for the Southern States Regionals, is looking forward to her first USA Yoga Nationals competition. Age 54, she has practiced yoga for 12 years and is now ready to showcase her skills. “For me, the competition gives me a goal to work for so I’m taking my body as far as it can go in a healthy way,” Cori says.

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April Penland

April Penland went from teaching high school Latin to teaching yoga. On stage April manages to find stillness and grace, attributes she’s acquired through a decade-long, consistent yoga practice. This consistent practice is what earned her first place in this year’s Midwest Regionals. We caught up with her as she traveled to Mexico, Austin, and back to Virginia to teach class and lead workshops.



How did you become involved in yoga?

My now husband brought me to my first Bikram yoga class when I was stressed out in college.

What year did you start teaching?

Officially 2016, though I led advanced classes, competition training, “homework” sessions, and workshops before that.

As a teacher, what’s advice you try to give to your students?

Try everything without any preconceived beliefs of can and can't, but accept wherever you are.  You're stronger than you think.  You can do anything with practice, time, and patience.  So do more yoga.  Also, remember you don't have to touch your head to your butt to get the therapeutic benefits of the posture. 

You also teach youth yogis, particularly for competition. Why do you think yoga is important for children and teens?

In my opinion yoga fosters a sense of optimism, teaches calm and patience, and is good for one’s physical (as well as emotional and spiritual) health.

How did you become involved with USA Yoga?  

About two months after taking my first advanced class, Garland Hume (my former coach, studio owner, teacher, and now-President of USA Yoga) said something to the effect of:  “Hey, we all do this competition thing.  It's so fun.  You should do it.” And I didn't know enough to consider any option other than, “ok.” I discovered she was right though, and I've done competition ever since.

Did you see a change in your mindset or approach going from teaching yoga to being a yoga competitor?

Hmmm, well I was a competitor first and then a teacher.  I've learned a lot though from being competition oriented about alignment and the kinds of corrections/suggestions that help people progress in both beginner and advanced postures.  One thing that I learned quickly when I first started teaching is that some people don't care about progressing in the postures (they just want to feel better), and in my opinion there is nothing wrong with that.  I'll happily share what I know but respect when students, barring doing something that will cause them to hurt themselves, decide not to listen (it's their class).

April, you’re known (at least on my Facebook feed) for your impressive handstands where you push up from a prone position. How did you start doing that? How long has it taken you to get to the point you’re at now?

I started with kicking up onto the wall and then eventually took it off and could do a banana back handstand in the middle of the room with a few attempts.  Then I found Adrian McCavitt, saw his handstands, and started going to every class he was teaching here in Richmond, Virginia, that I could—hand-balance and otherwise.  I was straddle pressing within six months, consistently within a year, pike pressing within a year though not consistent at all, and now I can do so pretty consistently. 

I taught myself a lot of the crazy shapes and lowering down to various poses (because once you know the technique you just apply it to the new stuff you want to work on).  He is an excellent teacher (I've learned and continue to learn so much), but as he says, your handstand progress is directly proportional to your lack of social life.  I consistently worked on it for a long time everyday over that period of time.  That's the road map.

How many years have you competed?

Since 2012 I believe, so 6.

From all your years of competing, what’s something you would offer as advice to new competitors and what would you offer as advice to people who have been doing it for a few years?

New Competitors:  I was lucky to have a coach who emphasized how wonderful and awesome it was just to get up and share your practice.  No matter what happens on that stage, you’re an inspiration to those who witness you.

Seasoned Competitors:  Don't take things too seriously.  I've run the whole gambit of placing (I've been first, second-to-last, and all over in between) and at the end of the day it doesn't really matter.  Just get up there and show what you've learned and have fun.  Also I'm of the mindset that I like to see people do well.  So if someone asks me about technique or how I trained something, and I can help them, I tell them.  Maybe this makes me a bad “competitor,” but I'm ok with that because first and foremost I'm a teacher.  Besides, if I ever win first internationally I want it to be because I had the best present moment on stage, not because I stifled someone else's growth.  

How often do you do the advanced, 84-posture series?

Twice a week.

Would you recommend that other competitors vary their practice?

Hmmm, depends.  I only did Bikram class for the first 8 years of my practice.  I found vinyasa because I found a teacher I liked and respected.  If something comes up organically that resonates with you and is beneficial, add it.  But don't ever lose your foundation, your “maintenance” practice.  It's most important.  I personally practice a lot and lots of different styles because I like to practice.

Is there any type of exercise outside of yoga that you would recommend to people who are competing?

Depends.  I do calisthenics and handbalance classes.  I'm considering adding ballet (never too old right) to help with lines, splits, and toe point.  Add what you want if it makes you feel good and is beneficial. 

How has yoga enriched your life, what has it brought to you?

I'm an introvert and it's really given me a community I can connect with.  It's helped me learn that I can do anything (seriously, anything).  It's helped me manage my anxiety.  It's led to me being a healthier person.  It's taught me to be kind to myself and to take care of myself.  It's lifted my mood.  It's offered me a career I find satisfying, rewarding, and fun.

Nahoko Nakayama: Getting Older Means Getting Stronger

Nahoko Nakayama, Gold Medalist in the Adult Women’s 50+ Division for the Mid-West Regionals, uses age to her advantage. At age 63, her daily yoga practice provides a firm (and flexible) foundation for her success as a yoga competitor.

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USA Yoga Fundraiser: The YogaWorks Fairfax Team Rocks the House

The YogaWorks Team

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Caty Cook: All Things Are Possible


After a break last year to relocate from Richmond, VA to Pennsylvania to be closer to family, Caty Cook will be competing once again this year in the Adult 50+ Division. Currently retired from her business career, she teaches and trains with Roxanne Janecki at BYB Binghamton, NY studio, and also works part-time in merchandising at Home Depot.

Why is she competing? “It’s important for me to keep setting goals and competition is a good way to do that,” she says.
At age 58, she knows it is important just to keep moving. One of the many benefits of competing is that “you learn from other people that all things are possible and you don’t define yourself by your limitations. You are more accepting of yourself and others.”

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Interview with Bel Carpenter

Bel Carpenter has been practicing yoga and meditation since he was a young child. After years of studying asana, pranayama, and meditation, Bel became a yoga instructor in 1996 and opened the first yoga studio in Aspen, Basalt and Glenwood Springs Colorado. He competed every year for the first 10 years of the USA Yoga competition, and International Ghosh Cup. He placed 3rd in the world in 2005 and 2010.


Tell me about yourself.
I have been teaching yoga, training teachers, and managing one to three yoga studios for 21 years. I have two amazing children, who are the pride and joy of my life. My daughter, Juliana, is 13, and my son, Soren, is 10 and. In 2013 I founded Vimana Yoga, which offers six distinct styles of yoga, from fast paced Vinyasa classes all the way to Yin Yoga, in an integrated system with my ex-wife, Emily. I currently operate White Horse Yoga in Carbondale Colorado, and lead Vimana Yoga Teacher Training intensive‘s around the United States and Canada.


How did you become involved in yoga?
Swami Satchidananda blessed me at my home when I was a few months old in Boulder, Colorado. I spent a few days at his workshops over the years when I was growing up. He had a special children’s program. I remember being a rowdy kid, sitting there and thinking, “What are all of these people doing, sitting here all day?” But when I met him personally as a seven-year-old, it changed me forever.


Were your parents involved in yoga?
They were a little involved in it, but my mom’s best friend who was my second mother was a chef for Swami Satchidananda. Growing up in the strong Buddhist and yogic community, Boulder Colorado I was surrounded by enlightening new age practices.


When did you start your physical practice?
When I was a child, we had a children’s yoga book that was called “Be a frog, a bird, or a tree.” I would stretch and do yoga with both of my parents; my dad more so than my mom because my mom worked so much as a family physician. I loved lotus pose. It was one of those things that I have always practiced. My dad used to take me to the sauna at the University of Colorado’s rec center and he taught me to stretch, and massage my legs.


What year did you start teaching?
Emily and I attended Bikram’s fourth teacher training in 1996 together, and started teaching right away after that with Radha Garcia.  She told us that it might be Bikram’s last training in the United States, so we had to go, and we did.


So, in 1996 you were training and then 2013 you begin your yoga brand; when did you open your first yoga studio?
We taught for six months at Radha’s studio in Boulder and then opened our first studio March 15, 1997 in Basalt, Colorado. Emily’s run the studio in Basalt, and I run White Horse Yoga in Carbondale, which opened on July 7, 2007.

Wow, a very auspicious date for that!
Yes, but the practice of yoga is bigger than numerology.


How did you become involved with USA Yoga?
It was at the advanced retreat in Maui, in 2003, when I first learned about the competition. Rajashree [Choudhury] asked if we would compete. That was the year that men and women had to compete against each other. Not a good idea to do with your partner! That year I went on with Esak [Garcia] as first and second from the state of Colorado.

Did you see a change in your mindset or approach going from teaching yoga to being a yoga competitor?
Absolutely. I had a steady practice, but it definitely motivated me to challenge my practice and see what I could do, and be more diligent about it. Whereas earlier, some days I would say, “Yeah, I could go for a hike, go climbing or skiing, or I could look on my practice.” When I started competing, more often than not I would choose to do yoga training.


How many years did you compete?
About ten years. I think I’ve done about 45 competitions, if you include all the regionals, semi-finals, and finals.

How are you affiliated with USA Yoga now?
Vimana Yoga has been a business sponsor The last several years, and I have done a few booth at nationals and the super-regionals promoting our teacher trainings and Vimana Yoga. I am excited after a few years off to compete again this year.


Have you considered judging or coaching given your vast knowledge of yoga?
I would, certainly, but it’s not my thing. If there were a big community of people interested in competing I could be a coach. But I would be too harsh of a judge. Everybody would get zeros! Ha,ha,ha! I’m just kidding. I like to be in the action.

From all your years of competing, what’s something you would offer as advice to new competitors and what would you offer as advice to people who have been doing it for a few years?
I think just to not take it too seriously. Have fun with it. Use it to motivate your practice and yourself without being too competitive about it.

Was there a year when that advice served you particularly well?
I always tried to keep it pretty light, and not be too serious about it. In 2008 my son was a month old when I went out for the competition. That year another competitor purposefully distracted me during my routine. I could not believe it. He was on deck right after me in the finals and he stood exactly where my focal point was but he was moving around while I was doing my routine. But, having a baby at home put it all in perspective. I thought, “I’m a dad. I have kids. If it’s not fun, then there’s no point in doing it.”

Speaking of your children, do they practice yoga?
Oh yeah. The heat is tough for them but they both came and did class two Sundays ago. I teach a stretch class which is a slower gentle flow with some Yin Yoga.

Would you ever want to see them get involved in teaching yoga or being competitors?
I could see them teaching for sure. We’ve already talked about it actually. My daughter is super into ballet so she dances 10 to 12 hours a week. The cross over is really prevalent, but she needs to work on her upper body and core strength, as well as maintaining alignment in her legs.


How often do you do the advanced, 84-posture series?
I practice advanced class a few times a year. I am just super into dynamic Vinyasa Flow, Vimana, and our Hot Stretch restorative classes.


Would you recommend that other competitors vary their practice?
Absolutely. You try to get to the top of the mountain from many different approaches. We tend to get so one-dimensional. I just saw so many injuries after 17 years of people practicing a constant repetition and not having room to explore and to feel their practice. I really learned a lot about how not to do yoga from that.

Is there any type of exercise outside of yoga that you would recommend to people who are competing?
I think walking and swimming are so important, that we move our body in those natural ways. It is so important and healthy to get out and walk every day. Swimming is really good for the hips and shoulders as well as decompressing and elongating the spine.

I also think weight training is really good too if you can focus on specific yoga movements. I offer a Yoga Sculpt teacher training which trains yoga teachers how to integrate high intensity interval training and light weights with yoga philosophy and movements. Using weight is really helpful to get stronger. We need it. My passion is really being outside rock climbing, hiking, camping, skiing, kayaking, or paddle boarding.


If I’m working on something in yoga, I want it to be something that will help my life in some way. I want it to be something that contributes to my mind, my passions, or my sleep. It shouldn’t just be, “Oh, I can do this cool pose!” You have to ask yourself, “How does that help my life, and make the world a better place make the world a better place.”


How has yoga enriched your life, what has it brought to you?
It’s really given me a sense of purpose; having a whole set of really powerful tools to share with people to help them to heal, and be happier and healthier. Having that sense of purpose and being able to be of service to people and the planet is number one. Through the competition I have made so many friends from around the world. Like-minded people who are into yoga, fitness, and health. It is exciting when young people get into the competition. It opens so many positive doors for them. We live in a harsh world right now; we need more tools and more practice creating peace, and overcoming fear.

Leslie Heywood: Professor, Yogi and Life-Long Competitor

I’ve seen Leslie Heywood compete in the USA Yoga 50+ Division and have marveled at her strength. But until recently, I never knew she is both an academic and a life-long competitive athlete.

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Inspiring Others

Paul Moore is a USA Yoga Adult 50+ champion and competitor with a mission. After successfully winning medals in three Nationals and the Gold medal in the 2016 International competition, he is now the man behind the Yogi Road Show, traveling to different studios to inspire others of all ages to compete.

Paul has been practicing for more than eight years. He started because of knee pain from an old leg injury due to a car accident. Two weeks of Hot yoga classes made a big difference, so he continued.  “What really keeps me going are the mental benefits - better calmness, life is brighter,” he said. “More recently my practice has started to provide a sense of purpose. Sharing my practice, inspiring others to do the same, gives deeper meaning.”

At age 65, he works hard at his day job as a Software Engineer with IBM, but heads to the Hot Yoga Mira Mesa studio every weekday evening at 6:30 PM to practice. On the weekends, he leads an open Advanced Series class on Saturdays, and then takes an Advanced Series class on Sundays. He also takes an occasional Yin class. Paul is a dedicated yogi who rarely takes a day off.

Watching and participating in yoga competitions over the past five years has provided a major source of inspiration for his practice.  He enjoys watching the competition routines as well as meeting the yogis and learning of their dedication He has found that competitors work incredibly hard to develop their routines, and that some have had to overcome physical limitations. “It's not just youth and great genetics!” he says.

He also studies yoga and recently finished "Yoga, Karma and Rebirth" by Stephen Phillips. One of his favorite yoga books is "Don't Lose Your Mind, Lose Your Weight" by Rujuta Diwekar.  He is taking the author’s advice about mindful eating, incorporating more fruits and vegetables in his diet. He avoids foods that prevent peak performance, though he still enjoys a slice of pizza now and then!







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From Athlete to Judge: Kim Tang

Kim Tang has participated in yoga sport as an athlete, coach, and judge. Here’s why she thinks judging is most important for “giving back.”

Kim Tang was no stranger to yoga sport when she began judging competitions in 2015. She felt like her time as a competitor had given her a clear understanding of the rules as they evolved throughout the growth of USA Yoga.  She further refined this knowledge as a coach, and felt compelled that judging would give her an outlet to “give back” to the USA Yoga community through a consistent, fair, and comprehensive understanding of the rules and scoring.

As she explains, “I love the event, I love witnessing the essence and personal growth of each competitor in the execution of their routines, and I love the idea that they feel supported and upheld by a familiar face whom they know has personally experienced each aspect of the event.”

The knowledge Tang has gained from her time on stage well-positions her to give advice to competitors. For both first-time and long-time athletes, her advice is the same: “Enjoy this! Whether you know it yet or not, it can be deeply  transformational in the scheme of your life regardless of the outcome.”

However, she also offers more actionable advice to competitors trying to maintain their balance on stage:

Before executing a balance posture like standing head to knee, standing bow, or dancer on stage, athletes should first lock their knee and set their gaze!

Also, Tang reminds athletes hoping to compete in Regionals that the fullest execution of a lower difficulty-level posture may yield a higher score than lesser execution of a higher difficulty-level posture. Chose proficiency and mastery: “Select postures that you have nailed down. If you fashion a routine that demonstrates postures you are quite proficient in, not only will you feel more confident and less nervous on stage, but you are far more likely to deliver a clean routine, advancing to the next level!”

While Tang is known for her own deep backbends, Goodbye Pose, One Arm Bow Legged Peacock and Bow Legged Mountain, which is why they hold  a special place in her heart, she is hopeful that she will see someone attempt One Legged Chakrasana, a pose she says she has yet to witness being held in stillness on stage.

Tang also caught up with us about the video qualifier submission deadlines that are approaching for athletes. Tang explains that video submissions are a great way for athletes to gain experience with their routines, but to make sure they practice their routines in front of an audience many times before the live regional event.

Jamieson Greene: Youth Champion

Jamieson (Jamie) Greene, USA Yoga’s 2017 Youth Champion, took home the gold in her first year competing. It’s an impressive showing given the fact that her first competition was in November 2016.
 
Jamie began practicing yoga as an alternative to the traditional team sports that she had been playing for school. She found that she had a natural passion for yoga, and competition seemed like a good outlet for her to continue to improve her practice and share her love of yoga with a wider community.
 
The close-knit yoga community, for Jamie, is what makes yoga sport unique from other athletics. As she explains, “Unlike other sports, everyone [in the yoga community] is very supportive of each other, and while they work to do their personal best, they also want their competition to do their best.”
 
Jamie says that she felt relaxed and calm on stage because she was relieved that, after a buildup of stress and practice, her three minutes to perform had arrived. She does, however, admit that she stays focused on avoiding falling out of her final pose during her routine while she’s on stage.
 
After Jamie competed at regionals, she wanted to try to incorporate Dancer Pose into her Nationals routine. Although she found the pose challenging, particularly in avoiding hyperextending her leg and maintain her balance, she continued to devote practice time to the pose, eventually mastering it for her routine.

While Nationals have concluded, Jamie is excited to continue her daily practice and looks forward to competing next year. She also aspires to become a yoga instructor within the next year, bringing her passion for yoga to an even wider community.