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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.

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."