2009 Champions



Courtney Mace 2009 USA YOGA GOLD MEDAL WINNER


 A northern California native, Courtney Mace relocated to New York city in 2001, where she was first introduced to Bikram yoga. Though she practiced different styles of yoga, it was Bikram yoga that offered her the greatest opportunity for transformation and healing. This dynamic series of postures brought health and balance to her life. Inspired to share this platform for healing and self discovery with others, she graduated from Bikram’s teacher training in 2006. Courtney currently teaches in NY at the very same studio she took her first class. She has competed in the Bishnu Charan Ghosh Championship three times, each year setting new goals for herself and working to refine her practice. As the 2009 National and International Champion, she hopes to inspire people to believe in their unlimited potential.


 2008 Champions

Jeffery Rangel, 2008 USA YOGA GOLD MEDAL WINNER


Jeffrey Rangel began practicing yoga in the fall of 2000 while working as a doctoral candidate at the University of Michigan.  Something powerful yet ill-defined happened in that first class: the "work out" was great and the sweat cleansing, but even more, Jeff intuited a way of balancing his intellectual pursuits with a physical practice that hinted toward spiritual growth.  Sensing a life change at hand, Jeff jettisoned a career in academia to pursue his growing passion for yoga and within the year became a certified teacher in the Spring of 2001.  Jeff has devoted himself to teaching yoga full time in Pasadena, California ever since.  He has had the opportunity to travel and teach all across California, Hawaii and for a stint in Bangkok, Thailand.  

Like many in our society, Jeff was at first suspect of the idea of putting yoga and competition together.  However, after witnessing the incredible courage, grace and beauty demonstrated by the competitors, he wanted in.  Curiously enough, just as when he took his first yoga class, Jeff's initial experience with competitive yoga was transformative in unnamable ways.  This launched Jeff''s foray into yoga competition.

 He met with some initial success as the men's runner up in both the 2006 national and international competitions, but more importantly, found a new pathway for developing his practice and his self as the three minutes spent on stage demonstrating yoga have been some of the most honest and self-revelatory times of his life.  

Jeff is a four-time Southern California Yoga Asana Champion as well as the 2008 USA Mens National Champion and is grateful for the opportunities competitive yoga has afforded him to share the transformative power of yoga.


 

Alisa Matthews 2006 (tie), 2007 (tie), 2008 USA YOGA GOLD MEDAL WINNER


Alisa was born and raised in Honolulu, HI. For many years, her dream was to be a ballerina. Unlike most dancers, Alisa began her training very late, and was told at first that it would be impossible to dance professionally. Determined to follow her passion, she tripled her class and rehearsal schedule, often dancing and doing conditioning exercises from early morning until very late at night. She never gave up, worked extremely hard, and was able to train with several of the best Russian ballet teachers in the country. Alisa’s hard work and determination paid off, and she achieved her dream of becoming a professional ballet dancer.

Unfortunately, Alisa’s overloaded ballet schedule began to take a toll on her body, leaving her with severe back and leg injuries, and she wasn’t able to dance for several months. It was during this time that Alisa tried her first yoga class. She began to feel the benefits of yoga on her body and eventually decided to become a certified yoga instructor. Alisa has coached students and taught yoga around the world. She continues to teach yoga privately, with hopes of inspiring her clients to believe in themselves. Alisa won the 2006 (tie), 2007 (tie), and 2008 US National Yoga Championships and in 2008, she won the International Yoga Championship.


2007 Champions

Cynthia Wehr 2005 & 2007 (tie) USA YOGA GOLD MEDAL WINNER


Cynthia Wehr has been practicing yoga for 15 years and became a Bikram Yoga Teacher in Spring 2003. She earned the USA and World Yoga Champion title in 2007. This gave her the opportunity to travel the world to teach and demonstrate. She spent a lot her time teaching in Tokyo, Japan for Bikram Yoga Japan and in Bikram Yoga San Jose until June 2011. 

Cynthia opened her own Bikram Yoga Studio in Mountain View, CA in July 2011. Since 2008, Cynthia has judged regional, US, and International Championships as well as being on the board of the USA Yoga Federation, working closely with Rajashree Choudhury/USA Yoga board members to introduce Yoga as an Olympic sport.She also coaches competitors every year as well as being a part of bringing the Yoga community together by being involved in the social networks.

 The constant inspiration and change Cynthia has witnessed and experienced feeds her soul daily to keep teaching Bikram yoga forever. To bring yoga to children and children to yoga is the ultimate destination, the big step for truly creating a more peaceful, honest planet. By bringing yoga championships into the light, into everyones home, can make this destination possible.

Ky Ha 2007 USA YOGA GOLD MEDAL WINNER


Born in Vietnam, Ky immigrated to the United States at the age of 3 where he grew up in Houston, TX.  Ky grew up encountering a multiple auto accidents resulting in breaking his legs and arms.  As a result of these accidents he suffered many ailments through his body including severe back, neck and joint pain.  After beginning the practice of Bikram yoga; Ky discovered something that has truly transformed his body and life.  "In the beginning, I hated going to class in the beginning. I was so weak and inflexible, I couldn't even touch my toes!" Through sweat and determination, Ky has managed to build strength and flexibility as a result of an everyday practice.

With the encouragement of his teachers, Ky attended Bikram's teacher training during the summer of 2004.  Shortly after that Ky participated in his first yoga asana championships where he won first place at the Texas regional competition which qualified him into the national competition where he placed fifth.  That year was extremely influential to Ky future as he was inspired by all those who were participating.  The following year Ky returned to the championship finals securing second place in the U.S. and third place internationally.  Participating in the championships each year, Ky has learn from each performance on stage.  On his third year; Ky was privilege to be able to be coached and mentored by Jim Kallett; a very senior instructor of Bikram yoga.  With Jim's aid, Ky competed in the 2007 championships where he was victorious as the men's United States champion as well as the men's international champion.

After winning the championships, Ky embarked upon a tour along with women's champion Cynthia Wehr.  Together they travelled around the world promoting the yoga asana championships, performing demonstrations and coaching future competitors.  Ky spent two years afterwards teaching in Singapore and currently now resides in London where he actively coaches competitors for the international championships each year.  Ky is a dynamic and enthusiastic individual and his teaching skills has been responsible for a number of competitors in the top ten each year including 2009 men's international champion Dev Kapil.  Ky also serves as an international judge.  He has judged championships all around the world including Thailand, Czech Republic and Australia.  Ky realizes the importance of the championships and how much he has grown from the experience, that is why he is so dedicated and focus to help others achieved the same goal.


2006 Champions

Ashley Hooper 2006 (tie) USA YOGA GOLD MEDAL WINNER


Before starting her yoga practice in 2001 Ashley had a background in gymnastics and ballet.  After a seminar in Vancouver BC where she met Bikram and Rajashree, Ashley decided to attend the teacher training in the Fall of 2002. 

Ashley taught in the Los Angeles area for 4 years and continued her education of the yoga by being apart of the teacher trainings while they were held at the Los Angeles Headquarters.  Ashley was a participant in the first yoga competition and continued to compete until she won the World championship in 2006. 

Ashley believes she took first in the World Championships in 2006 due to her change in mindset of the competitions.  More than anything that year she decided to have as much fun as she could while competing.  Rather than focusing on the outcome of her performance, she decided she would enjoy the competition as much as she could, which resulted in her taking 1st. 

Ashley now lives in her hometown of Kennewick WA, where she owns and operates a Bikram Yoga studio with her sister Angela Casassa.  She is forever grateful to Bikram and Rajashree for giving her a life of doing what she loves and allowing her to spread the healing benefits of Bikram Yoga to her loved ones and her community.


Juan Manuel Martin-Busutil 2005 & 2006 USA YOGA GOLD MEDAL WINNER


Lesli Lounsbury 2003 Gold Medal Winner


I started practicing Bikram Yoga in 2000. I was a gymnast at an early age, and then transitioned to a professional dancer at 14. When I started my career as a hairstylist, at age 24, I moved away from dance and refocused my energies towards Bikram yoga. I became a certified Bikram teacher in 2001. In 2003 I entered the Bishnu Charan Gosh Cup and was titled the 1st International Yoga Champion. Since it was the first year it was held, the women's and men's divisions were combined.

Since I became the Champion it gave me the opportunity to teach, demonstrate,coach and judge around the world in India, Japan, Australia, England and throughout the US. Winning the Gosh Cup changed my life because this Milwaukee girl, who had never been out of the country before, became a world traveler. I was privileged to meet inspirational people all over the world, and I had the opportunity to learn about other cultures. I was given the chance to work in Japan and India. I also visited London and Australia to demonstrate and judge Regional Competitions and International Championships.

I am currently teaching at Bikram Yoga College of India in San Diego, Ca. Us When people discover that I was the first Yoga Champion, it seems easier for me to inspire them to develop their yoga practice.