Log in

2023 65+ CHAMPIONS

Keith Brailsford, 2023 Men's 65+ Gold Medal

Keith was introduced to Bikram Yoga by his friend Ann when he turned 60 years old.   "I am now 66 and still learning and tweaking new and challenging postures every day."  Keith practices at Zen National Harbor, Oxon Hill, MD, and thoroughly enjoys the competitive nature of Yoga as a sport.  He grew up as a wrestling athlete, earning a silver medal in a regional, junior Olympics competition.  "Yoga is a lot like wrestling without the head-to-head combat.  It requires a lot of discipline and an equal amount of developing balance, strength and flexibility. I must say, I find it to be so much fun!  The only thing I like better are the friendships I have made with fellow yoga athletes throughout the United States." At 66 years young, Keith is just starting his second masters degree in Clinical Mental Health after finishing a career in Human Resources work.  He has several grandkids, a few of whom try to perform yoga postures themselves. 

Kyle Citrynell, 2023 Women's 65+ Gold Medal

Kyle Citrynell has been a student of yoga since 2005.  After many years of modern dance instruction, she turned to yoga at age 50, seeking a physical practice that would remain challenging and accessible to her for the rest of her life. Since beginning her yoga journey, Kyle has pursued yoga training on three continents, in over 15 states and 10 countries, including intensive instruction through specialized retreats and clinics, both abroad and in the US. 

She gained her certifications to teach Bikram from Betsy Jones (Betsy’s Hot Yoga, Louisville, KY), Sacred Geometry hatha vinyasa from Benjamin Sears (LuxYoga, France), and Lionflow Yoga from Glenn Brown (New Albany, IN).  Kyle has taught Bikram, vinyasa and yin since 2018. Most recently, Kyle has been training with Glenn and Ayanna Brown.  Under their tutelage, she participated in national competitions in 2021 to 2023, medaling in the “Over 65” category each year. 

Kyle is an attorney and has been practicing intellectual property law for over 40 years. She is a founder and member of Seiller Waterman LLC, in Louisville, Kentucky.  She focuses on arts, entertainment, media, publishing, and technology, representing creators and inventors in the protection of and transactions and litigation involving, among other things, copyrights, trademarks, trade secrets, and patents.  She has written and lectured extensively, both in the US and abroad.

Kyle has served as a founder and board member of numerous non-profit organizations. She is currently serving on the boards of Anchal Project, Legal Netlink Alliance, Network of Entrepreneurial Women, ART FM, and the National Consortium for Entrepreneurship Education. 

2023 50+ CHAMPIONS

Tim Mizerak, 2023, 2022 and 2021 50+ Men's Gold Medal

Tim Mizerak is a master of clean, charismatic, and consistent athletic performance, which he perfected both for himself, as a figure skater for 25 years (10 as a competitor), and for others, as a skating coach for 25 years. Mizerak became a practitioner of hot yoga in 2013. He first competed in the asana championships in 2020 at age 53, and he currently holds the 2021 USA National Gold Medal for Men 50+ and the 2021 IYSF International Silver Medal for Masters (Men). Mizerak has been married for 33 years and has 2 grown children. 

Ayanna Brown, 2023 50+ Women's Gold Medal

Ayanna received her 500-hour Bikram Teacher Certification in June 2001, has been the co-owner of Indiana Bikram since it opened in 2001, and has been part of every Yoga Championship since the first year in 2002. She also teaches Classical Hatha at IUS, and has taught, lectured, and demonstrated at many local schools, hospitals, and other businesses over the past 20 years.

The first year of the Yoga Championship men and women competed together in one large group. In that year Ayanna placed first for Indiana, and 7th internationally. In the years since, she has been the Indiana regional champion 18 times, placed 5th in Nationals in 2009, 3rd in Nationals and 9th in Internationals in 2013, 2nd in Nationals in 2019, 3rd in Nationals in 2022, and in 2023 she won the National Championship.

While she was visiting Glenn Brown (her future husband) during his 2002 teacher training, they were both approached to be part of the first Judges Clinic for the first Yoga Championship. She had the honor to be a competitor in the mock championship for this Judges Clinic. Since then, her studio has hosted many regional events, and she has personally participated as either a competitor, coach, judge, master of ceremony, or regional host and organizer every year of the Yoga Championship. 

Ayanna grew up with asthma and didn't participate in competitive sports growing up. When the Yoga Championship began, she found it was a wonderful outlet for her to express her love for yoga on stage, to inspire others to express their best, and to inspire herself to continue to grow.

2023 18-49 CHAMPIONS

Michael Lubbert, 2023 18-49 Men's Gold Medal

Yoga helped Michael realize that he is a being of love. Good news, you are too!  Michael practices and teaches seeing the highest good in others. He is on a search for the miraculous. He’s taught full time since 2011; he lives, breathes, and loves Yoga. Sometimes he sticks his leg over his head on stage in India and receives silver medals. Seriously though, Yoga has changed his life… yes, for the better, and he can show you how to have your own similar spiritual experiences. 

Michael teaches Unity Vinyasa, Bikram Hot Yoga, and Yoga ShapeShifting at Metta, Chicago Hot Yoga, the Yoga Factory Pittsburgh, and private lessons; travels to teach workshops, on Yoga retreats; and runs Vinyasa Yoga teacher trainings. Every class he teaches is meditation centered, breath focused, and joy filled. 

Michael is currently ranked #2 in the world by the International Yoga Sports Federation having won silver medal in the 2022 Yoga World Cup in Bangalore, India.

The “Miracles” in Michael’s moniker is a tribute to the modern spiritual masterpiece, A Course in Miracles and the subsequent Way of Mastery series. Check these books out if you’re curious, open minded, open-hearted and want to jumpstart or reenergize your spiritual path. 

When not yoga-ing, Michael writes, records, and performs music of multiple genres, writes poetry, and enjoys stand-up comedy. Connect with Michael at: and YouTube.

Kendall Geist, 2023 18-49 Women's Gold Medal

Kendall has found that yoga helps her breathe and stay balanced in her life. She has been practicing yoga for eight years and the 26/2 series for four years. She was introduced to the 84 series, and USA Yoga, while training with her friend, mentor, and fellow competitor, Angel Sandoval. Kendall currently teaches and practices at Blaze Yoga Lancaster where she met World Champion, Keri Palasz, who introduced her to her coach and mentor, Kim Tang. Kendall began competing and placed first at the USA Yoga National Championship in 2023. 

She completed her 200-hour yoga teacher training course through Raj Yoga Rishikesh, which included hatha, vinyasa, and ashtanga yoga. She continues to study hatha yoga through her Hot Yoga (26/2) Teacher Training with Evolation Yoga, and will complete her Yin certification in 2024. Kendall was a finalist in the 2022 Yoga Warrior Competition, which raised money and awareness to support recovery and resilience among veterans. She then completed the Mindful Resilience for Trauma Recovery Training through Veterans Yoga Project.

Kendall is a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer and has a master’s degree in school psychology. She is on track to become a Nationally Certified School Psychologist in 2024. In addition to her career as a school psychologist, she plans to offer a variety of classes as a yoga instructor. In the future, Kendall would like to be an instructor for teacher trainings and share her passion with the next generation of yoga teachers.


Satvik Rachagani, 2023 Boys 12-14 Gold Medal

Satvik was introduced to yoga in 2017. He joined a class which hooked him into the world of yoga. Satvik loved trying out new poses, and always had a competitive spirit with his friend. He liked that yoga brought him stamina, strength, and a sense of calm. Other than yoga, Satvik was interested in running and tennis. When track season started, Satvik frequently practiced yoga to give him stamina, flexibility, and to prohibit himself from getting injured. Satvik started to compete in 2022. While competing, he met many people and liked the competition’s environment. Satvik can’t wait to compete in the next competition.

Anvita Sureshkumar, 2023 Girls 9-11 Gold Metal

I'm a seventh-grader residing in Frisco, TX, and my journey into yoga began just two years ago during a family vacation in NJ. While staying there, I observed my friends engaging in yoga practice. After being able to do some of the poses they had been learning over the course of a year, with ease, my interest in yoga deepened significantly. Subsequently, I've been actively participating in online yoga sessions. Today, I proudly hold the title of National Yoga Chamption, a testament to countless hours of disciplined practice. Through dedicated practice and unwavering determination, I not only embraced the ancient art of yoga but also achieved success in it. Beyond the accolades, my journey stands as a testament to the transformative power of yoga, proving that perseverance and a heart open to learning, one can achieve remarkable feats.


Keri Palasz, 2022, 2021 50+ Women's Gold Medal, 2022 International Gold Medal Women's 50+ 

Keri started practicing the 26&2 series in 2014 as a complement to long distance running. She was drawn to this style of yoga practice due to the methodical, sequential delivery of precise instructions in a space held in silence. She enjoyed learning to hold and hone focus while moving with intention through the asanas in the traditional 90-minute 26&2 sequence, taught at 105° F with 40% humidity. This remains her favorite class, and for her it remains a challenge.

In 2018 Keri joined USA Yoga. She competed for the first time in 2019 and was impressed to experience the spirit of healthy competition USA Yoga cultivated. Yoga athletes on the national stage were supporting, inspiring, and believing in each other. Potential was contagious, and the competition was a catalyst that propelled Keri to begin a quest for the answer to a question she held: How precise could her practice become?

Keri continues on this quest. She practices with intention and trains with USA Yoga Coach Kim Tang, a yogi renowned for her focus on postures that are correct, strong, and deep, and who also happens to be a long-distance runner.

Spencer Larson, 2021 18-49 Men's Gold Medal

When I began practicing asana, pranayama and meditation in 2008, I noticed markedly increased strength, balance, energy, flexibility, focus, endurance, and an otherworldly level of concentration and vibration. This translated directly to improved performance in the sports I’ve enjoyed throughout my life basketball, baseball, skateboarding, snowboarding, surfing, biking, mountaineering and golf.


I became a certified Bikram Yoga teacher in the Spring of 2013 to share the benefits that I was receiving through practice. In 2009, I first got on stage in the Yoga Asana Championships. The personal challenge appealed to the athlete in me. I’ve been on stage ever since, consistently winning in my state, region, and nationally and placing 5th in the world in 2021. For me, competing is a three-minute journey of the self, through the self to the self. I’m still challenged, motivated, and energized by being on stage; it’s comparable to the adrenaline rush I receive while snowboarding minus the critical impact and risk of falling. Although I do still snowboard, I’ve mostly traded out front-side 360s and backside 180s for handstand lotuses and full spine twists with calm connected breath in stillness. 


I have discovered that there is more to Yoga Sport than meets the eye. I have learned two profound lessons being on stage: how to believe in myself, and the ultimate realization that through breath mastery, one can connect to the Divine Aspect within. When I am in that place, I can connect with you as well. This is my message to you, as I stand on the stage. In this way I am in service. I’m an infinite ripple of love in the ocean of cosmic consciousness. 

Emily Avery, 2021, 2020 (virtual), 2019, 2018, 2017 Women's Gold Medal, 2013 Youth Gold Medal

Emily took her first yoga class seven years ago, when she was just 16. Though her practice was initially motivated by a way to balance her classical ballet training, it quickly became much more than cross training. She fell in love with the physical and mental challenge and the ways it allowed her to grow -- athletically, artistically, academically, and otherwise.  

She began competing in 2012 in the youth girls division, where she placed first nationally in 2013. She continues to compete in the hopes of sparking excitement in youth students and inspiring them to take on the practice of yoga and gain its benefits. She is grateful that the yoga championships have provided a forum for this, and she is continually inspired by the incredible community of practitioners, teachers, coaches and friends who make these championships possible.

Bruce Merkle, 2020 (virtual) Men's 18-49 Gold Medal 

Bruce Merkle was introduced to yoga by his voice teacher and friend, Joleen Wilkinson, in Sarasota, Florida. When Bruce moved to Los Angeles for his acting career, he began taking classes at the Bikram World Headquarters. He was urged by Rajashree Choudhury to compete in the regional competition, which began his involvement with USA Yoga. Bruce would eventually win the national title in 2020. He placed 7th in the international competition in Beijing, China in 2018, and 4th in the international competition in Bangalore, India in 2022. 

Bruce's acting career has intersected with his passion for yoga several times. He did contortion work on Conan O'Brien's show on TBS and was Michael Fassbender's yoga double in David Fincher's The Killer, released on Netflix in November 2023. He has appeared on various television shows, sings professionally in shows and concerts, and originated Olaf in the stage version of Frozen and played the part 1000 times. Bruce was also a member of the esteemed Sunday Company at The Groundlings where he wrote and performed sketch comedy.

Video Link

Wayne Campbell, 2020 (virtual), 2019 & 2017 50+ Men's Gold Medal

Wayne’s first yoga competition was the 2014-2015 Texas Yoga Asana Championship. At age 49, he advanced to the 2015 USA National Yoga Asana Championship.

He was inspired to compete by the energy, focus, and ambition of the five yoga athletes in the 84 Advanced Yoga Series class he had taken several months before. Nowadays, he competes to train, prepare, and apply his body everyday through stretches, yoga, and exercises to progress into more advanced yoga poses.

As he took the stage for the 2019 USA National Yoga Finals he "was in the zone and experienced a beautiful moment."  
He credits his with having learned how important it is to sit still, slow the breathing to calm the nervous system, and quiet the mind. Part of the journey for Wayne has been to be present to enjoy and fully experience those three minutes on stage. 

Standing Bow Pulling was his most challenging pose leading up to nationals. The prior year, Wayne’s goal was to spend the year fine tuning each pose to maximize his scores. He exceeded his personal best score during the 2019 finals by 2.2 points over his 2017 nationals score.  

Outside of the yoga studio, he spends his time at home with his girlfriend, Moji and his Jack Russell Yoga Dog, Max. 
 "I am grateful to USA Yoga and it’s volunteer judges for keeping the standards high, Ainslie Faust for her time and energy, Kim Tang for her amazing energy, spirit, and coaching expertise, Glenn Brown for his insight, all the yoga athletes who help me to stay humbled and inspired, all the former USA Yoga National Champions for inspiring and keeping the level high for all yoga athletes, and finally my girlfriend Moji for going through this yoga journey with me, our dog, Max who is at the studio everyday giving unconditional love, my family, friends, the Houston yoga community, and the Urban Fit Yoga Community."

Jennifer Vanderhart, 2020 (virtual) Women's 50+ Gold Medal2020 International Women's 50+ Gold Medal

Video Link

Jennifer has been competing since 2011 and has been a member of the USA Yoga Board of Directors since 2017.  She was the President in 2021 and 2022.  She is honored to serve the members of the organization and hopes that the competitions can help them deepen their practice as it did for her.

Dustin Valenta, 2019 18-49 Men's Gold Medal

Dustin was named Valedictorian of his 2015 Bikram yoga teacher training in Thailand in the Spring 2015. He has over 500 additional hours in Hatha/Vinyasa training. He has been teaching all over the world for the past four years, but the only honest answer to the question of how long he has been teaching and practicing is "not long enough." It's one of the many things that keeps him in love with and passionate about what he does--the revelations are constant and unending. He teaches fro a place of love, compassion and with an emphasis on breath and curiosity.

He credits his yoga practice with saving his life after a nearly fatal bicycle accident in 2013. He was thrown from his bike and run over by a truck when he was doored by a driver exiting their vehicle. He broke 23 ribs, both sides of his pelvis, both collarbones, his left hip, left shoulder, fractured a vertebra, punctured a lung, and cracked his skull. Doctors didn't think he would survive, let alone walk again.

He knows that if he would not be alive today had he not been practicing asana regularly before the accident. Doctors have credited his survival in large part to the flexibility and resiliency in his spine. He returned to practice and has recovered fully.

In the years since the accident, his yoga practice has transformed from purely physical pursuit to a lifestyle that guides him on a path toward continuous self-improvement inside and out. He will always believe fully in the transformative power of movement. Building a connection to the physical body is an essential first step to creating change in the deeper, more subtle parts of the self. With intention, determination, and practice, the impossible is revealed as a myth.

Mai Toomey, 2019 50+ Women's Gold Medal Winner

Mai (Mimi) started practicing yoga in 2013 as a hobby. Yoga became a lifelong journey for her, testing her flexibility, strength and endurance. Yoga has taught her patience, discipline, determination and consistency which has translated into mental and physical power of her overall being.

Mimi also joined yoga sport competition in the Women's 50+ Division. The experience has helped her feel more connected and committed with her practice. It was great every time she had an opportunity to see her yoga fellows in such a positive and healthy environment. She placed the 1st in the Women's 50+ Division in 2019 and 3rd in 2018. She became certified yoga instructor in 2019.

Glenn Brown, 2018 Men's Gold Medal 

Glenn Brown moved with his family to New Albany, Indiana when he was 6 years old. It remains his home. As the youngest of six, he attributes his competitive edge to sibling rivalry. Finding his way through depression in high school, he began practicing yoga as a to complement his meditation and kung fu practice. He shifted his focus from swimming and wrestling to art, music, movement art, and meditation. He decided then he wanted to be a Kung fu & Yoga teacher, artist and author. His search for a school, teacher, and work was full of great life lessons. He finally met his Kung fu teacher while Sifu Keith Dwan of the Red Dragon School of Martial Arts was visiting Louisville from England with his school for a Martial arts tournament. Glenn expressed his interest in form over fighting, and was invited to a Hsing-i Kung Fu, Qigong, and Acupressure training, which he attended in England in 2001.

In 2002, he went to his first yoga class at Bikram Yoga Indiana where he met the woman who would become his wife, Ayanna. She was the co-owner and only teacher then. She believed in his potential, and sponsored his teacher training the same year. Glenn has taught there since 2002. He fell in love with yoga because of its similarities to kung fu and qigong, and for its amazing diversity of postures and styles.

The day of his teacher training graduation, he and Ayanna were competitors in a mock yoga championship at a judging and coaching clinic for the 2003 Bishnu Ghosh Cup. That experience lit the competitive fire for Glenn, and he has competed every year except for one, taking a year off to focus on coaching. He is the 14-time Indiana Men's Regional Yoga Champion. He self published his first book of poetry and art "Four in the Fire" in 2007.

After years of teaching primarily Bikram yoga, he started teaching based on a personalized warm up and warm down for Kung fu students which became his own blend of qigong and yoga. In 2010, he founded Lionflow Progressive Yoga & Arts LLC, where he focuses on practicing, teaching, and training teachers in Lionflow Yoga.

Through his practice and competing he learned to express where he is in the moment without heat, extra time in the pose, or intense breathing for body heat. Lionflow focuses on calm, intentional motion, breathing, short holds, and learning to accept where you are today, and having a conversation with your body instead of an argument.

Thomas Forbang, 2018 50+ Men's Gold Medal

Serendipitously introduced to yoga for the first time in 2012, Thomas Forbang today practices yoga daily for the ninth year in a row and has been teaching, training and competing since 2015. He is a certified yoga instructor (RYT-200) and teaches Bikram Yoga Hot 90/75/60 and Pilates. He served on the board of USA Yoga from 2017 – 2018. He is also a current USA Yoga coach. 

Thomas Forbang has a PhD in Computational Sciences from George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia (USA) and is a father of five, married for more than 29+ years. He is the founder and president of CompInsTech – a leading IT company. Thomas Forbang speaks, reads and writes proficiently in English, French and Russian. 

“To me, yoga is more than just a hobby, it is a true panacea and should become a lifestyle for all.”

Michele Vennard, 2018 USA Yoga, 50+ Women's Gold Medal Winner

In her pre-yoga life, Michele Vennard was a marketing director for a line of Italian restaurants. Michele discovered Bikram yoga soon after her mother passed away from Alzheimer’s and became a certified Bikram yoga teacher in 2001. “I wanted people to find this yoga the way I did in helping me cope with such deep grief. It did that and more.”

In 2003, Michele founded Bikram Yoga San Jose with the dream to spread the benefits of Bikram Yoga to new students and to serve the diverse students that diligently practice this discipline. “Having a yoga studio gives me a chance to serve humankind but also unexpectedly filled that void in me to create connection with people. My students and staff are genuinely my family. If you come here just once, you’re wrapped up in my love, our love. It’s a place that’s truly a place of belonging. I’m so proud of that.”

In over 20 years of teaching and 23 years of regular practice, not only has she taught thousands of students but she has also mentored teachers, coached yoga sport athletes, and hosted yoga sport competitions. In 2018, Michele became the Women's 50+ champion in both the US National and the International Yoga Sport competitions.

YOUTH Champions 

Alexandra Soukhoveev, 2021 and 2020 (virtual) 15-17 Girl's Gold Medal

Amisha Poojari, 2023 15-17 Girls Gold Medial, 2021 12-14 Girl's Gold Medal

Amisha Poojari is currently a junior in high school at St. Louis, Missouri. Amidst her busy schedule, she loves to practice yoga whenever she can! It has been about 7 years since she first started practicing. Amisha found a the perfect way to use her time during COVID:  to explore the various styles of yoga: Ghosh, Ashtanga, Hatha, and more. After a few online classes from home, she was immediately drawn to stay consistent. She enjoyed the long-term benefits as well as downtime for relaxation and working hard toward her goals. Hoping to keep learning and immerse herself in more in-person experiences, Amisha looks forward to the National championships each year. "It's a chance for me to develop a routine with some of my favorite postures and be able to showcase it. I also loved performing my demo at the 2023 championship where I could inspire and be inspired at the same time; yoga and music go so well together!" she says. Amisha has been a USA Yoga National Champion in the United States for the last 4 years after earning 2nd her first year. She also has placed 6th once and 4th twice at International Yoga Sports Federation Championships. Amisha was also interviewed as part of ESPN Yoga series during the National championship. As she continues through the rest of high school and onto college, Amisha looks forward to exploring her passions for pediatric medicine alongside her practice of yoga to which she already sees connections.  Doing yoga in front of a New York skyline while the sun sets is a dream she hopes to achieve soon!

Purannan Balakrishnan 2021 15-17 Boy's Gold Medal, 2020 (virtual) and 2019 12-14 Boy's Gold Medal

Purannan was introduced to the practice of yoga when I was two years old by his Guru, Gurumahan Paranjothiyar, UPF, India. "I am blessed and thankful to my Guru, who is guiding me on my yoga path as well as in my personal life. My mom is my first teacher." Later, he learned some advanced postures from Master Yogaraj CP from Hong Kong, and is currently training under Master Venkatesh from UPF, India.

Yoga has become a daily part of his life. He practices asanas daily before school begins. "I can say for sure that yoga has kept my body and mind healthy throughout the day, allowing me to live an stress-free life. My mom has also guided me in following natural and healthy food habits, which have kept me away from any doctor visits in my childhood. I always follow natural remedies for any cure if I need it."

"I enjoy spending my time with my family and friends. I am very open-minded, willing to try new things. I am also involved with the debate club at my school and have competed in various national tournaments.

He volunteers at UPFNA Yoga center teaching yoga to younger kids. He hopes to spread a yogic lifestyle to as many people as possible. "I have done yoga demonstrations at various yoga and meditation centers, colleges, and schools in the US and India in hopes of spreading yoga. I am fortunate to compete in the USA Yoga National championships and have won 2019, 2020, and 2021 titles for my age group. I also won the International Yoga video blogging contest for the USA region conducted by the Indian Government during the International Yoga Day celebration for the year 2020."

"I am really thankful to my Guru, Teacher, Parents, and Friends, and USA Yoga for giving an opportunity to youth to inspire us to practice yoga. Santhosham!! (Everlasting Happiness)."

Suraj Ramesh, 2021 12-14 Boy's Gold Medal

Liam Luce, 2021, 2020 (virtual) 12-17 Boys Gold Medal and 2019 9-11 Boy's Gold Medal

Aryana Vanaparti, 2020 (virtual) Girl's 9-11 Gold Medal 

Video Link

Shea Kenny, 2019 12-17 Girl's Gold Medal

  Avalon Jade Theisen, 2018 12-17 Girls Gold Medal

Nica Thomas, 2018 - 2019 7-11 Girl's Gold Medal

Nica began practicing yoga and gymnastics at the age of 3. She loved trying new things that made her feel powerful. Being a natural competitor, she entered her first yoga competition at 8 and soon became the first 7-11 Youth Girls Female Champion. Nica loved meeting all the yogis, making friends and cheering them on. She is always nervous before a competition and takes "a deep breath and I try to let it go. Once I make it through half moon, I feel very calm and enjoy myself."

Now 10, she is currently entering 5th grade and is a Level 5 Gymnast. Nica is an Olympic hopeful and her future plans include attending UCLA "on a math scholarship and doing gymnastics there."

Contact Us
(801) 648-YOGA (9642)

Address: 487 State Street #2, Portsmouth, NH 03801

Copyright © United States Yoga Federation 2022. All Rights Reserved.      Privacy Policy          Code of Conduct

Upcoming events

Powered by Wild Apricot Membership Software