Michele Vennard: Yoga is the Gateway to a Limitless Life

Michele Vennard won the Adult 50+ Women’s Division Gold Medal at the 2018 USA Yoga Nationals and went on to win the Gold Medal in the International competition held in Beijing, China. I caught up with this busy studio owner and yoga champion to congratulate her and ask about the future. She is excited to travel to yoga studios and share her knowledge and experience.  If interested, please email to Michele at [email protected].
 
1)    Tell us how you prepared for the competition - training both mental and physical, diet, strategy, etc.

I’m so honored to have won the Gold Medal for Women’s Adult 50+ division. Honestly, I was so honored to win the National Title that I did not think much of the International Title as I don’t travel much. But friend and yoga competitor, Lee Dickinson, told me that he would go with me if I wanted to go as he speaks Mandarin and he used to live in Beijing. From that offer, I looked into flights, which were not expensive to my surprise, and off I went, committing to this invitation! My practice has been an everyday practice for 12-15 years now, so my “training” was not much more than what I do everyday except for some additional homework on my spine after class. At BYSJ, we practice the advanced series on Sundays, so that time in those poses helped, along with our group as a team practicing routines each week. Someone asked me recently, how tired I must be now from training so hard for this win. Ironically, this year, I emphasized a lot more on relaxation as after so long your body progresses with relaxation as much as intensity. I love my practice so enhancing it with deeper savasanas was nice and beneficial too.

2)    Looking back on this experience, what did you enjoy most?

I enjoyed meeting so many yoga practitioners at a competitive level from around the globe. I always take every class offered at competitions because it’s just electric in the room. In Beijing, it was so amazing to take class in Chinese, Russian, French and have us all do the same thing. Imagine a room filled with intense practitioners doing standing head to knee and standing bow. While yoga is an individual journey, make no mistake that it is also a community gathering too, as we come together in a single room to pull out our best with each other’s energy. I enjoyed meeting all these new friends of mine whether I could speak their language or not.

3)    What were the challenges of competing in a different time zone on the other side of the world?

Because we came a bit earlier, we were good. We prepared so well with what to wear and what to eat on the plane. I bought compression tights to wear which were super with my restless legs. I had a great neck pillow and lucky for us the plane was not full, so we were able to spread out. While sleeping was a challenge, I think we all were on an adrenal rush from start to finish that enabled us to make it work. We were in bed by 8 or 9 each night and then up at 4 or 5 am. Coming home and the days after were a little rough but not much jet lag either – it’s the yoga!

4) What are your plans for the 2019 competition year? Having achieved both the U.S. and International gold medal - what's next? Do you have new goals?

I decided prior to Internationals that I would take this year off from competing and help coach more and even judge. I also have a lot going on at the studio that I felt needs more of my attention, AND I want to do some added personal things. However, with that said, yes, I have new goals. I could not sleep at all on the plane ride home as ideas were jumping in and out of my head. I have such an amazing community here at BYSJ (now 16 years), and we are opening ourselves up to help other studios not just survive but thrive with just a Hot Yoga practice (of which I am well versed in), but I also have started a personal brand to get out there more and push the importance of a yoga practice. I am working with a few coaches to help me clarify my message so that is coming, but for now go to michelevennard.com and listen to some of my stuff as well as reading my blogs.  I’m not extraordinary but more of an example of what we all can be when we incorporate a practice for a long time – it’s the journey that’s enabled me to explore the “power” of being a human being – what a privilege that is!

5) Now that you are the US and world champion, what inspires you to continue competing?

Gosh, another great question – one of my teachers said to me the other day, “Wow, since China, your practice has changed even more.”  She’s right – it has. There is no end to the yoga journey. For me now, not only have I opened up more in flexibility and strength, but my mind has quelled, and my body feels solid and equipped to be with me for a long time. What’s become “conscious” is my faith and life with a more spiritual tone. It’s a feeling of being a spirit more now and yet it only comes when you’ve transcended the mind and body, which have limits. Maybe this sounds weird, but I’m inspired to know myself in that realm more and honestly THAT is what we are meant to experience – this limitless life in us – it’s exciting and the gateway is yoga!

6) What advice can you give to fellow Adult 50+ competitors.

I am going to use this year to help my peers in this division, as I am so lucky to come from an area where coaching is abundant. When it’s lacking, it shows up on stage. Not just big things, but little things that can make such a big difference on stage and in points! The advice I want to share though is to never stop placing that bar high. Be careful not to fall in any type of talk, self-talk, that says, “oh I’m too old.”  Or worse yet, “this doesn’t matter to me anymore,” or other dismissive suggestions we hear or say to ourselves. BE your best without a measure against something – 50+ now is a hot division because aging has become sexy ☺. You have both body and mind in years which creates a wisdom that’s so beautiful and gratifying. Yoga enables you to serve well into those twilight years passing on wisdom from the experience you’ve had while still experiencing. It’s the best!

7) Any final thoughts?

Thank you, Beijing for all the hospitality and the enjoyable people and events you so kindly put together. To anyone on the brink of competing, just jump in and do it. It’s a level of comprehension into yourself that you can’t get otherwise. You will KNOW those dark points to shine light into and those areas that shine in you will become enhanced. You’ll notice those gifts that make you you! Yoga is transformative when you sit back and notice non- judgingly what’s in you. Then you take action patiently to grow the good seeds God placed in you and become the highest level of Self for the most fulfilling life.

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