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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!


Special Message from our President

Would you help me change lives this year? As the new president of USA Yoga, I am spending my volunteer time and my personal giving to help people help themselves in a positive way that is accessible to anyone. With your gift this holiday season, you can change the track of a young life, or re-energize someone who has experienced physical or emotional trauma, sadness or poor health.

I know how a dedicated practice can change a life. I experienced renewed purpose and health when I dedicated myself to a regular practice.

But, there are barriers you can take away with your support. Last season, a promising young yogi from New England trained for months to participate in the regional championship.  Because he had difficultly with finances and lost his job, he had to withdraw.

You can give to a fund at USA Yoga that provides scholarships to get committed yogis with need to the championships. You could also provide support for most needed priorities that I will be working on in the year ahead.

Thank you for considering a gift of $50, $100, $125 or $250. Donate

I deeply appreciate your help.

 Warm regards,










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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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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.

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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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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From injury to competition


It all started with a running injury. Jennifer Vanderhart had pulled her groin muscle as she neared the finish line. But for Jennifer, recovery wasn't a race; she felt like it was taking too long, and two months in she decided to take a yoga class at her local gym.
 
Jennifer didn't love yoga immediately. In fact, she thought her first class was boring. It wasn't until another two months had passed and she tried yoga again, this time at a different studio. She still wasn't convinced, but Jennifer kept up with her yoga practice. A year and a half later she was competing.
 
For Jennifer, competing gives her extra incentive to work on her postures, and it has helped her approach her practice with a more detail-oriented focus.
 
Best of all, Jennifer enjoys competing because it has led to her meeting an array of people, and she loves working with other competitors and would-be competitors.
 
Jennifer says that from her own experience, the best advice she can give her fellow competitors is not to "train" at a specific point in time before competition but rather to practice mindfully and consistently. Your practice is your training.  Although she tries to practice every day, Jenifer admits that it can be difficult. However, she makes the most of her classes by picking a few postures to practice after each class, no matter how tired she may be.
 
For her fellow competitors, Jennifer says, "Competition day is such a rush!  Try to enjoy the day, the people, the heightened awareness and energy.  Maybe this year you hit everything perfectly.  Maybe that's for next year.  It's a long yoga life."
 
A long yoga life indeed, where injury and setbacks can lead to competition and success.

My Senior Moment: A Yoga Competition Journey (Part 2) )

Part 2: My Senior Moment: My First Competition(s)


How can I describe the excitement and joy as well as the calm and self-realization of being on stage? I was excited for my first competition, but I was not nervous. I asked myself why. I realized that I was looking forward to showing the world what I could do with my body and mind and soul as a 55-year old “senior.”


Arriving at the competition venue with my crew from Pure Om Fairfax, I wondered what the day would entail. I soon learned that it was all about supporting your fellow competitors. Everyone I met that day was so positive and encouraging. Competition is not a “me versus you” thing; it is about encouraging your friends to do their best. I went to competition with friends from my studio, and I left with new friends from all over the Mid-Atlantic Region.

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Joseph visits the Arnold

USA Yoga Board President, Joseph Encinia visits The Arnold

Joseph Encinia, our intrepid board president, visited Columbus, Ohio earlier this month. Joseph took a whirlwind tour to look over the venue for our first East Coast Super Regional, and to promote the upcoming event. His visit included several workshops at local studios and a television interview. Joseph also met with the organizers of the Arnold Sports Games and wowed them with his Nali technique. We are so excited about our collaboration with this prestigious international event. I would like to thank Jayn and Craig Mayton, our Arnold co-organizers for introducing USA Yoga to The Arnold Sports Games.