Yoga On The Road To The Olympics…
For some people, it’s puzzling: “Yoga is not a competitive sport,” they say. For others, the road to the Olympics is paved with determination and the desire to see the practice become a fully integrated part of one of the world’s largest mainstream celebrations of human potential. Rajashree Choudhury, founder of the USA Yoga Federation, as well as a five-time all-India champion herself, is steadfast in her commitment to see “the athleticism, discipline, and grace of Yoga at the Olympic games.”
Whether you agree or disagree, love to see the grace of Yoga asana demonstrated or think it should remain in the studio, the championship is a very public demonstration of the transformational power of the practice. Current National Champion Joseph Encinia feels this is the case.
LA YOGA: What inspired you to participate?
Joseph: My thirst to be the best I can be in this life. Coming from adolescence full of medical problems, I have been given a second chance in this life with Yoga. After my healing; I vowed not to waste it. After six years of competing, the Championship is no longer 100% about winning or losing. It’s about proving to myself, and humanity, that with determination, self-control, patience, concentration, and faith, any broken-down junk mind/body can be changed to do amazing things!
(Each participant demonstrates some compulsory and some optional poses.)
LA YOGA: How did you select your optional postures?
Joseph: At the 2011 National Yoga Asana Championship, I demonstrated scorpion and peacock pose; I feel they demonstrate presently who I am. When I was younger, my rheumatologist and orthopedic surgeon told me by the time I was in my mid-twenties I wouldn’t be able to do much physical activity because of rheumatoid arthritis. I wanted to prove to myself with these postures that I would be able to go beyond the usual and do something exceptional.
I’ve been doing the scorpion pose since my first competition—in every variation ( entering the pose from locust, tiger, and handstand). Stamping my feet to my head symbolizes the removal of emotions such as pride, anger, hatred, jealousy, intolerance, and malice, which are more deadly to the mind than the poison a scorpion carries. Through Yoga, I strive to obtain
a mind free of these emotions.
I chose peacock because it demonstrates strength and balance, mentally and physically. The appearance of a weightless body defeating gravity on two hands is something I could only dream about when I struggled with my weight. Through the execution of this pose, I wanted to demonstrate to everyone who struggles with weight issues that, with determined effort, the body would even appear to overcome gravity.
LA YOGA: What message would you like to share with young people considering participating in the championship?
Joseph: Competition drives us to be the best we can be, and a champion in Yoga or any athletic sport is one who has learned to control the fluctuations of the mind while doing what one does best.
As it is said in the great yogic text,
The Bhagavad Gita:
Be Steadfast in Yoga, O Arjun.
Perform your duty without attachment, remaining equal to success or failure
Such equanimity is called Yoga.
- Joseph Encinia, Texas
- Zeb Homison, Pennsylvania
- Bel Carpenter, Colorado
- Afton Carraway, Florida
- Emily Carpenter, Colorado
- Emily Vendemmia, Maryland
For more information on the International Yoga Federation Asana Championships visit: usayoga.org
Joni Yung loves finding things to do around LA — especially ones that are free and good for you. Follow her on Twitter at @ayogist