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Archive for the ‘Amazing Yoga Feats’ Category

 

photo courtesy Vancouver Courier

 

 

In today’s edition of The Vancouver Courier, reporter Megan Stewart profiles the yoga competition coming to Vancouver, Canada.  Her question is one that echoes each time a yoga competition makes in American cities…”can you win at yoga?”

Competitive yoga is on the rise but still doubted and even scorned by many in Vancouver where the practice is largely associated with meditation, well-being and personal growth rather than the competitive rivalries of sport.

But for Vancouverite Brad Colwell, president of the Canadian Federation of Yoga and the director of the Western Canadian Hatha Yoga Championships, the spirit of competition is aimed at self-betterment above bettering everyone else.

Ms. Stewart identifies the root of the yoga competition in the west:

Established by the World Yoga Federation, a non-profit organization run by the founders of Bikram yoga, and supported by a growing number of national federations, those … who promote competitive yoga also want it included as an Olympic sport.

In a November interview with the New York Times, Rajashree Choudhury, the spouse of the man named for the copyrighted series of 26 Bikram postures, said the inclusion of yoga in future Summer Games “is our dream.”

But the controversial practice of yoga competition draws many critics:

For the co-owner of Semperviva Yoga, a West Broadway studio and teacher training centre, the concept of Olympic yoga is “weird.”

“It’s a bit unfortunate because I think it scares people away,” said Gloria Latham.

The most fit may stand to benefit, she said, but added that an emphasis on physicality alone can be intimidating and detracts from the primary benefit of yoga, which she said is breath work.

“If I can’t put my foot behind my head, then I don’t belong here,” is one self-conscious doubt Latham does not want to see gain traction as competition drives a sense of contest and panders to ego.

“It makes you completely physically focused,” she said. “I don’t think you can benefit from yoga by focusing on only one aspect of the practice.”

Another Vancouver yoga studio owner and teacher trainer dismissed competition altogether. When shakti mhi was invited to participate in the Western Canadian Hatha Yoga Championships, she put the letter on her blog–along with a scathing reply.

“How can ‘hatha yogis’ and ‘championship’ be beside each other in one sentence, let alone in one room? I guess the biggest winner will be the biggest fool that believes the discipline of hatha yoga is for the purpose of showing off,” wrote the founder of the Prana Yoga Teacher College.

However, one can’t ignore the history of the yoga competition.  Which makes the yoga competition much more confusing for western yogis:

Competition is popular in India, where it was formalized in the late 1980s. The Yoga Federation of India has categories that distinguish between athletic and artistic yoga, “rythemic” (sic) yoga and synchronized pair yoga with a focus on presenting various postures to “perfection and relaxation without strain.”

Ultimately, Ms. Stewart writes, the competition is a “spectator sport”. The “competitors are beautiful, their postures mesmerizing.” As one competitor adds, “We want people to feel inspired to do yoga.”

As for Bikram, YogaDork recently wrote a blog post entitled “Cult Rock Star, Yogapreneur, Magic Genie Sex Machine”, which discussed an article in Details magazine profiling the Yoga Don, Bikram Choudhury.  It is a highly entertaining read.

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photo credit: paul kitagaki, jr., sacramento bee

 

Yesterday’s edition of the Sacramento Bee profiled 50-year-old mountain climber Gabriel Amador, who, during his December 2003 attempt to summit New Zealand’s Mt. Tasman was caught in an avalanche that killed four climbers in his group.

Amador, one of only two survivors, spent a week in a coma after suffering from a broken neck, a fractured spine, two broken hips, brain swelling, and other injuries.

Despite two artificial hips, which makes the simple act of bending over to tie his shoes quite difficult, Amador has made an unbelievable recovery. He continues to be active hiking, skiing, biking, and in July of 2010 summited Stok Kangri, a 20,135 ft. Himalayan peak.

What does he credit a large part of his recovery to?

You got it.  Yoga.

“It’s just been phenomenal,” said Amador, a pension administrator in Roseville. “The biggest reminder of how it’s helped is every day, just putting my pants on. I can actually do that without holding on to anything for balance.

“Really, I’m not supposed to be bending more than 90 degrees. My doctor tells me that. But he also tells me, every time I see him, ‘I can’t stop you from doing what you love doing, but just be careful.’ ”

Part of that care is taking up yoga to improve his limberness.

It seems that Amador’s yoga class, a hot yoga class taught by veteran teacher Ping Yu, is filled with students recovering from physical and mental maladies.

Indeed, at one recent class Amador attended, several students came for help with assorted maladies. John Padrick of Fair Oaks is recovering from lower-back surgery. Jeff DeGroot of Citrus Heights is trying to avoid back surgery after he injured three disks several years ago.

Meanwhile, Julie Flora, a junior at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, said yoga has cured her insomnia, and real estate agent Nancy Knuth and nurse practitioner Holly Kirkland said the practices help them cope with stress.

Ms. Yu has admitted that Amador might be her most difficult project.

Hips are arguably the key to the balance and flexibility needed for yoga – throughout the two-hour workout, Yu repeatedly admonished students to “open your hips” – but the metal in Amador is anything but supple.

When he started attending yoga classes 10 months ago on the advice of a friend, Amador said he felt rigid and found it nearly impossible to follow Yu’s admonition to let his body “flow.” With diligence, Amador strengthened and elongated the muscles, tendons and fascia around his hips enough to nail nearly every pretzel-like pose Yu could throw at him.

For Amador, like many students of yoga, just getting a hang of the breath is a big challenge.

“Ever since the accident, I’ve just been fighting my body the whole time,” he said. “Yoga’s helped me to just relax. When you breathe, it’s amazing how much more you can do. She reminds everyone to keep breathing. When I’m grunting, I’m not breathing.”

And Yu, a slight, lithe woman who looks more 38 than 58, is not afraid to call Amador on it. She admits she was a little intimidated when she learned of Amador’s mountain-climbing exploits, but she knew she could help him acquire the grace and balance to go with his well- cultivated leg and cardiovascular strength.

“You can tell he’s very competitive,” she said. “So babying him is not going to work. You need to challenge him to bring it out. When I first saw him, I thought, ‘This guy doesn’t breathe.’ I go, ‘Come on!’ I put my fingers on his belly and say, ‘Give me some movement.’

“I say, ‘That’s not real breathing; that’s survival breathing. Bring it from deep.’ We go over this issue every time.”

That’s something Amador is likely to work on for a long time. Even though he’s back reaching summits, flexibility and breathing are mountains still to conquer.

“She’s right, you know,” he said. “When I surrender my body, everything just goes and flows.”

Yet another example of the healing power of yoga!

 

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Last week, I wrote about the yoga performance at the Commonwealth Games in New Delhi.  Today, I found a pretty good video of the entire demonstration, gold lame body suits and all.  Watch until the end when the human figure in lotus pose arises out of the floor and all of the chakras ascend up the figure.  Pretty neat.

Hope you have a great weekend!

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Matthew Sanford in upavistha konasana. Photo courtesy of hamptonroads.com

Matthew Sanford and his message are gaining momentum.  I have seen his story posted in numerous online journals and blogs in recent months.  Each time I do, I am inspired both by Matthew and the depth of his message.  You see, Matthew was just 13-years-old when he was a passenger in an automobile accident that killed both his father and his sister.  Although Matthew survived the accident, he was paralyzed from the waist down.

In an article posted on HamptonRoads.com, Matthew explains that he spent years trying to “overcome his body.”   Then, he discovered yoga.  In 2001, he created Mind Body Solutions, a 501 (c) (3) nonprofit organization that aims to transform “trauma, loss and disability into hope and potential by awakening the connection between mind and body.”

I have spent a good portion of my career working with and for disabled individuals.  In that capacity, I have met probably hundreds of people suffering from chronic illnesses who find it physically or emotionally impossible to perform the simplest of tasks.  That Matthew has overcome his body to the extent that he has is awe-inspiring.  That he has gone beyond his own healing to help disabled veterans and others with disabilities is beautiful.  And that his goal through his organization is not just to teach people with disabilities, but their caretakers, about the benefits of practicing yoga is visionary.

You can read more about Matthew and his organization by clicking on the link above.  His organization offers training programs for yoga teachers, and Matthew offers programs for teaching standard yoga, and modified yoga for disabled individuals.  He is also the author of WAKING: A Memoir of Trauma and Transcendance.

Just a little something to put those tight hamstrings in perspective.

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Yogi Bear

So there’s this brown bear named Santra at the Ahtari Zoo in Finland who is getting pretty serious about her yoga practice.  Apparently, she likes to wake up for her nap and get straight into a 15 minute yoga routine in front of dazzled spectators.  They say she’s pretty serious about it:  maintains her drishti, does her thing, and then goes about her day.  Here she is demonstrating upavista konasana, and a freaky twisted-lifted-leg janu sirsasana.  In my next life I will be able to do these poses as gracefully as Santra.   Photos courtesy of Daily Mail online.

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…try doing yoga on ice!  Check out these little yogis …

Photo courtesy of The Hindu

To read the rest of the story, visit:  http://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/kids/article600267.ece.  I will never complain about my hands slipping in downward dog again! 

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