Full Standing Bow_smallPeople are often confused about the idea of Yoga Competition, how you can compete in Yoga. Often we’ve grown up learning that if we want to win in a competition, we cannot wish our opponents the best, we have to keep our secrets of training, or we have to secretly hope the strong opponent gets injured before they get on stage, and that doesn’t sound anything like Yoga to me, rather egotistic and fear based. To me, the word “competition” is just a set up. It’s like as you’re walking in the forest, calm, joyful, and peaceful, enjoying the scene, you see a tiger walk out from the bush (competition). As soon as the tiger appears, you lose your peace, even though the tiger may just be there looking at you without attacking. We’re so conditioned to react to the tiger/fear, Yoga helps to change our habitual thought and action. I ask, in the set up of competition in Yoga, like with the tiger, how are you going to conquer your fear-based, competitive mind? In the middle of chaos, how are you going to find your breath and stillness? I’ve seen many who can demonstrate perfect Yoga Poses in front of hundreds, even thousands of people, but as soon as you tell them “you’re competing!,” they often lose their peace right away. With the fear of judging and their attachment to the result, they lose control of their nervous system. How far they can bend backward or how long they can stand on their hands has nothing to do with the performance, if they lose their peace by fear of judging, winning, or losing. The person will lose their breathing, lose the stillness and balance, lose what makes it “Yoga”.

Yoga is a science. Yoga Asana practice and mediation balances our nervous systems. When we’re on stage with the set up of competition, our adrenaline flows, our nervous system is in it’s Sympathetic state, or called a “fight or flight” mode, where our blood rushes to our fists to prepare us to punch harder, and to our feet so we can run faster. While we’re in Yoga poses, we’re in a Parasympathetic state, I call it healing or house keeping mode, where our heart rate slows down, blood pressure is lower, our blood circulation goes to our digestive system, skeletal system, and so on, our bodies are in homeostasis and balanced, that’s a calm body. During yoga competition we learn to control our nervous system, instead of allowing the adrenaline, and emotions, to take over, just like what we learn in Yoga Class. The first thing we need to apply is our Will, to use our body as a medium, to control our thoughts, then the state of the nervous system will follow.

A yoga competitor might spend many hours a day on a single Yoga Pose, they train for years to change their bodies. However, in the moments on the stage, there’s only the breathing, the conscious movement, the conscious stillness. The mind needs to be at peace before the body can be at ease. Demonstration of stillness lies underneath the mind, body Union.IMG_2493

My friend Tricia from Ireland is an actress and has performed on stage fully naked. She’s also been on stage for a Yoga competition. She shared with me that the Yoga competition was more frightening. When she’s on stage as an actress, she is acting, and not herself. Just like a lot of us in life, we put on masks instead of being who we really are. When she was on stage for the Yoga competition her heart and soul were laid bare, she felt vulnerable, exposing who she was, her weaknesses, her strengths, her fears. When I watch a yoga routine, I do not pay attention of how their inner thighs rotate, nor the dazzling transition from one pose to another, it’s everything, it’s the joy. the love, the breathing, the grace, the stillness, it’s the decision, each moment it’s a decision of fear acceptance , and in line with the Present.

Being the “world champion” only means I won in that particular moment of truth. In that very present moment, there’s no regret of the past, nor fear of the future. If I compete again today, I might not even place 10th because things change, each moment is different. What I learned is being a Champion is not something others give you, it’s a state of Being, and that Being is timeless, unbeatable, it’s a conscious infinity.

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