Thursday March 22, 2018
Sixty competitors from nine states competed at the USA Yoga Northeast Regional Championship March 10 at South Burlington High School. Hosted by Queen City Bikram Yoga, the championship featured yogis from New England, Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, and Delaware. The athletes, who performed their timed routines in front of nationally-certified judges, competed in four age range categories: the adult division, 18 to 49 years of age; the senior division, age 50 and over; and two youth divisions, seven to 11 and 12 to 17 years of age. This was the 15th year of the yoga championship in the United States.
Eight-year-old, Nica Thomas, claimed the title of Regional Youth Champion. She said, “I have been practicing yoga basically since I was a baby and I want to carry on the tradition.” The young yogi is daughter to event host, Marla Thomas, who owns Queen City Bikram on San Remo Drive.
At 50, South Burlington resident, Sunday Whipkey competed in the senior division and placed second in her age group for Vermont. She says, “The whole point in competing for me was to see that I could actually follow through and do it… I completed that goal and my daughter was proud of me. All wins. I know now what it’s like to compete in this and what I need to focus on in training for next year.”
A clinical research assistant and recruiter at the University of Vermont’s Vaccine Testing Center, Whipkey began practicing yoga when she was 27. “It has helped me to be much more in tune with my breath and to step back and chill when I start to get stressed.” Preferring to practice the discipline in a classroom, Whipkey feels yoga has caused her to be more accepting, “Focusing more on what [my body] can do and less on what it looks like in the mirror.” She notes that getting up on stage at the regional competition was outside her comfort zone, but adds, “I am so glad that I did. I can’t wait to do it again next year!”
Sara Curry, an organizer of the event, emceed the competition. Owner of Bikram Yoga Portsmouth and Marla Thomas’ sister, Curry notes that yoga competitions and demonstrations have been used to increase awareness of yoga in India for hundreds of years. Addressing a seeming juxtaposition between yoga and competition, she said, “Asana, the physical yoga posture, itself, is the only demonstrative branch of the eight-limbed path. It is the only part of practice appropriate to use in competition. When people claim that yoga championship is about ego, they are right. Without control of the ego, one cannot find success on the championship stage.”
Curry shares that many yogis who compete have dealt with hardships from personal struggles to injury. Noting that the competition showcases resilience and strength, she says, “The ability to step onto a stage with an audience and hold a posture on one leg in stillness is a personification of the steadiness that yoga provides in a constantly changing world.”
Winners from each state and overall regional winners were awarded medals at the competition. They move on to compete June 29 at the U.S. National Championship in Madison, Wisconsin.