Yoga competitors find zen at Weber State

Using every muscle in their bodies, 20 people struck poses such as the downward dog and the dragonfly in the 2013 Utah Regional USA Yoga Asana Championship. The Wildcat Theater was packed with 200 spectators as the WSU African Drumming Club welcomed the yogis and yoginis, male and female yoga professionals.

The competition featured poses from Asana yoga style. Yogis and yoginis from Utah and Wyoming competed head to head on Saturday morning and into the afternoon.

“There are five compulsory postures and two optional postures,” said Marlon McGann, the head judge. “And in the five compulsory, they are five from the basic class, and the two optional are advance postures (that the yogi chooses).”

Each yogi had to perform five poses, the standing head-to-knee pose, standing bow pulling pose, bow pose, rabbit pose and stretching pose.

“You have to have normal breathing. It can’t be labor breath,” said McGann about judging the contestants. “The person should be calm and serene. It just seems effortless. People should be in awe and want to perform it themselves.”

Jacob Schanzer judged not only the Utah regional championship, but will also go to New York to judge the nationals at Hudson Theater.

“We are looking for strength, flexibility, calmness, grace and balance,” Schanzer said.

Each posture was scored on a scale of 1-10.

“Most people are not trying to win something,” McGann said. “They are just trying to work on themselves.”

“This will be first year the regional championship is held at Weber State,” said Michael Larson, director of the Bikram Yoga Ogden Studio. “It is the eighth year it will be held in Utah. Every other championship was held in Salt Lake City.”

During the competition, each yogi and yogini only had three minutes to achieve their seven chosen postures. The United States Yoga Federation, or USA Yoga, was the nonprofit organization that held the event. According to its website, USA Yoga was formed for the purpose of developing and promoting Yoga Asana as a sport. This year, USA Yoga asked Larson if his studio would host it, and he agreed to take responsibility.

The Bikram Yoga Ogden Studio is giving one free class for everyone who attended the Regional Championship. The studio also offers a free community class on the first Saturday of every month at 4:30 p.m. for those who have never attended before. It is located in downtown Ogden on Historic 25th Street above Grounds for Coffee.

The Bikram Yoga Ogden Studio gave a short demonstration at the event. It consisted of back-bending, seated spinal twists and the occasional standing half-bow balance (bending a leg, grabbing it with the same-side arm and extending the other arm out with the palm facing upward). After the demonstration, the youth category performed its seven postures. Sara Oseguera won first place for Utah.

The previous Utah champion, Marc Linton, lost his title to Mike Schenk. Carolyn Valencia, an instructor at the Bikram Studio, who was also the event coordinator, won first place for the women’s division.

“I like to look at yoga as a moving mantra,” Valencia said. “Everything we do has intention and purpose behind it. I always like to say yoga makes us good people. Plus, your body is your temple, so what a great way to express the joy of life.”