A few weeks ago, yogis from around the country gathered in New York to do something some might consider decidedly un-yogic: compete.
And when the 2012 USA Yoga Asana Championship was over, the men’s champion was Jared McCann, a New Yorker. McCann scored a 63.4 out of 70 after completing the five mandatory postures and two optional (he chose Handstand Scorpion and Peacock).
He’ll go on to represent the U.S. at the international championship in Los Angeles this June.
So, how did you first get involved in competitive yoga? I didn’t start doing yoga until I was 26. [He’s 31 now.] I was so inflexible and drinking a lot a the time and had a generally unhealthy lifestyle. I went to a Bikram yoga class, and it was really difficult and painful for me, but I loved it. It somehow felt familiar to me, I can’t explain it. From that first class on, I was totally addicted, and I would go five to six times per week.
Then, one day, the owner came up to me and said, “You are doing the yoga competition.” She’s a strong woman who you don’t argue with, so I did it. And it ended up pushing my yoga practice and gave me something to focus on in class. It was a little extra incentive for me to hold the postures and to work a little harder.
How did you prepare for the competition? A lot of competitors will spend two weeks training, but I don’t. I just keep going to yoga and doing my thing. I feel like what the competition is really about is being present on stage while all of these people are watching you, because you feel judged and doubts start to creep in.
That makes sense. You probably get this question a lot, but doesn’t competitive yoga go against what yoga is about? Shouldn’t yoga be about inner focus and not beating out other people at poses? The whole thing is kind of ridiculous [laughs]! But I’m not doing it to beat people and become the yoga champ. At the end of the day, the reason I love doing the competitions is that I love showing people my asana practice, which will hopefully inspire someone else. That’s how I got into it, seeing people do postures I couldn’t do, and wanting to do them. I worked on it, and practiced it. Hopefully someone will see my practice and be inspired.
The competitions are also really fun for me at this point, because these cool yoga people get together once a year from all over the world. It’s not a competitive atmosphere at all. We’re all friends with each other, and we all want each other to win. It’s tense because everyone is nervous to do their routine on stage. But I don’t think anyone’s thinking “I’m going to beat you!” —Lisa Elaine Held