USA Yoga Competition Brings Smiles and Body Postures

Last month was the USA Yoga finales, lasting from Friday to Sunday evening, a full three days where hundreds of competitors from around the nation came up to compete, show off their Yoga stances, and try to win the big finale. Every style was represented, and everyone competed to their best abilities in front of the 700 theater seats at the Hudson Theatre in Manhattan. Everyone remained quiet and supported mentally the competitors, while they watched an endless number of poses and stances, people stretching their legs, arms, and standing in positions most people would think impossible. But this event was the culmination of a lot of preparations, including some unusual ones.

Michael Colwill is a 46 years old kindergarten teacher, and he decided to compete with just three years of Yoga experience, because there’s no entry requirement in the regional entries. Instead of spending his preparation time going over his routine again, he stood in front of the empty theatre bowing down, and smiling, convinced that presentation was as important as skill and performance. Indeed, he was one of those who went up to the National Yoga Asana Championship.

The event was hosted by the United States Yoga Federation, also called USA Yoga, and took place over three days. On Friday, everyone could compete, and people showed up a wide array of techniques and performances. By Saturday however, things had gotten serious, with competitors doing everything they could to win. The audience was silent, and a pin could be heard dropping. Many Yoga athletes find this type of competition hard to go through, since they can go from their calm, well illuminated studio, practicing in front of a mirror, to a scene where spotlights blinded their faces, and hundreds of people stare at them intently.

Even watching this competition was not an easy task, having to sit quietly through a long series of routines. In traditional Yoga, watching this type of event is said to prepare the mind and body for the act of meditation, and reducing external sensations to a maximum. Both adults and children competed, and were divided into special categories. By Sunday, the finals featured 10 men and 10 women, showing their own versions of Asana, along with two additional poses that were chosen by the athletes. The children section was dominated by girls, with only one boy competing at the end.

Backstage, the coaches would throw towels around the athlete’s necks in typical sports fashion, and it’s the hope of USA Yoga that this type of competition would one day be found in the Olympics. For now, even this national event can be exhausting for the professionals competing for the final prize. The woman’s first place went to Afton Carraway, a dancer from Orlando, and the man champion was Jared McCann, a teacher from New York.

Daredevil’s Fall

Natural landscape is awe-striking! Look at this woman, lying on the edge of the waterfall shelf, held back by only a single hand.


Photo by nandminafrica via flickr
Photo by nandminafrica via flickr

Religion is Innate

Science has long confirmed that religious feelings are coded in our genes. In other words, our brains are pre-programmed to allow the experience of feelings such as elation, ecstasy, and selflessness.

On the surface, this statement may appear banal and self-evident. But when the evidence depicts how the experiences of a Buddhist Monk, a Muslim Imam, or a Christian Priest are basically the same — then this piece of information becomes a political and cultural landmine.

Science Daily just published a piece today, which elaborates on the subject of Selflessness — a feeling that can be found in all cults and religions. It is quite amazing how different interpretations of the same experience have yielded so many conflicting beliefs.

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Most Visited Art Exhibition Ever

Gregory Colbert’s Ashes and Snow is an ongoing project that weaves together photographic works, 35mm films, art installations and a novel in letters. With profound patience and an unswerving commitment to the expressive and artistic nature of animals, he has captured extraordinary interactions between humans and animals.

Since its debut in Venice in 2002, over 10 million people have attended Ashes and Snow by Gregory Colbert, an exhibition of more than 50 large-scale photographic artworks, a 60-minute feature film, and two 9-minute film haiku. The Nomadic Museum, the permanent travelling home of Ashes and Snow, debuted in New York in 2005 and then migrated to Santa Monica, Tokyo, and Mexico City. Ashes and Snow at the Nomadic Museum will open in Brazil in 2009.

To date, Ashes and Snow has received over 10 million visitors in 4 continents, making it the most attended exhibition by a living artist in history.

Kids Love Yoga Too

Kids Love Yoga TooIn today’s modern society, children are often under a lot of stress, both in school and afterwards. Whether it’s due to problems with homework, peer pressure (much of it financial or fashion oriented) or just ordinary everyday stress, many children are discovering an excellent way to cope with life’s problems. And that “discovery” is yoga. Since yoga exercises can often been done in a limited space like in a living room or den, a bedroom, or similar area, practicing yoga for even half an hour per day can help kids relieve a lot of stress, and help develop their bodies at the same time.

Yoga has also been proven to be successful with children who are hyperactive and have learning disabilities as a result of not being able to concentrate on their homework or in the classroom. Yoga exercises involving deep breathing and meditation can help calm them down and improve their concentration. By having children concentrate on a pleasant experience during the exercise, such as walking through a beautiful garden or meadow, the end result can be very calming and will enable them to relax as well as sleep better at night. The calming effect is also very beneficial against certain phobias such as bed wetting and fear of the dark.

In addition to relaxation, Yoga also helps kids with both their posture and the development of muscular motor skills. The exercises can either be taught on an individual or group basis. As children’s limbs are more flexible than those of adults, a number of yoga poses can be taught, and children usually catch on very easily. Yoga can also be taught together with other subjects that kids are interested in, such as care for animals. Since yoga classes are usually conducted with children sitting in a circle, instead of in a row, there is more interaction among them, and kids usually look forward to attending these classes.

All in all, children learn wonderful developmental skills that are useful throughout their entire lives. By enabling them to cope better with physical and mental stress, kids will be more successful in high school and college, as well as during their adult lives. And in addition to developing their physical and mental skills, practicing yoga will help children develop more respect for themselves and others in the world they live in.

Yoga During Pregnancy

Yoga During PregnancyOne of the prime concerns of expectant mothers deals with what kind of exercise program is safe to practice pregnancy. A number of studies have been made concerning the practice of various forms of yoga during various stages of the 36 week gestation period; and the results of these findings indicate that not only is the practice of certain types of yoga acceptable but actually beneficial to an expectant mother. This is especially so in regards to forms such as Yoga Nidra, which deal with deep breathing exercises and stretching of muscles which are used to deliver the baby when it is born. In addition to the sheer physical aspects, yoga’s philosophy of combining the spiritual, physical, emotional and psychological aspects, can better prepare a women emotionally for the process of childbirth. This is especially true for first time pregnancies.

Pregnancy does require women to exercise caution, however, and yoga exercises must be done in a manner that does not cause harm to either the mother or her fetus. Since many yoga exercises deal with breathing, especially deep breathing, practicing breathing control can be very helpful to the mother during labor contractions. The emotional benefits of controlled breathing and meditation can also help prevent feelings of depression before and after childbirth. Practicing Yoga Nidra is especially helpful for relaxation and as an aid to sleeping either during pregnancy or in the period after childbirth when newborn infants require constant attention which can be very tiring to women. And the practice of yoga stretching exercises after pregnancy will help a woman regain the muscle tone she had before the onset of pregnancy.

To be on the safe side, it is a good idea to discuss the practicing of yoga with both an obstetrician as well as a quality yoga instructor. The type of exercises undertaken depend a lot of what period or ‘trimester’ of pregnancy a woman is currently in, as well as a woman’s over-all physical health. While many yoga exercises, such as the “butterfly” stretch, cobra, and triangle pose, are acceptable during pregnancy, others such as back bends, hand and headstands, and balancing poses should be avoided as they can be dangerous to both mother and baby. Avoid exercises that stretch muscles too much and avoid what is known as “hot” yoga, or yoga performed in an overheated room.

All and all, a women should “listen” to her body and stop any exercises that cause pain or discomfort. It is best to coordinate the type of exercise in accordance with the stage of pregnancy a woman is in. A qualified instructor – especially one who works a lot with pregnant women can be invaluable for this purpose.