Twenty-six compete in yoga championships held at Lanterman Auditorium Nov. 1.

November 06, 2008|By Olivia Smith

The 6th Annual International Yoga Asana Championship’s Southern California Regionals returned Saturday to the Lanterman Auditorium, drawing 26 competitors of all ages.

“The purpose of these championships is to demonstrate and educate the general public as to the life-renewing benefits of yoga,” said Rose Malmberg, owner of Bikram Yoga La Cañada and host of the event.

This year’s Regionals was marked by a confidence that one day Hatha Yoga—that is yoga done as exercise—will one day be an Olympic event, on par with gymnastics. A federation of yoga associations in India and here in the United States has been laying the groundwork by organizing these yoga championships, which have been taking place in India for hundreds of years, but only in the U.S. for six.


And though he was there Saturday as a spectator and yoga practitioner, Charles Lee, a retired L.A. Superior Court judge and Chef De Mission of the 2008 U.S. Olympic team in Beijing, gave the event an air of optimism.

Three judges, Emmy Cleaves, Darius LeGall and Marlon McGann studied the poise, flexibility, form and grace of the 30 competitors in three divisions: men, women and youth. Though practitioners of all forms of Hatha Yoga are invited to compete, those at the Lanterman represented primarily Bikram “hot” yoga. Fifteen different chapters of Bikram Yoga from San Diego to Santa Barbara were represented.

For the uninitiated, Bikram Yoga is a 90-minute class of 26 postures that purportedly works every muscle, joint, ligament tendon and organ in the body. It is practiced in a heated room to allow muscles to warm-up quickly and to improve circulation, as well as help to eliminate toxins and significantly reduce the risk of injury during deep muscle stretching. It is so named for its founder, Bikram Choudhury, who brought this more competitive, athletic take on Hatha Yoga to the Los Angeles in the 1980s.

The competition itself is based on competitor’s performing five compulsory postures, plus two advanced postures, performed in three minutes or less, as timed by event timer Aaron Fishman.

Jeff Rangel, a teacher at Bikram Yoga La Cañada, took first place in the men’s division for the second straight year in a row, thanks largely to his jaw-dropping Finger Stand and Scorpion postures, in addition to his compulsory poses.

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