Competitive Yoga Takes New England

Yoga's not just for relaxation anymore—the New England yoga championship was held in Natick Sunday.

Jennifer ZielYouth winner Jennifer Ziel. Photos by Laurie McDonagh

Move over, inner peace and relaxation. Competitive yoga is on the rise, and it looks like it’s here to stay.

Need proof? On Sunday, USA Yoga hosted its New England Regional Yoga Asana Championship (yes, there is such a thing) at the Natick Mall, with competitive yogis from all over the region coming to strike a pose. A panel of judges crowned winners in male, female, and youth categories (Christopher Bopp, Ashley Ogilvy, and Jennifer Ziel, respectively) all of whom, along with each category’s runner up, will go on to compete in the 10th annual National USA Yoga Asana Championship in New York in March.

Christopher BoppMen’s winner Christopher Bopp

If you’d never heard of USA Yoga (don’t worry, we hadn’t either), the organization was founded by yoga expert Rajashree Choudhury, who is married to Bikram yoga founder Bikram Choudhury. A press release for the New England Championship says the group is “making strides to become the governing body of yoga and hopes to qualify the popular practice as an Olympic sport,” and the USA Yoga website’s homepage touts the organization’s goal of “developing Yoga Asana as a sport.”

So how exactly does competitive yoga work? Each participant is required to complete a set of compulsory poses, all of which have specific judging criteria, and then he or she may move on to a list of optional—and, frankly, impossible looking—postures. Judges then calculate a score, with deductions taken for something as minor as “simple trembling.” Namaste indeed.

So while it’s still a little surprising that competitive yoga exists, it’s hard to deny that the contestants are impressive. And hey, think of it as inspiration next time you’re tempted to take child’s pose for the last half hour of class. We know we will.