Each competitor has a routine, similar to gymnastics, and is judged based on how well they perform. The routine must match specific baselines and must be three minutes long.
Competitors are judged on execution, style, gracefulness and movement among other factors. If competitors don’t hold their poses steady or face the wrong way, points are deducted.
One of Bikram’s competitors is Stephanie Beaudett, 54, of Hampstead. A school nurse in Lawrence during the day, Beaudett started practicing yoga to help improve her sciatica. But she has seen other facets of her life improve, to.
“It helps me sleep better, it helps me be less depressed and anxious,” she said. “The more you do it, the more it carries over.”
Beaudett finished third at regionals last month, barely missing out on qualifying for nationals. But competitors don’t place too much emphasis on winning and losing.
“One of the goals of competitive yoga is to get yoga out there in the world,” she said. “If more people were doing yoga, we would have happier and healthier bodies.”
Almquist agreed with Beaudett.
“I refer to it as competitive with a small C, and yoga with a big Y,” she said.
Training to compete is no joke. Beaudett said she practiced in the studio for two to three hours a day leading up to the regionals last month.
For Ziel, preparing to compete in her first national tournament may sound stressful. But, when the ultimate goal is to relieve stress, it isn’t as big of a factor.
“Yoga is about the fullest expression that you yourself can do,” she said. “So stressing over not being ready shouldn’t really affect me.”
Ziel is one of the youngest studio members practicing competitive yoga. Almquist hopes to recruit more high-schoolers after Ziel’s success.