New York: Over 150 competitors from across the US presented their best yoga poses at the national yoga championship held here, seeking to impress the judges and the audience with the flexibility, balance and precision of their postures.
The ninth edition of the National Yoga Asana Championship, hosted by the United States Yoga Federation, was held over the weekend in Manhattan with participants, including children, coming from 32 US states.
Competitors were judged on their technical precision, physical presentation, ease of movement and balance as they completed seven postures in three minutes.
The audience watched in pin-drop silence as the participants twisted and stretched their limbs, sliding their legs behind their heads and curling into back bends.
The seven postures included standing head to knee pose, standing bow pulling pose, bow pose, rabbit pose and stretching pose.
Rajashree Choudhury, founder of the US Yoga federation, said the competition does not judge the moral discipline or the meditative aspect of yoga but instead aims to judge the execution of the yoga asanas.
"We want more people, especially young children, to take up yoga. Such competitions help spread awareness about the benefits of yoga and inform people that yoga is not just about meditation and spirituality," Choudhury said.
She said she intends to work with schools across the US to get yoga included as a sport for children.
"Apart from being beneficial as a sport, yoga will help children in other aspects of their life too," Choudhury added.
Choudhury is wife of renowned yoga instructor Bikram Choudhury, who established the Bikram Yoga form of hot yoga that is conducted in a room heated to 104 degrees fahrenheit.
She said her organisation's aim is to get the yoga asanas included as an Olympic sport.
At the competition, the audience watched in amazement and gasped as they saw participants perform difficult and varied postures such as the scorpion pose, lotus and tiger pose, peacock pose and guillotine pose.
The participants, dressed in swimwear, did back-bending handstands, deep forward bends where the head and arms slid behind the legs and stood hands to heart, with one leg locked behind their heads. The competitors were also judged on the ease with which they switched between postures and the calm they displayed as they tried to maintain their balance standing on their fingers, on one leg or with their limbs crossed.
Afton Carraway, a former dancer from Florida won the women's championship while Jared McCann, a yoga teacher from New York, was the men's winner.
They will represent the United States in June at the Bishnu Charan Ghosh Cup, an international championship in Los Angeles.