Yoga's Lifelong Journey

Stephanie Chen has been competing for four years. Her first competition was at the 2013 California Regionals in Los Angeles.

Although she was reluctant to compete at first, mostly because she was nervous that it would detract from her enjoyment of practicing yoga, Stephanie credits her teachers at her yoga studio in San Jose with helping her realize how the motivation of a competition could enhance her practice and cause her to enjoy it even more. As she explains, "I go into every class with a clear intention of what I need to work on, and having an end-goal to work towards amplifies my energy as I practice."
In the weeks leading up to competition, Stephanie attends coaching sessions and practices her routine in front of other people, whether it's on the podium, in the lobby, or at home. She explains that, so long as she cannot look in a mirror, it helps her work on her focus and blocking out all the surrounding distractions.

As a competition gets closer, Stephanie tries to relax more to avoid over-exhausting herself. As she advises other yogis, "By the time you decide to compete, you’re already prepared. You don’t need to do abnormally more than you’re already doing, except showing up to class and rehearsing your routine with a coach."

Yet the best training advice Stephanie says she has gotten is to focus on what she should be doing in a posture rather than what she shouldn't. For example, if she focuses on not falling, she feels like she is more likely to fall out of a posture. Instead, more positive thinking, like focusing on what she can do in a pose (elbows bent below the calf muscle, knee locked), she feels more solid in her posture.

Overall, Stephanie has continued to compete for four years because she has fun. As she says, "That combined feeling of butterflies when you’re about to walk on stage, soon followed by exhilaration once you’ve finished can’t be matched. In the end, whether I nailed my routine or fell out a bunch, I always leave learning something new about myself and making several friends along the way."

Making new friends is also another reason why Stephanie enjoys competing. Seeing yogis who support one another from around the country adds another dimension to competition, and all the competitors get to learn from one another.

In her final words to her fellow competitors, and those interested in competition, Stephanie says, "This yoga is a lifelong journey, a constant progression, where there will always be room for improvement. So, if you can’t get into the full expression of the posture by competition time, that’s okay. Do what you can, and keep working on it, as usual. Maybe you’ll get it next time, or the time after that."
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