The 2009/2010 Nevada Regionals for the USA Yoga Championship held Sunday at Town Square were painful – not to the actual participants, of course, but from an audience member’s perspective they were absolutely excruciating.
The human form was repeatedly twisted into such unnatural positions that one felt more like they were witnessing an escaped circus troupe than an athletic competition. Every ribcage that appeared to burst out of the skin in the midst of an extreme backbend encouraged cringes and muffled gasps from the crowd.
But, apparently, people like to be visually disturbed. The limb-folding extravaganza drew quite the crowd, and, unlike most free shows in the park, it actually managed to hold people’s interest. The majority of spectators stuck around for the whole four hours, sipping free, strangely satisfying coconut water and watching people get bendy.
The competitors, who were categorized into groups according to age and sex, were supplemented by equally flexible side-acts. A contortion duo that seemed as though they would be a good fit for Cirque du Soleil’s Zumanity proved the highlight of the day. Their coordinated set consisted of the guy holding the girl up in the air by his feet as though to sacrifice her to the great and powerful yogi gods. Certain postures just begged for someone to yell out, “Get a room!”
The 10-minute intermission act was impressive as well – an expressive yoga piece called the “Jada Fire Dance,” which was performed by Barefoot Sanctuary instructor Jaime Tam. Although the name was a bit misleading - no actual fire was involved - her gypsy-style fancy footwork came complete with a Xena Warrior Princess cry. There was even some break dancing thrown into the mix.
The afternoon also included an appearance by Bikram Choudhury, a celebrity in the yoga world. Choudhury is the creator of the bikram style of yoga, and founder of the prestigious Bikram's Yoga College of India in Los Angeles. He took the stage stylishly dressed (apparently the L.A. lifestyle has an affect on even the most spiritual amongst us) and accepted a bouquet from the event’s organizers. He then stuck around to pose for pictures with star-struck yoga enthusiasts.
The sympathy pains inspired from witnessing all the nature-defying body bending where well worth it. At the end of the day all that was missing from the circus was a sword-swallowing-fire-breather and an elephant trainer.