News Bent on Bikram

Bent on Bikram

Skagit Valley Herald, February 14, 2006, By VINCE RICHARDSON Staff Writer

Sarah Baughn finished first among women at the Washington Yoga Asani Championship. Here she does the Scorpion pose with variation.

Matt Wallis / Skagit Valley Herald

Three area yoga lovers move on in competition

MOUNT VERNON — Imagine lying flat on your stomach, then bringing your legs up over the top of your head and placing your feet flat on the ground in front of your face.

Or balancing your entire body parallel to the ground on just your hands.

If that’s not difficult enough, you must keep your body in perfect alignment. All the way down to your fingers and toes.

You can’t grimace.

You can’t make any adjustments. The smallest tweak or quiver will be noticed.

Even breathing is scrutinized.

In three minutes, seven such postures must be completed.

If this sounds tough, it’s because it is.

Three local Bikram Yoga devotees recently did as well at the postures as anyone in the state of Washington.

Luis Rojas, Sarah Baughn and Robyn Beebe competed and placed at the Washington Yoga Asani Championship.

Rojas and Baughn finished first while Beebe brought home a second, finishing behind Baughn, her instructor.

Bikram Yoga has 26 basic postures. More advanced poses are based off those.
Rojas is part-owner, director and instructor at the Bikram Yoga studio in Mount Vernon.

Rojas and Baughn have learned from the best. They spent nine weeks with yoga masters Bikram and Rajashree Choudhury in an intensive teaching training program.

“It was like yoga boot camp,” Rojas said. “It was really just torture. But I absolutely loved it.

Though Rojas, Baughn and Beebe had not competed in yoga before, yoga is certainly not new to the trio.

“I decided that since this was so awesome for me,” Baughn said, “if there was any way I could honor the yoga, and even if I win or I don’t, I can at least show what I have learned and I can think about where I need to go. But I ended up taking first and now I get to represent Washington in the women’s (national)


The trio plans to compete at the third annual International Yoga Asani Championship Bishnu Charan Ghosh Cup on Feb. 10-12 in Los Angeles.

Rojas is the most experienced of the three. He’s been involved with Bikram Yoga for about five years.

Beebe has been twisting and sweating inside Bikram studios for four years.

And Baughn has been at it 13 months.

Doing postures in front of a crowd and judges was a new experience. All three felt a certain amount of stress.

“Honestly, I was terrified,” Baughn said. “I’ve done a lot of theater and stuff like that, but never anything like this. Being up in front of people in a theater setting is totally different. It’s much different than going up in front of three judges who are watching every single movement of your body. Plus, they are like two feet away from you, so of course they can hear you if you are breathing hard or straining in pain.”

For Beebe, it was all about remaining calm in a stressful situation.

“I was so nervous,” she said. “But the whole goal is not to show that you are nervous. Once I was on stage, it was so much more than just my strength and my stamina. It’s more than just, ‘Urrgghhh,’ pushing into it and then getting out of it and celebrating. It’s all about being calm, and just holding it and worrying about your breathing and that type of thing.”

Despite falling out of one posture, Beebe stayed cool.

“I fell out and I thought, ‘Great, it’s over,’” she said. “Then I kind of got my bearings and got through it. It all comes back to being in class, when you are in a posture and you are in so much pain that you want to just scream and run out of the room. But you don’t. You have to stay calm.

“If you can be calm under that much stress, then that reflects into your life. This yoga has really helped me with stress. It’s really beneficial.”

Rojas didn’t think nerves were going to be a factor for him. As it turned out, they were.

“I wasn’t nervous until I walked up on stage,” he said. “My hands were sweating and the room wasn’t even heated. My grips were slippery, my breathing was erratic. My heart was pounding out of control. Now I have to work extra hard in my classes so that doesn’t happen in L.A.”

Said Beebe: “I’m not even thinking about it. At least I’m trying not to. There’s going to be a lot of people competing, so I doubt I’ll take second again. I’m just in it for the experience.

“So because I’m not worried about doing too much, I’ll probably be all right,” she added. “It’s not the end-all for me.”

Bikram Yoga is based on a series of 26 beginning asana, or postures, designed to warm and stretch muscles, ligaments and tendons in a specific order.

The key word is warm. Actually, the word should be hot.

Classes are held in rooms with temperatures between 105 and 110 degrees. Sweat is essential for cleansing the body — and plentiful — as all 26 beginning postures are performed twice in what is usually a 11ΒΌ2-hour session.

Competition yoga consists of five mandatory postures and another two of the entrant’s choosing. The more advanced the optional postures, the higher the possible score.

Each posture is held for three to five seconds. All seven must be completed in three minutes.

“You have to show a combination of strength, balance and flexibility,” Baughn said. “There’s a lot to it. You have to be graceful. Then there is the difficulty of the posture. You are also judged on body type.”

Body type comes into play because some postures are easier depending on a person’s size.

A panel of judges scores each posture. It’s nerve-wracking.

“You have to do one posture after the other,” Rojas said. “You have to have total control both into and out of the posture. If you fall out, or even make an adjustment, you lose points. You are judged from the moment you walk out onto the stage. When you are there, you get one shot.”

The five required postures are the standing head-to-knee, standing bow, bow, rabbit and stretching.

For Beebe, who attends classes three to four times a week, the standing head-to-toe posture is the most difficult.

“Just because it has taken me like four years to get my head to my knee,” she said. “It’s such a love-hate relationship. One day, it’s like, ‘Yes! I can do it! I love this pose!’ Then the next day, it’s like, ‘Ugh! I can’t do it. I hate it!’

“That’s one thing about this yoga, is it’s always evolving. It never really ends. You are never done.”

The trio had different optional postures.

“You get judged on difficulty as well,” Rojas explained. “So if you choose something easy, you won’t get a lot of points. You have to choose something hard, that you can do nicely. Nothing you are going to be falling out of.”

Rojas will switch his optional postures for the national and world competition. Perfecting the new ones will take time.

“The first five postures I know really well, but for the advanced postures, I really don’t have any guidance. I am just going to give myself more time to practice. I was really unprepared for Washington.”

For Rojas, yoga is an ongoing competition.

“The competition really is within yourself,” he said. “It’s an internal competition.”

For all three, the outward results are impressive.

Bikram’s 26 Beginning Postures

Standing Deep Breathing

Half Moon Pose With Hands To Feet Pose

Awkward Pose

Eagle Pose

Standing Head to Knee Pose

Standing Bow Pulling Pose

Balancing Stick Pose

Standing Separate Leg Stretching Pose

Triangle Pose

Standing Separate Leg Head to Knee Pose

Tree Pose

Toe Stand Pose

Dead Body Pose

Wind Removing Pose

Sit Up

Cobra Pose

Locust Pose

Full Locust Pose

Bow Pose

Fixed Firm Pose

Half Tortoise Pose

Camel Pose

Rabbit Pose

Head to Knee Pose with Stretching Pose

Spine Twisting Pose

Blowing In Firm

Vince Richardson can be reached at 360-416-2181 or by e-mail at

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