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The Yoga Games

September 21, 2003|Shawn Hubler | Shawn Hubler is a Times staff writer who last wrote for the magazine about life after the bust in Silicon Valley.

Critics such as Ezraty bristle at that sort of ambition, not least because they view Choudhury's athletic, feel-the-burn brand of yoga as potentially damaging, physically. Among other things, Bikram yoga discourages the use of bricks and other aids that help reduce strain on developing muscles. And since the contest is designed around Bikram poses, Ezraty notes, it serves only to promote that type of yoga.

"I know what that contest is going to look like--lots of hyper-extended legs and crunched lower backs. It won't be pretty," says Ezraty, whose approach blends ashtanga, hatha and other types of yoga. "And just because something comes from India doesn't mean it's good. India is a huge country. A lot of crazy things happen there."

Northern Californians have had similar mixed feelings about the contest.

"When I told one of my friends I was doing this competition, she e-mailed me back, 'Yoga? Competition?' " says Melanie Molino, a 45-year-old former triathlete from Mill Valley who took up yoga for its noncompetitive aspects only to find herself drawn to the Northern California contest. "But I think there's room for all kinds of yoga. It's all about making yourself the best you can be. I never thought I could love myself as much as I do now."

Several days later, a letter in the San Francisco Chronicle cut to the heart of the matter. "I am announcing plans to stage a first-ever meditation competition," a reader wrote after hearing about the local yoga contest. "Points will be awarded for speed and depth in accessing bliss."

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