Southtown Yoga Loft session. Photo courtesy of Raven Red Photgraphy.

While I am both thrilled and fascinated by the multitude and variety of conferences and events that San Antonio is playing host to, I am not impressed at the idea of bringing a yoga competition to this city we call home. Today, The USA Yoga Federation (USA Yoga) is hosting the second of three days of its National USA Yoga Asana Championship at the Aztec Theatre. I support yoga as a physical practice that aids in benefitting the mind, body and spirit, but I personally do not support it as an ambitious sport or spectacle.

[Read More: San Antonio’s Sochi: Yoga Asanas Take Center Stage at National Competition]

Southtown Yoga Loft session. Photo courtesy of Raven Red Photgraphy.
Southtown Yoga Loft session. Photo courtesy of Raven Red Photography

Yoga isn’t something to be judged, critiqued or praised. I say we leave that to the body-builders and beauty pageant contestants where egos thrive and pride pops out of bikini tops (and bottoms). Isn’t that what competitions are about? To determine who is the best of the best?

In fact, I believe it’s the complete opposite of all of this. Yoga is not about competition at all. Not about competing with others, or with oneself. We should all practice yoga to journey inside of ourselves, not look for metals or awards that simply convey our physical competencies. Mahatma Gandhi said, “It is health that is the real wealth and not pieces of gold and silver.”

As a yoga studio owner, I have a sincere passion for yoga. My aim is to share that with every single person who steps foot in our space and each one of our teachers shares in that same passion, that same goal. I’ve chosen purposely to not have mirrors in the studio because quite frankly, we spend all day judging ourselves and others. When we judge ourselves, we create stories in our minds that have a surefire tendency to manifest into reality.

The yoga studio should be a sacred space where individuals on different paths can all meet to practice and breathe through all the crap that fills our lives. One can really be by oneself, even if just for one hour. It is for every BODY.

Yoga is a term we are beginning to feel more comfortable with and a physical form of exercise we are seeing more and more of. It’s popping up in college classrooms, corporate break-rooms, neighborhood corner studios and quiet, candle-lit bedrooms.

What makes this practice unique? Just that. It’s a practice, something that is most effective when done routinely just like brushing our teeth. It’s a practice that, yes, without a doubt enhances and improves our physical well-being; but somewhere along the way, beyond the downward dogs and party poses (see: arm balances), something magical also happens if you’re lucky enough to catch it.

What is that magic and where does it exist?

Southtown Yoga Loft session. Photo courtesy of Raven Red Photgraphy.
Southtown Yoga Loft session. Photo courtesy of Raven Red Photography

It’s discovering who we really are as individuals. Beyond the clothes we wear, the brands we buy. Beyond the titles we possess and the roles we play day in and day out. The magic lies in slowly beginning to shine light on who we are and what our purpose is.

During my classes at Southtown Yoga Loft, I often use the analogy of an onion. The yoga practice serves as a tool to help us peel back the layers of our life that have caused turmoil, guilt, heartache, loss, anxiety, and more, until we get to the absolute core of our true, authentic spirit.? As my own yoga practice developed, so did my craving to learn more about its philosophy and foundations.

Why is it that we move our bodies the way we do? Where does that mind-body connection come in? There had to be more to it.?On a much deeper level of yoga, beneath the stretches and melodic sounds of breath in a room full of students, there lies a garland of guidelines or rules to adhere to should one look to grow their level of understanding and knowledge of the practice. You can think of these as yoga’s 10 Commandments. These are known as the Eight Limbs of Yoga and when studied and practiced with attention and intention, they can really have a positive influence on your yoga practice and your life. After all, what we learn on the mat should be applied to real life outside our blissful, euphoric physical practice.

Within these Eight Limbs, we learn about non-harming to yourself and others; truthfulness; non-stealing; devoting yourself to your partner; cleanliness of home, cleanliness of mind; and more.

With this newly found vision, one is able to see a bit more clearly, taking time to observe and evaluate situations, and most importantly, let go of the small shit.

That is what ends up building up inside of us over time and causes stress and diseases of the physical body and of the mind. This is why we should practice yoga daily: to wring out our bodies, purifying them slowly, slowly.

Better indeed is knowledge than mechanical practice. Better than knowledge is meditation. But better still is surrender of attachment to results, because there follows immediate peace. — Bhagavad Gita

Yoga is for the weak, the strong, the student who is learning what it means to chant ‘Om’ and the student who puts his leg behind his head. That’s what makes it beautiful. It is my hope that yoga does not make it as an Olympic sport for this reason. It’s simply a show – void of its magic.

*Featured/top image: Southtown Yoga Loft session. Photo courtesy of Raven Red Photography.

*Originally published on  March 15.

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Kristal Cuevas

Kristal Cuevas is the owner of Southtown Yoga Loft and a San Antonio native.