The Hong Kong Yoga Association (HKYA) hosted the first International Yoga Gala in Hong Kong on 26 and 27 May 2012. The slogan of the Event, “Share and Dare” best reflects the spirit and objectives of the Gala: (1) Sharing knowledge, experience and the joy of Yoga with masters from all over the world through workshops and demonstrations; and (2) Dare to surpass one’s own limits through asana, chanting and vinyasa contests.
Asana (“A”) interview Ms Judy Ho (“J”), Vice Chairman of HKYA on the Event.
A: How did you come up with the Yoga Gala? What have been the challenges organizing such an event?
J: We would like to host a Yoga activity with masters from around the world. We do not want to treat masters like commodities in a supermarket. Therefore we have been selective, bringing precious jewels in their fields to Hong Kong. These masters not only hosted workshops, they also acted as judges Jumping Castle for our Yoga tournament. Contestants have the chance to be assessed by world class masters of different origin and from different parts of the world.
One of the greatest challenges, of course, is to gather this group of popular masters. They are all very busy hosting workshops or participating events around the world. Most of them have to be booked at least 6 months in advance.
A: Who is your target audience for the Yoga Gala?
J: The Event is open to all Yoga lovers. “Share and Dare” – there is something for everyone.
A: What do you think about Yoga and competition, which seem to be conflicting concepts?
J: Depending on how you look at it, they need not be conflicting concepts. There have been many Yoga competitions in India, the country of origin of Yoga. You can see competition not as a combat against other people, but a challenge to yourself; to learn how to perform Yoga in a relaxed manner, even in a competition setting; to see where your Yoga level stands amongst fellow yogis. Also, you can see it as an incentive to boost your own standards; and to strive yourself, exceeding your own limits. Yoga is about having an open mind. A yogi should not shut himself up and just practise in his own secluded world. He should open himself to meet different masters and different styles. Yoga Gala would be the perfect occasion for eye-opening and exchange.
A: What were the primary attractions?
J: Personally, I ?nd the opening of the Gala a major attraction, with Yoga wear fashion show and performances by each master. It turned out to be a success.
A: Contestants will only find out which of the designated asanas they will perform in the competition. Would there be injustice in the contest?
J: No, I do not think so. The ten designated asanas were posted on the website so all contestants practice and master them. All contestants were notified of the three chosen Bouncy Castle postures an hour before the contest. Hence, they had time to further fine tune their practices.
A: Are contestants judged on the physical form such as alignment, grace etc? However, there are other aspects of Yoga which may not be shown in a physical practice.
J: The asanas were also judged based on steadiness and breathing. Steadiness can be maintained only when asanas are performed in a relaxed mode. The performance of asanas has to be complemented by long and deep breathing, rather than short and shallow breaths. The participants had to demonstrate more than just the physical form. The winners showed in better state of how Yoga should be – a union of body, mind and spirit.
A: There is another Yoga competition in the summer, would a small place like Hong Kong accommodate two events?
J: Judging on the participants – both attending the workshops and entering the contests, there is a keen interest. For instance, over a hundred contestants participated. The Event also fulfills some of the missions of HKYA: (1) Spread the knowledge of Yoga; (2) Facilitate the sharing of Yoga experience between Yoga lovers and professionals; and (3) Expand the local Yoga community.
A: Have you identified any “Yoga stars” in the Yoga Gala?
J: All contestants are Yoga stars. The winners are stars. The contestants who knew they would not win, who have their limitations, who are not in their prime years, but also went on stage and performed at their best are also stars to us. As explained earlier, the competitions are just a means to go beyond one’s limits and to exchange and learn from each other. We are all stars in our own right.