Carbondale athletes limbering up for national yoga competition |

Carbondale athletes limbering up for national yoga competition

CRMS student Jake Sakson in a peacock, one of two optional poses he is planning for this weekend's Junior National and International Yoga Championships. (John Stroud photo)

CARBONDALE ” A trio of local high school students will have the chance to experience a stage of large proportions at this weekend’s National and International Yoga Championships in Los Angeles, thanks to the good fortune of having the qualifying event in their back yard last month.

… Not to mention some rather limber bodies and a talent for holding a yoga pose long enough to impress the judges.

Colorado Rocky Mountain School student Jake Sakson and two Roaring Fork High School students, Ixchel Muniz and Arjuna Mims, were the local qualifiers at the Dec. 15 Colorado regional yoga competition, held at Roaring Fork High.

The event included the first-ever junior-level event in the region, as will this weekend’s national/international competition.

They will join Bel Carpenter, owner of the Bikram’s Yoga College of India in Carbondale, Basalt and Glenwood Springs, and the winner of the senior men’s competition at the December qualifier.

Carpenter was the impetus for bringing the fifth annual Colorado Bishnu Ghosh Cup to Carbondale. And his yoga college has been a big part of introducing locals of all ages to the benefits of yoga, including a growing number of high school students.

“I did some yoga on my own once a week as part of our telemark (ski) team training,” said Sakson, 17, who participates in a variety of sports at CRMS, including the tele-ski and kayaking teams, as well as the fledgling unicycle team.

“Then my dad got me a month of yoga classes at the Bikram’s Yoga College, and I found out about the regional competition,” he said. “I didn’t really think about (entering) at first, but then I realized it was highly possible that I could do well and qualify (for nationals).”

He ended up being one of just a handful of boys in the junior competition along with Mims, and both got the qualifying nod, with Sakson taking top honors and Mims second at regionals.

It will be a homecoming of sorts for Mims, who lived in LA before coming to Carbondale and still has family there. He also turned 16 this week, so the trip will serve as a bonus birthday present as well.

“We’ll be going up against some pretty good competition, so everything will be more intense. It will be exciting,” Mims said.

A member of the Roaring Fork football team, Mims said he never really thought of yoga as a sport before, but knew of the benefits as a way to train for other sports. When he heard about the competition coming to his own school, he had to give it a try.

“It’s definitely a sport,” Mims said of the concept of yoga as a competitive sport. “It’s very mentally challenging, and you have to have a lot of concentration, and any little mental distraction can throw you off.”

Muniz, who placed second in the junior girls competition at the regional qualifier, also started doing yoga as a way to better her fitness, in her case for volleyball.

“I’ve been taking a lot of classes to stay flexible, and I’ve found that I’m also stronger and just more with it … not as klutzy on the court,” she said. “It’s fun to challenge yourself, and try some tricks that most people can’t do.”

The competitors are required to do four mandatory poses and two optional poses. Muniz plans to do the full camel headstand into lotus and the scorpion for her optionals, while Mims is brushing up on the peacock and tiger poses for his choices.

Sakson is also gearing up to do the peacock, as well as the cock pose, for his optionals.

“Doing yoga in front of a huge crowd and cameras will be psychologically strange,” Sakson said. “But the reason I practice yoga is for the separation of the mind and body. It helps me to know how to enter that place of non-dualism in my life.”

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