The air is humid and warm, 40 C warm, in the carpeted studio of Bikram Yoga Kamloops. Mirrors line two walls, offering students a chance to see their postures and refine them.
Ryan Federau spends hours here. Teaching, learning, training.
Lately the training has taken up his attention. It won him the Western Canadian Bikram yoga championship in late November in Vancouver.
For three minutes, he stood on stage moving from five mandatory positions — standing head to knee posture, standing bow pulling posture, bow posture, rabbit posture and stretching posture — then got to do two of his own choices: full camel and bow leg pose.
Hatha yoga consists of 84 postures, but the typical routine in the hot room consists of 26.
Federau, with the help of coach and studio director Stephen Webb, practiced for the Westerns. Webb has competed, judged and otherwise attended several yoga competitions.
“I felt good about it when I walked off the stage. But I didn’t expect first,” Federau said.
“Ryan’s performance was much more focussed,” said Webb, who noted the emcee told the 300 people in the Croation Cultural Centre they would see Vancouver’s best.
“Kamloops came in first.”
Now the best hatha yoga practitioner in Kamloops is preparing to take on the world.
Federau, accompanied by coach Webb, is heading to Los Angeles to compete in the international Bishnu Charan Ghosh Cup on Feb. 13 and 14.
Only two representatives go from each of the 14 or so countries in the international competition. There are categories for men, women, boys 11 to 17 and girls 11 to 17.
Yoga competition isn’t about winners and losers in the traditional sense, Webb said.
“We celebrate the ones who don’t win, because they allowed the one who did,” he said.
Competitors actually help each other out, pointing out where they could refine their positions, he said.
Unlike some other contests, such as body building, there’s no music playing, no costumes, no embellishment, no wild hair. Federau and the others will wear plain and simple bathing suits, because the judges need to see their bodies to better view their positions.
The setting will be silent.
Competitors have to be in the moment, Webb said.
“It’s described as the most exhilarating three minutes of your life.”
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In his younger years, Federau’s parents — his mother in particular — practiced yoga and urged him to try it.
Five years ago, when he was 20, he took one class. It didn’t grab him, but he was curious enough to pick up one of Bikram’s books.
That spurred him on to take on a 60-day challenge, practicing Bikram yoga six days a week for two months. It’s been a part of his life ever since.
“I get health, clarity of mind, patience, focus, determination,” he said.
Now hatha yoga is a huge part of his life, and Federau finds himself trying to entice his parents back into that toasty warm studio.
The Kamloops studio gets anywhere from 10 to 60 participants per class. Webb encourages people to practice every day, but many attend twice a week.
Surprisingly, the ratio of women to men in classes here is three to one. That’s more men than the typical five to one that most places have, he said.
The radiant heat in the room allows muscles to stretch and flex more easily. Webb eagerly talks about the philosophy of yoga (it means union — mind, body and soul), about Bikram, about the benefits.
Federau is quiet and modest about talking about himself and his accomplishments so far. He’s training daily, preparing himself for L.A.
If he wins first place in the international cup, he won’t be able to compete again. Instead, he’ll become what Webb describes as a “yoga ambassador.”
And if he loses — well, he gets commended for helping someone else win. And he continues to strive to be his best.
And no one really loses, Webb pointed out.
“It’s a demonstration of how well people can do,” he said.
“The end is optimum health.”