Nikarika, who won the silver in the Artistic pair category at the First Asian Yoga Championship, talks about how yoga is great not just for body and mind but also as a competitive sport.

You've heard of people bending over backwards to achieve what they want, but have you heard of someone who does that literally? P. Nikarika does that but only because the ‘sport' she's involved in demands it.

Getting competitive

This Std X student of Chettinad Vidyashram first experienced the benefits of yoga when she had to take it up to help recover from injuries suffered in sports like gymnastics, swimming and squash.

The pranayama and the relaxation asanas didn't excite Nikarika much; but what did was the first medal she won in a yoga competition, in which she participated at the insistence of her school yoga teacher Arunagiri.

After tasting success in the “wonderful sport”, as she calls it, there was no looking back. Her recent conquest would be the First Asian Yoga Championship and the International Yoga Conference and Workshop where she won the silver in the Artistic pair category.

“It has been my toughest so far owing to the level of competition,” says Nikarika who has participated in over 28 State, national and international yoga competitions. In this event, she was a part of the team under the aegis of Yoga Federation of India, recognised by the Indian Olympic Association and affiliated to Asian Yoga Federation and International Federation of Yoga Sports

“The concept of yoga as a competitive sport puzzles many. They're like ‘what do you have to do?' Not many know what it involves,” she says. The four events in a yoga competition in general are: Yogasana championship, Artistic Yoga Championship, Artistic Pair Yoga Championship and Rhythmic (Pair) Yoga Competition.

Preparation

The next major competitions lined up for her in this calendar year are the Nationals at Mangalore in October and an International championship in Uruguay in November.

In general, her routine involves waking up at 5.30 a.m. and beginning with a warm up session (suryanamskar 30-40 times). This is followed by rotations, stretching and then asanas. The same is repeated once she's back from school.

Two months before a competition, there is rigorous practise daily for three hours in the morning and evening but a week before the event, the intensity is reduced. The focus is more on relaxation.

With a reasonable amount of experience and knowledge in yoga, Nikarika shares some tips and insights about this popular form of exercise:

Why yoga?

It is a great way of relaxing. You feel fresh with just 10-15 minutes of performing. It also improves flexibility and strength. For those looking at weight loss, there's power yoga. In yoga, there are different asanas that you can practise to work specifically on certain parts of your body. Every sportsperson is sure to practise the chakrasana and the paschimottanasana but in a different pace to help them warm up.

Do's and don't's:

Always do yoga on an empty stomach; that is three hours after a meal. But the best time to do it will be early morning, as soon as you wake up.

Always do the asanas after a 15-min warm up session, that makes you sweat a little bit. You have to understand your body and see if it's ready to perform the asanas.

When performing difficult or complex asanas, it is advisable to have a trainer near by.

You have to pay attention to the breathing sequence while performing an asana.

Best environment

Any quiet place with plants around. This helps usher in the relaxation mode. You can even do it in your room with a yoga mat and windows open to let the sunlight in.

Suitable attire

Something dry fit and stretchable. Tights or harem pants along with loose-fitting tops are best. Jeans are a no-no.