Twisted Humanity Prevails Amid Reich Of Silence At Southbank (Widow Warned Off Open-Casket Service For Reduced Hubby)
YSAA 2013 Queensland Regional Yoga Asana Championship; Brisbane Convention & Exhibition Centre; 27/10/2013
“The bottom of his feet come to rest on top of his freshly shaven scalp, toes over the eyes. His body is now shaped in a full circle, held off the ground by his forearms.”
Report by Scott Gittoes
The Brisbane Convention & Exhibition Centre seems like a curious venue for a humble yoga contest. It’s hard to know what to expect of today’s championships or even where to go as we approach this cavernous, municipal monolith. A salt-and-pepper haired man passes us with a healthy posture and weightless gait, carrying a stainless steel water bottle. He’s tanned in that coastal hinterland way. We fall in behind and ignore the directional signage, confident of his destination. He proves to be an invaluable lead through the escalated, labyrinthine passageways; past groups of teenagers camped out for the first jump on an evening rock-concert, beyond a pharmaceutical conference of some sort or another, and between the skeletons of display-booths and pin-boards awaiting the promotional glitter of an upcoming exhibition.
The champs are tucked away in what must be the deepest, most isolated cul de sac available here for hire, beyond closed doors in a conference room that seats three hundred at most. Failing to heed the doorman’s warnings to hush, we enter the arena mid-conversation. A shrill, collective shhhhhhh pierces the air. We freeze and stare at the spotlit stage. For the next three minutes or so I stand there by the doorway, gobsmacked and bug-eyed, as a competitor contorts his body into such anatomically impossible positions, and with such composed balance, I can’t help but tingle with a sense of awe. He finishes his routine with a posture – the ‘Tiger Scorpion’ – that is as potent as the name suggests. Supported by the forearms in a headstand position, his legs, flagpole straight in the air, begin to move beyond the perpendicular, well beyond in fact, so far that my focus is now squarely centred on the acute kink forming in his lower back, which looks something like the bend in cashew nut. Just when I’m certain his spine can take no more, he draws his head, neck and shoulders up and back, and then begins to lower his legs down towards his raised crown. The bottom of his feet come to rest on top of his freshly shaven scalp, toes over the eyes. His body is now shaped in a full circle, held off the ground by his forearms. I lean into a hamstring stretch, straining awkwardly to reach my toes, incredulous.
It’s now obvious why this place is, in fact, the perfect urban location for a yoga comp. In this sport, silence is paramount. And this secluded recess, essentially a soundproof room inside a soundproof hall, must be one of the quietest venues in all of Brisbane city. The crowd applauds freely between competitors, but once a yogi is on stage the silence is all-enveloping, so much so that my ears ring in the void. I receive a telling sideways stare from an adjacent spectator at the solitary ‘click’ of my pen. A bead of sweat drops from my brow, thudding audibly against the open page of my notebook. I stare self-consciously at the floor. But by far the most chilling experience is reserved for a gentleman in the row behind me. The polyphonic melody of his iphone sends heads spinning among the predominantly female crowd, mouths aghast, brows furrowed. In this extreme context, it seems less a thoughtless faux pas and more a tearing at the very moral fabric of the space; blasphemy, where silence is holy. I don’t see the culprit on my way out later, and have the hunch that he’s still there today, lying in a shrivelled heap under a plastic chair on the Convention Centre’s carpet.
There happens to be a very tangible reason why silence is golden here today. Yoga is played solely within the competitor; there are no props (unless you consider the earth and gravity to be props), no external variables (barring noises from the crowd), no absolute benefits from size or strength, no head-to-head contests. This is a test of, and only of, that stuff you just can’t see. Success is for those who, to put it simply, best understand and control themselves. Fundamentally, this is as level a playing field as you’ll ever find, in any sport, anywhere.
Each of today’s competitors, clad in what is essentially a bathing suit, attempts seven postures within a maximum allowed time of three minutes, announcing the name of each before any attempt. The first five are standard and mandatory. For the remaining ‘optionals’, a competitor can choose any two postures he or she believes display the right mix of flexibility, balance and strength. And it’s among the optionals that the most entertaining and mind-bending acts are found. With images of the Tiger Scorpion still fresh, my very soul seems to cringe when an attempt at the Full Spine Twist is announced. Whilst this ominous sounding posture turns out to be comparatively benign, it’s still rather true to its name. In fact, all are aptly labelled, including the ‘Archer’, one leg forming the arrow and the other the bowstring, pulled back by the big toe towards the nose, and the ‘Peacock’, legs fanning outwards much like plumage. But it’s a young woman’s well executed performance of the ‘Headstand Lotus’ that best characterises the day. In a headstand position, legs crossed in the sky, the competitor begins to move her knees upwards and then downwards. It looks like a mad, dreamy distortion, something for a psychologist to untangle – legs appear as arms, arms appear as legs, head as tail – but, as with all the postures, once the end position has been reached and settled upon – despite the unyielding oddness of it – everything seems to fit together so naturally. Perhaps that’s a way to describe yoga as it is here today, presented as performance; the ability to bring harmony to implausible physical distortions. To come to rest in them. And to, for those brief beheld moments, make them seem somehow intended by whoever or whatever brought about the human form as we know it.
Ultimately, this sport strikes me today as a physical manifestation of a philosophical or else spiritual tenant, that is, to concern oneself only with those things one can control. To seek to know one’s limits absolutely. And to realise, again and again, that they are less than absolute after all.
MDB Score: N/A (filtered water only)
MDB Price: Free
MDB Service Atmosphere: N/A (water jug unattended)
Results: Male Division – 1st Cameron Pickford, 2nd Zteven Whitty, 3rd Yoshi Suzuki; Female Division – 1st Fran Musca, 2nd Arissa Brunelli, 3rd Louise Casey
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