She takes the stage with a bit of a bounce, as if giddy to begin.
Standing alone and barefoot, wearing what looks like a one-piece bathing suit, Garland Hume bows before a crowd of spectators at the USA Yoga National Competition in Binghamton, New York. Any jitters quickly fade when she goes into her first pose, raising one leg parallel to the ground and holding it. The stillness of routine settles her.
Her breathing is calm while she moves briskly but efficiently through several jaw-dropping yoga positions — at least to the uninitiated — that would make most people break in half, or at the very least cry for mama. The whole thing lasts three minutes.
As a teacher and co-owner of Bikram Yoga Richmond, Hume, 33, is well known among local yoga enthusiasts. A few weeks ago she and a friend drove to New York, where she squared off against 127 regional yoga champions from 24 states and emerged as one of the nation’s top 10 finishers, taking eighth place in her division.
“You only really get one shot, it’s a three-minute routine, and you do well or you don’t,” Hume says. “The judges are looking for technical things in the postures and they require certain movements of the spine.”
There’s been a growing movement to make yoga an Olympic sport and connect various communities, she says. USA Yoga, which holds the national competition, lists the “promotion of yoga as a sport” as its main goal on its website. Competitions have been held in India for hundreds of years but the first competition in the U.S. wasn’t until 2003.
One of the problems in making it an Olympic sport, Hume says, lies in the difficulty of encompassing the different styles of yoga. Most competitions are dominated by those coming from Bikram. Because of this, Hume sees yoga eventually evolving toward a universal style.
Hume started practicing yoga in 2007 when she was just out of college and teaching high school Spanish. “I was stressed out and trying to get in shape,” she recalls. “I fell in love with Bikram right away and went to teacher training [an intensive nine-week course] about six months later.”
Bikram, otherwise known as hot yoga, is based on the principle that heat accelerates chemical reactions. At Hume’s studio, people practice yoga in a sealed environment with 105- to 110-degree temperatures and 40- to 50-percent humidity.
Hume noticed physical changes right away. “All of the sudden my skin cleared up, I lost weight … plus you feel amazing after class is over,” she says.
Hume teaches about five to seven classes a week and takes roughly nine classes a week herself, or two to four hours a day of yoga. She also travels frequently and says that compared with other cities, Richmond has a strong yoga scene.
Hume plans to continue competing for as long as possible. Who knows whether it will be as an Olympian someday. “You can compete forever if you want to,” she says.