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Limber up

Northern California yoga regionals come to Three Stages in Folsom
By: Matt Long Telegraph Sports Editor
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Two years ago Matt Guyton attended the Northern California Regional Yoga Asana Championships in Stockton, intently watching the competitors as they performed. Little did he know a year later he would be competing in the same event and would walk away as the winner, securing a spot secured in nationals held later in the year in Los Angeles. Guyton, a 35-year-old Citrus Heights resident, will defend his Northern California Regional title on Saturday, Jan. 14 at Three Stages in Folsom, when the top yoga practitioners — male, female and youth — compete for the right to advance to nationals, this year held in New York in March. “When I was watching the competition in 2010, I was sitting there basically judging the competitors and I thought if I can talk it, than I better walk it,” said Guyton, who practices at Bikram Yoga in Folsom, the host of this year’s event. “Through a lot of inspiration and motivation from Hillary (Wall), I decided to compete and see what I’m capable of doing.” Wall, the female winner of last year’s Northern California Regional, who also tied for first in 2010, is not competing this year, but instead is emceeing the event and helping out with timing. She encourages people to come watch the show. “It’s not really a competition against others; it’s more of a competition against yourself,” Wall said. “The best reason to go is to be inspired by what these people can do. Yoga is becoming more popular and people want to do it in their minds, but if they go and see the show, it might be the motivation they need to actually go and do it.” Nicole George, a 29-year-old resident of El Dorado Hills, will also compete in the event. Like Guyton, her first competition was at last year’s Northern California Regionals and it was an eye-opening experience. “I had only been practicing yoga for six months so I was really green,” George said. “You can’t hide who you are when you’re on stage performing in front of a group of people. It just exemplifies who you are. I knew more about myself after that competition than I ever knew before. It was an awesome experience.” Besides the well-known physical benefits of yoga, George said it’s helped her in other ways. “It balances me out — my emotions, my hormones, my energy,” she said. “It highlights those things great about me and it also highlights the things that I need to work on. If you’re honest with yourself, you will do it.” Folsom resident Aaron Hutchinson, 41, will be a first-time competitor at the event and is looking forward to it. He’s only been practicing yoga for a little more than a year, but has fallen in love with it. As an accomplished triathlete, a sport he’s been competing in for 16 years, yoga is his new love. “The reason I got into yoga was to help me in my training for triathlons,” Hutchinson said. “It’s been hugely beneficial for my breathing and of course my flexibility. It’s been huge for me; the difference has been night and day. I feel so many parts of my body now. When I’m on my bike in the low-pro position, I’m in a zone. When I’m running, I’m calm, consistent and relaxed. Everything is so much easier now.” Hutchinson said yoga has helped him to be centered, balanced and focused. Yoga has changed his life. “That first class I took was the toughest thing that I’ve ever done,” he said. “I knew then, though, that yoga was going to be cool. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life, but it’s the most rewarding. I’ve been doing triathlons for 16 years, but if someone told me I’d have to choose between triathlons or yoga, I’d choose yoga.” At the Northern California Regionals, competitors are on stage for three minutes. Everyone performs the same five postures and then does two of their own that showcases their skills and abilities. Athletes are judged on their balance, flexibility and strength, as their mental focus and ability to concentrate also shines through. Winners will be announced in the men’s, women’s and youth division. Seventy-five to 100 competitors are expected. Tickets, which cost $18, can be purchased at norcalyogaregionals.com or at threestages.net. The event starts at 10 a.m. and will be finished by 4 p.m. NorCal Yoga championships When: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 14 Where: Three Stages, Folsom Cost: $18 Tickets: threestages.net, norcalyogaregionals.com