TAMPA – 17 year old Avalon Jade Theisen is heading to Beijing, China to represent the USA in the World Championship of Yoga Sports 2018. Sponsored by the China Yoga Sports Federation, the international competition will take place over 4 days in December, bringing together yoga athletes from around the world.
A junior at the University of South Florida majoring in Religious Studies, Theisen is the current USA Yoga National Youth Champion. Theisen is a member of the USF Honors College, Provost’s Scholars Program, Sigma Kappa sorority, and is actively involved both on campus and in the Tampa community with clubs, service, and philanthropy projects. She became a registered yoga teacher at the age of 16, and currently teaches a gentle yoga series for the USF Religious Studies Club.
Coached by Suzanne Elliott of H.O.T. Yoga on the Island in Merritt Island, FL, Theisen stepped onto the competition mat for the first time in spring 2017. She placed first at the regional competition in Texas and ended her season with a bronze medal at the 2017 USA Yoga National Championship at the State Games of America in Grand Rapids, MI. Incorporating the lessons she learned, she returned for the 2018 season, which took her back to Texas for the regional competition, then to the 2018 USA Yoga National Championship in Madison, WI, where she was awarded the national title.
“I love the mindful movement of yoga, and how the connection to breath brings me balance,” she said. “Staying fit and centered is so important to me, and a constant challenge as a college student. Competitive yoga is a great way for me to meet that challenge. I am so excited to represent my country in this beautiful, positive, healthy way!”
Theisen incorporates yoga into her daily life, and also performs artistic yoga routines, which are approximately 5 minutes in duration and choreographed to music. She has performed demonstrations at yoga competitions, the USF Bulls for Kids sponsored Jessie’s Talent Show to benefit Shriners Hospital for Children – Tampa, and the USF Homecoming Student Talent Showcase.
According to the International Yoga Sports Federation (IYSF), “Yoga Sports are athletic competitions demonstrated by the beauty of demanding yoga postures and through the dedication, endurance and unyielding determination of the competitors. Increased awareness of the sport of Yoga Asana will encourage existing practitioners to sharpen their skills through training, dedication, and devotion to the sport, and will inspire new practitioners.”
USA Yoga is the exclusive body recognized in the US as the US member federation of the International Yoga Sports Federation. Team USA is represented by the top 3 athletes from each division from the 2017 and 2018 USA Yoga National Championships. Competition divisions are divided by gender and include youth, adult, and over 50. Starting with a qualifying round early in the year, athletes progress through regional and national competitions to earn the right to compete at the world competition, which is held every 2 years.
Competition routines are a maximum of 3 minutes in duration and include compulsory and optional postures, which must be held for at least 5 seconds each to receive maximum points. Judging criteria includes body positioning and alignment, as well as the balance, flexibility, and strength represented by each posture.