The Story of a... Yoga Champion

Being flexible helps Afton Carraway, 30, of Orlando, keep life in balance.



Photo By Norma Lopez Molina

Yoga is for anyone and everyone. No matter what shape, size or form you are in, the postures at any level are therapeutic and productive. Some people simply don’t have the desire or the time to learn to touch their feet on their head or balance on one hand. Even for those people, yoga can benefit them.

I grew up dancing and danced professionally for quite a few years before I started doing yoga. It definitely didn’t make things any easier, because in my first Bikram yoga class, I thought I was going to die.

Bikram yoga is a 90-minute series. It’s done in a heated room, so it’s really hot and sweaty. The heat is good for flexibility, detoxification, and it opens up the blood vessels.

I was getting sick of my career in dancing. I worked with Disney in Japan for a long time. I lived on a cruise ship. The dancing thing started to wear on me, having to audition for the next job all the time and being really critical of your body. You were either too fat, too skinny or something for dance. One of my yoga teachers said, ‘Why don’t you become a yoga teacher?’

Between strength and flexibility, work and play, vulnerability and sternness, ups and downs—I’ve learned that being too much of one thing can tip the scales and throw you off. Yoga practice can help keep yourself in check so you can manage both difficulties and pleasures in this crazy world.

Getting to my level of ability in yoga is
an equation of time, motivation and devo-
tion to practice. There has to be a will to do
the things that I do with my body and a
significant amount of time put into practicing those things.

Right now I am the Women’s National Yoga Champion. . . . A lot of yoga people get worked up about having competition in yoga because it’s a personal practice and it’s not about comparing yourself to other people. But, if you went out to a competition, you would see it’s more about people coming together and celebrating yoga than people coming together saying, ‘I’m going to knock your knees out so you can’t beat me this year.’

I don’t understand why more men don’t practice yoga. In ancient India, women weren’t allowed to practice it. If you go to a competition and see the men’s division compete, they can do some amazing things because they are so strong.

I’ll be competing in the Internationals in June, representing the United States. The winner travels, teaches and does yoga demonstrations with students around the world. It would be awesome if I won Internationals. If not, I have my job teaching in Orlando. I work at a bar at night. I’ll keep living my life the way it is.

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