OGDEN -- There was a whole lot of relaxation going on at Weber State University Saturday afternoon.
Twenty-two competitors spent several hours breathing deeply, pulling their legs until their feet touched their heads and balancing on one foot while extending the other straight in the air during the 2013 Utah & Wyoming Regional USA Yoga Asana Championship.
The competition, hosted by Bikram Yoga of Ogden, was held in an effort to promote yoga as a way for people to exercise and become more mentally and physically healthy. In addition, yoga athletes hope to bring it to the Olympics one day in the near future.
"Yoga is very popular around the world. Not only is the U.S. heavily involved, but there are so many other countries who participate now," said Marlon McGann, a judge from Aspen, Colo. "Yoga is a great way to exercise and heal your body and mind, but it's also a sport and if we can get enough countries interested, we can qualify for the Olympics."
McGann and Jakob Schanzer, a judge from New York City were looking for two female and two male competitors who had what it takes to move to the national competition in New York in March.
"We will be looking for technical things, such as posture, grace and charisma," Schanzer said. "How balanced is the competitor? How relaxed are they? Does it seem effortless?"
Luaren "Lulu" Boucher, 18, of Ogden, was hoping to move on to the national level. However, she said, she was competing mainly for fun.
"I love what it has done for me," said Boucher. "I have worked full time since I was 15 and had a lot of stress going on. I heard about yoga and thought I'd give it a try. After the first class, I was hooked."
Boucher said yoga has made her stronger, both mentally and physically. She's also reduced inches on her physical frame and lost 5 percent in body fat.
"It really makes you want to feel healthy," she said. "Instead of going out and partying on New Year's Eve, I participated in a 10:30 p.m. yoga class."
Schanzer, who teaches yoga in Queens, said most of his students start taking classes in their 30s, but he hopes more younger people will become interested.
"People usually start doing yoga because they've got bad ankles from running, or bad knees from skiing. They want to fix a problem caused by another exercise," he said. "But if more kids would start out doing yoga, maybe they could avoid those problems."
Christopher Haaser, 11, of Ogden, entertained the audience with his juggling and yoga skills. Three years ago, the youngster was looking online for ways to master pogo stick skills when he saw an advertisement on juggling.
"I decided to give it a try and I've been juggling ever since," he said. "I've practiced for three years without missing one day. My dad even built a juggling studio for me with a 23-foot high ceiling."
Christopher, who can juggle seven balls at once while sitting in the Lotus position, hopes to juggle professionally one day.
"I've already had some paid gigs," he said. "I juggled at a baseball event for 30 minutes and made $200. It was pretty awesome."
The yoga event also included performances by the WSU African drumming club.