Bend it like Mei Ling, Singapore's 12-year-old yoga champ

Bend it like Mei Ling, Singapore's 12-year-old yoga champ

2010 World Yoga Junior Champion Lu Mei Ling explains how she contorted herself to a world title

Lu Mei Ling shows she can bend it with the best at the 2010 International Yoga Asana Championship.

Most 12-year old kids in Singapore spend their time playing computer games, sitting in front of a TV, or burying their nose in schoolwork.

Not so for Lu Mei Ling, who since the age of nine has been practicing Bikram yoga with her mother, Ma Myint Yi, 53, at Bikram Yoga City Hall (#02-14 Raffles City Shopping Centre, 252 North Bridge Road; tel +65 6339 6639).

This chirpy school girl doubles up as a top yogini.

From child to champ

And in February 2010, this devoted yogini achieved something most young people don’t even consider -- she became the World Yoga Junior Champion and one of Singapore’s few world titleholders.

Every year for the past seven years, the World Yoga Championships have been held in Los Angeles, where yoga practitioners from all over the world perform a three-minute, seven-posture routine in front of a panel of judges.
Lu represented Singapore in the junior category and impressed the judges with her amazing flexibility and grace to cinch the title.

“Winning in LA was one of my yoga goals so it felt good to achieve that,” says Lu. “It made my mum so happy.”

And mum’s support has played an important part in Lu’s success. Unlike many parents in Singapore for whom school and exams are an unquestionable priority, Lu’s mum told her not to worry about studies and focus on training for the yoga competition. 

Mum even got Lu’s school to give her time off to train.

In exam-oriented Singapore where kids rarely get time off school for anything, this is an example of progressive parenting.

This camel (pose) has no humps.

Full wheels and guillotines

So train Lu did. In the studio several times a week and practicing at home everyday, perfecting her routine and mastering complex postures like the full wheel (a full standing backbend, grabbing your ankles); full camel (a full kneeling backbend; grabbing your ankles); full cobra (a backbend on your belly; feet touching your head); and guillotine (forward bending while clasping your hands behind your thighs, until your head emerges through your legs).

“My favorite is full wheel,” she says. “It looks so beautiful.” Organized by Bikram Yoga studios worldwide, the World Yoga Championships are well known within a segment of the yoga community but not yet beyond.

The regional qualifiers have just taken place in Singapore, completed on October 30. The top two placers in each category then go on to compete in the finals in Los Angeles, which will be in August 2011.

As current world titleholders have to bow out of the competition, Lu did not participate this year, but was there to perform a demonstration and lend support to her fellow competing yoginis.

Expert advice

What would Lu have said to the competitors taking to the stage? 

The Full Wheel Pose: Almost a perfect O.“Give it your best shot,” says Lu. “Go over your routine and your teacher’s comments. Don’t bother cramming at the last minute. Make as few mistakes on stage as possible.”

And what does a world yoga champion hope to achieve next with her practice?

“I still need to work on full wheel,” says Lu with composure and a focus few kids her age display. “I can’t do it every time and need to keep practicing -- that’s my next goal for my yoga journey.”

Perhaps with young and accomplished practitioners like Lu taking to the mat with such dedication and passion, yoga will spread among Singapore's school kids, who can then slip some full wheels and cobras into their daily routines along with their computer games and studies.