The Queen of Yoga

A local instructor’s long journey to winning the crown

Photo by Jasper JohalWorld champion Brandy Winfield.

Brandy Winfield’s mother pushed her into going to a Bikram yoga class one day six years ago. Not only did she keep going back, it soon changed her life. While some of us mere mortals have a hard time getting motivated to drive to a yoga studio down the street, Winfield, a former real estate agent, wound up in India pursuing her new passion: Bikram yoga.

“I’m a big believer in continuing education,” she says, “and I wanted to learn from the best.”

That mission escalated when she won last year’s Nevada Regional Championships at Bikram Yoga in Green Valley. That qualified her for the international championship in Los Angeles. And it was at this point when the creator of this particular form of yoga, Bikram Choudhury, asked her to move to the birthplace of yoga to study under him and manage his school while she trained for the competition. After eight months of that routine, she ended up taking first prize in Los Angeles, thanks in part to nailing her choice posture that took her two years to perfect: the bowleg peacock.

Winfield, 30, has made Las Vegas her home base as a yoga instructor, dabbling in all forms. Her yoga of choice is still Bikram, which is known as “hot yoga” because it involves 26 postures, two breathing exercises and a room temperature of about 105 degrees with 40 percent humidity. A classically trained dancer during her youth, the discipline came naturally, but the rawness of it remained challenging.

“In the beginning, I battled with it,” she says. “During class I would hate it—the heat and difficulty—but afterward I felt amazing. But it took me about a year to develop a love affair with it.”

The benefits Winfield felt easily outweighed her early frustrations. With the injuries she suffered during her ballet days, such as tendonitis in her feet that prevented her from putting on pointe shoes, yoga healed her physically and mentally. So in 2006, after a year of practice, she was inspired to become a teacher and spent nine weeks in an intense yoga “boot camp” in Los Angeles to get her credential.

“I came out on the other side committed to becoming the best teacher and practitioner that I could,” Winfield says.

She has recently been on tour with her winning male counterpart teaching yoga in Mexico and the United States. They’ve also put a lot of energy into doing demonstrations at local schools to boost awareness in children and create some excitement toward yoga as a preventive medicine. But Winfield is mainly delighted to share her gifts with the world and turn more people toward the teachings of yoga.

She begins the second leg of her world tour this month, covering Europe, New Zealand, Australia and the United States. But as traveled as she is, Las Vegas remains her favorite place to teach.

“Yoga is all about balance and connection, balance between work and play, strength and flexibility. In a city like Vegas, balance can be tough to come by. But I think it’s because of this that the people here appreciate it so much more.”

Nevada Regional Yoga Championships

Twenty of the best yogis in Nevada hope to follow in Brandy Winfield’s footsteps on Oct. 16 at the Bikram Yoga Courtyard, 1550 N. Green Valley Parkway. The competition, which runs from 11 a.m.-2 p.m., requires each to perform a series of seven postures, which are judged on proficiency of alignment, physical strength and flexibility. Admission is free. Call 463-0671 for more information.