Over the course of one and a half years, Jonas Swearengin took his first yoga class, learned numerous yoga styles and poses, won a regional competition and placed second in the national USA Yoga competition. At 10 years old, Swearengin attends Blosser Lane Elementary School in Willits, plays soccer and is a very active child. But, unlike most of his classmates and friends, he’s highly focused on mastering as many yoga poses as possible with the help of his mother, Sarah Coon, and yoga teacher/coach Erin Paulsen, owner of Radiant Yoga in Ukiah.
Jonas said he “fell in love” with yoga after the first class he attended with his mother when he was only 8.5 years old. Since then, he has attended up to 10 classes a week and learned nearly every style of yoga including Vinyasa, Bikram, Yin and Forrest yoga. Paulsen recognized Jonas’ potential and prowess, and offered to coach him for competition. He said he thought the competition “sounded really interesting” so he checked it out online. “The poses looked really fun to do and so I went to regionals after doing a bunch of training and I won,” said Jonas. Over the next six months he then began training for the national competition. “It’s really cool that I get to do yoga competitions.”
This year Jonas competed and won the regional yoga competition in Los Angeles to become eligible to go to the national USA Yoga competition in Lynchburg, Virginia earlier this month. As one of the youngest competitors, Jonas excelled and took home the silver medal in the boys 7-11 years old division. Jonas explained that each contestant is asked to display a specific set of poses designated by the judges and then each contestant gets to choose two yoga poses to perform. “In the whole routine you have to show strength, coordination and flexibility. So, in the series of yoga poses, you have to hold each pose for five seconds. If you hold it for three, you get less points,” said Jonas. “My two poses that I chose were full camel and peacock.”
Coon said Jonas is not naturally flexible and works hard at getting into the poses. “It’s crazy to see how far he’s come in just a year.” The coolest part from a parent’s perspective, she said, was seeing Jonas connect with other young yoga students including his competitor. “They talked and played and taught each other poses neither of them knew how to do. And that was what we went there for. It was so cool that he got to have that experience with his competitor. They were competing but they were supporting each other too.”
Coon said, “He’s kind of a unique kid, Jonas is, because there’s not many kids that could make it through a whole Bikram class.” Along with soccer, Jonas enjoys basketball and running in his free time. “He’s very athletic.” Jonas, who wants to be a yoga teacher, when he grows up, plans to compete again next year and hopes to win. “I think that if I make it to nationals, what I have to do to win is instead of doing lower point poses, I think I have to do (poses) with more points.” Coon explained that Jonas performed his routine really well but his competitor displayed yoga poses that were worth more points and therefore totaled to a higher score. “So, even though Jonas executed everything perfectly, the other kid started out with higher points,” said Coon. But, now they know what to expect next year.
Coon and husband Josh Swearengin made specific mention of how supportive the community has been by helping Jonas raise the money to travel to the competitions. “We had a lot of support from the community in Willits and Ukiah,” said Coon. “We wouldn’t have been able to make it there if it hadn’t been for everybody coming together… We did a Go Fund Me and then people ended up donating jars of coins, which ended up being a lot of money. And his God mom put on a car wash for him and we did a bake sale, and people would just come in and bring money to the (yoga) studio. (Jonas) also went around to different businesses and got a bit of money… We are really appreciative of that.”