Yoga Competition: The Practice vs The Sport

I have noticed there has been a lot of talk about yoga competitions, especially recently because of talk about adding yoga as a sport in the Olympics. I know this because my boss, Doreen Hing, approached me about writing a blog post about yoga competitions, and I started researching right away because the though of yoga competition seemed a bit weird to me as I am a novice in yoga.

Yoga competitions have been around in India for thousands of years, yet many Yogis still oppose the thought of yoga as a competition. Many say it defeats the purpose of yoga- yoga is a practice not a sport. Also, questions arise, like how could a yoga competition be judged?

Yet, yoga competitions do exist, and there are benefits to these competitions. The more competitions, the more recognition and education to the public. In India, the purpose of yoga competitions is to educate and demonstrate to the public the benefits and qualities of yoga. When the public sees the competitors with their healthy and flexible bodies and minds, they are given the chance to understand the powers of yoga.

According to the United States Yoga Federation, yoga competitions are judged based on balance, strength, flexibility, timing, and breathing. Points can be deducted because of lack of stability. There are also grace points based on the energy of the competitor, movements between poses, personality, and overall grace. When judging, body type and proportion is also considered for the level of difficulty.

The USA Yoga Asana Championship took place in Los Angeles in February 2010. The Championship is similar to a gymnastics floor exercise in that it is physically demanding and judged based on similar criteria. Many of the contestants believe the goal of the competitions is to better yourself rather than striving for a victory.

Though there are pros and cons to yoga competitions, the fact is that they have already been around for thousands of years, and the practice of yoga is still strong today. Little has changed since competitions have begun, so would the competitions like the Olympics affect the practice of yoga drastically?

After hours of research, I have seen both sides to the yoga competition dilemma. On one side, you have the spread of education of yoga, and on the other side, you have the people who believe the competitions defeat the purpose of yoga. Either way, yoga has been around for thousands of years, so what makes things different now? There were competitions going on back then, so why not in today’s world?


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