Yoga competition in southern Indiana

At class this morning, a student shared an article from the Louisville Courier-Journal about a recent yoga competition held in southern Indiana.  Because one of the features many of us enjoy about yoga is its non-competitive nature, this event struck us as quite odd.  We are curious:  what do you think about the idea of yoga as a “sport”?  Use the “leave a comment” box below to add your feedback and ideas.

The article notes that

The competition is sanctioned by the United States Yoga Federation, which develops and promotes yoga Asana as a sport. The group is working to form an international federation and to have the sport qualify as an Olympic event.

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9 Responses to Yoga competition in southern Indiana

  1. Erica says:

    I thought I would paste this quote as a reply to a more authentic view of “yoga”.
    Swami Satyananda Saraswati, founder of Bihar School of Yoga, Bihar, India,
    describes the modern situation of Yoga quite well in the Introduction of the Hatha
    Yoga Pradipika commentary by Swami Muktibodhananda Saraswati, where he
    “In ancient times hatha Yoga was practiced for many years as a
    preparation for higher states of consciousness. Now however, the real
    purpose of this great science is being altogether forgotten. The hatha Yoga
    practices which were designed by the rishis and sages of old, for the
    evolution of mankind, are now being understood and utilized in a very
    limited sense. Often we hear people say, ‘Oh, I don’t practice meditation, I
    only practice physical Yoga, hatha Yoga.’ Now the time has come to
    correct this view point. Hatha Yoga is a very important science for man
    “The main objective of hatha Yoga is to create an absolute balance of the
    interacting activities and processes of the physical body, mind and energy.
    When this balance is created, the impulses generated give a call of awakening to the central force (sushumna nadi) which is responsible for
    the evolution of human consciousness. If hatha Yoga is not used for this
    purpose, its true objective is lost.”

    • Angie says:

      Thanks for sharing that insightful quotation, Erica! What a sharp contrast it is to one of the judge’s viewpoints as reported in the article: “‘They are looking for strength, flexibility and grace,’ said event organizer Alexander King, a New Albany yoga instructor. ‘Yoga is a school of philosophy; yoga Asana is postures. We’re not looking at spirituality.’” I just don’t understand what this group sees as the value of divorcing the asanas from yoga as a whole.

  2. Roxanne says:

    Okay, this is what is totally wrong with the Americanization of yoga. Call it something else! Call it “pretzel posture sport” aerobicize it, whatever, but don’t call it yoga! It’s the antithesis of what yoga stands for. Where is the contemplative, spirit-focused practice in a so-called yoga competition? Arrrghh! Okay, now must practice legs up the wall and diaphragmatic breathing…. Just saying….

    • Angie says:

      I hear you, Roxanne! When I read the article and looked at the accompanying photos, I saw nothing that said “yoga,” as I understand that term! Good luck with the diaphragmatic breathing…. 🙂

  3. How sad. Just spoke to a friend who teaches yoga in India – she’s advertising “yoga classes” and told me that people would call up asking if she’s teaching pranayama and meditation. If she says yes, but most of the class will be asanas, people will say well, no, thanks but no. In the West people just assume a “yoga” class will be asanas and already feel disturbed if the teacher wants to chant OM at the beginning of class.

    • Angie says:

      Thanks for your comment–the example you share is such a vivid illustration of the different expectations students have of yoga in different cultures. Also, love your name! 🙂

  4. Joe McFarland says:

    I can’t even imagine my yoga practice as a competitive sport. All my practice has been in Bowling Green and every instructor I’ve had has emphasized the non-competitive, everyone-to-his/her-own comfort level. That’s me at my age. But I am not surprised that there are individual enthusiasts, driven to excel, to reach ever higher, who will turn any activity into a competition. I only hope that these types will not attract a significant following of beginners.

    • Angie says:

      Thank you, Joe, for your comment. When I looked at the photos accompanying the article, I thought of a body-building competition more than I did a yoga practice. And, like you, my own experience with yoga here in Bowling Green (and the little I’ve done elsewhere) has been very far removed from the experiences presented by this competition!

  5. Talent is what you possess; genius is what possesses you.

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