Competitive Yoga Debate Heats Up

The National Asana Championship was held this weekend. Is yoga moving closer to getting into the Olympics?
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The National Asana Championship was held this weekend. Is yoga moving closer to getting into the Olympics?

One thing that many feel separates yoga from sports is the understanding that yoga is non-competitive. Many teachers advise their students not to compare their own practice to that of the student across the room with the stellar Urdhva Dhanurasana. Students are often even reminded not to compare their poses with what they were able to do when they unrolled their mats the day before.

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For some people, the idea of a yoga competition is an oxymoron.

It's no surprise, then, that the National Yoga Asana Championship contest, which is hosted by USA Yoga, causes some raised eyebrows. How can yoga be non-competitive when there are formal competitions where judges decide which contestant has the best pose?

No matter where you stand on the issue, competitive yoga has been getting lots of attention recently. In the week leading up to the National Yoga Asana Championship, which took place in New York over the weekend, competitive yoga received coverage by the New York Times, and the Wall Street Journal, and many other publications and blogs.

Rajashree Choudhury, USA Yoga founder and wife to Bikram Choudhury, has been lobbying to have yoga competitions included in the Olympics for years. Being a part of the Olympics would put yoga on an international stage, and expose even more people to a practice that's already been discovered by millions worldwide, she says.

That's probably true, but we also see the other side of this debate. As Wall Street Journal columnist Jason Gay put it, "Yoga doesn't need to be part of the sports world to be relevant. Sports, however, could stand to be a little more like yoga."