Yoga, the ancient yet ever-popular practice that emphasizes relaxation and inner focus, might be getting a little more competitive. If one group devoted to yoga has its way, the popular exercise will eventually be an event in the Olympic Games.
The United States Yoga Federation hopes “to join with similar organizations in other countries to form an international yoga federation and qualify Yoga Asana as an Olympic sport,” according to its website.
The Associated Press reported Thursday that the group will host the three-day National Yoga Asana Championship in New York City beginning March 2. Participants will be judged on their yoga postures, and winners will compete in an international yoga competition this summer in Los Angeles.
Many yoga practitioners, however, believe that yoga simply should not be a competitive event.
Roseanne Harvey, who blogs about yoga, told the AP that most yoga classes “encourage students not to compete.”
“It can deflate people, it can intimidate people from wanting to try it,” she said.
“By making yoga an Olympic ‘sport,’ you take away that personal, intuitive aspect of the practice,” Mary Catherine Starr, also a yoga enthusiast and blogger, told Washingtonian magazine.
United States Yoga Federation founder Rajashree Choudhury argued that competition is a way to raise interest in yoga and demonstrate some advanced techniques to newcomers.
Choudhury explained that the advanced postures on display during competitions would show “how someone can have perfect strength, balance, flexibility in the body.”
Some instructors agree that introducing competitiveness to yoga can actually enhance the experience.
“The challenge of doing the routine in front of a bunch of people just gets you to a whole new level in your practice,” Amanda Baisinger, a Brooklyn instructor who will be competing in the championship, told the Wall Street Journal. “For me, it inspired me to get more serious.”