Should Yoga be a sport in the olympics

This weekend I had the opportunity to see my first yoga competition, the Minnesota Regional Yoga Asana Championship.  Let me clarify.  I did not compete.  I merely watched in awe of what the contestants were capable of doing with their bodies.   I also listened as the emcees tried to sell the idea of getting yoga in the olympics. 

Contestants are judged on balance, strength, poise, flexibility and grace.   Sure, the event was cool to watch, it’s what I heard that confused me.  The idea of yoga as a competitive sport struck me as odd.  From everything I see, read and hear as co-creator of “The Adventures of Super Stretch”  ,  yoga is not about competing with yourself or anyone else.  It’s a practice, an art and a science of body-mind connection.   My understanding is that yoga is a meditation in motion.  And as a student of yoga, I am constantly reminded that it’s not about being perfect, it’s about being present.   It’s not about how cool I look in a pose. It’s about the journey of the breath that led me to where I am.  

Every day your body is going to feel differently.  So this whole idea of garnering support to make yoga an olympic sport feels like an oxymoron to me.

And I wasn’t the only one watching this competition who thought this concept of competitive yoga sounded strange. I heard other quiet rumblings among the crowd.     Yoga is about the breath, about getting grounded, and finding inner peace, not about judging.  Or is it?

I came home and did some research on the web.  I found this radio report on a news website called  PRI’s “The World“.  It offers interesting arguments on both sides of the issue from a global perspective.  And here is a CNN-IReport interview with Bikram Choudhury from last year’s International Championship in Los Angeles.  He was born in Calcutta, India and he and his wife, Rajashree are the founders of the USAYoga competitions.  She’s a five time winner of the All-India Yoga Champsionship from 1979-1983.

Maybe, it’s “un-yoga-like” of me to judge others who think Yoga should be a competitive sport.  They do have a valid point about more recognition.  And isn’t yoga a personal journey anyway? Some like it hot, some like it strenuous, some like it relaxing.   It’s a matter of perspective for each individual.

It will be interesting to see how far this proposal gets with the International Olympic Committee.  Olympic experts say if the IOC is going to add another sport, most likely it will be one that has objective results (a first to cross the finish line)  rather than subjective results like gymnastics or diving.  

 What do you think? Should yoga be an olympic sport?

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