My gut reaction to this question is "NO"! Yoga is about the journey, not the destination...and competitive yoga is all about "perfection" in a destination/pose.
The charge for competitive yoga in the U.S. led by USA Yoga, created by Rajashree Choudhury, wife of the famed Bikram Choudrey, both of whom participated in yoga competitions in India in their younger years.
The USA Yoga website describes itself as follows: “USA Yoga is a non-profit organization formed for the purpose of developing and promoting Yoga Asana (yoga postures) as a sport.
Yoga Asana competitions originated in India hundreds of years ago and are still being conducted there today. USA Yoga is now bringing this spirit of healthy competition to the United States, where, according to the most recent study by SGMA, more than 22 million people practice yoga in the US today.
USA Yoga believes that the sport of Yoga Asana will inspire many of these practitioners to improve their practices and encourage many newcomers to take up the practice of yoga and the sport of Yoga Asana.”
In a yoga competition, participants must complete a series of seven yoga poses in three minutes. There are 5 required poses – standing head-to-knee pose, standing bow-pulling pose, bow pose, rabbit pose, and stretching pose. Contestants may then choose the last two poses themselves.
The purpose, Choudhury says, is the poses show "how someone can have perfect strength, balance, flexibility in the body.”
But what about the rest of the person? It seems to me like the mind and spirit are being forgotten.
In 2012, USA Yoga petitioned to get yoga into the Olympic Games. The bid failed, but there is some growing support for the competitive aspect of the practice. Participation in regional and national competitions has increased every since they began.
From the outside, competitive yoga looks a lot like a gymnastics competition. We have so much competition in the world already. I’m not sure why we need more. Competition is all about trying to be better than your opponent. The ego is front and center. That’s the opposite of the yoga I’ve been a part of, where I’ve been encouraged to not even compete with myself!
Competitive yoga feels a little soul-less to me, but at the same time I’d like to take a step back and not be too judgmental. People find their way to yoga for different reasons, and perhaps competitive yoga will open the door to a whole new group of yogis.
What do you think?
I admit it. It’s not a secret to my yoga friends and teachers…but I have a history of really disliking backbends. They make my body feel like a log. My lower back begins to ache, my shoulders, quads and hips, neck all scream at me.
The problem is, backbends don’t just include your back, they often ask that your whole body get involved.
I’ve recently started trying to embrace this action, which shows up so frequently in classes. My wish to avoid backbends must mean that this movement is something that my body really needs!
So I am slowly and conscientiously participating more in class, practicing at home, and adding certain postures to the classes that I’m teaching. Here are a few tips that have helped me:
1. Start small. It’s important to ease into your backbends. Small movements done repeatedly will gradually grow.
2. Make sure to spend time stretching your hips and quads before rushing into any deep backbending. Anjeyanasana is one of many good options to help open this area.
3. Take time to open your shoulders. Tight shoulder muscles can keep your heart from opening. We spend too much time slumping over desks, steering wheels, smart phones.
4. Keep your legs engaged while tucking your tailbone (without gripping your glutes too tight) and pulling low belly in. This activity in my lower body has taken the pinching out of my lower back.
5. Be gentle with your neck. There’s no need to throw your head back, which can be hard on the cervical spine. It’s okay to keep neck in a neutral positon and take an upward gaze.
6. Try a full backbend using a big rubber exercise ball. You’ll have to get the inflation right so it’s not too big, but I’m enjoying backbending over my exercise ball daily.
7. Don’t covet! Yoga is not competition. Others in class will have beautiful backbends. Maybe someday you will too…or maybe not. Don’t be attached to the outcome of your practice. You may never get full upward-facing bow, but who cares? Your body will definitely benefit from incorporating even small backbends into your life.
Benefits of backbends are many. They can boost the immune system, help realign the spine, relieve back pain. They are energizing and can help open your heart space. They’ve even been recommended for those who suffer from depression.
I’ve realized that not all backbends are scary. Cobra, upward-facing dog, camel and bridge can all be done gently and without a lot of strain on the body. I find sphinx pose down-right pleasant!
I hope one day to be able to drop back into a backbend, but if it doesn’t happen, it’s okay. I will be happily working my baby back bends until my body is ready for more.
Historically, yoga was taught on an individual basis, teacher to student. This enabled the teacher to customize a yoga program to meet the specific needs of each student. However, today, group classes prevail for many reasons, including economics, student demand, and because it’s easier for students to dip in and try yoga in a group. There’s less commitment, and students can try different styles and teachers until they find their best fit.
However, a private session is an excellent way to move your yoga practice forward. You may schedule a private session if:
Whatever your goal with a private session, make sure to communicate it clearly to your teacher. Your teacher will want to know:
To find the right teacher, ask around for recommendations. Then, make sure any instructors you contact take the time to talk to you before trying to schedule an appointment. You want to make sure you find someone you feel comfortable talking to.
Then, agree on a practice space. Whether it’s in your home or in a public location, get rid of any distractions…cell phone, computer, etc., ensure against interruptions (kids, pets) and set an intention to give your practice your full attention!
If you are interested in a private session and in the Tri-Valley are, contact me here.
Lately it feels like there's been an explosion in places offering yoga. I love it, because it provides so many different audiences with the opportunity to try yoga!
This week, I'm happy to announce that a new studio has opened in Dublin, California, and I'm lucky enough to be a regular on the schedule.
Dancentric opened it's doors for its "soft launch" today, August 6, with a full schedule to get you moving. Its ecclectic array of weekly classes include Zumba, U-Jam, Kick My Abs, Bombay Jam, Boogie Box, Revivie...and of course, yoga!
Dancentric's owner, Dawn, grew frustrated with trying to find the fun gym classes she wanted to fit her busy schedule. The gyms often didn't include the yoga and pilates workouts she wanted as part of her routine. Tired with having to pay for multiple gym and studio memberships....Dancetric was born.
With two studios in a 3700 sq ft space, there's finally a place to find all the workouts you want under one roof. Come get your groove on!
Monday & Wednesdays at 8 a.m.
Fridays at 7:30 p.m.