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?