Kasper Van Den Wijngaard, the 2010 Men’s Bishnu Charan Ghosh Cup Champion

When many people hear the words “competitive” and “yoga” in the same sentence, they may assume the topic is breaking down the ego and not pushing ourselves too hard. So often, yoga is marketed as a way of increasing our self-acceptance, and relating to the world in a more peaceful way. USA Yoga, the organization which created the National Yoga Asana Championship, believes that competitive yoga is not in conflict with other yogic values. By encouraging the practice of yoga as a competitive sport, they believe yogis will be inspired to deepen their practice and develop a healthy sense of competition.

Between March 2-4, 2012, USA Yoga held the ninth New York Regional and National Championship competition in New York City. Yogis from more than 30 states, each of whom competed in a smaller regional competition, came together to perform a series of asanas before a panel of judges. The yogis were judged on aspects like technical precision, physical presentation, and ease. While many of the competitors were practitioners of Bikram Yoga, the competition was open to yogis from all styles. The winners of the mens and womens categories will go on to compete in the Bishnu Charan Gosh international competition in June.

USA Yoga was founded by Rajashree Choudhury, wife of Bikram Yoga founder Bikram Choudhury. She says that she grew up competing in yoga competitions in India, and she and her husband have long wanted to see yoga recognized as an Olympic sport. While some yogis may rail against the idea, the fact that more than 100 participants came together for the recent Championship shows that there is a sizable group who finds competitive yoga to be a worthy pursuit.  The competition also made headlines in news outlets across the country, which may further yoga’s exposure to a wider audience.

Detractors feel that viewing yoga as a competitive sport leaves room for the ego to take over, thus losing the spiritual roots of yoga. USA Yoga feels that competitive yoga will not only inspire current yogis to continually develop and train in their practice, but it will also inspire people who don’t currently practice yoga to take it up. Whatever one might think of the reasoning behind participation in competitive yoga, most people could agree that the skill of the yogis participating is quite impressive.

What do you think of competitive yoga?

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