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Competitive yoga is on the rise and is targeting placement in the 2016 Olympics

Patt shows us her version of the downward dog.
Patt shows us her version of the downward dog.

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Yoga. So relaxing. So inner-directed. So competitive?

At this year’s national USA Yoga Asana Championship over the weekend, men and women with the kind of glistening, well-toned bodies people envy came to compete, doing yoga asana (yoga postures) in New York City. They had three minutes to perform seven difficult, athletic poses and hold them.

The top two finishers in each group — men’s, women’s and a youth division — will go on to compete in international finals the Bishnu Charan Ghosh Cup, held in Los Angeles in June. Spiritually-minded yoga as a judged sport, really? The non-profit organization in the United States, Yoga Federation, not only sponsors the national competition, but wants to see competitive yoga at the 2016 Olympics.

It’s already applied to the United States Olympic Committee to be recognized as the national governing body for the sport. To be considered for the Olympics, yoga asana must be practiced in 75 countries. So far, there are yoga asana competitions in 15 countries. Supporters say the meets promote health and fitness. Critics say the subtle effects of yoga can’t be experienced within a competitive setting. People all over the world practice yoga as a form of breathing-based meditation, yet there are yoga studios that promote power yoga, with an emphasis on twisty poses and high-octane sweat.


Do you support competitive yoga and it being considered a sport? Would you watch yoga asana if it qualified for the Olympics? Is competitive yoga just a fancier form of gymnastics? Get ready for Ommmmmm-lympics!


Rajashree Choudhury, founder of the United States Yoga Federation, also called USA Yoga

Bel Carpenter, yoga teacher and competitive yoga practitioner; ranked in the top 10 of the men’s division at last year’s international yoga asana championship; participated in this weekend’s USA Yoga Asana Championship in New York City

Ganga White, founder, the White Lotus Foundation in Santa Barbara; yoga practitioner, teacher since the 1960s and author of the book “Yoga Beyond Belief: Insights to Awaken and Deepen Your Practice.”