Yoga an Olympic Sport?

I’m really torn over this whole idea of yoga being an olympic sport. I am thrilled when I read about all the Olympic Athletes using yoga to help them in their training. But, I’m not sold on the idea of yoga being in the Olympics. Rajashree Choudhury, wife of Bikram Choudhury, is trying to make yoga an official sport in the 2016 Olympics. I tend to think yoga should not be involved in the Olympics in any competitive fashion.

First of all, the definition of yoga is to unite, to join, to bring together. Competition isn’t about uniting, it’s about separating or forming teams; it’s an “us against them” approach, a measurement of who will come out on top. I think healthy competition is good in many ways, it helps us grow and strive to be our very best in certain cases. But, yoga is a life long practice not a sport. How can you judge someone on their inner journey?

Most sports in the Olympics have an end goal. To get to the finish line, to perform the perfect dive, to jump a certain distance, to score enough points to win a game. There is no end goal in yoga and there is no perfect pose. It’s completely subjective who has a better looking Natarajasana; and you can’t judge a yoga posture from the outside anyways. Yoga is about what is going on inside.

Athletes on teams, gymnast, swimmers, divers, runners, etc. all hit a certain peak and then it’s impossible to maintain their level of training and athleticism forever. Yoga is about longevity, it is a life long practice that doesn’t have an age where you’re no longer able to practice. As a matter of fact, yoga helps us age in a healthy balanced way when done in a safe and mindful way. If the yoga competition were based on contortion, I don’t see how balanced that is.

Yoga isn’t about performing, it’s about informing. We’re constantly informing ourselves more about our bodies, our minds, our relationships. The most important tool we can gain from practicing yoga is becoming our own best friend then learning how to be a good friend to others and to the universe. The idea of judging ourselves against others in a practice that is meant for uniting, just seems like such an oxymoron to me.

I’d love to see yoga remain a tool for athletes to help them focus when they are competing in their sports. I admire the skill, determination, focus, commitment and drive that the Olympic athletes possess. I think yoga is the perfect complement to help them feel connected to themselves and find an inner compass or guide that allows them to know that it’s not about winning or losing, it’s about staying true to oneself and doing the best you can in every moment. It’s also extremely rehabilitating, centering, grounding and therapeutic physically and mentally.

Yoga is an invaluable tool for all of us. I’d rather it not become about a performance; but to allow it to be a lifelong endeavor, one that is much more sacred than who can hold a headstand the longest. If yoga does make it in to the Olympic games, then I do hope it helps spread the positive aspects of the practice and helps to unite everyone world wide–like the Olympic rings symbolically linked together.

I’d love to hear your thoughts, you can post them in the comments below or share with me on Twitter and Facebook .

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6 thoughts on “Yoga an Olympic Sport?”

  • I participate in a variety of cardio and strength training classes. One of the reasons I like yoga is because of its practice centered versus performance centered focus. Undoubtedly, as one grows in their individual practice of yoga, he or she will begin to see performance related results that have the potential to help their other form of exercises/sports. However, for me, yoga’s primary goal is to slow- down, get centered, and connect with ones body and mind. The breath is the tool that helps us to reconnect with our bodies as well as helps us move a little further with our poses. How is it proposed that this crucial part of the practice will be measured in a competitive sport environment? The answer, I believe, is that it won’t be measured, rather what will count is what most (if not all yoga instructors) is how a specific pose looks and/or how long the pose can be held. This would be in direct opposition to what every yoga class I’ve taken has instructed me to do, and that is not to focus on what I or others around me look like, instead, directing me to focus on my breath, to get out of my own way. I would hate to see this practice shift to the external.

  • There are many who have perfected the art of asana, but asana is only one small limb of Yoga. Yoga is not a sport. It is a practice. We always explain to those with whom we share yoga that our performance on the mat is not about competition. it is about oneself. It is about quieting the mind, rejuvenating the body and connecting the soul to Source. What would the goal of Yoga being an Olympic sport be? To see who reaches God first? Would that be a score of 10?

  • I agree with you as well. Yoga is a great tool and an awesome “personal” experience. It should not be judged and certainly should not be an Olympic sport. That is just dumb in my opinion.

  • I agree with you completely. Yoga is personal; it is not a competition. One of the reasons I like yoga classes is because even though everyone has different abilities and strengths, we can all get the same benefits.

  • Interesting concept, but I would have to agree that it takes away from the true meaning and value of yoga. Ultimately, there are people who genetically have a predisposition to turning into a pretzel so-to-speak. So if they were to do Olympics around that it would be a different ball game, but do not call it yoga, call it something else perhaps. Rajashree Choudry come on, what would be the basis? Why, for what purpose? And what about the heart of yoga, how do you Olympic that really? Yoga is not about arriving…rather about being in the practice of, in the moment, right where it is and right where it isn’t. Synonymous with life, right where it is and where it isn’t. It isn’t about winning, or gaining on the next person…it is individual, personal and you are forever arriving right where you are in peace and harmony with yourself only. That is the gift and the blessing. That is yoga as written in the Yoga Sutras by the Sage Pantanjali. Not an Olympic Contest and competing against others to prove to the world you are the “best” the stealth yogi. Hmmmm….really?

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