Competitive Yoga

Competitive yoga is a new trend in western practice of yoga.  Yoga competitions have happened in India for thousands of years. Competitions in many different yoga disciplines have rich traditions and history.  The western world is torn over competitive yoga.  Many say that yoga is a practice of philosophy and harmony, and competition has no place in its practice.  They contend that competitive yoga is too focused on asanas, or physical poses and ignores the meditative qualities of yoga.  Others compare it to gymnastics and other sports, and have been pushing for its inclusion in the Olympic games.

Western Competitive yoga
Western yoga competitions revolve around Bikram yoga, a type of yoga founded by Bikram Choudhury.  It is practiced in rooms heated to 105 degrees Fahrenheit, and moderated to 40% humidity.  It is one of the most physical types of yoga, and focuses mostly on asanas, or poses.  Participants in yoga competitions accrue points based on several factors, and there is an eventual winner; however, most participants say that participating in yoga competitions is more about competing against themselves and pushing themselves to be the best that they can be.

Yoga – Sport or Way of Life?
There are different styles of yoga, such as Hatha yoga or Bikram yoga.  The overall concept of yoga has different disciplines that are combined to compose the styles.  Disciplines such as poses, meditation, service, and moral codes are all combined and re-combined across styles.  As with any practice that involves a philosophical component, every person practicing has his or her own idea of the “true” and “correct” way.  In India, there are yoga sports organizations, just as in the United Sates there are soccer clubs. Whether yoga is sport, a way of life or both is up to the practitioner.

Goals of Traditional yoga
Those who argue the point against competitive yoga related that traditional yoga poses, or asanas, are practiced to condition the body to sit for longer periods of time and become more physically able to be still and meditate.  They say that yoga without the meditative portions is like a table missing a leg.

Yoga, in every form, has many benefits, some of which are psychological.  yoga builds confidence, from practicing poses and from positive thinking.  It promotes immune health, which promotes body health, which promotes mental health.  There is no question that practicing yoga beyond poses gives the most benefit.  Competitive athletes of every sport also have to cultivate extreme mental focus and self-discipline.  In that way, competitive yoga is not much different than traditional yoga, or other sports.

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