Wellness: Is Yoga The Next Olympic Sport?

January 16 2013, 12:30 PM

If you just scoffed after reading this headline, you’re not alone. But the United States Yoga Federation thinks differently. This Saturday, January 19, the nonprofit federation—founded by Rajashree Choudhury, wife of Bikram Choudhury who, you guessed it, brought us the torturously hot Bikram yoga—is hosting the Colorado Regional USA Yoga Asana Championships at Noah's Event Center in Westminster. With five compulsory poses and two advanced postures, this competition is a qualifier for March’s National USA Yoga Championship in New York. And then there’s the International Yoga Sports Federation, which hosts the invitational Bishnu Charan Ghosh Cup every year. Check out the New York Times’ firsthand account of the 2012 cup here.

According to the Times of India, USA Yoga is lobbying the U.S. Olympic Committee to be recognized as the official governing body of yoga asana, which will aid in its quest for inclusion in the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro. The Olympic question has been hovering for years now— not surprising, given the rising popularity of these competitions, fierce devotion to the sport, and booming retail industry around clothing and gear. What woman between 12 and 50 doesn’t own at least two pairs of yoga pants?

But does the sport have enough clout? Moreover, is competitive yoga an oxymoron?

A seasoned yogi might practice every day because it centers him, cleanses him, balances him, and tests his physical and mental limits—but isn’t the goal to achieve spiritual fulfillment within yourself? Some might say the practice wasn’t created to be judged or to foster a culture of rivalry. And yet, Bow Poses and Rabbit Poses and Stretching Poses are being judged on stages all over the world. Instructors must pass competitive exams. Don’t we all, when it comes down to it, measure our skills against the guy who’s doing the same thing right next to us? Boulder’s Elephant Journal lays out the arguments for us.

Want to see what all the hype is about? Catch the contortions of Colorado’s best yoga practitioners at 11 a.m. on Saturday. You be the judge.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock