I am just gobsmacked by the notion of yoga as a competitive sport.
From the USA Yoga website:
USA Yoga’s mission is to promote yoga asana as a sport.
Our members are athletes, coaches, and judges. We develop rules and scoring, provide training for judges and coaches, and organize events, so that athletes have the opportunity to demonstrate competitive excellence.
Our vision includes advocating the practice of yoga as a means to better human health, healing, and mental and physical well-being, for all ages, through education, outreach programs, and sponsorships of yoga events.
This is a picture on USA Yoga’s site.
Yes there are yogis who can do these poses. So what?
The practice of yoga was started as a way to condition the body for long periods of meditation. At least that was always my understanding. A means of facilitating spiritual growth does not strike me as a sport. What’s next — competitive meditation states?
There is a full range of body shapes and sizes, a full range of flexibility, in any yoga class I have ever taken. We are urged to listen to our bodies as we practice, to strive for improvement, yes, but never to the point of going beyond our personal edge. You may notice that the person on the next mat is more flexible or less flexible, but the whole point is to not make that a cause for envy or self-satisfaction but to turn your distracted mind back to your own practice. What is important is awareness. This seems antithetical to the notion of competition.
There is certainly nothing wrong with sports or competition in their place. Competitions are generally seen as healthy, a way to challenge individuals to do their best and to provide recognition to those who work hard to develop their talent. But competition involves winner and losers. I’m sure it feels good to win, but I know it does not feel good to lose. We certainly have a current and long standing culture of competition — and take a good look at the state of our society right now. Is it just maybe not time to consider a value of cooperation over competition?
Maybe out large brains have gotten us into some trouble. I heard this on an On Being with Krista Tippett interview with Robin Wall Kimmerer. It made me wonder if forest mosses are smarter than human beings.
Mosses have, in the ecological sense, very low competitive ability, because they’re small, because they don’t grab resources very efficiently, and so this means that they have to live in the interstices. They have to live in places where the dominant competitive plants can’t live. But the way that they do this really brings into question the whole premise that competition is what really structures biological evolution and biological success. Because mosses are not good competitors at all, and yet they are the oldest plants on the planet. They have persisted here for 350 million years. They ought to be doing something right here. And one of those somethings, I think, has to do with their ability to cooperate with one another, to share the limited resources that they have, to really give more than they take. Mosses build soil, they purify water, they are like the coral reefs of the forest, they make homes for this myriad of all these very cool little invertebrates who live in there. They are just engines of biodiversity. They do all of these things, and yet, they’re only a centimeter tall.
I have come to a new appreciation of the yoga teachers at the studio where I practice. They guide with a gentle touch, but they also caution against going beyond one’s edge and offer alternatives and props as needed. I have come to a new appreciation of the others practicing in the classes I attend. Those on their mats around me, some far more flexible than I, some less so, offer nothing but supportive energy.
There will be those of a certain nature who will pursue yoga competitions and work to make this an Olympic sport. So be it. But will the competitions begin and end with the sacred sound of Om?