Yoga as an Olympic Event?

What’s your definition of ‘athlete?’

I’m puzzled over The National Yoga Asana Championship, held this weekend in New York City. What the organizers believe demonstrates “perfect strength, balance, and flexibility of the body” I instinctively feel only further adulterates the beautiful harmonious connection yoga is meant to create between body, mind, and spirit. I thought yoga wasn’t about the perfect position or competition between others, but about the process, of surrender and acceptance. Where’s the harmony in taking what is supposed to be a unifying practice and making it a competitive one?

Maybe my issue is simply that I’m not sure the Olympics is the right fit for yoga. The pursuit of excellence, brotherhood between contestants and cultural unity between countries, values which I’m sure the Yoga Olympic committee embrace, all seem to be a good fit. Perhaps it’s that I’ve never before thought of yoga as a ‘sport,’ or those who practice yoga as ‘athletes.’ Of course balance and flexibility are components of physical fitness, but I’ve always subscribed to the traditionally Greek definition of an athlete, which requires more dynamic skills such as speed, agility, quickness and eye-hand coordination, among others.

Does anyone else find this topic interesting? I’d be very interested to hear the perspective of a yoga teacher on this post, and welcome your comments. What do you think?

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