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‘Olympic-type’ Competition In The Works For International Yoga Day 2016

in Competitive Yoga, Events, World News, YD News
2013 International Asana Champion ChauKei Stefanie Ngai

2013 International Asana Champion ChauKei Stefanie Ngai

Limber up, folks. The Yoga Olympics are inevitable.

We’ll just leave this right here:

Think you can do a perfect surya namaskar? You could be up for a medal later this year. International Yoga Day promises to be bigger and better, with “Olympic-type” competition likely to be on the cards.

That’s from Friday’s Economic Times.

“We are thinking about having an Olympic-type yoga competition in Delhi this year for two days before June 21 (Yoga Day),” said Yoga Minister Shripad Yesso Naik.

International Yoga Day became an official global event last year to the excitement of many and the trepidation of others. Politics are too intertwined with the motivation behind India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s push for the day, some say, and that may very well be true. India’s government has been pushing hard in general to reclaim the practice that originated in their homeland, which is pretty fair enough, since for the past few decades the West has pretty much done what they wanted with it. But maybe the curious part is how Modi’s government is set on riding that trendy wave to “take yoga “to the masses” rather than dialing it back to its roots.

The reason for this new Olympic-like competition is to make yoga even bigger and more popular. The idea is to “create a new generation (of yoga practioners) [sic],”said Naik. “When it becomes a competition, the new generation becomes interested.”


Though yoga competitions have been around in India for a while now – the Bikram duo are famous champions – an organized event this big and “Olympic”-esque and sponsored by the Indian government is something new.



26 comments… add one
  • Competitive yoga … isn’t that kinda against the ethos of it?

  • Just say no.

  • Please stop. Now. No. Don’t do this. Are you kidding?

    When did the inner journey become about outward expression, and one of such grandiose and egotistical proportion?

    Quite frankly, the best yogi is the one that chooses not compete. Gold Medal! Or, perhaps the yogi that says, “Hey! I was practicing the invisibility sutra during the event so I could not be seen, but obviously I’m the best”!

  • S.

    The new generation is already interested in Yoga. We all see how well yoga competitions have done. “Sleep with me and you’ll win the title” is all too common in a subjectively scored event. Let’s just stick with Citta Vrtti Nihrodah.

  • The Yoga Centipede

    American yoga culture is deeply competitive and attracts deeply competitive people. Even the most “spiritual” yogis are deeply immersed in this same deeply competitive culture. It really makes no sense to suddenly stop, look in the mirror, and say, “Oh, my, I hate this exaggerated part of me.” That exaggerated part of you IS you.

    All of Bikram’s victims”? Bikram’s wife? Who do you think they are? Would the lost little Baughn-Baughn girl been brushing Daddy’s hair if she hadn’t been out to win-win-win? And the truth is, this competitive ethos isn’t even Western per se. Indian yogis have been competing ruthlessly with each other for decades — and I suspect in their “past lives,” too.

    Who can meditate the deepest and the longest, and reach the highest state of consciousness? Why don’t we have eight separate contests — one for each limb? Why limit it to asana? Hey, who does the best yoga service?

    Or who’s the best yoga teacher in my town? That’s been a favorite in the Washington, DC area Individual teachers — mostly from a single yoga studio — have been organizing students to stuff the ballot boxes for year on end? And winning the contest most every year. Which then goes on their web site and their marketing materials, of course. “Voted best yoga teacher of the year” By um, me.

    A girl’s gotta eat, right? And eat, and eat, and eat. Oh yeah, this Olympics thing is just terrrrrrrrible. A real abomination

    “Faster Pussycat, Kill Kill.”

  • When did yoga become a socialist thing slash freak show?
    Sri K. Pattabhi Jois is rolling in his grave. For sure.
    Live on, Ashtanga, and those who practice it traditionally with love, dedication, and non-competition. <3

  • pal

    [your opinion here]

  • Dwayne

    No surprise. If “Modern Postural Yoga” is mostly about asana / performing postures, then it’s going to attract athletic/competitive people, and events catering to that type will be organized. Given the seemingly infinite appetite for Internet yoga selfies, I expect the competitions to be successful (narcissism might also be a factor). I personally have no interest in this contest business, but a cynic might say “yeah, that’s just because you’re not good enough to compete” 🙂 .

  • This isn’t Yoga, but something else entirely separate.

  • Julie Greene

    Anyone who would compete is not a true yogi in my opinion. Completely missing the point. Commercialism of yoga. Boo! Thumbs down.

  • Naseem

    Please don’t do it. My understanding was that this day was to highlight the tradition of Yoga from India, not as a public sport and show. So against the true meaning of Yoga. The class that the PMO office created last year was embedded in classical teachings. Continue on this path…

  • Clearyoga

    Passing judgement on someone’s ability to achieve one tiny part of yoga. Perfect. Measuring up competitors against each other to see who the better yogi is. Great. Why can’t we call this what it is: Body Contortion Olympics, and leave yoga out of it. Pretty please.

  • Jerome Armstrong

    “– the Bikram duo are famous champions –”

    It’s like an alternate reality that’s actually the truth. For the last year, I’ve been writing a book called Yoga Family, and have been to Calcutta 3 times, 5 weeks this last time, doing interviews, researching, digging up old Bengali texts… everything I can find.

    The bizzare thing is that not a single person had backed up this claim by Bikram that he was a champion of Yoga. It’s even crazier. Aside from the fact that there was not even a thing such as yoga competition in India prior to the mid 1970’s, every single person that I’ve interviewed that was actually in the 4 Rammohan Roy Rd. house, or knew the scene, told me that Bikram never even practiced yoga until 6 months prior to being sent to go to Tokyo.

    He’s pulled quite a trick, and to see it stated as fact, everywhere, it sorta blows my mind. Those in Calcutta get a chuckle out of it, seeing how he’s pulled one on Americans I guess.

    Anyway, as far as competition and yoga goes. Yes, it has been going on in India since the 1970’s. A couple of Bishnu Ghosh’s weightlifting students, and Monotosh Roy’s family, Byayam Yoga adherents, began competitions among the youth. They started at the same time as others in the nation were organizing a federation, so they joined forces. But the important thing to note here is that it is Byayam Yoga, which, I guess you could translate as exercise or gymnastics. Nowadays, that might be changing, as west goes east, marketing and lost connection…. but that was the important distinction at the time of it’s formation.

    • John

      Hmmm… Iyengar talked about krisnamacharya adjusting him so forcefully he tore ligaments “preparing for competition” and the line between krisnamacharya’s gymnastic demo troupes (or, indeed, iyengars demos) and competition is very small.

      There are lots of good things that can come from this. Modi’s attempt to claim yoga back for the fascist nut jobs will founder on the Indian team’s defeat. Every one will see the physical superiority of gymnasts and dancers over yogis and we’ll never have to hear idiotic yogis bang on about “mere gymnastics” again. All those people who want to turn yoga into their personal pseudo philosophical self help bestseller philosophy class will lose influence. It’s a win in many ways

      • S.

        Isn’t it nice that Iyengar took this incident with Krishnamacharya as a catalyst to adapt the teachings to suit everyone regardless of their ability. The Iyengar “demo” is to show students the shape, direction and actions of the pose. Way better than “flow with your heart” psychobabble we hear from the neophytes who make up the large majority of yoga teaching in the West.

        • John

          The iyengar demo was frequently nothing but sales, accompanied by shameless celebrity endorsement and the worst psychobabble imaginable. At least in “the west” iyengar’s bullying would have been unacceptable eventually. Charismatic physical genius he may have been but the idea he was inherently better than what came after or than “the west” is a romantic pipe dream for the ignorant and the blindly invested.

  • Jerome Armstrong

    I’ve not seen a quote like that John, regarding Iyengar and competition. I do wish someone would do an exhaustive survey of it. I went through all 8 volumes of Astadala Yogamala, but that’s not what I was researching. Iyengar talks about his injuries as a result of going into Asanas during demonstrations; for example, when it’s the first time he’s done them, but never in terms of competition. That said, I am focused on modern yoga in Calcutta, and though they do have some intersections, and meetings, its a different set of characters. From Calcutta, Bikram wasn’t involved with competitive yoga.

    lol at the notion of Modi’s team not winning, and yea, the professional gymnasts will see it as an easy gold.

  • Dwayne

    The Iyengar anecdote I read concerned a demo, not competition. In an important demo for the Maharaja, K. forced I. to perform hanumanasana, which he had never tried before. This resulted in a tear that took months to heal.
    Agreed on the gymnasts; an onslaught of Russian/ex-Soviet bloc gymnasts will see the competition as easy money.

  • John

    I saw the iyengar competition comment in one of the endless puff pieces he did to sell his method. It was in a national paper about a decade ago. Who knows if they quoted him correctly. As long as it pulled in the punters I guess it did the job regardless

  • That picture is AMAZING!! The human body can do some amazing things. I didn’t even know that they wanted to do competitions for Yoga. I would have named it something else – just show off your moves, no need to compete 🙂

  • gumanmal

    yoga is most important part of my life.





  • sharifa

    wow! the competitions will be beautiful. i believe in yoga

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