Should Yoga Be an Olympic Sport?
- Sunday, 20 July 2008
As the 2008 Beijing Olympics approaches, discussions arise about the possible addition of an exposition event featuring yoga. The Ashtanga News, a website dedicated to this branch of yoga, stated in a recent blog, "Yoga has been considered for a long time, but due to its non-competitive nature it had never made it before. The organizers [of the games] feel that with the inherent implicit competition present in Ashtanga Yoga, it was not too much of a stretch to include it as a sport." The website goes on to state, "The event will be structured similarly to the decathlon with six different rounds of competition."
However, further down the blog, which was posted April 1, 2008, readers discovered that yoga becoming the latest addition to the world's oldest international sporting event was an April fool's prank! The author poked fun at the idea because yoga was considered for the Olympics. It seems the idea is as absurd to the author as to his fellow bloggers, who were relieved to find the news story was a joke.
However, the rumor spread by the Ashtanga website has been under serious discussion in yoga circles for some time.
Does Yoga Belong in the Olympics?
Yoga has been a competitive sport in India for a long time. India wants to host the 2020 Olympics in New Delhi and would like to see yoga become a recognized sport by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) before that time. They have petitioned the IOC to add yoga to its roster. The International Yoga Federation holds worldwide yoga competitions which include four separate divisions: artistic yoga sport; athletic yoga sport; rhythmic yoga sport; and asana (pose) yoga sport.
However, many yoga purists and enthusiasts view yoga competitions, and the addition of yoga to the Olympics, as problematic because it may discourage yoga's non-competitive nature. Many believe competitive yoga would change what is traditionally a peaceful and serene activity, and would create "judgments," a quality that is discouraged in practice. Yogic philosophy, which is thousands of years old, states: One should let go of expectations and not concern themselves with the outcome of their actions. This virtue may be difficult to sustain when plagued with gold medals and national recognition.
The IOC is not likely to decide soon to include yoga as an Olympic sport in future events. Instead, with this publicity, more people around the world may begin to practice yoga every year. This increased interest may create a demand for more venues, either to learn about or display these beautiful and artistic human movements. For now, one can venture to the nearest yoga studio and watch a trained instructor during their practice. The audience will not judge the asanas, but the spectator will have an opportunity to appreciate the postures for what they are, an expression of the connection between the mind, body and spirit. Medals are not needed to recognize this beauty.