Competition Beats Yoga Down

Dec 9th, 2017

Ahh, the Choudhury’s are still at it. First, Bikram wanted to patent “his” sequence of asanas. And now, his wife, Rajashree, is out to make yoga a competitive sport. Earlier this week, the Wall Street Journal reported that an organisation called USA Yoga, founded by Rajashree, is hosting a national Yoga competition this weekend in New York [Editor: 2012 USA Yoga Asana Championship: 2-4 March; 9th Annual Bishnu Charan Ghosh Cup: 9-10 June] where participants will be judged on seven different poses. According to Rajashree, no spirituality will be judged. Well, thank God she clarified that!

In the article, Rajashree said that competitive Yoga has existed in India for quite some time. Not being an expert on the evolution of Eoga, I first did a quick google search of “Yoga competitions India” and noticed that while they exist, they seem to be far newer than the “century” old competitions Rajashree mentioned. And then, I asked my Yoga teacher, student of the revered Pattabhi Jois, if there was any truth to Rajashree’s statement. He mentioned being aware of “asana competitions in the south for at least 40 years.” Note the marked distinction in his response – “asana” competitions. Not “yoga” competitions.

If it’s just physical, it’s not Yoga. Like I’ve alluded to before – just because a person can rock the forearm stand does not mean she is practising Yoga. It just means she has mastered the ability to balance on her forearms

For such powerful players in the “Yoga world,” the Choudhury’s should have more respect for the practice and tradition that has made them so famous. My favourite reaction to Rajashree’s competition came from Phil Goldberg, author of American Veda and friend of HAF. “My money is on the performers at Cirque du Soleil.”

About the Author
Sheetal Shah is the New York City-based Senior Director for the Hindu American Foundation (HAF), an advocacy organisation providing a progressive Hindu American voice. She has been instrumental in the development of a broad range of educational materials, position papers, and campaigns, including Take Back Yoga, and has edited and previously co-authored the Foundation’s annual human rights report, Hindus in South Asia and the Diaspora: A Survey of Human Rights. Sheetal also focuses on membership outreach and brand development through social networking and the Foundation’s website.
Prior to joining HAF, Sheetal was an Atlanta-based consultant at Deloitte Consulting. She is also actively involved with the MATCH charter school in Boston, MA. Sheetal holds a Master degree from the London School of Economics and a Bachelor degree in Computer Science from Georgia Tech.

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