Yoga in the Olympics? Let's Meditate on That

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Photo courtesy Flickr user stephcarter
Imagine this: One day you are watching the Olympics and the telecast turns to a man or woman engaging in a certain position. The commentator chimes in and explains to viewers that what they are seeing is a person in the kapotasana pose, better known as the kingpin pose.

Then, the person launches into a few other yoga poses, each ranging in difficulty. After the pose is done, the judges give their scores based on how well the poses were executed.

Farfetched? Maybe not.

Lately there has been a push among members of the yoga community to have yoga listed as an Olympic sport, most notably from Rajashree Choudhury, wife of Bikram and founder of USA Yoga.

According to USA Yoga's Web site, the organization "believes that the sport of Yoga Asana will inspire many of these practitioners to improve their practices and encourage many newcomers to take up the practice of yoga and the sport of Yoga Asana." USA Yoga, a nonprofit organization that promotes yoga asana, sponsors nationwide yoga competitions and has petitioned the Olympic committee to be included in the 2012 Olympics.

But not everyone is happy with the idea. Some believe that, if yoga is included in the Olympics, it will lose its spiritual side. Yoga activist and Blue Tree Yoga founder Jennifer Buergermeister says: "I am not sure how one would use competition to measure spiritual pursuits. Yoga isn't a circus act. Yoga is not just about the physical exercise. Yoga is about finding bliss and an aware, focused mind using breathing exercises and other limbs on the path. How can that be competed? Bad idea."

Yoga in the West has become more focused on the physical aspects rather than its spiritual parts. While there are definitive physical aspects, such as the poses and learning to breathe right, there are also unequivocal spiritual facets -- such as a yogi's lifestyle and ability to focus on tasks.

Cahal Keane, general manager of Blue Tree Yoga, says, "The spiritual aspects of yoga will never be lost. They will evolve, change and grow as humanity does. Yoga is like a user's manual for the human body, mind and spirit, but it is not static. It is dynamic. The spiritual aspect of yoga can be both deeply personal and communal."

Some consider yoga's spiritual and physical aspects united. "You cannot separate the spiritual from the physical in real yoga. They are one body and everything is connected." says Buergermeister.

"I am concerned about what yoga as a competitive sport will convey to the rest of the world regarding its value. There are different types of yoga best suited for different kinds of mind-bodies. Contortionism isn't exactly the way, nor healthy. Will there be a meditation competition? That could take years!"

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