Thursday, November 19, 2009

Yuck.

Here we go again with the Choudhurys and their never-ending quest to popularize Birkram yoga: not that this information on their Olympic quest is anything new. If you haven't heard by now, they are trying to get yoga to be included as an Olympic sport. Just asana, of course--lots of lithe, bendy yogis touching their feet to their heads. The article notes that contestants are judged on strength, flexibility, alignment, difficulty of the optional poses and overall execution, but not their spirituality.

If you just boil it down to asana without any kind of inner reflection, then isn't it just floor exercise? Gymnastics is already an Olympic sport, so the ancient Greeks beat the Choudhurys to the punch. By about 2,786 years.

Bela Karolyi, you can sleep easy...

11 comments:

Kitty said...

I agree wholeheartedly. Yoga is not a sport. In fact, I tell my peeps all the time, "Yoga is not a sport. It's not a competition. Don't worry about the person next to you and what they can do and what you can't." That said, if an Olympic exhibition of yoga can break down some barriers and perceptions and lead just one person onto the path, maybe it's a little OK. Thanks and Namaste. Love, kitty

jamieonthemat said...

I love that your initial reaction was "yuck". I just posted a reaction to this on my blog last night, and my word was "ouch". :)

Linda-Sama said...

you know I'm with you, but I will play devil's advocate...;)....

but Brenda...what do you say to people who say, well, I do yoga when I get out of bed in the morning but I don't mess around with the spiritual stuff and watching my breath or going inward....but yeah, I DO YOGA!!

so what's wrong with that? ;)

"If you just boil it down to asana without any kind of inner reflection, then isn't it just floor exercise?"

yes. and I've heard Desikachar say the same thing....anything else and it's just acrobatics.

and I have said the same thing in my blog: if you do X without Y and Z, then don't call it yoga. it's stretching, or as you say, floor exercise.

physical therapists use yoga "stretching" with their clients, but they don't call it yoga, it's physical therapy. they don't call it something it's not.

Rachel said...

Sigh....

That is all :(

Kristin said...

Not that I'm advocating Mr. Choudhury's position, but I seem to recall that in India they have asana competitions. Can anyone else confirm this?

If so, why would it be okay in India but not on a worldwide level?

Bob Weisenberg said...

Kristin,

It's true. In fact Bikram first came to prominence in India by winning the India National Yoga Championships two years at the ages of 13 and 14. So Yoga as competition is certainly not new nor did it originate in the West.

That doesn't mean it's a good thing, however, just because it's Indian. I imagine there were probably debates and condemnations then as now.

Now for the good part. According to some sources, the idea of Yoga competition was initiated by the British occupiers, not by the Indians themselves. So we can still blame the West even though it started in India.

(I should point our that some of these commentators also say that many of the modern asana themselves came out of British stretching and conditioning manuals of the time. This sounds far-fetched to me, but I have not taken the time to research it further.)

Bob Weisenberg
YogaDemystified.com

Donna said...

We were obviously thinking alike on the 19th. I voiced my opinion with Is Yoga a Competition?

Brenda P. said...

Hey, all, thanks for the thoughts.

My primary problem with this campaign is that yoga is not about competition and I don't think trying to include it in the Olympics is a valid pursuit.

The Choudhury's can sponsor all the asana competitions they want with their own little non-profit associations. But let's leave the gymnastics to the gymnasts. (Never mind that--at least in the NYT video--the competitors they offer up seem pretty jerky and ungraceful, not really global representatives of asana, to me).

Yoga--as yoga, not stretching or whatever--includes a bit of introspection, as Linda so eloquently discussed in one of the her posts [nuts, now I can't find the post I want--I commented on how it made me think about creating awareness during class, can you help me LS?].

Americans don't need any more encouragement to turn everything into a contest that requires expensive equipment and exclusive training.

Please, I'm begging you, let's not do this to yoga, too!

P.S. I gonna get all non-yogic and clobber the next person that trots out the old "I'm trying to create greater exposure" trope while justifying their latest money-making scheme...

Linda-Sama said...

"I gonna get all non-yogic and clobber the next person that trots out the old "I'm trying to create greater exposure" trope while justifying their latest money-making scheme..."

hey, I'll pay good money to see that!

will look for post...hmmmmm.....

Kristin said...

Thanks for the clarification Bob. I should have known the British were behind the asana competitions - they did something similar to Middle Eastern dance. Taking something that was meant to be a celebration in the home and turning into a public spectacle.

This has been an interesting post and conversation.

Jana Renee Derges said...

The simple act of making yoga a competition is so anti-yoga at is root. As a teachers we teach non-judgement. To introduce competition - isn't judgement part of the process?

Last time I studied with John Friend he had two yogis demo a posture side by side. One demo could have easily graced the cover of Yoga Journal and the yogi went into it with great ease. The other demo was quite modified and resembled a posture that one would see in a typical yoga class. What John pointed out and I took this to heart - is that the yogi who was "an average Joe" moved into the posture with such devotion and shone so brightly that her eyes twinkled, that he saw this to be even more beautiful and advanced than the "advanced" posture.

How would a judge take that into consideration in a competition?

Yoga shouldn't be about who's bendier - it's about revealing to yourself - the truth of your heart's desires. The only person who knows how well you do your yoga is you.