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Should yoga be a competitive sport? We ask yoga trainers

The government of India wants to organize yoga championships and push for its inclusion in the Olympics. But does competition fit with the ethos of the ancient tradition?

Artistic yogasana could be one of the disciplines of competitive yoga (Photo: Chevanon Photography/Pexels)

On Thursday, the government of India officially recognized yoga as a sport and announced that it will be laying framework for national and international championships.

“Yoga has already been popular enough so the next step was to recognize it as a competitive sport," said Kiren Rijiju, minister of state for youth affairs and sports. "The ultimate goal is to make it a part of the Olympic Games."

The government has reportedly consulted experts to devise the rules and regulations for yogasana competitions. Accordingly, events will be conducted at sub-junior, junior and senior level for both men and women. These will include traditional yogasana, artistic yogasana, rhythmic yogasana, free flow or group yogasana, and individual all round championship and team championship. A total of 51 medals will be up for grabs.

A pilot-level yogasana championship will be held in February 2021, said Rijiju. Later in the year, there will be a World Championship.

We asked a couple of yoga trainers on what they thought of the government's initiative. Here's what they said.

'Yoga is more than asanas'

Manish Pole, director and co-founder of Total Yoga, Bangalore

There are both positives and negatives to this.

The positive is, this will get a lot more people interested in taking up yoga. Many might approach it as a gymnast - focusing on the food and nutrition, gearing up their whole life towards training in the asanas. It also gives India tremendous soft power, which can be transferred into wellness tourism.

The negative is, yoga is not about competition. Although there have been yoga tournaments across the world, including in the US, you will only be comparing two people doing asanas, not the concentration or the yogic quality associated with it.

'India has a headstart, can win lots of medals'

Pradeesh Raj, Shakti Yoga trainer from Mumbai

I think it's a good move. This will give people a lot of opportunities in terms of jobs and recognition. Since we in India are proficient at yoga, we have a chance of getting a lot of medals too.

For now, the focus seems to be on the body. They competitions are said to identify different kinds of postures and judge on the basis on their performance in carrying them out. I believe that anyone who starts training their bodies will go into training their mind also. If you’re getting into competitions, you have to practice pranayama, you have to study from the books. If the person is committed enough, they’ll get the mental benefits of yoga too.

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