Yoga Asana Championships? Say What?

Via on Mar 2, 2012
(Photo: Youtube)

Is Yoga Non-Competitive?

Yoga is not competitive. I’m sure you’ve heard your teacher say this at one point or another, and I’m sure you’ve read it online, in brochures, on flyers. But, is it really? I bet you didn’t know there’s a Yoga Asana Championship competition coming up this weekend in New York.

First off, there’s a United States Yoga Federation

Yes, there sure is. USA Yoga is a non-profit organization formed for the purpose of developing and promoting Yoga Asana (yoga postures) as a sport, and they are hosting the 2012 Yoga Asana Championships this weekend. Check out USA Yoga here:


YouTube Preview Image

Kelsea Bangora, who will be representing New York and is last year’s returning champion, is getting ready for the weekend to come. An excerpt from The New York Times published March 1, 2012:

For Kelsea Bangora, New York’s 2011 yoga asana champion, the conversation usually goes like this:

“Yoga champion? How does that work?”

“Well, it’s like a dance performance, sort of, or a gymnastics routine, but not really.”

“So, can you touch your head with your feet?”

“Well, of course”

Typically, she does not demonstrate.

“I don’t want to show off,” she said. “I mean, my own students don’t even know I’m a champion.”

Kelly at the 2011 Yoga Asana Finals:

YouTube Preview Image

According to Manhattan local news, competitors at this year’s event will have three minutes to complete seven poses — five mandated by the competition and two the contestants choose themselves. Each pose earns a possible high score of 10, with judges adding or subtracting points in categories as specific as locked knees and tremors, to confidence and glamour.

What do you think?

Should there be points for grace?

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About Tanya Lee Markul

Yoga Editor, Elephant Journal. I yoga, write, take photos and I investigate existentially. I got a thing for those who have found expression through some form of mastery or artistic fashion, and sincerity. (You set me free I set you). I adore anything that is equally cute and creepy. The most special ingredient you can find, be and put into anything is: yourself. Remember, everything you want, you already have and are. Look within. The more you use it, the more it will grow. For more randomness and love, visit me at Rebelle Lotus and, you don't want to miss the creative rebellion at Rebelle Society. Join us.


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9 Responses to “Yoga Asana Championships? Say What?”

  1. Thanks for sharing this! I have heard about the organization, which as far as I know was founded by Bikram Choudhury's wife, Rajashree. This competition must be very Bikram oriented, which does not surprise me as Bikram himself was a yoga champion in India. I do find it amusing to hear someone say "Yoga is non-competetive" and "Champion" in the same breath, though. It seems very fitting of the Bikram world, which is quirky and amusing as is. This, I think, is where it's really too bad that one word – yoga- is used to describe thousands of very different ideas about practice and philosophy. A competition is one way for people to showcase their asana abilities which, let's be honest- many yogis do in class anyway. Might as well call it what it is!

    • yogasamurai says:

      Bikram is just a lot more honest – more shameless and less self-deceived – than the rest of the American yoga world. And the irony is, he has a much more authentic "lineage" than so many of his critics. He's also Indian, and knows how naive and culturally clueless most Americans – especially yoga practitioners, it seems – are.

      I am not a flak for Bikram. Every Bikram franchise owner I've ever met is a zombie – and I mean literally. For me personally, Bikram does nothing for my psychic, spiritual or physical well-being. Some of the studios are totally unhealthy, I think. However, I do know lots of people, including two close friends, who are totally addicted to Bikram. In fact, they would go into endorphin withdrawal if they couldn't get to their thrice-weekly class.

    • yogasamurai says:

      John Friend earned his own spurs as a yoga champion in India – and despite the Anusara-speak, is quite the asana fetishist himself. You can see that in the legacy he has passed to his teachers.

  2. Stephanie says:

    Totally agree with JenniferBYoga!

  3. […] Yoga Asana Championships? Say What? ( […]

  4. Roger Wolsey Roger Wolsey says:

    Ack. Silly Americans. Next thing we'll see is a "pray-off" competition. : P

  5. […] cultures. In the yoga community, there seems to be a general feeling among many practitioners that competition isn’t good, that somehow it moves against the underlying ideas of the practice. This is interesting in […]

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