The Yoga Federation of India has asked the Indian government to give yoga asanas the classification of a sport, and hopes that one day it may even make it into the Olympics. With the physical side of yoga now a worldwide phenomenon, it has become a commonplace fixture right alongside Boxercise and Legs, Bums and Tums classes on gym timetables up and down the country. So should yoga postures be recognised as a sport in their own right, or would this risk cutting yoga asanas off from a spiritual side of the practice?
The arguments for making yoga a sport
A lot of people mistakenly believe yoga already is a sport. It’s true that yoga classes can offer the same great workout as cardiovascular exercise. With increased strength and flexibility up for grabs, it is easy to see why yoga has made it into so many people’s regular fitness routine.
For the Yoga Federation in India there are practical reasons for getting yoga recognised as a sport. Athletes in the country can often reap rewards like grants and scholarships, providing better support and opportunities. Yoga was in fact classed as a sport by the Indian government back in 2015 for those very reasons, but only for 14 months, until that decision was reversed.
To a certain extent, the yoga world already has competitive elements within it. Yoga competitions have been held in India for several decades, and have now made it over to the Western world too. Events like the World Yoga Championship, which was just recently won by a 9 year old British boy in Bulgaria, show off competitors skills in executing tricky postures and feature participants from all across the globe.
Sport or spiritual practice?
There are those who don’t feel like the competitive aspect of making yoga asanas a sport align with the concept of yoga as a whole. It’s certainly true that the idea of beating somebody, or there being a “winner” in yoga doesn’t fit quite so neatly into the spiritual model of cultivating inner peace.
Yoga teachers can often be heard reassuring students not to compare themselves to their fellow classmates, to listen to their own body and focus on self rather than looking to others.
Yet there is no denying that yoga is constantly changing, with new yoga trends hitting the yoga market all the time. Despite many people thinking of yoga asanas as an ancient practice dating back thousands of years, the reality is that the yoga we practice today is far more recent than we realise. Could this be the next inevitable evolution of yoga?
What do you think, is yoga a sport or a practice? Does it even matter what we call yoga? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!