Ahh, the Choudhury’s are still at it. First, Bikram wanted to patent “his” sequence of asanas. And now, his wife, Rajashree, is out to make yoga a competitive sport. Earlier this week, the Wall Street Journal reported that an organisation called USA Yoga, founded by Rajashree, is hosting a national Yoga competition this weekend in New York [Editor: 2012 USA Yoga Asana Championship: 2-4 March; 9th Annual Bishnu Charan Ghosh Cup: 9-10 June] where participants will be judged on seven different poses. According to Rajashree, no spirituality will be judged. Well, thank God she clarified that!
In the article, Rajashree said that competitive Yoga has existed in India for quite some time. Not being an expert on the evolution of Eoga, I first did a quick google search of “Yoga competitions India” and noticed that while they exist, they seem to be far newer than the “century” old competitions Rajashree mentioned. And then, I asked my Yoga teacher, student of the revered Pattabhi Jois, if there was any truth to Rajashree’s statement. He mentioned being aware of “asana competitions in the south for at least 40 years.” Note the marked distinction in his response – “asana” competitions. Not “yoga” competitions.
If it’s just physical, it’s not Yoga. Like I’ve alluded to before – just because a person can rock the forearm stand does not mean she is practising Yoga. It just means she has mastered the ability to balance on her forearms
For such powerful players in the “Yoga world,” the Choudhury’s should have more respect for the practice and tradition that has made them so famous. My favourite reaction to Rajashree’s competition came from Phil Goldberg, author of American Veda and friend of HAF. “My money is on the performers at Cirque du Soleil.”