It seems like every few years, there’s a rumor about putting competitive yoga in the Olympics. Will it ever happen? I have no idea. Predicting human behavior is pointless. But if they asked me (which they won’t) I would be glad to share my opinion.
Remember, this is simply my opinion. Just one interpretation of the ancient writings, and how they might apply today.
I believe yoga has no place in competition. When we approach the mat, we come with humility, and a sense of love and community that is in direct conflict with competition. When I first started teaching yoga, I realized just how competitive my husband was, as he asked me each time, “who won?” It took me a while, but I think I may have convinced him that we ALL won. Don’t get me wrong. I love competitive sports, and believe they have a place in society. But that’s not yoga.
We’ve been examining the Yamas & Niyamas here on the blog lately, so let’s look at how a few of those might apply to Olympic Yoga.
One Yama that comes to mind is Ahimsa, or non-violence. But the Olympics aren’t violent….are they? Remember the ice-skating incident years ago? That was pretty violent. And what about self-harm? Ask any world-class athlete, and they will tell you they put their bodies through rigorous training every single day. They push beyond what their bodies can take, and then push some more.
Another Yama is Aparigraha, or non-greed. No matter how pure your original intent, some greed is inherent in competition. There can only be one winner, so for me to win, someone else has to lose.
There’s also the Niyama of Santosha, or contentment. It’s difficult to be content if you can’t be number one. It’s always, “I’ll do better next time”. I’m not saying that you can’t be content if you didn’t win. Many of our athletes are amazing people, who are grateful for their chance to be in the Games. But it’s difficult. The ego wants to take over.
Finally, the Niyama of Ishvara Pranidhana. This Niyama is about devotion to the highest good of all. What are you devoted to in competition? Winning! And that’s just fine. In its place. But not in yoga.
So, if the Olympic Committee comes knocking on my door, looking for opinions, my answer is no. But what would you tell them?