The New York Times previewed this weekend's New York Regional and National Yoga Asana Championship, highlighting the challenges of making a sport that focuses on the connection of body and mind into a universal competition.
According to the Times, adult competitors at the United States Yoga Federation's ninth championship must perform seven poses in three minutes, while competitors between the ages of 11 and 17 must perform six poses. A panel of five judges will then judge each competitor across categories like proper alignment, timing, and steadiness. The top six participants—two men, two women, and two youth participants—will then move on to compete in the international yoga championship in Los Angeles this summer.
However, some are confused by the blending of yoga with competition. "Aren't there enough things in our world that feed the competitive mind?" according to one New York yoga teacher, adding that the "great gifts" of yoga can be distorted by making the practice into a contest.
Currently, yoga competitions take place in 15 countries, according to five-time national yoga champion and USA Yoga Founder Rajashree Choudhury. Given the competitive sport's judging inconsistencies, Choudhury currently is working to establish a universal handbook for the competitions. She hopes to one day see the sport at the Olympics. To be considered for the international games, the sport must be practiced widely by men and women across 75 countries and receive approval for the International Olympic Committee (Beck, Times, 3/1).