When I started practicing Kripalu Yoga around 19 years ago, the main lessons I got were: “Accept yourself, exactly as you are today,” “Don’t compare,” and “Don’t judge—yourself or others.” Those were all messages I desperately needed to hear that deeply planted seeds of healing in me.
The growing movement to make yoga an Olympic sport pretty much blows every one of those sacred tenets to the moon. I don’t mean to jump on the whole yoga-competitions-are-evil caravan—it’s crowded enough—but after witnessing my first live yoga competition the other night I am all a-shudder and need to process.
Just walking in the door to “see” yoga at a theater in midtown Manhattan for the 2012 United States Yoga Asana Championship New York Regional edition last Friday night was odd enough. As a yoga junkie, though, I was curious—what exactly happens at a yoga competition? Who’s got the loudest ujayyi? Who can fidget least in Savasana? Who can keep their bottom ribs arced in Triangle? Those are things I’d want to strive for, at least, since I’ve been told so many times, in so many styles of classes: “Yoga is not about how close you can get your foot to your head” and “Yoga is about moving with the breath” and “Yoga is about dipping deep inside to the place beyond places, where everything,” as my Kripalu Yoga Teacher Trainer Devarshi says, is “eternal, infinite, and whole.”