There are many activities like cheerleading or baton twirling that some people think should be considered athletic sports, but others look at as merely interesting activities that do not garner a competitive title.
The most recent addition to that list is competitive yoga asana (yoga postures). Yes, there is such a thing. The ninth New York Regional and National Yoga Asana Championships were held in New York City March 3-5, 2012.
The open competition drew hundreds of yoga enthusiasts of every level twisting, turning, and bending their bodies into various contorted positions while trying to keep a look of serenity on their faces.
This championship, sponsored by the American Yoga Federation, or USA Yoga as they are otherwise known, is a prelude to the international championships occurring in Los Angeles in June. Those who would be successful in these competitors will need to master yoga through "physical strength, stamina, balance, flexibility, breath and concentration" according to the USA Yoga website.
The organization is currently working with international yoga federations to develop rules, regulations, and educational programs to further the cause of turning yoga into a competitive sport. The long-term goal for USA Yoga is to get yoga asana included as an Olympic sport. They have already applied to the United States Olympic Committee to be the governing body for this new sport.
Some may think yoga in the Olympics is the punchline to a joke, but this is no laughing matter for the people competing in this fledgling sport. And USA Yoga does not seem worried about the soul of this ancient activity, that is supposed to bring about inner focus and relaxation, being lost in the competitive spirit.
The current asana world champion, Joseph Encina, told the New York Times that, in fact, the opposite will happen. "Yoga will change the way we look at sport," he said during the competition weekend.
According to USA Yoga, 25 million people are now practicing yoga or plan to start within the next year.