Yoga: An Olympic Sport?

USA Yoga is looking to bring the practice to the Olympics.


The practice of yoga is commonly known as stress-relieving and harmonious.

Now, the current debate on qualifying yoga as a competitive Olympic sport is anything but.

USA Yoga, a nonprofit that promotes Yoga Asana (postures) as a sport, is working to connect with like-minded organizations in other countries to institute Yoga Asana in the 2016 Olympics.

On its website, USA Yoga states that it “believes that the sport of Yoga Asana will inspire many of these [25 million] practitioners to improve their practices and encourage many newcomers to take up the practice of yoga and the sport of Yoga Asana.”

Eddie Garner, co-owner of , which has locations in Cockeysville and Harbor East, agrees.

“Having yoga in the Olympics would inspire more people to take better care of themselves,” Garner said. “The physical benefits are measureable—you’re leaner, have more stamina—but even more important than the weight loss is the mental clarity.”

With a recent naming Baltimore as the second-angriest city in America, Garner is quick to point out that “this city needs yoga more than anything.”

Garner, a former opera singer, discovered Bikram Yoga while pursuing singing jobs in New York City. He and his wife Emily, a co-owner at Bikram Yoga Baltimore, quickly fell in love with the practice.

Emily, a former ballerina, was impressed by yoga’s healing impact on her body, strained from years of dancing.

Eddie Garner said establishing yoga as an Olympic sport could help spread awareness of its physical and mental benefits.

“One of the greatest things about having yoga in the Olympics is to expose people to this kind of exercise,” he said. “You do this for the body, not the vanity.”

However, the Olympic movement is not without its dissenters.

Diane Finlayson, owner and director of yama studio (Yoga, Ayurveda & Meditation Arts) in North Baltimore, states “yoga is actually not a sport, so it doesn't belong in the Olympics.”

Finlayson has practiced yoga for 37 years and has been training yoga instructors for the past decade. In addition, she holds a master of liberal arts from for her thesis on "Ayurveda in America." Ayureveda, traditional Indian medicine, is considered a sister science to yoga, Finlayson said.

"Yoga asana, or posture, is one step of an eightfold path of practice,” Finlayson said. “The focus on extreme postures is not yogic. It misses the point.”

Valencia Wood March 30, 2011 at 01:44 AM
I agree with Ms. Finlayson as Yoga focuses on healing the entire mind and body. Its purpose should not be destroyed by considering the practice as a competitive sport.
BmoreBedell March 30, 2011 at 06:06 PM
Ya, isn't competing at something that's goal is to bring internal harmony a little like having hugging as a sport? On your mark...set...downward facing dog! Maybe instead they should think about twister as an Olympic sport! Similar skill set and when you really think about it less absurd.
MaryAnne Colledge March 31, 2011 at 08:13 PM
What a hoot! This is hilarious! Maybe they could call it "Yang Yoga". . . . . compete 'til you die. Strive, strive strive! They could have a color-coded mat hierarchy to designate their achievements. The colors could correspond to the colors of the chakras with, of course, red representing a lowly beginner. Ha Ha ha ha. OMG, could the point possibly be to exploit this for financial gain? Who would have ever thought!
sandra April 01, 2011 at 08:09 PM
Black Belt Yoga - to advance, you must demonstrate the postures "correctly", keep your breathing under control, and the top level requires levitation during meditation. I've noticed that if I demonstrate postures for my classes or potential students they get intimidated: "I can't do that, I will hurt myself". Yoga is not the external demonstration of the practice but the internal experience. Yoga teaches self-awareness and ultimately how to let go of the ego. Yoga as Competitive Sport will only serve to boost the ego.
Mary Garratt April 02, 2011 at 12:30 AM
If the emphasis is on competition with others instead of union with self, it's not really yoga anyway. They should call it gymnastics...oh, wait, that's already an olympic event. In every yoga class I teach, I ask my students to explore the poses inwardly. Competing with others is practicing stress, not yoga.


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