No, no, and no. These two words do not go together, should not be together. I've been bombarded with info on the recent International Yoga Asana Championship, aka the Bikram Circus with the man himself at the center of the ring. I really have nothing against Bikram as a yoga practice. While it's definitely not my favorite, I go every once in awhile and enjoy it. Kind of. What I have a problem with is the cult-like blindness that people seem to fall into at the Bikram studio, with both the practice (do that sequence every day? Just shoot me now. Not to mention the diminishing returns of working the same muscle groups all the time) and the - what's the word? flamboyance of Bikram Choudhury. We all know about the copyrighting of his yoga style - I'm no lawyer, but copyrighting poses that have been in the public domain for thousands of years seems a bit absurd. But it's his flashy ways and the things that come out of his mouth that truly make me wonder. And cause me to hold the Bikram practice at arm's length.
Back to the yoga competition - here are my thoughts on the matter. Yoga is not a competiton. Plain and simple. Life, and our culture in particular, is competitive enough. Yoga is a refreshing break from that, most of the time. I won't deny the competitiveness that seeps its way into many yoga classes, especially of the Ashtanga and power variety (Guilty! Been there and done that!), nor the thrill that comes from being able to do an advanced posture that, let's face it, maybe not too many other people you know can do too. But the joy I find in my practice is not about that or competing with others. It's about being true to myself and nurturing myself, not pushing all the time. And sharing this joy with others, no matter who they are or what they can physically do. When I started my studio in DC seven years ago, my mission was to share yoga with as many people as possible, all ages, all backgrounds. I taught finely-tuned athletes in amazing shape, senior citizens who could not get out of their chairs, and everyone in between, and loved every single minute of it. Because everyone can do yoga, even if it's just a few poses, and everyone can benefit from yoga. To me, it doesn't get much cooler than that. Yoga is about self-care and becoming a better person no matter what your asana practice looks like. So go ahead and make it a competitive sport, if that's what turns you on - just make sure you don't scare away the other 99% or more of the population that can and should do yoga and don't need to get all competitive about it.
Now that I'm done with my rant, you've got to read this: Top Yogi: Rabbit poses, coconut water, and a Bikram-practicing dance team at the international yoga championship, by Neal Pollack on Slate.
Whew. Think I need some yoga...