Is Yoga a Sport?


Brianna Valdes

Senior Daniel Enriquez does a yoga pose.

Natalia Torres, Staff Writer

For thousands of years people have been turning to yoga as a way to stretch, release tensions and stress, engage in physical activity, and be one with their minds. The physically challenging aspects and high-skill level techniques that go into yoga have left many people unsure whether or not it should be considered a sport. A sport is generally defined as a physical activity that includes a competitive component.  While yoga fits into this description, it lacks the competitive nature of athletics such as swimming and tennis, which is what disqualifies it for the title of “sport.”

Yoga, like football, requires an incredible amount of strength and skill. The difference between the two is that yoga involves a spiritual and philosophical aspect that most sports do not. Yoga is made up of different branches: karma, mantra, bhakti, gyana, raja and hatha. The final branch is the only one that involves physical movements; so, while the workout is a component, the most important part of the practice is to be in tune with your breath, body and especially your mind. More conventional sports typically place the body before the mind, however, yoga does the opposite. Seeing as its emphasis is on the spiritual aspect, competing against others in yoga defeats its purpose. You should be focused on yourself and becoming preoccupied with what others are doing goes against the activity’s aim.

“To me, yoga should not be about competition, but I don’t have anything against people wanting to compete. It is athletically challenging but I personally wouldn’t chose to practice yoga for competition.  Yoga doesn’t come without the spiritual side for me and while many people may get into it for the physical I’ve found that they stay for the spiritual,” AP Environmental Science teacher Virginia Ansaldi said.

Those who are pushing for the adoption of yoga as an official sport will argue that it fits into the definition perfectly. Unbeknownst to most, thousands of people around the US compete in athletic events as part of a Yoga Asana team. The competitions are similar to dance and gymnastics. The competitor performs a routine which involves a series of poses and a judge then gives them a score based on this performance. A common phrase to hear from instructors is to not let yourself compare your practice to that of others, therefore competing against others detracts from the spirituality of yoga.

While the physical element is unarguably there, the very essence and original purpose of yoga is being nullified when the competitive aspect is introduced. To consider this a sport would be to go against its teachings, something that completely alters its fundamental ideals. Yoga should be recognized as a physically and mentally challenging activity, but calling it a sport may be going too far.  Rather than focusing on winning, those who practice yoga should focus on bettering themselves and their body through their practice.

A popular mantra that perfectly encompasses the essence of yoga is “Yoga is the journey of the Self, through the Self, to the Self.” Competing against others goes against this, thereby going against the very nature of yoga. Ultimately, its the spirituality and focus on oneself that make up its core, not the exercise. Although competing physically is a challenging and admirable activity, it’s important to recognize that yoga has more to offer than just a gold medal.