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03 Jul 2022


Yogasanas as a Sporting Activity for the Youth

Yogasanas as a Sporting Activity for the Youth 

Yogasana Sport is the best activity for the youth of our beloved country as it entails virtually no infrastructure nor equipment that is required in other sports such as Cricket, Football, Hockey etc. It acts as a catalyst in stimulating the youth to take up a holistic practice of Yoga that has been scientifically proved to be of great physical, mental and emotional benefit for the individual. Yoga is a preventive science and by our youth taking up its practice we can save great man power and money power of our nation that is otherwise pumped into the health (disease!) system.

This is a strong statement of intent from Yogamaharishi Dr Swami Gitananda Giri, considered as one of the Founding fathers of the Modern Yogasana Sport movement. Pujya Swamiji was the founder of the Pondicherry Yogasana Association and since the early 1970s took Yoga to the youth and children of all sections of the society through Annual Yogasana Championships that have been continued till date. He organised the 1st International Yoga Sport Championship in 1989 and motivated the Government of Puducherry to conduct Annual International Yoga festivals showcasing Yogasana sport events since 1993.

Yogasana competitions are part and parcel of the modern Yoga world and various national and international organizations are involved in the development and propagation of the ideals of Yoga Sport. This innovative effort is not however without controversy and hence this article takes a perspective of this unique movement.

Yoga is an art and science that developed from the core of Sanathana Dharma. The Yogic life is the living of a unified holistic concept that assures positive health, happiness, longevity and spiritual evolution. The goals of the Yogi are the sustained struggle against past conditioning, an attempt to control one’s inner environment in order to focus inward. Yoga is isometric, pitting one part of the body against the other and the Yogi strives to be “more perfect today, than he/she was yesterday”. It is practically impossible for classical Yogasanas, Pranayamas and other Yoga practices to harm the practitioner when they are performed in the proper manner.

Though the world of sports and that of Yoga lie on nearly opposite poles, they have a lot to offer one another. They can stimulate, strengthen and benefit the practitioners of either science to a great extent when approached properly and with an understanding of their respective merits and limitations. Yogasana competitions can be an effective link between Yoga and sports. It is now necessary for the practitioners of Yoga and sports to understand the benefits of their close association with one another and create the needed framework in which both can complement each another more effectively. The association between these two sciences can provide humankind with a disciplined, strong, efficient and healthy body and mind for further evolution towards the Divine.

Yoga in its wholistic sense can never be competitive, and there exists no objective measurement by which one person can be declared more yogic than another. Therefore the term “competitive Yoga” is a paradox and has no real meaning. However the proficiency of the Sadhaka can be compared with that of another in the performance of Yogasanas, Kriyas, Mudras, Pranayamas and Shat Karmas.

Yogasana competitions are a ‘fact’ in today’s Yoga world and are mushrooming up in all directions. When conducted efficiently and when the competitors approach them with the right Yogic attitude of ‘Nishkama Karma’, (i.e., selfless action), then Yogasana competitions have a lot to offer. They stimulate the young minds and give them an outlet for their competitive spirit, drive and energy. Youngsters learn to take a ‘win’ with the same equanimity (Samabhava) as a ‘loss’. They learn to accept that on any given day someone else may be better than themselves. They learn to accept the ‘highs’ with the ‘lows’ and realize that proper planning, dedicated and disciplined practice, and enthusiastic participation are more important than the result. The youngsters are stimulated to intense practice and thus develop amazing body skills, which they may not develop otherwise. The Yogic attitude, “If you win, you win and if you lose, you also win because you learn” can be inculcated as a healthy positive life attitude.

Yogasana competitions provide a meeting point for youngsters to meet and interact positively with others having similar interests. Formation of a group of similar minded Yoga Sadhakas can reinforce the individual’s practice whenever it slackens due to any reason. Positive ‘peer pressure’ creates a back up to counter any inertia that may hinder the practitioner in their Sadhana. Due to competition, the Sadhaka is shaken out of the complacency that tends to creep in when the practice of Yoga becomes a habit as monotonous as brushing of teeth in the morning. They make sure they don’t miss their practice and put in extra energy and time to keep in shape. The competitive edge sharpens and focuses the body awareness, thus fostering greater accuracy and perfection that in turn stimulates the real Yogic growth.

Spectators and lay observers at these competitions get stimulated to take up the practice of Yoga and this draws them as well as the participants into a deeper Sadhana. The basic idea of Yoga receives wide general publicity and this can ‘open doors’ for many who are ignorant of this ancient art and science of mind and body. Thus we can see how Yogasana competitions, when put in the framework of competitive sport can restore the competitions to their original purpose, which was to produce a ‘healthy mind in a healthy body’.

To prevent Yogasana Competitions from falling into the trap of other sports, it is important that those in-charge of such competitions must stand firm on moral and ethical issues. Competitors must sign a statement that they are vegetarian, non-smoking, non-drinking and non-drug users. They must have a basic knowledge of Yoga theory and marks should be allotted for Yoga deportment and character. They must be regular practitioners who are attached to either Yogashrams or accredited Yoga groups. When all these considerations are taken into account, then ‘Yoga Sport’ can be a beacon light for other sports in terms of living the Yogic and sporting ideals. Thus Yoga Sport can add as well as benefit from the association with the sporting world and be a proper link between the two worlds of Yoga and sports.

Dr Ananda Balayogi Bhavanani


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