Yoga competitions. Who knew? I can guarantee they’re not as soft as you think they might be either. This month’s OM Yoga Magazine has opened me up to the world of competitive yoga, and it sounds amazing.
With five compulsory moves (including standing head to knee, standing bow pulling, floor bow, rabbit and stretching) plus two optional advanced postures (some popular options are one-arm peacock, scorpion, and full standing bow), competitions are a seriously challenging three minute presentation of balance, strength, flexibility and focus.
So just where did these competitions start?
This month sees the 11th World Yoga Sports Championship in London, being held outside of the US for the first time. The UK’s top yoga athletes (or yogathletes as I will now refer to them!) fought it out for the top spots in the national competition in February.
Starting out with just a handful of teachers running competitions in private studios with their students, competitive yoga has now grown to 26 countries with thousands of spectators and athletes worldwide.
How does it work?
The IYSF (International Yoga Sports Federation) encourage any styles of yoga to be practiced in the competition, and the postures, or asanas, are judged for their technical merit. The moves can be very advanced, with scenes like the below being seen in the athlete’s optional advanced postures.
The judges look for balance, strength, flexibility, well-paced timing and calm breathing during each competitor’s three minute routine. Marks are awarded accordingly, and can be deducted if an athlete falls out of a posture, shows signs of forced breathing, lacks proper alignment, or shows instability in a posture.
And what about training?
Yogathletes train for hours a day, working on developing flexibility with stretching, building strength through handstands and other challenging postures, and practicing their optional advanced postures as well as the compulsory ones.
And attending classes isn’t always enough, most competitors will have a dedicated coach who can give feedback on corrections to alignment and breathing etc.
So, Competitive Yoga… could it be the next Olympic Sport?
Find out more about competitive yoga, including some of the UK’s own previous champions, and tips for how to coach yourself if you’re considering entering, in the May edition of OM Yoga Magazine, available to download now here.
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