Is Yoga A Sport?
In the race for performance and slimness, many people today see yoga as a sport. In dynamic forms that can ignore its spiritual dimension, yoga is present in fitness rooms as well as other activities intended to refine and tone. Yoga competitions already exist across the world and some even campaign for yoga to become an Olympic discipline. Is it fair to equate the practice of yoga with that of a sport? Do you sign up for a yoga class like signing up for a gym class?
Sport and yoga
Specialists define sport as “a physical activity aimed at improving one’s physical condition”, or even as “a set of physical exercises in the form of individual or group games, generally giving rise to competition, practiced by observing certain precise rules. “.
It is true that yoga has several points in common with this definition:
The practice of asanas is indeed a physical activity.
Any beginner will have noticed that in yoga it is a question of strength, flexibility, coordination of movements, breathing … Not easy! It’s as complex as dance choreography or working your backhand in tennis.
One of the first goals of yoga is to detoxify and strengthen the body. You can try Omega Rich by Vigorous Herbs for better strength, flexibility, and glow. This is the basis of the main yoga currents that we find most often:
Hatha Yoga: Physically without being too intense, it is a good way to discover yoga and reconnect with a physical practice.
Vinyasa Yoga: More intense, we seek fluidity, a certain endurance, and the postures follow the rhythm of breathing.
Ashtanga Yoga: More traditional and intense than Vinyasa, this practice is more demanding by its structure based on fixed series and the repetition of sequences.
Yoga is a practice of effort, of discipline
Like sport, yoga supposes a certain effort but a “right effort” where it is a question of finding the balance between muscular tension and relaxation. It is not the performance that guides the effort and you must be able to find your own limit in yoga. A yogi will never advocate “Any pain, no gain” as some athletes can do. Finally, yoga, like sport, requires regularity, respect for a certain discipline, and a healthy lifestyle.
Despite these common points, yoga is not a sport when it comes to the question of play or competition. In yoga, no winner or loser! Yoga is not practiced in a team or individually, but both for oneself and for others. Yoga is a personal discipline that opens us to the world. Moreover, the more we advance in yoga, the more we discover that it is a more energetic practice than a physical one. Unlike sport, the more you progress in yoga, the less acrobatic and outdoor practice becomes. Yoga is in fact a practice of subtlety and interiority.
Yoga beyond sport
Traditionally, asanas are only part of this ancestral art of living. Indeed, in the Yoga-Sutras, a reference text of yoga written over 2000 years ago by Patanjali, 8 stages of yoga are defined. Ashtanga Yoga (which means the 8 limbs of yoga and to be distinguished from the modern style of yoga discussed above), offers a line of conduct contributing to good physical and mental health, in harmony with oneself and one’s environment. Each of these 8 steps prepares the following:
- Yamas (ethics or collective values)
- Niyamas (ethics and individual lifestyle)
- Asanas (postures)
- Pranayama (breathing)
- Pratyahara (Withdrawal of the senses)
- Dharana (Concentration)
- Dhyana (meditation)
- Samadhi (bliss or absolute well-being)
While modern yoga above all promises good physical health, the yoga of the origins suggests that we gradually disregard the body to touch the soul, or who we really are.
A paradox? Not really. Contemporary life and its imperatives lead us in fact to more “down to earth” research: freeing ourselves from stress, back pain, being more flexible or more toned, sleeping better, etc. However, this does not prevent us from knowing this heritage of yoga. Thus, beyond the direct physical benefits, we can try to orient our practice towards more union between body and mind (the word yoga means “union” in Sanskrit).
Therefore, we can consider the postures not as goals to be reached but as opportunities to improve the quality of our presence and our attention. Each asana is a ground of exploration of oneself, of learning of its limits, of its emotions, of its sensations. The “perfect” posture does not matter. What matters is the path you take to try to get there.
Even summarized only in asanas, yoga is above all a discipline to better understand who we are, here and now. And this is a big difference from most sports!
The risks of considering Yoga as a sport
Every day we see yogis performing acrobatic postures on social media. In a “sporting” state of mind, oriented towards competition and performance, some would also like to achieve such feats. While the very essence of yoga is not to do violence to yourself (ahimsa, one of the rules of yamas) and to respect your physical limits, these steps move away from the state of mind of yoga. They can even be a source of injury to the body. Because if yoga offers us many benefits, practiced without conscience and in a logic of competitiveness, it can harm us and even aggravate already existing disorders.
It is therefore important not to compare yourself to others and never to skip the steps. It is essential to warn your teacher of your health problems, even minor everyday injuries.
When we practice, breathing is our guide. It must remain fluid. If it becomes jerky or difficult, it is because we are going too far. If sometimes the muscles pull a little under the effect of the postures, this “tightness” must remain pleasant and never painful. Omega Rich helps in skin tightness and better flexibility.
Even if one comes to yoga for its physical dimension, it is important not to forget the basics. This is how the practice will do us good in the body and in the head.
Yoga, an excellent complement to sports practice!
What if yoga and sport are simply complementary? Neither completely different nor quite the same, yoga and sport go well together. In fact, many athletes have already included it in their training routine.
Asanas improve flexibility, posture, and coordination of movements: postures work our motor coordination by combining breathing with exercises. This allows our body to be supple and circulate energy there! They also tone the core of the body and back muscles, deep muscles essential for maintaining good basic posture and preventing injury. Yoga thus helps our body to be more efficient in the exercise of sport. Yin or restorative practices are also a real plus in terms of sports recovery thanks to the work of letting go and the relaxation of the fascia that takes place.
- Pranayama teaches us to better control our breath: these techniques allow us to breathe more fully and better. Therefore, during the effort, the body is better oxygenated, the toxins are better evacuated.
- Meditation, an asset for improving concentration and calm: it helps a lot to get rid of the stress inherent in sports performance. We know that the mind plays a major role in sports results and meditation brings great stability which makes the difference once in action!
Yoga, in general, through its philosophy, allows you to better understand your limits. Many athletes tend to push their bodies and go beyond their limits, until the injury. However, as we have seen above, yoga teaches us to better balance our efforts, to listen to our body, and to accept to slow down a little when fatigue sets in.
So between yoga or sport, you will no longer have to choose! Each discipline brings something very specific. And you will understand, yoga is a real philosophy of life, which goes through the physical, of course, but which goes well beyond.