Harrrumph! was one response when I wrote here about my awe at seeing amazing postures during a recent yoga competition. “Can you win at yoga?” the blog YogaDork sniffed when Yoga Lily waxed rhapsodic about October’s 7th Annual New York Regional Yoga Championship.
Yoga Lily would like to go on record as saying that every person who does yoga is a winner. And that “yoga competition” might be a misnomer, more accurately called a posture competition. Yoga is much more than physical skill, to say the least, but the competition is only about physical skill, only about one limb of the magnificent, munificent body of yoga.
In fact, forget yoga for a minute and think of skiing.
The pleasures of skiing lure people to an afternoon’s jaunt on the slopes. They go for a smooth slide on clean snow in fresh air, for the silence of nature’s noises, for the power of speed, for the joy of whoosh and curve. Olympic skiers probably think of none of that when competing, but only of how fast, how efficient, how perfect, how to use and show ultimate physical skill. What’s joy got to do with it?
Likewise, a yoga competition, which Bikram is campaigning for to be included in the international Olympics, is about perfection of the physical aspects of yoga. Enlightenment has nothing to do with it.
And yet, all that striving for a maximum, all that discipline, all that slavish devotion to form, all that builds character, whether it is intentional, as in yoga, or incidental, as in more typically athletic pursuits.
The American inventor Thomas Alva Edison quipped that genius is 99 percent perspiration and 1 percent inspiration. In Bikram yoga, it is easy enough to sweat, thank you. Inspiration is more elusive. But the perfection and commitment I saw at the competition ratified my feeling for the simple beauty of the poses. So while I did not compete at the championship, I walked away with a prize, a very profound, genius prize.