Yoga: An Olympic Sport?
USA Yoga is looking to bring the practice to the Olympics.
The practice of yoga is commonly known as stress-relieving and harmonious.
Now, the current debate on qualifying yoga as a competitive Olympic sport is anything but.
On its website, USA Yoga states that it “believes that the sport of Yoga Asana will inspire many of these [25 million] practitioners to improve their practices and encourage many newcomers to take up the practice of yoga and the sport of Yoga Asana.”
Eddie Garner, co-owner of Bikram Yoga Baltimore, which has locations in Cockeysville and Harbor East, agrees.
“Having yoga in the Olympics would inspire more people to take better care of themselves,” Garner said. “The physical benefits are measureable—you’re leaner, have more stamina—but even more important than the weight loss is the mental clarity.”
With a recent Men’s Health article naming Baltimore as the second-angriest city in America, Garner is quick to point out that “this city needs yoga more than anything.”
Garner, a former opera singer, discovered Bikram Yoga while pursuing singing jobs in New York City. He and his wife Emily, a co-owner at Bikram Yoga Baltimore, quickly fell in love with the practice.
Emily, a former ballerina, was impressed by yoga’s healing impact on her body, strained from years of dancing.
Eddie Garner said establishing yoga as an Olympic sport could help spread awareness of its physical and mental benefits.
“One of the greatest things about having yoga in the Olympics is to expose people to this kind of exercise,” he said. “You do this for the body, not the vanity.”
However, the Olympic movement is not without its dissenters.
Diane Finlayson, owner and director of yama studio (Yoga, Ayurveda & Meditation Arts) in North Baltimore, states “yoga is actually not a sport, so it doesn't belong in the Olympics.”
Finlayson has practiced yoga for 37 years and has been training yoga instructors for the past decade. In addition, she holds a master of liberal arts from Johns Hopkins University for her thesis on "Ayurveda in America." Ayureveda, traditional Indian medicine, is considered a sister science to yoga, Finlayson said.
"Yoga asana, or posture, is one step of an eightfold path of practice,” Finlayson said. “The focus on extreme postures is not yogic. It misses the point.”