Like yoga itself, yoga competition originated in India (according to the USA Yoga Federation, there have been asana championships in India for 2000 years) and are common (daily, according to the same source). While frequency does not make something right, it does relieve the competition from the burden of being, "Western," a word spit with spite from many yogis mouths. Many have nurtured an opinion that all Western thought is egocentric, while all concepts generated from Indian Gurus are sacred and the path to enlightenment. In the words of my dear friend and teacher, Aura, "Not all things in India are beautiful."*
With the misinformation out of the way, I challenge you to look not at the words' juxtaposition, but only at competition itself. I believe it is actually this word that makes people's skin crawl.
|Let me use an internet meme to illustrate.|
The word, "competition" is derived from the Latin word, "competere," meaning "to strive in common." You band with other yogis to strive together, to support each other, to rejoice in growth, to bitch about how much your buttocks hurts.
There is a goal, certainly, and some people will come closer to reaching that goal than others. But everyone competing benefits. Winning itself is not the goal, merely to attain the closest proximity to perfection one can. Which, for me, is about like standing on a piece of paper to get to the moon. I do try to stack my little pieces of paper with each competition though.
If you are questioning why would I do that knowing I will forever be so far from the goal, your focus is in the wrong place. It's not the winning, it's the striving that matters. For three months (6 months this year due to a schedule fluke) I dedicate myself as intensively as I can to my practice. For those months coaches and friends form a 360 degree support net for me. It takes a lot of dedication, a level of dedication I can not commit to year round. The training becomes a bit like a meditation retreat, or a detox program -- sometimes those are part of training.
This support system is essential because there are so many days you just don't feel strong enough. Sometimes it's emotional, sometimes it's physical, sometimes you just have a case of the fuckits. For the days you just can't bring yourself to do backbends you have a friend willing to be strong for you…or just guilt you into it. You have a coach willing to say when you've gone too far, or when you haven't gone far enough. You allow your postures and mind to be open to intense scrutiny in the interest of becoming a better yogi.
So why not do all the work without a 'competition?'
The final 3 minute demonstration offers closure at the end of an intense period of change. A culmination of all the emotional, spiritual and physical growth you have worked for. A time for you to acknowledge your hard work and give thanks to your support system, and yourself, for all that work. It is a beautiful release and intensely emotional. So intense, in fact, that I usually end up getting a wee snookered with my support system afterwards. I mean let's be honest, improved, yes, perfect, no.
* She made this very pertinent remark after we both watched a documentary on pilgrimages in India. A man had left his family to reside with a guru. I was horrified, in that society the man essentially left his family to starve. She was pointing out the beauty of belief.
PS All that being said, much to my surprise, I managed to place this year (don't ask how I pulled that off, I'm in shock myself) and am going to compete in New York in a month. I am snowboarding in MT next week but will post all my adventures as they happen when I get back. I get to train with Mary Jarvis and a bunch of yogis I have total ga-ga eyes for, like Allan and Gianna and Zeb. I'm calling that week of training, "MJ and the All-Stars (+Kate)!" If they're cool with it, I'm going to blog about my experience with them.