Yoga in the Olympics, just how close are we?


by Barbora Simek

Over the last week, a CNN iReport about adding yoga to the 2012 Olympic roster has set Bikram Yogis on Facebook a-buzz. OMB got to work to find out more about the feasibility of adding yoga asana championships to the Olympic roster.

In order for yoga to become an Olympic sport, the following criteria must be met:

Brandy Winfeld 2010 Ghosh Cup Champion. Photo: Mike McInnis

  • It must be recognized
  • Must be practiced widely throughout the world.
  • Must meet criteria set by the International Olympic Committee
  • It must be subject to an International Federation which will oversee all activities and make sure the follow the Olympic Charter (adhering to and promoting Olympic spirit, governing over eligibility and regulation, venue selection)
  • It must have active Federations in 50 Countries

If these criteria are met, the sport must be recommended by the IOC’s Olympic Programme Commission. The sport is then subject to a vote, which it must pass in order to gain full status.

While more work needs to be done, yoga is inching closer and closer to achieving Olympic status. Around the world Yoga Federations are being established. According to the New York Times, Rajishree Choudhury has sat up two non-profit organizations, the United States Yoga Federation and the World Yoga Foundation. A source has told OMB that Canada is being urged by Bikram Choudhury to set up a Canadian Yoga Federation next.

According to Bikram’s interview with CNN’s iReport, 40 countries participated in this year’s International Bishnu Charan Gosh Hatha Yoga Championship on February 10th. That is up 25 countries since last years Ghosh Cup Championships. With this kind of growth Bikram said his goal is to get yoga into the next Olympic games (Summer 2012).

But guidelines set by the Olympic Programme Committee may put Bikram’s dreams on hold. The IOC requires that any sport being included to the Olympic games be added to the roster no later than three years before the next Olympic Games. According to the IOC, this regulation can only be waived with the approval of the correct International Federations, OCOG and the competent organ of the IOC. The New York Times reported in November 2009 that the event rosters for both the 2012 and 2016 games have been closed and only one undesignated spot remains open for the 2020 games.

Given 49 Yoga Federations still need to be established world-wide and ten countries must be added to the list of participating nations, a 2020 deadline may be more feasible than 2012.

Sources: Olympic Programme Commistion, CNN iReport, Olympic Charter

2 Comments

Filed under News, Yoga Competition

2 responses to “Yoga in the Olympics, just how close are we?

  1. Chris

    Don’t get me wrong, I love Bikram yoga and have been practicing for 4 years. I attended the advanced seminar in Palm Springs and loved it too. It was so great to be exposed to the rest of the series. That said, I don’t believe Bikram yoga should be in the Olympics, and it’s not because of the “yoga-championship” oxymoron.

    I myself see Bikram as a sport. However, I find it too limited to be accepted as an Olympic one. When you think of it, Olympic performances are either measured (speed, distance, height, points scored) or judged (skill, execution, difficulty, innovation and artistic merit). Obviously, Bikram would fall in the latter category. Though guidelines and difficulty levels could be assigned to each posture (though even that would be a challenge, because postures I find easy peasy are unthinkable to others and visa versa) there isn’t any place for innovation. Once one masters all 84, and it seems that many do, where do they go from there? There is no artistic element beyond posture choice and poise.

    Without taking anything away from Bikram, I just don’t think it’s an appropriate candidate for the Olympics. This, from someone for whom Bikram is the only sport/physical activity that has managed to retain her attention for more than a year, and continues to be her yoga of choice. It just doesn’t make sense to me.

  2. sophie Bekkering

    Please give us more posts! =)

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