28 JANUARY 2019
Broga Master Trainer, Dylan Salamon, competing at World Championships of Yoga Sports 2018 in Beijing
Should yoga be competitive? Should we push our bodies to change more rapidly?
To the majority of the yoga population, competition is seen as a very taboo subject. However, last December, I competed in the World Championships of Yoga Sports, coming 23rd in the Adult Male Category.
To this community of yogi’s (predominantly from a Bikram background), competition is a healthy and incredible endeavour. Group of incredibly dedicated human beings, pursuing their passion, testing the limits of their bodies and mind, while supporting each other and adoring the experience. Every competitor, ranging from 11 years old to those well beyond their 70’s, have spent at least the last two years training and qualifying for the championships, and this is the pinnacle.
Through the best part of the last two centuries, yoga has cultivated a train of thought that competition is the enemy, that you should never push your body beyond its means and that what these yogi’s are doing, is wrong. However, history, tradition and their drive to compete would dictate otherwise.
We must remember that this is an Asana competition, meaning that it only judges the physical postures (it would be fairly impossible to judge a competition based around the other limbs of yoga: meditation? how you treat others?)
Yoga asana competitions have been held for centuries in India, in local villages and beyond. Even the esteemed guru, BKS Iyengar, approved of competition.
And the individuals, who had travelled to Beijing to compete, definitely approved of what is going on. Coming individually, with national teams or with their families, the atmosphere and camaraderie is incredible at these competitions. There are no bitter rivals, but people who have trained together across the world, help retreats together, and beard their souls on the mat next to each other. While there are some phenomenal specimens, who know they will be pushing for the top spots, others are simply there to be inspired.
I fall firmly into the category of those who were there to be inspired. Before this moment, I had competed in two UKYSF National competitions and the European Cup, in Prague 2017 (This is how I qualified for Beijing. Representing the land of my father, the mighty Hungary!). I weigh more than 100kg, spent most of my life playing rugby, still currently compete in CrossFit, and while I may be flexible for a big guy… I couldn’t dream of winning this competition. But that isn’t the point for me.
I started seriously practicing yoga seriously in 2016, because I found it helped my mental state after finding out that my father had fallen ill. The fact that it helped with my bodies aches and pains were just an added bonus at this point. Quickly, the yoga community brought me in and changed my life forever. By some stroke of fate, I met a teacher named Ky Ha, who brought me to Advanced Bikram, and my eyes were opened to a world of stupidly flexible and mobile humans; performing every possible variation of the splits, lotus and handstand, while continuing a calm conversation. These are almost all yoga competitors. Ky himself is a previous world champion and now teacher of champions (one of the students in that class was Almania Colombo, who would go on to win her second straight title in Beijing).
In any other sport, these people shouldn’t be training together daily? They shouldn’t be best friends, or stay at each others houses when they travel the world? But in competitive yoga, they are just that. Over the 18 or so months that I trained with them, my body has changed beyond my wildest dreams, and that is because of this community, that is willing to help every step of the way.
Fastforward to the two days of competition. I did not compete to win or to laud over my peers. I compete to know how far I have come, reflect on the work that I have done, and to strive for more. Increasing my bodies mobility has left me injury free for the first time in years, it means i can practice yoga without discomfort and I can begin to move towards some formerly unachievable poses. With yoga being the practice that helps with my anxieties and dealing with loss, why wouldn’t I want to LOVE doing it?
And simply being around the other competitors, was awe inspiring. Myself and the best of the rest have the chance to be inspired and be cheered on, as we tried our very best. And this is an incredible thing. I came 23rd out of 27 male adults and am currently considering having this achievement printed on a T-shirt. It is a moment of pride that I’m not sure I would have found anywhere else.
Competition is not for everyone, but nobody should ever be deterred. As with Sunday league football or local CrossFit competitions, I would love to see yoga competitions appear everywhere! The more mainstream they become, the more people would be able to benefit as I have, mentally, physically and spiritually.