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The next Olympic sport: competitive yoga?

Let go of stress. Listen to your own body. Settle into a posture – don't force it.

To anyone who's ever tried yoga, these are familiar instructions. The meditative aspect of yoga makes the activity pretty much antithetical to any competitive athletic pursuit.

That's why the notion of proposing yoga as an Olympic sport is raising plenty of eyebrows.

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USA Yoga, which is holding a National Yoga Asana Championship in New York this week, is aiming to introduce yoga to the Olympics.

"USA Yoga's goal is to join with similar organizations in other countries to form an international yoga federation and to qualify Yoga Asana as an Olympic sport," the organization's website states.

According to the Associated Press, yoga asana, or posture, is all about making sure one's knees aren't locked, wrists are straight and other body parts are in proper alignment.

"I'm not trying to measure anybody's 'eight states,'" USA Yoga founder Rajashree Choudhury told the news agency. "The posture can be competitive."

At the championship, competitors are required to perform five compulsory poses, including a standing head-to-knee pose and a bow pose, plus two other poses of their choice, within three minutes. They're then marked on their strength, balance and flexibility.

Competitive yoga is hardly a new phenomenon. (Beyond official competitions, it can also be tempting to compare what you're doing in yoga class against the person beside you.) Nor is it new to propose dubious sports for Olympic recognition. (Pole dancing? Kite flying? Disc golf, anyone?)

But due to the meditative, non-competitive nature of yoga, some find the idea of bringing it to the Olympics particularly unsettling.

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"The roots of yoga are based in acceptance and non-violence and compassion toward self and others," Montreal yoga enthusiast Roseanne Harvey told the Associated Press, noting that an emphasis on achieving perfection in the practice "can deflate people, it can intimidate people from wanting to try it."

Responding to detractors of competitive yoga, Ms. Choudhury replied: "Yoga teaches people to be non-judgmental."

Is yoga worthy of being in the Olympics? Would you watch it?

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About the Author

Wency Leung is a general assignment reporter for the Life section. Before joining The Globe in early 2010, she has worked as a reporter in Vancouver, Prague, and Phnom Penh. More

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