Curious about competitive yoga? A new documentary called “Posture” explores this controversial world and follows three yogis as they compete for the gold at the 2016 USA Yoga Federation National Championship.
The film, by directors Nathan Bender and Daniel Nelson, introduces us to the competitors as they gear up to strike a pose at the 13th annual championship in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. The filmmakers also interview detractors who see the term “yoga competition” as an oxymoron.
“I think competitive yoga is a form of misappropriation if they’re calling it yoga and making it look like they’re really doing yoga and competing,” Breaking India author Rajiv Malhotra says on-camera. Other yogis agree with him, suggesting that the focus on a mere three minutes of asana leaves out the spiritual side of the practice. “The word yoga competition becomes so offensive, because yoga is much more than posturing,” adds New Jersey yoga teacher Loretta Turner.
Even some of the participants seem to struggle with whether or not competitive yoga should even be a thing. “Should the competition even exist? Is it unfair to yoga? That’s such a difficult question,” wonders competitor Heather Palmer Welesko, 31, of New Jersey. “We live in America, we live in a capitalist country and the whole country is competitive, like your whole life is a competition if you choose to look at it that way,” she says. “The competition … for me, I need to do it.”
The documentary also reveals the competition’s former ties to the disgraced Bikram Choudhury, who was heavily involved in the rules and judging until he stepped away from the USA Yoga Federation following allegations of sexual harassment, according to the film.
But despite all the controversy, “Posture” also reveals the very personal reasons why several competitors have chosen to go for the gold. It’s hard not to be inspired by 23-year-old Kira Brazinksi of Wyoming, who gets into a strong Handstand despite having been born without a femur.
So, is competitive yoga a pageant? A sport? A display of a beautiful art form? Or all of the above? It’s worth checking out “Posture” and deciding for yourself.