Hindus are critical of turning yoga into a competitive sport as “2013 Australian National Yoga Asana Championship” was held at Melbourne on February 10, and find the idea “particularly unsettling”.
Distinguished Hindu statesman Rajan Zed, in a statement in Nevada (USA) today, said that yoga, a reportedly pre-Indus Valley civilization practice, was a mental and physical discipline, a code of ascetic practices, and a feature of contemplation in Hinduism. Believed to be founded by Yajnavalkya and codified later by Patanjali in Yoga-sutra, it was an integral part of Hinduism.
Zed, who is President of Universal Society of Hinduism, argued that idea of yoga as a competitive sport was contradictory to the basic core of yoga, and smelled of mercantile greed in a consumerist society. It gave the appearance of contortionists at a circus focused on winning trophies. Pushing this spiritual and inward-looking practice with long held traditions for competition and making it a public performance was distortion of its originally intended idea and plainly just “missing the point”. Let us please leave the sacred in yoga intact and protect it from push culture, Zed stressed.
Rajan Zed pointed out that ‘yoga’, which had come to mean in the West as ‘modern postural yoga’, was actually a mental and physical discipline by means of which the human soul united with universal soul.
Zed noted that asanas (postures and exercises), which found references back to the Upanishads, were for the purpose of meditation. The body had to be kept in suitable posture so that seeker could meditate with straight spine, and with stomach and lungs not restricted; like Padmasana.
Rajan Zed further said that even hatha yoga, with its postures and exercises, prescribed eight stages: yama, niyama, asana, pranayama, pratyahara, dharana, dhyana and samadhi. The highest form of yoga, sometimes referred as raja-adhiraja-yoga, was said to free our minds from fear, lust, melancholy, anger, jealousy and greed.
Zed stated that even Oxford Concise Dictionary of World Religions defined yoga as: The means or techniques for transforming consciousness and attaining liberation…through yoga it (mind) can be focused, one pointedness developed, and higher states of consciousness experienced…Patanjali states the goal of yoga to be quite simply the ‘cessation of mental fluctuation’ which results in higher levels of consciousness or absorptions and the purification of the self.