People performing yoga marking on International Yoga Day at Lodhi Gardens in New Delhi.(Sanchit Khanna/HT File Photo)
People performing yoga marking on International Yoga Day at Lodhi Gardens in New Delhi.(Sanchit Khanna/HT File Photo)

Global push: Centre recognises yoga as competitive sport

The ministries of Ayush and sports have worked in collaboration towards making it happen with the aim of spreading awareness about yoga, the benefits it offers and the discipline’s spiritual background among the young.
Hindustan Times, New Delhi | By Rhythma Kaul
UPDATED ON DEC 18, 2020 03:24 AM IST

The government on Thursday offered official recognition to yoga as a competitive sport, preparing the ground for the ancient discipline’s inclusion in national, state and university level championships organised in the country.

Yoga sporting leagues on the lines of the Indian Super League, which is the professional football league, may also be introduced as part of an effort to boost yoga’s popularity. The government’s ultimate aim is to push for yogasana to be made a part of the Olympic Games.

The ministries of Ayush and sports have worked in collaboration towards making it happen with the aim of spreading awareness about yoga, the benefits it offers and the discipline’s spiritual background among the young. The ministries are also working together to ensure yogasana is recognised as a competitive sport globally.

“Now that yogasana has been formally declared a competitive sport by the government, it will be made a part of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Khelo India initiative that will ensure states will work towards organizing sports events including for yogasana in an organized manner, like it happens for other sports,” said Kiren Rijiju, minister of state for youth affairs and sports.

“Yoga has already been popular enough so the next step was to recognize it as a competitive sport. The ultimate goal is to make it a part of the Olympic Games. To begin with, a pilot national-level traditional yogasana championship has been proposed in February next year, and later in the year there is a plan to conduct a World Yogasana championship that India will host,” the sports minister added.

India also recently established the National Yogasana Sport Federation of India (NYSFI) for the development of yoga as a competitive sport.

Extensive consultations over the past 3-4 years preceded the official recognition of yoga as a competitive sport.

“The necessary work on this initiative has been going on for long, and this year in August NYSFI was established for the purpose on the lines of other sports federations active in the country under the ministry of sports. In November this year, the sports ministry also formally recognized the federation,” said Vaidya Rajesh Kotecha, secretary, Ayush ministry.

Rijiju explained that like other federations, NYSFI will also now be eligible for financial assistance from the sports ministry.

“Now that Yogasana has been formally declared a sport, its federation, like other national sports federations, will also get financial assistance from the sports ministry for preparing their annual training and calendar that will have an idea on what all they plan to organize during the coming calendar year. We want to produce quality athletes performing yogasanas,” he said.

An exhaustive document containing rules and regulations and syllabus for the yogasana competitions has been prepared by experts in the field. The technical committee has also made a detailed list of asanas, both compulsory and optional, from traditional yoga literature.

About 51 medals are being proposed in four events and seven categories for the events to be conducted at sub-junior, junior and senior level for both men and women. The events include traditional yogasana, artistic yogasana, rhythmic yogasana, free flow (group) yogasana, and individual all round championship and team championship.

Experts are coming up with an information technology-enabled, automation scoring system for these competitions for marking participants objectively.

The government will also be training and certifying coaches, referees, judges and directors of these competitions. The Sports Association of India is trying to recruit such personnel largely from the pool of former and retired sportspersons in India.

“Training of athletes is one thing but we will also be training the technical team which is equally important. Sports Authority of India is trying to recruit more retired Indian sportspersons for the purpose of coaching,” said Rijiju.

Naik said thatmission was to create athletes, and eventually achieve Olympic success.

Dr Ishwar Basavaraddi, director of the Morarji Desai National Institute of Yoga, said: “Yogasana involves rigorous training and the postures are quite elaborate that need to be performed with the right technique. Many people, especially youngsters, are likely to come forward to participate now that it has been officially declared a sport, especially those from villages. It is a good way to promote yogasana.”

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