The notion of yoga competition is universally mocked by serious practitioners. As I wrote in my prior post, “Olympic fever,” asana is only one aspect of yoga, not the goal. It cannot be judged by a one-time performance.
That said, I have a confession to make. Asana is key to my yoga practice, so I choose my teachers partly by their asana ability. I say “partly,” but I admit that it’s an important part. In a way, I am judging them by the very thing I’ve claimed cannot be judged.
But what the point of studying with a sloppy teacher? I’m a visual person, and I learn by example. It’s invaluable to observe someone enter, exit, and hold poses with clean form. The best teachers seem to “fill” their poses with both energy and ease: always elongated and open, but without working too hard or rigidly.
(Case in point: See image above. Would you prefer to study with Mr Pretzel or Mr Iyengar, based on their form in natarajasana?)
That said, there are exceptions. A senior teacher might, due to age, be losing strength or flexibility, but be a rare expert on pranayama or philosophy. Another might be healing an injury and unable to demonstrate asanas, but still be brilliant at teaching by words.
While my focus is Iyengar yoga with a chosen teacher, I’m an avid experimenter in yoga, dropping in on classes whenever I travel or even in my home city. I can enjoy a class despite a teacher’s so-so form: She might introduce an excellent sequence or novel interpretation of a pose. She might have a pleasant voice or simply be humorous or charming. I’m not saying that asana quality is everything. But, for my chosen teachers, I do judge: on form and movement and “overall impression.”