by Akiva at Mystical Paths
(An ongoing story of the hand of heaven directing us and giving us a chance. A multi-part series and a true story.)
Part 1 here, Part 2 here, Part 3 here.
Dear Mr. M:
We have a new section entitled Head to Head where people write in with their complaints or questions and then a rabbi or other authority replies. You will see it IYH in the forthcoming Purim issue. We would like to use this for that section. We're sending you the response of the Double Special Extra Kosher Yoga program.
Would you like to amend your letter in view of what they wrote, or should we leave it as is? Also, I think if you are quoting an expert, you should give his name. I am open to hearing your thoughts and opinions on the new section, etc.
Ok, this is getting interesting. Sounds like they're going to publish it, great...
From: Double Special Extra Kosher Yoga
In response to the complaint letter about yoga...yoga means "to unite" and is the common word used for focus. It carries a Sanskrit name because it comes from India. In Hebrew, yoga means "to reach" as in "yegia kapecha" in Tehillim. This is what our program is, to reach into your potential. Yoga would be as treif as karate, Kung Fu, Tai Chi and other forms of body movement called by these Oriental words.
I'm sending a message to those who practice yoga that what I'm offering is a kosher system of movement and meditation. According to two American statistics over 3 million Jews practice yoga in the USA. How do we get to them if we do not speak in their language?
Clearly, the Rabbi must be told exactly what I am doing, what it's about and who is it for.
These 4 rabbis (names ommitted) among others saw the entire yoga project, including the photos, texts, explanations etc.. and gave me their bracha.
By the way, you can tell the Rabbi that when the (noted Ultra Orthodox authority) wrote about developing a kosher way to yoga, he used the word yoga.
I look forward to your response to this email, since it is very important that the purpose of this project be understood.
Ok, the program seems to make some powerful points. Maybe I have no clue what I'm talking about. I consult again with my expert, who confirms that while this sounds good, it's just unrealistic. So, per the editor's request, I update my letter in preparation for publication, focusing on whether this is something that can be made kosher...
Here's an updated letter as requested for the Head to Head column...
Having seen an advertisement in the Magazine for Yoga and seen mention of such classes in local synagogues, I queried an orthodox Jewish world expert on Indian / Hindu religious practices (Reb ..., a former Hindu master guru of the highest level and author of ...) to determine if yoga, a traditional Indian practice associated with the Hindu religion, could indeed be kashered. Here is the information I received...
"There is no such thing as "kosher yoga" anymore than is there kosher xian love -- yoga is a branch of hinduism which is idolatry. There are several types of yoga, the yoga they (the ad) are talking about is posture related yoga. It is not that the postures themselves that are idolatry but the names and intentions certainly are. Even when the only Hindu is the word yoga itself, it leads people to go on into those books that do teach the actual idolatry!
For instance, even in "kosher yoga" classes they will teach a popular posture that feels very good on your back called "salutation to the sun"!!! This is simply doing the ancient idolatry of worshiping the sun! There are many many other things that can sneak into "kosher yoga", such as treif mantras and kavanas, and powers. This is a real concern and whoever is teaching it should clean every mention of yoga and hindu words out out his practice including disposing of the books that he/she has explaining the postures.
Even the Hindu names are often named after their gods! If you google "kosher yoga" you will see outright idolatry being taught as kosher."
There are many quiet stories of the Lubavitcher Rebbe sending shluchim to attempt to find _neutral_ versions of popular eastern practices, especially eastern meditation, as a way of providing a path out for those involved in such avodah zara. None of the stories end in success, nor has Chabad ever offered classes in this area (Eastern alternative practices). Note I said neutral, not kosher.
Exercise and having a strong body are very positive things. If classes being offered are merely "yoga-like" in offering exercise and positional forms for body stretching and health, then perhaps there is no worry. But positional meditation has never been a part of Judaism and clearly has a strong history within avodah zarah.
The yetzer hara does not come to the orthodox community and say 'eat treif'. One involved with such practices would be strongly advised to check with _expert rabbonim in such matters_ to verify that a particular program selected for the public or for personal use in this problematic area is strictly kosher lemehadrin.
The magazine's reply to this was quite unexpected (given what they had said so far)...
Posted at Mystical Paths. Read it elsewhere? Stop by the source.
BS"D - בסיעתא דשמיא