In my last post, I alluded to the Lubavitcher Rebbe sending people on missions to find alternatives to Eastern practices. Below is a letter published in Nshei Chabad magazine on the topic of yoga and meditation, what the Rebbe had to say about such, a story which I heard from the source...
by Chabad Shlucha Chaya Kaye of Sydney, Australia
Since my mother A"H ("Mrs. Hasofer of Australia," as referred to on page 14 of the Nshei Chabad 2007 Shvat issue) was misrepresented and misquoted in the last N'shei newsletter in (Double Extra Special Kosher Yoga's) response to Akiva's letter which I found to be quite accurate, I feel the necessity to write to you to make known what the Rebbe told my mother A"H, as printed in her booklet on meditation.
The booklet itself among other things, explains how to carry out non-idolatrous meditation and therefore the booklet has not been available for the broad public but has only been given out on an individual basis to help people who are involved in high levels of non-Jewish forms of meditation, to be able to change to a Kosher i.e. non-idolatrous form of meditation.
In 1979, the Rebbe had a yechidus (a private meeting) with my parents, which lasted over an hour and he sent my mother around the world to find a non-idolatrous meditation which she subsequently found and which can lead to high levels of deep meditation.
I can only quote from the Yechidus the Rebbe gave my mother, which she printed in her booklet, "Dialogue With Atara" (Atara H.Y. Hasofer):
Excerpt from the booklet: "The only meditation that is enjoined to all Jews is that which is part of G-d's service, prayer . The Code of Jewish Law states that before each prayer one must meditate `on the Greatness of G-d and the humble state of man' (Shulchan Oruch, Orach Chayim Chap. 98 Paragraph 1). This meditation is done with a fixed intent and at a fixed time. Its goal is to enhance the quality of one's prayer, not to calm one's nerves."
"Other types of meditation should only be used by those who need them for therapeutic reasons. A healthy orthodox Jew does not need meditation to attain tranquility. On the contrary, if he begins to meditate, he may hurt himself psychologically."
"Meditation shares a parallel with other therapies. They are only valuable when needed and used in the necessary amount. They can be detrimental to health if taken in excessive doses, and when they are not needed".
"The above are excerpts from a talk given by Rabbi M. M. Schneerson, the Lubavitcher Rebbe, in 1979. Rabbi Schneerson is the spiritual leader of Judaism in this generation, and his words are therefore a definitive formulation of the Jewish point of view on meditation. No one could express this view with greater authority than him."
To clarify some other issues, my mother, Atara Hasofer, A"H, was not a yoga teacher. She was not involved in yoga and to her experienced understanding yoga is based on idolatry and she did not recommend any type of yoga because anyone who would want to get more involved in it than just plain exercise, and want to reach higher levels would be getting involved with Avoda Zoro, as the higher levels are idolatrous by nature.
I can't comment on what the Rebbe wrote personally to other people about "Kosher Yoga" and maybe, like meditation, there is a place for it to help people who are already involved in idolatrous yoga - to make the switch, but I also don't think that it is something for us to recommend for chassidishe women, Chabad Shluchos, and chassidishe maidlach.
In addition, Rabbi Groner (one of the Lubavitcher Rebbe's secretary) was quoted as saying "[You have] blessings for strength and growth from the Rebbe to develop the kosher way." However, he was not talking about yoga either. At the time Rabbi Yehudah Landes was also searching for a non-idolatrous form of meditation.
I personally recently heard about a frum woman with a frum family who began going to yoga classes to help her stress. She started slowly getting more and more involved till it became the main focus in her life until now she is unable to reconcile yoga with Yiddishkeit and has problems keeping mitzvos!
BS"D - בסיעתא דשמיא