Monday, October 15, 2007

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Yoga Redux

by Akiva at Mystical Paths

Once again, purveyors of Double Extra Kosher (with triple chechsher) YOGA and/or excited supports/users of such programs (no particular program is targeted by this comment) have come to tell us that literal avodah zorah, idol worship practices, are kosher (because it's double extra kosher and has a triple chechsher).

This time around, they do so by using letters of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, who put forth considerable effort in the 60's and 70's, to find options for those who became heavily involved in eastern meditative practices and religious practices for them to gradually move from these practices into kosher directions.

They use these statements to say this is totally kosher and beneficial, so lets all go out and jump right in. But they fail to read the letter, and fail to note the many limitations the Rebbe placed in it...

To the Author of the Article:

Please read the details of the letter from the Rebbe again. You wrote, "The Rebbe's view articulated in the memo was that, after culling the suitable elements from the improper, the benefits should be utilized." I believe you missed important points from the Rebbe's letter:

1. The Rebbe wrote, "have a therapeutic value, particularly in the area of relieving mental stress. It follows that if these therapeutic methods – ... – would be adopted by doctors specializing in the field of mental illness" -- This indicates it's for those _suffering_ from _mental stress_, who are in need of "therapeutic value" and specifically focuses on doctors involved with mental illness!

2. The Rebbe wrote, "insofar as they are utterly devoid of any ritual implications"

Forgive me, my friend, but are you a qualified expert in eastern religious practices to certify that a particular yoga program being presented as 'kosher' is indeed thoroughly cleansed and "UTTERLY DEVOID of any ritual implications"? Please consider that yoga classes are now a common thing among the women of Crown Heights, and are being marketed via some Chabad houses (and not just the particular 'kosher' program you refer to, Hashem Yerachem!). The majority of people involved are neither overly stressed nor mentally ill. They were never previously involved with yoga and now selecting a more kosher version. No, they are actively becoming involved in yoga, because it's being presented as kosher.

It's hard enough to take the kedushah out of the kelipa noga, but here it's necessary to extract the kedushah from practices that are completely intertwined with avodah zarah. It may be appropriate to take such a risk for people who are mentally ill, overly stressed, and those already involved with more avodah zarah-ish yoga (giving them a more cleansed version). But to present it as globally kosher to the klal is of great concern.

Please consider these thoughts.
Akiva of the Mystical Paths Blog -

Reb Gutman Locks, a frequent contributor here who has a significant historical background and expertise in eastern practices, has this to say in response to the same article:

The Rebbe clearly said after culling the suitable elements from the improper, the benefits should be utilized.

THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS KOSHER YOGA. You should be ashamed that you even wrote this. Yoga is idolatry. There is no way to get around this. You have presented this false teaching as being ok and it is not. This is not the Rebbe's perspective!

There is no way to kasher yoga. It is not only tainted with idolatry, it is idolatry. There are those that would like to say this has the Rebbe's blessings, and it does not. The Rebbe said to take out of the meditation teachings what is proper and YOGA IS NOT PROPER.

The author should write an immediate follow up letter and straighten out this mess. We fought a battle to get Yoga out of an orthodox Jewish women's magazine, and here you are putting it back in!

The Rebbe wrote, "It follows that if these therapeutic methods – insofar as they are utterly devoid of any ritual implications – would be adopted by doctors specializing in the field of mental illness, it would have two-pronged salutary effect"

The name yoga and its practice is not irrelevant to religious worship. (As you pointed out in your letter) These people are not mental health doctors and their practices (and yoga programs) are not devoid of ritual implications. (Which is the whole problem!)

The Rebbe wrote, "It would, therefore, be very wrong to deny such treatment to those who need it, when it could be given by a practicing doctor."

These yoga teachers are not practicing doctors. They are teaching yoga! And people who learn yoga from them also buy yoga books with idols all over them and go on to take on many other yoga practices and even the philosophy (Read; religious precepts) of yoga!

Clearly, the Rebbe did not say to teach yoga. He said, not to teach such things that are associated with idolatry, which yoga is.


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