Sunday, February 07, 2010


Beating the Dead Yoga Horse

by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths

Oy dear friends, sometimes the battle seems endless. Yet, we do what we can and trust Hashem to help...

A Noachide reader, who is Indian in Asia wrote (edited)...

I wrote to regarding their current article (saying Yoga is ok), questioning from my background how they could say this. "Please tell me if yoga is kosher and whether the Rebbe
supported it. As an Indian I know it is based on Hindu deities.

I received this reply...

"I see no reason not to use yoga techniques for relaxation and health. When it becomes a spiritual path for Jew, then something is very wrong. --Rabbi Tzvi Freeman"

Rabbi Freeman may see no reason, but we do. Later this week (or next), we will present multiple statements from the Rebbe that it is prohibited. FURTHER, EVERY yoga system (including the supposed kosher models) discusses "energy", "focus", and "meditation". They are NEVER just about stretch and posture.

Let's speak of posture for the moment. In our last article we presented a picture of Mr. Audi Gozlan from Kabbalah Yoga, sitting in Chabad clothes in the classic yoga sitting position, with arms outstretch, hands curled and thumb and forefinger in a circle.

Reb Gutman will be presenting a detailed article on this specific point later this week (G-d willing). But let me state it in brief... Reb Gutman heard _direct_ from a senior Hindu guru (a supposed reincarnation of a Hindu deity!) that there is a specific Hindu religious reason for holding one's hands in that thumb-to-forefinger(s) circular position.

Any time you see ANYONE in a seated yoga posture with their hands in that position, they are practicing a Hindu spiritual energy direction technique. Straight clear direct AVODA ZARAH.

Moments before I wrote those, a commentor "Chassidic Yogi" (kind of like oilwater) wrote, "Shemor Nafshecha (safeguard your physical health) (Torah) ...WHEN THE MIND BECOMES...IT WILL ...GO BEYOND THE NORMAL MUNDANE AWARENESS INTO THE STATE REFERRED TO AS MEDITATION...When you meditate, it is best to be facing ... take advantage of the magnetic currents of the earth...STRAIGHT...ALLOWS THE ENERGY TO MOVE UP THE...TRIANGULAR...HELP TO CONTAIN THE ENERGY."

NOT JUDAISM. NOT TORAH. NOT KOSHER No question. Yes, there is wisdom in the East - but it's NOT our path. Just to be clear, this commentor was describing HOW different Yoga positions should be used to manipulate spiritual mind-body energy.

Anyone think pulling energy out of the earth and/or manipulating it through the body, and using it to push the mind into different consciousnesses is Jewish or kosher? Or pushing and manipulating bodily spiritual energy around the body and consciousness is Jewish or kosher?

[Yes, there are such things in Kabbalah. The key differences are the sources of the energy, NOT the blood/body/physical world but kedusha, holiness, mitzvot that draw and connect to G-dly energy, and the push/connection to strive to reach out the levels of G-dly consciousness and literally connect on higher levels to G-d, not to stretch human consciousness out to nothingness. For more information, consult your local mekubal. Not for the uninitiated, because the improper manipulation of energy, and the manipulation of the wrong energies is ABSOLUTELY PROHIBITED and spiritually dangerous too boot!]

For more information, turns out we've practically written a small book on Yoga problems in the Jewish community. Here's our historical posts on the matter...

Makes Me Ill
It's YogaDance at Chabad
More Questions on Yoga
I Don't Feel Spiritual (Yoga)
Energy Healing
What's Wrong with Yoga
The Rebbe on Meditation and Yoga
Yoga Questions
Yoga for Good, Don't Believe It!
Kosher Stretch
Yoga Redux
It Simply Isn't Kosher

Eastern Infiltration Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6
Part 7
Part 8

...Jews don't let Jews do yoga.


ChaimJ said...

Why do you not comment or speak directly with Tzvi Freeman? I assume he does not read your blog. I believe he would appreciate your input given he has very limited knowledge on this topic.

Devorah said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Akiva said...

ChaimJ, Reb Locks has corresponded directly with Rabbi Freedman and sent some response materials. To date Chabad.Org has not responded to that email, and now we're receiving queries that reference the Chabad.Org article as PERMISSION to do yoga for Jews of all stripes.

That's why we're now responding directly about the people involved. Previously we've always discussed the topic but avoided naming anyone. Now when people are referring to the articles on Chabad.Org and COLlive as rabbinic permission to engage in yoga - we consider ourselves obligated to take a stand.

Akiva said...

Let me also add that Reb Gutman and I have corresponded with Mr. Gozlan in the past as well.

Anonymous said...

I am not sure if this article is more disturbing for its chareidi black & white thinking or the total insignificance of this issue in light of the Chillul Hashem and Pikuach Nefesh issues - I have to admit reading it was as unpleasant as any Torah wording that we have seem - and to call Yoga that is practised by most as meditational exercise Avodah Zarah is inexcusable - I can see this website just dove off the deep black end of dsyfunctional chareidi thinking - and this is the least of Chabad's issue - who cares what the 7th and last Chabad rebbe A"H said about yoga - he couldn't even get the issue of aliyah correct - as he wrote 100s of letters that said don't make aliyah if you can't afford it - did he say the same about Shabbat - in fact what he did say was give charity EVEN IF you can't afford it - so he turned aliyah into a financial optional mitzvah - no wonder he never left Brooklyn - but back to the issue - if MP blog feels this issue is significant in light of the situation in Am Yisrael today - and feels screaming idol worship at mostly innocent exercisers - then this block has gone to hell. Of course chareidim issur this - they issur anything to do with physical health (chabad alcoholism and fatty foods) or exercise - next the chareidim will issur making money - who needs that - I will tell you that money is a much bigger avodah zara than yoga - and the chareidim pray at the idol of charity and handouts - ask Eliyashav who helped destroy Gush Katif for some yeshiva salaries....get real Akiva or get off the net..

ChaimJ said...

thanks Akiva. I will pass this on to a friend who works with

Anonymous said...

RE Moments before I wrote those, a commentor "Chassidic Yogi" (kind of like oilwater) wrote, "Shemor Nafshecha (safeguard your physical health) (Torah)...THE ENERGY."

Akiva why did you
1. delete the comment i posted on your "makes me ill' article.
and then: 2. copied only a few pieces from my comment over here and transformed, distorted (changed the words and sentences of my comment) in this article above in order to ridiculise this lie ??

I understand that you may not agree with Yoga but according to me Israel is still a democratic country isn't it ? plus doesn't it also say in the torah that your forbidden to lie, deceive and be false ? Actually it says that one should distance oneself from falsehood ! Hashem will not forgive you. You're not only a lier but you're a control freak who's not mature enough to debate anything openly and RESPECTFULLY. I have no respect for people like you and I will never ever read your blog again.

Anonymous said...

"FURTHER, EVERY yoga system (including the supposed kosher models discusses "energy", "focus", and "meditation". They are NEVER just about stretch and posture."

That's simply FALSE. I know karate fighters who combine stretching with some yoga postures in order to stretch their muscles and increase their mental calm and focus. Can you imagine ?

Anonymous said...

With all due respect, if the Chabad Rebbe would have done more meditation and relaxation he might not have gotten his stroke and heart-attack. If Rav Nachman of Breslov would have relaxed and meditated more he might not have gotten the terrible disease (lo aleinu) he got at the end of his life.

ChaimJ said...

Anonymous - you are an idiot.

At least put a name.

crazy smade said...

Can't agree with anonymous, whether he/she is a Jew or not.

I'm a non-Jew and an ex-"you name it" - been there, done that. I've been one thing or another over the decades in my attempt to find "spirituality" and a sense of belonging. Presently? I'm just a non-card carrying Noachide ... at least by Orthodox Jewish standards.

Yoga is a form of avodah zarah, period. You might just as well be genuflecting in a Catholic Church for exercise and claim that it isn't avodah zarah. If it hints of avodah zarah, then it's probably avodah zarah!

The Pious Ones of old didn't prostrate themselves in a synagogue that had a mosaic of a zodiac on the floor, lest others view them as bowing to the stars, rather than HaShem. Cf. "The Synagogue: Its History and Function" by Isaac Levy.

You want stretching and exercise? Aerobicise and do pilates. You want meditation? Meditate on the Tanakh or the 72 Names of HaShem, if you get that advanced. You want breathing and relaxation? Find a spot out in a nature - away from the rush and the whirl of humanity - and spend an hour in hitbodedut just talking to your Heavenly Father.

Just some friendly advice from the resident Ger Toshav and ex-pagan.

Devash said...

Thank you, Akiva and Reb Locks for staying on top of this issue. I admire and respect your stand for the truth.

Yisroel Reiss said...

Follow this link to comment #11, which has a letter from the Lubavitcher Rebbe regarding Yoga that I understand to say YOGA is not okay:

On a personal note, I have suffered from much back pain in my life and YOGA stretches was the only thing that made me feel better so I am not sure what to say.

Anonymous said...

I'm the same Anonymous as the 2 last ones. Call me Shmulik if you want. With all due respect again, according to the logic of this article, it's treif for a yid to SIT in a shul or at the table you're having dinner because some idol-worhippers adopt the same position whenever they recite prayers to their idols. After I exercise I stretch my body and whenever I need to relax and focus before an important moment I meditate but I don't call it yoga. Am I an idol-worshipper because some of my physical postures and the way I concentrate seems to coincide with what some idol-worshippers use ?? Besides, I never focus on or imagine any image at all whenever I do these and I also DO hitbodedut and do all the tefilot and go to shul and study Torah and teach about Hashem.

Anonymous said...

To crazy smade:
re. your "Meditate on the Tanakh or the 72 Names of HaShem, if you get that advanced."

I appreciate Noahides however with all due respect to you, how 'advanced' is your knowledge to know whether these are presently permitted or not ? Don't play with fire.


Anonymous said...

Yisroel Reiss, the same Rebbe of blessed memory said that a knife can be used either to commit a murder chas ve'shalom, g-dforbid or to save a life in a surgery. It's your intention that counts. The Jewish People's job on earth is to use the physical and material world in which we live in order to elevate it and to infuse the physical with spirituality. - Shmulik

Akiva said...

There's a complete masechta of Shas on Avoda Zara. The penalty for avoda zara is kares, and it's one of the 3 mitzvot for which one must give their lives rather than be forced to commit.

It is not a minor matter and not to be taken lightly. It is not batul b'shishim.

Jews who live in the West are no longer familiar with the various intricicies of avoda zarah, as the majority religion(s) of the Western world do not include many of the numerous avoda zarah practices of the past.

This is NOT true of those who spend time in the East. The many idol worshiping practices described in the Gemora are alive and well. And some of them are embedded within yoga.

Anonymous said...

I appreciate all the concern about avodah zara. What about those (like me) who do yoga without a single hint of anything spiritual in the exercise at all? I do it on a daily basis and it makes me feel great and enhances my day. Again, all I do is breath and stretch and use my muscles. Where the heck is the avodah zara? I don't think of a single thing do this. I don't bow, speak, whatever. Where's the issur? What just because it's called yoga? What if I called my exercise something else? Would it be mutar then?

crazy smade said...

To Shmulik.... Your point about playing with meditative fire is well taken and, yes, I've heard Rabbi Akiva Tatz speak on what was done "back in the day" and why the generations have devolved, if you will, and why what was once the norm is no longer done and/or no longer permitted.

That said, my main point was, "Why should Jews look to the East for spirituality, when they have spiritual and mystical outlets in their own traditions?"

Judaism seems to have something for each stage of a person's spiritual development, which I sought to bring into focus by mentioning simple "meditation on the Tanakh," on the one hand, and something as lofty as "meditation on the 72 Names of HaShem," on the other hand.

In short, I was just saying one doesn't need to turn to Yoga. I wasn't attempting to enact a halakhic ruling on "playing with meditative fire." Heaven forbid!

That said, I can see how one might take my words to have been flippant and/or the words of an interloping ignoramus. It's difficult not to look stupid when one is always having to walk on eggshells, but that seems to be my lot in life. :(

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