A reader wrote to Reb Gutman Locks…
An article today in the New York Times reinforces what you have always said about yoga. If they won’t listen to you, maybe they'll believe it from the New York Times.
Headline: Hindu Group Stirs a Debate Over Yoga’s Soul
New York Times: November 27, 2010
Yoga is practiced by about 15 million people in the United States, for reasons almost as numerous — from the physical benefits mapped in brain scans to the less tangible rewards that New Age journals call spiritual centering. Religion, for the most part, has nothing to do with it.
But a group of Indian-Americans has ignited a surprisingly fierce debate in the gentle world of yoga by mounting a campaign to acquaint Westerners with the faith that it says underlies every single yoga style followed in gyms, ashrams and spas: Hinduism.
The campaign, labeled “Take Back Yoga,” does not ask yoga devotees to become Hindu, or instructors to teach more about Hinduism. The small but increasingly influential group behind it, the Hindu American Foundation, suggests only that people become more aware of yoga’s debt to the faith’s ancient traditions…
Organizers of the Take Back Yoga effort point out that the philosophy of yoga was first described in Hinduism’s seminal texts and remains at the core of Hindu teaching…
For many practitioners, including Debbie Desmond, 27, a yoga instructor in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, the talk of branding and ownership is bewildering. “Nobody owns yoga,” she said, sitting cross-legged in her studio, Namaste Yoga, and tilting her head as if the notion sketched an impossible yoga position she had never seen. “Yoga is not a religion. It is a way of life, a method of becoming. …” [Paths comment, a way of life – a method of becoming isn’t religion???]
The effort to “take back” yoga began quietly enough, with a scholarly essay posted in January on the Web site of the Hindu American Foundation, a Minneapolis-based group that promotes human rights for Hindu minorities worldwide. The essay lamented a perceived snub in modern yoga culture, saying that yoga magazines and studios had assiduously decoupled the practice “from the Hinduism that gave forth this immense contribution to humanity.”
Dr. Shukla put a sharper point on his case a few months later in a column on the On Faith blog of The Washington Post. Hinduism, he wrote, had become a victim of “overt intellectual property theft,” made possible by generations of Hindu yoga teachers who had “offered up a religion’s spiritual wealth at the altar of crass commercialism.”
…Loriliai Biernacki, a professor of Indian religions at the University of Colorado, said the debate had raised important issues about a spectrum of Hindu concepts permeating American culture, including meditation, belief in karma and reincarnation, and even cremation.
“All these ideas are Hindu in origin, and they are spreading,” she said. “But they are doing it in a way that leaves behind the proper name, the box that classifies them as ‘Hinduism.’ ”
Exactly. Yoga is an aspect of Hinduism and many of the concepts taught as part of yoga are Hindu approaches to life, spirituality, G-d, the universe and man’s place in it. That’s the danger of yoga, infusing foreign spiritual concepts into your life. A stretching exercise is just an exercise, but yoga is Hindu.