Tuesday, November 15, 2011

// // 8 comments

I’m a Little Red Doll

by Reb Akiva @ Mystical Paths

A reader wrote:

My 6-year-old son attends a public school in (major city), Canada and in his school children are required to do yoga during the gym time. Though I am not a religious person I feel very uncomfortable that my son has to do something that goes against my Jewish belief (and he has to imagine himself to be a red doll). To get an exemption from the school principal I need some sort of confirmation…that shows that even physical exercises are not as innocent because each pose in yoga has certain meaning (that how I understood that from your article on your website). I will be very grateful to you if you will briefly confirm…that yoga is not kosher.

Glad to help.

-- The Mystical Paths Official Statements on Yoga --

Reb Gutman -

If only they would do the exercises without calling them yoga they would probably be alright. But yoga is a branch of Hinduism which is the religion of India, and not of the Jewish people.

Having him imagine that he is a red doll is foolish, and the real question is what are they going to tell him he really is? Spiritual teachings should only be taught when they agree with the beliefs of the student’s parents.

Are they using yoga terms, names, deities, meditations ?? Certainly the child should not be taught that yoga is harmless when it leads to deeper involvement with a religion that has many gods.

Reb Akiva -

Yoga is a branch of the Hindu religion (and is a required practice and part of the religious activity of Hindu spiritual teachers - Gurus).  It's activities involve physical positions, controlled breathing and focused (or unfocused) meditations.

The approach of and activities of Hinduism are considered prohibited according to Judaism.  Since the activities of yoga are modeled for Hindu religious purposes, performing any of those activities with any of their religious context or background is prohibited by Judaism. 

As Yoga has been brought from India to the West, it's often detached from Hindu religious practice and attempted to be taught as a neutral exercise,  health, relaxation and meditative system.  Yet, a review from a Jewish religious perspective inevitably finds Hindu religious concepts and approaches remain, and therefore practicing yoga remains prohibited according to Judaism.

Examples of such things include the names of yoga positions, which often incorporate the names of Hindu gods, some actual positions which qualify as a type of positional worship (such as 'salutation to the sun'), and meditative focuses which are in conflict with Jewish teachings of how one should connect with G-d or the world.

If one was to take a particular exercise merely for it's exercise benefit, or an exercise and breathing pattern for it's therapeutic benefit (where one has a health problem that requires treatment and one uses the exercise and breathing pattern as a treatment), then it is permissible (stripped of it's meditative component and divorced from the yoga context, names and intentions).

But a full yoga program taught to a child including positions, breathing and meditative focus (at a level the child can understand for his or her age) is a prohibited activity according to Judaism and Jewish (religious) Law.  Any Jewish parent of a Jewish child should not permit their child to be included in such activities.

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

This is the conclusion of an Indian historian regarding Hinduism and yoga,
":Hinduism whether ancient, medieval or modern, has no special claims on yoga. To pretend otherwise is not only churlish, but also simply untrue."
http://www.butterfliesandwheels.org/2010/how-%E2%80%9Chindu%E2%80%9D-is-yoga-after-all/

In the meantime a very large proportion of the frum world is seriously overweight and unhealthy, which is very much against the Torah as we are commanded to guard our health. If everyone did twenty minutes of stretching in the morning they would all be in much better shape.

I suggest an end to yoga bashing and encouragement for good health care, which includes stretching and breathing exercises. (Yes, Jews need to breath too!).

Anonymous said...

Speaking about health,

Frum world should especially aware of the dangerous of Vitamin D deficiency.

I can't even imagine how many illness are affecting hassidic people because of their little exposure to the sun. For people covered all year long, lack of sun exposure is certainly the trigger for a vast majority of illnesses.

They should supplement with at some vitmain D3, not less than 5000IU a day in my opinion.

On a side note, I'm sorry to ask this here but how can I purchase Reb Gutman's book "Taming the raging mind" if I live in France ?

Akiva said...

Regarding the book, email Reb Gutman direct @ gutman1@013.net , I'm sure he can send one to France.

Regarding yoga and Hinduism, the Hindu American Foundation disagrees with you (it is part of Hinduism). Here's what they say...

...there is the concerning trend of disassociating Yoga from its Hindu roots. Both Yoga magazines and studios assiduously present Yoga as an ancient practice independent and disembodied from the Hinduism that gave forth this immense contribution to humanity. With the intense focus on asana (the exercises and positions), magazines and studios have seemingly "gotten away" with this mischaracterization.

Yet, even when Yoga is practiced solely in the form of an exercise, it cannot be completely delinked from its Hindu roots. As the legendary Yoga guru B.K.S Iyengar aptly points out in his famous Light on Yoga, "Some asanas are also called after Gods of the Hindu pantheon and some recall the Avataras, or incarnations of Divine Power."

It is disappointing to know that many of the yogis regularly practicing Hanumanasana or Natarajasana continue to deny the Hindu roots of their Yoga practice.

...Yoga is inextricable from Hindu traditions, and a better awareness of this fact is reached only if one understands that “Yoga” and “Asana” are not interchangeable terms.

...the Western Yoga community fully acknowledges Yoga’s Indian roots, and even requires study of Hindu philosophy and scripture in most of its teacher certification programs, much of it openly disassociates Yoga’s Hindu roots.

While the Hindu American Foundation affirms that one does not have to profess faith in Hinduism in order to practice Yoga or asana, it firmly holds that Yoga is an essential part of Hindu philosophy and the two cannot be delinked, despite efforts to do so.

Shyam Ranganathan's analysis gets to the crux of the issue when he writes, “Though some modern atheistic minds and aspiring yogis may disagree, textually there is no getting around the fact that Patanjali uses words, that in the context of Hindu culture, have obvious theological implications”. Patanjali describes the goal of Yoga as chitta-vritti-nirodha or “the cessation of mental fluctuations”, a core concept also expounded in Hinduism’s Bhagavad Gita: “Thus always absorbing one’s self in yoga, the yogi, whose mind is subdued, achieves peace that culminates in the highest state of Nirvana, which rests in me [(names of Hindu gods removed)/Supreme Reality]”

Similarly, Swami Svatmarama’s opening line in the Pradipika is in honor of the Hindu God (name removed): “Reverence to (Hindu god name removed) the Lord of Yoga, who taught Parvati hatha wisdom as the first step to the pinnacle of raja yoga.”

In the same 2005 interview cited previously, Prashant Iyengar expounds upon Yoga with references to both Hindu epics and Hindu philosophy: “Mahabharat has so many aspects of yoga like yama (restraint), niyama (observance), sama (calmness)…Ramayana gives us so many beautiful aspects of bhakti yoga and karma yoga. Essential yoga starts with karma yoga…Without karma-consciousness, there will be no progress in yoga.”

Akiva said...

Yes, ultra-orthodox could generally use more sunlight exposure and exercise. It's a cultural problem worth addressing.

Vitamin D3 is not recommended above 1000iu per day by most physicians, and never above 2000-3000iu per day even for people with severely low D3. It is possible to get D3 saturation and suffer some organ damage for overuse.

Daniela said...

Dear reader,
if you exist and if you are remotely connected to anything jewish (let alone if you have some observance), your rabbi will tell you if it is permissible or forbidden.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your answer R. Akiva.

I'm sorry to disagree with on vitamin d toxicity.

Normal human beings produce 10.000 to 20.000IU for just 30minuts of exposure to sunlight.

I kindly advise you to read updated information on vitamin D supplementation here (supported by numerous studies): http://www.vitamindcouncil.org/about-vitamin-d/what-is-vitamin-d/vitamin-d-toxicity/

I really hope you reconsider your views on how much should people supplement.

PS: In France, people with Vitamin D deficiency are given a isngle 100.000IU dose with no hypercalcemia effects. I my self have managed to control (not cure) psoriasis thanks to 6000IU of vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol), a plant based diet and some positive attitude.

Thanks again for your answer.

Anonymous said...

I gave you the link concerning toxicity, but here’s the most important link, it’s about adequate supplementation:
http://www.vitamindcouncil.org/about-vitamin-d/how-to-get-your-vitamin-d/vitamin-d-supplementation/

Sorry if you feel that I’m being insistent (or too "pushy"?) regarding this topic, but I consider this to be a major health problem affecting the modern man.

Have a nice day!

Akiva said...

I appreciate the Vitamin D links, I'll take a look. My info came from an expert physician in Israel who found I'm Vitamin D deficient.

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