by Reb Gutman Locks @ Mystical Paths
Someone sent my recent article on yoga to a Jew who operates a “kosher” yoga center. Here is his reply:
"On our teacher training we warn our students very strongly against kundalini yoga and a few other styles of yoga that we consider to be pure avoda zara [idolatry].
I’ve read Gutman Lock's books and know his take on it. In my opinion he is biased based on his personal experiences before he was religious and lived in India and was immersed in the avoda zara aspect of yoga etc... He cannot comprehend that there can be a pareve [non-spiritual] approach to it.
In a letter, the [Lubavitcher] Rebbe talks about the obligation of people who are "experts" in the field of yoga and meditation to extract the pareve/healing parts from these systems.
Also, there is a lot of new research that is coming out that the vast majority of yoga as it is practiced today in the western world (not kundalini etc.. but more vinyasa/power/hatha) is based for the most part on Swedish and British gymnastics and was only developed at the turn of the century and not based on "ancient Hindu scriptures" and most hardcore religious yogis (like Locks used to be) like to believe. There is no written evidence in any of the ancient yoga texts that the vast, vast majority of poses taught today were taught back then. The original texts on the subject focus mainly on the meditation and there were only about 10 or so (maybe even less - can't remember exactly) poses back in the day."
This is an ongoing battle. We have some 30 articles pointing out the idolatry associated with yoga. The one from this week is an answer to a Jewish woman who objected to her young child being taught yoga in public school. The teacher told the little boy to imagine that he was a red doll while he was doing the exercises!
Just look at this yoga teacher’s answer and see the exact problem in his own words! He wrote that his yoga was pure, and that it is like “vinyasa yoga”.
This is what the first site I went to had to say about this type of yoga;
“The term vinyasa also refers to a specific series of movements that are frequently done between each pose in a series. This viṅyāsa 'flow' is a variant of Sūrya namaskāra, the Sun Salutation, and is used in other styles of yoga beside Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga. The opening sequence begins with 10 Sun Salutations and then several standing postures.”
Listen well; the “sun salutation” is an old exercise still practiced in India today, and it is called “Worshipping Surya.” They changed the name to “salutation” to hide this fact in the West (and make it more palatable). “Surya” is the “chief solar deity” in Hinduism, and is called “the god who sustains the heavens and knows all who lives”.
Is this what you want your children to be doing? And when those Jews move away from your Jewish friend’s center and want to continue yoga, what books are they going to buy? What teachers are they going to have? No one, not even a non-Jew, should worship a sun deity!
The Rebbe’s letter clearly said, (yet these Jewish fans of yoga distort this over and over again): “…utterly devoid of any ritual implications.”
“Salutation to the sun god” is not devoid of ritual implications. The word yoga itself is a ritual word that refers to Hinduism, not Judaism.
Do you want your young children imagining that they are red dolls? And what will their teacher tell them to imagine themselves to be next?
Reb Akiva adds:
On our article on a Little Red Doll, one commentor added…
"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."
That may be the conclusion of one Indian historian. But the Hindu American Foundation disagrees (it is part of Hinduism). Here's what they say, and it’s WELL WORTH reading…
...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.”
We would be wise to let Hindu’s speak for themselves on the matter, as they have above.