Thursday, August 29, 2013

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The Rebbe Said, “No!”

by Reb Gutman Locks

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     I “shared” the Mystical Path article with the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s letter that condemns yoga on Facebook. As expected, those who are involved with yoga religiously defended their practice.

     Remember, except for one or two postures (such as “sun salutation” which is literally called “sun worship” in Hindi – yoga’s native language), our complaints against yoga have never been against the physical movements themselves, so all of you who are vigorously defending yoga are not defending the physical practice. You are defending the word yoga, and all that that name brings into your life!

     Anyone who wants to can continue to do the identical exercises, but call it STRETCH or something like that. You would also have to throw out all of the other places that yoga has come into your life, i.e. yoga meditations, names of postures, books, beads, pictures, and so on. You do not have to fight to save the physical aspects of any healthy program. Just be sure to entirely remove the “spiritual” associations that come with it.

Most yoga enthusiasts have no idea what associations I am referring to. Here are just a few of them:

-  “The practice of yoga is defined by Webster’s Dictionary as, “a Hindu discipline for achieving union with the supreme spirit through intense concentration, prescribed postures, controlled breathing, etc.” Or more simply, it is “the path followed so as to realize the god/gods within.”

o  This is not what the Torah tells Jews to do!

-  Do you know what mantra meditation is?  It is the endless repetition of a word, or an idea, or even a nonsensical sound when you meditate. Over and over again, whenever any other thought enters your mind, quickly return to repeating your mantra. This form of meditation is entirely passive and will remove your attachment to the world. In fact, this is the Hindu goal of meditation (and the approach taught as an integral part of yoga exercise). Detachment produces relaxation, peacefulness, emptiness, “nirvana”.

o  This is not the goal of Jewish meditation. It is the opposite. Although Jewish meditation can include passive elements, the goal of Jewish meditation is to increase awareness so you will become more spiritually sensitive and will be able to use this sensitivity to make the world a better place. Our job is not to leave the world, but to improve it by using it for holy purposes.

-  Have you heard of prana? If you do yoga your yoga teacher has surely mentioned it. When you learn about it, it can sound right on! But this is not what the Torah teaches. The elements of the universe are not being held together by the sun.  

     “Prana is the Sanskrit word for “life force;” in yoga the term refers to a cosmic energy believed to come from the sun and connecting the elements of the universe. Prana is the sum total of all energy that is manifest in the universe.”

    “Kundalini is described in yoga as shakti or corporal energy. It is described as a power coiled at the base of the spine envisioned either as a goddess or a sleeping serpent. It is reported that kundalini awakening results in deep meditation, enlightenment, and bliss, most commonly as a feeling of an electric current running along the spine.”

o  Does this sound good to you? Something worth striving for? It is part of yoga. Believe me; you do not want to go where it takes you. I have been there.   (As a Jew or anyone who’s studied the Torah or bible, releasing “serpent energy” should send particularly obvious alerts.)

-  How about tantra yoga? Have you heard of that? I hope not. 

o  (Let’s just say it’s focused on enhancing certain parts of physicality that modern society already has extreme obsessions with.  As Jews we believe such things should be properly focused and used in their proper context, thereby becoming holy.)

-  Nirvana? “Nirvana is characterized by the bliss and freedom, letting go of ego, passions, and desire… liberation. The second step in Raja Yoga observance purity and contentment.”

     There are hundreds of spiritual concepts that usually come with yoga practice… Chakras, Devas, Maya, Om, and on and on. These are what we are warning against. Jews should not be taught these false spiritual concepts. Surely if they were telling you the names of catholic saints to accept, a Jew would recognize this is not for them and be repulsed.  But yoga comes wrapped in such a “groovy, healthy” garment. What could be better than scientifically proven health benefits of stretching and breathing deeply?

     As I said before, if you want to stretch, s t r e t c h. It is probably good for you (though there’s many articles on the extreme positions causing serious damage, even to very experienced practitioners). But don’t do yoga.

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