By Reb Gutman Locks
Eli insists that yoga is 100% kosher and good for you. Here is his comment to our latest article trying to wean Jews away from this Eastern religious practice.
“The Rabbi has directed teachers on how to teach yoga taking out the bad stuff here at the college of alternative medicine combining Chinese acupuncture with Jewish spirituality and Kabbalah which is located in the Upper Galilee (Israel).
Basically I was taught that yoga and most eastern religions’ goal is a state of nirvana. There are different steps to get to it, one basic step is meditation. To help one’s meditations they have an earlier step of stretches and breathing exercise - this does not include the meditations which is the next step in yoga - whose purpose is to relax the body and get your soul and body to be in touch to help the mind meditate.
This part is therefore fine as it helps one’s body and mind. For all the exercises the Rabbi still said to change the name and for the sun salutation he additionally had them change one of the parts so that it would be a different exercise. I therefore disagree with you and consider this way of teaching Yoga 100% Kosher and great for you.”
Your letter proves our argument against yoga. Over and over again, I have stressed that the physical exercises are not the problem. The danger comes when there is ANY association to Eastern spiritual practices which includes even the word “yoga.”
You wrote that you were taught in the Jewish school of Chinese medicine that yoga and meditation are two of the steps to attain goal of “nirvana.” And the stretching and deep breathing help your body and soul to get “in touch” to help your mind to meditate.
Here is how the “Nirvana sages” define the term: “Nirvana is a transcendent state in which there is neither suffering, desire, nor sense of self, and the person is released from the effect of karma and the cycle of death and rebirth. It is the final goal of Buddhism.”
“Nirvana is often referred to as “self realization” or “god realization.” It is the ultimate religious goal of all Hindus. No one can describe it in words. It can only be experienced directly.”
Sound great? What in the world does this have to do with the Jewish goal in life? Why are these Jews studying these concepts? Our job is not to leave the world, but to improve it by using it for holy purposes. Shall we remove all desires and forego marriage and family as the monks and sadhus (Hindu ascetics) in the East do? G-d forbid!
Is a Jew supposed to come to the realization that he or she is G-d? Do you know who first recommended this? Who told Eve in the Garden to eat of the forbidden fruit so that; “your eyes will be opened and you will be like G-d…”[i] The serpent told her that when he enticed her to eat of the forbidden fruit.
The very word “yoga” invariably leads to these types of concepts. There is no such thing as “kosher yoga,” no more than there could be “kosher christianity.”
I suggest that you stop learning and practicing yoga, and certainly stop with its associations to Hinduism, and Buddhism. Go “Beyond Yoga.” Stay within Torah concepts, and keep your mind and body healthy. And be sure to keep those holy desires that you have. G-d gave them to you for a very good reason.
[i] Genesis 3:5