“We know it’s kosher because it’s not held on Shabbos or Yom Tov!”
HEADLINE: Yoga Teacher’s Training for Jewish women to be held in Jerusalem
A 200-hour Intensive Yoga Teacher Training Program, claimed to be the “first yoga training in the world to cater to Jewish women” is being launched in Jerusalem in July, with a follow-up starting in September. Organized by Toronto based Kinneret Yoga, whose tagline is “move and be moved”, it will not hold classes on Shabbat or Jewish holidays…
Hindu statesman Rajan Zed, welcomed Yoga Teacher’s Training catering to Jewish women to be held in Jerusalem. Yoga, referred as “a living fossil”, was a mental and physical discipline, for everybody to share and benefit from, whose traces went back to around 2,000 BCE to Indus Valley civilization. Yoga, introduced and nourished by Hinduism, is a world heritage and liberation powerhouse to be utilized by all. According to Patanjali who codified it in Yoga Sutra, yoga was a methodical effort to attain perfection, through the control of the different elements of human nature, physical and psychical.
Yoga is the repository of something basic in the human soul and psyche, Zed added.
So there you have it. It’s kosher because it won’t be done on Shabbos, and the Hindus are instructing us that it’s not (just) the Hindu religion, it’s about controlling the human psyche. And who’s to say controlling the human psyche has religious or philosophical overtones?
Let there be no question: YOGA is not kosher. It has an avodah zara-dic base, some positions themselves are positional forms of worship, and the meditative and psyche techniques are incompatible and diametrically opposed to Judaism.
“But Reb Akiva, it’s just exercise!” WHEN it’s just exercise, just stretching moves WITHOUT the (meditative) breathing patterns, without the meditative focus, when it is indeed JUST a pure exercise, fine. But it’s NEVER taught as “just stretch”, it’s always with it’s focus, breathing, centering, etc. Yoga is a practice of avoda zara!
“But Reb Akiva, my kosher yoga has replaced all the hindi terms, and we meditate on the shema, and we don’t call SUN WORSHIP (that’s what Sun Salutation is called in it’s original language Hindi) that, we call it ‘Reaching to the Heavens’.” It is possible to completely separate the value of a system from the problematic elements – but kosher yoga never does that! Rather it seeks to partially substitute assuming that by injecting a Hebrew word for a Hindi one, or a Jewish meditation idea for a Hindu one, that it makes it kosher. Better examples would be, stretching exercises of Pilates has stretch with no meditative aspects. And Krav Maga has martial arts value without any chakras or “focusing your energies” of karate. Kosher yoga is presenting a system who’s base pattern remains treif.
YOGA PSAK from Rabbi Ginsberg: (free translation)
Question: Is it permissible to practice yoga as part of a mental & physical exercises when doing so without any yoga spiritual aspects?
If the system has a foreign name, if it offers a way of life and its way of life is alien, one should not deal with it (all the more so if the system components are contrary to the rule). Yoga is based on a pagan system. Body movements that mimic animals originate from Eastern idolatry. Therefore, this method is entirely banned. All of the benefit from these methods is superficial and ultimately harmful. These “benefits” damage the sanctity of the Jewish soul. We must educate distinguish between genuine divine light and a false image.
Notice that the name of everything points to the spiritual origin, we must abolish even the name of a foreign method at the first stage. Therefore it is forbidden to even mention at all the name "yoga." …
All wisdom must be grounded in the Torah. Yoga is negative energy that comes from impurity. Therefore, it is unacceptable, even if the practitioner does not have negative thoughts. All the advantages of this method are distorted shadow of the true good that can be derived from movement based on the teachings of the Kabbalah.
Kabbalah teachings include techniques for Jewish meditative focus and even for proper Jewish focused breathing methods. A brief example is available (in Hebrew) at this link here
Thanks to Rivka Levy of emunaroma.com for the fun graphics and psak from Rav Ginsberg.