This month the UN invited the world to celebrate the "International Day of Yoga". The question is, is yoga entirely physical, or is yoga also spiritual?
I have been involved in a thirty-year argument with a neighbor who to this day goes to India for his annual two-week vacation to a yoga resort. We see each other regularly, late Shabbos afternoon and invariably the subject comes up. He insists there is no spirituality involved in yoga, while I insist there is.
I have explained over and over again, that almost all of the physical aspects of those exercises are alright, except for the one or two that definitely identify it is as coming from that source, but all of their nonphysical teachings are somehow linked to Hinduism which is the religion of hundreds of millions of gods!
Obviously, he refuses to listen and says such things as, "So what if there is a statue in the corner of the room where we do the exercises, no one is worshiping it, surely I am not." And I keep telling him that his head is filled with false spiritual concepts that invariably have come along with the exercises. After many years, I finally got him to stop saying that he does yoga every day and instead to say that he does stretching exercises.
This past Shabbos afternoon I finally made a dent in his defense.
Talking about the statute in the room where the guests at the yoga resort exercise he told me, "It's a statue of shi-va [the many armed Hindu god of destruction!] and it is meaningless. I used to have one before I became religious. Then, when I became religious I gave it away."
"You have finally proven my point. I have been telling you over and over again that yoga is not only physical but brings along with it false spiritual teachings and you have denied this over and over again. If there are no spiritual teachings coming with the physical teachings of yoga what were you doing with a Hindu idol in your house?"
"I got rid of it when I became religious."
"Why did you have to get rid of it? If there are no spiritual teachings coming along with the physical exercises what's wrong with the statue? Where did you get the idea to put a Hindu idol in your home or office? And if it is not spiritual why did you have to get rid of it?"
What will happen? I'll find out. I doubt that he will stop doing the exercises, but as I have said, the exercises have never been the problem. It's what they bring along with them. The problem is with any and all of the words and ideas that identify what he is doing as yoga. "Yoga" means yoke in Hindi. They teach that yoga yokes them to their spiritual beliefs. Obviously, all of these are forbidden to anyone who worships the One G-d.