Wednesday, March 02, 2011


Yoga Challenge

by Reb Akiva @ Mystical Paths

An anonymous commentor brought some challenges to our previous (anti) yoga article

The Lubavitcher Rebbe, z"ya said essentially that although he does not approve of excessive non-Jewish forms of meditation, if one meditates and it does not contain the avoda zara content, then it is permitted. He said this in a sichah, available on video.  (Viewable to the left.)

This is the well known Rebbe’s talk on Transcendental Meditation – a very popular practice that spread throughout the U.S. during the late 60’s and early 70’s.

Those who present this video as haskama, approval from the Rebbe, for meditation or practices such as yoga omit many of the key things the Rebbe said…

The words of the Rebbe (from the video / talk), my additions in ( parens ) :

"Two conditions however:

1 - Such "meditation" therapy is ONLY for an UNHEALTHY person, NOT for a healthy functioning person who is living an active productive life. (Though this includes someone who is healthy but has (mentally) convinced themselves they cannot function without meditation (meaning meditation practitioners of non-kosher types can hold that they "need" meditation to function and therefore are permitted a kosher type.))

2 - The meditation practitioner is QUALIFIED to determine that which is allowed by Jewish law from that which is idolatrous (meaning he must be an expert halachic decisor, fully versed in hilchos avodah zarah, and an expert in meditative techniques.) He must ALSO be a medical expert (to determine the person is in actual need) to prescribe the meditation IN CORRECT MEASURE - NO MORE - NO LESS, for just like any other form of medicine, as discussed in the works of Jewish ethics and Chassidus, medicine IS HARMFUL TO A HEALTHY PERSON.

And this should not be mixed with other issues: There are those who wish to achieve additional benefit by offering "Kabbalah Meditations". Meditation on Kabbalah and Torah's inner teachings is certainly worthy and commendable.

But here we are talking about fellow Jews who have stumbled into a form of idolatry, so first and foremost they must be rescued from that predicament..."  (end of the Rebbe’s words)

The commentor responded…

I'm sorry that I didn't include all of the qualifications he gave in the sicha.
It is clear, however, that according to the Rebbe, there is such a thing as yoga minus avoda zara, but it should only be for an unhealthy person, not a practice for everyone to do, like you said.

I should comment that I myself do not practice yoga, nor am I particularly in favor of it being practiced indiscriminately. However, according to the opinion of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, it is not as black and white issue as is being presented on this blog, yoga being "impossible" to separate from its origins in an avoda zara culture. If that was the case, the Rebbe wouldn't have said what he said.

The Rebbe is talking about Transcendental Meditation, not yoga.

The Rebbe says directly this is for people that are heavily involved in this type of meditation and can't live without it - in such a case a neutral alternative is ok.

The Rebbe further says a neutral version of meditation can be prescribed, like a medication, for people with serious medical need.

NOT SAID is that the Rebbe sent several shluchim around the world (reference writings of Atara Sofer, a"h, and her daughter wrote to Nshei Chabad magazine on this topic 2 years ago) to find such a "neutral meditation". These shluchim reported back failure - no such neutral meditation was found (meaning every one found had some level of avodah zarah in it.)

Now we here have been referring to yoga programs being indiscriminately offered throughout orthodox Jewish communities as a general practice of exercise and health.

If a Kosher Yoga program is being offered exclusively to heavy yoga practitioners that are looking for an alternative way out, great. Or if a kosher yoga program is being offered specifically as a solution to certain major health problems, and it's been properly checked (as the Rebbe specified - a heavy checking by a multidisciplinary expert), also great.

In other words, as a targeted medicine for addicts and the seriously ill, the risks can be worth the reward. But it's NOT ok for the general community.

How in the world is it that we are so exceptionally careful in the religious community regarding kosher food, kosher entertainment (no TV), kosher education, kosher dress, but something as potentially scary and damaging as yoga is “ok, lots of religious people do it”???


  1. I agree here with the rebbe yoga is ok for the sick not the well . bottom line . It shouldnt be practiced by healthy jews but is acceptable for unhealthy ones . Ive seen great health mental clarity achieved by my brother who was a mental wreck in yeshivah gemara gemara and more sedom excuse the pun . Went to tm and another guru his iq and clarity increased greatly . I have awe of my brother because of his great mental clarity hes acieved through yoga and avoda zora .

  2. By the way now hes very strict with the mitzvot especially on shleimut eretz yisrael unlike 60 % of jews in the world , ahavat Hashem unlike 99% of jews in the world and ahavat yisrael . A real modern day yitro who moses prostrated too. Hes far better then the average jew in mitzvot and love of israel and especially the land only because of leaving the path of gemara gemara and more sedom and going to tm , and another rishi . Maybe we should kill more doves that fly into our sedom i mean gemara classes reference the awesome yeshivah in israel that did that . Mashiach must think were a joke !

  3. no buddhist or rishi would kill a dove that came in during there meditations theres something very sinister and sick about this gemara cult of learning only pshat and rashi something very very sick and yes SELFISH

  4. Transendental Meditation, as practiced by the Maharishi and his followers, uses the names of Hindu gods as meditative words (since they have over a thousand of these non-dieties, it's easy to give each person their supposed "personal" mantra).

    Are you sure the Rebbe was talking about that? If so, kal vachomer yoga excercises, if you'll excuse the mixture of Talmudic expression and yoga. I somehow doubt however, the Rebbe had Transcendental Meditation specificially in mind, as it is avoda zara mamash.

  5. Ploni - not in mind, the Rebbe says outright he is referring to Transendental Meditation.

  6. Then he probably would allow Yoga, considering TM is avoda zara mamash though since, in accordance with the TM organization's deception, it's practitioner is unaware that he or she is reciting Hindu god names, not avoda zara bmaizid of course.

    In any case, I'm pretty much through with this discussion, as I'm not a big fan of meditative practices taken from the world of Avoda Zara, I don't even like most sushi because its imitations of non-kosher food, much less yoga positions originally meant to be prostrations to sun gods, etc. I simply thought that there is room for a more meikel position on this, for those who practice meditative exercises. I'm reluctant to say people, Rabbonim included apparently, are saying avoda zara is patur, ch'v'sh.

    (Though the pregnant woman this started with probably shouldn't for medical reasons, she should also consult a doctor as well as a Rabbi.)

    Oh by the way, Mr. Anonymous, your attack on the Gemara and its students does not dignify a response, as per Shulchan Aruch which forbids one to argue with a first-generation Jewish apikoreis. I only write this to show that I have no portion in your comments and attacks on our sages, including the holy author of the Targum Yonnason.


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