Sunday, May 15, 2011


Is Iyengar Yoga Kosher?

by Reb Akiva @ Mystical Paths

We received the following question…

P1040028“Dear Reb Akiva,

The following poster showed up in our (religious Jewish) neighborhood advertising ‘Iyengar Yoga’ in English and Hebrew.  The classes are separate for men and women and in the religious community.  Is there any problem with Iyengar Yoga?”

Yoga comes in many different styles and approaches.  Each style or approach is founded by a guru, a Hindu spiritual leader. 

The following is directly taken from Iyengar Yoga’s founders website and should clear up whether it’s kosher straight away…

“Yogacharya B.K.S. Iyengar (Guruji) … has helped all to experience the wisdom of the yoga sutras (the yoga sutras is a Hindu scripture and foundational text of yoga).  He is the only person to teach the highest aspects of yoga - Atma Darshan (soul connection) through asanas (yoga body positions).”  The web site also includes a picture of a Hindu god idol on the top of the page.

So if you as a religious Jew want to learn Hindu scriptures and Hindu soul connection to a Hindu god idol – which Judaism considers literal avodah zarah (foreign deity worship – literally idol worship in English), then this is for you.

If not, stay away…FAR AWAY.

Three interesting notes.  First the sheet starts with B’Siyata D’Shamaya, “with the help/permission of Heaven” in Hebrew/Aramaic, a common expression in the religious world to mark a sheet with Jewish religious thought on it.  That’s lie number one.

Number two is the offering of separate mens and womens classes, conforming to religious society practice for classes of various types.

The last point is in the Hebrew around the seal.  While in English it just says “yoga studies center”, in Hebrew it says “center for learning health of the body and SOUL”.

As a Jew I’ll take my SOUL learnings from the Torah, not from a Hindu guru – thank you very much.


  1. Reb Akiva,
    I remember you writing about yoga being considered unkosher a while back.
    I understand the lack of emmes with the chants but come you really mean to say that using some of the yoga forms in the B.S. Iyengar book isn't kosher. If my neck is tight or I need to stretch my spine, what's wrong with using the various steps in the photos, WITHOUT the chants?

  2. In general, there is no problem with performing exercises or stretches. Even more so if it's to treat a specific ailment or condition.

    There are some specific positions, in their complete form, that are designed to generate certain spiritual energy flows. Whether this has an emes or is merely a practice of avodah zarah, they should be avoided. (For example you'll notice almost every picture of Hindu idols or religious leaders has them in a lotus position, completed with the arms extended and thumb/forefinger in a circle - this is a avodah zarah energy conservation position.)

    Of course CHANTS should be avoided.

    In general I'd say the book should be avoided because it includes both things, and someone in pain or need may be tempted to try them and we shouldn't give the yetzer hara the material with which to tempt us.

    But a stretch position that relaxes or gives relief is no problem.


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