Tuesday, August 21, 2012



by Reb Gutman Locks on Mystical Paths

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A Reader Asked:

     I am interested to hear what you have to say about Yoga as a physical exercise and mind-centering activity (I'm discussing the poses and movements, not pranayama or seated meditation). Supposedly it has physical and mental benefits. Is the practice of the poses inextricably linked to Indian religious beliefs or are they harmless in and of themselves?

Gutman’s Answer:

     It seems that “religious” Jews who practice yoga want to continue practicing it, no matter what. Even if everyone agrees that yoga is not merely physical exercises, still, they insist that they are just exercising their body so it is alright. Here again we see that they are fooling themselves and are actually participating in the spiritual practice of Hinduism which is the main form of idolatry (actual idolatry and associated practices as identified by the Gemora) in the world today.

As long as you are doing “yoga” you are involved with Hinduism.

     Last week the New York Tax authority announced that since yoga is primarily a spiritual practice and not just physical exercise they are no longer going to tax the yoga studios.

      And this week the Yoga Journal Newsletter writes:

“Today, many yoga practitioners assert that yoga is not a religion in their minds. This begs the question: If hatha (exercise) yoga is not a religion, what is it? Is it a hobby, a sport, a fitness regimen, a recreational activity? Or is it a discipline, such as the study of law or the practice of medicine? The odd truth is that there are ways in which the practice of yoga resembles all of those pursuits.

Perhaps it would be helpful to consider the difference between the word "religion" and another word commonly associated with it, "spirituality." Spirituality, it could be said, has to do with one's interior life, the ever-evolving understanding of one's self and one's place in the cosmos—humankind's "search for meaning." Religion, on the other hand, can be seen as spirituality's external counterpart, the organizational structure we give to our individual and collective spiritual processes: the rituals, doctrines, prayers, chants, and ceremonies, and the congregations that come together to share them.

The fact that so many yogis report spiritual experiences in their practices indicates how we might best view the ancient art. While many Westerners come to yoga primarily for its health benefits, it seems safe to say that most people who open to yoga will, in time, find its meditative qualities and more subtle effects on the mind and emotions equally (if not more) beneficial. They will, in other words, come to see yoga as a spiritual practice. But, without credos or congregations, it can't properly be regarded as a religion—unless we say that each yogi and yogini comprises a religion of one.”

Reb Akiva adds: if the teachers and specialists of yoga specifically state that yoga has spiritual religious-like experiences as well as effects on the mind and emotions, we must take note.


  1. Are tai chi and qigong in the same category of idol worship?

  2. We are told that the other six children of Abraham Aveinu (not including Yitzhak and Yishmael), were sent to the East with "Gifts". It has been commented on that these gifts were practices such as Yoga, and some of the Eastern Martial Arts, and Acupuncture. Possibly even Feng Shui?
    If Yoga has spiritual benefits, why would that be bad?
    Going for a walk in a wood or park can have spiritual benefits as it can make us ponder the work of our Creator, and also get some fresh air into our lungs. To undertake such an activity is not expressively a Jewish form of worship.
    Understand that it is prohibited to do Yoga (or anything else!) if an idol is in the room, but for the life of me I cannot see how Yoga is bad.
    Also, where does one draw the line between Yoga and Pilates or Core Strength training, which as many similar stretches and breathing techniques?
    Also, as someone else has asked, what of Tai Chi Chuan, Hsing I Chuan, Pakua, Qi Gong and other "Soft/Internal" martial forms which work on one's inner energy or "Chi/Qi", also known in Yoga as "Prana"?
    Osteopathy too, can work on this energy, and other obscure enrgy systems in the body.

  3. R.Akiva and R. Locks,

    You always warn us against practices like qi gong and yoga but what about "FREEMASSONRY ?? Is it taboo for you???


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