Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Hindus want a piece of the yoga action

One day many Christmases ago, the erstwhile Mrs Daniel and I went to an Anglican Church. (We went seeking pomp, but were disappointed.) While there, we saw some parents we knew from Hippy School.

"So, are you Anglican?" I asked.

"No," they replied. "We do Yoga!"

The quondam Mrs D was irked. "Yoga's not a religion!" she later fumed.

Well, no, it's actually a method of torture, but that's coming from me, with the shortest hamstrings in the Pecos.

And yet, the Hindu American Foundation would like to take yoga back.
Yoga is practiced by about 15 million people in the United States, for reasons almost as numerous — from the physical benefits mapped in brain scans to the less tangible rewards that New Age journals call spiritual centering. Religion, for the most part, has nothing to do with it.

But a group of Indian-Americans has ignited a surprisingly fierce debate in the gentle world of yoga by mounting a campaign to acquaint Westerners with the faith that it says underlies every single yoga style followed in gyms, ashrams and spas: Hinduism.
At first, I was thinking: fine, but this won't improve yoga. Doing asanas is fine as a form of exercise, but dragging in a bunch of religious muck won't make it any better.

Then I realised: Silly me! They don't want to improve yoga. They just want to piggyback on yoga's popularity. Which is all right, I suppose. Look at Christianity. They've been allowed to piggyback on
  • family
  • personal milestones like birth, marriage, death, and puberty
  • the human qualities of virtue, morality, goodness
So I guess the least we can do is let the Hindus have yoga. Though later on they might try to claim all exercise.

On the other hand, I have no objection if people who practice Christian Yoga are tied up into a knot and rolled over by a thousand fitballs.


  1. Wow, Christian yoga is such blatant cultural appropriation that I was literally nauseated reading that website. People. I just don't know.

  2. Ha, I'm kind of on the flip-side of that battle. I really like Yoga -- just for health and how it makes me feel. But I'm not thrilled with the religion aspect, see my post wellness and woo.

  3. The "Yoga" commonly practised in the West (Hatha Yoga) these days is only one form of the various Yogas developed in India by Hindus over the last thousand years or so.

    I am not a Hindu, but I do feel they've got a point and should be allowed to take it back, since for good or ill they were actually it's originators.

  4. Ed: What do you mean they "should be allowed to take it back"? Take it back in what sense? Nobody owns a copyright on Hatha Yoga. You can't legally stop people from practicing non-religious Hatha Yoga.

  5. Ed: What do you mean they "should be allowed to take it back"?

    I mean take the credit for inventing it. Hatha yoga is a practise that was designed by practicioners of the Hindu religion for the use of practicioners of the Hindu religion.

    It may have benefits for others, but those who practice it should stop denying it's origins and pretending that is a "Christian (or muslim or Daoist or Buddhist)" practice when it isn't. Credit where credit is due.

    Of course, Buddhists and Daoists have their own forms of "yoga" and even some Christian's in monastaries have practised what Hindus would likely recognized as forms of Yoga (though not Hatha Yoga).

    Hatha Yoga may have benefits for non Hindus. On the other hand I doubt that other kinds will, Chakra Yoga being an example that I find highly dubious, and quite possibly dangerous.


Thanks for commenting! If this comment is on a post older than 60 days, your comment will go straight to moderation, and I'll approve it if it's not spammy.