Hindu Group Stirs a Debate Over Yoga’s Soul

Posted by Kendall Harmon

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.

The campaign, labeled “Take Back Yoga,” does not ask yoga devotees to become Hindu, or instructors to teach more about Hinduism. The small but increasingly influential group behind it, the Hindu American Foundation, suggests only that people become more aware of yoga’s debt to the faith’s ancient traditions.

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsHinduism

4 Comments
Posted November 28, 2010 at 2:02 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]



1. Branford wrote:

Interesting. I had always figured yoga was just stretching, harmless exercise, etc., but when I went through my RCIA class to join the Roman Catholic Church, one of the sponsors was a former Hindu, now a Christian. He was vehemently against any Christian participating in yoga because each position relates in some way, as a prayer position or something else, to a Hindu god. He felt that even if one didn’t know what the positions meant, that there were forces beyond our understanding that could affect our faith. I also took a yoga class once where the instructor definitely gave it a religious aura and had us repeat Hindu phrases as we changed positions. I just kept reciting the Doxology in my head, but I never went back to her class.

November 28, 5:57 pm | [comment link]
2. art wrote:

2 things.  I personally have long known the phyical positions to have been linked to Vedic deities, and have therefore counselled caution re Christians practising this form of ‘exercsie’.  Thanks Branford!

But secondly, and more importantly, the entire thing reveals one more time the staggering ignorance and arrogance of westerners who plunder in horridly ‘postmodern ways’ those bits they fancy from other cultures and then use/sell them for their own ‘benefit’.  Good on this group for taking their stance!  They are only turning the tables on those who try to patent such things as tomatoe genes etc. - a delicious irony!

November 28, 8:43 pm | [comment link]
3. Scatcatpdx wrote:

I think this puts a dent into the Christian Yoga fallacy. Still interesting is wonderign how Eastern tradition will adapted in Western society.

November 29, 12:59 am | [comment link]
4. Katherine wrote:

Branford, your RCIA instructor is entirely correct.  It is a religious exercise through and through as practiced in India.  Christians wanting some of the benefits of the stretching and strengthening should find a good Pilates class.

November 29, 7:08 pm | [comment link]
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