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International Yogalayam

EDITOR:
Yogacharya

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Yoga and Hinduism: One and the same?

Last month I came across an article in “The Chicago Sun Times” which talked about yoga and Hinduism. It was written by Rupa Shenoy, and entitled “More Than Just a Pose.





An American of Indian heritage, Rupa voiced his disapproval of the general way in which yoga is being presented in America and pointed out the obvious disconnect of yoga in the West from its Hindu roots.

Around that same time, I received an email from a man who referred to himself as a swami, asserting that “You and your swami ‘obviously’ do not really know what Yoga is. Yoga is the Hindu religion” — full stop!

Though I’ve never met this person, he continued to write me with more dispariging words, demanding that yoga and hinduism are one and the same. Clearly he has strong feelings about this issue, even though I felt his hasty judgements about me and my guru were misguided.

In addition to these things, I noticed a buzz in the media over the past few weeks about a group of parents who were up in arms against yoga classes being offered at a school in Massena, New York, claiming that their children would be subtly indoctrinated in principles of the Hindu religion.

Evidently, this was a subject that I was being prodded to address.

I am not a Hindu. I was born in Canada, and I admit that it took me quite some time to come to know something of Hinduism and also to appreciate its relevance to the science of yoga. I am in India, on my eighth visit, right now. Each time I come here, I learn more about this culture, these people, and yoga. Over the years, I have come to know with certainty that yoga and the ancient spiritual culture of this land are utterly inseparable.

The parents of Massena high school had a legitimate beef. Yoga has its foundation in the spirituality of ancient India, and its teachings are indivisible from that. Yet, at the same time, very little connection between yoga and Hinduism is portrayed in the common approach to yoga in the West.

The latest decision taken by the school on this matter was a compromise that reflected exactly that fact. Instead of “yoga classes,” the school has agreed to offer a voluntary program with “yoga-type exercises” and refer to it as “Raider relaxation,” named after the school’s mascot. …  [ continued ]

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