Of Yoga & Religion
I only glanced through the newspapers on Wednesday, but what I found on today’s Star just made my day off worse. Read below :
Coming soon: Fatwa on yoga
Oct 29, 08 4:08pm, Malaysiakini
The National Fatwa Council will be issuing a ruling soon relating to yoga exercise, which is deemed to be deviationist in nature for the Muslims.
An announcement on the matter is expected to be made soon by the fatwa council’s chairperson Prof Dr Abdul Shukor Husin.
This was revealed by the deputy director-general of the Department of Islamic Development Malaysia (Jakim) Othman Mustapha, reported Bernama today.
Yesterday, UKM lecturer Prof Zakaria Stapa advised Muslims who have taken up yoga – a widely popular exercise which has its roots to India and Hinduism – to stop practising it for fear that it could deviate them from their belief.
“Yoga originated from the Hindu community and it combines spiritual as well as their religious aspects. They believe it brings them closer to their god,” he was reported as saying in Berita Harian today.
Zakaria was reported to have said that more Muslims were resorting to yoga exercise to find a balance in their hectic lifestyle.
He added that they should instead apply the Islamic teachings such as prayers to find peace and good health.
“If the Muslims want a healthy body, prayers are the right choice… why must we find alternate ways… a single mistake can deviate our teachings as yoga movements follow the style and tradition of Hinduism,” he was reported as saying.
I have been practicing Bikram Yoga for 8 months and other forms of yoga for the past 4 years and *IF* this form of EXERCISE can allegedly CONVERT me to become a HINDU, I must say this form of brainwashing has failed. Miserably.
How difficult could it be to implant some religious thoughts in my little skull, especially so since I practice Bikram 4-5 times a week.
Yes, Yoga may have originated from India. Yes, people who practice yoga are called Yogi/Yogini(f) but NO, it does not help one deviate from their current religion!
And I am extremely upset by the next article :
Mixed feelings on yoga
By LESTER KONG
PETALING JAYA: Not only Muslims have reservations on practising yoga, some Christian groups also have mixed feelings about it due to its ties to Hinduism.
While some Christian groups say it was wrong to practise yoga as it belonged to a different religion, others say they saw nothing wrong as long as the participants do not deviate from their beliefs.
The Malaysian Council of Churches general secretary, Rev Dr Herman Shastri, said different churches hold different opinions on the practice of yoga.
“In modern society, many young people are interested in health and well-being of mind and body.
“Some churches said it belonged to a different religion so Christians should not do it,” he said, adding that many churches held spiritual retreats that were opened to non-believers, featuring meditation to alleviate stress and help people seek spiritual comfort.
Another source said the issue was problematic as the council did not have a uniform stance on it.
He said other church groups consider yoga to be a healthy exercise if done only for physical reasons.
“But generally, for Christians, if they do not offer prayers to other Gods while practising yoga, I think it should be fine,” he said.
Malaysia Hindu Sangam president Datuk A. Vaithilingam said yoga had long been an accepted form of exercise in many countries regardless of religion and culture.
“Yoga practitioners can just leave out the religion and do the exercise. It‘s entirely up to the individual,” he said, adding that there were no restrictions that yoga practitioners had to be Hindus.
The Malaysian Muslim Solidarity Movement also said there was nothing wrong with Muslims practising yoga as an exercise.
“It is just an exercise for health and brings peace of mind. Nothing more than that. It has never been averse to the Islamic faith,” said its president Datuk Zulkifli Mohamad, adding that there were no objections on yoga by ulamas around the world.
“This new fatwa is not healthy and yoga is a very subjective and debatable issue,” Zulkifli added.
Yoga is a form of exercise called Asana and was one of the most ancient physical and mental disciplines originating from India some 5,000 years ago.
The Islamic Development Department had said on Wednesday that the National Fatwa Council is expected to make a ruling to ban Muslims from practising yoga.
So the Christians are up in arms over whether Yoga is also a religious practice? No, it isn’t. Using Bikram Yoga as an example [as I’m more well-versed in this particular form of Yoga], I will outline why practicing Yoga [especially Bikram Yoga] is NOT religious [if anything, if gives you an enormous sense of relief and emotional freedom, as what happened to me when I started doing the Advanced Camel posture… but I digress!] :
1. We start off with Pranayama Deep Breathing instead of prayers to “deities”. The purpose of PDB is to expand our lung capacity. Did you know that we only use 10% of our lungs and this exercise helps us to use the other 90%? In fact I’m proud to say, I have had no asthma / sinus attacks for the past 7 months 🙂
2. At no point in time during class are any prayers offered to deities. In fact, the only time prayers are offered would be AFTER class when you go to the locker room and admire your body as it glistens in sweat and the amount of toned muscles you possess. Prayers and salutations to said deity / God / Being would go something like this :
“Oh my [GOD / DEITY / BEING], look at my arms / abs / legs! They are so toned and MY [GOD / DEITY / BEING] I feel so fit and strong I can slap someone and cause a dent in their face! Oh [LORD / GOD / GODDESS (if you pray to a female deity) ]!!!!!”
3. The dialog [that is, the instructions given by the instructors during class] of Bikram Yoga at no way invokes the name of any deity. Unless of course, you’re not paying attention during class thus letting your mind wander thus you get thoughts like “OH GOD MY THIGHS BURN LIKE HELL” / “OH [LORD / GOD / GODDESS] I have 60 more minutes of this?!”
4. While I am on the subject of the dialog, let me give you an example of what an instructor says to make time pass as we try to hold the posture and not fall flat on the nose :
This is from Standing Bow Pulling, one of my favourite postures :
“Kick back, kick up, kick so hard you can see your left foot coming out from the top of your head. Stretch your right arm forward GO AND TOUCH THE MIRROR. Simultaneously KICK BACK KICK UP because the HARDER YOU KICK, YOU WILL BALANCE THERE FOREVER. Stretch your right arm forward and KICK BACK, KICK UP, KICK UP TOWARDS THE CEILING, KICK HARDER KICK UP ONE MORE TIME”
There. No deity involved. Unless like point no.3, you’ve already fallen flat on your ass and you’re praying to some deity to take your humiliation away. Or, if I’m standing next to you and you roll onto my mat, may GOD have mercy on you because I will burp and fart in your face during class.
Or maybe the word “KICK” is a secret code word uttered [more like yelled sometimes] that makes us run to the nearest Religious Conversion Centre. Hmm.
5. Fine, I’ll even include the dialog from a posture that I don’t really like. In fact, since I despise don’t really like it with a passion, I will give you the dialog in its entirety from the beginning till the end, just to prove to skeptics that Yoga does not equate religion :
This is from the Eagle Pose, Garurasana :
“Identify your right arm and your left arm. Swing your RIGHT arm, OVER your left arm. Interlace all 10 fingers and pull your shoulders down and make sure your hands go BELOW your nose. Sit down like you’re sitting in a chair. Lift your RIGHT LEG up and OVER onto your left leg as high as possible. Cross your legs, twist like ropes, SIT DOWN MORE. Slide your toes towards your ankles. Turn your knees to your right and your upper body to the left, getting knees, hands, heels, everything in one perfect line, opening your 14 major joints. SIT DOWN MORE. If you’re losing your balance, suck your stomach in and lean back. If your foot is coming out, SIT DOWN MORE. Lean back, fall back, go back, CHANGE”.
Hmm. Maybe the keyword here is “SIT DOWN MORE”. Cause everytime the instructor says that I feel this cramp in my leg that makes me wanna … you betcha, pray to GOD and end my misery.
And another thing that made me scratch my head was this comment left on another blog regarding this whole Yoga – Muslim fiasco :
LifeJuicer said…Hi, I just want to drop a note that yoga is also prohibited if not encouraged in Christianity. It is also considered as deviation and it is not practised not due to where it may lead but where the roots came from, similarly to acupuncture, feng shui and reflexology. We stay away mostly out of respect to our faith as God is considered a jealous God to us.
So this is my rationale of GOD and LOVE as understood by me throughout my rather sketchy reading of the Bible as preached to me by my ex [may the wretched and righteous bastard see the light of day and stop calling himself a Christian because he’s not] :
According to 1 Corinthians 13 about love :
If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor, and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears. When I was a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
Ane now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
And now from Exodus 20:5 :
5 You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me..
While I believe in a Greater Being, I fail to understand how or why God according to the Old Testament is one full of wrath.