Why Practicing Yoga Will Make You a Better Hindu

No one can explain yoga better than a Hindu, and in a recent article by the co-founder and managing director of the Hindu American Foundation, Suhag A. Shukla, Esq. confirms what most American Christians just don’t want to accept – that practicing yoga will make you a better Hindu.

In this article published on the ultra liberal Huffington Post, Shukla disputes the conclusions reached about yoga-related injuries in William Broad’s new book. She says they are premised on common misunderstandings in the West about what yoga really is – and isn’t. 

“Yoga is a combination of both physical and spiritual exercises, the key word being ‘combination’ with an emphasis on the spiritual,” she writes.

“Yoga is the practice of preparing oneself to yoke, unite or experience the Divine within (i.e. the individual self with the Cosmic Self). Yoga is about attaining moksha, or liberation, from worldly suffering and the cycle of birth and rebirth. Yoga is a holistic and spiritual system of living that is essential to the understanding and practice of Hinduism. What yoga is not is asana alone.”

She goes on to describe the eight limbs of yoga: yama (restraints), niyama (observances), asana (posture); pranayama (mastery of breath); pratyahara (withdrawal); dharana (concentration); dhyana (meditation); and samadhi (higher levels of meditation).

“Analyzing yoga as only exercise and then labeling it as hazardous to one’s health is a false equation because yoga doesn’t equal asana. And therein lies the crux of the problem of not only Broad’s theses, but the secular and physical fixation in which the West — and sometimes the East in mimicking the West — has cloaked this ancient spiritual tradition,” she writes.

“As a result, we are now bombarded with Naked Yoga, Hip Hop Yoga, Hot Yoga, Antigravity Yoga, Christian Yoga … the list is long and just as ludicrous. The truth is that none of these are yoga simply because they incorporate some form of asana and say they are. What’s the saying? ‘You can put lipstick on a pig…'”

In order to educate the public about yoga, Shukla’s organization launched the Take Back Yoga (TBY) Project three years ago with the initial aim of bringing about an acknowledgement of yoga’s Hindu roots by highlighting how the West has delinked it from its spiritual moorings and tried to make it into just another exercise routine.

“Just as equating yoga with only asana is a half-truth (more like a 1/8th-truth), so too is ignoring the spiritual, metaphysical Truths upon which yoga rests. Ever been to a studio which displays an Aum (Om) on its walls or a class which begins with the chanting of it? Aum, according to the Vedas (Hinduism’s most sacred texts), is the primordial sound that resonated at the creation of our Universe and continues to resonate in each of us and all of existence. Ever close a session with hands at your heart and the utterance of “Namaste — the Divine/Light in me bows to the Divine/Light in you”? Namaste encompasses the essential teachings of Hinduism that God is both immanent and transcendent and we all are inherently Divine. How about a class focused on sun salutations or Surya namaskar? Prostration to the sun was central to ancient Hindu worship and continues to be relevant. . . ”

She admits that TBY’s quest to educate the public about the spiritual roots of yoga may cause people to steer clear of it because of its religious underpinnings, but that’s okay.

“Ironically, while much of the yoga industry and mainstream media perpetuate the yoga is asana formula with an occasional nod to pranayama, the leadership of a number of the world’s religions, such as the Vatican, warn their flock that yoga may lead one into exploring and experiencing Hindu belief and practice,” she writes.

“I have to say, I concur. True yoga will not wreck your body or make you fat, but it may just open your heart, increase your capacity to see and be divine, and lead you towards a more pluralistic, Hindu view of life.”

5 Response to “Why Practicing Yoga Will Make You a Better Hindu

  1. One of my best friends is a staunch Hindu and one day she asked me whether i practised yoga (both of us are Indians) and i said no – never was interested although i enjoy other workouts. She said good , you can’t do yoga Pushpa as it’s Hindu spiritualism (She’s knows i’m a practising Catholic). There in a nutshell .
    i live in germany and i can’t understand the obssession with yoga!

  2. I may be dense as a post or just blind but I still can not understand the harm of exerciseing and that specific stances are evil.
    I listened this morning 2/29/12 to the dialog on the morning show. Nothing could jolt me from the thought of religious people kneeling and being so contemplative that they actually go into a, for lack of a better word, trance.
    To stand on one foot and stretch upward looks like an exercise.
    Purposefully using any posture to invoke any other than the one true triune God, yes, that is heritical…………..but doing just exercises???
    I use Palites, they also have breathing exercises along with body control……….some even look similar to Yoga. This is wrong too??
    I am interested because of the benign Appearence of the exercises…….No I do not do them…….just trying wrap my mind around the conflict. God bless all.

  3. You are right in that it IS difficult to understand. Here is where we need to understand the INTENT of yoga. The INTENT of yoga is much different than that of stretching in gym class before running or volleyball. It’s different than pilates stretching and breathing because the INTENT is different. The INTENT of yoga is to transcend, to reach a state of Hindu spiritual transcendence. Where does that get a person? To the over 300,000 Hindu gods, none of which will connect you to the saving heart of Jesus Christ. Yoga is a COMBINED spiritual discipline: exercise,non-Christian spiritualism, breathing techniques, that all work together to reach a plane of existence that honors Brahman. IF an exercise honors another god than our Almighty, All-Powerful, Supreme and Loving Father-God, then it is not of Him. If it is not of Him, then it is evil. Our bodies are the Temple of the Holy Spirit, so by taking good care of our bodies in a healthy way without evil influences, we can honor God also. The First Commandment given by God to the Israelites in the wilderness lays this out for us: I AM the Lord thy God, thou shalt have no other gods before Me. Satan is a slick deceiver. Yoga is one of his seemingly harmless ways of “yoking” us in to his world.

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