Hinduism and Yoga

Yoga is a common way to stay healthy, but some feel it is too close to Hinduism. This has become controversial in light of International Yoga Day activities

Some see yoga as a way to calm the mind, relax the body and reconnect to what is important in life.  Others see it as a sweat-soaked workout of nearly impossible poses with silly names. But Muslim groups in India are concerned that yoga, and especially the celebration of International Yoga Day on June 21 and compulsory yoga instruction in schools, contradicts the teachings of Islam.

For example, Muslim leaders say that the yogic exercise known as the sun salutation goes against Islamic law, which states that Muslims should not bend before anybody, or anything, other than Allah. But India’s Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh has stated that there is “no compulsion” to do any of the recommended yoga practices on June 21, although he does hope that the majority of people will participate. He went on to say that yoga should not be associated with any “caste, creed and religion” but instead seen as something that is “good for mental and physical health.”

Objections to yoga because of a connection to religion are not isolated to India.  Recently, a California couple appealed to the US Court against their child’s school for teaching yoga in gym class.  They said that the connection to Hinduism would impede the child’s pursuit of a Christian lifestyle. Similarly, in Ireland, a Catholic priest made headlines by warning that practicing yoga could lead to the “Kingdom of Darkness” and ultimately, Satanism.

Despite these cases, the practice of yoga is widespread and celebrated in the West.  Yoga mats are spread in grassy areas of parks, and classes, if not entire business, are devoted to learning the many poses and chants that make up the yogic tradition.

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