Saturday, October 9, 2010

No Yoga for Christians?!

Oh wow!

Yoga—what is it, exactly?

Should a Christian do the Downward Dog?

This is not a trick question, but rather an issue raised by Baptist leader Albert Mohler that, like an egg beater, has whipped up the yoga community's usual calm into a peaked, frothy fluster. Then again, aren't we all a bit confused about this body-bending, mind-enhancing practice from the East?

In the name of clarity, here is an attempt to answer what yoga is—and what it isn't.

The word yoga... Yoga traditions go back thousands of years, and today have spawned more than 100 schools, according to the American Yoga Association. This is partly why any discussion about the practice is so complicated. "In Sanskrit, 'yoga' can mean anything from an astronomical conjunction to yoking an animal to going to war; it's what you put in front of the word—hatha, raja, tantric—that defines it," explains David White, PhD, professor of religious studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and editor of the forthcoming book,Yoga in Practice. "Not to say there is a pure hatha, raga, or tantric tradition—they were all mixed over the years in different ways by people in India, as well as the West, to attract followers." In other words, what's taught today in gyms, studios, and retreats around the country is inevitably a smoothie of traditions, usually featuring one ingredient—the physical poses—that was originally a very small part of the recipe.

Is yoga a religion? Categorically no, if you ask most teachers and devotees. "Simply put, yoga is not a religion," says Aadil Palkhivala, who grew up in Bombay and studied with B.K.S. Iyengar before founding Purna Yoga. "It's a process that helps you become physically stronger, more mentally alert, and more emotionally stable, so you can be a better Christian, Jew, Muslim, or whatever you care to be."

The rest of the article here.

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