Holy wars are dreadful. For as long as humans have been on the planet, clashes in faith have caused massive death and destruction. This century alone has seen its fair share of bombs, murders and suicides over God, and the irony is dumbfounding to say the least.
Far from an actual war or major religious conflict, a group of Hindus have created a program to stand up and fight for a much forgotten element of yoga. “Take Back Yoga,” a campaign set up by the Hindu American Foundation (HAF), was developed to bring attention to America that yoga has roots in Hinduism, and is not just about the physical poses called asanas.
Most of us who practice yoga know this. We understand yoga comes from India, which is an area steeped in Hinduism. Some of us are even aware that not all Hindus practice yoga, nor are all yogis Hindu. In addition, yoga is not a religion; it is a method, a philosophy, and a system to experience happiness.
The philosophical elements of yoga that the HAF feel are lost, such as purity, nonviolence and truthfulness, seem like general guidelines that any kind human would want to abide by, regardless of religion. But, the HAF feels because we do not address these elements in modern yoga classes that we’ve disregarded them in favor of the physical benefits of the asanas.
According to Sheetal Shah, a senior director of the HAF, a popular yoga magazine claimed the word ‘Hinduism’ came with a lot of baggage, therefore was not often mentioned in their articles. That seems like a cheap shot to the Hindus and a cause for concern. Judging a religion for whatever reason is just plain wrong, and is the very action that sparks tension. People are drawn to yoga to get away from stress, not bring on more.
I understand the HAF’s craving for acknowledgement of the Hindu religion as something that has contributed to yoga’s philosophical evolution. I greatly respect the importance of recognition. For those who only practice yoga for the physical benefits, it is their prerogative.
Yoga is likely remarkably different now than it was at the time of conception. Change is inevitable and it is not always bad. One of the fundamental principles of yoga is unity. The word itself means, “to join.” In a world so divided by property lines, political affiliations, and religious differences, it is upsetting that yoga has entered the same struggles.
Instead of viewing it as a “taking back” of yoga, let’s use the terms “giving back.” Let us give a reflective glance back into the Hindu, Vedic, and Tantric origins of this life changing practice, put our palms together in gratitude, and be happy it has touched the lives of so many.
April 12th, 2012