RSS
The war over yoga
Alhough the practice may be calming, the debate over its debt to Hinduism is becoming combative
 
Can any one religion or culture claim ownership of yoga?
Can any one religion or culture claim ownership of yoga?
CC BY: lululemon athletica

The Hindu American Foundation wants the 15 million Americans who practice yoga to remember that it's about more than pretzel-like poses, Lululemon togs, and accessories purchased at the local Whole Foods, reports The New York Times. The group launched its "Take Back Yoga" campaign because of "growing concern" about the "conscious delinking of yoga from its Hindu roots" and is calling for Western practitioners to acquaint themselves with yoga's "debt to the faith's ancient traditions." The campaign has sparked fierce opposition from those who claim that yoga's origins aren't so clear cut:

Yoga predates Hinduism: Just as "there was bread and wine before the Last Supper," yoga existed before Hinduism as part of the ancient Vedic culture, says Deepak Chopra in The Huffington Post. The point of yoga is to strive for enlightenment, and "there is no denying that enlightenment has always been outside the bounds of religion." While I sympathize with Indians wanting to be respected, they "would do well to lighten up." 
"Who Owns Yoga?"

Actually, yoga is undeniably rooted in Hinduism: "Yoga has its roots in the millennia-old Indian traditions now known as Hinduism," says Ramesh Rao in The Guardian, and the Hindu American Foundation is right to demand that this be acknowledged. Instead, yoga is now a $6-billion industry that has "been shamelessly rebranded" by "savvy marketers" looking to "make it more acceptable to western culture."
"It is wrong to deny that yoga has its origins in Hinduism"

This campaign doesn't serve Indians' purposes: "Subsuming yoga strictly within Hinduism misconstrues both the practice and the faith," says an editorial in The Times of India. "Rather than focus on indebtedness and ownership, Indians everywhere would best serve the art of yoga and their fellow humans by demonstrating its applicability to one and all, regardless of what they believe in."
"Yoga's appeal is universal"

 

THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER

Subscribe to the Week