Sunday, November 28, 2010

Elvis Adds to the Great Yoga Debate

Before you watch Elvis sing, READ THIS FIRST.

The Great Yoga Debate continues, even gaining momentum, as is evidenced in today's nytimes article "Hindu Group Stirs a Debate Over Yoga’s Soul."

The Hindu American Foundation has a "Take Back Yoga" campaign. BTW - the HAF website is good for understanding Hinduism and its impact on the U.S.

The Take Back Yoga people argue that, behind every yoga movement, there lies an acient Hindu religious practice. Southern Baptist leader Albert Mohler agrees with this and argues, for that reason, that Christians should not practice yoga. Mohler cites Stephanie Syman's recent The Subtle Body: The Story of Yoga in America to make his yoga-as-ancient Hinduism point. Mohler writes:

"Syman describes yoga as a varied practice, but she makes clear that yoga cannot be fully extricated from its spiritual roots in Hinduism and Buddhism. She is also straightforward in explaining the role of sexual energy in virtually all forms of yoga and of ritualized sex in some yoga traditions. She also explains that yoga “is one of the first and most successful products of globalization, and it has augured a truly post-Christian, spiritually polyglot country.” Reading The Subtle Body is an eye-opening and truly interesting experience. To a remarkable degree, the growing acceptance of yoga points to the retreat of biblical Christianity in the culture. Yoga begins and ends with an understanding of the body that is, to say the very least, at odds with the Christian understanding. Christians are not called to empty the mind or to see the human body as a means of connecting to and coming to know the divine. Believers are called to meditate upon the Word of God — an external Word that comes to us by divine revelation — not to meditate by means of incomprehensible syllables."

Mohler: "Douglas R. Groothuis, Professor of Philosophy at Denver Seminary and a respected specialist on the New Age Movement, warns Christians that yoga is not merely about physical exercise or health. “All forms of yoga involve occult assumptions,” he warns, “even hatha yoga, which is often presented as a merely physical discipline.” While most adherents of yoga avoid the more exotic forms of ritualized sex that are associated with tantric yoga, virtually all forms of yoga involve an emphasis on channeling sexual energy throughout the body as a means of spiritual enlightenment."

See some posts and links I've made here, which include the recent debate between Deepak Chopra (yoga is not ancient Hinduism, but more ancient than that) and University of Minnesota's Aseem Shukla (yoga belongs to Hinduism).

My own take on this is that, while a Westernized consciousness trivializes and secularizes spiritual practices, one cannot divorce yoga's physical movements from originally spiritual exercises. I would counsel Jesus-followers to stretch without yoga since "the Hindu roots of yoga seem difficult to deny." (See here.)

Now, for something very culturally ignorant and mental-lite, go here to watch Elvis sing "Yoga Is as Yoga Does." Elvis sings, while attempting yoga (I m not kidding): "You tell me just how I could take this yoga serious. When all it ever gives to me is pain in my posterious."