World is celebrating International Yoga day with much zeal and vigor. World nations started celebrating International Yoga day from June 21, 2015 after PM Modi's call for its adoption as International Day of Yoga during his address to UN General Assembly on 27 September 2014.
People from all religions are practising yoga for better health and peace of mind. However still there are some fringe elements which are opposing yoga terming it as a religious practice which insults their religious beliefs.
Some like Farida Hamza, had been doing yoga for more than three years and she decided to teach it. She says her family and friends didnot react positively as they felt that it is against Islam.
Priest, Father John Chandler banned yoga from a church hall in UK saying a catholic chursh should promote the gospel and some prominsnt pastors called yoga demonic.
Many foreigners, however, differ from such views. Rebecca Ffrench, the co-founder YogaLondon - a yoga teacher academy - and the philosophy tutor at the school says since yoga is a broad term,it results in difficulty.
Elaborating further she said there are different forms of yoga and some are more religious. She pointed out that Hare Krishna Monks practice Bhakti Yoga while westerners practicec Hatha Yoga which focuses on mental and physicacl strength.
Some say enlightenment depends on tradition. For religious Hindus it is the liberation from the cycle of reincarnation, but for others it is achieving control over mind and understand the true essence of world and one's place to live in. Still many Christians, Islamists and other religions differ from yoga.
Rebecca Ffrench questions just by kneeling down,doesn't amount to praying. The same question Farida Hamza too asked herself while doing yoga in a Hindu temple. She added when she expressed her reservations, the organisers were respectful.
Yoga classes differ and while some start with the chanting of Hindu sutras,otheres talk of life force and cosmic energy. In other classes there are no references to spiritual mantras.
Yoga is very popular in Iran despite tough sharia law. Organisers refer Yoga to a sport. In west classes discuss about the physical benefits of each position. In Malaysia a fatwa was issued against spiritual yoga. Kuala Lumpur permits physical yoga but chanting and medidation is prohibited. Even in Indonesia similar rules exist.
In US too Yoga is repackaged. Many practice ashtanga yoga. In some the sanskrit names of the postures were replaced with the english names while some were given children friendly names like "kangaroo" "surfer" and "washing machine". The lotus position has been rebranded "criss-cross apple sauce", the Surya namaskar has become the "opening sequence"
Some however are still unconvinced and . Dean Broyles, the organisation's president and chief counsel sees movements like the Surya namaskar,as "deeply symbolic rituals that express and instil religion through repetition".
Even some Hindus started campaign Take Back Yoga. Sheetal Shah, from The Hindu American Foundation says those practising Islam and Christianity may have some reservations.
For those Christians who are against Yoga,they have Praise Moves. This combines stretching exercises with Christian worship. As the class adopts a posture, they recite a verse from the Bible.
While doing Bhujangasana or the cobra pose becomes the vine posture, with a corresponding verse from John 15:5. "I am the vine and you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing."
"The word yoga is a Sanskrit word that means 'union with god' or 'yoke'," says Laurette Willis, the founder of PraiseMoves. "And as a Christian, it's a different yoke - Jesus said: 'My yoke is easy, my burden is light.'"
Laurette Willis in the Jars of Clay position says that on 25 February, 2001, at 10:35 in the morning, while she was working out to a video tape, God gave her the idea for PraiseMoves. She sees it as a process of redeeming or "buying back" yogic postures for God.
For some muslims,christians,Jews yoga is attractive as they feela mysticism which is lacking in their religion. Iranian Yoga teacher says "They say when we go to Mecca, we feel we are able to make a deeper pilgrimage because of the yoga," she says. "Our minds and our bodies move closer to our faith."
Farida Hamza says "Each pillar that we follow in Islam, or the duty that we have to do, is sort of existent in yoga. Simple things like - you give alms to the poor. Well, a yogi is supposed to do service. You have to be honest, you have to be non-violent - all of these are in Islam and in yoga"
She adds The way we pray as Muslims, each pose that we do is a yoga pose," she adds. "So Muslims that hate yoga are probably doing yoga without realising it." Muslims even join their middle finger and thumb together during prayer, similar to a yoga mudra, she says, though she doesn't believe Islam came from yoga or was influenced by it.
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