One of them suggested that instead of trying to dig around the religious roots of yoga, I should instead focus on the amazing health benefits of the practice. A good place to start, they suggested, was the book: 'Light on Yoga' by B. K. S. Iyengar, apparently 'the world's greatest expert' on yoga, and the founder of modern 'secular' yoga.
Being the curious person that I am, I went to take a look at the book on Amazon; then I went to take a look at BKS Iyengar's official website, to get a feel for the person who wrote the book.
Here's the link to it: http://bksiyengar.com/modules/IYoga/sage.htm - BUT, before you click through, please be warned that you are entering a site that's literally dripping with avoda zora. This particular page on the OFFICIAL SITE of BKS Iyengar contains a prayer to a long-dead person called 'Sage Patanjali', who Iyengar credits with creating 'his' version of yoga.
(This is a good time to remember that Iyengar yoga is being touted as the 'completely secular, OK for Jews, just a good de-stressing health practice' type of yoga.)
Still being the curious person that I am, I then went to check out WHO this 'Sage Patanjali' actually was. This is what I got from Wikipedia: (I bolded and bigged-up the really interesting bits)
In the Yoga tradition, Patañjali is a revered name and has been deified by many groups, especially in the Shaivite bhakti tradition. It is claimed by some that Patañjali is an incarnation of the mythical serpent Ananta. This Patañjali's oeuvre comprises the sutras about Yoga (Yogasūtra) and the commentary integral to the sutras, called the Bhāṣya. In the past, the sutras and the Bhaṣya have been considered by some to have had different authors, the commentary being ascribed to "an editor" (Skt. "vyāsa"). However, a recent comprehensive re-examination of all the evidence has confirmed the view of many older Sanskrit authors in the period before 1000 that one and the same person composed the sutras and the Bhāṣya commentary. The same study also confirms the date of composition of this work as falling in approximately 400 BC.
So, just to recap what we've so far learned about the apparently secular branch of yoga, as taught by BKS Iyengar:
1) It was made up by some dead sage called Patanjali, who lived more than 1600 years ago, and who has now been deified by many yogis, including, apparently, BKS Iyengar.
2) Iyengar has a prayer to Patanjali printed up very prominently on his website.
3) This Patanjali is the incarnation of a SNAKE.
We are back to the Garden of Eden again, aren't we?
As Jews, we know anytime a SNAKE shows up in the story somewhere, that's a clear clue that the Dark Side is heavily involved in whatever is going on. I haven't even had the 'history of yoga' book delivered yet, but the evidence seems to already be stacking up that yoga is out-and-out idol worship, and that Jews shouldn't be going anywhere near the stuff.
'But what about all the health benefits associated with yoga?'
Ah, that's the crux, isn't it? If yoga is SO beneficial to physical health, and SO good at helping us to de-stress, surely God must like that?
There are three sins that Jews need to literally die for, instead of transgressing. They are:
- idol worship
- sexual immorality
Here's the thing with idol worship: it ALWAYS promises great benefits to its practitioners, and even sometimes delivers them.
Back when people were sacrificing their children to Moloch, or throwing stones to Merculis, they were doing that stuff because they thought they'd get a bumper crop, or good health, or a new house, whatever the particular motivation might have been.
Even if yoga does transform your health (and we'll take a closer look at that claim in a moment) - it's still idol worship, and therefore completely prohibited. If you have to give up your life instead of engaging in idol worship, you for sure have to give up your 'stress-free' living or achy back. (Especially when there are a whole bunch of effective, kosher, exercise alternatives to try.)
But you know something else? The more digging I'm doing, the more the apparent health 'rewards' of yoga also appear to be inflated, and not so realistic.
The following excerpts come from this highly-recommended article (hat tip to EC), written by William Brand, the author of: The science of yoga: its rewards and risks:
"Yoga for many people is a sacred refuge. But as I learned of the dangers, I felt an obligation to help people disentangle the good aspects of the practice from the bad. After all, yoga too often is sold as completely safe — “as safe as mother’s milk,” as a prominent guru once declared.
Most of the hundreds of e-mails and letters I received — from yoga teachers and celebrities, doctors and therapists, yoga schools and studio owners — since the excerpt’s appearance and the book’s publication were written in gratitude and support. Many described injuries. A teacher of nearly two decades wrote with elegant simplicity: “Thank you.”
Critics accused me of sensationalism. But the flurry of letters argued otherwise. People described damage like strokes, spinal stenosis, nerve injury, disk rupture and dead spinal tissue. “I am currently recovering from cervical fusion and will need a lifetime of physical therapy,” a former studio owner wrote. One of the saddest and most thoughtful letters came from an elderly man who studied with Iyengar in India for 16 years. His list of personal injuries included torn ligaments, damaged vertebrae, slipped disks, deformed knees and ruptured blood vessels in his brain. “All that you wrote,” he said, “I can confirm in my own life.”.......
.....Much skepticism — even anger — was directed at the claim I made in both the article and the book that yoga can lead to strokes or brain damage. The evidence lies not just in the studies I cited but medical reviews in 1989, 1994 and 2001 that described yoga strokes, as well as recent federal reporting about a new case. Unfortunately, no scientist has published data on how often yogis suffer strokes and compared the rate with other sources of brain damage. I think it’s fair to assume that the risks are low — but how low is an open question.
So too, readers doubted that yoga could kill. Yet many yogis in apparent good health die suddenly — at times during hard training. Jeff Goodman, 58, died following a class, which was part of an advanced training course in Houston in April 2012. Tiffany Neff, 25, died a month earlier in Moreland Hills, Ohio. Jules Paxton, 45, died in New York City in 2011, as did Bill Jackson, 55, in Naples, Fla. Eric Berliner, 58, died in Chicago in 2010 during a master class. Abbey Duncan, 27, a yoga teacher, died that same year in Minneapolis. In Los Angeles in 2004, Sita White, 43, a British heiress and a favorite of gossip columnists, collapsed and died in a yoga class. The question is why."
Can anyone out there send me the name of a reputable, credible orthodox rabbi who is on record as saying yoga is OK for Jews?
To be continued...