Thursday, May 6, 2010

Q and A

Now attempting to answer Amanda's questions

Disclosure: Amanda, I am neither a yoga scholar nor a religion scholar. I am answering these questions as per my own thinking/opinions and and trying to be 100% honest with myself and trying to find my true self while answering these.

Do you see yoga (the entire system of practices, philosophy and teachings) as inherently religious? If so, why?

Ans:Yes and NO. I believe yogasana(asana,pranayama, meditation,bandha included under that umbrella) can be practiced without bringing up outwardly religious aspects like practicing in front of Ganesha/Krishna/devi idols or lit up incense sticks, wearing japa malas etc. When I see these things included in yoga studios and/or workshops , I of course feel happy to see my religious symbols and a little amused as well as curious to know if these are little too much for people who practice some other religion. I personally avoid talking about Hindu deities in class because I want people to follow their own path. I do feel that all religions are basically spiritual paths leading to the divine but over years the ideas are taken over by rigid rituals. I hope I am able to put my thoughts across . It is difficult to separate yoga and hindu(sanatana Dharma) philosophy as they are so intertwined ( to me anyway)

What do you see as the religious aspects of yoga? Everything about it or some parts more than others?

Ans:The things mentioned above could be religious aspects IMO. Idols, japa/rudraksha malas , incense sticks, the sound of bell metal kartals/hand cymbals or even the kirtans/bhajans too. All these things to me are hindu(sanatana Dharma) way of worship.

The very things that health club yoga classes avoid and yoga studios/workshops include to make it more authentic perhaps…

Do you think that to practice yoga asana without religion is an issue?

Ans:NOT AT ALL. I do think yoga is a great practice for ALL. More power to all those who want to practice.

Or do you think that it's a good entry point into understanding, learning and practicing other aspects of yoga?

Ans:Yoga is a path to reach the destination, one of the many prescribed in Sanatana Dharma. And all indeed take you there.

Do you have an issue with asana being advertised and taught as yoga? (Bearing in mind, many yoga asana teachers also teach meditation, pranayama, mudra and bandha as a part of their classes.)

Ans:Asana is a very important part of yoga. The physical practice of asana, pranayam, bandha and mudras create a strong foundation for meditation which is the next step in Ashtanga yoga path with 8 limbs. Asana is yoga and so are other 7 limbs.

Do you see this as de-linking yoga (the overall system) from Hinduism? If so, why?

Ans:I see it being done to take yoga more main stream. That is why yoga in health club won’t let you chant OM since it has religious undertones. When I teach a class I always tell people to skip it if they do not feel comfortable chanting OM. But, on the other side, I do see symbols and things that I mentioned above in studios in order to may be give it an authentic flare without calling it Hindu. They even have yoga jewelry. I never grew up wearing OM pendants/ganesha /Laxmi idol as pendants. So, I say that’s a very American touch :)