YOGA; The Devil’s Workshop?

YOGA; The Devil's Workshop?

 

YOGA –THE DEVIL’S WORKSHOP?
Recently on Nigerian Twitter, someone somewhere posted something about how yoga is demonic, and in response, angry yogis took to twitter to defend yoga, posting various pictures and videos of themselves in different asanas (poses), with captions like “our incantations”, “the devil’s child” and others, in obvious mockery of what was considered an outdated extremist opinion.
I scoured the internet looking for detailed explanations by practitioners in response to the article written, but I couldn’t find any. I realized how quickly this could create a problem. Our anger as yogis is just anger, it doesn’t answer the question for those who are genuinely confused, and for those who are one foot in and out of practice. People question what’s not explained, and putting up pictures in righteous anger may be half of it, but it’s not all of it.

FOR THE RECORD
Just so you know, yoga is not demonic. Demonic is such a strong word. The practice is not hinged on attaining evil power for evil deeds, or whatever else it means to be demonic.
It’s going to be hard to give a single perspective to the whole issue, but as a Muslim, it will be easier for me to take it from the Islamic angle.

THE STORY
Since I was young, I have been unexplainably fascinated by the art of body movement, as a result, I have devoured various contents on traditional dances, ski dance, ballet, and martial arts ranging from jiujutsu to taekwondo to judo. I was once devoted to basketball too before I finally found yoga. It was yoga that really fascinated me for years; the promise of a healthy mind and a body that I can own in its entirety. I wanted that. Late last year, I told myself why not.
It never occurred to me when I started my practice that there was any religious connotations to yoga, for me, it was just training my body through breaths and flexibility, to belong to me. It was a soulful dance. But as I got deeper into my practice, I began to read more and take a few classes, and it became clear to me that yoga is tied to Hinduism. Soon after this discovery, a friend also pointed me to a few Islamic sites and what they have to say about yoga being a form of idol worshipping.

THE BOND
As I read more and more about yoga, especially the reasoning behind each asana and pranayama, I started to see the elements of Lord Krishna, of Hanuman, of oneness with the things around us in order to reach a ‘higher level of spiritual realm’; these elements are very pronounced in bhakti yoga. I realized meditation can be either a spiritually religious affair or a spiritually soulful affair (samadhi), depending on what purpose one wants from the practice.
Failing to acknowledge this root for the simple reason that yoga has been westernized is the same as saying just because the British moved Nigerian artworks to sit in British museums, those artworks are British property without ties to Nigeria. Yoga in its entirety is linked to Hinduism, which depending on what your religion has to say, may be idol-worship of sorts. I won’t go as far as saying demonic, because nothing I have read until now, shows any hint of devil invocation.

RESOLVING THE ISSUE
Upon coming to the conclusion that yoga is linked to Hinduism, I became dejected. I couldn’t see myself giving up on my practice. Thankfully, I was able to find people like me who have researched about this and have written really informative articles.
Yoga is divided into four, hatha and rhaja, karma, bhakti and jnana. The general consensus for people who have religious principles that do not tally with Hinduism is that one can actively practice hatha and rhaja, and to an extent, karma which is mostly philosophical, while abstaining from bhakti and jnana. However, in practice, this may not be very easy to distinguish. The solution proposed is that one can work towards treating yoga as a highly conscious exercise, that is, a form of soulful dance for the mind and the body. So far, this has meant practicing requires more intentionality and cautiousness in how I approach yoga; one must carefully sieve out what has deeper intonations of spirituality.
For instance, meditating is a conscious breath and mind emptying experience for me, so even though I am aware that there are chants to climb upper realms while meditating, this is not something I am exploring, and while taking classes, if these chants are being recited, I stay away.

CONTROVERSIES
A lot of people argue that practicing yoga in this manner is no different from practicing pilate, however, I disagree. Pilate is heavily physical, and despite how all the poses are similar to yoga poses, there’s no true element of soul presence and no accord with nature that can be gotten from yoga practice. Also, pilate relies a lot on machines to push the body into poses, while yoga relies on the will of the mind to push the body into poses. This still keeps them different, even when you subtract the Hinduism and the religious spirituality from your yoga practice.
Thus, for religious people, the first step is awareness and recognition of what yoga is and what it is tied to. This helps you to reach a balance in your practice and know exactly what to look out for, to avoid any religious misjudgments.

CONCLUSION
Yoga is not demonic, yogis have a right to get angry, because what you see on the timeline; those body contorting moves that look appealing are achieved through consistent hard work, through sweats, hours of reading, a lot of falls and injuries and sometimes tears. Wouldn’t it have been nice if one could just invoke a demon to reach these asanas? If there is a demon in yoga, it is those difficult handstand asanas, huh.
I will leave you with the wise words of Swami Sivananda, one of the main pioneers of yoga globalization, who said “Yoga is a science perfected by the ancient seers of India, not of India merely, but of humanity as a whole. It is an exact science. It is a perfect, practical system of self-culture.”


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What do you think?

  1. I personally think it is just a situation of actions and intentions. And Islam clearly states that actions are judged according to intentions. So if you’re doing the Yoga because of the mental exercise aspect of it and not to connect with Lord Krishna on Spiritual LinkedIn, then bend over and do that Yoga!

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