Does doing yoga make you a Hindu?


For many people, the main concern in a yoga class is whether they are breathing correctly or their legs are aligned. But for others, there are lingering doubts about whether they should be there at all, or whether they are betraying their religion.

Farida Hamza, a Muslim woman living in the US (pictured above), had been doing yoga for two or three years when she decided she wanted to teach it.

"When I told my family and a few friends, they did not react positively," she recalls. "They were very confused as to why I wanted to do it – that it might be going against Islam."

Their suspicions about yoga are shared by many Muslims, Christians and Jews around the world and relate to yoga's history as an ancient spiritual practice with connections to Hinduism and Buddhism.

Last year, a yoga class was banned from a church hall in the UK. "Yoga is a Hindu spiritual exercise," said the priest, Father John Chandler. "Being a Catholic church we have to promote the gospel, and that's what we use our premises for." Anglican churches in the UK have taken similar decisions at one time or another. In the US, prominent pastors have called yoga "demonic".

Written By: William Kremer
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  1. I was holding a pose last week, and quick as you please I became a Hindu! I got better….

  2. Yoga is about stretching and controlled breathing. How do you get a religion out of that? Granted Hindus do it, but then they also keep elephants. That does not make keeping elephants a religion.

    I think this can best be explained by ignorance.

  3. From the OP:

    Does doing yoga make you a Hindu?

    Yes, in the same way that doing tai-chi makes you Taoist, or doing Kendo makes you a Shinto, or drawing right angles makes you a Pythagorean, or going on a 33 year long suicide mission makes you Christian. Yes, in that exact, same way.

  4. Does doing yoga make you a Hindu? Yes, in the same way that doing tai-chi makes you Taoist, or doing Kendo makes you a Shinto, or drawing right angles makes you a Pythagorean, or going on a 33 year long suicide mission makes you Christian.

    …or that doing Kung Fu makes you David Carradine.

  5. Oh, Yoga… That makes more sense…

    You know, I’m still half asleep this morning – I could have sworn that headline said ‘yogurt‘…

    Mind you, Does doing yogurt make you a Hindu? makes just as much sense, now I think about it…

  6. Does doing yoga make you a Hindu? Probably about as likely as growing a bushy beard makes you a Muslim.

  7. Joking apart, do you remember this discussion in July? I said then:

    Traditionally an Ashtanga yoga session begins with a mantra:-

    I bow to the lotus feet of the gurus, The awakening happiness of one’s own self revealed, Beyond better, acting like the jungle physician, Pacifying delusion, the poison of samsara.

    Taking the form of a man to the shoulders, Holding a conch, a discus, and a sword, One thousand heads white, To Patanjali, I salute.

    It ends with another mantra:

    May prosperity be glorified, may rulers (administrators) rule the world with law and justice, may divinity and erudition be protected. May all beings be happy and prosperous.

    You may or may not agree there is a religious aspect to this.

  8. Here’s where the problem may lie “A yogi is a practitioner of yoga. Yogis may broadly refer to Siddhars. Naths, Ascetics, Sadhus, or Siddhas and vice versa because they all practice the Sādhanā concept.[1] The word is also used to refer to ascetic practitioners of meditation in a number of South Asian religions including Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism.”

  9. We can all joke about the title, but yoga is a practice of the Hindu religion. I visited a Hindu temple in Hawaii and tagged along with a yoga group visiting at the same time. The head “guru” was interested that a yoga group was visiting the temple and gave an exclusive talk about yoga and its ties to the Hindu religion and how it should not be separated from the religion. In the west, that is exactly what we have done. Except for the meditation and salutation of namaste, most yoga sessions are void of the religion. Interestingly, the guru also talked about some Hindus being atheists.

    I was a bit ticked that the Christian woman in the article is hijacking yoga terms and replacing them with Christian terms. I’m reminded of hijacked pagan practices. I wish her no success.

    I have done yoga in the past and it is difficult, but my aches and pain disappeared. As an atheist, I have no problem saying namaste or doing meditation. I simply view namaste as “I see the good in you.”

  10. Adam Levine, who has apparently been ‘elected’ World’s Sexiest Man by People Magazine, has been quoted as saying that he started practicing yoga because he was guaranteed to meet attractive women in Yoga classes. Does that make him a Hindu?

  11. “Hindu”, although equivalent to the modern use of a label for a particular religion is not what it seems to be. The word “Hindu” was placed upon people living along the Sindhu River (now called Indus River) by Greeks an Persians around the time of Alexander. None of the original religious texts (Vedas, Upanishads, Ramayana, or Mahabharata) contain the word “Hindu”. The philosophy among the Hindus is classified into two major groups: Na-astics (those who do not revere the Vedas) and A-astics (those who revere the Vedas). For the A-asticas, it is noteworthy to point out the Rig-Veda, Book 10, Hymn 129 which clearly states that the Gods were created after the creation of the worlds and the process of creation of the world is not known to anyone. So ultimately the A-astics are agnostics in the western sense. On the other hand, the Na-astics do not revere the Vedas and do not buy into the reality of Gods so they are atheists in the western sense. It is true that Hindus developed yoga (yoking the body and mind) as a unique form of exercise. Just as Greo-Roman wrestling doesn’t make you a believer of Zeus or Jupiter so does yoga not make you a believer or nonbeliever of the Vedas.

    Hindus are a diverse group of people: They may be monists (advaita), dualists (dvaita), qualified pantheists (henotheists), anamists, atheists (na-astica), agnostics (those who hold the Rig-Veda to be true), or skeptics (lokayata/charvak).

    Do your yoga, you may feel better. However, you will definitely not convert into a Hindu (unless you are already one). Try it as a skeptic. I have yet to see one change their past by doing yoga.

  12. City people probably get more stressed and in need of physical relaxation and mental meditation than people who live in rural parts of the world, who probably have a fitter but calmer life and are surrounded by nature, that is far more calming to people than noisy and busy concrete cities…..Yoga may be originally from India but everyone can do their own form of calming themselves and rising above the stressful distractions of life – Hindu or not – all humans have negative responses to stress, so we’d all be better if we could get calmer….

  13. That’s like saying anyone who puts lights up during the winter is a Christian. They teach yoga a the church down the street. Don’t think they have considered this imaginary conflict.

  14. Does doing yogurt make you Hindu?
    only if you put cucumber and mint in it.
    I hope that allays your fears Dr Bob.

    Please tell me you didn’t.

  15. By the way, the picture was taken in front is the Byodoin Temple near Kyoto in Japan.

  16. Does making use of the present day numerals or making use of all of science technologies provided cause of these numerals make you a Hindu?
    The Hindu–Arabic numeral system[1] or Hindu numeral system[2] is a positional decimal numeral system developed between the 1st and 4th centuries by Indian mathematicians. The system was adopted by Persian Muslim mathematician (Al-Khwarizmi’s c. 825 book On the Calculation with Hindu Numerals) and Arab mathematicians (Al-Kindi’s c. 830 volumes On the Use of the Indian Numerals) by the 9th century. It later spread to the western world by the High Middle Ages.

  17. In reply to #14 by pierrecardona2012:

    Adam Levine, who has apparently been ‘elected’ World’s Sexiest Man by People Magazine, has been quoted as saying that he started practicing yoga because he was guaranteed to meet attractive women in Yoga classes. Does that make him a Hindu?

    That makes him good looking and intelligent. Listen up boys! Yoga is a magnet for women.

  18. In reply to #25 by BenS:

    In reply to #22 by KrustyG:

    Speaking like Yoda makes one a Jedi does not.

    Drunk I am. Amusing this is.

    You belong on the cheese from toe bacteria topic.

  19. Well some Hindus believe all people are Hindu, they may just need a few more cycles through life to get it

  20. I once went on a picnic with some black friends. One asked “I did not know you were Jewish”. “I’m not. What gave you that idea”. “You brought bagels.”

  21. I came to read the following contribution by India with a ink of Hindu religion in Wikipedia, Indian mathematics Intro, will it stop all the present researchers, scientist, mathematician……… general public from using it????
    Indian mathematics emerged in the Indian subcontinent[1] from 1200 BC[2] until the end of the 18th century. In the classical period of Indian mathematics (400 AD to 1200 AD), important contributions were made by scholars like Aryabhata, Brahmagupta, and Bhaskara II. The decimal number system in use today[3] was first recorded in Indian mathematics.[4] Indian mathematicians made early contributions to the study of the concept of zero as a number,[5] negative numbers,[6] arithmetic, and algebra.[7] In addition, trigonometry[8] was further advanced in India, and, in particular, the modern definitions of sine and cosine were developed there.[9] These mathematical concepts were transmitted to the Middle East, China, and Europe[7] and led to further developments that now form the foundations of many areas of mathematics.

    Ancient and medieval Indian mathematical works, all composed in Sanskrit, usually consisted of a section of sutras in which a set of rules or problems were stated with great economy in verse in order to aid memorization by a student. This was followed by a second section consisting of a prose commentary (sometimes multiple commentaries by different scholars) that explained the problem in more detail and provided justification for the solution. In the prose section, the form (and therefore its memorization) was not considered so important as the ideas involved.[1][10] All mathematical works were orally transmitted until approximately 500 BCE; thereafter, they were transmitted both orally and in manuscript form. The oldest extant mathematical document produced on the Indian subcontinent is the birch bark Bakhshali Manuscript, discovered in 1881 in the village of Bakhshali, near Peshawar (modern day Pakistan) and is likely from the 7th century CE.[11][12]

    A later landmark in Indian mathematics was the development of the series expansions for trigonometric functions (sine, cosine, and arc tangent) by mathematicians of the Kerala school in the 15th century CE. Their remarkable work, completed two centuries before the invention of calculus in Europe, provided what is now considered the first example of a power series (apart from geometric series).[13] However, they did not formulate a systematic theory of differentiation and integration, nor is there any direct evidence of their results being transmitted outside Kerala.[14][15][16][17]

  22. In reply to #24 by Tobe:

    The Arabic numerals were introduced to Europe in the early 13th Century by Fibonacci, who had travelled through-out the near east with his father. The introduction opened the door (so to speak) for the advance of European mathematics, and hence science; as Europe had been struggling along with roman numerals up until then.

    For those who recognise the name, the Fibonacci seqence was a very small part of one book, among a large body of work. What we know of the sequence today (its relationship to the golden ratio, natural growth patterns in everything from plants to shells, and its many mathematical quirks) were not covered by Fibonacci himself.

  23. In reply to #22 by KrustyG:

    Speaking like Yoda makes one a Jedi does not.

    A Jedi, one does not become, if speak like Yoda, one does. (Sorry, I’m a Star Wars geek.)

  24. In reply to #28 by QuestioningKat:

    … there is certainly woo here too.

    when you do, that voodoo, that you do, so well…

    Seriously – the Hallmark Corporation is struggling financially, due to less folks mailing paper cards. A plant in Topeka was closed. Halls is consolidating two stores into one, and revamping to appeal to the modern sect, inc. a huge spa.

    Hallmark Co. still caters to “old-fashioned religion”, yet one of their most popular movie series is based on what I would call ‘good hearted woo’.

    I submit Hallmark could possibly cash in on an unfilled niche` (as far as I know) – “woo” paper cards and e-cards; may good energy flow through your crystals at your time of need. If the idea takes, Hallmark can laugh all the way to the bank.

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