January 25th, 2011
07:00 AM ET

Fight emerges over yoga's religious roots

By Wes Little, CNN

Sheetal Shah, an official with the Hindu American Foundation, hears a lot about the physical practice of yoga these days - but not much about its religious roots.

So her group, which seeks to provide what it calls "a progressive voice for American Hindus," recently mounted a "take back yoga" campaign, including appearances at conferences and attempts to raise media awareness of the practice's Hindu origins.

For Shah, who is the Hindu American Foundation's senior director, yoga is primarily a moral and spiritual philosophy, a fact she says has been lost as the popularity of physical yoga has boomed in the West. "There has been a conscious de-linking between Hinduism and yoga," in the United States and elsewhere, she says.

Yoga is mentioned in many of the ancient Indian texts that form the basis of the religion now known as Hinduism, which claims to be the world's oldest religion - and which is the third most-practiced faith on the planet.

One main source of yoga philosophy is the sage Patanjali, who lived in the 2nd century B.C. and whose Yoga Sutras describe a philosophy comprising 8 limbs, one of which is the physical poses, or asanas, which are commonly referred to as yoga in the West.

Other elements of Patanjali's yogic philosophy are concepts like the yamas, moral vows that include chastity and nonviolence.

Sheetal Shah of the Hindu American Foundation practices yoga asanas in her home. She tries to incorporate yogic concepts like nonviolence into her life.

In a yoga class offered by the Hindu Temple Society of North America in a New York temple, yoga is taught as a spiritual practice in which the physical asanas are an essential component. But the practice is supposed to lead to meditation.

"Yoga is really a spiritual discipline," says Uma Mysorekar, the Hindu Temple Society of North America's president. "From its origin in Hinduism, yoga really originated from a Sanskrit word yuj, which means union."

That union is supposed to happen, she said, "between individual being or the soul with Paramatman," or cosmic being.

According to a 2008 study commissioned by Yoga Journal, there are roughly 16 million yoga practitioners in the United States. Those people spend $5.7 billion dollars a year on yoga classes and gear.

Most of that yoga is marketed as physical exercise as a health practice. Some Sanskrit terminology is usually used, and many practitioners in a non-religious context say they sense a vaguely spiritual aspect in the activity.

But most American practitioners wouldn’t go nearly so far as to label yoga as a religious act or even to relate it to a specific religious tradition.

"Yoga is a great thing, no matter what style you do, how you come about it, why you come about it, what you end up with spiritually from it," says Donna Rubin, the founder of Bikram Yoga NYC, a New York chain of yoga studios offering yoga in the style of Bikram Choudhury, a contemporary Indian yogi who now lives in Los Angeles. "So to start nitpicking or criticizing this type of yoga or that type of yoga or what it's not doing or what it should be doing, I don't really see the point of that."

Bikram yoga involves a set series of postures performed in a heated room.

"Bikram has developed this specific series so that it's more accessible," said Christopher Totaro, a Bikram Yoga NYC instructor. "It's more palatable to a wider demographic of people by pulling that religious part or separating that religious part from it."

Yoga students exercise at an Atlanta Hot Yoga class in Atlanta, Georgia. Classes are conducted in a room heated to around 100 degrees Fahrenheit.

Among those that have taken up yoga in the United States are devout followers of Western religions.

Atlanta, Georgia's Northside Drive Baptist Church holds a weekly yoga class.

Amanda Gregg, who instructs the class, says that she is respectful of Hinduism but argues that yoga didn't "come from" Hinduism as much as it developed alongside the religious tradition.

"Although Hinduism and yoga grew out at the same time of the Indian subcontinent and there are references to yoga in the Upanishads and in the Bhagavad Gita, that doesn't mean that Hinduism has the exclusive hold on yoga," she said, referring to sacred Hindu texts. "Sort of like Jews don't have the exclusive hold on prayer."

Some churches attempt to "Christianize" yoga by adding Bible verses to the practice, but Northside Drive Baptist Church does not.

The Hindu American Foundation, meanwhile, says that while yoga is not just for Hindus, it can't be totally divorced from its religious roots.

Shah says the organization's campaign is helping to gain wider acceptance for that view.

"People are now starting to put yoga and Hindu in the same sentence, in the same paragraph," she says. "They may not be agreeing with (our) stance but they are thinking about it they're talking about it."

"People who had never even thought of this are starting to explore this idea that maybe there is some sort of connection," she says.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Hinduism • Yoga

soundoff (285 Responses)
  1. Bikesh

    Yoga is the gift from the supreme beings(KRSN) to all the humanity and everyone is supposed to and eventually will benefit from it. But in the past westerners have done numorous things to hide the greatness, openess, inclusiveness, most of all respect all the living beings present in the HINDU text which shows specific ways in which humanity can make this world a better place for a future generation. For hindus everything has a soul and YOGA is the training of the soul to reach higher counciousness where minor things such as whose religion is superior, or other ego has no place. Hindus text clearly mentions DIFFERENT PEOPLE HAVE DIFFERENT WAYS TO ATTEND GOD AND THERE IS NO ONE RIGHT WAY. i ALSO WOULD LIKE ALL THE READERS TO UNDERSTAND THE NEED OF OUR TIME. and to CNN WE DONOT NEED TO CLEARLIFY WHERE YOGA CAME FROM BUT FOCUS OUR RESEARCH ON HOW IT BENEFITS EACH AND EVERYONE WHO PRACTICES IT REGARDLESS OF THEIR RELIGION OR POLITICAL BELEIFS OR NATIONAL BOUNDRIES. IT is fact that number 0-9 came from hindus but we are not saying without numbers(0-9) wester society would have failed long time ago, right? WE DONOT TRY TO CHANGE PEOPLE'S RELIGION WITH MONETARY REWARDS. WE TEACH WHAT WE KNOW WITHOUT LOOKING FOR GAINS BECAUSE THE VERY ESSENCE OF yoga OR bhagavat GITA AS FAR AS I UNDERSTAND IS "KARMA GARA FAAL KO AASA NAGARA" WHICH MEANS: PEOPLE SHOULD DO THEIR KARMA WITHOUT THE GREED OF REAWRDS THAT WILL FOLLOW OUR KARMA BECAUSE IT IS NOT IT OUT HAND TO CHANGE THE END RESULT

    January 30, 2011 at 12:00 pm |
  2. Indian at heart, American by choice

    For all the commentary, there are two fundamental facts/errors in the video:
    1. Hinduism is not a religion. It is a large population of individuals who practiced similar but often very different rituals and had very different gods etc that they considered theirs. All those living to the east of the then river Indu were called Indus whom the British referred to as Hindus and therefor their religion became known as Hinduism.
    2. There is no form of Indian Yoga that makes you sweat. It is a western notion that sweat is fundamental to healthy outcomes and so the western yoga creators have included routines that result in sweat. As per traditional yoga, you can burn body fat without breaking a sweat.

    January 30, 2011 at 11:56 am |
    • Nick

      man..can't agree more...Hope many silly Atheist sort of here will realize what Hinduism about
      We Americans must learn to respect and acknowledge other culture's positives SOON...China is around the corner for next few decades. We dont want to feel humiliated when many things "americas best" or "found in america" are no where near that of China or India!!

      January 30, 2011 at 12:51 pm |
    • HotAirAce

      What should an atheist learn about hinduism or any other religion or belief system based on imaginary supernatural beings? While there may be some universal truths (along the lines of some of the ten commandments, or the "golden rule") that no religion or belief system can legitimately claim as uniquely theirs embedded in their beliefs, once you have (correctly) determined that there are no gods, anything remaining based on the existence of a god is pure manmade mythology and ceremony to support the existence of the non-existent.

      January 30, 2011 at 1:10 pm |
    • Nick

      @HotAir.. ever wonder why the earth rotates in same position like a perfect machine? even wonder how you were born out of nowhere and why your body stays while 'soul' dies? what is that thing? Science can Help but can not Rule.
      And the belief is nothing but a positive thinking that there is someone who controls a lot beyond what science can only argue. and having trust in that someone gives a positive feeling and calmness. Just like you find that with a good friend or dad/mom. If you consider them as 'good' and that feeling as 'positive' and I consider that someone as ' istha' (best) and named him as Lord.

      January 30, 2011 at 1:23 pm |
    • HotAirAce

      I have thought about those items and concluded that there are no gods (not even just one) and that there is no soul. We are here now and then we are not. At the risk of using a cliche, the meaning of life is to live a life of meaning – no gods required and no reason to clutter up our lives with manmade mythological crap. In the context of this subject, folks (such as my atheist wife with arthritis does) should use yoga for its positive benefits and discard any associated mythological baggage.

      January 30, 2011 at 1:36 pm |
    • HotAirAce


      Sorry, meant to ask you why you have singled out atheists as needing to learn about yet-another-god-based-fairy-tale? If there is something of value here, wouldn't it be of value to all?

      January 30, 2011 at 1:39 pm |
    • sharpenu

      Fact: Real Yoga are the many teachings and practices of the Hindu religion; taught by Hindus and not for a fee.

      April 17, 2014 at 10:01 am |
  3. Oodoodanoo

    I'm Hindu, and I have no interest in "taking back" yoga. That is a very un-Hindu idea. Give it away, and if the Christians and Muslims who like to make fun of us become mellower people, then so much the better. If some of them want to learn more about where it came from, then they are welcome.

    Moreover, I hope that those who come to Hinduism freely will enrich it than those of us who were simply born into it.

    Hinduism is not a package deal to be shoved down peoples' throats. It does not have a pope or imam to tell you what is or is not allowed. I certainly didn't vote Sheetal Shah or anyone from her group to be my leader.

    January 30, 2011 at 11:47 am |
    • DS

      Thank you and well said. Shah needs a better things to spend her time on. Coming from me raised as a Hindu and a practicing yogi.

      Personally I think it's awesome they teach yoga at churches and delink it to Hinduism to make it neutral and available to more people. This argument is more about Shah need to have bragging rights and ego and ownership.

      Let yoga evolve, spread and help others. Making it Hindu oriented restricts its growth and potential to go places where it was restricted due to barriers of ideology or philosophy. The wealth of knowledge should be shared with our fellow human beings. Hindu or not. Ownership is not necessary.

      To put a computer spin on it Shah wants a GPL license on yoga not a BSD or MIT license (computer people will appreciate this) lol!

      January 30, 2011 at 12:06 pm |
    • Kev

      I am a westerner and am reliant on studying and reading about life in the east to understand it. I have a tremendous amoutn of respect and adoration for Indian history and culture and feel that in many, many ways the west is undreds if not thousands of years behind in regards to spirituality and topics such as astronomy and physics. You wouldn't think there are such large discrepancies in today's world, but the discrepancies still exist.

      A great reference for learning about Indian culture is Ananda Coomeraswamy. The late scholar had an academic interest in Indian culture and approaches it through the study of art, archeology, and spirituality. The only thing he lacks in my estimation is the "heart" of India, in that his approach is too far on the side of art, and not far enough on the side of common peopel and cultural practices.

      Coomeraswamy wrote that Yoga was originally introduced in ancient India as a practice designed to help adherents come closer to unification with Brahma, if I understand Coomeraswamy correctly. This seems simple enough, but the subject of Brahman is exceedingly complex. It is barely comparable to our western ideas of enlightenment and the divine. In fact, I'd challenge most atheists to actually study the ancient Brahman religion(s) and maintain that they are incorrect from a logical and scientific standpoint.

      One of the great things about the brahman religions is that they accept myth as myth and spiritual proceduers as procedures. There is very little blind faith in the brahman rekligions, other than knowing that spiritual enlightenment is possible, which it is. Atheists have a problem with how people jump to conclusions about their definitions for "why" we are here and what for. That problem does not exist in the brahman religions. They are very similar to Taoism in that regard, and certainly buddhism is an extended arm of the ancient brahman religions.

      January 30, 2011 at 12:21 pm |
    • Rula

      It is a lie to Christians that Yoga is delinked from Hinduism. If they cannot do the subsection of Yoga, the physical postures, because Yoga is one of Hinduism/ Sanatana Dharma's six Vedic darshanas, then that is their choice. If the only way they can do Yoga is by pretending it is delinked from Hinduism, then they are being dishonest with themselves and with their God. Hinduism does not seek converts, and if yoga helps you be a better Jew, Christian, atheist, agnostic, scientologist good for you. But if you don't feel it is appropriate for your faith because it is a part of Hinduism, then that is their choice. Make a choice based on facts, not on a convenient lie or denial.

      March 3, 2011 at 8:35 am |
  4. Kamereon

    Anytime you have that much money floating around either politicians, religion, or corporations are going to come a running.

    One of the worst that I have seen in yoga is Dahn yoga. Plain and simple they are a cult. They combine the worst aspects of a religion with the money grubbing power mongering behavior you would expect from a corporation. Whenever I find their flyers in a store, I pick up the whole box and drop it into the trash.

    January 30, 2011 at 11:45 am |
  5. Steven

    I clicked on this story to see the yoga chick. I have completed my task.

    January 30, 2011 at 11:42 am |
  6. Rajiv

    I am Hindu and I think this is pretty silly. So lets accept that Yoga came out of Hinduism and was part of the religion. But now lets accept that it has decoupled. Whats good is that it works for the betterment of people from any religion.
    Making such a big deal about things like this goes against Hinduism. Sheetal may be from a fundamentalist background.

    January 30, 2011 at 11:29 am |
    • Supporter

      Why not support yoga came from Hinduism? If we let minor things go like the rude SNL clip... What do we stand for then? Be proud of who you are and stand up for yourself.

      February 9, 2011 at 2:01 pm |
    • Rula

      It is not decoupled except by people with bigotry (from both the left and right) against one religion, Hinduism/Sanatan Dharma. You don't help people with religious bigotry by not confronting their prejudices. They will grow more as a person if they confront their prejudices they hold. Speaking up for the truth and for what is right is good not only for those who are the targets of prejudice but also for those who are prejudiced against them.

      March 3, 2011 at 8:27 am |
  7. Ganesh

    The problem here of the many westerners dont know the real antiquity of a faith originally called Sanadhan Dharma aka Hinduism.
    In reality,age of Vedas is not 4000 or 5000 years but more than 10,000 years.
    Those brain washing details which say Hinduism and Yoga are not related is most laughable.Yoga is very ancient tool developed by Vedic Sages in antiquity to achieve the Moksha or oneness with Supreme Brahman.
    Yoga is for all.Because, Hindu Sages created everything for the welfare of all.Anybody irrespective of faith can practice.But.creating such things like Christian Yoga,Jewish Yoga is a fraud and humbug which is the culmination of activities to say after 500 years that Yoga came to India from the west.Already,many twisted historic details still created by the same people over Hinduism antiquity in the past..Enough is enough!
    We understand,how those western people are sincere when naming Yoga with their religion!
    Time has come to get back the roots of the Yoga.Otherwise,it will be too late!

    January 29, 2011 at 10:24 pm |
  8. JustAnotherHindu

    I don't understand these disputes. If the Hindu gods exist, and if the basic tenets of the religion are valid, then there's no need for anyone to try to defend the religion or claim ownership of yoga. If, on the other hand, the gods don't exist, and the tenets of the religion don't hold, then there's no point in defending the religion or claiming ownership of yoga.

    I also don't understand when people claim to be hurt when others assail their religion. If your God exists, and is as powerful as you say He is, He doesn't need anyone to defend Him. So what are all these spats about?

    January 26, 2011 at 8:34 pm |
    • IceOpen

      The dispute is not about god. I don't know where god entered into this whole discussion (or spat as you call it). There are many many paths in Hinduism and many of them don't involve god.

      This whole spat is about credit not being given where credit is due. As simple as that. The original article didn't mention about any god-related dispute. The core of the argument is that yoga originated in a culture that is currently best identified as Hinduism but in many places today (especially in the west) the origins of yoga have been left out and in many cases been deliberately mis-conveyed to people.

      The whole Take Back Yoga from HAF was to get people to simply acknowledge the origins of yoga.

      January 30, 2011 at 1:06 pm |
  9. Christian Brothers

    This a Baptist I commend for this honesty. I rate his integrity and honesty higher than Deepak Chopra's....

    The Rev. Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., and one of the nation's foremost evangelical theologians, said yoga cannot be separated from Hinduism. In a September essay, he called yoga un-Christian because it uses the body to achieve consciousness of the divine. Christians should rely only on Jesus to attain all they need, he wrote.

    January 26, 2011 at 7:39 pm |
    • Christian Brothers

      Rev. Albert Mohler though forgets that Yoga could also be used for emancipation through prayer. It is called Bhakti Yoga.

      January 26, 2011 at 7:41 pm |
    • Rula

      Devout Christians are free to make an informed decision about whether to participate in Yoga or not due to Yoga being one of Sanatana Dharma's (aka Hinduism's) six Vedic darshanas. You can participate in the subsection of Yoga, the asanas or postures, and go no further. You do not need to convert to Hinduism to participate in Yoga. But Devout Christians should be informed about the whole Yoga so they can decide for themselves. If they choose to not participate, that they prefer to keep to practices that are about Jesus Christ, they are free to do so. It is wrong to lie to them and pretend Yoga is delinked from Hinduism. Hinduism does not seek converts and people can participate in Yoga without becoming Hindu. If Yoga helps you be better Jew, Christian, atheist, agnostic, scientologist, good for you. But if you want to as part of you faith only practice what you feel is appropriate to your faith, and you decide the Vedic darshana Yoga is not for you, then that is okay too.

      March 3, 2011 at 8:21 am |
  10. Yogi

    The argument is not that yoga is an exclusive practice of Hinduism, but rather that its roots are laid in the ancient Hindu tradition. Ownership of yoga is, of course, outrageous. But that is, in a sense, the very point of this movement. While companies and individuals have started to brand Yoga, this movement aims to identify it as "opensource" and ancient in the same way that religious texts are not copyrighted. HAF recognizes that Yoga has become a culture of its own but wants it to be identified as a derivative of Hinduism, not a trademarked style of exercise i.e. Pilates. In the same way that matzah balls and latkas are a derivative of the Jewish fate, Yoga should be recognized as a product of ancient Hindu culture. That said, ti doesnt mean that as an agnostic that I can't enjoy a nice stretch at the local yoga center and then replenish with a couple latkas and apple sauce all while singing a Christmas carol.

    January 26, 2011 at 1:02 pm |
    • Rula

      Thank you.

      March 3, 2011 at 8:11 am |
  11. Dr. O. P. Sudrania

    Let us agree on one point that Indian Eternal Culture (Dharma) existed long before any other culture in the world. This makes it the most ancient philosophy and the word Hindu is a recent controversial connotation. In being respectful to others should not evoke a sense of inferiority for what is due to them. Hence if we call it Ancient or Hindu Tradition, it makes little difference. But it's benefits must not be put to controversy in limiting it's benefits to the larger Human society.

    In a recent very interesting column, it was discovered that the similarity between "Brahma" and "Abraham" {A-Brah[a]m[a]} and their consorts "Saraswati" and "Sarah". How much do we know today about the movements of people in the past from one land to the other? It should be the matter for discussion and research. We do know that Hindus did exist in Mecca and Madina and Iraq in the olden days of Prophet Mohammad (PBUH). How can we exclude the influence of Hinduism on the Cannanites those days.

    We talk of Indo-European languages but fail to acklowledge their inter-relationship in practice and start a sword fight over it. This is a clear sign of lack of awareness.

    God bless
    Dr. O. P. Sudrania

    January 26, 2011 at 8:55 am |
  12. Darlene


    I was trying to put across the thought, it is what it is, and wherever it came from (I don't know much at all about Yoga) who cares ENUFF to start an argument about it. Period. No negatism at all on any front

    Of course a person who admits she doesn't know much at all about Yoga doesn't care about where it comes from. Why would something you know nothing about matter at all to you.

    The non-white non-Christian people who know about Yoga and where it comes from, do care about the dishonest delinking of Yoga from Hinduism by Westerners.

    Hello Rula!
    Again, you mis-understand. I was trying to say, WHY ARGUE....simply! Not about me NOT caring. I was just saying..
    Thanks for your post on what Yoga is, though.

    January 26, 2011 at 5:52 am |
    • Rula

      It is about speaking up about the truth and for what is right.

      March 3, 2011 at 8:10 am |
  13. Darnall

    Gee, Rula, you need to take a chill pill! Kinda grouchy, aren't ya?

    Peace2All....Just for clarity to your post, my opening quote was not mine, but BigOil's/ I should have stated that, I was just responding to it, I was wondering to, where he (BigOil) got the info about Jesus being in India, since the bible is silent on it?

    January 26, 2011 at 5:47 am |
    • BigOil

      "Jesus being in India"
      No idea how you assigned that to me. I don't think Jesus was in India, that's a myth. I just said the 3 wise guys from the east who came to see Jesus came from India. Anyway, I think Jesus itself is a myth anyway, it comes from the story of Horus, Isis and Osiris of Ancient Egypt and other Babylonian and Sumerian myths. Hindu influence and the story of Krishna probably influenced the Jesus story as well. The Bible was written 300 years after Jesus's supposed death, very questionable how accurate it is.

      January 26, 2011 at 7:24 am |
    • Peace2All


      No worries... thanks for the clarification.


      January 26, 2011 at 10:20 am |
    • Cali Girl

      There is in fact a theory, based on an ancient manuscript, that Jesus spent his youth in India. The Bible is completely silent on where he was in his teens and 20s. Read this. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lost_years_of_Jesus

      January 30, 2011 at 12:33 pm |
  14. gordon

    It seems there are two points here – before the convolution and splintering offered by unfocused others.
    The first is from where did the practice of yoga originate? That is clearly India. The second is whether Yoga is strictly Hindu. And on that point I'll simply state the obvious. 1. Yoga clearly predates Hinduism. 2. Hindus initially rejected Yoga due to lack of worshiped deities. 3. Archeological finds as recent as 2002 off the coast of Surat indicate (through carbon dating) that there was human activity in the region 9,500 years ago. 4. Patanjali isn't a founder of yoga, he is a codifier.

    So now, each may believe as she/he sees fit. And as long as you are connecting with your spirit, dialoguing with your soul, who owns it, where it comes from, or who's right, simply is less important.

    January 26, 2011 at 12:26 am |
    • Christian Brothers

      Can you substantiate the textual basis of your assertion that "Yoga predates Hinduism"? Can you find a reference to Yoga in any treatise (secular or religious) which predates Upnishads?

      Otherwise, you are just repeating lies and canards invented by Yoga profiteers and also Westerner "Hobby Buddhists" who want tto commerically exploit a tradition without attribution to its roots.

      People like Pat Robertosn, etc have more integrity and honesty than supposedly secular liberalis like you. Atleast they have the courage to state the truth.

      January 26, 2011 at 4:17 pm |
  15. Rula

    * Correction – typing too fast. The sentence was supposed to be: Hindus DON'T have a problem with non-Hindus non-Indians getting into aspects of Yoga.

    January 26, 2011 at 12:05 am |
  16. Blessed Geek

    The Chinese invented the gun and canon mechanism. Unfortunately, 900 years later, when the gun returned to China, they could not recognise it as their invention and perceived it as a western encroachment.

    Yoga should be recognised as a hindu development. However, do not be like the Qing officials of China, refusing to learn from western improvements to the gun mechanism, believing that their original mechanism is supreme. Ancient does not equal supreme. Accept that atheists, western pagans, christians and jews have adapted and improvised yoga to fit their religious framework and restrictions. Just as the gun no longer belonged to the sole creativity of the medieval Chinese.

    January 25, 2011 at 11:46 pm |
    • Rula

      Yoga is not just a Hindu development. It is one of the six branches of orthodox Hinduism. You would not say Protestantism just a Christian development like a gun and canon mechanism.

      Hindus do have a problem with non-Hindus non-Indians getting into aspects of Yoga. Hindus do not need other people to convert to Hinduism. And if aspects of this branch of Hinduism, Yoga, helps you to be a better atheist, agnostic, Jew, Christian, whatever, great, but don't turn around then and shamelessly delink one of the six branches of Hinduism Yoga from Hinduism.

      Just as you know the Chinese invented the gun and canon mechanism, so too acknowledge that Yoga is one of the six orthodox branches of Hinduism and not something separate and delinked from Hinduism. Racism should not prevent you from acknowledging the Chinese so too religious bigotry should not prevent you from acknowledging Hinduism.

      From my posts above:
      In Sanatana Dharma (aka Hinduism) the authority of the Vedas is central. Orthodox Hinduism accepts the authority of the Vedas. There are six branches of orthodox Hinduism: Uttara Mimamsa (founder Sage Vyasa), Purva Mimamsa (founder Sage Jaimini), Sankhya (founder Sage Kapila), Yoga (founder Sage Pantanjali) Nyaya (founder Sage Gautama – not to be confused with the Buddha), and Vaiseshika (founder Sage Kanda). Yoga is a one of the six branches of orthodox Hinduism. This controversy with Yoga only exists in the West because Western people are still racists and bigots and those on the left participating in the lame and dishonest delinking of Yoga from Hinduism are just as big a bunch of racist and bigots as those on the right. There is no delinking in India of one of the six branches of orthodox Hinduism (authority of the Vedas is accepted) Yoga from Hinduism.

      An except from the book The Hindu Mind by Bansi Pandit also from one of my posts below:
      Yogic tradition among Hindus began thousands of years ago in India. While the Upanishads are the original source of yoga philosophy, yoga is expounded in many sections of the Hindu epic Mahabharata. The Bhagavad Gita gives a universal expression to the yogic teachings. Etymologically, the Sanskrit word yoga is derived from the root word yuj, meaning union. A person who seeks after this union is called a yogin or yogini. Vendanta defines yoga as a means of uniting the individual being (jivatman) with the Cosmic Self (Paramatman). When the word Yoga is used by Westerners, it generally means Hatha Yoga, which is an ancient Hindu system of physical exercises and breathing techniques designed to maintain a healthy body. Hindu Scriptures use the word yoga as a synonym for sadhana, meaning a spiritual discipline. There are four main disciplines of yoga: Karma Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, Jnana Yoga and Raja Yoga.....Raja Yoga is also called Ashtanga Yoga. "The Yoga of eight limbs or steps." Ashta means eight and anga means limbs of part. The eight limbs of this yogic discipline are: Yama (restraints), Niyama (observances), Asana (posture or seat), Pranayama (breath control), Pratyahara (withdrawing the mind from sense perception), Dharna (concentration), Dhyana (meditation), and Samadhi (union with God)....Hatha Yoga is a branch of Raja Yoga and includes the first four steps (Yama, Niyama, Asana, and Pranayama) of Raja Yoga.

      January 26, 2011 at 12:04 am |
    • Rula

      * Correction – typing too fast. The sentence was supposed to be: Hindus DON'T have a problem with non-Hindus non-Indians getting into aspects of Yoga.

      January 26, 2011 at 12:07 am |
    • BigOil

      "Yoga should be recognised as a hindu development."

      Agreed with what you said, Yoga and anything can be improved. Although if I had to take an estimate into the future, the West has peaked and is in slow decline economically and also culturally. Most likely the improvements in Yoga will probably come from Indians over the next few centuries.

      January 26, 2011 at 7:28 am |
  17. Bill Taylor

    Wow. I make a reasonable observation supported by some valid research and I get personally attacked and accused of bigotry. None of you know anything about me or my spiritual path or my ethnicity or who my many "non-white" friends are from around the globe. Open your minds folks. I'm beginning to think that posting to blogs is a useless waste of time. I really don't need to spend my time being insulted. See ya...

    January 25, 2011 at 11:10 pm |
    • Rula

      Your observations and research were refuted by different people. No one cares how many "non-white" you have from around the globe. That sounds like my best friend is black kind of defense. Don't care about your spiritual path either. That is not relevant to this discussion of Yoga/Hinduism.

      January 25, 2011 at 11:44 pm |
  18. SHANTI

    Hindus never had any problem with Yoga being adopted by any one who liked the idea. The reason of this movement " Take back Yoga " is rooted in attempts by many organizations trying to play with historical facts and claiming that Yoga had nothing to do with Hinduism. It is a by product of colonialism (as pointed out earlier) to discard/trivialize anything from East especially India. Hindus do not have any issue with other religions or making this a fight about religion. The only issue is – give credit when credit is due.

    January 25, 2011 at 8:55 pm |
    • Christian Brothers

      They don't give credit to Mithraics for giving them Christ nor acknowledge the roots of Christmas in Saturnalia...nor even the birth of Easter to the fertility festival of Pagans....why do you think that they will acknowledge the source of Yoga?

      Whatever Chrstianity cannot destroy by application of brute force , it destroys it through co-option. You bet if Patanjali had not so clearly indicated a Hindu metaphysics of Yoga (to which it is impossible to render any meaning) , he would have been co-opted and swallowed up by now as some Christian Papa.

      January 25, 2011 at 9:11 pm |
    • Rula

      The granola crunching yoga loving Hinduism hating leftists are no better. They too shamelessly delink Yoga from Hinduism. They are just as ugly on the inside as the Christians who delink Yoga from Hinduism. Better are the Christian fundamentalists who reject Yoga because it is Hinduism over these two other groups of bigots against Hinduism.

      January 25, 2011 at 9:22 pm |
  19. Rula

    From "The Hindu Mind" – Yogic tradition among Hindus began thousands of years ago in India. While the Upanishads are the original source of yoga philosophy, yoga is expounded in many sections of the Hindu epic Mahabharata. The Bhagavad Gita gives a universal expression to the yogic teachings. Etymologically, the Sanskrit word yoga is derived from the root word yuj, meaning union. A person who seeks after this union is called a yogin or yogini. Vendandanta defines yoga as a means of uniting the individual being (jivatman) with the Cosmic Self (Paramatman). When the word Yoga is used by Westerners, it generally means Hatha Yoga, which is an ancient Hindu system of physical exercises and breathing techniques designed to maintain a healthy body. Hindu Scriptures use the word yoga as a synonym for sadhana, meaning a spiritual discipline. There are four main disciplines of yoga: Karma Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, Jnana Yoga and Raja Yoga.....Raja Yoga is also called Ashtanga Yoga. "The Yoga of eight limbs or steps." Ashta means eight and anga means limbs of part. The eight limbs of this yogic discipline are: Yama (restraints), Niyama (observances), Asana (posture or seat), Pranayama (breath control), Pratyahara (withdrawing the mind from sense perception), Dharna (concentration), Dhyana (meditation), and Samadhi (union with God)....Hatha Yoga is a branch of Raja Yoga and includes the first four steps (Yama, Niyama, Asana, and Pranayama) of Raja Yoga.

    Sheetal Shah this book The Hindu Mind is one that would be most helpful to you. You too Wes Little.

    January 25, 2011 at 8:44 pm |
  20. Christian Brothers

    My question is to the Baptist yoga practioner in the end of this news clip who says that although the word Yoga comes in Bhagvad Gita and Upnishads, Yoga was practiced in other faiths of Indian subcontinent.

    If that is true the word Yoga should be found in other scriptures of the same antiquity as Upnishads. Can she quote any non-Hindu scripture of the same antiquity as Upnidhads which contains the word "Yoga"?

    The honest and informed answer is that such a scripture does not exist. So it is clear that she is intententionally or unintentionally misleading others and also herself. As a Baptist it would be rather awkward her to acknowledge or have other believe that she practices something produced by a "pagan" religion. Hence this preverication and dancing aroundn the truth.

    January 25, 2011 at 8:29 pm |
    • Rula

      The Babtist is bigoted against Hinduism just like the granola crunching Hindu hating yoga loving leftist. Their racism and bigotry against non-white non-Christian people and religion, Hinduism, creates a cognitive dissonance when they like something from those non-white, non-christian people and Hinduism. Instead of confronting their ugly racism and bigotry against Hinduism and thereby growing as a person, they chose instead to live by their worst of their natures and resolve this by pretending Yoga has nothing to do with Hinduism, despite the fact that Yoga is no less one of the six branches of Hinduism.

      January 25, 2011 at 9:07 pm |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.