There is an interesting press release from Medical News Today. The article is titled, “Yoga Day USA and The Distortion of Yoga in America.”
Within this article, the “Top 10 Reasons to Try Yoga,” come under fire. The reasons stated are, “stress relief, pain relief, better breathing, flexibility, increased strength, weight management, improved circulation, cardiovascular conditioning, better body alignment, and focus on the present – for health reasons.”
However, the author mentions that these are not the authentic reasons for Yoga. It is mentioned early, within this statement that, “union between Atman and Brahman, Jivatman and Paramatman, and Shiva and Shakti, or the realization of Purusha standing alone as separate from Prakriti,” are some of the authentic reasons for Yoga.
While this is true, and Yoga’s purpose is for physical, mental, and spiritual health – many Yoga students in the United States do not hear of it, unless they attend a Yoga teacher training workshop. If most Yoga students in the United States wanted to learn about union of the Jiva and Brahman, then Bhakti Yoga would have flourished on the American Continents, instead of Hatha Yoga.
However, Americans have a completely different culture from India. For some Christians, the concept of union with the self and God is blasphemy. Some Christians, Jews, and Moslems will not participate in mantras, for religious reasons. Therefore, Yoga outside of India, is interpreted much differently.
In defense of the Yoga Alliance, who is the sponsor of Yoga Day USA, they have to walk a fine line within multi-cultural societies in the West. Within the United States, there are groups who work to have the word, “God” removed from U.S. currency, the Bible removed from our courtrooms, and Christmas trees removed from the premises of government buildings.
For the sake of argument, if the promotions of Yoga Day USA stated, “the roots of Yoga come from the ancient tradition of Sanatana Dharma, out of which has grown Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism and other traditions;” this would be exactly what the Western religious fundamentalists leaders want. That is to claim Yoga is a “front” for exporting Eastern religions.
Instead of criticizing Yoga Day USA, why not accept the fact that the physical aspects of Yoga are easier for most people to grasp. If Yoga students want to seek a deeper connection to God, they will eventually find it. It would be wise for all for us to genuinely practice a little more non-judgment and tolerance.
© Copyright 2006 – Paul Jerard / Aura Publications
Paul Jerard is director of Yoga teacher training at Aura in RI. He’s a master instructor of martial arts and Yoga. He teaches that along with fitness. He wrote: Is Running a Yoga Business Right for You? For Yoga students who want to be a teacher.