Many people practice yoga for peace of mind, to reduce chronic physical illnesses, to be better at certain sports or just for the sake of feeling good. Though certain individuals see yoga as an exercise and meditation activity, there are others who think that this endeavor creates a new breed of religion and spirituality that is often perceived as taboo.
Yoga does lean toward self-healing that harmonizes the body and mind. But the practice is more of a general approach than religion. Of course, there are countries and places which do not seem to agree with it. Additionally, they try to ban or limit the practice of yoga.
Yoga has its health benefits, no doubt about that. However, the idea of mysticism and the question if yoga is a religion prevails in many places around the world. Often times, yoga even causes so much debate around this topic that many practitioners decide to stop.
Below are 5 locations where yoga has been banned due to this issue:
Kansas and Georgia, USA
Dominating the headline this year is the Benedictine College in Kansas, where the Catholic university has called an action against the practice of yoga. Its roots in eastern religion have left the administration perturbed with the idea of students or staff following the “cult.” In an interview with Independent UK, the college president has warned the campus of the dangers of practicing yoga because it practices Hinduism.
Being a Catholic school, the administration has believed that it might affect the Benedictine theology of the school. Since then, they have taken action in calling meditation and breathing exercises as “Lifestyle Fitness.” They do acknowledge the health benefits of yoga, but they won’t accept the spiritual part of it.
The Bullard Elementary School in Georgia has banned the practice of Pranamasana, or even saying “Namaste” there. Pranamasana is that action where one places his or her right hand over the chest and bow down.
Cult? Potential terrorism threat? Many places in Mother Russia bans yoga because it thinks it’s an evil religious cult that may cultivate the notion of terrorism. Earlier this year, news went out that one yoga teacher and practitioner have been arrested over a talk about yoga in St. Petersburg. Dmitry Ugay has been issued a warrant for arrest on the grounds of practicing illegal missionary traditions and religion. In short, Ugay has been charged with the thought of being a missionary monk.
Ten years ago, Russia seemed to welcome yoga. The country held exercises of the practice in Red Square to promote much of it to the public, especially its health benefits. But now, yoga practitioners in Russia are alarmed over a new law about the practice of yoga. Many clamored that yoga was never about religion or is forming any religious and terrorist groups. The policy has earned the ire of many yogis.
While many ban yoga because of its “spiritual influence,” the University of Ottawa has banned a free class practice over cultural sensitivity. In any case, yoga was ‘born’ in India, and the borrowing of India’s culture has other people worried about it. The initiators of the practice fought for a place to continue teaching free yoga classes.
They do yoga now, but many believed it has its limitations still. Some people still have those discomforts in practicing yoga.
It’s not the whole country, but one national council has called its Muslim communities to stop practicing yoga because, ahem, it “propagates” Hinduism. They claim that yoga may corrupt their citizens through its practices because it’s un-Islamic. However, plenty of Muslims do yoga for health and wellness purposes.
Other than Malaysia, countries like Indonesia took the issue seriously as well. Yoga is not entirely banned, but it has its limitations set in a particular community.
Recently, St David’s Church in Wales has banned yoga in its community center and now the whole town is angry! The people will be staging protests through boycotting the church and its services. The Sun UK has reported that while yoga was ruled out, Pilates can still be practiced. Which is funny because, although the two are different, Pilates and yoga have some similarities in routines.
Alternatives to Yoga
What alternatives do people have in these places where they can’t do yoga? While many have fought for yoga to prevail in our society, some people have taken new approaches for a mental-physical exercise.
It is somewhat similar to yoga especially when their routines have a hint of some yoga poses as well. However, the main difference is that while yoga promotes mind-body connection through flexibility, Pilates only promotes relaxation and strengthening of the muscles. It is considered as the “twin sister” of yoga.
Walking or hiking
Walking promotes weight loss and a change of sceneries develops a healthy mindset. A trip to the park or hiking are good ways to pump up a mind-body connection. Moreover, it refreshes you as you cut yourself away from the hustle and bustle of the city race. A simple walk with lots of greeneries will likely boost your mood. If the above two are not an option for you because it’s raining season, you can have some home exercises with a rock climbing equipment.
First of all, dancing is an art. And what is an art? A product of emotions and feeling. So, if you’re down, turn up the bass and dance to your favorite beats! Of course, it’s a physical exercise, but it affects your thinking or mental perception in life because of the music. Dance is one of those soulful activities you can do to have a great physical-mental connection with yourself.
You don’t have to be a pro to practice a set of martial arts poses. But if you exercise with a couple of stances, it can definitely boost your mood because it affects you mentally and physical. Want to take up Tai Chi? It has the balance, coordination, and focused moves to bring out the best in you. What about Qi Gong? Well, it concentrates in your chi and helps relieve you from stress and depression. Other martial arts include Jiu Jutsu, Taekwondo, or even Capoeira!
Yoga Will Continue
Despite threats and ban from other communities and countries, yoga will still thrive in this world. After all, it’s been here for over 5,000 years. As many yogis define the practice, yoga is more about improving one’s state of mind and physical attributes and not so much about religion. So let’s keep the world saying “Ommm”, yogis!
Check out more of Sarah Clark’s articles on GiantMommy.com
Still not certain about practicing yoga due to religious reasons? Try a Christian yoga retreat if this aligns more with your beliefs!