HAF Protests Christian Appropriation of Yoga

TIME Magazine recently carried an article "Stretching for Jesus" that covered the concept of how Christian churches, probably troubled by yoga’s growing popularity in the US, are trying to appropriate yoga by replacing all Sanskrit mantras with Christian words and by renaming all yoga asanas. HAF wrote a letter to the editor making it clear that yoga is integral to the Hindu spiritual tradition while simultaneously affirming our pluralism in that Yogic spiritual practices are available to all without necessarily requiring conversion on the part of the practitioners. The original TIME article can be found here.


September 5, 2005
 

Dear Editor:

Your coverage of the growing concept of "Christian Yoga" in American churches was timely ("Stretching for Jesus", Time, August 29, 2005). Hindu Americans are rightfully outraged by the brazen appropriation of one of their vibrant faith's most lasting contributions to this country's health, well-being and popular culture. Hindus are increasingly sensitive to this intellectual property theft, as they have long endured evangelical and proselytizing groups co-opting Hindu icons, rituals, music and other traditions in efforts to deceive, dominate and fraudulently convert too many throughout the Hindu Diaspora.

Hinduism teaches that yoga, which literally means union of the body and mind in a quest to unite the soul with God, is comprised of eight steps of which the popularly practiced postures are an integral part. Indeed, the ultimate goal of yoga and Hinduism is one and the same: union with God. As a pluralistic and tolerant religion, Hinduism teaches-and every yoga teacher can attest-that one need not become a Hindu or repudiate their own faith to practice yoga and reap its immense benefits. It is a sad irony that some churches seek to exploit Hindu pluralism, and its gift of yoga, to increase their own legion of churchgoers.

Sincerely,

Swaminathan Venkataraman
Mihir Meghani
Hindu American Foundation