I felt a bit upset when I read the Borneo Bulletin papers today. The front page article of BB was titled Muslims were banned from yoga in Malaysia. I didn't think the Muslim council in KL will take it that 'far'.
Some of my muslim students have text me in the early morning, asking me if I have read the article. I replied telling them I would respect any decision they make if they choose not to attend my classes. I didn't think I should enforce my opinions on anyone. We are all individuals in our own unique ways. To my surprise, they all replied saying they were still planning to come over to Seraphina regardless. They were just texting me to give me some moral support. And for that, I am truly thankful.
I have read the online comments in other blogs and a lot of Muslim Malaysians are pretty annoyed and angry with the decision. They didn't understand the reasons behind it. I personally feel the Muslim council should at least explain in details what they really thought was wrong. The council keeps repeating over and over again about Hindu elements in yoga. I cannot imagine what would they consider unorthodox for the Muslims in yoga practice. The council have been ambiguous in their comments on yoga. Not detailed enough.
We live in a multi racial world presently and there will always be hints of religions or culture elements in the things we do or even consume. But we are surrounded by tons of reading materials and different ways of communication, I think I can safely assume majority of the world today are fully aware of the things they are involved in. If yoga was really a cult or religion, won't you think we would have churches or temples for it by now?
Yoga has been increasingly popular in the last 5 to 6 years in South East Asia. The word on its own sounds foreign and can be misunderstood as a tie of a cult or religion due to its origin. If the Muslim council are afraid of Muslims being deviated away from their faith, why is it that for the last 10 to 20 years, most yoga teachers all over the world are still in their own respective religion while practicing yoga regularly? Yoga teachers are international.
Why discriminate an exercise routine like yoga in comparison to kickboxing, karate or tae kwon do? Yoga is a low risk injury exercise that benefits an individual till old age. That's why yoga is so popular all over the world now. It is now a known factor that yoga helps maintain and prevent stiffness in joints and muscles.
People may wonder why would people prefer to do yoga instead of a high impact sport. A lot of my students are now more consciously aware they must take care of their health especially their knees. Most of them would have had knee injuries or health related problems to back pain in the past due to high impact sports. Yoga postures helps the individual to stretch and strengthen those muscles. Plus it's a sport that doesn't require you to jump to 'head banging' music while exercising. It's a quiet movement from one posture to the next while at the same time bringing awareness into your present general 'feel' of the body's condition. This in a whole bring a general sense of calmness into a person when practicing in such a quiet or soothing background with little noise.
Yoga teaches to 'just be' mentally and emotionally. The world is always so busy, noisy and loud that people are relief when yoga offers a peaceful quiet and soothing environment to practice in. In doing so, they achieve a sense of calmness and peace while still reaping off the physical benefits of yoga. I think like any other self help books or seminars, yoga assist an individual to deepen their beliefs and faith rather than deviate away from it.
The religious leaders are probably anxious and afraid that yoga may be a new found religion just because of the peace and calmness it brings to an individual. But really yoga isn't a religion. It's just part of an individual lifestyle. That's all. Let's just say it's a new found tool in a person's busy life to destress and relax after a busy day's work.
Perhaps religious leaders around the world won't find it so much of a threat if they actually make a point in trying to understand it better rather than making false claims.
Personally, it would be good for them to show fairness by investigating into the subject and to show an openness to understand what yoga really is. I don't think they have based their ruling on actual evidences. Has there been any converts from Muslims to Hinduism or any religion of any kind from their practice of yoga? It's like accusing someone blindly without getting your facts right in the first place.
But truly in all, I would hope the Muslim council rethinks their decision. Yoga is a lifestyle not a religion.
If anyone reading this blog feels you're not sure of what yoga actually is, please do feel free to ask me. I am not here to argue or to judge. An open mind and heart is always the way to the truth.