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Mindfulness & The Battle to Claim Yoga: The Irony of the “Warrior Poses” November 28, 2010

Posted by legalethicsemporium in Law, Ethics & Society, Mindfulness, Religion, Yoga.
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Yoga’s exploding popularity as form of physical exercise and a meditative method for achieving greater life balance has ironically caused some of its participants to wage a verbal war over yoga’s origins.  The Hindu American Foundation initiated a “Take Back Yoga” campaign to increase awareness of yoga’s Hindu roots.  “In a way,” said Dr. Aseem Shukla, the foundation’s co-founder, “our issue is that yoga has thrived, but Hinduism has lost control of the brand.”

The campaign has gone viral and caused reaction (or perhaps in mindfulness terms, reactivity) throughout the yoga community at all levels.  In fact the New York Times reports that: “Dr. Deepak Chopra, the New Age writer, has dismissed the campaign as a jumble of faulty history and Hindu nationalism. R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, has said he agrees that yoga is Hindu — and cited that as evidence that the practice imperiled the souls of Christians who engage in it.”

And… In June, the Indian government began digitizing ancient drawings that depict more than 4000 yoga poses, purportedly to discourage further yoga copyrights like Bikram Choudhury’s 2007 copyright for the 26 poses now known as Bikram yoga.

Wow, what happened to the concept of a collective consciousness and a mutual striving to eliminate suffering?  Perhaps America, as the land of entrepreneurial opportunity, happened to yoga.  Or perhaps the ongoing struggle within our melting pot to achieve a balance of the yearning for cultural respect and individuality alongside the inevitable assimilation and blending of various aspects of diverse cultures is at the root of the ‘Take Back Yoga” campaign.  Maybe the campaign would never have caused such a stir without the internet to serve as an available battleground.

Whatever the sociological and psychological underpinnings may be, hopefully the participants will soon pause, return to focus on the breath and transition from the warrior pose to engage in a restorative yoga experience.  Yoga is a gift, whatever its ancient origins may be, and living in the present moment may assist in alleviating suffering for all involved.

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