Indonesia Declares Fatwa on Yoga

Walking away from a delicious ramen lunch with a dear friend, I stopped in my tracks seeing this message scrolling along one of those giant, Times Square news tickers: “Indonesia Bans Yoga Practice for Muslims.”

From what I can gather online, the country’s top Islamic body banned the use of any chanting, mantras or meditation in the practice, as these are “Hindu prayers” that can erode the Muslim religion. It was stated that yoga could still be practiced as long as it is used only for physical exercise.

Of course this is a disappointing piece of news, but what a fascinating vantage point. Most obviously, it’s simply a misunderstanding of what yoga is and a blatant disregard for freedom and choice.

What is most fascinating to me, though, is that because I am used to looking at yoga from a very Western perspective it never would have dawned on me that one could see yoga as a religious practice, and then de-volve into having it become a solely physical practice.

To an American mind, it seems like backwards evolution from an integrated, soulfull practice to a work out-based “Yoga and Hip Hop” class offered at the gym. (Actually, that sounds kind of interesting, too.)

This fear of the deeper levels of yoga seem to confirm the belief that it is not the physical poses that transform the individual, but the larger yogic way of thinking, feeling and being that is so powerful – and, in effect, threatening.

Here is a quote from one article I found at Times of India

“The clerics are afraid that people who practise yoga are worshipping another god but we are not. It’s only because they don’t understand what yoga is and they feel it’s a threat. They should go to yoga class and try it,” [one yoga teacher] said, adding that the purpose of chanting mantras was not to pray but to focus thoughts and had no relationship with worshipping.

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