Stir over yoga practice by U.S. Indian Hindu group

By SiliconIndia   |   Monday, 29 November 2010, 23:38 Hrs   |    2 Comments
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New York: Yoga has been a physical practice followed by 15 million odd people in U.S. for diverse purposes like the physical benefits mapped in brain scans to the less tangible rewards that New Age journals call spiritual centering and has nothing to do with the religion - Hinduism, from the roots of which it is traced. But a group of Indian-Americans has set fire to a surprisingly fierce contest in the placid world of yoga by mounting a campaign to accustom Westerners with the faith that it says underlies every single yoga style followed in gyms, ashrams and spas. Hinduism, reports Paul Vitello of NYT News Service

The campaign, labeled "Take Back Yoga," does not ask yoga devotees to become Hindu, or instructors to teach more about Hinduism. The small but progressively more influential group behind it, the Hindu American Foundation, suggests only that people become more sentient of yoga's debt to the faith's antique traditions. However, the suggestion from the group has found lot of criticisms around the circles with Dr Deepak Chopra, the New Age writer, dismissing the campaign as a jumble of faulty history and Hindu nationalism.

"Who owns yoga?" is the question at the core of the debate and has become an enduring topic of chatter in yoga Web forums, Hindu American newspapers and a journal catering to the many consumers of what is now a multibillion-dollar yoga industry. In June, it even prompted the Indian government to begin making digital copies of ancient drawings showing the provenance of more than 4,000 yoga poses, to discourage further claims by entrepreneurs like Bikram Choudhury, an Indian-born yoga instructor to the stars who is based in Los Angeles. Mr Choudhury nettled Indian officials in 2007 when he copyrighted his personal style of 26 yoga poses as "Bikram Yoga."

The debate has also secured the standing of the Hindu American Foundation as the pre-eminent voice for the country's two million Hindus, said Diana L Eck, a professor of comparative religion and Indian studies at Harvard. The effort has been received most favorably by Indian-American community leaders like Dr Uma V Mysorekar, the president of the Hindu Temple Society of North America, in Flushing, Queens, which helps groups across the country build temples. Shweta Parmar, 35, a community organizer and project director for a health and meditation group believes that yoga should be considered just as a part of tradition from which we come.

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