Pastor's yoga post sparks outrage in Hindu community
Durban - AN American pastor’s post on Facebook, that yoga was a Hindu ritual, and the movements were designed to release the Kundalini serpent energy, has been called an attack on Hinduism. Last Tuesday, an image of women in yoga attire and a yogi was posted on Jennifer LeClaire Ministries public Facebook page.
According to her biography on her website, LeClaire is a senior leader at Awakening House of Prayer in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, in the US. She is also the founder of the Ignite Network and the Awakening Prayer Hubs prayer movement. LeClaire wrote more than 50 books.
The headline of the post read: Yoga is Hinduism - The spiritual dangers of yoga.
The wording on the photograph read: “Many people associate Yoga with body toning, stretching, and physical fitness, but they ignore its heathen origins. The purpose of Yoga, which means to ‘yoke’, is to unite with the Hindu god Brahman, the force of the universe. Thus, Yoga is more than an aerobic workout, it is a Hindu ritual!
“All of the Yoga movements, postures, breathing techniques and meditations are designed to release the Kundalini serpent energy. This serpent power does not connect you with God, but invites demons. And so, Christians should have nothing to do with Yoga, so you don’t need Hinduism to get in shape!!!”
The post garnered more than 1 300 comments and over 3 800 shares. Most of the comments supported the post, with one user calling yoga “deception”.
Ashwin Trikamjee, the president of the South Africa Hindu Maha Sabha, said while yoga’s origins and principles were rooted in Hinduism, it was practised by millions worldwide regardless of their religion or faith.
“In recognising this universal appeal, on December 11, 2014, the United Nations proclaimed June 21 as the International Day of Yoga.
“According to the UN, yoga provides a holistic approach to health and well-being and wider dissemination of information about the benefits of practising yoga would be beneficial for the health of the world population.”
Trikamjee said that according to Dr Nata Menabde, the executive director of the New York office of the World Health Organization, yoga was a practice that could be relevant to all ages, relevant to all cultures, irrespective of what socio-economic status people represent.
“Menabde said yoga can be used to unite our complex and difficult world to promote not only healthy lifestyles but to promote peace and security in the world.”
Trikamjee said studies had found Christian yoga and meditation to enhance a person’s sense of and relationship with God.
“Yoga may be easily adapted for Christians practising it as ‘God time’ with Jesus. When yoga instructors ask participants to focus on ‘the universe’ or ‘nothingness’, Christians may focus on Jesus. Only ignorant and narrow-minded bigots would condemn yoga as a ‘heathen’ practice.
“This is an attack on Hinduism and is blasphemous, and will be condemned by all who are committed to peace, harmony and social cohesion in South Africa.”
Cardinal Wilfred Napier, the Archbishop of Durban, said it was important to exercise tolerance.
“There is that old saying, ‘Do unto others as you would have them do unto you’, and while one is mindful of their values, they should also be mindful of the values of other people as well.” Napier, who is also the chairperson of KwaZulu-Natal Inter Religious Council, said its motto was that religion had the capacity to change society.
Pritam Khalsa, a Kundalini yoga teacher and teacher trainer for four decades, said it was racist to call Hinduism heathenism.
“Yoga hails from the East, but that does not make it an Eastern practice,” said Khalsa.
“Christianity hails from the Middle East, and yet, we portray Jesus as a white man. Why can’t we accept a geographical and language background around the history of a practice?
“Each person can choose from the world heritage, and this does not equate betrayal of our roots. We are world citizens.”
Khalsa said that Kundalini was not a serpent and was translated as the lock of the hair of the beloved.
“The beloved is God, and the image is the individual seeking to bathe in the love of God. Kundalini has variably been called Elan Vital and spirit. It is the creative force that is in all of us.
“There are no Muslim, Christian, Hindu or atheist bodies but simply a body, mind and spirit that are sites where we experience pain, pleasure and the grace of God. Yoga is nothing more or less than a tool and technology for just that.”
Casey Dolan, a media liaison at the Ishu Foundation South Africa, said yoga had physical, emotional and spiritual benefits that could positively impact a person’s life.
The non-profit spiritual organisation was founded in 1992 near Coimbatore, India, by Sadhguru, an Indian yogi and author.
Dolan said Sadhguru often spoke of the misconception and fear around yoga.
“He had previously said that there is a lot of negative resistance attached to yoga. Yoga is a science in its fundamental form and a technology in the many forms in which it is found.
“He said, whether Hindu, Muslim or Christian, if you learn to use it, it works for you. If there is resistance to it, it is not from a community, but from a few leaders who feel insecure at the idea that their people can achieve well being by themselves.
“If they can do so, why are their leaders, who survive on their people’s insecurities, required? Yoga is a way of self-help. If yoga is Hindu then gravity is Christian.”
LeClaire did not respond to questions forwarded to her at the time of publication.
A message support specialist responded on Facebook messenger: “I will tell you that Jennifer does not usually respond to media queries due to her schedule.”