Is ‘YOGA’ Hindu? : Mohan Guruswamy

Mohan Guruswamy is a Writer,Columnist,Intellect, Chairman & Founder Centre for Policy Alternatives and former advisor to the Finance Minister (1998)

The All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB), the Muslim equivalent of the VHP, has opposed the celebration of the International Yoga day on June 21. It has been so for a few years now. It is utterly misguided, unfortunate, and silly. The Board describes Yoga as a religious symbol. It is not. It is just a school of balance-focused exercises – pure and simple. Like Tai Chi.

They specifically cite the Surya Namaskar as offensive when it is nothing but a common sequence of asanas. Most Hindus revere the Sun as it is the giver of life and sustenance. Because of this, some Hindus set aside a portion of their daily worship for making salutations to the Sun by prostrations. This method of adoration affords them so much muscular activity that it takes to some extent the place of physical exercise. Muslims can practice these very same asanas without worshipping the Sun.

But before they reject the Sun salutation they will do well to recall Allama Iqbal who wrote: “Ai aaftaab! Hum ko zia-e-shaoor de/ Chasm-e-khird ko apni tajjali se noor de.” (O radiant one! Grant us the grace of wisdom/Let our eyes see reason in your resplendent glow.) I only hope that some of the “grace of wisdom” will penetrate the dark recesses of minds in the AIMPLB. Muslims as a whole will do well to listen to saner voices in the community like Prof. Mohammed Abbas Niazi of AMU who said yesterday: “Yoga is an exercise and no religion can be against a healthy lifestyle.” Or just don’t do Yoga quietly without making a hullabaloo over it. But don’t dismiss it as unsecular.

Yoga is not an extension of Hinduism. Yoga’s only association with Hinduism is that it evolved in India. By this standard, they should be opposing many mathematical principles that evolved in ancient India and think of Algebra as an exclusive Islamic discipline. Yoga is a non-sectarian physical and mental health-oriented set of exercises. If Yoga is Hindu then Karate is Buddhist, Kung Fu is Confucian and Taekwondo also Buddhist. The AIMPLB should seek a ban on them too?

My advice to them is to stop being silly and join the country as it celebrates a traditional self-care system that is now practiced the world over. Indian Muslims should be as proud of it as Hindus or Sikhs or Buddhists. By behaving in this immature and petulant manner the AIMPLB is only souring relations between the two major Indian religious groups. Having said this the RSS governments all over India are trying to impose Yoga in schools on all.

They have turned it into a Hindu totem-like they have made Sardar Patel a shakha icon. Like any exercise, Yoga too should be secularised and optional. Those who want to skip yoga can use it for some other form of exercise. But exercise is a must. When I was in school, we used to have an exercise period every day. Some played soccer, others played kabaddi, some just marched about drilled by the NCC instructor. We didn’t have Yoga then. It was still a western fad.


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