Henry Martyn Institute, Hyderabad
6 January, 2019
HMI prayer center and the location of daily yoga.
Characteristics of Raj Yoga
My favorite Oles doing the tree pose
With eyes closed, mind and body focused on asanas I am enveloped into a world of mediation. While in this state of serenity, the prayer hall serves as a block to the call of morning prayer from the local mosque, the feeling of a brisk breeze of a Hyderabad morning, and the smell of local polluted air.
The Controversy of Yoga
I think it is safe to say that yoga as a practice of exercise and meditation has taken the United States by storm. Introduced in the 20th century to the West from India, yoga has become a new fad. The spread of yoga has received religious scrutiny in the United States for its historical ties to Indian religions. Rather, in contrast to this perspective I believe it is an individual’s intention when practicing yoga that is significant.
Yoga and spiritual meditation are viewed as ancient practices associated with Hinduism and Buddhism. Hindus believe that the goal of yoga is to create an isolation of spirit and nature. Through mental concentration the meditator is able to get in touch with their inner soul in order to clear limitations. Hindus believe in 4 types of yoga as a path to spiritual liberation from the reincarnation cycle. The one most widely practiced in the United States is raja-yoga for its appealing meditative characteristics. Similarly, in Buddhism calming meditation has mental benefits. With extended concentration comes serenity and peace both physically and mentally.
For religious people in the United States there is some reserve to yoga practices. Christians, Jews, and Muslims have a hard time overcoming the initial religious association yoga has with Hinduism and Buddhism, as if they are betraying their own religion. This is where I believe that one’s intentions are critical.
Throughout the last two weeks at HMI I have done group-yoga daily at 7AM. Personally, I view this experience as a way for me to stretch my body using relaxing techniques. Especially early in the morning, yoga is helpful in waking the brain and body in a calming fashion. Some individuals in the United States might make the claim that I am betraying my Catholic religion by participating. But, the difference for me is the mindset. I am a high stress, high anxiety individual, Through exercise I am able to keep these unhealthy characteristics under control. For me, yoga is a healthy alternative to clear my mind of toxic thoughts. Yoga does not need to be religiously associated unless one chooses to make it that way.