New age yoga: Old age theft and surrender

What is Yoga? Hinduism. Some 5,000 years ago, there were people living in a place which came to be known as the (H)indus river valley. 

It was these (H)indus that created the religious language known as Sanskrit. The Sanskrit/Hindu word “Yoga” means: “Yuj Atman Brahman ca,” (“To yoke to one’s individual Soul and Soul Source.”) The various (authentic) Yogas are the means by which Hindus achieve this Soul/Self-Realization: Karma Yoga (ethics), Bhakti Yoga (devotion), Raja Yoga (meditation) and Jnana Yoga (outer and inner study or enlightenment). There are other Yogas within these classic Hindu/Yogas, such as: Hatha Yoga (Hindu devotional postures).

It is Hatha that is, generally, distorted by the simplistic use of “Yoga.” With a vital ethical and devotional attitude (posture), the Hindu (or student of Hinduism) is now ready for the physical postures (asanas). The asanas represent a specifically Hindu worldview. “Hatha” refers not only to nature worship (moon; sun: tha) but also to the Hindu deities Siva, Vishnu (Hara; Hari).

The “Soul” purpose of the asanas is to create a healthy body, calm mind and emotions in order to enter the spirit realms. It is for this Soul purpose that, of all the Hindu/Yogas, Hatha Yoga was supposed to be kept, relatively, secret. Sages realized that the immature would emphasize the body, thus, completely distorting the spiritual intent. Feeling good at the expense of others is not an ethical choice.

New Age Yoga (NAY) is: Hot Yoga, Power Yoga and Gentle Yoga, to name few. There are especially arrogant individuals who even attach their own names to these Hindu disciplines. There are so-called 200 hour Certified Yoga Teachers and Yoga Therapists.

Imagine treating Baptism and Communion as an Underwater Therapy and Wine Tasting business! Envision a Fitness Rabbi, Diet Pope and Gaming Imam! Picture Hot Baptism (at your local gym), Power Mass and Gentle Genuflecting! How about a 200 hour Certified Communion Teacher greeting students with Hallelujah and denying any Christian connection? How about marketing Baptism pants to display one’s physical accomplishments! As ridiculous as this seems, this is exactly how callous, absurd and insulting is the NAY crusade.

How many also realize that, factually, the following are sacred Sanskrit/Hindu terms: Namaste, Karma, Mantra, Guru, Swastika and Chakras? How many are aware that Hindus invented the all-important zero? Along with Yoga, these Hindu terms have been co-opted and distorted beyond recognition. Unfortunately, not a week goes by that the press and Madison Avenue do not aid in reinforcing the abuse of these religious terms. NAY is bringing in big money.

In the “NAYsayers” dogma, Yoga is everything but religion. To them, Yoga is a physical exercise and, perhaps, an elite universal spiritual practice. The thoughtless cliché: “I am spiritual but not religious,” is a common deception. It is in this pseudo-spirituality that NAY gets very bizarre.

Covertly indoctrinating one into any religion is abusive. Scattering Hindu terms and displaying Hindu images into a so-called Yoga class should be cause for not only questioning the religion of the teacher but also the intent. And, “naturally,” it costs money for these “spiritual teachings.” Those who feel superior to the more religious should remember everyone is free to go into any religious service.

There are many established religions. Of course, a truly creative individual may come up with something new. However, stealing from an existing religion (and/or culture), then denying it, and profiting from it is the M.O. of the usurper. Repeated invasions of India have left many Hindus in a state of confusion, at best. Hindus have historically been “an easy mark” and are at fault for not learning and protecting their religion. Some Hindus simply give up: “If you can’t beat them, join them.”

Divorcing any aspect of Yoga from its Hindu roots is dishonest and a grave insult to a great world religion and it adherents. Presently, the Yino flock to their studios and completely shun Hindu Temples/Ashrams and teachers. Ironically, qualified Hindu teachers have been denied teaching Hatha Yoga in a public setting not only because it is religion but also because they did not have a Western Yoga Certification! The “Certified Yogis/Yoginis” are, actually, clueless not only to the facts of Yoga but also to the austere and devoted lifestyle of the true Yogi.

If one wants to learn Hinduism/Yoga (and perhaps become a Hindu), do that. If one wants to stretch and relax, be thoughtful and considerate and don’t call it Yoga.

Swami Param is president of the Classical Yoga Hindu Academy in Barnegat, N.J.



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  1. Amulya Saraswati says:

    Very good and truthful article even though it may be uncomfortable for many Hatha Yoga practitioners who rather to be snob and call themselves spiritual but not religious. Some Yoga studios hang on their walls pictures of Hindu Gods, Om symbols, Swamis opening ceremony picture of the studio and still claim their practice is not religious. After their class they salute you with a ” Have a Namaste”. That is deceiving and totally dishonest.

  2. Swami Param says:

    Hard to believe, but the Judge in the case of concerned parents suing the Encinitas School District is a Hot Yoga devotee. Talk about not only a conflict of interest but also a complete lack of judgement on the part of the judge. Bikram/Hot Yoga is the epitome of new-age, phony yoga. Interestingly, Bikram is again being sued this time for again making sexual advances towards one of his students.

  3. Pratima Balkaran says:

    The above article addresses the grave and profound discredit, insult and desecretion to Hinduism and Hindus at large. It is my hope that Hindus as well as non-Hindus open not only their eyes but their heart and do a deep, critical soul/self search as to their involvement in this modern phony yoga (NAY as Swami Param refers to)and correct their mistakes and take responsibilities for their actions. Afterall, one of the laws of Yoga, is Karma Yoga, which means that every action produces an equal/opposite reaction. Even the youngest child starting in Kindergarten knows that their actions have consequences; good behavior results in positive rewards and negative behavior results in bad consequences. Look at what is happening with some of these phony yoga teachers and their inappropriate sexual advances with their students. The phony yoga industry today is far removed from ethics, morality, truth, wisdom and peace, which are all high values and teachings from Yoga/Hinduism. I urge all Hindus to defend your/our Dharma and stand up lovingly firm to protect it and speak out to those who have been terrible misguided.

  4. The Sikh religion does not preach to perform yoga asanas or mantras yet Yogi Bhajan and now his followers who call themselves Sikhs practice tantric / kundalini yoga. I don’t think Bhajan’s funny yoga would even qualify as Hindu yoga either. I wish these Bhajan followers would just call themselves Bhajanites and quit giving religion a bad name.

    This review is from: Confessions of an American Sikh: Locked up in India, corrupt cops & my escape from a “New Age” tantric yoga cult! (Paperback) & (Kindle)

    Gursant Singh’s recounting of his passage to India and out of a corrupt yoga empire is as enjoyable as it is compelling. This is a story of exploitation — Gursant’s victimization by his fraudulent master, Yogi Bhajan, and his own demoralizing work running scams to prop up the yogi’s luxurious lifestyle. It’s a quick-paced adventure that describes the ersatz Sikh lifestyle dumped on a clutch of white Americans and the peculiar dangers of the Indian bride trade.
    The book revolves around Gursant’s quest for a Punjabi marriage partner. His desire to acquire a subservient wife echoes Yogi Bhajan’s tantric babble about men and women. If you’ve endured a Yogi Bhajan “teaching” on sexuality, you’ll be dismayed, but not surprised, by his longtime student’s view of women. Gursant’s role as Bhajan’s aide and bodyguard revealed the man his followers refuse to see — a womanizer and a brute. Yogi Bhajan’s round-the-clock use of a dozen female assistants is well-known. Those who question why the self-proclaimed leader of the Sikhs of the Western world required not just a personal harem but an armed security detail will find answers here. Gursant lays out his time among the sleazy operators and criminal hustlers swirling through Yogi Bhajan’s Healthy Happy Holy Organization/3HO in some depth — not enough intricacy for some of us, but doubtless far too much for the old charlatan’s remaining devotees.
    Fortunately, the book doesn’t devolve into a personal Mea Culpa nor does it read like the diary of a starry-eyed seeker. The bizarre mishmash of Eastern aphorisms and yoga postures that Yogi Bhajan concocted made his Sikh Dharma group appealing to a small, lost tribe of the counterculture. Mercifully, Gursant was no hippie and he doesn’t write like one. Yet his “Confessions of An American Sikh” makes the case for Sikh Dharma’s inclusion as a footnote to ’60s experimental spirituality. More importantly, this book is a fascinating look at the seamy side of the Indian marriage business and a frank exploration of life in a destructive, authoritarian group.
    Gursant’s tone is appealing whether he is describing the filthy interior of a lock-up in Amritsar or his posh daily luncheons with Yogi Bhajan on Rodeo Drive. His growing disillusionment with Bhajan’s bogus spin on the Sikh religion comes to a climax while Gursant is trapped in India. He finds himself trying to emerge from two forms of imprisonment — one physical and the other spiritual. Through it all, Gursant maintains his sense of humor and his innate faith.
    This is an absorbing story for any reader. And it’s a must-read for those caught up in Yogi Bhajan’s 3HO/Sikh Dharma –ex-followers, Second Generation casualties, family members, law enforcement, cult researchers — and for every Kundalini yoga student or Yogi Tea drinker, past or present.

  5. Swami Param says:

    Yes, just as concerned Hindus are righfully upset about the complete distortion of the Hindu/Yogic Dharma, we appreciate the feelings of devout Sikhs who realize how spurious is the 3HO Sikh movement under their late so-called “Yogi” Bhajan.

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