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Yoga crosses cultural and religious boundaries

December 03
22:20 2010

CHICAGO: Yoga seems to be getting extremely popular with the mainstream American society in the wake of published studies eulogizing its beneficial impact on physical and mental health.

Its popularity has now crossed religious and cultural boundaries as is evident from the reports that many Christian churches in USA are offering yoga instructions.

It is learnt that Mt. Olive Lutheran Church in Santa Monica (California) offers “Restorative and Hatha Flow Yoga” class to “reduce stress and tension while promoting healing and growth”.

And so also St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Washington (DC) “has offered quality yoga instruction” since 1978 emphasizing “effective breathing, mastery of asanas (comfortably held postures), relaxation, positive thinking, and meditation as elements of healthy spiritual living that promote happiness and true knowledge of self”.

Yoga classes, to “find peace within”, lead by six instructors at Mountain Park Community Church in Phoenix (Arizona) has “over 800 people enrolled in the nine classes that are offered six days each week”. Pineville United Methodist Church of Pineville (North Carolina) offers “Chair Yoga” and “Floor Yoga”. Vale United Methodist Church in Oakton (Virginia) offers yoga class suitable for all ages.

Old Stone Church (Presbyterian) in Cleveland (Ohio) offers “No-sweat Yoga” and describes Hatha Yoga as “a gentle practice that assists in releasing internal pressures”. Class is “held in the Chapel – a beautiful space filled with candlelight and stained glass – a peaceful place for meditation and relaxation”.

Sunbury United Methodist Church in Sunbury (Ohio) offers class which focuses “on learning a series of poses to form the foundation of a personal practice”.

“Yoga stretches improve circulation, muscle tone, joint and muscle flexibility and balance”, it points out.

St. David’s Episcopal Church in Wayne (Pennsylvania) is offering “A Quiet Morning of Yoga and Centering Prayer” on December 4. “We will spend 30 minutes experiencing the richness of centering prayer, 60 minutes enjoying a vigorous yoga practice and 30 minutes in a guided meditation for a deep, conscious rest. We promise you will head back into the holiday hustle and bustle centered, focused and energized”, it claims. It also offers “Yoga with Spirit” “Vigorous yoga classes”.

First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Charlotte (North Carolina) has yoga classes. “Yoga for Every Body” class is held at Sardis Baptist Church in Charlotte by a Hatha Yoga instructor. The Way of Life Church (Assembly of God) in Ventnor (New Jersey) offers “Spiritual Yoga” and says “Spiritual Yoga involves the total person: spirit, mind, and body”.

Church of Saint Paul the Apostle (Roman Catholic) in New York (New York) offers “series of yoga postures, set to music”. University Lutheran Church and Student Center in Norman (Oklahoma) reportedly sponsored a market on October nine, which was to offer free yoga instruction.
Welcoming the widespread interest in yoga, Rajan Zed, President of Universal Society of Hinduism, in a statement in Nevada (USA), said that although introduced and nourished by Hinduism, yoga is a world heritage and liberation powerhouse to be utilized by all.

One could still practice one’s respective faith and do yoga. Yoga would rather help one in achieving one’s spiritual goals in whatever religion one believed in.

Rishi Patanjali codified it in Yoga Sutra. His views were that yoga was a methodical effort to attain perfection, through the control of the different elements of human nature, physical and psychical. Yoga was based on an eightfold path to direct the practitioner from awareness of the external world to a focus on the inner.

According to National Institutes of Health, yoga may help one to feel more relaxed, be more flexible, improve posture, breathe deeply, and get rid of stress. Swami Vivekananda reportedly brought yoga to USA in 1893. According to an estimate, about 16 million Americans, including many celebrities, now practice yoga.

Suresh Shah

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