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Yoga knows no religion

delhi Updated: Jan 29, 2009 00:14 IST
Rhythma Kaul
Rhythma Kaul
Hindustan Times
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Despite clerics in Indonesia and Malaysia banning Muslims from doing yoga that includes Hindu chants, it’s business at usual at New Delhi’s Morarji Desai National Institute of Yoga (MDNIY).

“We’ve got an urgent request from the embassy of Morocco for two yoga instructors, a Bangladeshi government official was here just two days ago looking for an instructor to send to Dhaka, and one of our teachers has just returned after a five-year stint in Indonesia, where his students were predominantly Muslims. I cannot understand why there is a need to debate this issue,” said the Dr Ishwar V Basavaraddi, director, MDNIY.

In the two diploma courses of 20 students each, five Muslims have enrolled, including two women. Not one has offered to withdraw or requested any changes in the course pattern.

Most Muslims in India also express surprise that the secular credentials of yoga need to be debated. “I’m happy that Deoband seminary has given yoga a go-ahead and Swami Ramdev has underlines its secular credentials by suggesting Muslims substitute Allah for Om, but was it really required? We all know yoga is good for health and all religious stress the imprance of leadin a healthy life,” said yoga-enthusiast Nadira Ahmed, a Vasant Kunj-based housewife who organises yoga classes for school children during summer vacations.

“Yoga is universal. The birthplace of yoga may be India, but it’s for all, irrespective of religion, gender, nationality and language. It is meant to improve health and spread happiness,” said Dr Basavaraddi.

Last month, the institute completed its first four-month training schedule for 60 Border Security Force personnel, many of whom were Muslims. “Yoga teaches you to concentrate on a higher self, not a particular deity. Forms such as Patanjali, tantra, sankya and dhyana, among others, are non-religious. Even atheists can practice them,” said the director.