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Friday, February 17, 2012

A Muslim Yogi's Affirmation



I am a practicing Muslim, I believe in Allah, I believe in the prophet Muhammad (PBUH), and I believe in the Koran. I also believe in Yoga. I believe in my breath and my sighs, in my angles and my curves, in my twists and my turns and the voice in my heart.  I believe that you don't choose your sexuality, that everyone has a chance to go to heaven, that being rich is as much a burden as being poor, and that Islam and Yoga can co-exist. Somewhere along the road, it has been insinuated that I might not be a 'good Muslim' because I do yoga. This post is to address that voice and to quiet it. 

Yoga did come through Hinduism, there is no denying that, but we are grown up enough to understand that you can take your practice where you want it to go. Who says when you meditate, you can't call out to Allah, Jesus, Yoda or even the Candy Man? In the end, you know what is in your heart and no God will deny your truth.

I have a feeling my parents don't like to tell people I teach yoga, because they are embarrassed and maybe even ashamed that their daughter went all the way to the United States to get a degree in finance and instead, is teaching yoga. It seems blasphemous, is not glamorous, and I could probably make more money baby sitting. 

A lot of people don't realize this but if you look at the Muslim prayer, the actual routine, it is very similar to yogic poses. It has the mountain pose, hero's pose, forward bend, child's pose and a hand mudra. To someone like me, there are many similarities between these two deeply spiritual practices and I find a natural flow and balance in living as a Muslim yogi. I am NOT saying that Islam came from yoga, or vice versa, I am simply saying that yogis and Muslims are more alike than people realize. In a place like India where Hindus and Muslims live side by side, yoga is a way of life. I once read a story about an Indian Muslim man who woke up at 5am to say his prayers and then did his yoga routine. When asked if he felt yoga was in contradiction to his faith, his response was that from a purely physical point of view yoga helped him perform his prayers better. (You can read this great article here: Can't Yoga and Islam Get Along)

Islam and Yoga teach you to be true (satya), do Seva or Zakat, Ahimsa or Non Violence, Anekantvada or multiplicity of viewpoints and Non Possesiveness (Aparigraha). Allah never forbade me from loving him in a downdog or a shoulderstand. If anything we are taught to take care of our bodies, good health is a gift and we should not be 'defiling' it with bad habits. What about Sufism? Do whirling dervishes experience nirvana differently from a yogi working on his crown chakra?
 
Every year I fast during Ramadan. When we observe the fast, we are not supposed to eat from dawn to dusk. Yes, nothing, no food, no water. Since we follow the lunar calendar we have years where Ramadan falls during the summer. You are not allowed any food or water from about 5am to close to 8-9pm.  Every year I wonder if I can do it, how will I face myself if I want to give up. But at the same time I am excited about seeing if I can live up to the test. It truly feels like a detox of body and soul, when you can't have a single drop of water, and you have to go about your day, you will feel grateful for everything you have and everyone you love. You will pray for the poor and you pray God shows mercy on the people you're not crazy about. And I don't think Allah has the heart to refuse a starving man's prayer. So far, I have gotten through Ramadan pretty well and I always feel invigorated. I am able to teach yoga just as normal and I feel I have no right to complain when there are construction workers in third world countries who fast.

Zakat or almsgiving is no different from Seva. You give what you can, when you can. And if you don't have much to give, the fact that you had the intention is enough. And I think that's what it comes down to. The heart of Islam is all about intention. There is a principle of karma in Islam. Muslims don't believe in rebirth but you will be rewarded or punished for your deeds in the afterlife.  There is no need to question what happens to you, do what is right and you will be alright. We are constantly given choices, to eat halal or non halal, to believe or not believe, to stand up to an injustice or to be quiet. You 'give in' to the universe or to Allah and trust that all will be well. No prayer or fast is going to save you from an evil thought or a cruel deed. If you read the teachings of the prophet (PBUH) and other Islamic scholars, you are constantly encouraged to work on your intention, you are told that Allah will bless you and yours for being true in what you pray for, and even if you are not able to see your promise through, you will still be blessed because your intention was true. At the same time, you are not punished for having an evil thought, because in the end, you are human and you are not perfect. You are allowed to have bad thoughts as long as you are aware of them and don't act on them. So its fine if you are so mad you want to kill someone, as long as you don't actually go out and do it. This to me is no different from energy or vibes. You send out the right energy and it comes back to you. So why should Islam and Yoga be at odds?

Does this sound like a militant lifestyle to you? Does this sound like an extremist, suicidal, ignorant belief system to you? I hope not, because Islam is my heart and soul. I would be so lost without having Allah to turn to and yoga has brought me closer to Allah than ever before. Yoga taught me to trust my instincts and to listen to my heart. That I should do what I truly love and I will stop to exist and I will start to truly live. Is it a coincidence that Allah planned my life in such a way that I came to yoga, that I got jobs teaching yoga? That opportunities keep coming my way? I feel confident and strong, I am grateful for every toe Allah has given me that keeps me grounded in my tree pose, I am grateful for the joy I felt when my tight hamstrings finally gave in and opened up in standing head to knee, I am grateful for every breath that has freed me, for every sigh that has released me.  I feel like a child born out of Islam and Yoga. A child with no ego, no lies, only strength, courage, conviction, grace and compassion.

Namaste and Salaam.

60 comments:

  1. Thanks for nice article. I can understand you because I am also muslim and I do practice yoga n mediation.

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    1. I appreciate your comments :)

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    2. Dear Yogi Fari,

      Thank you so much for your enlightening and thoughtful blog here. I am a producer for the BBC World Service and I'm currently making a series on this very subject (the relationship between yoga and faith) which will broadcast this autumn. I'd love to ask you more about your views here. Is there a way we could make contact? Thank you. Sarah Cuddon

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    3. Hello Sarah!

      Thank you getting in touch with me and for your kind words. Feel free to email me at faridahamza@yahoo.com looking forward to hearing from you.

      Namaste.

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    4. You Interpretation of Yoga is totally wrong. The word Yoga itself stand for "union with the divine". Where divine is Shiva the Hindu God who is also referred as the creator of Yoga by some. One cannot follow just one part of Hinduism and not other. You are doing Yoga hence that means you believe in the hindu scriptures but at the same point you don't. That is total shirk. Yoga is not a exercise but a part of religion. If you believe in those mudras or asans (positions) you are believing in the scriptures and hence in the religion. It's simple.

      It will be a shirk if you do Yoga as Yoga is not an exercise but a way of reaching god in Hinduism. Hindus every morning do SuryaNamaskar incase to the people have not been enlightened as yet should know that it is Yoga. This Yoga pose is basically getting closer to the god of Sun. Each Yoga has its own religious background and hence doing Yoga will definitely make you a shirk.


      Please clear my thoughts. I want to know what you really feel about Hinduism.

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    5. Hello Rizwan,

      First, for my non Muslim readers, 'Shirk' is arabic for 'unforgiveable sin'.

      I am hoping that in time you realize that we are all entitled to our own opinions. My interpretation of yoga is exactly that, my interpretation. We are fortunate to live in a world where we can freely choose our own belief systems. And so, you are allowed to think that I am wrong, but my self worth does not depend on your acceptance of me and my beliefs.
      That being said, please take a moment to think about Kung Fu. Its a fantastic system of mind body control. People the world over study it for self defense, self discipline and to better their over all well being. BUT KUNG FU ORIGINATED FROM SHAOLIN MONKS OR BUDDHISM. Does that make every person who practices Kung Fu a Buddhist? Not necessarily. And that is my approach to Yoga. Millions will disagree with me, Hindu, Muslim and other wise. But my relationship with Allah is my own. I do not believe doing asanas make me a Hindu and I trust Allah knows this and understands my motives and intentions.
      It is not your place to decide whether what I do is shirk or not. I leave my judgement to Allah. He knows best and I hope you will be more careful in throwing that word around.
      As far as doing surya namaskar etc, i have explained my personal motives while doing asana in detail in this post and in http://yogifari.blogspot.com/2014/04/namaste-outta-my-way.html

      And as far as what I think about Hinduism. I am not sure why what I think is important to you. And i am not interested in dwelling on this. I have addressed this also in this post and
      http://yogifari.blogspot.com/2014/04/namaste-outta-my-way.html
      But honestly I dont think anything about it. To each his own. It is a system of beliefs and there are a lot of valuable lessons we can learn from Hindu teachings. That is about all I want to say about that. Explaining myself further makes me feel like I am justifying myself and I feel no need to do that.
      I hope my response has helped clear your thoughts. I am open to more constructive discussions. Thank you for stopping by.

      Namaste and Salaam,
      Farida

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  2. Hi Fari. I am also a practicing muslimah interested in teaching yoga. I am looking into a training program which is very well respected and intensive, but a part of it involves learning about shakras, the bhagavad gita, and other spiritual/mystical hindu aspects I'm not comfortable with. How should I approach the yoga school or teacher about this? How did you deal with the religious aspects of it during your training?

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  3. I'm a practicing muslimah and I'm also interested in becoming a yoga teacher. The trainign I want to attend is very well respected and intensive, but a portion of it covers Shakras, bhagavad gita, and various hindu/spiritual topics I don't believe in or am even comfortable with. How should I approach this with the school/teacher without offending them? How did you deal with these parts of yoga during your teacher training?

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    1. Sorry I did not respond sooner, I was traveling. I know how you feel and the program I attended covered a lot of these topics. In fact, it was held on the grounds of a temple, I stayed there for a week! I felt very guilty but in the end, I had to trust that Allah understood my intentions. I let them know I did not want to take part in any rituals and they were so respectful of how I felt. What I hope yoga will help you cultivate is an open mind. Only you control your body and your mind. If you don't want to chant something, don't. If the program does not allow you to do this, you need to look for a better program.
      In the end I respect that yoga came from Hinduism, but no one stops me from saying 'isthagfirullah',subhanallah, alhamdulillah or the shahada. I have said these during meditation in case a lightning bolt struck me down :) Part of life is putting yourself in uncomfortable situations so you can learn from the experience, good or bad. Most programs will require you to sit through it, I would suggest you participate simply to educate yourself on yoga's origins. I would talk to them and let them know I was not comfortable with it. If you absolutely do not want to participate, I would ask if there was something else I could do to maybe make up for it, but again, I think you should do it. A lot of times, these kind of experiences can help reinforce your faith.
      Be aware and sure of your intention. The Prophet (SAW) said: “Actions are judged according to their intentions and every person will be dealt with (in the Hereafter) according to what he intends.” I don't think it is coincidence that the muslim prayer resembles many yoga poses. I truly do believe that Allah intended for us to move in this way in order to help us stay healthy. If you pray 5 times a day, you are also doing yoga 5 times a day!
      If teaching yoga is your calling, then don't be afraid to pursue it. You can change people's perceptions by staying true to yourself and teaching yoga. I hope this helps. You are welcome to contact me via email, faridahamza@yahoo.com I am open to any discussion :)

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    2. I'd suggest that, while you need not 'believe in' it, you may still find value in familiarity with texts such as the Bhagavad Gita. You may be surprised by some of the parallels with Qur'anic teachings (while of course there will be differences as well). For example, the Gita speaks a lot about 'karma yoga,' the yoga of action. Karma yoga is performing one's duties, socially and otherwise, without attachment to outcome. Rather, one offers one's actions wholly to God. Similarly, in Islam we are encouraged to perform deeds such as giving in charity and performing prayers, solely for Allah's pleasure, without attachment. Is this really dissimilar? In this way, learning about other traditions, can actually deepen one's own. Inshallah I hope your studies will offer you benefit in such a manner.

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    3. Thank you for reading and taking the time to comment Karen. You are right. I do believe that most 'religions' came from a place of good intent. Somewhere along the way, the true intent became a warped misunderstanding. There are many common beliefs across all religions because in the end, they all believe in the same things, truth, love, kindness, humility, compassion... I also think that keeping God in my mind and heart is what got me through all the rituals, because God is a higher power who knows and understands what is in my heart. It makes everything else fall away, time, rituals, ceremonies everything.
      All that being said though, for me personally, it was difficult to not feel guilt while I was a part of rituals in the temple. I merely see it as conditioning. It's the way I was brought up and in that moment I felt guilt. But in that moment, I also felt love. Here I am, a skeptic and non believer, and they have welcomed me and embraced me. Isn't this 'human' connection what it all comes down to?
      So yes, learning about other faiths and customs can deepen one's own.
      Thank you :)

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  4. God truly is amazing. I'm not Muslim, but let's just say today I was wondering if Muslims could practice yoga and then I came across this blog post. Thank you!! :) I agree with a lot of what you say... in the end, our heart's truth is what matters, and if we come from a place of genuine love in our hearts, then it's ok.

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    1. I have found that when my intent is honest, my questions/prayers are answered. You must have been curious from a very honest and non judgmental place. In the end, only truth and kindness matter :)
      Thank you for reading and commenting.

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  5. Thank you for this helpful article! Im also a Muslim learning yoga... :)

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    1. Thank you for stopping by and commenting :)

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  6. thats the way to go yogi fari....all the best in your future endeavours..i truly respect respect and admire women who fight with the society in order to achieve their goals..i have met many women like you online, but none in real life..
    yes,,why dont you setup a youtube channel.?

    good wishes from hyderabad,india..:):)

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    1. Thank you Kaushik! Hopefully you will meet all these amazing women in real life. They are all around you waiting to speak up. You can empower them :)

      Namaste

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    2. You seem to be very inspiring.. An agent of change, which to me is Just not individualistic affair but inspiring others to be a part of collective consciousness and drive the change collectively.
      Key here is how my thought process went thru roller coaster while reading your post, comments and replies. It made me learn my own mind (from social perceptions perspective), Let me admit, like most humans and as you said thru "conditioning" or experiences, one tends to prejudge and close mind.
      Let me take this discourse beyond yoga, I guess vast majority needs to take a bit from your consciousness , open mind and observe things / spirituality again. That is in the interest of an individual, collective being and lets be honest even islam (the way it exists in people's mind - please dont read it as I am saying it needs a change BUT change in the way it exists in human interpretation), that change is critical for marching towards a collective consciousness and I assume thats the "spiritual goal" of any spiritual system.
      Plz enlighten, where my thought process is going wrong and plz command how can I contribute. BTW I am completely a-religious, dont practice any thing, nor even yoga. I am kind of an "inqusitiv'ist" and I find a deeper sense of bliss in searching for answers rather getting it :-)

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    3. Hello traveller,

      I dont think there can be a wrong thought process. Its all a process. And yes, I agree that the perception of Islam does need to change. I cannot entirely blame people for having false perceptions. The media is against Islam. And i dont meant that in just western countries where it is shown as an extremist jihadist system. Even in Muslim countries, people are fed extremist interpretations of Islam. But what can an Individual do? An individual needs to think, question, explore and then decide what they want to believe. An individual needs to be non judgmental. So no commands here, but I hope you maintain a genuine curiosity to any religion or any faith. I am excited at the number of young modern Muslim role models, men and women, we have coming up. They are fair, outspoken, liberal and tolerant, which to me is what Islam is about. I am excited to see the progress that is inevitable. Just like answers are inevitable when you start to search. May you find bliss in all your searches.
      Take care,
      Farida

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  7. HI, This is awesome! Come to Sydney, Australia and teach!

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    1. That is an awesome idea! I hope it happens someday :)

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  8. Thank you ..This was very useful

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  9. Actually we are visiting Nepal next month (2 weeks) and wifey being interested in Yoga I was searching internet and ended up at your blog.

    Being practicing Muslims, we are a bit concerned as most studios there might have deities. So can you please recommend how to go about that?

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    1. Hi Muzzammil,

      I did a quick search online and the first 3 studios that came up seemed to be fairly neutral. As in, i did not see a lot of religious context on their web pages and the teachers seem to be from all over the world, Australia, Germany, Japan and so on. So they must be used to seeing people from everywhere coming to Nepal. What I would do is look up studios close to where I plan to stay. I would email them and ask them if there was a lot of chanting etc, anything that would make me uncomfortable. I would also have a talk with the teacher ahead of time just to confirm and so that they know why i may not participate in everything. I have not come across many studios that would not be happy to discuss these things. Everyone is so understanding. In the end, your wife should not do anything that makes her feel bad. Her heart will inshallah guide her. I hope you have the best time in this magical country, do come back and let us know about your yoga experience.

      Namaste and salaam.

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  10. Yoga is evolutionary.It is not related to any religion.Do you think statues having yoga poses more than five thousand years old discovered from Harappan sites in India & Pakistan related to Hindu religion ? Of course the word Hindu is nowhere written in the Vedas or Mahabharata.The people beyond Hindukush mountains were called Hindus and area as Hindustan.Only in last millennium the outsiders related it to a religion.A civilization can not be equated in a narrow term.

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    1. I love the point you are making!! You are right! I get annoyed when everyone says SA(the country with all that oil) is the birthplace of Islam. Islam came the world around 620AD. SA in 1932. Yoga is evolutionary, just like most of life :) thank you!!

      Namaste

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  11. Thank you for posting this. I'm a muslim & love doing yoga since it help with my depression & anxiety disorder. But anyhow, my parents were not keen for me doing yoga due to religious issues. It makes me feel guilty & stop doing yoga. Upon stopping, i feel its harder to control my depression & anxiety even being compliance with my medications. Thankfully, i found your blog & i'm happy with your explainations. For me, i only want to treat my illness with yoga. In islam, it is never forbidden for one to seek for treatment to treat illnessess. So again, intention is more important in everything that you do. Thank you so much! :)

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    1. You will be surprised at how many people have come to me and yoga because of anxiety. Lets face it, life is not always easy. Yoga is a wonderful way to try and deal with anxiety, there are scores of people who have been able to get off their meds after learning better coping strategies. Please get the help you need. There is no shame in seeing a therapist or in taking meds. Your physical ailments may be beyond your control and you should not feel like something is wrong with you. Maybe if you continue with yoga, your parents will see that it helps and will be more understanding. But if you need help, ask. Your parents may not know any better, it is not their fault and it is not ideal. Try and talk to them about getting you help.
      Wishing you peace.

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    2. Why some of the parents feel that it is a crime to undertake yoga practices?

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    3. Here you go!

      http://yogifari.blogspot.com/2014/04/namaste-outta-my-way.html

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    4. Forgot to add!

      http://yogifari.blogspot.com/2013/11/the-bb-freakin-c.html

      you will especially enjoy Mr.Kremer's piece.

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  12. Thank you for the wonderful blogs. I am planning to go for the yoga teacher training next year, Insh'Allah. However, the studio I am going to now, there are responsive chanting are part of the practice. Chants include "Shiva shiva" "Krishna hare Krishna" and "Rama". I have a difficult time with the repeating the chants because each of those names are names of Hindu deities and to call out their names would I think be haram. I had a conversation with the yoga studio director and explained to him my concerns. He said that the names are just a part of us as humans and that they aren't focusing in on the deity aspect. How would I handle this when I am in teacher training as it is part of a program?

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    1. Hi Sohana,

      Thank you visiting! I understand your concerns. When i did teacher training, there was some chanting and i would meditate along but i would not chant. My teachers understood and if these teachers understand your position it should be fine. They are right in that they are not focusing on the deity aspect but it is tough for us to seperate the deity from the word. When i say 'hippo', you are thinking of a hippo, in your mind you see a hippo, you are not thinking of the personality of the hippo or about how it is a symbol of motherhood or that the word 'hippopotamus' translates to 'river horse'. It is tough to accept something we have been told our whole lives is wrong, even if logic tells us that it is simply a word. I would ask them if it is ok that i did not chant along, i would participate but not do things that felt wrong. If they are not okay with that you may want to reconsider getting your certification from them.
      There is also another issue, are you going to be working for them? Do they want you to implement these teachings in your classes? If yes, you want to be sure that is something you can do. If its just basic certification and they are understanding i see no reason for not getting certified by them. In the end, you know your intention, if you are uncomfortable with something, don't do it. it really is that simple :)
      Hope all that helps!
      In peace,
      Farida

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  13. Hi Farida,

    I stumbled upon your blog at the perfect time! I've been going through quite a dark phase wondering if all these yoga mantras are actually shirk. I'm a muslim yoga teacher too and I use a lot of mantra music in my classes (after checking their meanings, of course). Sometimes, however, you find several translations - one that is completely inline with the principles of Islam and one that goes on about deities and such.

    I'm really confused about this. What do you do?

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    1. Hi Seba,

      Glad you dropped by. I think i know what you mean, for example, 'lokha, samasta, sukhino, bhavanatu' which translates to ' may all beings everywhere be happy and free' . I personally love this mantra and use it. I don't see the harm in it, its prayer in sanskrit, would Allah not accept it? For ones that confuse you, i would suggest asking a sanskrit scholar for specific meanings and then using your own judgement. Typically I stay away from mantras that use names of deities. I am curious about the mantras you are talking about. Please post a few here, i am sure it will be helpful, you cannot be the only one who feels this way. Hope that helps!
      In peace,
      Farida

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    2. Thank you so much for responding Farida! It feels great to finally connect with someone on this subject. Unfortunately, I don't know any sanskrit scholars. Do you?

      Your point makes a lot of sense. There are some mantras that are beautiful and don't have any room for doubt. I believe Allah would accept them because there is one universal truth, no matter what language.

      An example of the confusing mantras however is the gayatri mantra.

      On Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gayatri_Mantra) it says:

      A literal translation of the Gayatri verse proper can be given as:
      "May we attain that excellent glory of Savitar the god:
      So may he stimulate our prayers."
      —The Hymns of the Rigveda (1896), Ralph T. H. Griffith[14]

      Off of another website (http://hinduism.about.com/od/prayersmantras/a/The-Gayatri-Mantra.htm) it says:

      "O thou existence Absolute, Creator of the three dimensions, we contemplate upon thy divine light. May He stimulate our intellect and bestow upon us true knowledge."
      Or simply,

      "O Divine mother, our hearts are filled with darkness. Please make this darkness distant from us and promote illumination within us."


      Another example is Om Namo Bhagavate Vasudevaya:

      Meaning 1 off of (http://singingheartyoga.blogspot.com/2011/08/om-namo-bhagavate-vasudevaya.html) is:

      "I bow to the Lord who lives in the hearts of all.
      OM and salutations to the Indwelling One, substance of the Divine.
      O my Lord, the all-pervading Personality and the Godhead, I offer my respectful obediences unto You.
      Salutation to the Indweller who is omnipresent, omnipotent, immortal and divine."

      Meaning 2 off of Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Om_Namo_Bhagavate_Vasudevaya)says:
      Om Namo Bhagavate Vasudevaya means "prostration to Krishna" or "surrender to Krishna."


      See what I mean? When I research, the general meaning of most mantras is quite beautiful. But sometimes you find one translation that is completely different. The problem is, if each mantra will have one suspicious translation, I'll end up having to avoid most of them. This doesn't seem logical, because I know for certain that many of the principles of yoga are identical to principles in Islam. Also, being part of the "yoga community" I need to have a specific opinion and standpoint on the issue in general.

      Thanks again Farida! I appreciate this discussion more than you know.

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  14. Hi Fari,
    I heard a program on BBC regarding this topic, they were featuring someone named Farideh, I'm wondering if that is you and if I came across the correct blog? I appreciate a feedback.

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    1. Hi Fay!

      Yes it is me on the BBC. Thank you for dropping by :)

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  15. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  16. I came here from an article in BBC site. I read the article, your blog content and all the visitors comment. What I am impressed with is your responses to the all the comments.
    I believe Allah will bless you because you are honest to your religion.

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    1. Thank you for stopping by and commenting Sunil. I appreciate your kind words and know that you will be blessed too. Your intent is clear and so is your honesty. Its all we need to be close to perfect :)
      Namaste.

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  17. Salams,

    I came across your blogs through BBC world news page on facebook.

    Islam teaches us that whatever we do, our intentions matter more than the act itself. you do yoga to build your physical/mental health and it's a good practice with a good intention. thats what i believe.

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    1. Could not have said it better :) i love how i am meeting so many open minds on here. Just makes me happy!

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  18. Word Hindu is not in any of Sanathana Dharma's scripts. Indus-Valley's people were called by externals as Indus then it turned Hindu, then other religions called as Hinduism , thus now a days people call as Religion. (Zakir Naki told he is also a Hindu too as he belong to IndusVally)

    To the question if yoga make one Hindu? NO. BUT he/she SHOULD NOT FORGET, THAT its is part and parcel of Hindus who invented, developed and all property rights RESERVED to ALL HINDUS, who really follow 'A WAY OF LIFE' as a result of scientific methodologies at that time, from both combination of materialistic+BeyondMaterial spiritual)

    And it should be looked a that way, BUT should NEVER be claimed as other religions' work, eg someone calling as 'JESUS Yoga etc' etc.. that IS more than stealing eg, as in here:
    https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=618088178240874&set=a.404354886280872.82827.126845224031841&type=1&permPage=1
    https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=618087691574256&set=a.404354886280872.82827.126845224031841&type=1&permPage=1

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    1. Thank you for stopping by and commenting. I appreciate the point you make about the origin of the word 'Hindu' and I respect Dr.Zakir Naik and love that he calls himself a Hindu. From what i know about Hinduism, the main principle is, it doesnt matter what path you choose as long as you find your way to God. I can see how it may seem inappropriate to use the name or image of Christ in a yoga context but considering how a Christian or Muslim or Jew or Atheist has grown up with completely different beliefs, philosophies and rituals, is it so bad that they may use what is familiar as a bridge to yoga? I personally dont mean to disrespect Hindu principles but why cant yoga evolve into something more universal? Does it take away from yoga if i say a verse from the Quran in my head? Or does it take away from me being a Muslim if I say 'Om'? I dont think it is black and white. Also, i dont think anyone has claimed that Yoga is Christian. I felt happy when I read about PraiseMoves because it goes to show that no matter what our religion, we are all the same and we can connect. I love that they saw yoga and saw a scripture, that i saw yoga and i thought of a whirling dervish, its like divine intervention, like God asked us to do yoga. That doesnt sound wrong does it?
      All that being said, you have to give credit where it is due. I acknowledge yoga has its origins in Hinduism but i would like to think it is continually evolving so that more people can embrace it and find peace.
      Happy to keep the discussion going.

      Namaste.

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  19. Have you never asked yourself why your "religion" doesnt have something like this or felt the need to develope something similar and then ask yourself what does your "religion" really want from you.....

    Yoga is Hindu, it's an essential part of it.......You decide.....Only Allah knows (lol)

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    1. I am publishing your comment because I think it is important for us to recognize that all attitudes exist. And the real test of living a good life is in how we react to off hand insensitive comments.
      You obviously dont consider Islam a "religion". Which is just as well, because most of us see it as a way of life. So, you are on the right track so far.
      I am currently working on a follow up piece of more similarities between Islam and Yoga, right down to the way we pray. So to answer your question about why Islam didnt come up with something similar. It did, we call it Salat. We too fast, believe in honesty, non violence, compassion and respect for every person.
      I think you meant what does 'Allah' want from me. Easy answer really, to forgive the ignorant, handle myself with grace, respect someone even if they dont respect me, because I am capable of compassion. And I truly believe hate comes from ignorance. You dont know any better and this is why you are angry, flippant and disrespectful.
      So how shall we fix this? I suggest yoga and meditation :) I urge you to do your research, to read as much as you can, to talk to people, to make informed decisions, and to look past the rhetoric, anger and hate. We have more similarities than differences and if you look, you will see it.
      You can call Yoga Hindu, but that doesn't make it not universal. I have always acknowledged that Yoga came from Hinduism, but the fact that we can all do it, that it makes us stronger physically and spiritually shows that is was meant for everyone. Boxing it up under a specific label is only disrespecting all that yoga has to offer.
      And so, this is what I have decided. I am a Muslim and I am a Yogi. It is Allah's grace that I am able to do what I do and not let ignorant people affect me. Their ignorance is their problem, not mine. And yes, only Allah knows best.

      In peace,
      Farida

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  20. Yogi Fari, Hindus have no problem with islam, can the converse be said to be true?

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    1. I am publishing your comment to show that cynicism may be one of the main reasons this divide between Hindus and Muslims continue to exist. I'll play along. I cannot answer your question because it is an unfair question. For every Hindu hating Muslim you may have met, I have met a Muslim hating Hindu. I can get into instances where people very close to me have been hurt with regards to this issue. But this blog is not here to discuss hatred born from ignorance. The real question you should be asking is, Why is it such? Where is the disconnect? What can I do as a person to make my surroundings better?
      I am almost tempted to take offense at your comment because I am Indian. I went to an Indian school and have forged lifelong friendships with Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Jews, Jains, Atheists, Parsis, you name it. Your comment suggests that I may not love and accept them and that could not be further from the truth.
      The point of my piece was to show that no matter what path we choose, we all seek the same things, love, compassion, respect and acceptance. We need to put aside the rhetoric and look deeper at how similar we all really are. I urge you to go back and re read my piece, read the comments and recognize the emotions in the discussion. I urge you to look beyond what is on the surface and I hope you see the point I am trying to make. I hope you let the cynicism go, that life does not make you hard. Know that there will be instances where people will be complete assholes, but understand that they simply don't know better and the way you react and behave can show them what compassion and respect is all about.

      In peace,
      Farida

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  21. It is a disillusion that OM belong to Hindu religion. The way of life of people of Indus valley was named as Hinduism only after Christianity and Islam as an identity or to differentiate from others. The daily activities of people of Indus valley were given some name in their own language like Santhiyavandan, Surya namaskar, Puja, Diyana,(Concentration) Yoga,(Physical exercise in tune with Nature) for better life. To raise the bio - energy from the bottom of their body to the top of their head they uttered three syllables "A" "U" "M". When we chant A continuously our abdomen region gets a vibration similarly continuous chanting of U creates a vibration in the chest region and M brings peaceful vibration above the head. When we say together the three letters AUM it sounds "OM" other than that it doesn't have any religious value. Three things are certain ie., 1. The universe, 2. The physical body and 3. Bio - energy within the body. When 2 and 3 are together we call the body as a man or a woman. Once 3 leaves 2 we call it a dead body that is all. To make the Bio – energy to flow through the body they chanted OM. We only called them Hindus and their way of life as Hinduism. Those men were also the creation of Allah and therefore chanting OM which was in existence before Islam may not be sin.

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  22. Assalamualaikum Fari. I am a Muslim from Malaysia and I am also a yoga instructor. I truly understand your article. And I totally agree with what you said about the intention in our heart. Only Allah can be our judge. No human being can judge us. I have been doing yoga for the past nearly 8 years. However, it was only last year i decided to take up an instructor course in Malaysia itself. And I learned a lot in my course. Yoga also helps me to be more focus and calm. I thank Allah for letting me learn yoga and hopefully with my skills, besides making a living from teaching yoga, I am able to help people improve their health directly and indirectly. Have a bless day Fari. Namaskar!

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    1. Wasalaam and namaste :) thank you for dropping by and your kind words. I wish you luck and peace.

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  23. Hello, Fari!
    I am not a Muslim. I do, however find Islam to be very beautiful. I had the pleasure of meeting the Sufi musicians Qawal Najmuddin and Brothers at my college, and it was such a beautiful experience. A Muslim friend of mine once listened to my story about returning to the Catholic Church (I neglected Confirmation because of an abuse problem I had with the person in charge of my Catechism, so I waited until I was an adult to be Confirmed. My family supported me because of the abuse I went through by the Catechism director). Anyways, my Muslim friend responded to my story, saying that according to her faith tradition, Allah says, "Take on step towards Me, I will take tend steps towards you. Walk towards Me, I will run towards you." And I fell into a fit of tears, because those healing words expressed exactly what I was trying to say about my experience with God, that I didn't have the words for before. So... I guess what I'm saying is that I agree with your point about the similarities between different religions and spiritual or philosophical traditions. We really are not all that different.
    As for another issue your article raised, I think it's a good point you make that yoga can help people of all religious traditions become closer to God, to their spiritual side or their soul, or what-have-you. I have personally experienced similar disapproval from fellow Catholics who are more conservative, who insist that it is sinful for me to practice yoga. I think the problem is that people mistakenly believe that yoga is a religion in and of itself. That is not true, though! As I'm sure you probably know as a yoga instructor, yoga originated from the Vedas of India, who constructed the Ayurvedic health and medicine system. Yoga is a mix of Vedic medicine, and multiple different philosophical paths that were later developed by Hindus, Buddhists, Jainists, and Sikhs. Even later, the Taoists and Zen schools of thought further developed yoga. Yoga does not belong to any one religion. It is a spiritual, emotional, physical, and mental health tool. That is all. And yes, there are spiritual components. I practice Bikram yoga for holistic health, but I also practice Bhakti yoga, which is one of the four original schools of yoga, called The Way of Love and devotion to God. In Bhakti yoga, meditation is done differently from meditation in other schools of yoga. Instead of emptying the mind, the mind is focused solely on God and "devotional remembrance" of Him. Basically, the meditation of a Bhakta (yogi in the Bhakti tradition), is prayer to God! Similar to your experience, these yoga practices have helped to bring me closer to God, and to keep me strong and vibrant during Lent (which is similar in some ways to Ramadan).
    Your closing statement is absolutely breathtaking. I hope that someday we can all of us humans aim to be "A child with no ego, no lies, only strength, courage, conviction, grace and compassion."

    Pax Christi, Salaam, and Namaste,
    <3 Krissy

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    1. Dear Krissy,

      Thank you for your thoughtful comment. Your words could not have come at a more appropriate time. What you say is so true, the essence of any religion is to find our way to God, the truth. There are so many ways to get to him and we can choose our own. We get so bogged down by rhetoric, get caught up in rituals and somehow i feel we have regressed and become some close minded. Abu Rayhan Al Biruni, a noted scholar and astronomer traveled through India and translated the Yoga Sutras in the 11th century. It was later found in the 1920’s in Istanbul. I wish more people were that open minded today! The idea is that we are supposed to approach knowledge with a curiosity. Islam tells us to ask, to question, to find answers and yoga does the same thing. And that should be the basis for anyone's personal belief. It is also interesting that you quoted that specific line. Not two weeks back i was accused of 'self praising' myself for it. I also received 12 irate emails from a reader who was extremely upset with me for modifying the practice and principles of yoga to suit my needs. So in the end, we can only do what it is right and only hope that our intentions are understood and well received.
      Your note has taken away any doubt the irate yogi had planted, for that, thank you.
      I wish you peace and love,
      Farida

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    2. o_O Self praising? ... I interpreted that quote as a way of praising God, and thanking Him for his healing presence in people's lives. ... But okay. I guess some people just need to have something to complain about in others.

      At the very least, we can all get a hearty laugh out of it when we realize how silly we've all been at some point or another.

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  24. Woops! I made a few typing errors in my last comment. The following section should have said:

    Anyways, my Muslim friend responded to my story, saying that according to her faith tradition, Allah says, "Take *one step towards Me, I will take *ten steps towards you. Walk towards Me, I will run towards you." And I fell into a fit of tears, because those healing words expressed exactly what I was trying to say about my experience with God, that I didn't have the words for before.

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  25. I stumbled upon your article via Independent Yoga Network (which I am a part of) and was surprised to see that you are in Shreveport, LA. I grew up in Natchitoches, LA and am always interested in speaking with others about their experiences with this part of the world. I currently live in Austin, TX and have a friend who is Muslim and have often wondered what she thinks about yoga. Her english is broken and my arabic is even worse, so your article has given me some insight. Shukran!

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    1. Afwan Chrissy!! Small world. I live in Shreveport but got my certification from the Living Yoga Program in Austin, TX. I looked up the Independent Yoga Network and they seem to be doing good work, free of all the 'governing'. Thanks for stopping by :)
      Namaste,
      Farida

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  26. Hello Yogi Fari:

    Your heartfelt comments and observation of your own feelings was full of truth that so many people resonated with it. This happen even if it was in disagreement making them think further. You said few times that doing Yoga helped you connect with allah. If a Christian did it, Yoga would help connect with Jesus better and for a Hindu Yoga helps connect with Krishna. Human beings seek the Creator Brahman. Humans also want to give that Creator some form, name, shape, characteristics to make it easier to connect with. Each of us can call that Creator, God, by any name. It will all be the same. It is like children in the same family calling their mother or father by different names that they attached themselves to when they started talking. That mother is the same for all the children. It is like that for every Hindu, every Muslim, every person in every other children. We are all one.

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  27. Namaste Yogi Fari,

    Wonderful blog I visited here. And thoughtful excellent comments by visitors are encouraging as well.

    I am Sanatani (world knows as Hinduism).

    On query of Gayatri by one friend, my humble submission is, it is 24 syllable mantra that has Neuro linguistic value as well as a prayer to illuminate intellect. (Rig 3: 62: 10, Yajur 36: 3).

    It's not a prayer to any deity but Self Effulgent Almighty.

    Yours is the true light in meditation and let my intelligence be illuminated.... this is the purport.

    Excellent reading and knowing this blog. Thanks again.

    Shanti. Peace.

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