Monday, November 14, 2022

Can Yoga Be Rendered Kosher? (A Brief Summary)


20 Cheshvan '83 / Chayei Soroh / November 14, '22

~~  A public service of Tomim Tih'yeh  ~~

The proliferation of Yoga practitioners ("... sprouted up like a crop of mushrooms after a rain," as Rav Belsky put it) - some apparently incentivized via government largesse - raises the question ever more frequently: Is there any way to render Yoga permissible according to Torah Law?

Yoga is a set of ancient, idolatry-infused systems, purporting to be paths to human achievement and perfection. In it's original forms, Yoga is a way to worship their "object of worship," as Rav Belsky put it (see futher). Western New-Age proponents have adapted Yoga to meet the incessant demands for "Spirituality Without Morality." Some in the West have even claimed to secularize Yoga altogether. Yoga involves both theology and practice.


The Eastern/ Hindu/ New-Age ideology underlying - and often accompanying - Yoga is demonstrably assur (prohibited). Specifically, anything related to the heretical notion of "Prana" (a.k.a. Qi, Ki, Universal Energy, etc.;; 

The Book of Chi, Paul Wildish, p. xi; 3, 5) must be avoided altogether, as articulated by Rav Yisroel Belsky, Rav Dovid Feinstein, OB"M, in their psak on related concerns. That statement, prohibiting all forms of "energy healing," and the ideology of "universal energy," was published in the book "Rav Belsky on Alternative Medicine, New Age Medicine - Energy Healing" (Tzuf/ Judaica Press). At the end of that statement (p. 130), they identify the notion of "Universal Energy" as heresy, "kefira b'ikkar."

Be aware that Yoga ideology, rather theology, is often subtle.  There are many ideas that - while not Avoda Zorah (loosely translated as "idolatry") or Kefira (heresy) proper - are nevertheless prohibited to expose oneself to [how much more so to believe] - inasmuch as they could LEAD a person to Avoda Zorah or kefira beliefs themselves. Those ideas fall under the prohibition of "Lo So'ssuru Ach'arei Le'vav'chem" - Zu minnus."*

* See Rambam, Mishneh Torah, Hil. A.Z. 2:2-3; Sefer HaChinuch 357; SMa"G L.S. 15; Bi'ur Halacha 1:1, the sixth of the constant mitzvos.

Yoga materials, as is the case with most of the information marketed in the holistic health arena, are pervaded with such stealth theology.  New Age propagandists specialize in marketing these types of ancient Avoda-Zorah (="A.Z.") and kefira notions as "scientific." It is the New Age movement that serves as the primary conduit of ancient and contemporary A.Z. and kefira into religious homes, under the veneer of alternative means to attain health, serenity, wealth, productivity, self-esteem, and everything else you'd consider paying - or charging - money for.


Many Yoga practices, including bowing towards the Sun, lighting candles, chanting mantras (e.g. "OM"), and others, are clearly assur. If fact, certain breathing techniques are a form of worship, specifically "libation," as observed by the academic authority Mercia Eliade in his book "Yoga." (It appears as if every unhinged guru-aspirant markets his own form of Yoga, manifesting their own  idiosyncrasies, as in the blasphemous "Kabbalah Yoga," with Alef-Beis postures.) There is also a highly appealing meditative element of Yoga, and an Arayos (indecency) element as well, both of which (apparently somewhat interdependent) are to be shunned.

The only question remaining is whether there is a way to render the strictly physical facets of Yoga kosher, and how so. In short, at the risk of oversimplifying, the answer to that is that even the physical exercises and postures of Yoga are problematic. That's because, if for no other reason, they're modeled after idolatrous forms. Therefore, even if those physical postures etc. have some musculoskeletal benefit, that's not sufficient to permit them. Why perform those specific A.Z.-oriented movements and postures, when the same basic musculoskeletal benefit is available via non-A.Z.-related postures and exercises?

Any claim to render Yoga kosher requires the requisite understanding of the relevant facts, the Avoda Zorah background involved, and the relevant facets of Halacha. One Torah authority who satisfied those criteria was Rav Yisroel Belsky OB"M. See "Rav Belsky on Alternative Medicine, New Age Medicine - Energy Healing," p.37-8 (and p. 116-117, Judaica Press ed.). Rav Belsky was opposed not only to Yoga itself, but also opposed the various attempts to ostensibly render Yoga kosher, as evidenced by the audio quoted there [page 37]:

"Indeed, although there are many individuals, including learned and well-intentioned Rabbonim, who will say that there are no problems with certain forms of Yoga when practiced soley as physical exercise, the simple, verifiable fact remains that the very act of assuming a particular posture or movement in Yoga is in itself a supplication to the deity associated with that action - a type of worship through movement and posture."

Moreover, even IF there would be basis to find a practical heter (halachic leniency) for some restricted form of Yoga, it would be difficult to find a practitioner who truly limits themselves to the confines of that hypothetical heter. It's so common to find that a practitioner obtained a heter for some New Age "gem," and practices a highly devolved variant thereof - while continuing to impute to the exploited Rabbi their altered, prohibited practices. What is most disturbing is how so many intelligent people fall for this switch-and-bait marketing fraud.

In any case, what is indisputable is that massive numbers of Jews are stumbling in some of the most serious prohibitions of the Torah -due to ignorance and misinformation. That needs to be alleviated by properly alerting the public so that, at the very least, those seeking the truth may be enabled to find it. "Lo sa'amod al dam rei'echah" applies here.

May we expedite the Final Redemption in the merit of eliminating all of its impediments.


Shailos and questions may be directed to Rabbi Noson Shmuel Leiter [preferably between 12:30 and 1:30pm ET, or one may try between 10 and 11:15pm]:

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Feel ree to inquire about speaking engagements as well. Those interested in partnership in public awareness work, please notify accordingly. Those whom you save may be closer to you than you'd expect.


For posts on related topics see:

Theological Detoxification:

(Aug. 20, '20)


HK Manual: Energy Permission asked of the "Ch-i," R"L:

(Aug. 22, '20)


Why the very concept of Q-i, Ch-i, K-i, Pra-na, "Universal Energy," et. al. is heretical:



"Neither Alternative, Medical or Halachic:"


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