Question – In My Yoga Studio
I go to a yoga studio that has a Buddha statue and the music does not sound Western. Additionally, the teacher uses words from another language. She translates them into English words, but some of them don’t sound so good either. Some of the translations were actually names of animals like a cobra. She even mentioned the goddess pose. Are we allowed to do that?
Each situation is unique, but there are some general things that I can answer right here. The foreign language you’re probably hearing was Sanskrit. Sanskrit and Pali are respectively the holy languages of Hinduism and Buddhism. In other words, the holy books, religious books that are either Hindu or Buddhist or in this language. This language is not used for conversational language. Indian people speak various dialects of Hindi, not Sanskrit. Some rabbis discourage the use of poses of non-kosher animals. Any pose with an idolatrous name such as “goddess” should not be used. However, I have been advised that if the name is modified and the move is also (but produces a similar exercise benefit), the problem is resolved.
Regarding the image of Buddha, The Torah’s laws are very explicit. The first unequivocal one in the 10 Commandments is, “Thou shalt have not other gods before Me.” We believe in G-d as one entity, containing everything, not divisible into people or things. Statues are not suitable for us to look at or to have in our homes or around us. They are the antithesis of this very important commandment.
The music you heard is probably Eastern, possibly Hindu music containing instruments such as the sitar and maybe certain drums such as tabla. these are generally used in Indian music and religious music. Since I’m not a specialist in either of those, I don’t recommend listening to them for inspiring your exercise or relaxation regimen.
In the next few weeks, I’ll be answering similar questions. I don’t know if this answered all your questions, but I can tell you that there are people who teach in a very neutral format. They do not use the Sanskrit language, they use regular American English and describe the movement or the pose. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with exercising. On the contrary, the Torah wants us to be healthy and well. As the Maggid of Mezritch said, “A kleiner loch in kerper is a groise loch in neshomo – a small physical defect is a great spiritual one.” There are whole books written regarding this. With G-d’s help, we will amplify this concept in another post.