Expert Column: I’m a Muslim and I practise Yoga
I have two mats, my prayer mat and my yoga mat. And yes, I'm a practising Muslim. I don't believe that me doing the asanas (physical poses in Yoga) make me a Hindu or less of
I have two mats, my prayer mat and my yoga mat. And yes, I’m a practising Muslim.
I don’t believe that me doing the asanas (physical poses in Yoga) make me a Hindu or less of a muslim. I’m sure God knows what my motives and intentions truly are. That is the problem sometimes with us human beings today, we behave oh-so judgemental towards others and care so much about how others should live their lives than our own.
I bump into an acquaintance at the train station and the first thing she said to me,
Ignorant A: “wah, i heard you really into yoga ah. Isn’t it ‘shirik’ (the sin of practicing idolatry or polytheism)”.
Constant Chatters In my head: Yes, i’m fine thank you. How are you should be how you start your sentence when meeting someone btw! Anyway, it is really not your place or anyone’s place to decide whether what i do is ‘shirik’ or not – that judgement is only by HIM and HIM alone.
So is it really a sin to be practising Yoga?
There’s no denying that Yoga came through Hinduism. I guess i’m not the only one feeling this way or being insinuated like we have sinned just by learning how to breathe better and make our bodies feel good each day. At the end of the day, the intentions is where it all lies. I’ll get into greater detail later in the post. A friend of mine (an ashtanga practitioner as well) said – being a Muslim in Malaysia, I’ve been asked about this plenty of times. Her answer is simple “If a person can deviate himself from his religion because of few sanskrit-named physical poses, then he clearly needs a lot more work to do to strengthened his Iman (faith).” While Singapore is not that strict, I do received some high brow and snide remarks from Muslim friends who talks about Yoga to me. This awesome blogger also wrote a topic on this. Read her views and beautiful written post here.
Yoga is an internal practice. The rest is just circus
It is more similar than we think
Meditation, Interacting with integrity, cleansing, intentions, discipline and the list goes on. Sometimes i think my parents are a bit ashamed (i may be wrong)or scared to tell others that i am going for a workshop course or Yoga class. Like seriously, they didn’t put me through all sorts of education only for me to be writing a blog and then do all that i do to fill my crown and throat chakra happy. But i’m blessed to have parents that are very well-balanced. They instill the right and wrongs from a very early age and also allowed me to express and explore my ways but still within the boundaries and right intentions. My dad always say, “its all about niat (intentions)”. Okay, moving on… No yamas, no Yoga. You can do all that fancy poses but with these ethical part for self-improvement, or in Islam we call it ‘akhlak‘, there is no Yoga if you don’t practise these too.
Yama (Interacting in the world with integrity by) :
- causing no intentional harm
- telling the truth
- not stealing
- controlling how we use our energy
- not hoarding resources, possessions or thoughts
Niyama (How we cultivate an internal environment that leads to happiness):
- Internal and external cleanliness of thoughts, body and min
- Practicing gratitude for what we have
- Study of ourselves, techniques and books which deepen our connection to who we really are
Similarity in Yoga Asanas and Muslim Prayer Poses
Ignorant B: Aiyoh, you saluting the sun? That’s crazy and against the religion.
Me (constant chatters still in my head): Puh-lease, sun salutation is more than that. I am not praying to the sun. And duh, i don’t pray to the sun.
I always see nature as God’s beauty and since God created the sun, moon, stars and the highest of volcanos and deepest of seas, then why is it we shun the admiration of Sun so much. The Sun Salutation poses in yoga are just set of poses that is designed to bring awareness to patterns of thoughts. Like when we dzikir (remembrance invocation through repititon of God’s name), we focus our attention to something and that’s the same thing just in different methods. I guess thats where true remembrance or direction of our intention really lies at – the spiritual state in which you are mindful and engaged in.
Concentrating all your physical and spiritual powers upon your inner self (yoga journey to self, through self) and through god.To many Muslims, prayer is meditation. To perform a salat (prayer) one must be in a state of ritual purity both physical and mental. And because the basic meaning of salah is connection – in this case connection (and act of communication) with the Creator. I noticed this when i first started Yoga. The similarity in our prayer poses and the many benefits that comes with it are just plenty and very uncanny. Then came this amazing article that says it all.
I read that when we do the sujood in our salat, this is similar to the child’s pose, there is a certain part of our brain that will receive blood only when we are in that pose. This brings tremendous amount of benefits. Imagine doing this 5 times a day in your salat and then in your Yoga practise. That’s alot of goodness right there!
Intention. Intention. Intention
I believe in the Quran, the prophets, and so do i believe in Yoga.If it wasn’t for Yoga and how it teaches me to always self-reflect, self-awareness and tune in, i don’t think i’d ever do my salat with the right intention and sincerity. That was then, when i couldn’t fathom the meaning and why i was doing al this for the religion. Indeed it was that, for someone else (aka so mum/dad doesn’t nag when i don’t pray). But today, Alhamdulilah – i am ‘awaken’, lol! With all things about islamophobia, extremist, ignorant belief system. Islam is far from that. Infact, Islam means peace. And Yoga… Yoga has brought me closer to God than ever before. I pray because i want to and with the right intentions. In the end, i just live more consciously, in all aspects of life – physically, mentally, spiritually. That too gives me a lot of peace.
Practice of physical yoga poses daily allows me to always know what my thoughts and my body is telling me. I know of many muslim yoga practitioners who woke up for the morning prayer and then did his yoga routine. That to me is beauty and deep discipline as well. In the end, it is what is in your heart and no God will deny that truth. If all are God’s will, then i must say this is something God has planned for me. If it has not been for my religion and also my Yoga practise, i don’t know how i could have lived through my depression and anxiety disorder.
To Self, Through Self
Practising ashtanga Yoga gives me the vantage point on how i am growing as a person. Getting my ego in check, negativity in check and removing all that no longer serves you. Yoga has been there for me in all my pain and pleasure. I learn about about self-care before others is an important equation in healing as well. I guess i never really understood this before but post anxiety disorder, self-care comes first for me and somehow everything could fall into place better.
Because this is what I see happening in some spiritual circles: Unconscious optimism. Woo woo positivity blanketing. Convenient denial. (And you know, I’m about as woo as they come. See here: Healers. Crystals. Astrology. Goddess Kali.) I’m also a pragmatist. And a hard smart worker. – Danielle LePorte
We can talk the talk but when it comes to walk the talk, that’s a different story altogether. When #practiseandalliscoming, it does not necessarily means only the good but also the bad. I don’t understand why people insinuate only the good is coming and that only positive vibes are coming because life is not a bed of roses. Here’s a new hashtag – #shithappens. Get real! It is through the Yoga practise on how we keep the equanimous mind. I feel confident in my own skin today (lines, flabs, cellulite and all) and strong be it what come my way. I must say I’m a constant worrier and energizer bunny but it is through Yoga that i found grounding, and it is in my daily submission to God that i feel that everything will be okay. Every breath in Yoga has freed and has released me in all that it should me.
Your Body Is Your Temple
In Islam, we are taught that our body is our Amanah (responsibility entrusted by God to us), we ought to take care of it the best way we can. To eat halal or non halal food, to fast or not to fast is all what we are taught. This in itself is why the religion forbids us to eat pork. Here’s why we do not eat pork. With the recent passing of fasting month of Ramadhan, i also find that this annual fasting did so much good for the physical body – we give our organs the much needed rest and also am mindful of what we put in our bodies – what gives us energy or lethargy and how hydration is so important day to day. But ya, hours before the break fast, we want to eat EVERYTHING. Haha!
If you want peace, then spread peace
I was a little worried writing this blog post honestly because i can forsee lots of close-minded and ignorance coming my way. But this is my observation and thoughts on the Yoga practise and my religion. In all, i just pray for tolerance in today’s world. We all have our own path and it is never our place to judge what is right and wrong because ultimately only God is the judge of that.
The practise guides me to journey of self discovery and encourages me to believe in a higher power, keeping me humble and true to myself. Niyama (second limb of Yoga) also touches on surrendering yourself to a higher power to keep us humble. I see ashtanga as a beautiful spiritual practise – the teaching of the 8 limbs of yoga is more than the physical asanas. The philosophy resonates well with me and you know those teachings where you just ‘get it’ and guidance to a peaceful life, same goes with Islam. The philosophy, the teachings and guidance is what it is all about. Helping us navigate in our own journey. Yoga is not for the bragging rights because of a minute handstands or colourful overpriced yoga leggings.
In today’s world, there are so many catch phrases in the spiritual world. I guess now is the time that I want to experience it, feel it be in the presence of that – not just seeing lots of talk about it. And i hope you are all in the same intention as i am.