Yoga represents a $16-billion industry in the U.S., reaching an estimated 36.7 million people in 2016 alone. And the Jewish community enjoys it as much as any other. One hears of synagogue-sponsored yoga programs and yoga minyanim (quorums). Even a right-wing Orthodox educational organization like Aish HaTorah has seen fit to re-post on its website an item titled “How Orthodox Jews Taught Me Yoga.” In a stimulating Mosaic essay on the subject, Menachem Wecker asks if the very thing that gets people excited about yoga, namely that it is not just physical exercise but spiritual nourishment as well, should force us to think about how it relates to Jewish faith. How much of contemporary yoga, a product of today’s “wellness culture,” is still seriously connected to its Hindu origins? What about the statues and other visual representations of non-Jewish divinities that adorn so many yoga studios? Is yoga a form of contemporary idolatry?
In this podcast, Jonathan Silver is joined by the author Menachem Wecker to discuss his March 2020 essay, “Shibboleths and Sun Salutations: Should Religious Jews Practice Yoga?” published in Mosaic.
Musical selections in this podcast are drawn from the Quintet for Clarinet and Strings, op. 31a, composed by Paul Ben-Haim and performed by the ARC Ensemble.