Fasting and Yoga

India is the country with the 3rd largest population of Muslims, after only Indonesia and neighbor Pakistan (with whom relations might just get a little better thanks to Pakistan’s brand new Foreign Minister).

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There are a number of Muslims right here in my area, many wearing full-burqas, and some a little less orthodox in attire. So I am not at all surprised that my Muslim student (the one I’ve mentioned before on this blog) is unable to attend classes due to her devotion to her religion. Starting today, Muslims all over the world are observing Ramadan, a month-long fasting during daylight hours.

How does yoga view fasting? Actually yoga and ayurveda have forms of fasting which help to cleanse the body, making it ready for higher spiritual practices such as meditation. In such fasting, the devotee eats or drinks certain foods which help this process.

In Islam, the fasting of Ramadan is different. It lasts for a month and it’s from dawn to dusk. Designed to bring one closer to God, Ramadan cultivates characteristics such as patience, humility, and surrender to God. In several of my previous posts, I have discuss how yoga can also help develop patience and humility. Ramadan does the same, because a follower must endure the hardship of fasting and wait for the feast. It also develops humility and forgiveness, because during the hardship of the fasting, the follower realizes that he/ she is no greater than anyone else. And in fact, one must surrender to God to achieve anything.

Surrender to God is the last niyama, Iswara Pranidhana. These two traditions are similar in this, because ultimately, in order to fast, and in order to have a feast, it is not upto you, but upto God. Your body, regardless of how you train it, is up to God. God makes the final decisions, and we are required to surrender to the will of God in either yogic customs or during Ramadan.

To all the Muslim readers out there, Ramadan Kareem! Ramadan Mubarak!

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2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. V.Srinivasan
    Aug 01, 2011 @ 04:16:19

    Yog and religion: I agree with article. If you look into the statistics (based on what I have seen in my own class and other classes) women are much more participative in yog and religion compared to men. India, if someone takes study, one will find that it is true that women are more participative.

    Because of certain discipline and rules in Islam, women are prohibited to take yog on a daily basis for obvious reasons. But when you talk to t hem they are very positive .

    Any religion, as long as one gets peace, whether in a temple, church or mosque
    is a temple, whatever name you may want to give. I have followed this when I was in Mexico. Every Sunday, I used to go to church in the evening.

    Anyway, its a long subject for discussion.



  2. hand
    Aug 05, 2011 @ 13:05:33

    I have recently started taking a daily yoga classes a few weeks before the beginning of Ramadan and have noticed striking similarities of how well it complements my spiritual practice as a follower of Islam, first in prayer, then in mood and the state of my heart and mind, and now in fasting. One of my dissapointments was that I would inadvertanty disrupt my daily yoga classes which had just been getting started due to the amount of water loss I experience in sweating during the class. In regards to Ramadan itself however, I love it very much, if it was a person it would be like a loved friend or family member who visits you once a year and fills your heart with joy so of course I am not disappointed in regards to that. I just enjoyed how yoga makes my mind, body, and spirit feel which helps me practice my spirituality in a more enhanced state. I have many insights into this which I will be writing a brief article on. I am trying some online yoga classes but it is not the same as the group practice. The collective energy enhances the experience yet mentally you remove yourself from the group to focus on your body reminds me very much of the collective prayers we do during the evening each night in Ramadan. You are in a room packed to the brim yet you pray as if you are the only one present. I thank you very much for this article. I especially liked the last paragraph it was beautiful food for thought.


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