Letters to the Editor: Yoga Research

November 15, 2012 | 11 a.m.

Views | Jim Lewis to The Clarion

Letters to the Editor: Yoga Research

This article is a response to the article "Exercise science students research yoga's effects" which can be read at http://www.bethel.edu/news/clarion/articles/2012/october/yoga-research. | Drea Chalmers

I was interested in the recent article describing the yoga research and practice of Bethel co-eds (The Clarion, Oct. 25, 2012, "Exercise science students research yoga's effects"). Knowing that I teach and have written about the Hindu practice of yoga, a colleague asked whether a yoga class at Bethel was appropriate. After carefully reading the account of Courtney Sperry, a couple of comments seem warranted.

It seems clear their research is to discover and report the physical benefits of yoga for a 2013 sports medicine conference. What a fine and appropriate educational experience. But I note Ms. Bergeson and Ms. Dillner recount that authorities they consulted indicate that part of the claimed benefits of yoga is "spirituality." I am very interested in what students do with that dimension of yoga.

Historically, yoga has powerful roots in Hindu religious thought. It is my view that yogic practices can be beneficial for a large number of non-religious purposes, (physical culture, chronic pain management, etc.) but to have effect, yoga must be consciously uncoupled from the metaphysical and religious goals with which they are so often associated. To do that requires some careful investigation.

While in Northfield recently to see the Royals play the Oles, Professor Jim Hurd and I visited Carleton's campus and its impressive Skinner Chapel. We met two women students who told us that they lead an informal class called "Holy Yoga." That day they were to combine yoga with meditation on Psalm 139 and the Christian hymn, "All Things Bright and Beautiful." How natural it would be for a Bethel yoga class to copy the Carleton pattern.

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