Ugh. The inalienable right to practice yoga is not felt internationally, apparently. Russian officials have hopped on the anti-yoga train claiming the practice is “inextricably” linked to religion (aka Hinduism) and could “spread new religious cults and movements.”
According to the Moscow Times, which cited a report in the Russian Kommersant daily, the owners of two of the city’s main hatha-yoga studios received letters from government officials telling them to immediately cease their classes because the practice of yoga could “spread new religious cults and movements.”
Yoga classes have also been taking place at a stadium and public meeting hall in Nizhnevartovsk. However, the heads of the local departments for physical culture and education received letters as well, the Moscow Times says, describing yoga as “inextricably linked to religious practices” and having a distinct “occult character.”
So far this is only reportedly happening in the central Russian city of Nizhnevartovsk. We don’t know if the demands to stop yoga have continued to spread or what the potential penalty could be, but we’ve seen some not so nice things happen in Russia around civil rights and freedoms in the past and we hope this doesn’t get ugly. There’s always home practice and online yoga videos, right?
Funny, though, that this should come after Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov, responding to upset over the annexation of Crimea last year, threw a snotty comment that Americans should “spend more time in the open,” and “practice yoga.” Yes, it was sarcastic, but still.
Was it really only just a few years ago former Russian President and current Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev referred to himself as an “ardent yoga practitioner,” met with BKS Iyengar on the Guru’s return to the country after a 20 year absence, and former first lady Naina Yeltsina proclaimed yoga should be “practiced in every Russian home”?
Politics sure are frustrating (and confusing) when they mix with yoga, aren’t they?
At least the yogis aren’t taking it so hard.
Inga Pimenova, a teacher at Ingara Yoga, one of the studios to receive the letter, told Russian news outlet Kommersant: “Everyone is shocked and already giggling as we are compiling documents to prove that we are not at all a sect but a health course.”
Are you a yogadork living in Russia?