Russia cracks down on Yoga classes to check occultism

Close on the heels of India leading worldwide International Yoga Day celebrations, Yoga classes have been banned in a central Russian city by the authorities to check spread of ‘religious occultism’.

At the centre of the crackdown are two studios holding classes for Hatha Yoga a set of asanas or postures involving deep breathing and tough physical exercises, which as per Hindu mythology was first practised by Lord Shiva.

Incidentally, Hatha Yoga is the most popular form of Yoga globally, including in the US, and a Russian Bollywood actress named Indra Devi (born Eugenia Vassilievna) is widely credited to have popularised it in the West more than 100 years ago.

Yoga is known as an ancient Indian spiritual and exercise discipline to balance mind, body and spirit, while millions across the globe joined in spectacular celebrations to mark the first International Yoga Day on June 21.

In India, celebrations were led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, whose call led to declaration of this Day by the United Nations and who himself performed various asanas and pranayams with a record number of over 35,000 people.

However, Yoga has become highly commoditised globally over the years and various schools and cults have sprung up in different parts of the world in its name.

In the first major crackdown abroad, the authorities in the central Russian city of Nizhnevartovsk have now asked the two Hatha Yoga studies Auro and Ingara to stop holding yoga classes in the municipal facilities of the city, as per the Russian media reports.