Yoga and Eastern Religions

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Dear Rabbi Simon,
Hi. I would love to have a clarification about some things related to Far Eastern traditions, sometimes partly derived from, or with connections to their religions. I am specifically enquiring about yoga and Thai or other related form of massage.
Thanks very much.

Dear Joel,
Than you for your question.
In general, one should be cautious about ancient Eastern practices, which frequently have roots in the Hindu or Buddhist religions. These, in turn, are deeply intertwined with idolatrous beliefs and worship. However, the forms of meditation, yoga and massage techniques commonly encountered in the Western world are often essentially stripped of their polytheistic religious origins. In other words, exercise, relaxation, meditation, breathing techniques, and similar objectives are halakhically legitimate in and of themselves, when pursued for their practical benefits. The fact that the techniques were (and even are) popular with practitioners of Eastern religions does not make them forbidden per se, where the religious component is no longer a feature of the experience.
I hope this is helpful.
Best wishes
Rabbi Rashi Simon

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Ask the Rabbi: Quinoa on Pesach
Dear Rabbi Simon,
Where do you stand on quinoa (and the kitniyot ban) for Pesach?
Many thanks,
Dear Tzippy,
In line with other American authorities, I am in favour of quinoa. Although I reject completely the voices (mostly from Israel) seeking to abolish the ban on kitniyot entirely, IMO we do not need to include in the prohibition pseudo-grains that were unknown in the Old World until modern times. Best to buy with a Pesach hechsher though, to be free of any possible wheat contamination.
Rabbi Rashi Simon
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