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Yoga Meditation and Chanting

Question:
I was asked a shailla by a woman who is studying to become a yoga instructor, she told me that during the course they chant the word UMMMM. The chanting is meant to bring an inner harmony and they claim that it is not used in the worship of any deity or foreign god. Although she tells me that according to some teachings the word UMM actually originated from the first letters of three different gods being combined and thus was sourced in Avodah Zara, while others claim it is just a sound which creates a sense of relaxation. Can she chant this word within a group if she does so only for the purposes of relaxation and in a context where no Avodah Zara is intended. She extended this question further to the use of the prayer position, where the palms would be placed together. Again she claimed that no prayer is intended, and is rather utilised as a stance to create a sense of balance and internality. She claims that the practice has brought her closer to her own yiddishkite and as a result has started attending Torah classes with the intention of using the pnimius building elements of Yoga to come closer to a connection with Hashem.

Answer:

Yoga has become a universally accepted form of exercise, for physical health, inner calm, etc.. This is not connected to religion or worship of any kind. That being the case, as long as there is no intent for any religious ritual as you describe in your question, there is no reason to classify it as such, and it would be permitted. The fact that some people personally connect this to a religious experience would not change this fact.  A standard prayer position would in any event not be a problem as this could be Jewish prayer as well.

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