Print and social media boomed with news on Oct. 25 that Turkish Interior Ministry sought the official opinion of the Directorate of Religious Affairs (DRA) on whether yoga is caiz (not explicitly forbidden by Islam). News reports suggested that the cause of the inquiry was the Interior Ministry’s desire to provide yoga classes for the overstressed police force. The DRA replied as long as yoga was practiced as a sport activity it was permissible, but if it has a “religious mission” it could be objectionable.
I should provide the disclaimer that I have been practicing yoga more than 10 years. Although the news caught many Turks by surprise, as someone who studies religion, I'm quite familiar with statements such as “kosher yoga,” or questions such as “Is yoga sinful for Catholics?” I am also happy to confess I have friends who would never step foot in a yoga class because they do believe it is a sin, and they are not exclusively Muslims. On the other hand, I have attended “women only” yoga classes where no men were permitted and some participants were Orthodox Jews or hijabis (women dressed in accordance with Islamic law). The Muslim world has been debating whether yoga is an aberration for two decades-plus now.