Anton Katz on yoga and the law

It may be surprising to read yoga and law in the same sentence. But there are interesting dynamics at play in the two differing disciplines. I will touch on some ideas. 

Firstly, practical issues that arise; secondly, the seven spiritual laws of yoga; thirdly, blending an ancient Jewish spiritual practice with yoga; and lastly, a reminder that in general law and justice are in some instances not the same.

This last point is foreign to the yoga philosophy. Yoga philosophy does not purport to impose ‘the truth’ on law, but rather to invite those who practice law to apply some humility with respect to their ability to judge and do justice unto others.

Peaceful yoga instructors and studio owners operate within the mundane, but complex legal world just like any other enterprise or human activity. They need to choose a posture, such as sole proprietorship, partnership or company. 

Other concerns relate to brand protection, such as copyright and trademark, and also to insurance protection, employment agreements, and labour problems, franchising, sale and lease and the buying and selling of a studio. These legal challenges apply in all spheres of life, and yoga is not exempt. Recently a yoga instructor at an upmarket studio complained to the Cape Town Equality Court and to the CCMA about an alleged racist comment made to her by a fellow yoga instructor. The yoga studio was effectively exonerated because it had followed the correct labour protocols in how it dealt with the racist complaint. 

So, yoga gets caught up in the law, just like all areas of life. Medicine, sports, art, music, business, family life, children, education, housing, crime, equality, water resources, air pollution, and employment relations, etc.

In the world of yoga seven laws apply.
1: The Law of Pure Potentiality. Humans’ essential nature is pure consciousness, the infinite source of everything that exists in the physical world. Since we are an inextricable part of the field of consciousness, we are also infinitely creative, unbounded and eternal.
2: The Law of Giving and Receiving. Giving and receiving are different expressions of the same flow of energy in the universe. Since the universe is in constant and dynamic exchange, we need to both give and receive to keep abundance, love and anything else we want circulating in our lives.
3: Law of Karma (Cause and Effect). Every action generates a force of energy that returns to us in kind. When we choose actions that bring happiness and success to others, the fruit of our karma is happiness and success.
4. Law of Least Effort. Humans can most easily fulfil our desires when our actions are motivated by love, we expend the least effort and we offer no resistance. We tap into the infinite organising power of the universe to do less and accomplish everything.
5. Law of Intention and Desire. Inherent in every intention and desire are the mechanics for its fulfilment. When we become quiet and introduce our intentions into the field of pure potentiality, we harness the universe’s infinite organizing power, which can manifest our desires with effortless ease.
6. Law of Detachment. At the level of spirit, everything is always unfolding perfectly. We don’t have to struggle or force situations to go our way. Instead, we can intend for everything to work out as it should, take action, and then allow opportunities to spontaneously emerge.
7. Law of Dharma. Everyone has a dharma or purpose in life. By expressing our unique talents and using them to serve others, we will experience unlimited love, abundance, and true fulfilment in our lives. 

The application of these ‘yoga laws’ are said to promote physical health and emotional wellbeing, success and abundance, loving relationships, and higher states of consciousness, including intuition, creativity, insight, imagination, and inspiration. 

Even if yoga only enhanced physical fitness, the time spent would be worthwhile. However, while the health benefits are seemingly many, yoga offers more than just a method to exercise the body. The meaning of yoga is the path it offers into the timeless world of spirit. 

Yoga teaches both to let go and to have awareness in every moment. In this expanded state of consciousness, humans are taught to experience freedom from suffering. Life becomes more joyful, meaningful and carefree. 

Musar Yoga blends two spiritual practices. Judaism and Vedic Brahamism. Musar means ‘instruction’ in Hebrew. 

The Musar movement continued its developed among the non-Hasidic Orthodox Lithuanian Jews as a response to the social changes brought about by the Enlightenment, and the corresponding Haskalah movement among many European Jews. In this period of history antisemitism, the assimilation of many Jews into Christianity, and the impoverished living conditions of many Jews in the Pale of Settlement caused tension and disappointment. 

Many of the institutions of Lithuanian Jewry began to break up. Religious Jews feared that their way of life was slipping away, observance of traditional Jewish law and custom was on the decline. 

Musar is described as a path of contemplative practices and exercises that have evolved over the past thousand years to help an individual soul to pinpoint and then to break through the barriers that surround and obstruct the flow of inner light in our lives. Musar is a combination of techniques and understandings that offer guidance for life’s journey. The goal is to release the light of holiness that lives within the soul. 

The roots of all of our thoughts and actions can be traced to the depths of the soul, beyond the reach of the light of consciousness, and so the methods Musar provide include meditations, guided contemplations, exercises and chants that are all intended to penetrate down to the subconscious, to bring about change right at the root of our nature. 

A legal case generally aims to resolve, at least in part, actual disputes between competing interests and versions from the past. It does not seek to ascertain the truth or attempt to develop a better and more just society. The practice of yoga is different. It seeks to assist the individual to be at peace with him/herself. 

Perhaps justice in general may be well served by lawyers and the law incorporating yoga philosophy into their lives? 


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