a muslim yogi

Peggy Rosenthal, in The IMAGE Blog:

Say the word “Muslim” these days, especially “American Muslim,” and many people get jittery. The antidote to this jitteriness, I’m convinced, is to get to know lots of American Muslims, in all their variety, all their individualities.

And there’s no better place to start—or to continue—than by reading Kazim Ali’s new book, Fasting for Ramadan.

Poet and Professor of Creative Writing at Oberlin College, Ali is as American as apple pie—or as bagels or pizza or curry or hummus.

These food analogies might seem a bit odd for a book with this title. But Fasting for Ramadan isn’t just about fasting. For Ali, the 30-day Ramadan fast draws his attention to the body’s nature in ever-new ways. So the book is about what it means to live in a body, how body-mind-spirit are connected, where our “self” resides, how the practices of Islam and yoga reinforce each other.

Yes, yoga. Ali has taught yoga and has a yoga practice. (What could be more American than that?) “Yoga,” he writes,” is from the same Sanskrit word that gives the word ‘yolk.’ And ‘yoke.’

And, interestingly: ‘religion.’ Which can be both yolk and yoke, fruitfully and restrictively. Yoga is a practice, not unlike fasting, that allows us to link the inside—the private experiences of the body and the mind—with the outside—the pulsing, breathing, actual world.

Say what?