Dmitry Ugai sat cross-legged on the floor. Behind him were paper flowers and a couple of house plants. He wore a brown cable-knit sweater and spoke into a microphone that kept shorting out. He was addressing a small audience at a health and wellness festival in St. Petersburg, Russia, about yoga.
“In a sense, we can say that yoga merges with religion,” Ugai told conference goers. “And in fact it’s been that way since the beginning, because the root word of ‘yoga,’ which means ‘connection,’ carries the same meaning as the Latin words ‘religare’ or ‘religion,’ that is, a person who goes the way of yoga communicates with God.”
Ugai, who spoke generally about the spiritual aspects of yoga, often looked at the floor as he spoke. He stuttered occasionally. He brought up famous Russian authors Alexander Pushkin, Lev Tolstoy and Fyodor Dostoevsky in his speech. He didn’t appear to be attempting to convince anyone to abandon their current religious beliefs to join some sort of advanced yoga cult, but that’s now how the Russian authorities saw it.
Forty minutes into the talk, which Ugai described on a Russian blog as a primer on “yoga philosophy and ethics,” police entered the room to arrest him.religious freedom ] [ religious rights ] [ religious persecution ] [ Russia ] [ Moscow ] [ Yarovaya law ]