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By lululemon athletica (SSC Yoga with Eoin Finn) [CC-BY-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Tax on exercise, or religious infringement?

Take a deep breath, Marylanders, and move into a downward dog.

Because unless you practice yoga (or go to any health club or gym) in the nation’s capital, the “yoga tax” you may have heard of has nothing to do with you.

The “yoga tax” or “gym tax,” as some are calling it, is a 5.75 percent sales tax extension in Washington on memberships to fitness clubs, fitness centers and gyms  with the purpose of providing physical exercise. It went into effect Wednesday.

Fitness enthusiasts protested and questioned the fairness of the tax, but some yogis have yet another argument to make — the main purpose of yoga, they say, is not physical exercise.

Richard Karpel, president of the Yoga Alliance, made this argument in an article on his organization’s website in July. Physical wellness is only one of yoga’s eight “limbs.”

“It would be wrong to interpret the fitness-club provision as a tax on yoga,” he wrote, citing a New York decision which said that yoga was more about meditation and spirituality than fitness, and should therefore not fall under a gymnasium tax.

Now Rajan Zed, president of the Universal Society of Hinduism, is speaking out on the tax, saying that regulating yoga is a religious infringement.

Zed made his statement from across the country in Nevada. He emphasized that yoga is integral to orthodox Hindu philosophy, and “the repository of something basic in the human soul and psyche.”

However, if yoga is so “basic in the human soul,” it leaves one to wonder about the spirituality of some yoga studios and product manufacturers that make billions of dollars combined each year on classes and gear.

Regardless of spiritual intentions, if it means saving 5.75 percent, yogis will likely remain in warrior pose.