Yoga is not a religion.
The past three weeks, I have been studying “The History of Yoga” in conjunction with my teacher training. It explains the ebb and flow of yoga and mentions that yoga, specifically in the West is not a religion. In some parts of the world it started as a spiritual practice but was never a religion.
As a Christian who attends church as regularly as I’m able, I would actually say that yoga enhances the beliefs I already have within my faith. I believe in goodness. I could delve much deeper into my religious and spiritual beliefs, but that would be a whole different post!
Often times, I will be sitting in church and hear something a yoga teacher or friend mentioned in class echoed within my minister’s sermon. He speaks of being kind, laughing, helping others, building community & stories of the ancient past. He speaks of love, heart, harmony & goodness. The sermons I hear in church are ocassionally reflected in yoga and what I hear in yoga is almost always echoed in church: be kind, give with your heart & be open to love.
Meditation and prayer seem similar as well. We open our hearts to the Universe, or God or Ganesha or whomever we open to. We listen and wait. We run our lives telling ourselves that unanswered prayers are there for a reason, that life happens for a reason. Yogis believe in Isvara Pradihana: “The belief in Isvara (or God) and that s/he will carry us to where we need to be.” Maybe not where we WANT to be, but where we need to be, just like unanswered prayers. But the major difference is that meditation is LISTENING while prayer is ASKING. When we meditate, we sit or kneel or stand and open our hearts to listen to the wisdom of the universe. When we pray, we ask and we have a conversation with whomever it is you believe in.
The fact remains that yoga is simply not a religion. It is not organized in that way. There may be many similarities but the differences are vast. Yoga is a free flow of movements that in certain classes will encorporate spirituality. Yoga can be a work out. Yoga is movement with breath. Yoga is not a specific weekly meeting. Yoga is not held in a church or with a pastor or minister or priest. Yoga does not transfer the teachers beliefs to your own. Yoga can be sweaty. Yoga is a suggestion of how to live your life. Yoga is a collective, but it is not a religion.
Spirituality can be a scary word for some. What exactly does it mean? Spirit originally translates in some texts as breath: it is an energy. For myself, spirit is often more than just my breath but for others, it’s simply physical breath.
Inhale. Exhale. Hold. Release.
For me, yoga is a spiritual path that is attained through practicing asanas, meditating, being kind to strangers and loved ones, practicing the yamas & niyamas as well as breath work. It is a personal path that is not organized and can be interpreted in so many different ways. For me, it is an invigorating practice both internally & externally. Yoga as with religion means something different to everyone.
So what does yoga mean to you? Do you see religion reflected in the postures?
What do you believe?
Let’s start a discussion! Let’s eliminate the fear of those who may not know of understand.
Is yoga a religion?
Is it a spiritual practice?
Does that in a sense make it a religion?
Get out there – do yoga & make life sparkle!