Inevitably, yoga and western religious practices have crossed paths, sparking reactions throughout religious communities. Some advocate yoga, suggesting a regular practice can bring you closer to the divine. Others disagree, claiming that the yoga industry is nothing more than a clever sales tactic, deceiving the religious community into purchasing it. As yoga has strong roots and affiliations with the Hindu religion, many western religions even state that practicing yoga undermines your faith; chanting and Sanskrit are even seen as prayer. In a recent survey by Evangelical Alliance, 50% of participants said Christians should never do yoga.
Is Yoga Already A Religion?
The word ‘yoga’ in Sanskrit, means to ‘yoke’ or ‘unite.’ It can refer to the union of our inner and outer worlds, the mind, body, and spirit – or even humanity and the divine. In this way, yoga can be used by all people, despite religions, to develop harmonious relationships and contentment throughout life. While many understand yoga to have stemmed from Hinduism, the modern practice of yoga holds almost no religious connotations. It may use eastern ideologies and symbols, but it proposes no deities or saviors.
Yoga in the modern age is predominately used for fitness. It increases flexibility, builds strength and improves mobility. However, yoga also exists and philosophy, science, and spiritual practice.
- As a philosophy, yoga brings the individual deeper into their human experience.
- As a science, it uses movement and breath to calm the nervous systems, reducing stress and anxiety.
- As a spiritual practice, Yoga nurtures and develops holistic welling.
It allows each individual to take from yoga what makes the most sense to them.
- Yoga For Religion
Through prayer and intention, religious people can use yoga to deepen their faith and strengthen their relationship with the divine. In this sense, yoga and religion share many similarities.
- Prayer And Meditation
Originally, yoga was used to prepare the body to sit in meditation for long periods at a time without pain or discomfort. It can also be used in the same way, as a preparation to kneel in prayer.
Many religions discuss the concepts of unconditional love and loving free from attachment. Christianity and Judaism both teach that unconditional love will bring you closer to God, as you expect nothing in return. Yoga has a similar teaching. It states through the unconditional love of yourself and others; you can find forgiveness and harmony.
- Wisdom And Exploration
Similar to religious practices, practitioners of yoga are taught to reflect on their lives, thoughts, and feelings continually. It ensures a conscious exploration of reality, in the pursuit of meaning and truth.
Religious yogis understand that it is not the physical asana that can lead you away from your path, but the spiritual teachings that go with it. Classes held in a holy environment and taught with the relative spiritualities can serve to strengthen the individual’s connection to themselves and the divine. Yoga in religion can speak to the relationship between the body, mind, spirit and the divine, and in turn, use the philosophy behind the asana to explore their own religion further.