Yoga and Religion

Yoga is not a religion, though it can be a spiritual practice.  The lineage of yoga traces its roots back to ancient Vedic practices that predate Hinduism.  Four modern religions – Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, and Sikhism – incorporate yogic traditions.  Yoga can complement any religion or spiritual path, but it requires none.  In my experience, the confusion comes from the fact that yoga and Hinduism share the same roots, mythology, and worldview.  Just as even secular Westerners draw on and reference their Judeo-Christian origins, the ancient Yogis drew from the surrounding culture in their teaching and writing.

The goal of classical yoga is to make the body a fit vessel for spiritual practice, meditation, and enlightenment.  Key texts such as the Yoga Sutras suggest multiple paths to this goal, depending on the practitioner’s personality, predilections, and religious leanings.  Yoga philosophy is non-dogmatic; it encourages seekers to take what they can use and leave the rest.

Yoga does encourage communion with something greater, be that God, universal consciousness, or the higher self.  My students have been drawn from a diverse religious cross-section of society,  including protestants, evangelicals, Jews, Muslims, Seikhs, Buddhists, agnostics, atheists, and a Roman Catholic nun.  Whatever a yogi’s religion, time spent in quiet contemplation is a spiritual asset rather than a theological liability.

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