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Yoga and Religion
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Forum Posts: 1
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July 30, 2011 - 2:06 am
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Comparing Yoga and Religion

Yoga is more than just the physical movements even if an individual tries to only focus on the tangible aspects of the practice. Yoga has a definite spiritual aspect that is an inseparable part of its appeal.

The spiritual aspects of yoga are often misunderstood and misinterpreted by members of organized religions who say that yoga is a religion and therefore must not be practiced by members of their faith. This isn't true but the myths perpetuate nonetheless. Yoga itself is not a religion and the practice is compatible with most other belief systems. It is a shame that many people miss out on the restorative, energizing and invigorating aspects of yoga practice.

Yoga does not have a deity, which is essential for a religion. Without a deity to worship, yoga cannot be considered a religion in the traditional sense. Yoga has no creed or belief statement and yoga has no sacred symbolism or icons. In yoga there are no clergy or priests and there are no rituals.

Yoga is not a replacement for the religion of one's choice or upbringing; yoga does not seek to become an end in and of itself. Instead, yoga will bring an individual deeper into what they already believe and make their faith come to life with a vitality and awareness that was lacking before.

Many traditional religions tell individuals what to do but not how to be. People instinctively know that they have needs beyond a simple set of dos and don'ts but their chosen religion is sadly lacking in instruction regarding the spirit. Yoga serves as living, breathing meditation which is a natural addition to many of the most popular religions of today.

The daily practice of yoga brings balance and a sense of connectivity with all other living things; there is a sense of belonging to something that is outside of and uncomprehendingly larger than oneself yet at the same time this ineffable other is paradoxically also found within as an intrinsic part of one's own essential nature. This connection is powerful. If one has no belief in a deity, this other will be viewed as an extension of oneself; if one has faith in a deity this will be viewed as a deeper, stronger connection with that force.

Yoga calms the mind which leads to less worry and better focus. This is beneficial for anyone, religious or not.

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pmoraleinvt

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August 8, 2011 - 3:37 pm
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Peter Lock's comments that yoga "is just physical exercise" only perpetuate the superficial image that yoga has attained here in the west. Yoga is far more than exercise. Yoga is a life science that incorporates practices into all areas of life - physical (asana); dietary (ayurveda, tamas, rajas, sattvic); breath (pranayama); mind (meditation); that serve to work toward untiy of mind and body, and ultimately, with transcendance of ego, overcoming dualtities toward unity with the universal soul, the Om. Religion and yoga are not mutually exclusive, they are complementary. Yoga is not religion; it does not involve worship of a deity. The difficult thing for westerners is transcendence of ego, and reaching toward samadhi-that is why it appears that yoga is only exercise for the pretty. Study Hewitt, Patanjali, Deshakar, Feuerstein and many others - not magazines. Yoga is yoga.

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August 11, 2011 - 8:02 pm
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Namaskar!

I completely agree with pmoraleinvt. To say: "Yoga is an exercise," is a narrow viewpoint of a very large subject. Yoga is as Paulji would say: "an art, science, philosophy, and way of life." Yogasana is only part of it. Mr. Peter - Please read Patanjali's Yoga Sutra.

Hari Aum Tat Sat,

Narendra

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August 2, 2011 - 1:47 am
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Yoga Has Religious Roots and Here's Why!

Yoga is commonly known as being a way to harmonize the body, mind and spirit. In fact, the name yoga actually means oneness or bliss. Achieving the connection that harmonizes the body and mind often requires that the spirit is nurtured during the process. In the Bhagavad Gita, yoga is explained by the yogi warrior as love. This way of thinking characterizes the religious roots of yoga.

Roots of Yoga

Hindus have long fought for the religious roots of yoga to be incorporated into the classroom where yoga is taught, simply because the path of the yogi is to propel the student toward the goal of mastery over body and mind. When considering yoga as a religious path, the peace and spiritual benefits of the discipline become far more evident. The goal of yoga, according to Hindu religions, is to bring the student to a new awareness of the divine.

There is some controversy over the teaching of yoga as a spiritual, or religious, discipline. Some proponents of keeping religion out of the yoga class claim that the roots of spirituality will turn Westerners away from learning yoga. Since yoga has many benefits even though religion isn't part of the class, it must be the spiritual growth that occurs through development of awareness.

This touch of spiritual growth could in turn be the cause of happiness and affect the health of millions of people who enjoy their yoga classes annually. Some yoga teachers focus their devotional exercises on Shiva, the god of unity, since yoga is the unity of the mind and the higher, universal consciousness.

The Reality

When examining yoga, the reality is that the discipline does have very spiritual roots that are older than any other religion on the planet. By bringing the spirituality back into yoga teachings, both students and instructors can reap the benefits of holistic yoga training. The mind, body, and spiritual connection that happens by performing yoga can't be matched with other exercise programs. The discipline can bring new light to people suffering from stress, strain, and worry over day to day living.

By controlling the consciousness through yoga, students can become more spiritually in tune with their own divine selves. Yoga as a devotional activity can clear the path between the heart and the consciousness, bringing to light things that may otherwise stay unnoticed, and therefore unimportant. This clearing of the body and mind can help students find a way to sense their own divine nature, as well as the divinity that exists outside the individual body.

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August 3, 2011 - 12:01 am
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Yoga is Not a Religion

Some people have the misconception that Yoga is a religion. A few misguided Christians and Muslims even see Yoga as blasphemous or against God. Although Yoga is associated with the Hindu religion in India and is still practiced by many Hindus today, it is not a religion in and of itself. It has no particular creed, doctrine or dogma. One need not subscribe to a certain set of beliefs in order to practice Yoga. Also, there is no "supreme being" that is worshipped as in most religions. In fact, in Yogic philosophy, it is believed that everything each of us needs is already inside of us, just waiting to be uncovered.

Especially in the West, one need not study Hinduism to practice Yoga. Those who choose to practice Yoga may continue to study their own religion alongside of or independent of a Yoga practice. In fact, Yoga can be an excellent complement to just about any spiritual practice. Although Yoga was folded into the Hindu religion in India thousands of years ago and is still practiced by Hindus today, Yoga actually began before the advent of Hinduism. No one is sure exactly when. Since then, Yoga has also been folded into other religious practices, including Buddhism

The ultimate goal of Yoga is to attain a state of peaceful harmony between the physical and spiritual aspects of self. This blissful state allows one to be serene and tranquil no matter what comes up in life. Yogis and yoginis find it increasingly easier to return to this calm center even when facing disruptions in life.

The motives for beginning and sustaining a Yoga practice can range from simply wanting to improve health to a striving for more harmony in body, mind and spirit. The practice of Yoga can even have as its ultimate goal the attainment of spiritual liberation or enlightenment.

Yoga fluidly combines movement, breathing and meditation to cultivate a harmonious relationship among the body, mind and spirit. Religions tend to focus mainly on the spiritual component of the human being, neglecting the other aspects of self. So in some ways, it could be said that a Yoga practice approaches the human life and the human being more holistically than most religions.

Whatever the motive, there is no doubt that Yoga offers many benefits. While some devotees choose to approach their Yoga practice religiously, Yoga is definitely not a religion and is open to everyone.

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August 15, 2011 - 9:02 pm
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Namaskar Hamed,

I believe you have summed it up very well. World peace is a divine message. For that matter, we as yoga teachers should help the public focus on what we all have in common, rather than focus on differences. The problem is when we try to make people realize peace is the answer, there is always an extremist who desires to stir up a fight.

Aum Shanti,

Kuldeep

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August 17, 2011 - 8:33 pm
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Not all yoga teachers want to be a guru and not all students seek a spiritual component with their yoga practice. No one else should dictate to a teacher what they should or shouldn't teach to their students, other than one main premise: do no harm.

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September 4, 2011 - 1:07 am
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I agree that no one should tell you what to do in your classes as long as you don't harm students. But Yoga Alliance and British Wheel of Yoga seek to tell you what to do in the west. These are your western corporate yoga organizations which seek to canabalize all others through legal arm twisting, yoga patents, and back room government deals. There is nothing spiritual about pirating and exploiting yoga for profit and declaring it only an exercise without a soul.

So, it all depends on your point of view. In India, Guru means teacher and yoga has spiritual benefits. The most popular form of yoga in India is Bhakti, which is spiritual in nature. In the west, I suppose hatha and ashtanga vinyasa yoga are exercise classes. But your Dr. Paulji always says yoga is more than exercise.

This is because respected Gurus in the west know better. If you take the soul out of yoga, you invite pirate organizations that will tell you what to do, when your government is misinformed as to the true origin of yoga. If you want to resist being told what to do, you should find a Guru who can explain the spiritual nature of yoga. Read the writings of your teachers who are enlightened and discover all that yoga is.

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September 24, 2011 - 11:01 pm
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Is Yoga a Religion?

If an outsider to the practice of yoga were to observe the actions and attitude of a devoted yogi, that outsider might infer that yoga is a sort of religion. Many people practice it regularly (often daily, which is more often than most Christians go to church) and the principles of the practice can dictate a certain way of living to some people: a minimalist, peaceful lifestyle, full of mental clarity and self control. But do these facts necessarily make yoga a religion?

Yoga was developed many years ago through Hinduism as a way to celebrate their religion. Although yoga seems very tied to Hinduism, this does not make it a religion. To better understand this answer, it is important to know the difference between religion and spirituality. To put it simply, religion is the following of sacred rituals or rules set forward by a higher power. Spirituality, on the other hand, is more of a search for understanding of ourselves and our place in the world. Spirituality is often necessary in religion, but religion is not necessary in spirituality. Yoga is a spiritual practice. People use it as a method to better get in touch with their subconscious selves or to connect with the world around them. It is used in many religions but does not specifically dictate a religion or God to worship, so it is not a religion.

Many people, often those who do not practice it often, identify yoga as merely a physical exercise. Although yoga can be practiced only in the physical sense, this is not what it was originally designed for. There are also certain practices and rituals involved in yoga that can lead people to believe it is a religious practice. This is understandable, as there are many ancient texts outlining a system of yoga beliefs, bearing a certain resemblance to the following of texts by religions, such as the Christians following the Bible or Jews following the Torah. However, another main point that proves yoga is not a religion is that it does not designate credos or congregations, as all religions do.

Many people are aware that yoga can be practiced in conjunction with religion, but believing or identifying with a religion is not a requirement for practicing yoga. Yoga is merely a spiritual (or physical) journey people choose to embark on in order to create a richer, healthier lifestyle for themselves.

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