Is yoga religious?

Yup.  I first came to yoga in 2006 so I could get a six-pack.  Now, me and my flat stomach hit the mat in pursuit of something higher.

Yoga was born during an era called the Vedic period (estimated 1700-3000 BC), alongside Hinduism, and has continued evolving to this day.  Today, we really focus on the exercise aspect of yoga, the poses (asanas).  But there are reasons for that; we are becoming distracted and immobile, thanks in part to technology, industrialism, and urbanism.

Yoga has

  • a bible (The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali)
  • ten commandments (5 yamas and 5 niyamas)
  • the concept of “god”

In yoga, God is not considered to really be a separate entity, such as a man with a white beard who created all things and watches over us, in judgement.  Yoga’s God is more of a universal divinity or consciousness of which we are all comprised.  You can think of it as “the universe” or “energy” (especially if you are a scientific person), and, according to yoga, you can access and feel, this by turning inward.

Yoga is a tradition, and a practice, as opposed to a formally organized religion with one figurehead or governing body.  It is possible to hold both yogic and Christian or Islamic values at the same time.  Many people do.  Though the concepts of Heaven and Hell may need to be resolved with enlightenment and rebirth.  Jesus, Buddha, and the saints, to me, seem to have all lived very yogic lives of service, love, and generosity, rising above the issues and pain of the day.

The ten commandments of yoga, the yamas and niyamas, as well as all of Patanjali’s sutras, together lay out the way to a “union” with the universe/God/energy.  Ascension, absorption, communion, enlightenment, nirvana.  In a nutshell:  stop identifying with things, labels, our bodies, our thoughts, desires, and our emotions, and then we will start to perceive what is real and return once again to who we really are.

The ten commandments form the first two limbs of the “eight limbs” of yoga.  Asana, the popular exercise that we do in yoga class, is the third limb.  The fourth limb is breath control (pranayama).  The highest limbs encompass the very still, inward-turning practices of meditation.  So we have our moral and behavioural guidelines, exercise, breath control and development, then meditating, and then, ultimately, samadhi, or union with God/the universe/energy.

Yoga takes us from point A to B, Point A being

  • physical immobility
  • toxic bodies
  • inattentive and sluggish minds
  • shallow breath
  • materialism
  • needless suffering

and Point B being

  • peace
  • self-sufficiency
  • satisfaction
  • realization of our true selves and the world around us
  • wisdom
  • the capacity to be truly great in every way

In short, yoga lets you become your potential.  (you mean…….an 8-pack?! 🙂


Author: Ian Batt

Yoga blogger and digital marketing & commerce guy.

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