The Spirit of Yoga
Is Yoga a Religion?
From the time yoga hit the West, students have interpreted it in all sorts of ways, leaving some to wonder, is yoga a religion?
Because modern interpretations have been layered over this ancient subject, it’s hard to know what to look at for the whole yoga story. As a result many people see Yoga as woo-woo, causing them to wonder if yoga is a religion.
Yoga is not unlike the martial arts that we teach at our gym. SBG’s BJJ program exposes students to a practical philosophy that applies to life beyond training. There is even respect for the instructor, ethical living, and personal responsibility.
Yoga has a very practical philosophy that is accessible to most people and – like Martial Arts practices – yoga doesn’t oppose any religion or belief.
Like me, many people wouldn’t still be practitioners if yoga was either purely physical or purely philosophical. Not only is this balanced view more accessible to new practitioners but it gives you a spectrum with which to practice yoga.
With the whole yoga story in mind, there’s a place for all practitioners to be a part of it. Still there are students come to this practice and find something more.
The physical practice is just the beginning and is a tool toward this end.
The Meaning of “Higher Power” In Yoga
While The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali acknowledges the existence of a higher power (Sutras I.23-26), it does not give it a name. In yoga, a “higher power” is thought of more as an “ideal” spirit.
The only characteristics stated in describing this higher power and ideal are omniscience, free of obstacle, and beyond time. Even among Hindus in India, the name and form of that higher power differs from person to person and sect to sect.
The ultimate “goal” of yoga is to decrease the fluctuations of the mind and purify the consciousness. Self-study (svadhyaya) teaches you to decrease mental obstacles by using your physical form.
The Yoga Sutras state that one of the best ways to do that is to align our own individual spirit with that of this higher ideal, even surrender completely to it.
You don’t have to separate yoga from your religion. Whether you are Christian and Jesus is your ideal or whether Nature itself is your higher power, yoga practice will solidify and strengthen that relationship with your religion.
At its core, yoga is a psychology of the mind that leads you toward a spiritual experience. But spiritual transformation can happen within whatever religious affiliation you have.
Bringing the Spirit of Yoga to Your Practice
With enlightened awareness through yoga, you build a profound relationship with your ideal.
As your mind wavers, you learn to center it over and over again toward a more clear ideal. As your body changes, you learn to move through those changes.
In practice, you become aware of yourself more fully, and see more clearly all that is.
The spirit of yoga is what keeps yoga a practice for a lifetime.
For those of you who practice purely for the physical gains, you can learn so much about your body with a dedicated practice.
For those of you who practice to find something more, the philosophy serves as a guide through daily life.
Bring your religion to yoga with you and you will be transformed.
The only real evil is never starting at all.