Recently, I spoke to a middle aged woman who was genuinely interested in yoga as a health practice. Though, she felt that yoga was interfering with her religion, since she was raised as a Roman Catholic. I felt it was better not to start a discussion about yoga and religion, instead I suggested trying Pilates or Yogalates, a fusion of yoga and Pilates. Some religious leaders actually forbid practicing yoga, but allow their followers to do a stretch class (not mentioning the word yoga); a class focused on the physical practice of yoga or asanas and the lack of any Sanskrit words or links to (other) God(s).
Most yogis would agree with me that yoga is not a religion. I would classify it more as a holistic ancient health practice. T.K.V. Desikachar stated: “Yoga was rejected by Hinduism, because yoga would not insist that God exists. It didn’t say there was no God, but just wouldn’t insist there was.”
Though, yoga has similarities with a religion; for example it involves spiritual experiences and includes a moral code (the yamas and niyamas). So maybe we should classify yoga as a spiritual practice? Honestly, If I’ve to fill in a questionnaire which includes asking for my religion, most of the time I’m hesitating. Am I Buddhist? Or a Hindu? No, I am not. I’m yogi, but that is not a religion. But for me it is my lifestyle and my personal practice. My belief system is based on my inner guru and ‘outside gurus’ who remind me of the universal wisdom. Some bhakti yogis consider ‘Love’ as their religion. At the same time religious people can experience God as Love.
According to Wikipedia; “Religion is an organized collection of belief systems, cultural systems and world views that relate humanity to spirituality and, sometimes to moral values. Many religions have narratives, symbols, traditions and sacred histories that are intended to give meaning to life or to explain the origin of life or the Universe. From their ideas about the cosmos and human nature, they tend to derive morality, ethics, religious laws or a preferred lifestyle”
What do you think? Is yoga your religion? Or are you a Catholic/Hindu/Muslim/Atheist/Jew practicing yoga? Or do you think it doesn’t matter at all?