Some believe that in order to practice yoga they need to change their denomination. Others are afraid that the practice of yoga will interfere with their personal belief system.
This subject came up again during one of my one of my yoga teacher training weekends, as my students and I discussed the importance of studying the sacred texts and yoga. During this particular weekend we were talking about some of the most important texts that form the base or foundation of yoga as a spiritual practice.
Sacred books like the Bhagavad Gita, the Yoga Sutras, and the Upanishads talk about loving the Divine, becoming your best, abstaining from harm, etc. These same principles can also be found in the Bible, the Torah and many other spiritual and sacred volumes. As we started to read and discuss each Sutra, written well over 5000 years ago, we could see how easily these foundations are applied today regardless of what your beliefs are.
I am not sure when or how people find themselves having to choose between yoga and religion. Yoga to me has never been about any particular sanctity, nor trying to get people to believe in something they don’t.
As I see it, yoga has brought myself and many others closer to our own personal convictions. Yoga has also given me the opportunity to learn more about myself, to deepen my connection to God, the Divine, the Creator or the Universe (whatever you choose to call it).
One of the many translations for the word yoga is union. Yoga strives to bring all aspects of our beings into wholeness regardless of what or whom we choose to give credence to.
Even though yoga started in India, many practitioners around the world are not Hindus. I have not been to any yoga class where they have asked me if I was part of any specific religion in order to be able to participate in class.
I have personally taught classes where I had people come from different religions whether they were Christians, Jews, Buddhist or Hindus—it did not matter. We all came and continue to come to our yoga practice for different reasons, but at the end our mutual goal is to become one with ourselves and the Divine.
Some view yoga as a physical practice or exercise, while others believe and know that yoga is much more than that. Yoga is a system of wellness that helps bring our physical, emotional, mental and spiritual being into union.
Yoga is a spiritual practice that helps us remember to live an honest, loving and respectful life. It encourages us to treat others with kindness and respect. It tells us to remember our true essence.
You may find that in many classes the teachers and other participants chant OM. This word has no religious connotation and you can choose whether or not to participate while it’s being chanted. You will also hear words like “Namaste” and/or “Shanti”. These words mean “I honor the Divine within you” and “peace”. These phrases can be said regardless of any particular religion.
If you have been thinking about trying a yoga class, but you are hesitant because you think you have to change who you are or what you believe in, now you know that the only requisites to try a yoga class is to be yourself and breathe.