Friday, October 8, 2010

Yoga is Not a Religion

Just thought I would address this issue and nip it in the bud since I talk a lot about meditation/yoga helping ease the symptoms of anxiety and heart palpitations.

A friend recently sent me a link to an ABC news article about a Southern Baptist leader who is calling for Christians to avoid yoga saying that "the meditative discipline is not a Christian pathway to God." And then I got on facebook today and my teenage sister-in-law had written this on her status update: "Some ppl think yoga will send you to hell but I think it brings you to a heavenly bod!"

Oh Lord, give me strength. Here's the article:

Southern Baptist Leader on Yoga: Not Christianity

Besides the utter ignorance of this Baptist leader, I believe this particular individual is spreading fear to many people who might benefit from yoga both physically and spiritually. We all know the benefits of yoga physically (flexibility, strength, posture, heart health), but it can also have great spiritual benefits. But let's be clear spirituality is different than religion. Spirituality has to do with one's inner life, the ever-evolving understanding of one's self and one's place in the cosmos—what Viktor Frankl called humankind's "search for meaning." Religion, on the other hand, can be seen as spirituality's external counterpart, the organizational structure we give to our individual and collective spiritual processes: the rituals, doctrines, prayers, chants, and ceremonies, and the congregations that come together to share them. 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. Yoga is not a religion, but the science of religions. Yoga demands discrimination rather than faith. Where most religions teach us 'what to do', Yoga teaches us 'how to be'.

And what do some of the great yogis think?

Swami Sivananda Saraswati: "Yoga is not a religion, but an aid to the practice of the basic spiritual truths in all religions. Yoga is for all, and is universal."

Georg Feuerstein: [To practice yoga] "You need not believe in anything other than the possibility that you can transform yourself." "...some Yoga practitioners are more religious than others. But Yoga itself is simply a tool for exploring the depth of our human nature, of plumbing the mysteries of the body and the mind.

Shri Ram Sharanam Ashram: “Yoga is not a religion. it is not necessary for you to believe in a certain god or to chant certain hymns. it is spiritual and ancient science, which leads to health in the body, peace in the mind, happiness in the heart and liberation of the soul.”

Pandit Usharbudh Arya: “Yoga is not a religion or a church. It requires no belief in a doctrine, no credo. All yoga philosophy is concerned with the experience of meditation and nothing else. It does not require anyone to adhere to a belief system.”

Osho: “First, yoga is not a religion—remember that. Yoga is not Hindu, it is not Mohammedan. Yoga is a pure science just like mathematics, physics or chemistry. Physics is not Christian, physics is not Buddhist. If Christians have discovered the laws of physics, then too physics is not Christian. It is just accidental that Christians have come to discover the laws of physics. But physics remains just a science. Yoga is a science—it is just an accident that Hindus discovered it. It is not Hindu. It is a pure mathematics of the inner being. So a Mohammedan can be a yogi, a Christian can be a yogi, a Jaina, a Buddhist can be a yogi.”

When I practice yoga, I contemplate the mysteriousness of the Holy Spirit and my eye is towards Jesus in heaven. My meditations are no different than King David's prayers. Yoga renews my spirituality, but it certainly is not my religion.


Eric Wilinski said...

"Oh Lord, give me strength" is right. Some people are ridiculous. Useless to get sucked up in it.