Is Yoga a Religion?

Walk into any gym today, and many schools, and you’ll see yoga classes on the schedule. There’s no doubt that yoga has become mainstream over the past decade.

For many people, yoga is purely physical exercise, focused on mastering breath and alignment. But because of yoga’s ancient history of deep meditative, spiritual, and mystical roots, it’s often misidentified as a form of religion. Parents and individuals of many different faith backgrounds wonder how yoga can sit alongside their belief system.

The difficulty with this debate is that yoga is such a broad term and that there are so many different types of yoga classes.

But, regardless, the truth is yoga does not follow one religion. That’s because it does not require ideology, belief systems, or compliance.

That being said, yoga absolutely does have a spiritual component.

Becoming spiritual simply means working toward becoming oneself. Just like a tadpole turns into a frog or a chrysalis into a butterfly, we are broken humans’ work toward becoming whole. Yoga is the science of the Self. Through techniques such as meditation, asanas, breathwork, and focused awareness, yoga helps us understand our inner world.

While there are components of Buddhism and Hinduism that worked into yoga practices, practicing yoga does not make you a Hindu or Buddhist. It’s simply a doorway to a more meaningful life – whatever that means to you. Yoga offers perspective and insight into who you are and how you are seen in this world. It naturally gravitates toward a healthier lifestyle as you lean toward wellness in a variety of ways.

Yoga truly is about creating harmony between your body, mind, and soul. While mantras and chants are sometimes used to awaken the dormant potential of consciousness that resides within you, these practices are not required to benefit from yoga.

As I’ve said a million times, when you walk into our studio you are welcome to take what serves you and alter as needed to make the practice yours.

By all means, do it your way. Find a style of yoga that suits you. Identify yoga instructors that teach in a way you enjoy. And remember: yoga is about inner exploration – not outer worship.

photo courtesy of Shannon Austin