I often wonder how to answer people who would ask me if yoga was affiliated with any type of religion. And awhile ago, my cousin told me that a friend of hers has always wanted to try yoga, but wouldn’t because it doesn’t align with her religion.
Maybe I can’t help that woman, but if I can put simple facts out there about yoga, it may bring someone else to try a class rather than making a judgment before truly understanding.
There are many limbs to the practice of yoga, but let’s stick to the most common: hatha yoga, or the practice of physical postures.
The practice of hatha yoga is both a physical and spiritual practice. However, there is no ‘God’ for the practice of yoga. Yogis use Patanjali’s 8 limb yoga path (Google it) as a way to grow & connect with the goodness in themselves & in others. As power vinyasa yoga founder Baron Baptiste states, “Yoga isn’t the way. It’s the way to the way.”
To me, that means the practice of hatha yoga can be whatever you need. As a Christian yogi, I use the peace, awareness, love and self-acceptance I find on my mat and apply it to getting closer to the God that I believe in.
If you attend a yoga class where the class OMs, and you’re freaked out, take a breath & be open minded. Making the sound ‘OM’ at the beginning & ending of class is simply a sharing of energy. At the beginning of class, it symbolizes energy coming together, and at the end, it’s symbolized as energy going out into the world. Again, nothing to do with a God, a religion, or even prayer. Just energy. I sometimes think about it as an audible sigh, like “Ok, I’m actually in this moment with these people. Here we go.”
Whether you use yoga for the physical practice, the mental growth, or both, I can’t say enough that the practice of hatha yoga can be whatever you need it to be. Atheist, Buddhist, Christian, Hindu– we are all just people.. People looking to enhance the quality of our lives & we’ve found something in yoga that allows us to go after that desire. It’s about loving yourself as you are, and being curious about where you can go from here.
But please, for me, and for whatever could and will happen in your future.. Don’t avoid yoga because the spirituality scares you. If it’s a little comfortable.. Great. Take a class and then choose to come back, or not. I’m a firm believer in doing something that scares you everyday.