Ma's India Blog: Is Yoga a Religion? Mas India

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Monday, December 21, 2009

According to a recent research study, it was found that nearly six in ten Americans from all faiths intermingle their religions or beliefs with New Age and Eastern beliefs, such as astrology, reincarnation, meditation and yoga. It’s also interesting to note that churches trying to “get with it,” have integrated yoga classes into their repertoires and encourage people to practice the scheduled yoga. 

So the question is: Is yoga a religion? I think most people would agree soundly that yoga per se is not a religion in that it doesn’t meet many of its qualifications, such as requiring a particularly deity or tradition to worship. Yoga does not require a specific belief for someone to become a member of an ongoing group. In fact, both atheists and agnostics and various other types of non-believers are always welcome. There is no real discussion of religion. The emphasis is more on spirituality. Oprah Winfrey, when she was touting Eckhart Tolle and his brand of spirituality during a special presentation with him, spoke of how spirituality and its various practices could actually enhance and render deeper meaning and feeling to the religion of one’s choice. How that occurs, according to Tolle, is by coming into a more direct experience of one’s faith. In his beautiful Power of Now Calendar 2010 with excerpts from his books, Tolle says that the path to true happiness lies in coming into the present moment.

When all is said and done, it is felt that most people would see yoga more like a discipline and practice, rather than religion, to be integrated into your life. Similar to religion, one does not necessarily practice yoga on one specific day and ignore the rest of the week, but brings the yogic and spiritual practice into ordinary life. Judith Lasater in her book Living Your Yoga speaks of how her practice, combined with everyday life and family, contributes to the challenges and rewards of spiritual life.

If one desires to adopt a yogic practice, there are a number of good books to read that will enhance the yogic practice. Hatha Yoga, considered by some to be the easiest way to embrace yoga and also the most popular form of yoga at this time, has been colorfully illustrated with chapters on biomechanics and information on the chakras by Ray Login and Chris Macivor in The Key Muscles of Hatha Yoga. 

Before attempting to learn yoga, a wise thing might be to read Anatomy and Asana; Prevent Yoga Injuries. Written by a certified yoga teacher, this book will help you to learn about your body and the various parts of the body involved in doing yoga. This is a great preventative book. Enhancing the practice of yoga, there are many DVD’s now in circulation. One DVD that promises synchronization of the left and right hemisphere while performing asanas is, Chakra Yoga for Mental Clarity with 20 yogic movements to bring about mental clarity and insight. 

And everyone in the know has heard of Shiva Rea, this country’s favorite yoga teacher, who with her DVD Free Flow Vinyasa teaches how the body can express itself in a most fluid and creative way through the practice of vinyasa.

The fusion of eastern and western influences can be heard in Chinmaya Dunster’s Yoga Lounge, providing provocative music to enhance yogic asanas. All of these CD’s will contribute to the fluidity of your yogic experience.

And check out Ma’s India’s Yoga Bags and Totes to carry your special mat and towels. Printed with various deities such as Ganesh, Kali, and Shiva, they are sure to create an enthusiastic response from all who see these colorful bags.

In the end, whether yoga is called a religion or a spiritual practice, what everyone agrees upon is that it brings the practitioner into a meditative space from which you have a great opportunity to experience the Divine.

by: Mas India icon18_email-8607392icon18_edit_allbkg-5606605

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