There are those who turn away from yoga as spiritual pursuit and seek elsewhere for meditation instruction and techniques. Even among some of the teachers, scholars, authors, and publishers who profess to be experts in yoga, more than a few turn away from traditional yoga meditation to “customize” practices of meditation and contemplation and call them their own. It’s almost unbelievable, but it’s not uncommon for so-called yoga teachers to recommend that their students practice yoga solely for the physical body, and instruct them it’s not always necessary to follow practices such as introspection, contemplation and meditation to learn yoga.
As a result yoga in the West has only scratched the surface of authentic yoga.
It is true that yoga as a means for spiritual unfoldment is quite compatible with any religious orientation. It is common for people who have pursued the authentic spiritual practices of yoga to report that they become even closer to own their religious roots. Thus there should be absolutely no conflict. Although, the reverse is not necessarily true, not all religions bring their followers closer to the goals of proper yoga practice.
It would be hard to imagine people walking into a restaurant and ordering a bottle of “Christian Communion” with their meal? Of course not, instead they order a bottle of wine. Otherwise, it would be taken as a joke. Similarly, we wouldn’t call eating bread with your meal “Christian Communion,” we’d simply call it eating bread? But people will walk into a health spa, gym or recreational center and call some of the physical practices people do there “yoga,” completely disregarding its true and full meaning?
Also, it is sad but true that some other teachers of yoga (both from the East and the West), teach in a way that worships teachers,deities, rituals and/or dogmas that are not known to their students, and this even further confuses the issue of what yoga is truly about. This is not to say that teachers should necessarily be forbidden to present their religion. Rather, the point is that by not clearly acknowledging the difference between their religion and authentic yoga, they are setting the stage for confusion about the true nature of yoga.
So, is Yoga a religion? Answer: NO!
Yoga is contained within religions. Religions are not contained within yoga. Yoga means union. It is the joining together the aspects of ourselves which (in reality) were never divided in the first place.
Too many teachers and students are being deprived. There are modern yoga teachers who are missing out on authentic, traditional yoga because of their misunderstanding, and as a result, the higher yogic practices are not even followed by them. In other words, they cannot teach or learn the more authentic perspectives of yoga if they do not know about them and they remain deprived of much of the wisdom of the ancient sages.
David Frawley, is quoted in “Yoga Journal” as saying:
Yoga in the West "has only scratched the surface of the greater Yoga tradition," he says. "The Yoga community in the West is currently at a crossroads. Its recent commercial success can be used to build the foundation for a more profound teaching, aimed at changing the consciousness of humanity. Or it can reduce Yoga to a mere business that has lost connection with its spiritual heart. The choice that Yoga teachers make today will determine this future."
Stay tuned, this series will continue – coming up next; “Approaches to the True Goal of Yoga (Part 14).” This next blog article will look at how some yoga teacher training programs are missing the point of true yoga.
Rae Indigo is ERYT 500