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Is Yoga A Religion Or Exercise

What Religion Is Yoga Based On

Is Yoga Exercise or religion or something else?

Yoga is commonly described as a Hindu practice, but there are forms of yoga practiced by Buddhists, Jains, Christians, atheists, and peoples of various other faith backgrounds. Yoga has also been adapted to facilitate those who want a physical workout without any sort of attachment to a deeper spirituality.

The foundations of yoga pre-exist the Rigveda and the Upanishads. Yogas origins can be traced back to approximately 3000 BCE: 1500 years before the start of Hinduism, 2,400 years before Buddhism, and 2,500 years before Jainism. During this time, yoga-like practices belonged to the cultural tradition of the Indus valley civilization.

Eventually, the meditative practice of yoga was established as a religious practice of Hinduism, but when Buddhism and Jainism began, yoga was incorporated into these religions as fundamental components.

The yoga that is practiced today is predominantly influenced by Hindu tradition, but it also displays influences from Buddhism and Jainism. As time goes on and yoga becomes more popular around the world, yoga continues to be influenced by other religions and spiritualities. One example of this is Holy Yoga. Holy Yoga uses the practice of yoga to strengthen Christian spirituality and increase understanding of the Gospel.


This site investigates the origins and evolution of yoga in greater detail. In the practice of modern yoga, there is a growing issue that stems from the separation of spirituality from yoga.

Why Schools Are Banning Yoga

Mindfulness programs have become popular on K12 campuses, but in some parts of the country concerns about religious intrusion keep the trend at bay.

In certain parts of the United States, its getting more and more likely that rather than a game of dodgeball in gym class or a round of Heads-up, Seven-up as a break between lessons, students will instead find themselves doing downward-facing dog. The internet is saturated with yoga-based lesson plans, teacher-training courses, and mindful music playlists designed for schools, while programs for certified yoga instructors who want to bring their practice onto campus have also gained popularity.

While up-to-date data on the prevalence of school-based yoga is hard to come by, a 2015 survey led by the New York University psychologist Bethany Butzer identified three dozen programs in the United States that reach 940 schools and more than 5,400 instructors. School-based yoga programs, Butzer and her co-authors concluded, are acceptable and feasible to implement. The researchers also predicted that such programs would grow in popularity.

The minute you put Sanskrit into a curriculum some parents are going to freak out, agrees Jai Sugrim, a yoga instructor whos taught in schools.


What You Need To Start

You dont need to invest in expensive clothing when youre just starting out, as long as what you wear is comfortable and allows you to move freely. If you do hot yoga, though, you might like to invest in workout clothes with wicking qualities, as these will transfer moisture from your body to the outer side of the fabric where it evaporates. Avoid baggy t-shirts, as they may ride up when youre in poses where your head is lower than your hips.

Yoga studios will provide you with the equipment you need, but if youre planning to practice at home, youll need a good mat. Often referred to as a sticky mat, specialist yoga mats provide cushioning for your knees and prevent your hands and feet from slipping in poses such as downward dog. Depending on the style of yoga you practice, there are a few other props that can be really useful, especially for beginners. Yoga blocks and straps can act as extensions of your arms, helping you to get the full benefits of the pose before you reach full flexibility. Bolsters are super useful, too. They help you maintain good posture in seated positions when you have tight hips, and can be used to gently open your joints or reduce tension in other parts of the body – placed beneath your knees when lying in relaxation pose, for example, they take the pressure off your lower back.

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Yoga And Mindfulness Could Become The Fourth ‘r’ Of Public Education But Up For Debate Is Whether The ‘r’ In This Case Stands For Relaxation Or Religion

Yoga classes are becoming more prevalent in Americas schools. Africa Studio via www.shutterstock.com

The number of U.S. children age 4 to 17 practicing yoga rose from 2.3 percent to 8.4 percent or from 1.3 million to 4.9 million between 2007 and 2017, federal data show. The number of children meditating rose to 3.1 million during the same period.


The rise is due in part to more yoga and mindfulness programs being established in Americas schools. A 2015 study found three dozen different yoga organizations offering yoga programs in 940 K-12 schools.

Yoga and mindfulness could become the fourth R of public education. But up for debate is whether the R in this case stands for relaxation or religion.

As a professor of religious studies, I have served as an expert witness in four public-school yoga and meditation legal challenges. I testified that school yoga and meditation programs fit legal criteria of religion.

In one case, the court agreed that yoga may be religious in some contexts, but ultimately concluded that the school districts yoga classes were devoid of any religious, mystical, or spiritual trappings. In two other cases in which I testified, yoga- and meditation- based charter schools were found to violate a state law prohibiting public schools from providing any religious instruction.

Is Yoga A Religion Here Is What You Need To Know

Yoga Moves

Yoga is a booming industry. More people are practicing than ever before and the number of yoga methods and philosophies vary widely. For some practitioners, yoga is simply a way to build physical strength and improve fitness. For many, its a way to reduce stress and balance out their busy lives. Others see yoga as an intensely spiritual practice. However, as yoga has become more popular, misconceptions have also grown increasingly widespread.


In recent years, there has been some controversy regarding yoga and religion. Some believe that yoga is fundamentally religious and therefore conflicts with other kinds of faith. As yoga has roots in Hinduism, some have suggested that it has no place in secular institutions, such as schools. However, yoga is not an organized belief system. It doesnt require any particular faith and its open to everyone, regardless of religion or culture. In yoga, there are no requirements to believe in a God and there are no religious rituals, such as First Communion or Bar Mitzvah. Regardless, the question of whether yoga is religious is still causing controversy.

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Why Christian Yoga Is Not An Oxymoron

Yoga is simply defined as union, unite, or to be yoked. It is a mind, body, and spirit practice, whether you are or are not religious or spiritual, you can practice the wonderful and ancient gift of yoga.

There is a myth that Christians cannot practice yoga or that you must be Hindu or Buddhist to practice yoga. The truth is that yoga predates religion, but religious people have practiced yoga. As a Christian, no matter what we choose to do to honor our temples the Lord has given us, we take our everyday comings and going to glorify Him. When we take care of ourselves we are honoring and glorifying Christ.

Yoga is not a religion. Aspects of yoga have been incorporated into many groups, including religions, however in itself it is not a religion, nor do you have to be religious to practice yoga. Some Eastern philosophies have used the practice of yoga, meditation, times of stillness to reflect on self enlightenment or a source they believe in. On this note, Meditation is defined as Contemplation. No matter what we are practicing our meditation can be on anything or anyone. In YogaFaith we turn our thoughts and hearts toward Christ. We meditate on Him and His word just as it declares throughout the Bible to meditate on His word day and night.


Yoga In Advaita Vedanta

Adi Shankara with DisciplesRaja Ravi Varma

Vedanta is a varied tradition with numerous sub-schools and philosophical views. Vedanta focuses on the study of the Upanishads, and one of its early texts, the Brahma sutras. Regarding yoga or meditation, the Brahma sutras focuses on gaining spiritual knowledge of Brahman, the unchanging absolute reality or Self.

One of the earliest and most influential sub-traditions of Vedanta, is Advaita Vedanta, which posits non-dualisticmonism. This tradition emphasizes JñÄna yoga , which is aimed at realizing the identity of one’s atman with Brahman . The most influential thinker of this school is Adi Shankara , who wrote various commentaries and original works which teach JñÄna yoga. In Advaita Vedanta, JñÄna is attained on the basis of scripture and one’s guru and through a process of listening to teachings, thinking and reflecting on them and finally meditating on these teachings in order to realize their truth. It is also important to develop qualities such as discrimination , renunciation , tranquility, temperance, dispassion, endurance, faith, attention and a longing for knowledge and freedom .’ Yoga in Advaita is ultimately a “meditative exercise of withdrawal from the particular and identification with the universal, leading to contemplation of oneself as the most universal, namely, Consciousness”.

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Is Yoga A Religion Or Exercise

Is Yoga a religion or exercise?


Most of the times, we tend to associate the term Yoga with religion or exercise. Pictures of sadhus performing weird postures or standing on their head, immediately pops up into our minds when we think of Yoga.

But what exactly is Yoga? The question has gained prominence especially in the last few years after Malaysia announced a ban on Yoga due to religious reasons:

Is it justified to associate it with Hinduism because it originated in India? Or is it just a set of exercise routines because many do it to lose weight and stay fit? Lets find out everything about Yoga here.

Yoga, by itself means Union. It is derived from the Sanskrit root word Yuj which means Unite.

But what does it actually unite with? For that, we have to go a bit into the details of Yoga Sutras written by Patanjali who is acknowledged as the leading authority in Yoga. According to Patanjali, there are 8 limbs of Yoga:


  • Yama ,
  • Dhyana ,
  • Samadhi .
  • The following concise info-graphic beautifully depicts relevant details of all the 8 limbs of Yoga in one snapshot:

    So, in short: It is about To merge, or Union. That is how the term Yoga was used to refer to this Union and the path leading to it.

    Hence, we can conclude that Yoga is neither religion nor just exercise but is more of a way of life, or a methodology to achieve better physical, mental & spiritual health and eventually achieve Nirvana.

    Yoga As An Evolving Term

    Christian Yoga Morning Flow

    The confusion surrounding yoga and religion is likely to be caused, in part, by the fact that yoga is a very broad term. Yoga includes a huge variety of methods and philosophies and some are more overtly spiritual than others. For example, Hare Krishna monks practice Bhakti yoga, or yoga of devotion. A spiritual Hindu practice that focuses on devotion to a god, Bhakti is very different from the physical yoga styles most of us are accustomed to.

    Meanwhile, in the West, most people start practicing yoga for its health benefits and to balance out their busy, stressful lives. Most modern yoga thats offered in the West has evolved from Hatha, which focuses on nurturing physical and mental strength on the path to enlightenment. However, the term enlightenment isnt necessarily related to spirituality. For some yoga practitioners, it simply means achieving stillness in the mind, while for others, its about gaining an understanding of the world and their role in it.

    Yoga classes also vary in terms of how spiritual they are. While some teachers encourage the chanting of om, a primordial sound in Buddhism and Hindu, others avoid making any spiritual references at all. Some teachers might chant Hindu sutras, while others focus solely on physical precision and alignment. In many Western yoga classes, closing with a final Namaste is the only overtly spiritual reference in class.

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    Laya Yoga And Kundalini Yoga

    Laya and Kundalini yoga are closely associated with Hatha yoga but are often presented as being independent approaches.

    According to Georg Feuerstein, Laya yoga “makes meditative absorption its focus. The laya-yogin seeks to transcend all memory traces and sensory experiences by dissolving the microcosm, the mind, in the transcendental Self-Consciousness.” There are various forms and techniques of Laya yoga, including listening to the “inner sound” , practicing various mudras like Khechari mudra and Shambhavi mudra as well as techniques meant to awaken a spiritual energy in the body .

    The practice of awakening the coiled energy in the body is sometimes specifically called Kundalini yoga. It is based on Indian theories of the subtle body and uses various pranayamas and mudras to awaken the energy known as kundalini or shakti. In various Shaiva and Shakta traditions of yoga and tantra, yogic techniques or yuktis are used to unite kundalini-shakti, the divine conscious force or energy, with Shiva, universal consciousness. A common way of teaching this method is to awaken the kundalini residing at the lowest chakra and to guide it through the central channel to unite with the absolute consciousness at the highest chakra .

    Is Yoga A Religion

    Many people take up yoga to boost their flexibility, but is yoga a religion?

    Watch a yoga class and chances are by the end of the session youll have seen students bow their heads, hold their hands in a prayer position and quietly whisper Namaste. So is yoga a religion? Its a reasonable question to ask, especially as they may have also knelt on their mat with closed eyes and chanted OM in front of a statue of a Buddha or Indian god.

    While these rituals are not uncommon in yoga, most classes today focus on physical postures. However, it wasnt always that way early yoga practitioners had an entirely different agenda. Here we speak to world-renowned yoga expert and co-author of Roots of Yoga, James Mallinson, about the origins of the practice. Then UK author and yoga teacher Eve Boggenpoel explains how to get started with yoga so you can enjoy its many benefits.

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    Is Yoga Really Ancient

    There is a common misconception that stubbornly remains, which is that the yoga poses are thousands of years old, and that they have existed as one static teaching since the beginning of yoga time. … In fact, there is no evidence of a traditional practice of yoga postures handed down intact over millennia.

    Practicing Spirituality In Yoga

    Praise Moves

    Yoga is a mental practice, as much as its a physical practice. However, depending on which classes you attend, you might find that your teachers focus only on the physical. Fortunately, by developing an awareness of yogas spiritual aspects, and by considering what spirituality means to you, you can make it a more significant part of your practice.

    Cultivating Awareness

    If youve been practicing yoga or meditation for a while, you might have heard a lot of talk about energy. For many teachers and advanced yogis, cultivating an awareness of energy is key to living a spiritual life. In yogic philosophy, energy centers are known as chakras. Each chakra has its own physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, and energetic attributes. Prana, or life force, runs through the energetic pathways in our body and we can manage this energy through yoga, meditation, and pranayama. By cultivating an awareness of this energy, youre embracing the spiritual side of yoga.

    Practicing yoga is also a wonderful way to cultivate an awareness and understanding of yourself. As well as realizing your physical capabilities and limitations, you can develop an understanding of your actions and reactions. By understanding yourself on a deeper level, youll be armed with the necessary tools to achieve your best.

    Relinquishing Control

    Finding Stillness

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    The Difference Between Religion And Spirituality

    Spirituality is an inclusive concept, that includes lots of different perspectives and interpretations. It can also be very personal what one person considers sacred might not be meaningful to someone else. Dr. Larry Dossey, an advocate for spirituality in healthcare, describes spirituality as a sense of connectedness with something greater than oneself. In this context, it is a universal human experience and something thats accessible to everyone. Although the broad nature of spirituality can sometimes cause confusion, it is this flexibility that separates it from religion.

    On the other hand, religion is a system of faith thats organized around certain beliefs and practices. As Dr. Dossey explains, it is a ritualized form of spirituality involving a specific set of beliefs, worship, and conduct. As modern yoga is not an organized system and does not contain any rituals or requirements, it cant be categorized as a religion. Instead, yoga nurtures spirituality and allows for connectedness.

    Modern Yoga Is Very Different From Ancient Yoga

    Yoga as it is practiced in the West today certainly diverges from the yogic practices of ancient India.

    Nineteenth-century groups of intellectuals in both Europe and America, like the German Romantics and the American Transcendentalists , developed an interest in all things Indian. This was an interest complicated by Indias status as a British colonial outpost. Figures like Swami Vivekananda, a Hindu monk and mystic who frequently lectured in America and England, brought the practice of yoga to the attention of Western intelligentsia.

    In the early 20th century, the intellectual fashion of yoga transformed into a Hollywood fitness craze through the efforts of the wealthy Russian-born Eugenie Peterson . She read an occult book on yoga Fourteen Lessons in Yogi Philosophy and Oriental Occultism by William Walker Atkinson, a white American author writing under the pseudonym Yogi Ramacharaka. She was inspired to study yoga in India and used her political connections to access the mystic Tirumalai Krishnamacharya.

    But yogas increased popularity has brought with it controversy. For some Hindu scholars and thinkers, yogas adoption in the West as a popular fitness fad is a form of cultural appropriation. In 2008, the Hindu American Foundation launched a take back yoga campaign after the popular Yoga Journal declined to refer to certain postures as explicitly Hindu, choosing the more generic ancient Indian because the mention of Hinduism had too much baggage.

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