Historically yoga has been woven into the fabric of many religions, but is not in itself a religion. The evidence that yoga is not a religion lays in the fact many different faiths including, Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism, and the Jain faith, include yoga practice as a method of enhancing devotional belief. In the world of Islam the influence of yoga is seen in the mystic sufis who are considered Muslim yoga gurus. Recently there are yoga studios offering Christian yoga. I found a second hand book called, ‘Christian Yoga and You,’ by Evangelos Alexandrou that was published in 1973… apparently Christian yoga is not new.
Encompassing the broad topic of devotional yoga is a category of yoga called Bhakti, which is described in an ancient Indian scripture called the Bhagavad Gita. Wikipedia describes Bhakti Yoga as, “…a spiritual path or spiritual practice within Hinduism focused on the cultivation of love and devotion toward God.” Perhaps B.K.S. Iyengar summed it up best in his classic book, ‘Light on Yoga,’ “In bhakti, the mind, the intellect and the will are surrendered to the Lord and the sadhaka prays: ‘I do not know what is good for me. Thy will be done.’ Others pray to have their own desires gratified or accomplished. In bhakti or true love there is no place for ‘I’ and ‘mine.’” (p. 19)
As I mentioned in the December blog, ‘Karma Yoga and the spirit of Christmas,’ “several books have been written on the subject of similarities between Karma Yoga and Christianity, such as ‘Jesus in the Lotus’ by Russill Paul.” Christianity and yoga philosophy have many parallels. The identification with non-violence, a deep devotion to God, and love for all, are cornerstones of authentic yoga practice.
Back in March of last year I wrote a blog on Karma Yoga and mentioned, “I believe yoga practitioners are to act with selfless duty and not just perform a bunch of contortions on the mat.” I also believe yoga practitioners are to act with devotion enhancing their faith with the spiritual philosophies of yoga. In many ways the world would be a more peaceful place with the acceptance of the true meaning of the term Namaste, which is an acknowledgement of honor to the spark of divinity, or soul within us all.
Yoga is not about putting a photo of the next coolest posture on social media, but instead is the act of drawing closer to God. Perhaps the universal spirituality in yoga can offer a common understanding between different faiths. This Easter I hope you will consider the possibility of faith made deeper through yoga practice.