When we first decided to open North Main Yoga, our teacher asked us if people here would be accepting of yoga. He had heard stories of churches in the South condemning yoga. Luckily, we had heard no such stories and opened our school with a little blind faith that people would quickly see that yoga is not a religion. We have been so fortunate that our students have found their yoga practice is not a religion, but that is has brought them peace along their journey. Lately, I have heard stories about people condemning yoga saying that when you practice yoga, you are bowing to Hindu Gods or that om-ing is sacrilegious. In all my years of study, I have never heard anything like this.
For me, personally, my yoga practice gave me faith where I had none. Yoga actually brought me closer to what I call God. It helped me see the divine in the little things and the gift of each breath. I never would have found this if I had not come to yoga. It is not that a yoga teacher told me what to believe, but I began to feel and know that this is what is true for me. Yoga will give you whatever it is you are looking for: better physique, calmer mind, more balanced emotions, a greater connection to spirit. What you seek, you shall find.
To those of you who still question if Christians can still be good Christians while practicing yoga, I offer the following excerpt from Georg Feuerstein’s book “The Deeper Dimensions of Yoga” (which I recommend for all yoga teachers):
Yoga can and in fact has been practiced by people with widely differing philosophies and beliefs. Some yoga practitioners are more religious than others. But yoga itself is primarily a tool for exploring the depth of our human nature, of plumbing the mysteries of the body and the mind… How can yoga enrich the religious or spiritual life of a practicing Christian or Jew? The answer is the same as for a practicing Hindu, Buddhist, or Jaina. Yoga aids all who practice religion, regardless of their persuasion, by balancing the nervous system and stilling the mind… Practicing Christians or Jews (or practitioners of any other religious tradition), should take from Yoga what makes sense to them and to deepen their own faith and spiritual commitment.
I believe all of the great teachers that came before us would approve of anything that helped us become kinder, more compassionate, more patient and more tolerant human beings. I believe that these teachers would be grateful to see groups of people open their hearts to others, removing hatred and divisiveness. Yoga is not a religion, nor has it ever claimed to be, it is simply a path you can follow that may give you some tools to help you out along your way.