It’s becoming more prevalent for practitioners to abandon Yoga as spiritual pursuit and look elsewhere for simpler instructions and techniques. This even happens among some of the teachers, scholars, authors, and publishers who profess to be experts in pursuing authentic Yoga practices.
Some turn away from traditional meditation and contemplation techniques to “customize” these methods and so call them their own. It’s almost unbelievable how common it’s become for so-called Yoga teachers to recommend that their students practice solely for the benefit of the physical body. They tell them it’s not always necessary to follow practices such as introspection, contemplation, and meditation to learn this ancient science.
As a result, many students and teachers in North America have only scratched the surface of authentic Yoga.
Spiritual unfolding and religion
The revered path of spiritual unfolding is quite compatible with any religious orientation. Plus, it’s quite typical for people who have pursued the authentic spiritual practices of Yoga to report that they become even closer to own their religious roots. No conflict exists.
Unfortunately, the reverse is not necessarily true. Not all religions bring their followers closer to the goals of proper Yoga practice.
As an analogy, it would be hard to imagine anyone walking into a restaurant and ordering a bottle of Christian Communion with their meal. Instead they would simply order a bottle of wine. Otherwise, that would be laughable.
Similarly, we wouldn’t call sharing a loaf of bread with your meal Christian Communion. We’d simply call it eating bread? Ironically, people will walk into a health spa, gym or recreational center and call some of the physical practices that they do “Yoga.” This is completely disregarding its true and full meaning.
Some other teachers of Yoga instruct in such a way that even further confuses the issues. They advise the worship of teachers, deities, rituals, and/or dogmas that are not familiar to their students. That is counter-productive to the goal. By not clearly acknowledging the difference between religion and Yoga, they are setting the stage for confusing students of both.
So, is Yoga a religion?
The answer is an emphatic NO! Religions may embody Yoga, but Yoga does not embody them.
Yoga means union – the conscious joining together aspects of ourselves which were inherent from the beginning.
Currently, there are modern teachers and students who are missing out on authentic, traditional Yoga because of its misrepresentation. They are not following the higher yogic practices and they remain deprived of access to the wisdom of the ancient sages.
David Frawley put it this way in Yoga Journal:
… 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 and has only scratched the surface of the greater Yoga tradition. 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.”
Next: How some Yoga teacher training programs are missing the point of true Yoga.