Yoga vs Religion

Yoga is not a religion.  The practice of yoga has it’s roots in India and it shares some commonalities with Hinduism as well as many other world religions, but it is not a religion.  Yoga is a methodology, a system of practices that heighten the practitioners self awareness, connection with life (people, animals, the earth and life force-the breath) and connection with God.  The practices of yoga include moral and ethical guidelines (yamas) which lay a foundation for how to treat others.  It also includes suggestions for how to treat ones self (niyamas), the physical practice of the poses (asana practice) and breathing practices (breath awareness, concentration, detachment of the senses, meditation and the state of peaceful, calm that can result).

The purpose of yoga is to ease suffering on all levels, physical, mental, emotion, chemical and spiritual and to still and quiet the restless or busy mind.  As individual suffering decreases happiness within and around that person increases.  Yoga encourages the practitioner to use what is learned on the mat and the growth that takes place within that person off the mat as a form of service.  It is not a selfish practice but a very generous practice.  Yoga is meant to take place in the present moment.  It is both the purpose and practice of freeing oneself of past holdings and future expectations.  Release and letting go is a great gift of the practice.  Freedom and liberation are at the very core of the practice. The yogic practices are suggestions, a means to an end, but the practitioner is free to pick and choose what practices to include.  Yoga is holistic, it involves the entire person, body, mind and spirit.

Religion is a belief system and may include beliefs regarding salvation, eternity, past lives, religious figures/people, worship, ceremony, traditions and more.

There are many similarities between the two.  Both (religion and yoga) are a way of life.  Both express a great need for more love, inward and out.  Speaking from a Christian back ground both involve the whole person, body, mind and soul.  Both acknowledge God and creation.  Both emphasize surrender and letting go.  Both clearly state moral and ethical practices.  Both are concerned with freedom and liberation.

Yoga and religion are not the same, but there are similarities.  Personally I need both, one alone is not enough.  My greatest freedom and sense of peace came when I surrendered to a much bigger God (one God) and trusted in him to take care of my every need.  My connection with God is part of my yoga practice but more than that it is through my walk with Jesus that I have come to know and understand God.  I have many to thank for helping me to know and understand that relationship.  For now what I want people to know is that the message and the life of Jesus is not one of judgment, but one of love.  The Greatest love!


  1. Lindsay Lee

    I really appreciate this post. Yoga is not a religion. I am a Christian myself, and I noticed a lot of peers and friends of mine were surprised that I was taking Yoga classes. They view it as a new-age religion, and it’s not. To me, yoga is a lifestyle, a connection with your body; a way to better yourself and balance your mind. Thank you for writing this.

  2. Kate McLain

    The idea of yoga vs. religion is something I hear about a lot actually so I enjoyed reading this. I agree with the ideas that yes, yoga and religion have similarities but are not one in the same. I would say that yoga helps me to connect with my spirituality. At the same time, if I was not religious, I would still benefit from practicing yoga just, in different ways. I guess what I’m trying to say is, both (religion and yoga) can feed off of each other but it is not necessary to have both also, they are not the same thing.
    ~Kate McLain (mon-wed 8am yoga class) 🙂

  3. Laura Hannah

    As I travel through life, I encounter a lot of people who struggle with the difference between religion and spirituality. Spirituality is a very individual thing. Our life’s path colors our perspective and certainly effects our spirituality. I think it is unfortunate when people reject yoga as a practice they can follow in their life because they feel it is at odds with Christianity. Perhaps they fear what they don’t understand.

  4. Traci O'Dwyer

    I agree completely with Laura and also appreciate this post. Yoga can lead to a heightened sense of awareness both within and out and I believe that it can also aid you in following your spiritual path, whatever that may be. I do not think that it is at odds with any religious practice.

  5. Aranza Larranaga

    It is very true, yoga is not a religion. It is also very important to notice that even though yoga is not a religion it helps you get closer to your spiritual self. It has a special focus on God (whatever your interpretation of him). A lot of people do not understand how can I practice yoga and be a Christian at the same time, and I try to explain that yoga is not a religion but some of them cannot comprehend and reject this beautiful practice. It would be nice that people would understand that yoga is not only good for your body but it also helps your spirituality bringing you closer to God.

  6. Lyndi Parker

    When I did yoga when I was younger I never realized how big of an impact it could make, if it’s taken seriously. Since taking your class, my friends and family have noticed how much happier I am. When I leave your class I feel calm and relaxed, it’s no wonder that yoga is related to a better union with God. When I’m practicing I feel myself become more connected with my spiritual side and my worries seem to subside. I get that same feeling when I walk into my church, as soon as I walk through the door I feel my stresses lift off my shoulders. Practicing yoga makes me want to be “yoga” all the time, by expressing my love and belief towards everyone. I found meditation can be a good way to pray as well. I’m grateful for taking this class because I have become a more understanding individual and focus only on important priorities. I am now YOGA!

    -Lyndi Parker (10:00AM T/TR classes)

  7. Damaris Barrios Tues and Thurs 8:30-9:45 a.m.

    I appreciate this post because I had heard from many around me that Yoga is a newfound religion. As a Christian I do not define it as a religion but as a relationship with God. I started practicing yoga after my pregnancy to lose weight; but i have found that yoga has benefitted me so much more. Yoga has helped me balance my weight, become stronger in many parts of my body, and appreciate learning how to clear my mind for at least an every Tuesday and Thursday. I am hoping to one day be able to use yoga to help my spirituality and become closer to God.

  8. Kristen Kesner

    I love this post. I am a christian and going into yoga class I did have some concerns at first about different yoga practices but I always felt comfortable in class and I love the way that you explain in class that yoga is not a mindless activity. I believe that yoga is a very important practice that most people should incorporate into their lives daily. Yoga gives me that personal time to be one with God and to reflect on my day and what lies ahead.

  9. Dianna Manteghi

    This is a controversy i have been hearing about recently. I think society has grown to be scared and comfortable. People are threatened when their set ways become confronted. I agree yoga has similarities to religion but that doesnt mean it is in the same field. I see yoga as a kind of medium…in which to be used however one feels necessary whether it be to god or to ones self. A lot of people see yoga as a threat to christianity when it is just a mere channel. Yoga has helped me get in tune with my body and mind, and also has brought out a more spiritual side in me. its my healthy way of reflecting.

  10. Alicia Fox

    I love the last paragraph, and that you took the time to make it a point that Jesus’ life is more about love, than judgement! So refreshing to think about!!

  11. Rebecca Saumell

    I love that you addressed this topic and I’m glad that I found this today. I gave my mother a gift certificate to a Yoga studio because she was interested in trying it. I know that she has had hesitations in the past and they stem from the idea that Yoga is competing with her faith in Christ. She is very careful not to allow anything into her life that will pull her attention away from her Savior, which I respect and agree with wholeheartedly. However, I think that Laura said it best, “people fear what they don’t understand”.
    Yoga has not only brought a new found health and energy to my life, but it has also provided a very solid hour in my day that allows me to quiet my mind and focus on prayer and meditating on Gods word. It helps me to become a better listener and surrender control, not only physically but spiritually.
    It’s a gift. Thanks, Cortney! See you in class next Tuesday.
    I will be sharing this with my mom.

  12. Josalyn Martin

    I love this post Professor Phillips, I agree yoga and religion are not the same but closely related. I need God above all and He has directed me towards yoga. I prayed to God to show me how to relax and relieve stress and I was pointed towards yoga and I must say this has been a rewarding practice. I’m not sure why some Christians are skeptical of the practice because yoga is a great physical exercise and a helpful healing and spirtual exercise. Yoga has helped me calm my cluttered mind so I can connect to God and hear his voice therefore I think yoga has more pros than cons that’s physical and and spirtual related.

  13. Abbie Hammad

    Yoga is not a religion. Yoga is ment for YOUR SELF! not god, even though you love God, yoga is for you. Me for the past couple of months, doing yoga has just made me feel more relaxed. I find myself showing my friends yoga poses because I really feel that they are helpful and relaxing.

  14. Terry Penh

    I agree that yoga and religion are very similar but my opinion is that the two differ in focus. I think yoga and religion can be used in tandem to strengthen belief in the other. For me religion gives me emotional strength, and in preserving my emotional state I can avoid physical pain. Through yoga, I can preserve balance in my body physically, and in turn, this strengthens my emotional state. Through yoga and religion together, we can achieve a heightened state that allows our faith to be stronger in both.

  15. Evelyn Weaver

    I really really liked this a lot. I have found that yoga has not made me a spiritual person, but helps me get more in touch with my spirituality through different aspects of it. I absolutely love how yoga focuses on the here and now because I find myself focusing on the past or future so much that it brings nothing into my life besides negativity and stress. By finding new ways to deal with life, new ways to listen to my body and really know what is going on inside, I have been able to form a better connection with my Higher Power and reach out to him in different ways.

  16. Corey Flanders

    I found that yoga has helped me be more in touch with my body and mind. I especially find this true when we do our daily relaxation.

  17. Courtney Jackson

    Though I consider myself to be more spiritual than religious this article is very interesting in how religion and yoga tie together. Though it has been hard waking up at 6:45 am for class every Tuesday/Thursday I am always excited to see what is in store for us to learn that day. I get to learn more about myself and the way my body works and it always makes my day run smoother.

  18. Courtney Jackson

    I consider myself to be spiritual and not very religious so to say, but I can see how yoga and religion are both connected to each other. Both teach morals and life lessons and gives you an opportunity to learn more about yourself.

  19. Sean Drucker

    So many people nowadays are just trying to find every new way to look at religion possible. While it does seem to be becoming a little more fluid, there is a difference between religon, spirituality, and yoga. Yoga to me is about doing for your body and making sure it is getting taken care of and attended to as it should be on a regular basis. Yoga helps you slow down, notice how your body is feeling, and clears your mind to let you know how you really feel.

  20. Ashley Ates

    When I first told my mother about my decision to take yoga this summer she flipped. She told me that yoga had been used in past centuries as a way to worship false gods and idols. I understand, however, that my mother is a very conservative christian and, referencing another post on this site, recognize that this gives her a different perspective on these things. In my opinion, I think it’s important to understand that religion was constructed by humanity, but the ability to walk with God spiritually was made possible by God himself. It is that spiritual walk that leads us to our different religions and that walk is a very personal one. While my mother’s personal walk does not allow for practices such as yoga, mine does. I think that yoga and religion are definitely two different things and though yoga may have been used in some religions, I think it’s important to separate their purposes. However, if this fact makes someone uncomfortable I think that’s fine. It doesn’t make them wrong, it just means they have a different perspective. Problems only arrise when people fail to educate themselves and/or attempt to force they’re perspectives on each other.

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