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!