With the mandate I've picked up this year to make yoga more accessible to demographics currently not accessing it, I've had the opportunity lately to be asked "What about yoga and religion". Not daunting to attempt to answer all *sarcasm*. Disclaimer: I have no PhD in Religious Studies. But I am human, and its an important question to give some thought.
Considering most humans have a personal practice to connect themselves within themselves and connect to something bigger, the diversity of those practices spans the spectrum of every human who has ever lived... and thats about 2.5 million years.
I've been asked the question of yoga and religious practice by two different figures doing awesome work in two different places in Ottawa this.
If you didn't catch my little blurb on channel 22's Caribbean Connections the first weekend of December (other than missing me caught off guard and ready for a radio show with no makeup and pink hair... which got me authenticity points, anyways) my answer went something like this: Faith is believing that there is something good in store for you to surrender to. Yoga is about how you're feeling on your journey getting there.
The second time I was asked the question was this week at the Somali Family Center where I volunteer yoga classes with Warrior Yoga, again. I thought to myself: The truth is when practicing yoga, I feel connected to myself and the world around me in an intimate way. It feels pretty darn spiritual. So what distinguishes it from Abrahamaic religious practice?
My personal reflection continued and after taking a hard look at the 10 commandments and comparing them to the Yamas and Niyamas (the 10 ethical themes of suggestions on how to relate with yourself and others in Yoga), I came to this conclusion:
1) Theres no useful Shame:
in Yoga, it is not about shame. The Universe is not God in that it is not an entity with human emotions who gets angry when you don't listen to its secret messages. The Universe will wipe you out as impersonally as you stepped on that ant by accident when you were 6, or something like that... The Yamas and Niyamas are suggestions to be well within yourself as you navigate the Universe, of which you are a part. Theres no external arbitrator. No prize or punishment at the end of the line. You just feel better or worse in the present moment.
2) You are not ascribing to Hope:
The concept of Christian or Muslin Faith is often said to believe that surrending to God's will, you'll be better off in the end. In Yoga, there is a concept of surrendering to the Universe. They are pretty similar. But in Christian Faith at least from which I can speak, there is hope. Hope that God has in store something better than you could've imagined. My experience in yoga is that when you surrender to whatever the Universe has to offer you, you are surrendering comfort and hope as well. You are giving up expectation period.
In the end, both have you open up to reality and new possibility.
I like to think of Religion and Yoga as different paths up a mountain to a same destination: a way of being that it more peaceful and appeasing to the human heart. The numbers of paths is infinite.
This is a reflection best done with others, so leave your comments below and together we grow!