Q. I know you chant and use the word “God” or “the Divine” occasionally in your classes; is yoga a religion?
A. The yoga that we are most familiar with and practice today in the West has its roots in Hindu Yoga. However, it is not necessary or even required to be a Hindu in order to practice or benefit from text and tradition of yoga. It is whatever intentions you bring to it. As a teacher, I teach according to my intentions along the yoga path. It is best to find a teacher that supports your intentions so you get the most out of the class.
As for me, yoga is a path that involves techniques such as chanting, meditation, visualization, subtle body awareness, yoga postures and breathing practices to help me get out of my own way and open up to the flow of life that is available to me. Some people call this flow God, Consciousness, the Divine, etc… For me yoga is a way to tune in to my essence, my spirit, that is often clouded by my ego, my past and the stories I tell myself about me and the world around me. Yoga is a practice for my mind and my body to help me direct my attention toward whatever I chose, rather than haphazardly wondering about.
What I love about yoga is that it can help people of all faiths connect deeper into their own religion. The more present, loving and compassionate you are the more available you are to whatever you refer to as your higher power. When I refer to “God” or “the Divine” it is whatever that word means to you. I don’t expect the meaning of the word to be the same for everyone. From my experience, if the word has any reverence for you there is a natural draw to want to be closer to it. Yoga can do that. It is also a great technique to support the health and well-being of the physical body… another great reason to show up on your mat!