Is Yoga A Religion?
The word Yoga literary means union and it comes from "yuj" which means "to join," or bring your various self contained aspects together into the union. Yoga also recommends meditation on, and cultivation of lovingness, compassion, goodwill and acceptance, as well as non-violence, truthfulness, training the senses, non-possessiveness, and other such virtues. Religions also recommend cultivating such virtues. However, it is self evident that cultivating these ways of being or living are not themselves religion. When these are practiced in Yoga, the subtler, finer, truer aspects of our being are revealed, and this may or may not be seen in the context of religion. That choice rests with each individual person.
Yoga does not prescribe the worship of any specific deity. The word divine is defined (in dictionaries) as coming from, or connected with God. Yoga does not give specific instructions for the existence, nature, or worship. Yet, Yoga acknowledges that bhakti Yoga, the path of devotion is a valid aspect of Yoga.
Once again, divine is defined as relating to God and Yoga itself does not prescribe to what or whom one should direct their worship, nor does Yoga require it. Again, Yoga definitely acknowledges the value of bhakti Yoga, regardless of which that takes for an individual person. This is the problem arises with Yoga and religion.
The other reason is that when one encounters Yoga in a particular organizations or groups of people, it can look very much like a religion. This is because some of the teachers and practitioners of Yoga and Yoga meditation commingle Yoga with religious practices. This is particularly true in the arena of bhakti Yoga, the Yoga of devotion. From the standpoint of bhakti Yoga, it is the devotion that is the point, not that a particular object is suggested for that devotion. Thus, one may practice bhakti, or devotion, from within his or her own religious preference.
In Yoga the areas of self improvement is the continuing focus on the emotional state. It is imperative to develop and live in a positive state. The laws of positive life says that you should live a life dedicated to enjoyment, enthusiasm, happiness, gratitude, be optimistic, non-harming, have truthfulness, compassion, joy, practice charity, tolerance, and freedom etc. The practice of Yoga aids all those who seek to improve in the areas of self-improvement both physically and mentally, regardless of their religious persuasion. It has the power to balance the nervous system and still the mind through its various exercises-from postures or asana to breathe control and meditation.
In other words, we can say that yoga is not a religion but a way of life. However if you want it to be a religion for you, go for it.
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