There’s a surprising amount of controversy around Yoga. When the idea of teaching children in school how to practice yoga came up, it caused a stir because people argued that yoga is a form of religion. So, is yoga religion?
The reality is that the religion you practice has nothing to do with your ability to practice yoga and use the yogic systems. Yoga is not a religion, rather it is a technology. Technology is not able to make the distinction of what you do and do not believe in. Your belief system is a psychological process; it has nothing to do with being able to use technology, including yoga.
It is true that yoga is included in religion but it is not a religion of itself. Yoga is as Hindu as gravity is Christian. Gravity was discovered by a Christian in a Christian nation, but the concept of gravity itself is not Christian. The same can be said of yoga. The idea that yoga could be a religion is practically laughable.
Hindu is not an “Ism”
The reason that the yogic sciences are considered to be Hindu is that they were developed in the Hindu culture. Given that the culture is dialectical in nature, the science of yoga was delivered in a dialectical way, which is basically the Hindu way of life. The word “Hindu” comes from the word “Sindhu”, which is itself a river. The culture became known as Hindu because it grew from the banks of the river Sindhu. Hindu is not exactly a religion. It is more of a geographical identity, which evolved into a cultural identity, and has yet to become established as a “proper” religion. Hindus do not have a singular defined belief system like other religions.
It’s important to understand that Hindu is not an “ism”. Being a Hindu does not mean that you belong to one particular belief system. What you did as part of the culture was Hindu. There isn’t a particular God or ideology that could be considered the Hindu way of life. Hindus can worship man-gods or woman-gods. They can worship cows and still be considered Hindus. They can even worship nothing and still be considered a Hindu. Hindus are Hindus no matter what they do – or indeed don’t – believe in.
in the end, there is a common line running throughout all of these. The Hindu culture says that there is just one called in human life; that of liberation (Mukti). Hindus aim to liberate themselves from everything that they know as limitations and move beyond it. They liberate themselves from the very process of life itself. They do not hold God as the ultimate being, but rather one of the stepping stone step must be overcome. In a sense, Hindu is the only culture in the world that is a godless culture in the sense that they have no concrete ideal of God. You can worship a cow, a rock, your mother, or anything else you want to worship. This is because the Hindu culture has always known that God is of their own making. Everyone else believes that God created them, while Hindus believe that they created their God. They have the freedom to create whatever kind of God they want, and can relate to.
Now that you have a better understanding of what being Hindu is all about, you can see how yoga is not a religion. Hindus may practice yoga but they also understand that anyone else is free to practice it no matter their beliefs. You may need to practice yoga to be a Hindu, but that doesn’t mean that you have to be Hindu to practice yoga.