Is Yoga religious ?

 I just read the article ‘Yoga Isn’t Religion but…. Why Neo – Hinduism might kill Yoga in school by Lucas Rockwood in the latest edition of the Yoga community magazine called Namaskar.
I totally agree with this well written article. As a kids Yoga teacher & an adults Yoga teacher I have taught many students of various faiths all over the world.  I believe that my personal views on religion should not influence my students, especially if they are Kids.
When I’m teaching I do not pray to Hindu Gods nor ask my students to either. If they want to pray to God, Allah, Shiva,the Devil, the Earth,the Wind or to their skinner selves then that is their personal choice & definitely not mine.
As a Yoga teacher I understand the ethical value of respecting my students beliefs. I have taught Yoga to Catholic, Jews, Muslims, Rastafarians & Earth Goddesses to name but a few.  I see myself in all of my students, the good the bad and the ugly. After all one of Yoga’s deepest teachings is that –  We are all the one.
One of the trickiest situations I’ve ever been in was when I first started teaching Kids Yoga. I was with a bunch of Kids who just happened to be Christians.  I was teaching them their first Sun Salutations when one of the little boys gleefully jumped to his knees & began to pray to Jesus. He mistook the moment that I asked him to place his hands together at his heart with the call to prayer. Easy mistake to make really…. it actually is a call to prayer !
“Yes this is Prayer pose. Yes you can do this Salutation to baby Jesus , but ……….’
With experience I learnt the Do’s & Do not’s when teaching Kids Yoga & learnt to respect my students faith without falling in to the trap of calling Child’s Pose ‘Baby Jesus Pose’.  I learnt to enjoy my students religion & bask in the warmth of their faith without imposing myself on their spiritual experience.
When I lived in Paris I was a Private Yoga teacher at the Ritz Carlton . I remember once being asked by my Saudi Arabian students
‘Why they were saluting the Sun ?’
They were new to Yoga & they asked me many questions that I had honestly not asked myself about Yoga. They actually opened my eyes to how I had previously been blindly repeating what I had learnt. These Saudi ladies were lovely motivated students & after a year of Private Yoga sessions in their hotel suite they confided in me that their entourage did not understand why they were ‘spending their time as dogs, camels & snakes in Paris’. They were well travelled women & explained to me that they were considered rebels amongst their friends for practicing Yoga when ever they were out of their country.  I respected their religion & did not use Sanskrit nor  chanted to Indian deities, nor even did poses that were named after animals.
Yoga is intrinsically intertwined with Hinduism, I studied for my Teacher Training at The Sivananda Ashram. It was a powerful religious experience to be surrounded by so much faith.   I loved being there & I absorbed the sacred message that is transmitted through Yoga yet the messengers (the Swarmis)  did nothing but convince me that this was not my Yogic path. We were told that the world was an illussion , that we needed to cast away our old lives , our friends & everything that stood in the way to enlightement.  Over the years I lost contact with most of the Sivananda Teacher student  from the ashram.  I often wonder what happened to them. As luck would have  I actually did give up my old life & cast aside most of the people who no longer fit in to your new life.
Hell Ya, I admit it !
Yoga does transform you, it does help you become more enlightened & more spiritual.
On my personal time I have been seen enjoying a good Kirtan & singing with the Hari Krishna gang.  You see after so many years of loving Yoga I have been programmed to associate being blissed out of my mind to Neo- Hinduism. You see it’s so easy to be carried away by the power of it all. To give up your ‘ bad friends’ & dirty habits, to start treating your body as your temple & give up all the other shit in your life. Yoga is the greatest Brain wash I’ve ever experienced. I LOVE YOGA.  After all prayer pose is indeed PRAYER POSE.  I personally did choose to dissociate the fact that I am in Lord Hanuman Pose.  Maybe I REALLY am praying to a Hindu Deity. Or maybe that truth has travelled so many generations that it is now  just a polluted & diluted MC Yogi song.
I have made the conscious leap of faith to make Love my religion & not get entangled up in the rest of it. I could end this article with a Namaste but now you know why I’m not going to.
 
Here is the disclaimer
Firstly I love MC Yogis work.
Secondly by means what so ever do I want  this article  to disrespect the Yoga teachers or the Kirtan singers who choose to honour their own Yogic calling. I’m actually going to Kirtan in a few days & am looking forward to good sing a long & head swaying session.
Lokah samastah sukhino bhavantu.
May all beings everywhere be happy and free, and may the thoughts, words, and actions of my own life contribute in some way to that happiness and to that freedom for all.
Is Yoga religious ? – Well what do you think ?
 
Melanie B is the Owner Of Yoga BamBam a Yoga studio in Hong Kong. She is but one of the Yoga instructors who teach at the studio. Many of the Yoga BamBam teachers have very different views about this subject. Finding the right studio & the right teacher is a personal quest that often takes many years to find.  
What I’m saying is ‘Don’t be a Yoga Clone !’
I encourage my students to find the Guru in themselves.
“My soul is my Guru, my experience is my Guru” – Kumar Pallana
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