Yoga and Yogic philosophy is occasionally misunderstood because some people have not been informed of the universal principles that are not threatening to any belief or disbelief. Many people who do not practice Yoga are often surprised to find detailed dietary suggestions contained within their Yoga training. Yoga aids the student toward better health in every possible aspect. So, Yoga requires and in depth explanation.
Let’s start with the meaning of Yoga, which literally means “unity” or “union.” Your next question might be, “Unity with what?” Yoga does help unify the mind and body, but it also unifies the spirit or soul within you with God. The soul is sometimes known as the “Atman” and can also be referred to as pure or true consciousness. Yoga is not a religion, but it can be practiced in harmony with any religion.
Before we go any further; it should be noted that many students from a variety of religions have practiced Yoga and feel a deeper connection with God as a result of the mind, body, and spirit unification process. Therefore, Yoga is doing no harm to anyone of any religion. Yoga philosophy does not preach a “Better than thou” doctrine. This has been mankind’s excuse to wage war, since history was first recorded and even before.
The concept of another person’s religion, nationality, ethnic background, race, and gender; being less, have always been convenient reasons for bigotry, slavery, and cruelty. Tolerance of others is not a new idea in Yogic philosophy.
There is no group that has the exclusive rights to Yoga. India is the birth place of Yoga and the people of India have gladly shared their gift with the rest of the world. There is no exclusive group that practices Yoga or teaches Yoga classes. Yoga was not designed to be an exclusive practice and Yoga has evolved for the best over 5,000 years to this day.
For the sake of being “politically correct,” many Yoga teachers omit the spiritual aspect of Yoga in their Hatha Yoga classes. This is fine, since the masses of some cultures object to learning about a method to connect to God. However, what does it say about a culture that is to busy to talk or think about God?
It means many things and some societies are showing signs of systematic spiritual illness. However, if you teach Hatha Yoga under these circumstances, you might be best to leave religion outside your classes. Unless, you are teaching Bhakti Yoga or something similar such as Jewish, Moslem, or Christian Yoga, the union of mind, body, and spirit does not usually occur in a typical Hatha Yoga class.
© Copyright 2006 – Paul Jerard / Aura Publications
Paul Jerard is director of Yoga teacher training at Aura in RI. He’s a master instructor of martial arts and Yoga. He teaches that along with fitness. He wrote: Is Running a Yoga Business Right for You? For Yoga students who want to be a teacher.