Guiding Light: Yoga – Secular Or Religious?

Guiding Light: Yoga – Secular Or Religious?

Swami Brahmavidananda SaraswatiUpdated: Thursday, June 27, 2024, 06:33 PM IST
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A few days back, we celebrated International Yoga Day. No doubt, Yoga has become very popular in India and abroad. In most countries, there are some yoga practitioners and some teachers. At the same time, I have noticed that the more popular a thing becomes, the more it gets corrupted, even locally. This has happened with classical dance and music. So too in Yoga. There are attempts at making yoga secular. There are attempts at cutting off yoga from its Indian roots and calling it Christian Yoga. There are other secular spin-offs, like Beer Yoga, Dog yoga, etc. This is obnoxious. Agreed, there are certain asanas named after certain animals. We have this even in martial arts, like Kalaripayattu or Chinese martial arts such as Kung Fu, which has been influenced by Indian martial arts. Given that there are few asanas based on animal-like postures, how can a title based on an animal be given to the whole system of yoga? It cannot be yoga in the traditional sense. Similarly, you cannot dissociate yoga from its Hindu Sanatani roots.

Yoga is not overtly religious. There may be the simple practice of chanting ‘Om’. Most sincere practitioners, even in other religions, are comfortable with it unless they have a fanatical bent of mind or are influenced by fundamental religious ideas. Although Yoga is not overtly religious, there is a religious spiritual background to the whole practice of yoga. It is undoubtedly Hindu or Sanatani, with more than twenty Yoga Upanishads dealing with yoga. The Vedic origin of Yoga cannot be twisted. One can isolate the asana and pranayama practices for health etc. But even for health, if you include the other limbs of yoga like Dharana, focus, Dhyaana – meditation, it will enhance your health as well as aid your spiritual goals. Practitioners who perform yoga only for health purposes would do well to accept different aspects of yoga into their lives. Therefore, let us reclaim this ancient Indian practice unapologetically and let people have the freedom to practice those aspects of it that they want to.

The writer is the founder of Aarsha Vidya Foundation. You can write to him at aarshavidyaf@gmail.com

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