Over the many years of practicing and teaching yoga, I have had this conversation with so many. I get asked “Does yoga go against my religion?” I encourage you to surrender to the many gifts that yoga has to offer and then overtime you will experience for yourself the deepening of your relationship with God, due to your dedication to your yoga practice. I truly believe that with a dedicated practice, establishing a firm foundation by having faith, patience and devotion, one may be healed. It’s through our daily practice that we begin to recognize the things that bind us. Attachments, addictions things that do not serve us, overtime, will be revealed. For me, and for many, this can only truly take place when one surrenders to God.
In Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, an ancient text that is widely referred to in yoga classes today, clearly presents morale guide for yogis to follow and outlines the path towards enlightenment, union with the Divine. My personal practice has deepened my relationship with God, like no other opportunity in my life. My yoga practice gives me the daily opportunity to quiet my mind to look within to hear God’s wisdom and truth for my life. By surrendering to the practice, I have learned so many lessons that without faith in my higher power, I wouldn’t have continued with such dedication.
I have been practicing some kind of yoga since 1986. All of life’s trials and tribulations have scarred me in some way, even if I was unaware of how it may have hurt me. Energetically and or emotionally all our life’s experiences make an imprint in our being. It’s through this yoga that I was able to trust, to open to peel away the layers of emotional baggage and pain and allow myself to heal, in the process I have grown closer to God.
Students ask me about the chants and some of the texts that are referred to in yoga classes, and the simple answer is that these chants are to open us to the light within to help us clearly see the potential within that frees us from our mind and the constant monkey chatter that goes on. The texts are like manuals for life. What you may encounter along the way and how to move through and past. David Frawley says “Yoga should challenge our belief system in a positive way of creating more peace, understanding, discrimination, higher awareness and connecting us to a universal truth, rather then getting caught up in barriers and boundaries”.
Most importantly, yoga is for the individual. It’s about the practitioner and my responsibility as a yoga teacher is teaching tools that are useful for each student. The devotional aspect of the practice is essential and should chanting and reading from these yoga texts bring knowledge that can be applied to ones life to live a more fulfilled life with purpose, then I consider it useful in transformation. Intention is important as is prayer and including this in your practice will draw you closer to God. It’s because of my yoga practice that I’m receptive to hearing God and aligning with His will for my life.
God knows our heart…. There should be no fear. Remember we are created in the image of God, for the glory of God, and for the worship of God. I believe that practicing yoga is a spiritual discipline that will draw you closer to God, no matter what you faith may be. As Pattabhi Jois says, “There is only one drishti, that is God”.