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May all find the teacher within to guide oneself towards unconditional love and peace

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Is yoga a religious practice?

This is a common question about yoga and yoga practice.

It's common that many people, including some of the yoga practitioners might relate yoga teachings and the yoga practice with Hinduism, as yoga has it roots in the land of India, where majority of the people embrace Hinduism.

Though yoga originated from a land that is rooted in Hinduism, not all Hindus practice yoga, and yoga practitioners don't have to be Hindus to practice yoga.

Many of those who have their own personal religious or cultural belief and they also practice yoga, there might be some elements of their own religious or cultural practice being mixed into their yoga practice. And it's okay. But, it doesn't mean that yoga is a religious or cultural practice.

Meanwhile, in many of those who practice Buddhism, there might be some elements of their own personal religious or spiritual belief and practice being mixed into their Buddhism practice. And it's okay. But, it doesn't mean that Buddhism is a religious or spiritual practice.

The essential teachings of yoga is not different from the teachings of Buddhism. The essential teachings of yoga and Buddhism are the law of impermanence, selflessness, non-dualism, oneness, non-separateness, attributelessness, namelessness and formlessness. These teachings are neither religious nor spiritual.

Both the teachings of yoga and Buddhism is about transcending the egoistic mind and its modifications, to be free from ignorance and egoism, to know the truth of names and forms, to realize selflessness, and be liberated from impurities and suffering that derives from ignorance and egoism. It is beyond all the subjective intellectual thinking, worldly education, personal religious and cultural belief that exist in the mind and influencing the mind.

There's nothing wrong when some people refer yoga as a spiritual practice with some religious practice influences, and meanwhile, many people refer yoga (asana practice) as merely one type of physical exercise for health and fitness, as everyone is free to think and believe what they want to think and believe. But, yoga is neither spiritual nor non-spiritual, neither physical exercise nor non-physical exercise. It is beyond spirituality and physical exercise. It is freedom transcending all the qualities of names and forms. It is unconditioned and unlimited by names and forms consist of different worldly thinking and belief, religious and cultural practice, and personal interest or motivation.

Whether one is religious, or not; whether one has a particular religion belief, or not; whether one is spiritual, or not; whether one belongs to a particular religion or spiritual community, or not; whether one believes in God existence, or not; whether one thinks oneself is a good being or a bad being, everyone (all minds) can practice yoga and realize yoga.

One can take up yoga practice, whether partially or completely, appropriately or inappropriately, and one can also abandon yoga practice. It's one's freedom about what one wants to do with one's body and mind. There's no judgement or punishment. It's one's effort whether one will attain liberation via yoga practice, or not. There's no success or failure.

Om shanti.

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Know thyself. There is no existence of 'I'. Everything is impermanent. Be free, be peaceful, be happy.

Om shanti

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Pantai Cenang, Langkawi, Kedah, Malaysia
My husband and I run ongoing yoga retreats in Langkawi Malaysia. We teach traditional Hatha Yoga - a combination of Asanas (postures) and Pranayama (breathing techniques) and relaxation, that has given benefit to millions of practitioners over thousands of years. Our yoga studio is situated in Langkawi. We also run yoga retreats in Europe and India.

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