Now before I begin I need to put out a huge disclaimer: yoga is NOT a religion. Contrary to what this post and its title may suggest, yoga is not a religion, although it is strongly based around the Hindu faith. However, I have come to realise that for me, yoga is the closest thing to a religion that I have in my life right now.
It all started the other day when I was chatting to a lovely girl at uni and she asked me if I go to church. And I responded with no, but I practice yoga. To the girl this probably didn’t mean a whole lot, but inside of me something shifted. This wasn’t the first time someone had asked about my religion, but previously the topic had always made me feel uncomfortable and agitated.
You see, I wasn’t raised in a religious family. I wasn’t baptised/christened and the only time I ever stepped foot in a church was either weddings or when we went travelling and visited gorgeous cathedrals. My parents do not identify with any particular religion and so I never did either. So, when people used to ask me if I was religious, or Christian, I used to feel uncomfortable and guilty. Why? I think part of me felt like I was offending them by not believing in their God or not living by His rules. Even though I wasn’t 100% believing, there was a part of me that secretly feared such a presence and the possibility of an eternity spent in hell.
I had one beautiful friend in particular who raised the issue of religion with me quite often and tried to explain it all to me. But I would often find myself conflicted and confused with the supposed “rules” of Christianity. Although I thought most of the concepts were great – be a good person, be kind to others, give generously etc – there were a few ideas that did not sit well with my values. These included living in fear of God, that homosexuality is a sin, that women are in some way inferior to men (or that God must be a man) amongst others. Needless to say that religion was generally a topic that I tried to avoid discussing due to how uncomfortable it made me feel.
But the other day, when this girl asked me if I went to church, for the first time I wasn’t ashamed to say no. Instead I explained that I practice yoga daily and that that was my kind of religion. She smiled and nodded, there was no disapproval in her eyes. It was an enlightening moment.
Over the past few years yoga has become a gradually more integral part of my life, but in the last year it has taken on a particularly spiritual aspect. It has filled a sort of spiritual void that I had in my life.
Yoga is my religion.
My mat is my church.
My practice is my prayer.
The Universe is my God.
Love is my ultimate goal.
Yoga has given me the strength and courage to believe in something greater, something magical and something eternal.