While many in the west see yoga as a program of seemingly harmless physical exercises, it is an intrinsic part of Hinduism
What is yoga?
It's a practice by the means of which a spiritual seeker strives 1) to control prakriti
(nature) to make the jiva (the soul) fit for union with purusha
(the Oversoul), and 2) to attain nirvikalpa samadhi
(union with God) and thus jivanmukta
(the liberation of the soul from the rounds of birth and death).
Afterwards, the yogi is said to be a jivanmukti
(a possessor of Self-knowledge). Western yogis prefer to call the goal "God-consciousness" or "Self-realization." Some call it "Christ-consciousness."
When did the practice begin?
Evidence of the practice, say Hindu scholars, appears in the Upanishads
(ca. 1000 B.C.), which declare that atmajnana is the goal of life. Further evidence appears in the Bhagavad Gita
(ca. 500-400 B.C.), which advises serious seekers of God to practice "control of the self by the Self." But yoga was officially systematized by Patanjali, a student of the Samkhya philosophy, in his Yoga Sutras
(ca. A.D. 150).
Is yoga a religious or spiritual practice?
Unquestionably, yes, as its history, methods, and goal prove. Four main yogas now exist. Depending on temperament and attainments, the yogi may choose one or more of "paths" to liberation: karma
, Self-knowledge: Atman
Ironically, hatha yoga is the third of eight limbs in Patanjali's system of raja yoga, the adoption of which presupposes the completion of the first two: scriptural study, moral purity, non-violence, etc. To practice hatha yoga is to accept the doctrines of raja yoga, involving the coiled serpent-power at the base of the spine (kundalini), seven chakras, postures (asana), breath control (pranayama), and meditation (dharana and dhyana).
Does Yoga Conflict with Christianity?
In this edition of ''Rob's Reviews,'' Robert Bowman
reviews the April, 2001, issue of Yoga Journal.
Is Yoga Really So Bad? "The truth behind this exercise sensation"
, by Sarah E. Pavlik, Today's Christian Woman
, Sep/Oct. 2001.
Brief profile by Watchman Fellowship
Theory and Practice: Separable? John Ankerberg
and John Weldon
document that physical yoga and Eastern philosophy are mutually interdependent.
Yoga and Transcendental Mediation: A Chritian Option?
by George Smith, Christian Medical Fellowship
Yoga: An Overview Watchman Fellowship
Yoga: Exercise or Religion?
by Brad Scott, Watchman Fellowship
Yoga: Yokes, Snakes, and Gods
by Marcia Montenegro, of CANA
Yogasanas: physical postures, spiritual method or both?
A preliminary, unedited report by John F. Weldon
Encyclopedia of New Age Beliefs
by John Ankerberg
and John Weldon
. Includes an extended entry on yoga.
The Facts on Hinduism [Out of print]
by John Weldon
. Includes information about yoga.
Database of archived news items on yoga
(Includes items added between Oct. 25, 1999 and Jan. 31, 2002. See about this database
For newer items, see Religion News Blog
(Pro) (See Robert Bowman's response
to the April, 2001, issues of Yoga Journal issue, in which contributing editor Alan Reder argued
that yoga can be practiced by Buddhists,
Christians, Jews, and Muslims - and by implication, just about anyone else - without any conflict with their religion.