Yoga and SpiritualityNear the end of my initial yoga teacher training, we were all given a 15 minute consultation with the leader of the training, to discuss any individual or personal issues that may have come up during the training that we wanted to talk about. When I met with him I said, "Yoga is a spiritual practice for me. Iím a Bhakti Yogi, and devotion and God are an important part of my practice and life. But I realize that because a yoga class is a public setting where may people from many walks of life, and many different outlooks may attend, it doesnít seem appropriate to talk about, or even use the word God in a yoga class." The teacher then said to me, "Iím also a Bhakti Yogi, and have similar feelings about the issue as you do. And I decided, like you, that the most appropriate way to handle the issue is to respect the potential differences of everyone, and not take the chance of alienating anyone."
Therefore I made the decision not to talk about God in my public classes, and to make any references about spirituality on a more universal or philosophical level. That way it could be accepted at face value if need be, but anyone who was inclined to interpret it in a deeper way could do so within themselves. I feel itís much better not to be overt anyway. I think that spiritual truth is conveyed much more sincerely, naturally, and effectively in the way you live your life and conduct yourself, and through your character, than in any other way. You donít have to talk about it.
On my web site itís a different story of course, because here itís appropriate for me to express myself fully and to share my philosophy and thoughts. And itís especially appropriate from the point of view of being a teacher.
I want to make a distinction between religion and spirituality. Religion is a framework that man has created to organize his beliefs, ideals, moral laws, guidelines, etc., and from one religion to another there are many differences. Spirituality, on the other hand, is the practical application of these principals in day-to-day life, to live by them and express them at all times. I believe that all religions and spiritual paths are viable and legitimate.
And this brings me to the point that Iíve been leading up to with all of this. Yoga can be viewed in three ways regarding religion and spirituality:
One: Yoga doesnít have to be a spiritual path at all. Even if a person is very spiritual, they may not want to mix their yoga and spiritual life. It can just be a practice that enriches, improves and enhances your life on all levels; thatís fun and makes you feel good; that relieves stress; thatís great exercise; thatís therapeutic and can relieve physical discomfort; that strengthens, tones, increases flexibility to, and improves the function of the organs, the bones, the muscles and connective tissues, and all of the systems of the body, including the immune, lymph, endocrine, and circulatory systems; that improves sleep, appetite, and digestion, and can help reduce weight; that improves balance; that is detoxifying; and that cultivates calmness, peace, concentration, happiness, harmony, health and well being.
Two: All of the benefits of number one above, plus, it can be a practice that is totally compatible with, and compliments any religious or spiritual practice that you have chosen to live and practice in your life, whether it is Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, or any other.
Three: All of the benefits of number one above, plus, yoga can be a spiritual path in and of its self. It could be considered the most pure spiritual path, because in it you are experiencing God directly though, and as your Heart and Soul.
God is present within you, as you
You are Godís love and joy its self
Your soul is the very presence of God within you, as you
Your soul is your true self, the pure manifestation of God within you
You can consciously know (experience) your Soul - your true Self - by meditation. And when you know your self as Soul, you will have discovered the presence of God within you (as you)
The kingdom of God is within you
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