Is Yoga a Religion?

8:38 am Raja Yoga

We could also ask is Religion Yoga?

In my recent experience at the Yoga Journal Conference, I listened to an esteemed panel that pondered this very question, is yoga a religion.

Panel Participants:

The panel discussed many aspects of this many sided topic.

One approach is to look at the Root Meanings of the words:

Religion: defined by webster-

  • the service and worship of God or the supernatural, committment or devotion to religious faith or observance
  • a personal set or insitutionalized system of religious attitudes, beliefs, faith or observance
  • scrupulous conformity
  • a cause, principle or system of beliefs held with ardor and faith

The Latin root is “religio” which means to link.

Yoga:defined by webster-

  • a Hindu theistic philosophy teaching the suppression of all activity of body, mind and will in order that the self may realize its disctiction from them and attain liberation (I agree with this definition in part, and only from a certain point of view)
  • a system of exercizes for attaining bodily or mental control and well being

The sanskrit definition means yoking, or to join.

Hmm, so we have a root meaning of link and a root meaning of join. So if we take root meaning we can find the words synominous.

Now where the rubber meets the road with this question, in the panel discussion, is when a person attends a yoga class, purely for the purpose of well being. Is this person taking part of a religious activity???

I stated the following to the panel, then posed a question:

  • I’ve seen it best written that the one true religion is the worship of God’s spirit
  • Is yoga a worship of God’s spirit?

There response was that it depends upon the intention of the practice. Now for me personally, my yoga practice is a means to worship God’s spirit, and connect with my True Self, my Sat Nam, my Higher Self, on a daily basis. It is very much so a form or religious expression for myself.

This is my approach to this question, but I needed more input on this to form an opinion, so I chatted with a friend of mine. And the discussion took place along the following lines:

The reasons’ one turns to religion or yoga have to do with the benefits associated with each. The primary benefit of religion, is the concept of an after life eternal. Why do we attend church? So that we may live forever after we pass on from this life.

Now yoga on the other hand, has very much to do with the now, the Eternal present moment, for in that moment all past causes have been manifest and all future potentialities lie.

Perhaps we can view Religion, as being destination focused, and yoga as being path focused. Every religion has a very straight, and sometimes strict, line with destination in mind. Where Yoga has many branches, like a vine that weaves to and fro, they flow in and out of one another, they cross the straight line paths of traditional religions and they all end up back to Source.
One aspect of some religions which tends to frustrate me is the concept that if you pick the wrong path, then its pitch forks baby. This just simply does not make sense. If one believes in a Single God, then that God is inclusive by His very nature, for how can things exist within One which He does not believe in.

We find elements of Yoga across all religions. It’s almost as though yoga works to link the commonalities across those religions. And so we have joining (Yoga), linking (Religion) to Source. (In this context the Source is inclusive of afterlife.)


Is Yoga a Religion?

“It is and it is not. In religion you have to believe something and in yoga you have to experience what you want to believe” Yogi Bhajan.

I believe in the Spirit of God and I seek to experience that which I believe. How can one experience that which they believe, if the primary focus is afterlife?

It turns out that there are many right answers to this question, which is the one right answer. Just as their are many right paths/branches to religion/yoga, which are the right paths/branches.

And so if you ask me, is Yoga a Religion, I would say, Is Religion Yoga?

2 Responses

  1. Shahalad Jhoomer Says:


    Sorry to disagree. But yoga belongs exclusively to the Dharma. It’s purpose is to unite the Atman with Brahman. That is an Indian philosophical concept. As are reincarnation, moksha, and chanting mantras. To try to find Abramic versions of these ideas is a stretch, to say the least. Thank you.

    Om Shanti

    Shahalad J

  2. hershel Says:


    No need to apologize, we are all able to have our own opinions.

    I have always found it difficult for the term yoga, or Union to belong “exclusively” to something. Union with the infinite is inclusive in its very nature.

    Atman with Brahman- could this be interpreted as a finite point merging with the infinite

    As the Universe unfolds here in the earth plane we shall see more examples of Abramic versions of this.

    peace brother

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