One reason that yoga appeals to so many people is because, in addition to the great physical and mental benefits, its added spiritual/philosophical dimension can be integrated into a wide range of belief systems. When you hear the phrase, “Yoga is for all,” you may think about how the postures can be adapted for different body types, but this phrase also applies to different beliefs. Whether your beliefs entail religion, spirituality, a mindful experience of the present moment, a connection to nature, or no belief whatsoever, yoga can help you connect deeper with your faith.
The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, considered the authoritative text on yoga, intentionally omits any reference to religion. The philosophy lays out guidelines for the achievement of enlightenment, which is considered to be a continual experience of the present moment. Yoga sutra 1.2 clearly states the purpose of yoga: Yoga is the cessation of the fluctuations of the mind.
To achieve this state of ever-presence, the eight limbs of yoga are outlined. The Yamas and Niyamas present personal and societal ethical codes. Asana (postures) and Pranayama (breathing) practice are just as we practice them in class, leading to Pratyahara, or withdrawal of the senses and Dharana (concentration).Prolonged concentration leads to Dhyana (meditation) and Samadhi (enlightenment), the ultimate culmination of the practice.
Samadhi is the revelation that we are all one. Those of certain faiths will understand this as being one with God, one with nature, or simply one with oneself. Each of these beliefs is valid and can be strengthened by the yoga practice. If you’ve come to the practice seeking something greater than yourself, it’s likely that you will find it. If you’ve come to the practice for physical gain, it’s likely that you will also find a deeper meaning when you look. Be open to this experience and what it might show you.