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Yoga: Spiritual or not?

A Provocative Comment

The other day in a workshop a student commented that she had not practiced Yoga for the past dozen years, but rather that she had done stretching. I knew this student for many years and was curious to know what she meant exactly. I thought she had been practicing Yoga.

The Spiritual Part

As she began to explain I realized that she meant that by simply doing asana classes she had not practiced meditation nor been introduced to the spiritual aspects of the tradition.

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A Salvific Path

I was very grateful for this reminder that Yoga is and was, at least in India, a spirtitual practice. We often forget that the roots of Yoga, especially Jñana Yoga, Raja Yoga and Bhakti Yoga,  are spiriiual or religious practices meant to lead to spiritual realization (moksa) or enlightenment.

Our point of View

I have lived and studied the ancient and modern traditions of Yoga for most of my life. The subject is vast and diverse. Many in the West have separated Yoga from its religious roots and simply focused on the body and the asana practice, holding the belief that the body is the source of all experience - modern materialistic monism. That is OK. However, we must respect that many seek existential comfort and support from the spiritual (metaphysical) tradition of Yoga. Each student has their own beliefs and motives for pursuing the Yoga practice. This is the fascinating paradox of this practice in the contemporary world. Those who perform the same Hatha Yoga may do so from diametrically opposed points of view.

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