Is Yoga a Religion?
by Swami Jnaneshvara Bharati

Question: Is Yoga a religion?
Answer: No, but the question is important to consider.

Yoga is in Religion. Religion is not in Yoga.

While Yoga may be in Religions, the many
Yoga practices with body, breath and mind, along
with their transcendent goal of direct experience,
are generally neither characteristic of Religions,
nor typically practiced by the adherents of Religions.

Yoga is in Religion. Religion is not in Yoga.

These are NOT ten different religions.
They ARE ten different people,
each of whom arise from the same source,
regardless of what, if any, religion they choose.

Xenophanes: Ethiopians imagine their gods as black and snub-nosed; Thracians blue-eyed and red-haired. But if horses or lions had hands, or could draw and fashion works as men do, horses would draw the gods shaped like horses and lions like lions, making the gods resemble themselves.

The simple explanation

Question: Is Yoga a religion?
Answer: No. Yoga is contained within religions. Religion is not contained within Yoga.

Yoga means union. It is the joining together
the aspects of ourselves which were
never divided in the first place.

To say that the word Yoga itself is a religion
makes as much sense as saying
that the words Union or Holistic
are themselves religions.

It is important to note that there is not universal agreement on these points, nor the definition of Yoga, with many feeling that Yoga is not a religion, and many people feeling that Yoga is a religion. See the comments below related to commingling Yoga and religion. See also the quotes and articles linked below, where others are describing the relationship between Yoga and religion. See also the section about making your own choice regarding Yoga and religion.

See also : Philosophy, Not Religion

See also Modern Yoga versus Traditional Yoga

If one day I say I am a Buddhist, the next a Christian, the next a Hindu, the next a Jew, the next a Muslim, and the next something else, has the “I” actually changed, or only the opinions of the mind? Who am I? That cannot be answered with a mere opinion of mind. It can only be experienced in the stillness and silence of direct experience, wherein these divisions evaporate.

What’s missing with Yoga?

Here are a few of the things that are usually part of religions, but which are missing with Yoga:

Yoga has no deity to worship.
Yoga has no worship services to attend.
Yoga has no rituals to perform.
Yoga has no sacred icons.
Yoga has no creed or formal statement of religious belief.
Yoga has no requirement for a confession of faith.
Yoga has no ordained clergy or priests to lead religious services.
Yoga has no institutional structure, leader or group of overseers.
Yoga has no membership procedure.
Yoga has no congregation of members or followers.
Yoga has no system of temples or churches.

”O man, realize that the kingdom of God is within you, the Lord of life is the highest of all. Anyone who has realized this, would like to go to his innermost self. And there is a way for that. I am not talking about Hinduism, I am not talking about Buddhism, I am not talking about Christianity, I am not talking about Islam. I am talking about something universal. The moment you realize that the absolute truth which is not subject to change, death, and decay is within you, then you attain a freedom, freedom from fears, all fears. That is called the state of enlightenment and that can be considered to be a state of perfection. Therefore, learn to go to the deeper aspect of your being. Everyone should learn to meditate so that he’s free from many, many diseases. That meditation should be simple, a purely scientific technique, without putting any brand, like Hindu meditation, Buddhist meditation, Zazen, Zen meditation, Christian meditation or Jewish meditation. These teachers have destroyed the whole philosophy of meditation. Meditation is a simple method.”

Swami Rama