Is yoga a religion?


An interesting question! There is no universal agreement on this, however my understanding is that no, yoga is not a religion, but a philosophy that began in India an estimated 5,000 years ago, with its framework in the Sutra written by the sage, Patanjali. These scriptures provide a framework for spiritual growth and mastery over the physical and mental body (See question Who is Patanjali and why are his Sutras important?).

 

Yoga sometimes interweaves other philosophies such as Hinduism or Buddhism, but it is not necessary to study those paths in order to practice or study yoga, nor is it necessary to surrender your own religious beliefs to practice yoga.

 

As I respect the right to religious choice, I believe that it is up to the individual to make their own choice regarding yoga and religion. You may, however, want to consider some of the things that differentiate yoga from religion:

 

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.

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