I’ve been talking a lot this month about my 108 sun salutations yoga challenge. I’m not gonna lie, I’m super proud that I accomplished my 108, and I felt so strong after. One question I still get sometimes about yoga is, “Is yoga a religion?”
The most universal answer would be, yoga is spiritual but not a religion. Some religions use yoga in their practices, but your practice is what you want it to be. It can be very personal. It is connecting the movement of your body with your breath. There is no creed or gods in yoga. Even though it is often associated with Hindu or other religions of India, it is not a belief system itself.
Yoga can be as secular or spiritual as you want it to be. The choice of where you take your practice is up to you. This is why I always suggest folks choose the studio or classes that most resonate with them.
Many yoga classes incorporate the use of “Aum” and “Namaste”. So, let’s dive into these definitions. Aum (or Ohm or Omm) is said to be the sound and vibration of the Universe. As you learn yoga, it is intended to be a connection of your mind, body, and all around you as one. The Sanskrit symbol of this is often seen on yoga studio walls or even athletic wear.
Namaste is a traditional greeting used in India. It is often spoken with the gesture of a bow and praying hands to your heart. This Sanskrit term has the literal meaning of two phrases, “I bow respectfully to you” and “let there be”. The meaning of it now, in modern-day yoga studios, is the sentiment of “the Divine in me honors the Divine in you”. It is an acknowledgment that we are all equal as we shed our egos and connect to each other with a shared sense of gratitude, kindness, and love.
My dear friend who introduced me to yoga years ago is also a very skilled instructor. There are a few wonderfully wise phrases she has shared with me over the years as I grow in my practice, but the one that consistently keeps me in a forgiving attitude toward myself is, “Every body is different. Two words. Every. Body.”
Every body is different. Two words. Every. Body.Barbara Burgess, LFC
It is crucial that you make your yoga practice unique to what feels right to you. Through my research, I have even learned of Holy Yoga classes where those of a Christian faith can practice yoga within the teachings they are comfortable with. If you’d like to read more about yoga and religion, I found this great article that interviews experts over at Yoga Journal.
As for the significance of 108, it is considered a sacred number in the Hindu and Buddhist traditions. The importance of this number for me during this challenge was that it was a lot of flippin’ sun salutations! I wanted to physically and mentally challenge myself. Again, your yoga practice is what you make it. I feel healthier and more myself when I practice regularly. Even if it turns out that yoga is not for you, I hope that you find a practice that offers you these benefits. Namaste.