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Zk433

Yoga Without The Spiritual Aspect

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Hi,

I'm new to this forum and to an extent new to yoga as well. I did yoga on and off in the past, but I was never committed, partly due to the fact that I'm quite religious and I don't feel comfortable with the spiritual aspects of Yoga such as chanting. It's kind of hard to find guidance online (and in the real world) that does not expect you to do the whole shebang. So I'm wondering, is it even possible? Doing yoga for the physical and mental benefits, but without the spirituality? 

Thank you.

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What about classes at a local gym? That's how I got started - and then when I went to a studio and heard chanting for the first time, I did freak out a bit. Ha!

 

I don't think Candace does chanting in her videos either, and just says Namaste at the end.  

 

So, it depends on the instructor on whether there is chanting or not.  At the same time, you might find yourself more open to it later if you seek to diversify your practice to include other instructors.

 

For me, as the mental benefits deepened for me, I started to view the chanting as a tool, not necessarily a spiritual imposition, and minded it less.  However, each person's tolerance and openness differs - I might have been more open to it because I'm not religious, but believe one can be spiritual.

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When I go to temple (I'm Jewish), I don't sing nor read out loud

When I go to church, I don't kneel nor say anything

When I go to yoga, I don't 'ohm'

I go for the exercise

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There are many ways to practice yoga, and the way you choose to do it will definitely affect what you get out of it. If you are in it mostly for the physical benefits, taking a class at the gym or community rec center is likely going to meet your needs. I'd venture to guess that no matter where you take yoga or what kind of yoga you practice, you will likely derive mental benefit.

 

That being said, yoga is an ancient system and the physical postures that we practice in the West are a relatively newer addition (the key word here is relative). There are "8 limbs" of yoga, including the physical practice, breath work, sensory withdrawal, meditation, ethical practices/restraints, observances, inward focus, and what is often referred to as bliss. An individual who incorporates all 8 limbs of yoga into his/her life will experience yoga in a different way than someone who doesn't. What are your goals? What attracts you to yoga in the first place?

 

You mentioned being uncomfortable with the spiritual aspects of yoga, given your faith. I don't know if your discomfort stems from assuming that a contradiction exists, you've been told that by someone of religious authority, or due to some other reason. I don't know if you are Christian, but if you are there are Christian yoga classes available. Also, I'll mention that there is a devout Catholic in my teacher training program who integrates the spiritual elements of yoga into her faith, including chanting. She actually just led us through a beautiful chant yesterday where the class chanted and she sang a devotional song from her faith along with us - it was incredibly powerful to experience! I bring this up because some deeply religious people are able to reconcile the spiritual side of yoga as not being a contradiction to their faith after they've learned more about the philosophy behind yoga. That's all. Obviously it's a personal decision and this may not jive at all for you. Please don't take this as being an attempt to get you to explore the spiritual side of yoga, as my intention is to only provide information.

 

Most classes at the yoga studios I've been to do not involve any chanting whatsoever. Many will open the classes with a statement about setting an intention with or without any direct yogic philosophical elements. I have never been to a class that didn't end with "namaste", but that is simply a way to greet and part while showing others a deep respect. If you do inadvertently happen to attend a class that involves chanting, you certainly don't have to participate at all, or you can simply turn inward yourself and replace the "om" or what have you with whatever your religion says to express thanks. Plus, no one will even know if you aren't chanting because their eyes will presumably be closed. You could also ask the gym or yoga studio if instructor x chants or talks about yogic philosophy and then base your decisions accordingly.

 

Finally, some schools of yoga completely omit the philosophy and Sanskrit names of poses all together. Yoga Fit (sp?) is one example...the corporate yoga offered at my work is Yoga Fit.

 

Hope this helps!

Hildegard, Robbie, yogafire and 1 other like this

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Thank you all for your comments.

 

What has attracted me to yoga in the first place? I did pilates for about 3 years but I got simply bored. I felt like it was going nowhere, I didn't seem to be improving much and there was no journey involved - if you know what I mean. I always liked that yoga is not just exercise but also a way of live, which is why lots of people take comfort in yoga practice and use it as a way out of stress, depression and other mental issues. I have a background in psychology so I recognize the importance of exercise and meditation in one's life. I'm also aware that I need to slow down and 'do something' before I go crazy (life circumstances) and I'm strongly drawn to yoga, cannot even explain why. I have recently got into photography as well, as a way of slowing down and living in the moment, so it's all coming together and I'm already feeling little bit better.

 

However, what I noticed is that people take on yoga and also adopt Hinduism or Buddhism, make shrines, travel to India, become vegetarians, etc. Is that necessary or is it just a natural progression as you get more into yoga? I don't want to do that, I'd feel like I'm 'betraying' my own religion (Islam) in a way so I definitely want to stay away from that.

 

Could you even become a yoga teacher if you didn't want to adopt the spiritual aspects of yoga? Not that I plan to, but I'm just interested.

 

Once again, thank you for your comments.

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However, what I noticed is that people take on yoga and also adopt Hinduism or Buddhism, make shrines, travel to India, become vegetarians, etc. Is that necessary or is it just a natural progression as you get more into yoga? I don't want to do that, I'd feel like I'm 'betraying' my own religion (Islam) in a way so I definitely want to stay away from that.

 

Could you even become a yoga teacher if you didn't want to adopt the spiritual aspects of yoga? Not that I plan to, but I'm just interested.

 

Personally, I do not practice any religion (including Hinduism), although I have an altar in my yoga room, where I meditate. On my altar are things - include some Hindu and Buddhist relics - that are significant to me. I don't know if that sounds like a contradiction, but I do tend to "take what I like and leave the rest." That sort of thing. I used to be vegan many years ago, but I eat some meat now because my body doesn't tolerate legumes at all. So the short answer to your question is that you absolutely do not need to adopt Hinduism (or Buddhism), travel to India, become vegetarian, etc.

 

I wouldn't even refer to adopting these things as being a "natural progression" of yoga, as it sort of implies that these things occur inevitably as a result of dedication to yoga. Being dedicated is not about adopting a particular guru's or pop culture's yogic dogma - it's about really exploring it from your heart. At least that is how I define dedication to yoga for myself...The Catholic friend I mentioned is most definitely a very committed yogi and really teaches it from the heart, but she remains staunchly catholic, eats meat, etc. Candace has documented her own dietary practices, and she's not vegetarian. I do not know very much about Islam (I have read parts of the Qu'ran, but that obviously does not qualify me to speak to the issue you raised), although I understand that yoga is growing in popularity with Muslims in the some parts of the Middle East. Maybe there are forums out there that would allow you to connect with others who have similar concerns regarding the interplay or reconciliation between Islam and yoga?

 

You can become a yoga teacher if you want to! Just be aware that some teacher training programs expect certain things from their students, so I would suggest that if and when you are ready to explore teacher training, you contact programs to see if they adhere to specific dogmas regarding vegetarianism or religion. It would suck to not feel welcome in a yoga teacher training program, after all! Most yoga teacher training programs have a yogic philosophy component, but there are others that don't (Yoga Fit, for example). Based on what you wrote about what draws you to yoga, though, it seems like the philosophy component would make sense - that is, if you could reconcile it with your faith. Learning about something doesn't mean you have to embrace it or give up your faith. Taking away what resonates with you and leaving behind what doesn't is something that just about every yogi I know does :)

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Based on what you wrote about what draws you to yoga, though, it seems like the philosophy component would make sense - that is, if you could reconcile it with your faith. 

 

This is exactly it! Reconciling yoga with my faith is what I'd like to do but don't know how. I have looked for muslim yoga forums/websites/blogs, but I haven't been able to find any. So I'm trying to find my own way - and this forum and Candace's blog/videos have already helped me loads.

 

Thank you, Kristi.

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You are welcome! I do not believe that the forum rules allow me to post external links, but I came across what seems like a great blog you may be interested in checking out. The name of the blog is Yogifari, the post is dated 2/17/12, and the title of the post is "A Muslim Yogi's Affirmation."

 

Candace really teaches from the heart (which is why I just love this site and forum) - she's such a great resource! I hope that you find the answers you are looking for.

 

Om Shanti

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'Zk',

Yoga has been around for a long time, 5000, 8000 years, who knows. The oldest written teachings that I know of are about 2000 years old and the details are a little foggy - unclear.

 

Who Was Patanjali?

http://www.yogajournal.com/article/philosophy/who-was-patanjali/

The truth is that nobody really knows much—not even exactly when the sa ge lived.

 

A Beginner’s Guide to Practice, Meditation, and the Sutras

http://www.yogajournal.com/article/beginners/yoga-questions-answered/

Is Yoga a Religion?

Yoga is not a religion.

It is also not necessary to surrender your own religious beliefs to practice yoga.

 

 

My point is that some people take yoga twist it around and beat others over the head with it, "You do it the way I tell you or you are wrong". Some people do that with anything. 

 

Yoga is your practice. Take only what gives you benefit.

 

This link is the basics of yoga. Is this something that will cause a conflict for you? If so throw out the conflicts and keep the ones that give you benefit.

 

THE FIVE YAMAS OF YOGA

http://www.yogabasics.com/learn/the-five-yamas-of-yoga/

 

Thank you for your question. It has made relearn and rethink what I thought I had known before, as I know it for my own practice, not to impose it on anyone else.

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You are welcome! I do not believe that the forum rules allow me to post external links, but I came across what seems like a great blog you may be interested in checking out. The name of the blog is Yogifari, the post is dated 2/17/12, and the title of the post is "A Muslim Yogi's Affirmation."

 

Candace really teaches from the heart (which is why I just love this site and forum) - she's such a great resource! I hope that you find the answers you are looking for.

 

Om Shanti

You're welcome to post outside links - we just ask that they really add to the conversation and are not of a spammy nature (totally not implying you were going to do this - just saying this for the benefit of everyone who is reading).

 

This is a fantastic discussion and I love that it gets to be had here in a respectful way. You guys are honestly the best.

 

To address the OP - in my yoga teacher training, there were a number of people who were not comfortable with the chanting. There was actually a very heated "discussion" (almost an argument!) between people about what the chants meant and if they were a betrayal of the students' religion. Anyway, in the end, it was agreed that they should come and sit and listen, but do not have to participate. For me, I'm a pick and choose kind of person. I pick what I love, and let go of whatever doesn't work for me. I'm not crazy about doing the actual chanting but I do love to listen to certain types. 

 

Yoga for me began for the physical benefits but as I practiced more and more and tried out different classes and teaching styles, I realized that there was something more going on. Definitely a connection to something deeper, something more profound - I couldn't ever really explain it to anyone, but it just felt so nice and it was mine. I think the practice may actually serve to deepen your own faith, provided you have a teacher who is open minded and not of the 'do it my way or you're doing it wrong' way of thinking that Anahata described. :13:

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Thank you Anahata and Candace, you have basically answered my questions. I think I got caught up in all the talk, without doing much!  of the exercise. 

 

Can't wait to join your monthly challenges! I'm actually starting a yoga class tomorrow so the plan is to use that class to correct my postures and do more practise at home. Let's see how it goes.

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However, what I noticed is that people take on yoga and also adopt Hinduism or Buddhism, make shrines, travel to India, become vegetarians, etc. Is that necessary or is it just a natural progression as you get more into yoga? I don't want to do that, I'd feel like I'm 'betraying' my own religion (Islam) in a way so I definitely want to stay away from that.

 

 

Just to echo many of the responses already, but this^ is certainly not true of everyone that does yoga. Some individuals have chosen this path, but in my experience it is actually a small proportion of yogis that experience yoga as a gateway to religion. I have certainly never heard of anyone converting from one faith to another after practising yoga.

I love yoga because for the most part it is inclusive, non-judgemental, liberating, tolerant and accessible. You are not "betraying" yourself or any faith by practising yoga. Anyone that claims otherwise doesn't understand how personal yoga is.

 

I myself am an atheist, a cynic, a sceptic and an all round curmudgeon when it comes to religion, yet I embrace yoga without any fear of hypocrisy. Okay, I sometimes have to consciously stop myself silently mouthing 'wtf' and rolling my eyes with some teachers, but I choose to do those classes because they are great teachers and I don't have to agree with everything they say.

 

I have to confess that I do have one small(ish) shrine to David Hasselhoff, but I can't blame yoga for that one.  :blush:

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