Our goal at CYS is to really get at the heart of yoga. But to understand what that means we first need to return to what the word Yoga means. The exercises known as Asana (or postures) are actually a very recent addition to the endlessly broadening definition of yoga. In fact, when you hear that "yoga is over 5000 years old", it has little to do with yoga postures (which were only added to the definition about 150 years ago) and everything to do with the true meaning of religion. But...
WHAT IS RELIGION?... You may have heard someone speak of certain things they do on a regular basis to feel good or whole (or maybe just to keep their sanity) as their religion. For example, I recently heard a group of rock climbers agree that the rocks they climb are like their temples, the act of climbing is their meditation, and the skills and virtues gained from climbing is their religion. ...I have also heard basically the same from body builders, basketball players, runners, musicians, architects, doctors, scientists, mechanics; and one particularly poetic rant from a huge bodybuilder; but he actually spoke of body building as his "yoga." He didn't use the word religion. However, interestingly, if you were to research...
"Is Yoga a Religion?"
You would find the majority of responses to this question saying, "No, it is a science" or something similar; and often followed by something negative about Religion in general; yet without really knowing what the actual dictionary definition of religion is...
Interestingly, in the definition of Religion we find not only what Yoga is but also the meaning that many religious / yoga practices have lost: Wholeness, or practices that return one to Wholeness / Harmony.
The Sanskrit word Yog(h) (that today we call Yogah) can be traced forward to the English word Yoke; which means to bind disconnected parts back into a whole.
The word Religion is from the latin, Re, which means to bind back or return, and Legio meaning to make One or Whole. Thus, simply put, religion means to bind back and make whole. Thus, it is the same as yoga, thus...
Yoga is not A Religion,
Yoga Is (Sanskrit for) Religion
Religion Is (English for) Yoga
Ironically, many belief systems termed as yoga or as religion often act as an anti-yoke; aspiring to stand apart from others rather than working towards unity; all while claiming to be the only true yoga or true religion in the process...
Truly, there are some institutions in the world under the name religion that are actually divisive ~ anti-yogic. And truly there are many paths of yoga that do the same; they try to stand out by claiming to be "the one and only" true yoga path; but in this separation they also lose the essential idea of yoga ~ of religion ~ inherent in the very essence of the terms .
The Lotus Yoga Temple is a place meant to honor all practices and all practitioners, that seek and aspire to edify and unify consciousness and society; this likewise involves a unity of many diverse styles of yoga / religious / wholeness practices. This is why you see so many different syles and yogic events honored at CYS.
Though we teach a lot about asana (postures/stretching) we also hope that it becomes clear to our students that yoga goes far beyond the asana (posture) fetish that yoga has become most known for to most people today. For example, we also try to have regular classes or workshops on virtues, world religions, meditation, service to others, etc. ..anything that leads to greater wholeness / mind-body-spirit-unity / yoga.
As for religion, unity is not only possible but necessary to bring real peace to the world. "Co-exist" is not our motto, but rather: cooperate, unite, coordinate, harmonize,
work together - heal the planet!
In the Bahai Writings the religions of the world are regarded as Lamps. To argue, fight and divide over which Lamp (Prophet or Religion) is best is to completely miss the point of yoga/religion altogether. Once people divide over what they believe religion/yoga is, then the light begins to go out, just as when one scatters the embers of a once glowing fire.
There are many ways to wholeness and it matters not from where they come so long as they are true. And the test for truth is easy. If it brings unity it is true. It is an act of yoking. It is yoga. If it brings division, it is of no use even if it were true (...though in the distant past it may have been true and helpful).
Sometimes the light goes out of various lamps. But before the divisive egos and ideologies of men enter and scatter the flames the lamp is able to show the way. But some people will still worship the lamp even though they sit in the dark because the light has long been extinguished. Therefore it is advised...
Be a lover of the light, not the lamp.
Wherever truth and wholeness is illuminated
turn to that light.
All the Prophets are the Temples of the Cause of God,
Who have appeared clothed in divers attire.
If thou wilt observe with discriminating eyes,
thou wilt behold Them all abiding in the same tabernacle, soaring in the same heaven, seated upon the same throne, uttering the same speech,
and proclaiming the same Faith.
Such is the unity of those Essences of Being,
those Luminaries of infinite and immeasurable splendor!
What Is Yoga?
"In the effulgent lotus of the heart dwells Brahma,
the Light of Lights"
"The Lord is my Light; whom shall I fear?"
"The Light of Divine Amaterasu shines forever"
"Following the Light, the sage takes care of all"
"The radiance of Buddha shines ceaselessly"
"I have come into the world as Light"
"Allah is the Light of the heavens and the earth"
"God, being Truth, is the one Light of all"
"God is the sun beaming Light everywhere"
Native American Faiths
“The Light of Wakan-Tanka is upon my people”
- Song of Kablaya