What Is Yoga?
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. Asana (postures) is actually a very late comer to the definition of yoga. When you hear that yoga is 5000 years old, what is meant is that yoga in a more religious sense can be traced back that far, but what cannot be traced back that far, as a religious practice, is the popular aspect of what we call yoga today, called asana; the posture practice). In fact, posture practice has only been consid-ered as a form of yoga within the past 100 years.* On the other hand, asana could always have been considered to be a practice of yoga; or more appropriately put, asana or any other lifestyle practice that is done with yoga as its goal ~ is a practice of yoga. But...
WHAT IS YOGA?... You've probably heard that any way of life can be a religion. For example, I recently heard rock climbers say that the rocks are their temples and the skills and virtues gained from climbing is their religion. I have 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 greater majority of responses to this question are, 'No, it is a science' or something similar. And often this will also be followed by something negative about what Religion is, and 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 religions / yoga practices have lost ...to return to Oneness.
The Sanskrit word Yogh (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,,,
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 ~ inherent in its very name. 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 / unity / 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 virtue, 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.
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!
"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