Yoga (meaning “to bind together”), with its origins traced back to India, is a physical, mental and spiritual exercise that has gained some currency in the contemporary western world. Within the west yoga is seen as being no more than a series of therapeutic physical exercises, however it has strong connections to Eastern religions with many millions of devotees; in these Eastern religions it possesses a serious spiritual core that is taken to be more than merely an exercise (1). It has many of its practices ground in the religions/philosophies of Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism (2). Though debated, the earliest forms of yoga are mentioned in ancient Eastern sacred texts such as the Hindu Upanishads (3) and Buddhist Pāli Canon (4).
Thus, for many, yoga is a complete way of life with a very strict physical, mental and moral control. However, in the west (where it was introduced following Swami Vivekananda successful inroads) it has gained acceptance in medical, psychological, educational and religious circles through disciplines such as centering, relaxation therapy, self-hypnosis and creative visualization. These are designed to lead to “the realization of one’s true “godhood” through an inward meditative journey that finally locates the ultimate source of everything within the human psyche” (5). As to its theology, yoga is wholeheartedly pantheistic, seeing God as being “the ultimate substratum of all there is” (6).
1. Jantos, M. 2012. Oxford Textbook of Spirituality in Healthcare. p. 362–363.
2. White, D. 2011. Yoga, Brief History of an Idea (Chapter 1 of “Yoga in practice”).
3. Carmody, D. & Carmody, J. 1996. Serene Compassion. p. 68.
4. Singleton, M. 2010. Yoga Body: The Origins of Modern Posture Practice. p. 25–34.
5. Hunt, D. 1985. The Seduction of Christianity, Harvest House Publishers. p.110.
6. Davies, E. 1990. Truth Under Attack. p. 238.