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Community Voices: Yoga and Religion
April 28, 2014
Has yoga changed your relationship with your religion? In what ways?
I went to Catholic school when I was young. I went to church camp and sang in the church choir. But at some point all of this drifted away. I stopped going to church. I never thought much about it but it was like the end of a relationship. It was over and I just moved on and never looked back. Like I broke up with Jesus. Then years later I started practicing yoga.
As my yoga practice deepened and I began to nurture and rekindle my relationship with God, this time in different forms than before, I began to also notice Jesus everywhere. On the altars at the Sivananda centers and ashrams and in the literature that Swami Sivananda wrote. One Christmas season when I went to take my yoga class there was a book by Swami Sivananda on the shelf at the yoga center, “The Life and Teachings of Lord Jesus.” It caught my interest. I was surprised that Swami Sivananda would write a whole book about Jesus. It didn’t make any sense to me. I bought the book. I read it. And I began to reconnect with Jesus in a deeper, more meaningful, and powerful way. In a personal way. Wow! Jesus was a great yogi!
I am so grateful for my yoga practice for many reasons. One of these reasons is the rekindling of this special friendship that I had turned away from for so many years. Yoga brought this very special teacher and example back into my life.
The yoga practice has deepened my relationship with Judaism, because in every yogic teaching I find similarities to the Jewish teachings I was raised with. Teachings of the oneness of the Divine remind me of the Shema, the Jewish prayer that also tells us to realize God’s oneness. I also like that the yoga has expanded my perspective, so that I now see kernels of wisdom in all the spiritual traditions.
I was raised without a religion and my family looked down on people who believed in God. I was proselytizing for atheism at 12 years old, my Jewish and Catholic classmates gathered round as I stood on my chair announcing to them (and in my mind proving to them) that God did not exist. It’s been many years since then, the last 21 of which I’ve been on a yogic path … at first I found it easier to just sort of witness and celebrate the Hindu deities — they seemed fun and colorful and … distant. A big awakening came for me when I encountered the “Divine Feminine” — the awareness that “God” was also feminine, that I, as a woman, was also somehow divine. Gradually I’ve gotten more comfortable with the word God, which for me describes a feeling of aliveness inside that’s connected with an everything beyond what I can conceive. I still don’t have a religion, but now I have a deep respect for people who do, especially when it’s an inclusive and loving one.
Thanks to the Sivananda karma yogi program I attended three years ago in the darkest moment of my life, I was able to recognize that a spiritual path is open to all … as a Christian I noticed that Sivananda is a beacon of light and an aide to finding out how to be a better Christian.
The spiritual path is available to any and all and Sivananda has a powerful history encouraging yogis to find their open road to the Divine.