If you have ever been to a yoga studio then I bet you came across at least two Hindu Gods. Ganesha, the guy with an elephant’s head, and Shiva, Maha Yogi, usually in his wild dancing pose.
When you come to my classes, it’s likely that you meet some of the Gods. Sometimes I tell you stories about them or we practice poses that are named after certain deities. Also, I can tell you, there are a few more Hindu Gods and Goddesses than just the two mentioned above that are worth meeting them on the mat.
But why do I and other yoga teachers tell you stories of a foreign religion? What has this to do with yoga when everybody is saying yoga is NO religion?
Yoga is no religion but intertwined with Hinduism
The first thing I want to get clear here is that Yoga is NO religion! Over the course of time, a lot of different “styles” of Yoga arose, with every style giving more focus to a certain aspect than another style. Some of them include devotional practices, like chanting the names of God, so it’s the name of the God from the culture Yoga came from. That’s it. If you’re into the God-thing – great! But you can also chant the Name of Jesus or Allah or whoever and don’t have to convert to Hinduism to become a “real yogi”.
Yoga is a philosophical system that includes mental and physical exercises to gain knowledge of the self and to cultivate inner peace and freedom. It’s designed to balance body, mind and spirit. It can bring you to a spiritual practice but you don’t need to be spiritual to start. Easy as that.
However, this philosophical system developed in a time where the Indian subcontinent was influenced by a lot of different cultural streams and the end-product you could say was Hinduism as we know it today. It was a mystical time where Rishis (seers, having visions in meditation), half-gods and all other mystical beings belonged to the materialistic world. They gave their wisdom to people who wrote these things down and some of these stories became epics. In texts like the Bhagavad Gita, for example, the two main characters, Krishna and Arjuna, talk about things like Karma, Dharma and Yoga. There are stories out there in which you can read that Shiva received in a meditational state of mind the wisdom of Yoga and without him, they say, Yoga would have never made it to the world. Therefore we name him God of the Yogis.
So again: Yoga is no religion, but you can’t avoid that you won’t find some deities on your journey through the yoga world because of the cultural background.
Yogi Soap Opera and what we can learn from it
When I came across the Hindu mythology, I inevitably fell in love with it from the first second on. And here is why: When you look at the stories of these gods and goddesses you may feel like you just stumbled across a crazy, wild and colourful soap opera. Continue reading “Yogi Soap Opera – Why I love Hindu Mythology”