Is Yoga replacing Religion?

yogapicIs yoga replacing religion?

In our 21st Century lives we seem to be busier than ever, and yet at the same time striving for more peace, downtime and self-connection. Whether this lack of relaxation manifests itself in stress, anxiety or other health problems, it is evident that something needs to change. As Judith Warner stated in The New York Times- ‘Such interiority seems to be a way to manage an unbearable sort of existential anxiety: a way to narrow the scope of life’s challenges and demands.’ Our inability to cope with ever-increasing burdens in the workplace or at school is evident – you only have to look at the latest trend ‘Huel’ which demonstrates that our lives are so busy that people in Britain are living off a wallpaper-tasting drink full of nutrients, in lieu of real food. So what are we turning to? Yoga, of course.

Currently in the UK, the yoga industry receives a whopping £812 million a year. GQ magazine recently described Lululemon’s yoga pants as a ‘cult obsession,’ and while some agree and see yoga as little more than ‘wellmania’ or even, as Brigid Delaney described it in The Guardian – ‘narcissistic,’ for others it is an escape, a way to get peace and counteract negativity and mental health disorders related to stress and overwork. Model and actress, Cara Delevingne, has praised yoga for changing her life, as it eased her out of a dark place and helped her to conquer her demons – but why couldn’t she conquer her demons in a different way? Why yoga? Britain is one of the least religious countries in the world  – only 30% of the population describe themselves as religious, whilst even less go to church and practise regularly. Our increasingly secular society, in my opinion, has lead to more and more people trying to find spiritual enlightenment and moral teachings elsewhere  – and this is often through yoga. As sales of the Bible and our appetite for traditional religion has plummeted, the sales of mind, body and spirit books have boomed.

Whether this is a good thing or not, irony surely lies in the fact that atheist yoga-fanatics who denounce the existence of a God and the meaning of religion are increasingly drawn into the spiritual teachings of yoga, and meditation  – which, essentially is very similar to prayer. Yoga is based on Buddist teachings – religious principles that many ignore, or don’t think about. Quiet reflection is not only found on a yoga mat, but on a prayer mat too  – it’s just that people prefer not to link the two. Humans as a species have an intrinsic need for peace, and whilst 100 years ago this was found in a church, nowadays it is on a yoga mat. It’s not hard to see why Catholicism is unpopular at the moment – you only need to look at the Catholic Church’s recent press on the child abuse to understand our population’s rejection of Catholicism, and the Christian faith in general.

As someone who enjoys yoga, and yet is a practising Christian, I feel that the need for equilibrium is essential. Yoga is an amazing art form that allows space and peace and encourages kindness, forgiveness, humility and a plethora of other positive, life-enriching benefits – just like Christianity. For me, yoga and religion complement each other  – it doesn’t matter that one is principally Buddhist, because if we look back to the roots of all religions, we believe in the same God and strive to achieve the same positive values in our lives. In the 21st Century, whether we need more time away from our phones that are constant sources of distraction, or moments of peace in our frantic lives, we should take that in whatever form we want. All I’m saying is that there is an undeniably strong link between Christianity and yoga. We accept ourselves on the yoga mat, so let’s accept this too.

Georgina, Head of Alumnae and External Relations


Photo credit: James Wvinner / Photo Researchers / Universal Images Group

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