WHY IS YOGA CONSIDERED A SCIENCE RATHER THEN A RELIGION
By Abbot George Burke [Swami Nirmalananda Giri]
Because it is a precise methodology that has nothing to do with faith or the action of another being–including God. If you do it, it works, if you don’t, it won’t. It is just like a machine. Doubtless there is such a thing as aptitude for yoga, as with any other practice, but the machine does not determine the success of the operator.
Facts are facts. And yoga is based on the highest facts.
Also, even though a general philosophy has developed as a result of the unanimous experience of yogis through the centuries, the philosophy is a side effect and of absolutely no influence in success in yoga. We have lived so long at the whim of “authorities” that we just can’t imagine not needing someone interfering with us. But yoga is a completely personal matter. You need not believe in it, and you can even laugh at it and deny its value. But if at the same time you are practicing you will get the same result as a person who has faith and values it. Oh, how wonderful it was to escape “If it be Thy holy will, O Loward” religion and find yoga that worked no matter how “worthy” or “sincere” I might not be.
When I was little I reached for a metal ring that was lying on top of a heater. “Don’t touch it!” I was warned. “You will get burnt.” I have no idea why, but I did not believe I could not manage. So I picked it up and got the most painful burn of my life, and hurt for a couple of weeks. My lack of faith did not affect the effectiveness of the ring to burn me. No one need accept yoga. Just do it. As Yogananda pointed out, the critics and deniers of yoga are the ones that have no experience of it, because they do not practice it.
When I was first learning yoga I often laughed at how funny the processes were, and how odd that they would produce the desired result. But they did. Always. Now, can you equate that with religion? Hardly. But yoga is the highest dharma. That is sure. [The yoga spoken of here is the science of Self realisation, not the bodily postures commonly called “yoga” today.
Yoga is a discipline, which includes breath control, simple meditation and physical postures used to alleviate health problems, reduce stress and make the spine supple.
Yoga is an ancient Indian body of knowledge that dates back thousands of years meaning “to unite or integrate”. Yoga then is about the union of a person’s own consciousness and universal consciousness.
Ancient Yogis had a belief that in order for man to be in harmony with himself and his environment, he has to integrate the body, the mind and the spirit. For these three to be integrated, emotion, action and intelligence must be in balance.
In Yoga the body is treated with care and respect for it is the primary instrument in man’s work and growth.
Yoga exercises improve circulation, stimulate the abdominal organs, and put pressure on the glandular system of the body, which can generally result in better health.
Breathing techniques were developed based on the concept that the breath is the source of life. In yoga students gain breathing control as they slowly increase their breathing. By focusing on their breathing, they prepare their minds for the next step meditation.
There is a general misconception that in meditation your mind has to go blank. It doesn’t have to be so. In meditation, students bring the activities of the mind into focus resulting in a quiet mind.
By designing physical poses and breathing techniques that develop awareness of our body, yoga helps us focus and relieves us from everyday stress.