October 14, 2011
Yoga, Money and Religion
I recently read a disheartening article about Yoga as a means of a career path, and how financially successful Yoga teachers can potentially become, insinuating that it is a good “field” to get involved with for this purpose, since we as Americans are becoming more health-conscious and many are using Yoga as a tool for improving health.
This struck a cord within me, realizing that I am responsible to representing the tradition and teachings of Yoga, and this entire concept actually contradicts what Yoga is. By definition, Yoga is a spiritual practice. It is a means, a philosophy, a practice of dropping the ego; peeling off the outer layers of our consciousness, to reveal one’s true nature deep within their spirit. Yoga literally translates into “union”, or to “yoke”. It is practice and philosophy toward a realization…no deeper…an awareness, of the inherent interconnectedness of your highest Self as divinity, and an awareness that we are ALL that, individually and collectively.
The physical aspect of Yoga, is only 1 of 8 limbs of Raja Yoga. Yoga is NOT mere asana (postures) with the body. We may use the body as a tool for breaking down physical and mental barriers, for opening to what essence is already there residing deep inside the self. Oneness. Divinity. Asana is NOT what Yoga is, but only a mere portion.
Yoga as a religion? Nope. What would that religion be…Union? (With my Ultimate Self) Yoga can be practiced by absolutely anyone, regardless of religious beliefs. Even the Hindu-American Society encourages us to share Yoga’s teachings, honor that Yoga came from Hindu roots…but use Yoga and share Yoga in a way that could possibly enhance any religion, in a way that could bring your closer to faith in whatever God/Higher Power you realize. Religion does not reside within Yoga, but Yoga could reside within ANY religion.
Whether you are practicing Yoga as a means to enhance your religious beliefs or not, or if you are agnostic; Yoga is still a spiritual practice toward ultimate oneness and personal faith. It is a practice of cultivating trust in the Universe, and trust in one’s Self. Unity. So, it is our responsibility as Yoga teachers to fully comprehend this, not only on a mental level (through education), but also on a spiritual level (in our deepest heart space). And it is through this, that we can know that we share in the great honor of passing these ancient teachings of Self-realization with their original intent.
As well-stated by Dr. David Frawley, an internationally recognized scholar and teacher, is quoted in the Sept./Oct. 2000 issue of Yoga Journal:
Yoga in the West “has only scratched the surface of the greater Yoga tradition.” He says “The Yoga community in the West is currently at a crossroads. Its recent commercial success can be used to build the foundation for a more profound teaching, aimed at changing the consciousness of humanity. Or it can reduce Yoga to a mere business that has lost connection with its spiritual heart. The choice that Yoga teachers make today will determine this future.”
Sure, as teachers we provide a service of teaching (not mere body instruction). We invest time, effort, money, energy into education and in sharing these teachings. For this, we have fees, and are financially compensated. To become a teacher, is not to say that we should all accept living in poverty. But to use Yoga as a means of gaining financial freedom or success is in all ways a complete contradiction of what Yoga is.
An important Yogic teaching, as revealed clearly in the Bhagavad Gita, is during this path of coming to one’s Self; we release all attachment to having any particular outcome from our efforts. Teaching Yoga brings many gifts of insight to one’s self and to others, which is the reward. Having an attachment to any financial outcome by teaching is the same as setting the “successful business” of Yoga as an attainable goal. If this is your mindset of how Yoga is viewed, you may also fall into the belief system that practicing Yoga means practicing asana. If you are teaching mere asana, then it should be called “asana class” or “fitness class” instead of “Yoga.”