Yoga practitioners are always in a dilemma about the “acceptable” lifestyle. At the core of this dilemma is religion and what we consume. The general public, on the other hand, has already passed the verdict that yoga is a religious practice that mostly consists of vegetarians and hippies. It has been the most significant drawback in a lot of people being hesitant to join yoga. But, is yoga really a religious practice? Does one need to be a vegetarian? And can one lead a normal life and still be able to practice yoga?
For many people, the main concern in a yoga class is whether they are breathing correctly, they are holding the asana correctly or if they are following the class rhythm. In the western world, it is an exercise, just like Pilates, where there is no religion or God involved in the entire process. They follow a strict gym regiment which directs the actions of every individual from the time they step in the gym to the minute the leave. It is, however, not the intended purpose of yoga in the religious sense.
In India, yoga is practiced by being heavily intertwined with religious dogmas and deities. It is practiced as a way of achieving enlightenment. Deities are placed strategically in yoga schools, and particular respect is paid to them. It dictates the way of life, observance of behavior, and has strict rules to be followed in order to liberate a person from physical attachments. Although there is no diet for yoga practitioners in India, it is prohibited to eat or drink anything produced by a cow as it is viewed as a symbol of spirituality with divine power.
The church views the practice of yoga as an advancement of the Hinduism. In one of the recent confrontation, a pastor in the United Kingdom banned the practice of yoga around his church’s vicinity, claiming that it is a Hindu spiritual exercise. He argued that allowing such practice to go on, went against his belief and, as a Catholic priest, his work was in direct conflict with Hinduism clearly stating that he was only concerned with spreading the gospel of Jesus and the bible.
Other religions, such as Muslim and Jewish religions are also against the practice of yoga. They have gone as far as labeling the practice of yoga as demonic. In most Arabic countries, for example, it is highly unlikely to meet any yoga practitioners with some going as far as claiming it is a form of blasphemy. It has, therefore, resulted in a debate about whether yoga is a religious practice or not.
However, with all these conflicting arguments about yoga, religion, and vegetarianism, a lot of people have chosen to practice yoga without adherence to any religious form. They have been able to just take it as a form of lifestyle and exercise and nothing more than that. They respect other people beliefs and have been at the forefront of spreading the yoga practice to all people in the world, regardless of which religion one associates with.
In conclusion, yoga can be practiced by anyone. One can make their own conscious decision on whether they will follow it as a form of religion or they will just take it plainly as yoga exercises. It is okay in yoga to be a vegetarian and also from any religion.