My question is about yoga and Hinduism. In his beautifully written text The Religions of Man, Huston Smith lays out an accessible and fascinating explanation of Hinduism. He says of hatha yoga, “Originally it was practiced as preliminary to spiritual yoga, but it has largely lost this connection. . . . The yogas that do concern us [in the study of Hinduism] are those designed to unite the human spirit with the God who lies concealed in its deepest recesses.”
The author then goes on to explain that there are four main yogasjnana, bhakti, karma, and rajaall of which require a starting point based in morality. He describes the yamas and niyamas as applying to each of them.
My question: How do we separate hatha yoga from the four supposedly “religious” yogas, when they all seem to be based on the same philosophies and principles? I was taught in my teacher training that yoga is a path to God, regardless of how any individual conceives of or names that spirit. How do I reconcile this nonsectarian definition with one that springs directly from a specific religionin this case, Hinduism? What do I say to a student who asks me, “Isn’t yoga part of Hinduism?”
I deeply respect Hinduism’s approach. But I don’t consider myself Hindu, any more than I consider myself Buddhist or Jewish, even though I admire and respect many of their tenets.