When Religion and Yoga Are Confused

Read Aadil’s reply:

Dear Brittany,

Religion serves humanity by helping people move toward a union with that which is vaster than the petty self. Religion also unites human beings and helps them grow and feel fulfilled. Thus, the essence of religion is the same as the essence of yoga. Indeed, the essence of any great endeavor is the fulfillment and deep inner happiness of the seeker.


Because yoga developed along with Hinduism in India, many people confuse the Hindu religion with yogic practices. So let’s make it clear: You do not have to be a Hindu to practice yoga—indeed, yoga has almost nothing to do with Hinduism. It does not demand practitioners to worship any Hindu deities or deny any other faith. I myself am not a Hindu. I am a Zoroastrian—a very ancient faith based on the precepts of Good Thoughts, Good Words, and Good Deeds. My yoga practice moves me toward myself and makes me feel more focused, more alive, and more able to live my life as I choose to. Yoga helps me live my faith more fully.

You may choose the best way to handle each individual student based on your instincts about them. Some people are so closed-minded that trying to explain a different viewpoint will only create antagonism. When you have this feeling, simply let it go. But for someone who sincerely asks about the apparent conflict between religion and yoga, please tell them there isn’t one. Yoga is a tool for self-discovery, and the joy it brings will enhance whatever faith the person holds.

Recognized as one of the world’s top yoga teachers, Aadil Palkhivala began studying yoga at the age of seven with B.K.S. Iyengar and was introduced to Sri Aurobindo’s yoga three years later. He received the Advanced Yoga Teacher’s Certificate at the age of 22 and is the founder-director of internationally-renowned Yoga Centers™ in Bellevue, Washington. Aadil is also a federally certified naturopath, a certified <a href=”/health/ayurveda“>Ayurvedic health science practitioner, a clinical hypnotherapist, a certified shiatsu and Swedish bodywork therapist, a lawyer, and an internationally sponsored public speaker on the mind-body-energy connection.