With church attendance down and yoga classes up, the ancient practice may just become religion’s public enemy No. 1.

Seems as if I can’t walk out the front door without hearing about yoga these days (literally…there’s a yoga study right across the street from my apartment).

In my neck of the woods, more people seem to be coming out of yoga classes on a Sunday morning rather than church.

And it’s not just in new-age central, California, either. Retreats are abounding: everywhere from Massachusetts to Thailand, the best yoga destinations are now hotly debated around the web.

Are traditional church leaders scared? Christian televangelist Pat Robertson called yoga “spooky” a few years back:

Yet it appears that his view on yoga is rooted in misunderstanding. As one blogger put it, “Asking Robertson about yoga is about as futile as asking Paris Hilton for her insights on the theory of existentialism.”

Spiritual Or Religious?

So traditional church attendance appears to be waning. Does that mean Americans are less spiritual?

What might be considered damning to the very fabric of organized religion, a recent Huffington Post article posed an interesting theory: Americans, at least, are searching for spiritual experience over simple spiritual belief.

The author and Spiritual Program Director for Canyon Ranch Health Resorts, Jonathan Ellerby, states that:

Church attendance is down more than 10% from recent years and fewer people self-identify as Christian or religious…more and more people are connecting with regular and diverse spiritual practices such as meditation, yoga, mindfulness, expressive arts (such as dance, group singing/chanting), self-help studies, and spiritual travel.

He goes on to explain that anything in life where there is a felt-sense, like watching a sunset, connecting with a lover or pet, or even playing sports, has more impact than simply reading about it.

Even more importantly, he says: “The tolerance for guilt and passing one’s own ethics and judgment to an authority who is questionable and too human is less and less appealing.”

Yoga As Religion

Then there’s the question of whether or not yoga is a religion, or is at least rooted in one. Over the past six months, yoga has been banned by Islamic leaders in Malaysia and Indonesia due to its Hindu roots.

Food and Yoga blogger Karen Mackenzie questioned whether it’s possible for yoga and religion to work together. And Yoga Journal ran an article entitled, Is Yoga a Religion?, which noted:

There are ancient yogic texts (most notably, Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra) that many regard as scriptures, revelations of truth and wisdom meant to guide the lives of yogis down through the ages.

I can see how this might scare some leaders of organized religions, since it is giving people the ability to make choices and come to their own conclusions. Whether we explore externally via globe trotting, or internally via contemplation, breathwork, and movement, we give rise to our own truths.

And those truths may or may not look a whole lot different than what the church is telling you to believe.

For some good fun with a Christian twist, check out the farcical Yoga: A Religion for Sex Addicts.

Feature photo: adhiwus

Community Connection

Find out how some groups are doing to trademark this ancient practice in Asanas For Sale: The Privatization Of Yoga, and how to fit in yoga anytime with 7 Ancient Exercises You Can Do Anywhere.

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