The Debate on Yoga: Why a Peaceful Practice is Under Scrutiny


Yoga is a mix of fitness and religious practice. Yoga not only removes the mental stress of the body but also helps to maintain a good physique.

There has been a long withstanding argument between yoga enthusiasts and doubters on whether the practice is religious or just another form of exercise/fitness. Yoga students claim that it is just another form of exercise, Christian leaders don’t want anything to do with it, calling it an “occult practice,” and the rest believe it is a little bit of both with no clear distinction. In Washington, D.C a 5.75% Sales & Use tax targeting health club services, including recreational facilities and gyms, was implemented. This tax which also touches yoga studios caused uproar among yogis who claim that yoga is a spiritual exercise and not a physical exercise. This reignited the age old argument – is yoga a religious or fitness practice?

Yoga has always been linked to past Hindu traditions that involve mental, physical, and spiritual practices aimed at transformation of both mind and body. If you attend a yoga class for the first time, you will certainly notice how the session involves a lot of Hindu teachings, although most yogis don’t conform to a certain religion. Yoga slowly descended from a religious practice, and morphed into a form of spirituality. Although it is not practiced as a religion, it is part of a religion and still remains a secular activity. It is common knowledge that you cannot separate yoga from the philosophy. Most yoga classes involve various lessons from the Yoga Sutra which prescribes the kind of lifestyle that yoga students should live.

There are some Christian yoga enthusiasts who have started their own distinct kind of “Christian yoga” that strips the practice of any religious affiliation. These alternative types of yoga tend to be predominantly physical, doffing away all that is related to religion. This is, however, scoffed at by most yogis since this is no longer yoga but just another physical fitness exercise. Yoga without the “mind and soul” is not yoga; only if based on loose definitions of the term. Then yoga is in fact a hybrid of sorts, since you can never have a yoga session without the physical exercises. There are various other forms of mind, body, and soul exercises, which are not only differentiated by the type of exercises, but predominantly through the philosophy behind them.

Hence; yoga can be defined as a religious practice, but also driven by a physical fitness activity. Yoga cannot be separated from the Hindu practices behind it, although the tax is well justified because of the elements of the clearly defined physical activities.


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