Yoga is not a dharma or religion; it is a vidya or knowledge. Vidya helps us to become more positive in life and to express in more positive ways. Acquiring knowledge in Yoga is known as Yoga Vidya. If thinking, behaviour and actions are correct and appropriate, the yoga practitioner can acquire yoga vidya irrespective to which religion he or she belongs. Yoga had been mentioned since immemorial time of Vedas and Upanishads in Sanatan Hindu dharma. While yoga may be in religions, many yoga practices with body, breath and mind along with their transcendent spirituality are neither characteristic of religions nor practiced by adherents of religions.
Yoga is now recognized as a discipline of health science. Many mystical subjective perceptions were associated with yoga and nobody knew the scientific basis of yoga for thousands of years. At the outset people only preferred to practice the physical aspect of yoga because the body felt good, light, vibrant and energetic. That is how asana and pranayama in yoga practice became popular, and even today most people only know this physical aspect of yoga. Yoga was practised in this way until integral yoga was started to be practised in a holistic method to discipline human behaviour, physical well-being, mind management and spiritual understanding. At the first instance to discipline human behaviour, the principles of yama and niyama in yoga should be adopted. For the physical well-being asana and pranayama can be practised. Scientifically conducted researches have shown that many illnesses and diseases like diabetes, arthritis, asthma, heart disorders, digestive problems of the stomach and many more can be managed and controlled through yoga practices. The yogic practices of concentration in dharana and relaxation practice like yoga nidra increase awareness, observation and perception of the mental behaviour. In the state of meditation or dhyana, the yoga sadhaka can develop the spiritual understanding.
Yoga was not well known and popular worldwide even in India almost half century ago. It is now widely practiced in countries like U.S.A., China and India irrespective of whether Christianity, Buddhism or Hinduism religion predominates in that country. It is now globally accepted,”Yoga is not a Religion”.
Dr.Mahesh Chandra Panda