People new to yoga sometimes get nervous that they are joining a religion. There may notice unfamiliar chants, colorful gods (plural) and a philosophy of life that has little to do with the Judeo-Christian perspective.
Even though I practice yoga and meditation each day, I follow a spiritual path, and not a religious tradition.
What is the difference between spiritual practice and religious tradition?
For me, following a spiritual path means developing a close and personal relationship to the present moment, acknowledging the presence of something beyond the small “s” self. A religious tradition may be rooted in history and dogma, and miss this element entirely. Religion without spirituality could be called ritual. Spirituality without religion is called path.
Establishing your own spiritual path empowers you to live according to your own belief system. You may not even have a belief system. You don’t need one. When you experience something, you don’t need to believe it. You know it.
Maintaining a daily connection to a spiritual path through practicing yoga and mindfulness meditation helps make my life manageable and meaningful. This is something that I never experienced in any religious tradition.
The Discipline of Daily Practice
I was able to overcome a lifetime of negative habitual patterns through the discipline of maintaining a daily practice. This internally imposed tradition allows me to relax into the rest of the day, knowing that I have the backbone of an awareness practice to absorb the waves of challenging emotions — like the ones that tend to make themselves known during stressful life phases.
If you struggle to find a way to fit into a religious tradition that no longer reflects your values, perhaps you could take a moment to reflect on what is important to you. When you discover your true values, then you can create your own traditions.