When you say yoga people react differently. The group that uses it as a form of exercise or meditation will tell you that it has nothing to do with their religion. It is simply a modern form of hatha yoga focused on stress relief and physical relaxation. Some Christians will remind you that it stems from Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism and hence it is a religion. I am sure this will be a debate for as long as it exists. It will come into popularity and fall out of favor many times.
For me personally, I was doing yoga at a young age before I even heard the term yoga. My Korean grandmother was a Buddhist and when I visited her, we would wake up and go to the garden and “stretch to the sun” and as we harvested she would have me stretch to my toes and so on. She had witnessed the abuse I endured and while her upbringing would not allow her to say anything negative about my mother, I realize now she was always helping me to deal with the pain.
When we would go to the beach to dig for clams, she would also have me do many stretches. It was lovely how she would incorporate almost a dance with it. She would have me reach down and touch the water barely with the tips of my fingers and let them linger there. I was learning the triangle pose without even knowing it. She would see birds in the air take flight and told me to follow them with my arms but keep my feet planted. If I woke up from nightmares she would have me do what is now known as child’s pose to restore my calm. I would continue these stretches when I returned home to mother and remember my grandmother’s calming guidance.
For most of my life I did yoga without calling it yoga since I had never heard the term. When a friend in college invited me to a yoga class she was amazed that I already could do a third of the poses without any effort. I learned more and really appreciated how they helped me to stretch my body and calm my mind. I was very flexible in body and I am glad it was a part of my self care routine.
Fast forward to having children. They both have been taught yoga by me and the magic of Youtube. They have also had introductory classes in school and at various children’s activities. Neither of them did it on a daily basis and of course just by age, they are so flexible already! For my youngest who has ADHD doing morning and evening yoga stretches have really been helping her to center herself. I can see she is calmer and more focused. She has found the cutest yoga with kittens video and seems to be enjoying the benefits of the stretching.
So, in our house it is definitely not a part of a religious practice. For us it is a way to improve balance and flexibility as well as a relaxation method. I really need to get back into a routine of it to help reduce my arthritis symptoms.