Through my experience with yoga, I have come to a conclusion that I don't have to subscribe to a particular religion to be spiritual. My parents are Buddhists and I went to an all Christian University, but nonetheless, I’ve never felt any strong calling towards any of the religions I grew up with. When I am faced with situations that are beyond my control, I want to trust and believe that a higher power will answer my prayers so I have a feeling of hope to get through any afflictions. I would pray to a one Almighty God and seek for his advice, but on many occasions, I would question the validity of the God I was praying to. Should I be worshipping Buddha or Jesus because of my background? Would I feel a stronger connection to Allah if I learnt more about Muslim beliefs? Could the Torah perhaps be my calling instead? These philosophical questions were always in the back of my mind.
Being the naturally inquisitive and explorative perfectionist that I am, I wanted to know all the answer(s) with regards to my faith and worship. I have always believed that there was a sense of connection to something bigger than ourselves, perhaps one God – a principal object of faith - that unites all of us together. Hence, I also wanted to know and understand more about this higher power I was praying to… Little did I know what I sought for was a spiritual state of consciousness.
I have been going to regular yoga classes for about 3 - 4 years now, and through my practice, I’ve found that yoga is so much more than just doing asanas or exercising. Yoga became a path for me to harmonise my body with my mind and breath through pranayama and meditation. Yes, yoga does have Hindu origins that date back thousands of years, but I’ve never felt obligated to worship the likes of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. On the contrary, I was taught to show them respect because after all yoga postures were dedicational postures designed to express reverence towards the Hindu Gods. The yoga teachers I’ve encountered over the years have never forced me into worshipping any Hindu deities or asked me to perform any rituals, but rather, encouraged me to promote the development of my own mental, physical and spiritual power and consciousness.
Slowly and gradually, I also started to understand that I am and can be spiritual rather than religious. The God I was looking for comes from within. As a yoga practitioner, I can use my body to pray and express devotion. I can also seek for my own divine consciousness rather than follow any dogmas or belief systems.
Spirituality comes from within, and yoga is a path to a spiritual world that promotes a higher consciousness within oneself rather than it being a religious activity.
I have had many ups and downs in my life and yoga has really been keeping me sane through both the good times and the tough ones. Practicing yoga has not only improved my strength physically, but also mentally and spiritually. Its teachings have taught me how to connect to my Self and live a happier life from within. It helps me connect to the present moment and makes me feel whole despite of all the noise in life. This new found inner consciousness and sense of calmness and focus I get when practicing yoga has gotten me through many unpleasant days and I find myself getting stronger and stronger by the day. And because of that I am filled with gratitude towards my pranayama and asana practices and I know that yoga will always play a huge part of my life!
By Geraldine Pang