My parents are Maltese Catholics so I spent many a Sunday in church trying to ignore my brother while he tried to make me laugh out loud. As I got older church became more about the opposite sex (Catholic high school boys were way hotter than my public school peers) and I realised that the adults were playing a role at church too. It was all about looking immaculate, behaving immaculately and parading immaculate children (a facade that dropped as soon as we piled into the car).
Needless to say, my faith wavered when I began an arts degree at university (you know what those arts students are like!) and that was that.
So…I delved into Buddhism, became vegetarian, had a child out of wedlock and spent some time with monks in Laos. I was happy during these years to ignore the crucifix hanging over the door at my parent’s house and the fact that my grandmother sat with rosary beads all day.
Discovering yoga when I was 25 illuminated my existence and answered all the ‘big’ questions that had always floated around in my head. Studying to teach yoga exposed me to Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras. Written some 2,500 years ago the Sutras are the bible of yoga. Suddenly I had clarity. More importantly, I had peace. I no longer felt the need to actively rebel against organised religion and I began to understand that Jesus was an original yogi…
5 Ways that Jesus was a Yogi
1. He loved God above everything else (Isvara pranidhana)
Jesus taught his followers to put God first and to surrender completely to him. This is the same message we receive in Sutra 2.1. Both Jesus and Patanjali agree that loving and surrendering to God purifies the mind, abolishes ego and leads to freedom.
2. He practiced the Yamas
The 5 Yamas are moral observances that yogis try to follow. They are: non-violence, truthfulness, non-stealing, chastity and greedlessness. We all know that Jesus followed the 10 Commandments, which similarly include not killing, honesty and non-coveting.
3. He walked on water
The third chapter of the Sutras is called Vibhuti Pada and in it Patanjali describes the supernatural powers available to a yogi who has integrated mind, body and soul. He writes about reading minds, becoming invisible, superhuman strength and the ability to walk over water. (Note that Patanjali lived some time between 500 and 200 B.C.)
4. He practiced non-attachment (vairagya)
Jesus knew that material possessions were worthless on the path of spiritual liberation and encouraged the rich to sell their belongings. Likewise, the Sutras describe vairagya; the cultivation of non-attachment to objects. Patanjali and Jesus knew that desiring objects got in the way of bliss and the experience of pure being.
5. He loved everyone
Jesus loved his father, his neighbours, the sick and poor, his disciples and his enemies. Sutra 3.24 describes how a yogi may gain strength, peace, happiness and freedom by perfecting friendship and compassion.
Yoga practitioners and teachers often have to convince people that yoga is not a religion but it is clear to me that Jesus was certainly a yogi.
Do you agree?
Has your yoga practice impacted upon your thoughts and feelings about religion?
Do your religious beliefs and your yoga practice complement one another?