A Mormon Yogi

Last week, I received the following question from a friend:

How DO you manage to be a devoted Mormon and Yogi at the same time?  The Mormons here would not tolerate such an oxymoron.  Please enlighten me!

I have been asked similar questions many times over the years.  If you search for any combination of Mormon or LDS and Yoga or Yogi, the first link is an article I wrote more than 8 years ago, An LDS Yogi.  That doesn’t make me the #1 expert on the subject but I have been LDS (a Mormon) all my life and a “devoted Mormon Yogi” since 2002.  As I’ve thought about answering this question, it seems to be three questions:

  1. What do Mormons believe?
  2. What do yogis practice?
  3. Do they contradict each other?

What do Mormons Believe?

I could write so much under this heading but that won’t help; so, I’ll stick to the basics.  We believe in God, the Eternal Father, and in His Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost.  We believe that the Father and the Son are two individuals with bodies of flesh and bone and that the Holy Ghost is a personage of spirit.  We believe that all people everywhere are spirit children of God.  We believe that as the children of God, we can become like Him.  We believe that this life is a time to prove our willingness to follow God’s commandments and that we all fail to live up to our potential.  We believe that, unaided, we cannot become like God because we are not perfect.  We believe that Jesus Christ, being perfect, atoned for our sins and overcame death. We believe that through His atonement, all people will be resurrected and all people can repent and be made perfect if they chose.  We believe that God continues to speak to any of His children who approach Him.  We also believe that He continues to speak to all people through the voice of His ancient and modern prophets.

There’s more but those are the bare basics.  While those are the basic doctrines of the church, they say very little about how a Mormon should be.  Here is how a Mormon should be:  Honest, true, chaste, benevolent virtuous and one who does good to all.  In short, we should love all unconditionally.  Also, if we learn of anything that is virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things.  We are, like everyone, prone to make mistakes.  Like I wrote above, we all fail to live up to our potential.

If you feel something vital is missing from my list, let me know in the comments below.

What Do Yogis Practice?

Again, I could write a book on this subject . . . oh, wait, I am writing a book!  Here are the basic practices of yoga as outlined by Patañjali:

  1. Yama—Outward behaviors, the Great Vow
  2. Niyama—Inward behaviors
  3. Asana—Postures
  4. Pranayama—Breath control
  5. Pratyahara—Inward Focus
  6. Dharana—Single pointed concentration
  7. Dhyana—Meditative Awareness
  8. Samadhi—Realization, Oneness

The 5 yama are non-violence, truth, non-stealing, celibacy/moderation/moral code and non-hoarding.  The 5 niyama are purity, contentment, self-sacrifice, self-study and devotion.  Postures, breath and inward focus are all tools to experience stillness of mind.  Concentration and meditative awareness are profound levels of a still mind that allow for the experience of Oneness.  The experience of Oneness reveals our true nature which is the divine Presence that we are.  Being established in that Oneness leads to liberation.  That’s yoga in a nutshell.

If you feel something vital is missing from this list, let me know in the comments below.

Do They Contradict Each Other?

In my 14 years of experience; no, there is no contradiction between yoga and Mormonism.  Both state that we are eternal beings having a mortal experience.  Both require that we love all.  One says it as love thy neighbor and the other as non-violence.  There is an important difference between yoga and Mormonism though. One is a set of practices that teach a person how to be with their Self and, by extension, with others.  The other is a set of doctrines that teach a person how to be with God and, by extension, with others.  In my eye, they are two halves of one great whole.

Do you see contradictions that I have missed?  If so, please let me know below!

Jai Bhagwan!

I will be speaking about this live tonight.  Find details on Facebook.