Yoga is an inseparable part of the Hindu religion. The practice of yoga was evolved in ancient India by spiritually evolved Indian sages. Main aim of yoga in ancient India was to direct a person to achieve higher spiritual standards in the mission to achieve salvation. These practices were documented by Patanjali in the form of Yoga sutras. Also, all the yogic disciplines are detailed in the many scriptures of the Hindu religion like the Vedas, Mahabharata, Bhagavad Gita etc. Hence, it is incorrect to divorce the spiritual disciplines of hinduism and yoga.
Yoga is a practical path to self-realization, a means of attaining enlightenment by purifying the entire being, so that the mind-body can experience the absolute reality underlying the illusions of everyday life.
The word yoga is derived from the root yuj (to yoke, to unite), which means to unite or to join together the soul and the divine. A man who seeks after this union is called a yogi. The ultimate aim of yoga is to attain liberation of soul from the cycle of life and death.
There are four main paths of yoga to achieve the spiritual goal of life. People from any religion can follow any one or more of the following paths:
Yoga is definitely not a religion. Yoga can be equally followed by religious people, atheist or agnostics. People from all religions can benefit from yoga while still following their own religious beliefs. All Hindus do not practice yoga. Following the practice of yoga is personal decision by an individual to better health or spiritual life. Therefore you do not have to become a Hindu to get benefits of yoga. Though hinduism and yoga are closely related, yoga in itself can be practiced without following any religion.
Not all people are drawn to yoga for spiritual enlightenment. The yoga which is most popular in the west is Hatha Yoga, consisting of bodily exercises. The name is derived from Sanskrit Ha, which means female principle and Tha, the male principle. It means yoga can be practised by both men and women with the object of achieving complete control of the body.
Hatha yoga involves physical and spiritual purification. The most important feature of Hatha yoga is the practice of asanas or yoga postures. There are 84 basic asanas and most of them may not be possible for all of us. It is worth mentioning that even a few of the simplest asanas practiced daily along with practice of pranayama can produce remarkable results. On the practical side yogic study guarantees youth, health, strength, vitality and longevity. On the esoteric side it develops intuition, inspiration, vision of God and spirit of one-ness with the supreme spirit.
Hinduism and Yoga are linked together, but practice of yoga can be considered solely for getting health benefits in busy and modern life.
On the spiritual front, Yoga urges a person to take a holistic view of life, carry out all worldly duties but in a detached way. For spiritual advancement, look for mediation techniques beyond asanas and pranayama. For this a guru is required. This guru has to be one who is above materialism of life. A guru who is more worried about money cannot guide you for genuine meditation and salvation.
Remember, all human beings are believed to be created by a supreme power which was there much before the origin of any religion.