During my journey to become a Yoga Instructor, I was pleasently surprised by the similarities between Yoga and Islam. A famous author, Swami Nityananda said ‘"Yoga is beyond all religions" in his book. Very well said, I thought to myself.
Yoga is not a religion; yoga is not only attached to the Hindu religion but has a universal applicability. I believe it helps you to follow your own religion or whatever you believe in a better way
The word 'Islam' means 'peace' and 'surrenders the will to God'. The word ‘yoga’ is derived from Sanskrit root Yuzjir meaning "union or to join, merging of individual soul to universal soul".
Effect & Benefits,
Namaz and yoga both generates inner energy, vitality and flexibility.
Purification & Physical cleanness
Both Yoga and Namaz require basic physical and moral cleanliness and purity. Before practicing either yoga or namaz, both is using water to rinse the breathing passages: a yoga kriya (cleansing practice) called jala neti consists of pouring water into one nostril so that it flows through the sinuses and out the other nostril. And Namaz does the same during ‘Ablution’.
TADASANA AND QUAYAM (MOUNTAIN POSITION)
One stands erect after declaring his intension of namaz and raise the hands with open palms up to the ears saying "Allah -o-Akbar". This is the first posture called "Quayam".This position resembles "Tadasana" a yoga asan/posture. As verticality is the essence of religion and energy, this pose is essential for both practices.
A session of yoga practice normally concludes, just before final relaxation, with a thorough twist of the whole spine - Ardha matsyendrasana to the right and to the left. It helps to even out the spine from the other poses it has done and keep everything balanced. In much the same way, namaz concludes with the prayer of peace (salam) said while turning the head to the right and then to the left. This namaz posture gives benefits of ardha matsyendrasana.
The word asana means 'seat' and the basic postures for meditation are seated ones, especially the Lotus. The Diamond Pose (vajrasana) is practically identical with the seated position of salât called jalsah. This has caught attention of both yogis and Muslims in India. Nizami writes: "This is a HARDY POSE or is like VAJRASANA." Swami Sivananda in his book ‘Yoga Asanas’ writes: "This Asana resembles more or less the Namaz pose in which the Muslims sit for prayer." Furthermore, both vajrâsana and jalsah are the same as the ‘zazen’ posture of Japan.
When sitting in the Lotus, a yoga mudra that accompanies meditation is made by forming the index finger and thumb into a circle. The Islamic mudra, made while sitting in jalsah, is to extend the index finger in a straight line (to attest to the Oneness of God), while forming the thumb and middle finger into a circle. The figure 1 and the figure 0 can convey a Tantric symbolism, and also are curiously similar to the binary 1 and 0 of computer science.
I have read that the Holy Qur’an, in addition to all else it may be, is a set of breathing practices. And it is not surprising to note that in yoga, the science and art of breathing is the paramount. In most languages, the words for 'breathing' and 'spirit' are the same or closely related. The Arabic word for 'spirit' is rûh, coming from a root with several interconnected meanings: 'to relax', 'to breathe', In Yoga, the Sanskrit word corresponding to rûh is âtman, which also comes from an Indo-European root meaning 'breath',
FOOD AND ALCOHOL
Prophet Muhammed highlighted that milk and ghee are beneficial, and that beef is detrimental to health, which is same as the Yoga Philosophy. Also both discourage eating onions and garlic excessively. Both also forbids usage of alcohol.
I believe it s possible to practice Islam and live its philosophy through Yoga, in a more modern way with no stereotypes and freedom. In the end, both are practices to meet one’s himself, his inner peace and God.