Is Yoga a form of religious Hinduism? Are beliefs such karma, reincarnation or gods needed to practice it? Is appropriate to practice yoga if you are agnostic, atheist or believer in other religions such us Buddhism, Islam, Christianity etc?
Religion is a social-cultural system of designated behaviors and practices, morals, worldviews, texts, sanctified places, prophecies, ethics, or organizations, that relates humanity to supernatural, transcendental, or spiritual elements.
So Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Jainism, etc, are religions.
Vaishnavism, Shaivism, Saakteism, etc, being in vogue under the name of Hinduism are religions.
However, Yoga is basically a pure SPIRITUAL CONCEPT.
The Sanskrit noun योग yoga is derived from the root yuj "to attach, join, harness, yoke".
Rig veda 5.81.1
युञ्जते मन उत युञ्जते धियो विप्रा विप्रस्य बर्हतो विपश्चितः | वि होत्रा दधे वयुनाविद एक इन मही देवस्य सवितुः परिष्टुतिः ||
The illumined yoke their mind and they yoke their thoughts to the illuminating godhead, to the vast, to the luminous in consciousness;
So Yoga means joining the mind with the God, ie., it indicates pure SPIRITUALITY.
Asanas, Pranayama, etc, which are part of Asthanga Yoga, will aid in joining the mind with the God.
A human can be irreligious/agnostic/religious, but can be SPIRITUAL.
Dr. Paul Brunton, a sceptic, approached Sri Ramana Maharshi and got spiritually elevated.
One has to understand the term religion to answer this question. What is a religion? A religion as understood in the western world consists of a belief in a God completely external to the universe and belief in certain doctrines and dogmas.
Hinduism or Sanatana Dharma is not religion by the definition given above.
What is the spirit of Hinduism? What are the essential principles? The spirit of science is not dogmatic certainty but the disinterested pursuit of truth, and Hinduism is infused by the same spirit. Fixed intellectual beliefs mark off one religion from another, but Hinduism sets itself no such limits. It is comprehensive and synthetic, seeking unity not in a common creed but in a common quest for truth. Hinduism is more a way of life than a form of thought. It insists not on religious conformity but on a spiritual and ethical outlook in life. It is fellowship of all who accept the law of right and earnestly seek for the truth.
History of Bengal, Bihar and Orissa under British rule by L.S.S. O’Malley quoted in British Paramountcy and Indian Renaissance Part II edited by R. C. Majumdar
Since Hinduism involves seeking for the Truth and is not a mere belief system, it needs a method for seeking. Yoga is such a method. So the answer to the question is Yoga is not a religion but a method used by followers of Sanatana Dharma to search for truth.
No, it's not.
According to a wikipedia article on Hinduism ref here:
In whatever way a Hindu defines the goal of life, there are several methods (yogas) that sages have taught for reaching that goal...
Yoga is defined as a method not as a religion which as four paths: Bhakti Yoga (the path of love and devotion), Karma Yoga (the path of right action), Rāja Yoga (the path of meditation), Jñāna Yoga (the path of wisdom). Another method of Yoga is the one explained by Patanjali in the Yoga Sutras which could be considered a form of Raja Yoga. "Yogas chitta vritti nirodha" is Patanjali’s definition of yoga which means that yoga is the removing of the fluctuations of the mind.
Hinduism is in fact a form of Bhakti Yoga, just like Christianity or any other devotional religion.
According to wikipedia:
This "Hindu synthesis" started to develop between 500 BCE and 300 CE...
There is no consensus on its chronology or specific origin other than that yoga developed in ancient India. Suggested origins are the Indus Valley Civilization (3300–1900 BCE) and pre-Vedic Eastern states of India, the Vedic period (1500–500 BCE)
Apparently Yoga is way older than Hinduism itself. Meditative practices in India seem predate any dogma and it's harder to identify when those practices were firstly called Yoga being Sanskrit a 3500 year old language:
The meaning of the word "Yoga" is "union". It is derived from the Sanskrit root "yuj," (pron. "yug") meaning "to join"
Some teachers of Yoga in the Western world:
He was a pioneer in introducing Yoga in the western world in the 1920's-1930's.
...he claimed was the complete harmony and basic oneness of original Christianity as taught by Jesus Christ and original Yoga as taught by Bhagavan Krishna... ref here
He was a Sivananda's disciple ref here and founder of the International Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centres and Ashrams. At those centres chants are dedicated to all deities (Allah, Mosses, Buddha etc) and they teach a universal mantra. ref here ref here and ref here
Acharya Rajneesh (Osho)
He was a very controversial yoga teacher in India and the Western World during the 1980's. ref here
Technology comes from the mind and religious technology also comes from the mind – Yoga, mantra, yantra. Yoga means body postures, which can help you to go deep inside yourself; they are created by the mind. That is religious technology. That’s why Yoga is not part of any particular religion. There can be Christian yoga, there can be Hindu yoga, there is certainly Buddhist yoga, Jaina yoga – there can be as many yogas as there are religions.Yoga is just a technology. No machine is Hindu; no machine is Mohammedan. ref here
Yoga as taught in the Western world is a physical, ethical, mental, existential, spiritual, etc. method for personal development. This method can or cannot include Hinduism as base.
we all are speaking this in context of mind, Yoga, religion, spirit, oneness. We can name it anything... it is other dimension beyond this physical entity and can only be experienced and known ! what ever we name it, it is just words that be interpreted in our brain. what if we don,t understand and just admire something of no meaning / immense knowledge .. that might what yoga meant to be..just my thought !!!