Why do so many Buddhists do yoga?

Why do so many Buddhists do yoga? Such a question may not have been asked a century ago. However, as the Western world continues to embrace both Buddhist and Yogic philosophies, many people are beginning to blend certain aspects of each practice into their everyday lives. Westerners are most familiar with hatha yoga, which refers to yoga postures or asanas. What they may not be aware of is the fact that yoga is also a spiritual path; one that has eight limbs. The physical practice of yoga postures is just one of the eight limbs. While Buddhism and the spiritual path of yoga share many of the same ideas, the two have not always been practiced together.

Many Buddhists have found that practicing yoga significantly improves their meditation sessions. Long meditation sessions can sometimes cause discomfort in the back and knees, especially for those who are new to the practice. Yoga postures gently stretch the body's muscles and increase flexibility. Over time, it becomes much easier to sit for long periods of time. In addition, practicing yoga before a meditation session helps prevent the mind from becoming restless.

Both yoga and Buddhism encourage their followers to be still, explore their inner being and to be in the present moment. Practicing yoga allows the Buddhist to do this in a physical way and helps them better understand the sensations of their body. In this way, they become mindful of their physical body. They can then use meditation to explore the mind, or non-physical aspect of themselves. If a Buddhist can learn to become more aware of their surroundings and stay in the present moment during the physical practice of yoga, they will be better equipped to do the same in both meditation and their everyday lives.

One of the more prominent aspects of meditation in Buddhism is the importance of the breath. The controlling of the breath, or Pranayama, is one of the eight limbs of yoga and is believed to improve concentration. Vinyasa yoga, in particular, synchronizes movement with the breath; inhaling into one pose and exhaling into another. By strengthening the breath, Buddhists can also strengthen their meditation.

Why do so many Buddhists do yoga? Simply because the two complement each other so well. Yoga is, essentially, meditation in motion. When practiced regularly, many Buddhists find it more comfortable to meditate for long periods of time and the experience itself is only enhanced.