Yoga and The Religious Society of Friends

Recent posts have touched on yoga and religious beliefs and what they may offer in these disconcerting times. This one explores Quakerism and yoga, how, without seeking facile similarities, these two very different traditions appear to have much in common. Both Quakerism and yoga are quiet, private practises that come with little dogma.

Quakers refer to themselves as The Religious Society of Friends and though their roots are Christian, they set themselves apart from many of its doctrines, institutions and practises. Fundamentally they believe wisdom comes through stillness and that God is revealed through personal experience. They also live ethically and have been instrumental in: anti-slavery, pacifism, prison reform, gender equality, social enterprise, philanthropy and chocolate. Quakerism is then both spiritual and practical. They attend meetings rather than services, don’t hold with sermons, prayers or hymns, and whilst members of the congregation are free to standup if they feel moved to speak, they mainly commune in silence. Quakers are 😎.

Fleabag being a fleabag at the Quaker meeting

Quakers and yogis both relate to the divine through personal experience and believe that practise and ethical living help to manifest/realise the “light within”, that we all have the potential to manifest the Godhead. Whilst yoga is often taken to be a physical pursuit, it fundamentally aims to cultivate unity between ourselves (Atman) and the infinite (Brahman). To achieve that goal asanas (postures) comprise just one of the eight limbs of yoga (ashtanga – having eight limbs or members). Quakerism, in upholding a deeply personal relationship with the mystery of God, similarly focuses upon realising the divine within.


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