The yoga tradition is rooted in Patanjali’s teachings which are, in turn, rooted in Vedic revelation. The Yoga Sutra-s of Patanjali represent a very unique text in human history because it is more like a science of mind and a science of religion, which is at the same time non-sectarian and not secular. Yoga philosophy was never secular because yoga didn’t exist in Vedic times separate from religion. It was connected to the whole spiritual journey, which traditionally was in the context of all world religions. Today we make the distinction between religion and spirituality, which is understandable, but traditionally there was no distinction. Religion was the science of spirituality.
The root of the word Yoga means “to link.” It’s origin is similar to the English word “join,” which means to connect, to link. The word “religion” in Latin means to re-link, to re-connect. So the true meaning of religion in Yoga is very similar to the word “religion,” but what’s unique in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali and in this tradition is it's non-sectarian nature.
The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali talks about the human phenomenon without identifying too specific names of God, nor is it a specific dogma or belief system. It is, therefore, relevant for all human beings of any faith or non-faith. You could be part of a western religion and quite orthodox or an atheist, and so long as you're open minded, you could find that this text speaks to you because it’s about the nature of the human mind. It's not theology and it is not talking about the “Godhead.”
Transcribed and edited from Gary Kraftsow's Commentary of the Yoga Sutra-s of Patanjali, Day 1 of the AVI Viniyoga Teacher Training, 2009. To learn more about the yoga philosophy lectures in the Viniyoga Foundations Programs, the American Viniyoga Institute at firstname.lastname@example.org.