Q: Why is Yoga considered a science rather than a religion?
Because it is a precise methodology that has nothing to do with faith or the action of another being–including God. If you do it, it works, if you don’t, it won’t. It is just like a machine. Doubtless there is such a thing as aptitude for yoga, as with any other practice, but the machine does not determine the success of the operator.
Facts are facts. And yoga is based on the highest facts.
Also, even though a general philosophy has developed as a result of the unanimous experience of yogis through the centuries, the philosophy is a side effect and of absolutely no influence in success in yoga. We have lived so long at the whim of “authorities” that we just can’t imagine not needed someone interfering with us. But yoga is a completely personal matter. You need not believe in it, and you can even laugh at it and deny its value. But if at the same time you are practicing you will get the same result as a person who has faith and values it. Oh, how wonderful it was to escape “If it be Thy holy will, O Loward” religion and find yoga that worked no matter how “worthy” or “sincere” I might not be.
When I was little I reached for a metal ring that was lying on top of a heater. “Don’t touch it!” I was warned. “You will get burnt.” I have no idea why, but I did not believe I could not manage. So I picked it up and got the most painful burn of my life, and hurt for a couple of weeks. My lack of faith did not affect the effectiveness of the ring to burn me.
No one need accept yoga. Just do it. As Yogananda pointed out, the critics and deniers of yoga are the ones that have no experience of it, because they do not practice it.
When I was first learning yoga I often laughed at how funny the processes were, and how odd that they would produce the desired result. But they did. Always.
Now, can you equate that with religion? Hardly.
But yoga is the highest dharma. That is sure.
[The yoga spoken of here is the science of Self-realization, not the bodily postures commonly called “yoga” today.]