When considering yoga many aspirant yogis want to know if I teach aspects of Eastern philosophy in my class and by this they want to know actually do I speak about karma, reincarnation, the different Hindu deities and their teachings and the Chakra system in my class during the talks. Invariably I have to answer yes and explain to people that you cannot disconnect the practice from the philosophy – the overall effect of the yoga will be lost somehow.
Consider this: Is Christianity still Christianity if I ask you to exclude any reference to the Holy Communion and to cut that out from a service? Is Islam still essentially Islam if I ask you to discontinue Friday prayers? The same with Hinduism, If I ask you to omit the Aarati at the end of each day I take something away from Hinduism. I think most will agree that there are certain essential philosophies and practices which come together to form our concept of what Christianity, Islam or Hinduism represents. If you omit any of the above practices and philosophies, you have in fact rob the Christian or Muslim or Hindu of an important aspect of their religious life.
The same goes for yoga, behind all the physical asanas, pranayama, meditation and other physical practices is the philosophy which ensures that you enjoy the most benefit from your overall yoga practice. For example, each asana is connected to one or more of the seven main Chakras. Now, you can do yoga without ever knowing this or without anybody telling you about this and unfortunately the effect will somehow be diminished as there are no cognitive recognition of this fact and therefore the connection between mind, body and soul become watered down. However if your teacher would instruct you on this aspect and relationship, then each asana will become so much more, all of a sudden there is another side to the asana, it is not merely a physical exercise anymore, but now the connection between mind, body and soul becomes more evident. And in this recognition of this connection you set in motion a chain of events on the physical plain as well as on the subtle plains to enhance and further your soul evolution.
It is important to realise that yoga philosophy is there to enlighten your soul, to shed Light on the evolution of your soul. How can you make butter if nobody ever taught you the theory behind turning cream into butter? The same with yoga, how can yoga purify and liberates the inner being if nobody give you the mental tools, i.e the philosophy behind the physical aspects of yoga to do it.
In conclusion, yoga philosophy won’t distract from your current religious practice, in fact it will enhance it only. Remember yoga is not a religion and in no ways want to be a religion. Yoga and yoga philospohy are tools that can help you to understand your own religious practice much better. It can open doors in your thinking(mind and body) that will lead you to greater insight and awareness about your current state of spiritual life(soul) and religious practice.