For the human individual, as he begins to focus on the Divine, the first stage is generally one of the feeling of adoration. Sri Aurobindo comments: “In ordinary religion this adoration wears the form of external worship and that again develops a most external form of ceremonial worship.” Most individuals find it difficult, particularly in the beginning to focus this emotional force purely internally without any concrete external form for reference; thus, we see the development of rituals, ceremonies and specific forms that are created as objects of worship, to stand in place of the Divine who remains unseen. As long as this adoration and worship has a real force behind it, it can accomplish something real and useful in the development; however, many times these external forms may lose their inner life-energy and become mere rote repetition or habit without a vivifying force.
“It is evident that even real religion,–and Yoga is something more than religion,–only begins when this quite outward worship corresponds to something really felt within the mind, some genuine submission, awe or spiritual aspiration, to which it becomes an aid, an outward expression and also a sort of periodical or constant reminder helping to draw back the mind to it from the preoccupations of ordinary life.”
Yoga goes beyond this stage because it does not accept the adoration or worship, which implies separation, division and difference, as an appropriate goal or stopping point; rather, Yoga implies union with the Divine.
“The aim of Yoga being union, its beginning must always be a seeking after the Divine, a longing after some kind of touch, closeness or possession. When this comes on us, the adoration becomes always primarily an inner worship; we begin to make ourselves a temple of the Divine, our thoughts and feelings a constant prayer of aspiration and seeking, our whole life an external service and worship. It is as this change, this new soul-tendency grows, that the religion of the devotee becomes a Yoga, a growing contact and union. It does not follow that the outward worship will necessarily be dispensed with, but it will increasingly become only a physical expression or outflowing of the inner devotion and adoration, the wave of the soul throwing itself out in speech and symbolic act.”
Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part Three: The Yoga of Divine Love, Chapter 4, The Way of Devotion, pp. 546-547