Christian Yoga Is An Oxymoron

550px-Sunset-Yoga

1 Corinthians 6:12

“I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but I will not be mastered by anything.

I have been struggling with the practice of doing Yoga as a Christian. As of today I have completed 8 consecutive days of Yoga and I’m already seeing some benefits; namely more energy, restful sleep, and the elimination of a few unwanted pounds. (BONUS!) I don’t think I will attribute these things exclusively to Yoga, but all things considered, there is no doubt that Yoga has fitness benefits. If there were a Christian alternative, I would unquestionably prefer it because I’m torn as to whether or not Yoga is really OK for anyone who professes to follow Christ? Could my unrest be the Holy Spirit prompting me to “STAY AWAY” or warning me to “TAKE CAUTION?” Whichever it is, I’m not comfortable and need a deeper understanding.

There is no question that this is a controversial subject. I have asked around my Christian circles in seeking wise council (Proverbs 15:22) and I have read numerous articles, blogs, and web resources; which have only added to the confusion. Some say it’s fine as long as I keep my focus on Christ and that I already know. Since my first class I have always been intentional about that by changing  the words. For example: When they say, “Namaste,” I say, “In Jesus Name.” When they lay quietly to meditate, I pray!  Most often for my fellow classmates – especially the instructor. But who am I kidding? I don’t go to Yoga for prayer, meditation OR a more grounded sense of who I am. I go to exercise…. that’s it… to work-out, sweat, stretch, increase mobility, toning, and to stay or be fit! Because of the creepy Ohm’s, sun salutations, terminology, and hyper-smiley Buddha statue, my mind is purposefully redirected toward prayer, Christ, and God.

I’ve found some peace in believing that I am truly living out 2 Corinthians 10:5b stating, “We take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” My thoughts are most certainly centered on Christ throughout the duration of each class. Maybe that’s a good thing? Considering other work-out venues of a more club-like nature, I get a clear picture of just how lost, sinful, broken, and deprived this world really is. Between the most vulgar music lyrics, heightened egos, uncensored language, and tempers firing  – it’s much more tolerable to go through the motions of poses, bows, and binds.

But then there’s another side of the story. My greatest struggle and question is, “What example am I setting for those who know me as a follower of Christ that see me participating in something that is rooted in the traditions of Hinduism?” This can be easily misconstrued as something that I endorse as being permissible for Christians and that is not what I believe at all. If I’m confused, but my actions imply otherwise, I could be causing a brother (or sister) in Christ to stumble (1 John 2:10). In addition, Philippians 4:8-9 says, “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.” If this was my Yoga litmus test, I believe it would fail the test.

So if God’s Word is the authority and scripture has evidence to support that we [Christians] should NOT participate, then it’s a no brainier, right? In 1 Timothy 6:11-12, “But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses.”

To offer a counterpoint in favor of Yoga, how about 1 Corinthians 6:19? “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own”. If I have God in me and I am His… how can this be a threat? I have always tried to exercise with the awareness that my body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, but this whole spiritual regime takes “temple of the Holy Spirit” to a whole new level for me. It’s practically literal in a way.

Those who vehemently oppose Christians participating in Yoga say that Yoga is so deeply embedded into the spiritual realm that it is impossible to separate Christianity from the cult practice that it is. If this is true, that would mean that Yoga would be similar to playing with a Ouija board in denial that ‘it’ would or could do harm. So to this example I have to agree that we should NOT be messing with it.

So the question remains, “To DO or NOT do Yoga?” Whatever the ‘right’ answer is, I trust that God knows my heart. He knows I’m not trying to make an idol out of it, nor am I seeking some alternative realm to fulfill my unconscious needs. For now I’m going to continue my study into God’s Word and seek the answer that God ultimately teaches me.

For the readers of this blog, I would value your insights on this. Ideally with a scriptural reference that will help us all learn together. Trust me, there are plenty of opinions to be found through Google, but being guided by God’s Word is more reliable. In the meantime, I will be discerning and continue to make my Yoga practice be representative of my faith. Never know… God might use this to make a Kingdom impact for His glory.

11 thoughts on “Christian Yoga Is An Oxymoron

  1. I would direct you to 1 Corinthians 8. The Chapter is discussing the sacrifice of food to idols and then consumed by Christians. This was very controversial in Corinth, but some stronger in the faith were okay with it, and Paul approves the eating of the food as long as it is not a stumbling block for those weak in the faith.
    I would say, as long as nobody in your life is being hurt, confused, or misled keep doing what you are doing. It is putting you in a healthy state of mind, improving your health, and drawing you closer to God.

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  2. Very interesting article. Very… I was born into a Christian family and baptized Catholic became a yogi freak while living in Beijing (I was there for 5 years and needed the peace it offered my mind). I have recently joined my Catholic father by confirming to the church, took my first communion and everything. It feels good to really connect with my ancestors (Italian) and I find the ritual in Catholicism to be beautiful. When meeting with the women at the church and talking to her about my life, she was shocked when I told her I was a yoga teacher. Shocked. And then I was shocked. I had no idea that there was such a fire storm happening over here in the west about yoga and Christianity. It blows my mind! To me practicing yoga is about connecting my mind, body and soul. Getting out of my monkey mind and forgetting about my troubles. It is NOT about worshipping other Gods. For some people it might be! Who cares!? How naive of people who don’t know anything about yoga to make assumptions about what it is spiritually for the individual. I am a mystic Christian, a Catholic Christian, a yogi! I don’t really care what other people think about this. All I care is that I lead by example and my skin is shiny, I am happy and miracles are constantly around me 😉 It is all good. Thank you for reading my comment and good luck to you. 😉 Namaste just means “I see the light in you.” in Sanscrit, one of the worlds oldest languages. It is beautiful.

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  3. Sarah – I just recently became acquainted with Holy Yoga. It’s an intentional yoga practice and experiential worship experience that focuses on connecting with Christ during your practice. It’s been such a blessing in my walk and I hope you’ll explore it further. I attend a weekly class and practice on my own at home 3 mornings a week. Each practice begins with a prayer and a scripture verse to meditate on, contemporary worship music is played, scripture is repeated and it’s truly a wonderful and authentic worship experience.

    I’ll be updating my blog frequently with the scripture verses, playlists as well as the poses for my home practice if you’d like to visit.

    http://sapracticepresence.wordpress.com/

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  4. Hi girlfriends!
    Hope you don’t mind another perspective. Two big red flags about yoga for Christians:
    1. Yoga is not an exercise practice, but a religious one, from a system that hates our Lord Jesus. Each yoga pose is actually a posture of worship to Hindu gods.
    2. Yoga is designed to prepare the mind to have a spiritual experience, by bringing your mind and body into a higher level of consciousness.

    While the word “Yoga” isn’t mentioned in Scripture, the idea of yoking oneself to pagan gods and concepts is forbidden. (Leviticus 19:31 Deuteronomy 18:9 Hebrews 10:26-31, Acts 4:12, and this biggie: Joshua 23:16.)

    Our bodies were created to be “a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God which is our spiritual act of worship” (Romans 12:1) and “true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father) seeks.” (John 4: 23).

    Jesus says, “I am the truth. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:16)
    Many Christians believe that to participate in Hinduism’s postures to get into God’s presence, or redefine other manipulations with Christian terminology are corrupt offerings to the LORD and an attempt to arrive by “another way.” This is also where I am as I read the Bible and hear the passionate pleas from those who have studied New Age and mystical practices.

    Given all the strong words God Himself warns us about syncretism and friendship with the world, the conclusion I come to is that even if we attempt to add Jesus to yoga, it is not holy or pleasing to our holy Savior.

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    • Amy,

      You definitely make a strong argument and one I can’t say I disagree with at all. That said – I have a dear sister in Christ who absolutely loves Yoga because there isn’t a work-out that gives you the stretching and low impact, core tightening, balance improving environment. She is in the process of being certified as a yoga instructor herself.

      I told her about Annette’s suggestion of Holy Yoga and she got really excited about it. It is scriptural, there is prayer and is an opportunity to meditate on God’s word. Despite that, our church does offer fitness classes and when she went to our Sports Director he was strongly opposed. I imagine for the same reasons you listed above.

      I guess I am wondering if we do Christianize it, make God the focus, would you still believe it is still not permissible?

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  5. Hi Amy,

    I’ve found people can be critical of Christians practicing yoga, or Holy Yoga in particular and can often be malicious and/in their misguided attempts to keep Christians from practicing.

    First and foremost, we can both passionately debate about the origins of Yoga and the fact that Yoga actually predates the Hindu religion by a thousand years. Yoga was not created by Hindu’s, however they adopted the practice, much as prayer, meditation and fasting have been adopted by many other religions – including Christianity. . To say that Yoga is not a practice but a religion is incorrect. The purpose of Holy Yoga is to fully place the intention of the practice on Christ. Jesus is the intention – not the elevation to a higher consciousness of being or spirituality – but the intention of connecting with Christ on your mat. In Holy Yoga, when we mediate, we are seeking Jesus and wholly surrendering our hearts, mind and body to Him.

    I realize that you, Amy and other Christians may disagree with my experience in practicing Holy Yoga, but I know this experience to be true and whole. It is an authentic and sincere way for me to worship Jesus and serve others. I hope that you will open your heart and mind to the possibility that Christians can faithfully serve Jesus and practice yoga as an act of experiential worship.

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    • Annette,

      Thanks for jumping back into the conversation. I blogged out of my own conflicted heart so I was in search of answers to 2 primary questions. 1 – Is it permissible for Christians to participate in Yoga as it is and if not, can we Christianize it so we can make it Christ-centered vs. Hindu (like 3rd eye stuff, etc.)?
      You gave me hope! I LOVE the idea of Holy Yoga and I have a bible believing friend who teaches Power Yoga and shared your recommendation with her. She did all the research and was ready to get certified in Holy Yoga and our church shot it down – forbid it! That was a shock to me.

      With more research and resources, like Amy provided, I am running into more and more evidence that it is not okay to participate at any level.

      All of my most respected evangelicals are uncompromising. I guess what I’m trying to say is that we need to be alert and be very careful.

      I have to run right now, but will add more later. I do appreciate Amy’s video. That does sum it up better than anything I have found on my own.

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