Should Christians Practice Yoga?

Should Christians practice yoga?  Christian yoga is popping up more and more now days.  It’s not uncommon to see churches advertising it on their websites or in their Sunday bulletins.  But is yoga something we should be doing as Christians?

What is yoga?

Answering the question “What is yoga” is difficult.  That’s because it’s use is so vast, and its history is so diverse.  There is no one answer to the question.  

Here in the west we tend to think of yoga as a relaxing form of low impact exercise.  It can be a form of meditation or reflection.  Yoga is popular with those that have limited physical abilities or that can’t handle more strenuous types of exercise. 

But in the East where yoga has its roots, it is a much deeper philosophical and even religious practice.  Yoga has a long history within both Buddhism and Hinduism.  And depending on the background of your instructor, the teaching can become deeply influenced by these traditions. 

Problematic Yoga Ideas

So what are some of the things that make yoga something Christians shouldn’t partake in?  Many forms of yoga teach a path of spiritual enlightenment.  One of the common themes is “uniting” the human spirit with the divine spirit.  This is done by an emptying out of the mind in an attempt to release the body from physical distractions or pain.

Yoga can also teach pantheism (the belief that everything is god).  The ultimate goal here it to free yourself of, well, yourself!  Once you have let go of all the physical distractions in your life, you will reach a higher state of consciousness and will reach a stage of enlightenment. This will help you to connect with and become one with god. 

Scripture has clear warnings about worshiping other gods and dealing in the occult. We find these passages in Exodus 20:3, 23:13, 34:14, Matthew 6:24 and Mark 7:8 just to name a few.  But what if we try and pull out all the bad stuff and keep the exercises?  Wouldn’t that be ok? 

What About Christian Yoga?

So is it possible for Christians to remove the problematic portions of yoga?  There is now a movement to replace the eastern religious practices from the stretching and movement of yoga to “Christianize” it.  Instead of emptying yourself out, you fill yourself up by meditating on Scripture or a Christian hymn or song.  Does this make yoga ok then? 

What people fail to understand about yoga is that the physical poses in and of themselves problematic.  They are often postures that mimic different Hindu gods.  These postures in Eastern yoga are meant to empty oneself out and then connect with the divine.  In that sense, there is no way to separate out the postures from Hinduism. 

Once you remove the postures and the breathing techniques that are meant to release your mind, there is very little left of yoga.  And as the breathing exercises and the postures are what most people trying to Christianize yoga are trying to keep, I don’t think its possible.   

Have you had experience with either yoga or Christian yoga?  We’d love to hear from you!

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