Christian Yoga: is it ok, or not?
I get this question a LOT. Or, I have folks asking me for insight about it. *Recently, another friend asked me to watch a video she had just seen on a news program, about an article written against yoga as Christians, and I thought: “why have I not shared this in a public post, rather than just one-by-one incidences?” This is taken from that latest interaction*…
(*Note: this post falls under the "From the Archives" category, meaning it is a slightly updated post from a few years ago on a previous blog of mine, that I find to have been well-received and worth repeating! May God's Truth continue to ring out...)
So as you can guess, I could write a NOVEL on this topic, being that I:
1- am a yoga teacher,
2- live in the bible belt,
3-am a Christian myself and
4- am a Christian yoga teacher.
But, I will be as brief as possible (good luck there), and maybe try to keep it tidy and organized?
just in case anyone else is reading and wanting some insight from someone like me?
as to being concerned about where yoga’s roots lie…I hear this a lot, and I have to wonder, has anyone looked into the roots of Zumba or the Olympics?
I love both of these as well, but guess what?
Their roots are not in Christianity.
I have done the research.
Zumba is based on several types of dances, and those range from sexual worship and slavery, to voodo, to prostitution. I won’t list all the specifics here, but if anyone needs, private message me and I can cite them for you. I have tons of friends who run 5ks, marathons, etc, or play other sports, all things that are represented in the Olympics…which started out as homage and worship to Greek Gods.
ummm, roots and origins, anyone? So that is one thing folks need to consider when they choose to judge or justify what they are doing…are they measuring everything by the same standard?
Secondly, let’s talk about that justification.
Scripture says that as a man thinketh in his heart, so is he (Proverbs 23:7).
It also says that God knows the intent of a man’s heart, and its condition.
Meaning, God knows that when I come to my mat, whether for physical purposes or spiritual (and for me it is always both), it is all about giving Him Glory and taking care of the Temple He gave me. And sure, if exercise also helps me to look and feel better, and I get praise for that, I know He doesn’t mind. He likes to be praised. We are made in His image. Therefore, we are going to like to be praised, too, especially by Him or those who mean something to us.
And if my appearance, both physical and my happy demeanor, can draw people to Him, well then, awesome. I am inadvertently doing my part to draw more into the Kingdom. I want others to feel His peace and lead a less-stressed life. Yoga is a tool in my toolbox to make that happen…so here comes the sub-header of the justification point…
Yoga is a tool in a toolbox to help folks be able to sit down, be still, and worship or meditate.
All of those things are commanded/requested of us in the Bible.
It so happens, that has ALWAYS been the reason for yoga—whatever a person was, be it Hindu, Buddhist, or whatever, it was a way of balancing the body so that one was able to be connected to themselves and the Divine (hello, Holy Spirit without and within), and SIT DOWN FOR CRYING OUT LOUD.
Be Still, the Lord says.
The Message version says, step out of the traffic and take a long look at Me.
Hard to do when your hips are hurting cuz you are so tight.
...and dare I say, when your mind is so tight with thoughts of your to-do list and daily stresses? so…speaking of tools…
When I go into the Olive Garden restaurant, I see people eating bread and drinking wine. Christians drink wine and eat bread as part of their Communion, which is a tool in our toolbox for worship. So, what if I see someone at the Olive Garden who could be racially profiled as Hindu, or Buddhist, or something else? What if they have rainbow colored hair and dreadlocks, and I assume they are into new age things?
(and for a moment, let's acknowledge the ignorance of stereo-typing as it is, while the point is being made---because Yes, Yuckety-yuck. We know nothing about them...which leads to the point)
...but then I see them drinking wine and eating bread….do I then assume they are taking Christ’s communion? I mean, that’s a tool in a Christian's toolbox, yes?
But you see, God knows the heart intent of what they are doing.
They are enjoying wine and bread.
Or, they MAY be having communion, but only God needs to know that, none of our business! Their heart space and intent is between them and God. I can’t make assumptions based on that outward display. We as Christians don’t own “bread and wine”.
Eastern ethnicities don’t own the Downward Dog. make sense?
Tools in our toolbox.
Also, when I go to a pro-baseball game (we love the STL Cardinals!)…I watch the ball players warming up and stretching, even throughout the game. I have actually sat there and named the yoga poses they were doing…
Do you suppose anyone at the game is looking at those players and thinking “he is worshiping a Hindu god?” nope.
They figure they know the guy’s heart intent is to stretch his hamstrings, and maybe get mentally focused. and clearly GOD knows the player’s intent.
Or, if I drop a pencil and bend over to pick it up, which is like doing a Forward Fold, am I then worshiping a hindu god?
nope. and most people would not assume that, either. They think they know my heart intent, and they are probably right.
But-- it is the same action as a yoga pose.
Point being, if I have accepted Christ into my heart, and I have been sealed by the Holy Spirit, my standing in a lunge, or bending over, or wrapping my legs around an arm or whatever, DOES NOT BREAK THAT SEAL.
That would be some pretty lame saran-wrap, in that case…which leads to…
One of my biggest concerns in all of this, whenever this comes up is:
what kind of a fear-box are some Christians living in?
There are some PROMINENT Christian leaders who are outspoken against yoga. I am thinking, “my God is pretty huge, and clearly bigger than all of this. Isn’t He the same one you worship? Why are you afraid? Do you think some demon is going to just be able to step in and take your worship from you?”
If so, perhaps those folks need to examine their faith, not yoga. not in a judgmental way, by any means….
Look, I had questions when I first started, which is why I can answer so well.
I asked, I sought, I found, I knocked, the door was opened.
I am so settled on the side of “not only is it ok to do yoga, but God is all for it”, that it is peaceful.
Now, are there some types of yoga I would not recommend to my students? sure. It’s not going to be what they are looking for. Always stick to the Word and check what you experience with it…that is how to stay on the right path.
Also, the word “yoga” is a lot like the word, “dance”. There are so many styles and meanings.
If you were thinking of taking dance lessons, would you just walk into any old dance studio and sign up? no way…you might end up in a 5 year old’s tap class, and nobody wants that. headache city. (I jest---I have friends who LOVE teaching the littles!!!)
But seriously, you can’t lump everything into one word.
Someone once said to me that the practice of yoga is a gateway to other beliefs, demonic situations, etc.
I say, it *could* be, I suppose.
But going to Andy’s frozen custard or McDonald’s is also a gateway to heart disease and diabetes, by those standards.
Sitting next to a smoker on a bus is a gateway to lung cancer.
Hopefully the irony here speaks for itself?
Again, yoga was meant to prep the body (and mind) for sitting and praying or meditating. It quiets the mind. Helps de-stress.
in the past I have found that I lean down best when yoga is a large part of my own personal exercise regimen, and I attribute that to the fact that it builds my physical muscles and mental muscles while calming me down and opening up channels of energy in my body (think tight hips and other joints that are blocked and inflamed), so that I can let go of more…whatever.
If you like, here are some resources I HIGHLY recommend:
“Christian Yoga: Restoration of Body and Soul” by Jenni Zach, Courtney Chalfant and DeAnna Smothers, "Yoga for Christians"by Susan Bordernkircher, "Prayer of Heart and Body" by Father Thomas Ryan, and "Invitation to Christian Yoga" by Nancy Roth,just to name a FEW. There are so many. Some of them date back to the early 1900’s and even late 1800’s. Yes, for real. I know there is a french one, in particular.
I hope this helps someone get freedom and lose fear!!!!
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