Yoga for Christians

This is in response to a really controversial post that I saw on FaceBook about yoga. It was on a Christian group, and honestly, I really understand both sides, but, after some thought, came up with this. Would love to hear any and all objections/arguments. πŸ™‚Β 

So here’s the basic objection some Christians have against yoga (please correct me if I’m wrong). Yoga has it’s roots in pagan rituals and meditation, i.e. Hinduism/Buddhism. Therefore, yoga is a pagan ritual that, no matter how it’s changed, should not be practiced by Christians. It is like worshiping a pagan god. We have to be really careful about what kind of spiritual influences we let into our lives. Yoga, because of its pagan roots, could be a way for bad spirits to enter our minds/spirits.

I was doing some random mindless work today and I started thinking about this. To me, this seems to be similar to the “food offered to foreign gods” issue that the disciples were dealing with in the New Testament. Basically, in religions like Hinduism or probably a lot of the other religions they had in Jesus’ day, it’s “good luck” to eat food offered to foreign gods. Now, we all know these idols have no power of us. There are demonic forces at work, but we are under Jesus’ protection.

1 Corinthians 8:4-6 “So then, about eating food sacrificed to idols: We know that β€œAn idol is nothing at all in the world” and that β€œThere is no God but one.” For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as indeed there are many β€œgods” and many β€œlords”), yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live.”

Now, from what I see, the NT believers had an issue with this. Some weak believers might eat the food because they still kind of believe in the idols, or because they’re afraid of what their family might think, or they just want to make sure they have good luck. Or if they see strong believers eat the food, they might think that those believers don’t actually believe in God and worship other gods on the side (“cheating” on God, ha ha).

But, the point that Paul makes above is that there are no other gods. That our God is supreme and rules everything. So eating the food is okay, it’s nourishing. But if you can cause another believer to stumble by doing it, or if your hosts think you’re eating it because you believe in the gods, than it becomes wrong.

I think this is the same deal with yoga. Many modern versions of yoga are just stretching and relaxation. Because of that, it’s just something that’s good for the body, not worshiping an idol.

YogaNow, I’ll add a HUGE distinction here. There’s a big difference between the types of yoga depicted in these two pictures:

SONY DSCThere are classes that emphasis the traditional spiritual aspects of yoga. These can be questionable, especially when the teachers are Hindu or Buddhist. India is filled with these, tagging off of the tourists that come on pilgrimages of sorts to the land of Buddha and Hinduism. This is the type that the first picture depicts. But the classes that are simply stretching, with a focus on building your core, are fine, in my opinion.

However, as always, if you are doing it to get the blessing of a god besides the True God, or if going to a yoga class would stumble a fellow believer, it’s definitely wrong. πŸ™‚

If I’m missing something here, please let me know! This is just my opinion based on what I’ve learned. πŸ™‚

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10 thoughts on “Yoga for Christians

  1. I agree with you. I’ve had to justify whether or not to practice yoga to Christian friends. Firstly, although the origins appear to be in the pagan mist of history, we can’t absolutely say that the wisdom found in the physical benefits of yoga moves was not originally known in the Garden, but that’s just my hypothesis (i.e. massaging the internal organs through constricting positions, benefits of breathing methods on physiology, etc). Secondly, when I first got saved I went to a fairly normal yoga class just for the exercise, but as soon as I entered, I was aware of demonic presence – I left immediately. So it may be not just the instructor who is messing with the esoteric and yet only teaching a normal class, but that other attendees are ‘infected’. Thirdly, I think it’s absolutely fine to do it on your own at home – if you’re confident about your ability and safety. If you’re not busy counting seconds in your postures, what’s to stop you memorising or thinking about scripture whilst holding poses? Lastly, if you’re not confident at home on your own, take up plates perhaps – I’m not sure, but I think that’s non-mystical isn’t it?

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  2. I believe it comes down to intention. (We don’t know what the girls are thinking in the photos.)

    Yes, yoga can have a spiritual component, but whether that component is in compliance with your religious beliefs is really up to you. For example, some people think mantras (short sayings) while they go about their poses. You can think, “I am healthy, I am strong” or “God is good” or “Beelzebub prince of darkness I invoke thee” (I’m pretty sure no one in the history of life has ever said the later in yoga, but who knows?) My point is, they’re your thoughts which you control on and off the yoga mat.

    The other aspect of yoga you could consider practicing are the yamas (Hindu moral code.) The thing about the Hindu moral code is that it’s pretty much exactly like the Christian moral code. 1. The Golden Rule, 2. Be truthful, 3. Don’t steal 4. Abstinence (sexual but also moderation in general) 5. Don’t be greedy. It all sounds pretty familiar (thank you Moses) except it has neat Sanskrit words that correlate.

    So any time you “Do unto others…” you are essentially acting under the Hindu spiritual belief system regardless if whether or not you mean to…because it’s the same belief shared by Christians.

    To play devil’s advocate (I was dying to work that in), there are some yoga classes that get a little bit into other pantheons. Some classes I’ve attended do play music that refers to other gods (Shiva is a popular one). My favorite local class has a mural of him on the wall. They also keep a stack of various gods and goddess cards with inspirational quotes at the front of the class. Students can help themselves to them as they like. These classes are rare (I know because I have a hard time finding them) and may not jive with some Christians. (On the other hand, if I polled the class I’d bet it’s 80% Christian)

    That’s actually a good point to end on. Here in the US, the population is largely Christian. Yoga classes, as a result, are too.

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    1. Interesting and good point about intentions! However, something about participating that much in the Hindu belief system doesn’t sit right with me, probably because I know so many people who worship those images and take them a lot more seriously than we tend to do in the USA. So I wouldn’t participate in a class like that, just because it involves more of the religious aspect than the physical exercise aspect. But that’s just been because of my experience. Maybe the actual class is different πŸ™‚ I live in a country with a majority of Hindu people, so I’ve come to see things a bit differently, and images that, to some may be art, have different meanings to me.

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      1. I understand that. Not to mention, if you find the images/music to be a distraction then you won’t get the most out of the class…then what’s the point of going? The good news is, there are lots of options when it comes to yoga.

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  3. As Christians, we do have to factor in the Enemy. Our intentions aside, he “goes about as a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour” and he come “to steal, destroy, and kill.” Now, I’m not one to see demons under the bed, or behind every elephant figurine, trollie doll, or exotic symbol. That said, demons do exist, they have a mission to ‘steal, destroy, and kill’, they are sneaky, liars, and relentless. In the Christian paradigm, we ought not be careless about exposing ourselves to demonic forces. With this logic, some have argued that ALL meditation is demonic. Nonsense. Nevertheless, one must have one’s feet on very solid ground, and perhaps be already familiar with Christian meditation, before one steps into a yoga studio or any other setting where one is sure to encounter ‘strange gods.’ IMHO

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    1. Good point. It’s true. And if you’re in tune with God, you’ll see when things are off or verging on the side of religious, rather than just stretching/exercise. Someone whom I greatly respect who has dealt with demons once told me this, though: “Jesus is more powerful than any demon. Obviously, we don’t put ourselves into compromising positions, but we also shouldn’t be afraid of them.” Sometimes I see Christians freaking out about yoga, like any unwitting step could send us to hell. This isn’t true! Anyway, rabbit trail. I guess my main point with this blog was that there IS a difference that a christian can discern, between a religious, Buddhist/Hindu yoga class and an exercise class or set of stretches. πŸ˜‰

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