SHOULD CHRISTIANS DO YOGA? If you’d asked me this question prior to 2016 I’d have said “no”. Having never practiced yoga of any kind, I was skeptical of even the christian-ized versions.
Since then I’ve changed my mind. I’d like to share this journey with you, and hopefully answer some of your concerns about the practice of Christian yoga. So grab your Bible, a water bottle, and get comfy. 🙂
I was dead set against yoga — convinced of its Hindu origin and singular intention to worship false gods. Someone I knew had experienced dark encounters during a yoga class. This further strengthened my resolve against the practice.
At the same time, I yearned for a natural way to relieve physical and mental tension. As a deeply sensitive person, I struggle with anxiety and mental focus. I’ve never been athletic, so the restorative yoga classes appealed to me – just a little stretching with some time to sit quietly and contemplate God.
I tend to hold my breath when stressed, and the yogic focus on breathing as a natural means for calming the nervous system intrigued me. I also knew the science behind yoga and its proven benefits.
Still, I did not want to compromise my devotion to Christ. Yoga was not for me.
CHRISTIANS DO YOGA — HOLY YOGA
Then, I discovered Holy Yoga. This practice has greatly impacted my life and the lives of many others for their good and God’s glory.
I’ve experienced some of my deepest times of worship and joy in the Lord during Holy Yoga sessions.
Holy Yoga is first and foremost a ministry – a community of believers on a mission to bring the good news of Jesus Christ to the ends of the earth through the modality of yoga.
I believe so strongly in this ministry of spiritual, physical, mental and emotional healing, that I completed my instructor training, and am now leading others in Holy Yoga classes.
The Holy Spirit’s conviction, combined with a new understanding of traditional yoga and its history (as discussed below), caused a great change of heart within me.
THE HISTORY OF YOGA
1 – asanas predate Hinduism by at least one thousand years
This was a huge revelation to me. It means that yoga does not belong to the Hindu religion.
Yes, the poses or “asanas” were first recorded in the Sanskrit language, and these became a central part of Hindu religious practice. But similar illustrations on cave walls are centuries older.
These stretches were passed down from teacher to student, through many generations, long before written documentation.
Yoga is not a Hindu creation. The worshipful elements and health benefits of asanas existed long before.
For a short glimpse into the ancient origins of yoga, check out this three minute YouTube video: The Ancient History of Yoga. An internet search will yield many more resources if you’d like to dig deeper.
2 – intention is what makes a practice holy or un-holy
Yoga is a spiritual discipline that involves stretching and breath work. It can be used by people of various beliefs and religions. Holy Yoga is all about worshiping the Living God with your heart, soul, mind and strength. There could be no worthier intention.
3 – quiet your mind so you can receive God’s Word
Christian meditation is used in Holy Yoga classes to listen for God’s voice during the Bible reading. This is in sharp contrast to the nothingness and Nirvana sought through Hindu meditation.
A holy yogi makes space to hear from God by allowing mind and body to relax. This is an expression of complete trust and dependency upon God, rather than oneself.
A MISSIONARY’S PERSPECTIVE
Still skeptical of Holy Yoga?
Then check out the following excerpts paraphrased from Joe Suozzo’s article, Can Yoga Be Embraced for the Glory of God in Christ? He offers a unique perspective, as an evangelical pastor and missionary to India:
‘Adapting various Hindu worship practices by placing Christ at the center helps open the door for Hindus to see and understand who Jesus really is. These adaptations become beautiful means through which worship and praise are offered to Jesus. I have personally experienced this in our church planting ministry in India.
Within Hinduism there are various styles of prayer, the lighting of incense, worship in song, fasting, and many other practices. When adapted with Christ at the center, these become incredibly meaningful to the Hindu.
It is indeed possible to use yoga without importing its history of pantheistic philosophy, idolatry, and beliefs that stand in opposition to the gospel of Jesus Christ.
And, though it is right to enter cautiously, experience has taught many that without contextualization in the Hindu world, the gospel becomes irrelevant and simply another expression of western culture.’
CHRISTIANS DO YOGA — SETTING YOUR INTENTION
Can Christians do yoga? Yes! There’s freedom for you. If you feel drawn to experience a Christian yoga class, do it! Remember that your intention is what matters. Go with a heart of worship –and a hope of learning new ways to relax and increase flexibility.
As with anything, if your spirit feels unsettled — leave the class. Listen to the Holy Spirit. The Bible says not to sin against your own conscience (Romans 14:23).
This is especially relevant if you’re a new believer who was once steeped in Hindu yoga. There’s always the possibility that doing yoga may bring up negative feelings, or remind you of the past spiritual darkness you encountered.
Therefore, be sensitive to what the Holy Spirit is speaking to your heart. As with yoga, so to with all things — “whatever is not from faith is sin”.
Yours in Christ’s Love & Truth, Ali 🙂