To the Christian Who Sent Me Hate Mail on Easter Sunday.

Via on Apr 8, 2012

Apparently, some people feel that “No Christian Should Ever Do Yoga.”

Hi everyone!

Guess what I just found in my mailbox, nestled in-between my Time-Warner cable bill and a couple of checks from my day job teaching at yoga studios across the nation:

Hate mail.

Wait, check that…Christian hate mail, which seems to me a direct contradiction in terms. But apparently not for one God-fearing man. And, actually, a few others. I get these letters once in a while, usually from anonymous sources.

This time, however, I have a name to put with the hate, or should I say, strong concern for my heathen soul, by the way, is Mike Harris Jr. moderator of Mike’s Christian Corner.

Thanks, Mike! I feel I can respond to him, since he asked me to “tell (him) what you think” in his letter. Well, okay then!

Mr. Harris Jr. let me know a few things I was unaware of about my yoga practice, things that I’ll share with you below. Then I’d like to take this opportunity to clue Mike and those like him in to another side to yoga, one I hope he never forgets, lest he start daydreaming about sending another one of thee lovely missives to a fellow yogi.

Thee? Wow—Freudian slip, I guess.

I meant to say ‘these.”

The heading of the letter reads “Why No Christian Should Ever Do Yoga.”

Hmmmm…I was intrigued. Especially since I used to teach yoga in a Christian church, was raised Presbyterian and my father is a born-again Christian and deacon. Perhaps I was causing harm?

Mr. Harris Jr: “Is it just another exercise method that has benefits that far outweigh anything else?”

Well, yes, in my opinion. Well said, Mike!

He continues: “These are postures that are offered to the 330 Hindu gods. Yoga poses are really sacrifices or offerings to the gods.”

Wow! I wondered why I always say “your yoga practice lasts 24-7.” Because I’ve been trying to appease 330 million gods! No wonder it takes so long.

Mike, don’t worry. I am not a Hindu.

If I was a Hindu, I might be doing the exercise form of yoga in addition to my other Hindu-esque lifestyle choices. As it stands, ‘yoga’ may have stemmed from a certain culture and time, but, just like you are translating the words of a book written centuries ago, and adopting some (not all, certainly) of its concepts to meet your current needs (like picking on yoga teachers in your spare time), so do we yogis choose concepts from  long ago to help us live in the way we also think is best for ourselves and humanity. In this way, we are not so different.

As I am not a Hindu, I usually do not bring Hindu gods into my classes, just as I would not sing “Jesus Loves Me” or dance the Horah in a classroom that contains all creeds, colors and religions. I do not chant Hindu verses, in the same way I wouldn’t read from the Bible or the Koran during a yoga session. Religion is personal, as is yoga.

For me, yoga is a personal path to what is clear, and good, and honest about a unique student on a unique mat. It contains universal wisdom that needs no religious figure, much less 330 million, to anchor it.

How anyone chooses to get there while in these poses, whether it is to exalt Christ or pray to Allah or focus on their breathing or send love to their creaky knees or wish death to their challenging teacher is none of my concern. Bringing them into an inspired, aligned state so they can get to their best personal work that day is my only job.

Moving right along, Mike offers up some conveniently cherry-picked quotes from the New and Old Testaments, such as:

Thou shalt have no other gods before me. (Exodus 20:3)

Abstain from all appearance of evil. (1 Thessalonians 5:22)

And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprieve them. (Ephesians 5:11)

By the way, not only could I quote you some real gems as well, such as:

Keep slaves:

Your male and female slaves are to come from the nations around you; from them you may buy slaves. (NIV) (Leviticus 25:44)

or

Kill rude children:

Anyone who dishonors father or mother must be put to death. Such a person is guilty of a capital offense. (NLT) (Leviticus 20:9)

…but I’m pretty sure Jesus came along and said that we could take all the Commandments and condense them into one:

Love thy neighbor as Thyself.

Oh wait, except if they are gay, or Muslim, or, God forbid, do a Down Dog four times a week, eh, Mike?

In fact, if we all took a page from Jesus’ book and practiced that one commandment, and refrained from, say, sending hate mail to, say, those who don’t live like we choose to, we could completely change things on this planet for the better. Pretty smart guy, eh?

But back to the real world.

Mike continued with a pithy monologue I’ll paraphrase here:

Doing pranayama can let Satan in.

God doesn’t want us to meditate.

Astral travel attracts demons.

Now, I’m pretty sure that we won’t be seeing Mike anytime soon on a yoga mat, so this post is not for him. But it goes through the example of him to speak to the far larger numbers of more moderate Christians, and those of other religions, who may yet be on the fence about whether yoga is for them, or confused about whether it conflicts with their faith. The answer is: it depends.

Yoga is not Hinduism, necessarily. They were originally separate practices. Yet over time some people and lineages have fused them together, even many of today’s well-meaning yoga teachers who are not Hindu or Buddhist but still insist on bringing both into their classes.

Again, only in my opinion, unless one is teaching a class full of Hindus or Buddhists, only serves to confuse the core teachings of yoga unless it’s made clear that any religious or dogmatic inclusion is there to offer a greater truth up for individual repurposing.

Back to the letter.

Finally, Mike asks (about yoga, presumably, not Astral travel):

“Why would a Christian want to take part in such a thing?”

I’ll tell you why, as a teacher who has taught hundreds of good Christians yoga:

If you love God, yoga can help you get closer.

If you want to pray, yoga will help you be clearer.

If you have a family, yoga will create a more loving you for them.

If your body needs work, yoga will help you transform it.

If you want to live with courage and faith, yoga will help you find it.

If you seek an end to daily suffering, yoga will salve it.

If you are estranged from your neighbor, yoga can unify you.

If you want to be more like Jesus, yoga teaches you the way.

Turn the other cheek if you like, but I’d suggest you take another look at this mindful addition to your existing religious beliefs. When you find the right teacher, yoga becomes an “and” not an “or.”

And, Mike, I’m strangely honored that you care enough about my soul, and that of my fellow practitioners to write a whole missive about it. But when you ended with “Christians should run away from yoga!” I knew I had to write this post. Because there are more like you out there, in churches and synagogues and mosques everywhere giving yoga some pretty bad PR.

If anything, Jesus-lovers, run toward your mat.

You may be surprised to discover that one of the closest things to heaven on earth is waiting for you there.

And, Mike, why don’t you try a class?

You don’t know what you’re missing.

~

Prepared by Bob W./Editor: Kate Bartolotta

About Sadie Nardini

Sadie Nardini, is the founder of Core Strength Vinyasa Yoga, an anatomically-optimized flow style that gives you more results and benefits for every minute spent on your yoga mat. She is a holistic anatomy geek, healthy hedonism advocate, yoga expert, author, and TV host who travels internationally bringing empowering tools to yoga teachers and students everywhere. Her new book, The 21-Day Yoga Body: A Metabolic Makeover, Life-Styling Manual to Get You Fit, Fierce and Fabulous in Just 3 Weeks! (Random House), is out now, and her TV show, Rock Your Yoga, is playing across the country on the new Veria Living Network. With Sadie, you'll sweat, laugh, learn, and come away transformed, informed, and inspired anew. Learn more at www.SadieNardini.com.

38,326 views

Comments

178 Responses to “To the Christian Who Sent Me Hate Mail on Easter Sunday.”

  1. Annie Ory says:

    I feel it's a bit hyperbolic to call this "hate" mail. He didn't threaten you with anything but eternal damnation and he doesn't have the power to follow through on that threat. I would call this "judgement mail". He's judging you. Why you? Among all the yogis in the world? Who knows. Whatever. Hate mail is strong though. I feel you sister. I don't like being judged. Yuck. But unless he threatened you I don't think it qualifies as hate mail. It's a conversation I've had with Christians and I haven't found they come from a hateful place when they ask these questions, which they REALLY want you to answer the "correct" biblical way. A judging place, yes. They come from a place where they see something in you worth saving and they believe, in their fearful hearts, that your soul is at risk. They are trying to save you. That's not hate. It's misguided and fear-based and out of line and judgmental, especially for someone who doesn't know you, but it's not hate. I say all of this not to make you wrong. No, no. I say it to offer you a way to view this through a lens that doesn't have you holding the idea in your head that someone out there hates you. He doesn't hate you. As judgmental and wrong headed as it is, he's trying to save you.

  2. Sadie Nardini sadienardini says:

    hate mail
    n.
    Correspondence that expresses the sender's animosity, disapproval, or prejudice, often in offensive language.

    HATE: Hatred (or hate) is a deep and emotional extreme dislike, directed against a certain object or class of objects. The objects of such hatred can vary widely, from inanimate objects to animals, oneself or other people, entire groups of people, people in general, existence, or the whole world. Though not necessarily, hatred is often associated with feelings of anger and disposition towards hostility against the objects of hatred. Hatred can drive oneself to extreme actions. Actions upon people or oneself after a lingering thought are not uncommon. Hatred can result in extreme behavior including violence, murder, and war.

    Furthermore, Annie, it's interesting to note that many people, including those who incite war, violence at abortion clinics, burn crosses in people's yards, or write unsuspecting yogis letters telling them they are damned, usually have the best intentions in mind and heart. It's up to us to understand their motives, and call them on their judgmental, separatist, and sometimes horribly hateful behaviors.

    This writer's mentality can certainly lead to hate, if it's not already there. It's the exact same type of "judgment" that has led to multiple religious wars, among other things. I've grown up around evangelicals. This man does not honestly want a dialogue. He wanted to preach to me the error of my ways, because he deeply believes it is wrong. If I continue, and become demonic, as he puts it, then are you saying he would simply judge me? Or perhaps do something much worse in the name of God? I mean, the guy knows where I live. I'd suggest that you turn your understanding toward what you would feel like in my place.

    So yes, I do believe this qualifies. Let's not hide behind the yogic skew of "judgment" mail. It's a fine line, one I'm calling this writer out on.

  3. Valerie Carruthers ValCarruthers says:

    Just posted to "Featured Today" on the Elephant Spirituality Homepage.

    Valerie Carruthers
    Please go and "Like" Elephant Spirituality on Facebook

  4. Mamaste says:

    Well said, Sadie!

    Just posted to elephant culture.
    ~Mamaste

  5. Valerie Carruthers ValCarruthers says:

    Just posted to "Featured Today" on the Elephant Spirituality Homepage.

    Valerie Carruthers
    Please go and "Like" Elephant Spirituality on Facebook

  6. muks says:

    Why should Satan be in the air??!!! Are Christians supposed to be shallow breathers?

    Christians do not meditate? Should Christians not sit peacefully and repeat a bible passage?! I have just been to a monastery where the nuns meditate with no reference to Yoga 😉

  7. Sadie Nardini sadienardini says:

    Thanks Val, Mamaste, and everyone who is commenting here. I want to make it extra clear that in this post, when I disagree with this particular Christian man's views, I am not referring to the vast majority of those that count themselves as religious, but who are more middle-of-the-road, loving and let-live types. I know you're out there too, and in yoga studios and loving it. I am in no way lumping you in with those who are more fundamentalist.

  8. Sadie Nardini sadienardini says:

    Here are some links sent to me just now….GO, Christian and Jewish yogis!

    http://holyyogafoundation.com/
    http://articles.latimes.com/2010/apr/05/local/la-
    http://www.christianyoga.us/home.htm

  9. Hanuman says:

    Being a devotee of Christ and Ram both, I sometimes wonder if the true “Anti-Christ” isn’t Christianity itself…

  10. Trish Adkins says:

    One of my favorite stories from the Bible: mark 9:38-40
    Whoever Is Not Against Us Is for Us

     38 “Teacher,” said John, “we saw someone driving out demons in your name and we told him to stop, because he was not one of us.”
       39 “Do not stop him,” Jesus said. “For no one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me, 40 for whoever is not against us is for us. 41 Truly I tell you, anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to the Messiah will certainly not lose their reward.

    I often teach yoga at my church. I often pray at the end of my personal practice. The practice of yoga has driven me closer to God in His name. In His name I practice.

    The sort of ignorant dribble in the letter you received comes from
    Such a place of fear. A place Christ told his disciplines to avoid–for we are all in this together.

  11. Laurie says:

    The original writer is wrong that yoga postures are a sacrifice or offering to the Hindu gods and that breathing practices are an invitation to let Satan in. I have never done a yoga pose or breathing practice for a Hindu god or Satan. Not even once.

    Some, but certainly not all, yoga teachers use Hindu philosophy in their classes. They are not encouraging you to turn away from your God. The stories are meant to convey a certain theme, such such as truthfulness, nonviolence, or contentment. Not all approaches will inspire everyone.

    A big difference between yoga and other disciplines (exercise methods) is INTENTION. The yogi determines his/her own intention. It can be different for different for different people in the same class. There is no right or wrong here. You can set an intention of decreasing stress or burning calories or getting more flexible. You can set the intention of using your yogic focus to get closer to your God.

    There are yoga instructors out there who mention God (your Christian God) in their classes. I encourage you to find a Christian-based class to see how this faith is integrated with postures and breathing practices.

    The spiritual inspiration you get from Church is similar to the lift many people get from yoga class, whether they pray to your God, another god, or don’t believe in god at all. Not every teacher, class, or style of yoga is going to inspire everyone. Some people just want the pose instruction and no spiritual talk at all.

    Does everyone who attends your church love it, find it a perfect fit, and come back every week? How would you feel if someone who had never attended wrote an essay like the one you sent Sadie, that no Christian should ever go there?

    If you went to one class and thought it was evil, or have never tried a yoga class yourself, I encourage you to try classes in different yoga traditions, with different teachers before forming judgement. You may find a yoga class that not only does not contradict your faith, but strengthens it.

  12. GET_a_LAWyer says:

    Not sure what is the law in the United States, but I will recommend you to get a lawyer to sue Mike Harris Jr, since you get his details for invading your privacy (how does he know where you live?) and wasting your time with this issue. And to give order to Mike Harris Jr not to mail you anymore further letter, which will give examples to other anonymous cowards to stop wasting their time and your time.

  13. paul says:

    As curious and seemingly unable to quote the gospels as Mike is, I think he does have some good points when they're put in a different frame.
    "Emptying" the mind isn't particularly what meditation is about; we could just knock ourselves out if that were the case. So he seems to just have a misunderstanding, or a unique understanding, of what meditation is all about.
    Some forms of prāṇāyama can have very negative consequences if done improperly, or when we're not ready for them (just like you can overextend in a pose, so too with breath practices- āyama is in the word after all). Some prāṇāyama is designed specifically to (supposedly) "awaken kuṇḍalinī" and if the body is not prepared, the energy can fracture the mind a bit. And (supposedly) if precautions aren't taken, a spirit can take over a body that is astral projecting.
    As to the hate-ness of the letter, I too see it only peripherally, but Romans 12 does go on to say "hate what is evil, cling to what is good" so perhaps that is where he is coming from.

  14. kris says:

    I'm a born again Christian – and I own a yoga studio. Everyone is welccome in my studio regardless of religion. I don't preach, but I try to be a good example and love on everyone just as I know Jesus would do. I think as people we have to be careful about who is calling themself a "Christian" – I believe there are things in the Bible that are bblack and white and there may be some gray areas – but it is not for us to judge others – but rather speak to what our faith has done for us. Many so-called "christians' go about this in the wrong way – extremely wrong – and it really gives christians a bad name as judgemental, stuck-up, ignorant – what have you. It is extremely frustrating to be lumped into one big "christian" mold, when most of us are not like that. In the end we are all sinners, we are all flawed – regardless of whether we are christian, atheist, jewish, muslim, hindu – and we can all practice yoga together!!

  15. yogasamurai says:

    Many yogis go about it the wrong way, too. Intolerance is not just a Christian problem. Just look at all the nutty cultists in Anusara Yoga.

    If you want to haven an honest dialogue about Yoga, Hinduism and Christianity, let's do it. If you want to keep spouting the We are the World Yoga line, do it, too, but expect it to be pointed out, and not necessarily accepted on faith, especially when you take one guy's private letter and use it to try to make a broader point about yoga's alleged ecumenism, and its ability to guide all other faiths – including Christians – which in fact, it does not have.

    Regarding the invasion of privacy issue, I believe it's Sadie that might want to consult an attorney, since she posted a private communication? Or was the letter intended for online publication through you? Did he license you to exploit his words – and to disparage him – for your own gain? Maybe I missed that. If I did, let me know.

    Next time just write a more thoughtful piece? Namaste

  16. yogasamurai says:

    And Waylon, my brother, you might want to consider the wisdom, legally, of allowing this to go on, because you may well be liable yourself.

  17. bflatbrad says:

    The devil can cite Scripture for his purpose. ~ Shakespeare

  18. guest says:

    bwahahaha! silly american christians. (I am from europe, I yet have to meet crazies like that there..but maybe because I stay clear from tiny towns)
    Anyway, this letter is just silly and if "mike" would read the bible, he would be aware that he doesn't have enough slaves and is sinning by wearing mixed fabrics (cotton polyester blend?)
    If I am a christian (and I used to be RC), those 330 Hindu gods don`t exist. There is only one god. so whatever this practice was intended for (e.g. praying) it doesn't work anyway. (However,what makes those Hindu gods less real than the christian god? no big difference…) How about you consider yoga as a worship to your own god b/c you take care of your "god given" ability and body..

  19. Jill W. says:

    Hi Sadie, as a pastor's wife and yoga instructor, this is a topic I often hear discussed. Perhaps it would be helpful to separate the yoga philosophy from the yoga (asana) practice? Certainly yoga philosophy has some similarities to Hindu and Buddhist traditions. I would argue, however, that yoga (asana) practice can be done separately from the philosophy. (And some in the yoga community would argue that the physical practice is a pretty new addition to the whole thing anyway). Just as prayer and meditation are practices that are used by various religious people (Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, etc.) to draw them closer to God, so too can the physical practice of yoga be used in this way. As one commenter posted, intention matters. Practices are not fundamentally tied to particular philosophical ideas, but are rather tools to assist practitioners as they seek to grow deeper in their spiritual life. Meditation, for example, is a tool to help clear the mind from distraction so that you can better focus – what you choose to meditate on, then, depends on your philosophy or religion. Yoga practice works, at least for me, in a similar way – it clears the mind from distractions, releases tension in the body, and prepares my heart for prayer and meditation. I'm grateful that I've found yoga, and it is one of the spiritual disciplines I teach and practice regularly. You get out of the practice what you bring to it. And of course, if you come to yoga asana without a desire to grow more deeply in your spiritual life, then you will *only* receive the physical benefits of yoga, which of course, are pretty great too! =) Blessings to you this Easter Sunday…

  20. Hi Sadie :) Well stated response, I am sharing it on my FB page! Om shanti, Roberta

  21. Lorraine Hudson says:

    Everyone is responsible for themselves, what they let into their brain, what they allow in their life what they practice in their religion and what they do in their yoga practice.

    Mike needs to learn not to be afraid and live his life without spreading animosity and fear to others. You can bring your own sprituality or religion to your life and yoga practice.

    If breathing lets the devil in we should all just stop inhaling and exhaling…then where would we be?! Mike sounds like he REALLY needs some yoga in his life!

    Thank you Sadie!

  22. Andrew Furst says:

    As a Buddhist and a good friend of devout adherents to many religions I worry your response to the author of the "Good Christians" letter comes from a divided heart. Hatha Yoga is one of the eight limbs of yoga and IS in fact a religious practice. Performing asanas for exercise is not yoga, it is just good exercise. A Yogi's or Yogini's ultimate purpose is to seek union.

    If you are writing the article as a yogini, then you may have abandoned it's purpose to seek union, in this case with your Christian critic. You've adopted the defensive posture of ego. Mike's letter is trying to divide rather than promote union. I worry your response only furthers the divide. Your points in defense of yoga are well meaning, but don't worry, Yoga was here before Mike, you and me. Bad PR cannot harm it. The barbs of Mike's words are only capable of piercing the armor of ego, but our true selves remain unharmed.

    Yoga is the path of seeking the true self. The actions of a Yogi are compassionate and wise. I sense them both in your intent. Take on the path of the true yogi and be fulfilled in Christ, in the Buddha, in God, in the Mystery.

  23. yogasamurai says:

    There are way too many wonderful things that have been written on this topic that could be debated and discussed for an entire millennium. Suffice it to say that the idea that there is ZERO conflict between yoga and Christianity, on the one hand – and therefore, Christians or anyone else need not "worry" — or that they are are fundamentally incompatible "systems" are at opposite sides of the debate, so to speak.

    There are lots of Christians with an anti-Yoga bias, though they don't view it as a bias. And there are just as many yogis with an anti-Christian bias, and they don't see it as a bias, either. Such is life in the world of religious and theological conflict.

    The solutions also range widely. Some do seek to avoid yoga, but others have tried to "Christianize" it, still others to work with some parts, and not others. For some, it's not an issue.

    This could turn into a big issue down the road, though. That is, if you really plan on mainstreaming this industry beyond it's relatively narrow niche of white liberal NPR-listening affluent baby boomer females. Think about it boys and girls. Your future as an industry may be at stake, and your own intolerance and simplistic portrayals of others won't help you get where you want to go.

    So I encourage those interested to look into it further. You can Google lots of relevant articles in 10-15 minutes.

    http://praisemoves.com/about-us/why-a-christian-a… that's just one, with a certain slant. The list is endless.

    Namaste and Happy Easter. I didn't get mail on Sunday. Apparently, Ms. Sardini, through some form of Divine Intervention did? Amazing!

  24. Amber says:

    Sadie, I don’t know why people have such a difficult time with what you do. Your practice has literally changed my life for the better. But, people fear what they do not understand (or in some cases, write crazy incoherent articles about how horrible it is to have a manager).

    As the wise Yoda once said; “Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, and hate leads to suffering” :o) People are terrified of self discovery because they may not like what they find.

    I am so very thankful that I have discovered your style of yoga and the inspiring way you teach it. Please know that for every person sending you hate mail, there are many more people who are living better lives because of you.

  25. Jenifer says:

    My guess is that Sadie did not receive this from Mike directly, but rather someone who reads Mark and lives near Sadie.

    During one phase of my life, I lived in a neighborhood that had a very strong christian community that was very active. They had bible study each week in each other's houses, their children went to the christian school, etc. They were nice people.

    When they discovered that my husband and I were not yet married but living together, buddhist, and that I practiced and taught yoga (they discovered this when they invited us to their church), things changed pretty quickly.

    They were still nice. But, I would find bible verses taped to my door, articles photocopied or printed off the computer about why yoga is bad and shouldn't be practiced, and why a person should come to Jesus.

    About once a quarter, one of their ministers would come to the house to ask me if we wanted to join the church, and I would always invite them in, be polite, and we would talk about the scriptures. Having been raised catholic, I always enjoyed discussing religious interpretation, history, context, and different perspectives of a given scripture. I also like a good "debate" so long as it doesn't get personal or heated.

    After several years of this (and me never attending their church), the minister actually asked me what kept me from churches. And I said "social justice." I found that many do not focus on social justice issues, and instead focus on the petty "first world problems" that people have, and create an us/them process with their preaching.

    I then pointed out several verses and stories where this is the antithesis of Jesus's teachings — which I actually highly value. He then excitedly invited me — some weeks later — to come and hear his sermon inspired by our talks.

    I did go and hear the sermon, and it was great. I also informed him that I still wouldn't be joining the church. It simply wasn't the right place for me.

    I have found that this is far more well-meaning than anything. Whomever is leaving this note for you truly is trying to tell you that they love you. Frustrating, ridiculous, and annoying as it may be, I found it valuable to contemplate why I would have these reactions.

    I wanted to be seen, heard, and valued for who I was — not whether or not I attended their club meetings.

    It's the same frustration and annoyance that I feel when yoga people treat me this way, or my family, or anyone else for that matter. I get cranky-pants. Because I just want to be acknowledged as Ok and Great all on my own without being part of your club/ideas of what is or should be for me.

    When I came to terms with that — and was able to say "You know what, it's ok that they don't see me" — then all of the sudden I could have a lot more fun with a lot more people.

    A couple of my best friends these days are "die hard" christians. I love them. I love hanging out with them. I love their christianity — among many other things about them. They are just amazing people.

    Perhaps that is because they see me. And I see them.

  26. Kim says:

    Hi Sadie,

    First of all, I'm so very grateful for all that you've shared and taught me about yoga. I'm a born-again non-denominational Christian who teaches yoga and is crazy about yoga. I hate that yoga has a bad rap in the Christian community but unless people want to open up to it, they'll never know what it can be about. I know there are some who teach things that do not align with our beliefs but they shouldn't stereotype yoga. Yoga has changed my life! I was NOT offended by your blog post but I'm concerned for the man who wrote you the letter because unless he's been to your yoga class, he has no right to pass judgement in addition to being very narrow minded. I'm secure enough in my faith in Christ that I can practice yoga knowing I'm still bringing honor and glory to my Savior.

    Thanks for posting those Christian yoga links. Those were very interesting.

  27. Scott Robinson YesuDas says:

    Sadie:

    Though I agree that it may be a little hyperbolic to call that letter "hate mail," it certainly has the potential to be "annoy-me-right-out-of-my-equanimity mail"–which you, by your measured and temperate response, didn't allow it become. Well done!

  28. John Archer says:

    Sadie – just some personal advice. This nutty letter did not deserve any kind of response from you – period. You spent a lot of time and effort bringing attention to this person. Your answers were great and I applaud your effort to explain. Follow your own light – you know what you do and why you do it. There will always be fanatics, naysayers and judgments from uninformed, unenlightened people. Just ignore them. When you respond, you bring them attention they don't deserve.

    Congratulations on your dedication to yoga – it is a very noble and worthwhile pursuit.
    http://johnarcher11.wordpress.com/

  29. Dale Elson says:

    Sigh.
    ok.
    This fellow obviously knows little about the modern practice of what we call yoga, and perhaps a bit less about the religion that he claims to champion.

    However, he did get a few things right. The ancient practice of yoga, described by Patanjali, is a profoundly religious non-dualist _Hindu_ practice, designed to quiet the body and emotions so that we can sit in meditation for long periods of time, and (skipping quite a few steps) still the fluctuations of the mind & get free of the cycle of life & reincarnation. That whole concept is profoundly antithetical to the heart of Christianity, and if that was what we practiced today, Christians would be right to steer clear of it.

    Yoga not Hindu? According to the Gita, Krishna taught the yoga to Arjuna, Ya just don't get a whole lot more Hindu that that….

    Today, of course, most Americans practice asana & pranayama as an exercise form, perhaps with vague notions of some sort of "spiritual" benefit. But then, most teachers who present a heart theme or dharma talk, end up with Hindu, Buddhist, or new age teachings, and that is not beneficial for Xtns to listen to, because any spiritual practice that is not centered on Jesus Himself, is in competition with the heart of Xtniaty, which is very focused on Jesus.

    So a single-point meditation is an instead-of-Christ, which your dad can explain is anti-Christ activity – it is using up mental energy that should be used in persuit of a closer relationship with Jesus. It creates the illusion of God-seeking activity, but it yields no fruit (ask your dad). So, even though this fellow is clearly ignorant of the modern practice of yoga in its details, and somewhat confused about how to argue cogently, the root point that he is making is valid – If a Xtn practices yoga as anything other than a temporal exercise form for the body, mind, and emotions, then she is getting into dangerous territory.

    So here's a suggestion (Pr 16:4) "Do not answer a fool according to his folly, or you yourself will be just like him." Or, "leave the annoying crazy person to his Darshan :-)"

  30. Karen says:

    Having been in some interesting discussions with Christians regarding my yoga practice and Christianity, I refer them to the wonderful book written by Thich Naht Nahn.. Living Buddha, Living Christ. :) I personally believe that Jesus would be deeply disturbed by some of the actions being performed “in His name” Jesus embraced diversity, including differences of opinion. His wisdom is aligned with Hinduism and other Eastern religious and spiritual philosophy.. And FTR, we have attributed much to Him and put words in His mouth that I am sure He would not approve of, especially in regards to judging another for their choices in life and making them feel bad about said choices.
    Read the above suggested book and THEN try to defend the letter. I don’t think you’ll find it possible. Oh, and attend a Christian spiritual retreat, where a whole lot of meditation and reflection is taking place.
    Signed, a lapsed Catholic girl who now practices her own religion of Methodisthindubuddhistsikh while wearing lulumon pants because they just happen to be the most comfy pair of yoga pants she owns.

  31. Chelsea Tegtman says:

    Sadie I think it takes a lot of guts to write about this. I am sure you were hurt, confused and felt pretty darn terrible after reading such a judging, hateful letter. And by the way folks, this is hate mail…it is targeting her inner being and what she values most in life, that's hateful. She doesn't have to get a death threat on her doorstep in order to feel unsafe and offended by his hateful words…and why can't he ask her to coffee and have a honest face to face about this…it shows weakness and it is shady all around!

    Sadie, I have to tell you, I received one of these lovely letters myself once. My EX best friend "found God," and left me a nice little letter on my porch saying I was going to hell for all the so called "fun" I was having. Granted this was 10 years ago, and I am appalled to see that it is still happening today.

    Yoga is what and who you are Sadie, and God is what Mike is. Nobody should have the right to come in and shit all over your beliefs and what you do to practice inner peace and fulfillment. I attend Church (a very groovy one in Fort Collins, CO called Unity…you should come with me sometime…we sing Beatles songs in place of hymns) and this groovy church lets me take what I learn from our Spiritual Leader onto my mat. It helps me to gain control of my thoughts, practice and how I view the world.

    I am about to go through a Yoga Teacher Training this summer so I can help share the practice of Yoga and hopefully if not reach those like Mike, I can reach those who are being negatively influence by those like Mike, and teach them to find love in their hearts again. Love is all yoga is, light and love that we send out of our minds and spirits into our lives and the rest of the world to make it a better place. I have not once heard of a student leaving a Yoga class and then going and "drinking the kool=aid" so to speak.

    I would think that those like Mike, who claim to be of Christian faith would be happy and empowered that you have a belief in something!! Yoga is faith! I don't care what you call it. To me Yoga is my religion because it fills me with love and empowerment to get through the day in this scary world. It grounds me, roots me into my process of being in this human experience. Why why why would someone want to make me feel bad for this. I am not out blowing off my day job picketing hate in front of Abortion Clinics or Gay Rights headquarters…no i'm not!!! I am on my mat, enjoying cleansing thru breath, enjoying the gift I have to move my body, and enjoying the benefits that come from within myself.

    Bravo Sadie, again it takes a lot of guts to open up and share this with the world. I believe it's important as well. It shows just how far the Yoga community has to go, but honestly do us Yogi's really give a shit? Most of us are probably too busy enjoying life and each other and our personal and community growth to care what they say. The only reason I am responding is I feel that Sadie is being unfairly judged and I believe in her and feel she has the right to hear someone say that.

  32. Valerie Carruthers ValCarruthers says:

    Just posted to "Popular Lately" on the Elephant Spirituality Homepage.

    Valerie Carruthers
    Please go and "Like" Elephant Spirituality on Facebook

  33. Mariana says:

    I'm a Christian….born again by the blood of Jesus Christ! Know my bible, know the commandments of the New Testament which is essentially in place to cancel out the practices of the Old Testament with the exception on the 10 commandments.

    I have this to say to Mike……I love God, Christ, the Church , The Bible…….but dislike VERY much the self-righteous 'Christians' who point fingers at everyone elses life except their own. If I enjoy horseback riding….is that invoking evil thoughts? If I want to dance to the Newsboys in my own shimming groove, am I hellbound for moving my body while praising through song? It's people like Mike that make life far more difficult for people who really try to practice Jesus's message of love and peace. I believe Judgement comes from the Father and none other!! So, I will continue to praise Him through yoga, bike riding, horse riding, kite flying or whatever other 'ridiculous' thing you (Mike) have taken a personal dislike to. There is room for all of us and everyone is entitled to lead a life that they find enjoyable. Yes, I pray that all find their way 'home' to Christ but bashing them over the head with narrow-mindedness is not only a deterrent but not pleasing to God in the least.

    Thank you Elephant Journal, for letting me express my opinion and also for the opportunity to show that not all Christians are judgmental, small minded and quick to condemn others for their life choices. That's called freedom of will, which is a God given gift (read Genesis Mike). Hugs to all……xoxo

  34. Karen Polvinale says:

    Sadie, all I can say is You Rock!

  35. Tanya Lee Markul Tanya Lee Markul says:

    Just posted to "Featured Today" on the Elephant Yoga homepage.

    Tanya Lee Markul, Yoga Editor
    Like Elephant Yoga on Facebook
    Follow on Twitter

    Like Elephant Yoga on Facebook.

  36. Sadie Nardini sadienardini says:

    PS…from the site NamasteYogaCharya.com, who said this very well:

    The overall purpose of the sutras is to make clear the connection of autonomy, self actualization and connection with the collective conscious. Although some have interpreted this purpose as a religious purpose, the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali are actually a philosophy of life and not a religion. Patanjali stressed acceptance of religions of all kind without prejudice.

    The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali may be used in conjunction with any religious belief as the basic tenets contained therein are the pursuit of knowledge and the gaining of wisdom through self-awareness, self-discipline, and self-actualization. The Sutras are based in logic and not in faith. They are concerned with the concept of freeing ones- self from the shackles of belief without reason and instead accessing the true spirit and true self for deeper understanding of others and the world via the collective conscious. The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali brings together the physical practice of yoga and the metaphysical concepts of mind and spirit.

  37. Tanya Lee Markul Tanya Lee Markul says:

    Posting to Elephant Yoga on Facebook and Twitter.

    Tanya Lee Markul, Yoga Editor
    Join us! Like Elephant Yoga on Facebook
    Follow on Twitter

  38. Chelsea says:

    All I have to say is I have the right to practice yoga and if anyone doesn't like it they have the right to focus on something else. Be the person you want to be everyone, dont allow small minded people to push you into a box. We draw lines just to colour outside them.

  39. Graziano says:

    Christianity is a very difficult religion to practice because it requires so much mindfulness which is, of course, the only path to repentance. As soon as you lose mindfulness you lose the ability to engage in forgiveness- -any form. Christ did meditate. Yoga is clearly a path to meditation. Anger is clearly a sign that something needs tending in the heart. If I feel a moment of anger I meditate upon it, and I am sure that any religious teacher worth his or her salt would expect that from us. I myself will not unsheathe my metaphorical sword, and if I have done so I will put it away as soon as I realize it. And now for a little Lion's breath.

    xoxo Sadie From Zendiyogi

  40. Pete says:

    I am aware that the original issue – the receipt by Sadie of the letter – could have been unsettling given, for example, that it came to her personal address. Her sense of personal space and even physical safety may have felt invaded. Sadie's original note appears to say that the letter came to her physical mailbox. Hmm, yes, could be sorta creepy, there, unless her address is already widely known.

    I am also finding myself so glad that this tempest has arisen and that I happened upon it today. I have learned much today from reading all the myriad opinions, learned responses, so-different points of view. Seeing the heat in some of the posts, seeing where some people clearly – to me – have an axe to grind one way or another, who came to this discussion with a bit of a chip on their shoulder, the many reassurances offered and received, the pleas to be seen and heard and recognized.

    Whether or not the letter deserved or needed a response in my view is proving to be a distant secondary issue. Of primary importance – to me – is the dialogue that has ensued and the feeling I have that my mind is a tiny crack more opened today because of it. I bet I'd be safe in assuming that there are others who have read this and feel similarly.

    I'm grateful for this exchange, today. Expression is part of life and learning. Today, that happened. May there be many more! Thank you, Sadie, for touching a flame to the wick in the first place. Whether you know it or not, or whether any of us know it or not, some more light entered the world this day.

  41. Rommy Kirby says:

    Thanks Sadie!

    This is a conversation that goes straight to the heart of belief and I believe it boils down to 'if I am right, then you are wrong, but if you are right then I am wrong'. This is fear. Fear is the seed of comparison, lack, judgement and anger. Fear is absent of love.

    Jesus Christ lived and preached one thing consistently. Love. (Anybody know who Kay Arthur is? She taught me that if it isn't plain, it isn't main as it relates to the Bible, because the Bible warns of petty squabbles that distract from the message.) We humans have distorted Jesus' message of love and it's power to create, heal and restore. Love is sex, love is money, a new car, purse, boots, love is a jelly doughnut or that chocolate easter (deliberately lower case) bunny you placed in in your child's basket. Regardless of our religious or spiritual beliefs, most of us can't even recognize love when it's given unless it comes with a ring, card or gift attached.

    Here is what is missing from the view that Christians should never do Yoga, in my opinion…

    Jesus addressed and satisfied the physical needs first.

    When the gross (physical) is satisfied the subtle (spirit) can be activated, massaged and soothed. From here, knowledge turns to wisdom, anger becomes passion, judgement advances to discernment, comparison evolves to compassion. From a Christian perspective the body is often viewed as sinful, defiled and dirty. But Jesus came and said our bodies were temples.

    Yet, Christianity gives no simple tools to overcome the temptations of the mind and body other than to pray and seek the Lord with all our heart, mind, and BODY. (When was the last time you were able to focus on 4 complete breaths without loosing attention?) This is why the Christian church is filled with humans that are overweight, even obese and stand on their pulpit (read blog, newsletter, facebook status, letter to the editor or post comment) to point out the sin and folly of sexual misconduct. Though both sexual misconduct and obesity are gross or physical manifestations, they are rooted in the subtle and are essentially the same, a manifestation of fear. We cannot hold 2 opposing beliefs, the body is contemptuous or it is a holy temple.

    If it is contemptuous, then I must bring it under submission. (there are sects that practice self flagellation to appease this belief)

    If it is a temple, then I must honor it. (nourish it with good food, appropriate rest and physical and mental exercise)

    It is up to the Christian to decide what they believe.

    Yoga, more specifically the physical practice of asana is a way past the physical 'me' into the subtle 'me'. There are physiological responses to the yoga postures that will give anyone the ability to honor their temple, it is not hokus pokus. As we move on our mats contemplating the complexity of Warrior 1, we are invited into the cosmos living in our cells. The deeper we take our awareness the more vast our universe becomes. The more vast our universe, the greater our God and connection to each other.

    Should Christian practice yoga? Yes

    For many, regardless of personal spiritual belief, yoga will always be a fitness program. And that is ok…
    Practice and all will come

    Fabulous conversation,
    Rock OM!!!

  42. Floyd Miller says:

    I bet Mike the letter-writer and Yogasamuarai (probably the same person) have no problem with Chuck Norris combining Asian Buddhist, Taoist, Shao-lin, and Shinto- inspired martial arts with Christianity. Kung fu comes from Kung Fu-Tzu, or Confucius.

    Examine the calendar: Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday are Wodin’s, Thor’s, and Frieda’s days – Norse Gods. The months of the year include January, named after the Roman God Janus.

    Many of our Christmas and Easter traditions were adapted from pagan practices, such as Christmas trees, mistletoe, Easter eggs and bunnies, and many more. December 25 was chosen for Christmas because it replaced the pagan Saturnalia festival and the name Easter even comes from a Norse goddess Eostre.

    The current Sharia Law controversies also have an interesting sidenote in that our word Sheriff comes from the ASrabic Sharif, meaning an enforcer of Sharia Law. I guess if we ban Sharia, we will have to close all our sheriff’s offices.

    Because the Way of Christ (Christianity was originally meant as an insult)was extended to the Gentile world, Jewish Mosaic Law (which Sharia Law was based on, by the way) was put aside or modified to account for cultural diversity; as Paul says in 1 Corinthians 9:22b-23, “I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.” In Acts 10-11, Peter eats non-Kosher food with a Roman and accepts that Jesus died for the Gentiles also.

    The real objection to Christians doing yoga would seem to be its association with being mainly a woman’s activity, especially since it brings the woman into community with others not of her family and gives the woman feelings as Sadie has described. Right wing men would feel threatened by such, and therefore are using the theological argument as a red herring (used correctly) for their true objections.

  43. Maria Fabie says:

    I personally feel that even Jesus Christ was a yogi! I was born and bred in the Catholic/Christian manner and when i did my Yoga Teaching course, i could not help but notice how similar it was to the religion/beliefs i grew up with. Jesus Christ meditated under the Olive tree in the garden of Gethsemane and many other things he did was very yogic, his Karma yoga ways for example, feeding and healing the poor and the hungry, some people just haven't got anything better to do and say in life, and yes, i agree with you Sadie, Mike should try and get on the mat as soon as possible!

  44. Bonnie says:

    The entire point of spirituality in any sense is to seek out our similarities rather than highlight our differences.

  45. […] I feel moved to respond to Sadie Nardini’s recent post: To the Christian Who Sent Me Hate Mail on Easter Sunday. […]

  46. InterestingIndeed says:

    When did the mail start coming on Sundays?

  47. studentyogi says:

    Yoga is one of the six philosophical schools of Hinduism. For a more detailed academic study, check out the online course offered by the oxford university centre for Hindu studies : Philosophy of Yoga.

    You can take the Yoga out of Hinduism but you cant take the Hinduism out of Yoga!

    Trace its roots, and give its proper heritage rightful acceptance. Its fine to be a christian Yogi, atheist yogi anything you want!

    But please be rest assured that Yoga is a Hindu school of thought!

    Now maybe a better discussion is what is a Hindu!!?

  48. Kasey Luber Luber says:

    OY VEY! Sadie for president!

  49. Roger Wolsey Roger Wolsey says:

    We've been offering free yoga (authentic, non-Christianized, non-Americanized/exercise yoga) at Wesley Chapel in Boulder for CU and Naropa students for years! We consider it a ministry and part of our seeking to provide for the wholeness/salvation of whole persons – including their bodies, hearts, spirits, and minds.

    On a related note, here's a recent article by a Christian saying why Christians should do yoga. Namaste. http://johnshore.com/2010/07/16/a-christian-reade

Leave a Reply