December 22, 2013

Yoga for Christians?

I’m writing this post for my mom, who is a lively woman, a Catholic and the roundabout reason I found yoga as a young teenager.

Mom and I have had our share of heated arguments regarding religion over the years, but now we choose to agree to disagree and love each other anyway. So, I was open to her suggestion that I write about how much the virtues of Christianity have in common with the ideals of yoga.

Yes, Jesus was a liberal Democrat, as Stephen Colbert quips. Regardless of whether you believe in his divinity, the guy was no doubt a champion of compassion.

Yoga and Christianity also share a multitude of variations (called “lineages” in yoga and “denominations” in Christianity). Within their respective communities, there are the purists or orthodox or conservatives, and there are the liberals or progressives or reformed—and everything in between. As in every community, there’s plenty of in-fighting, finger pointing, shaming and denouncement of those with opposing beliefs.

A quick search for “Christian yoga” brings up two opposing views.

One: that yoga is demonic, will turn you into a Hindu and is to be avoided by the Bible believer. Two: websites for some newfangled forms of Christian yoga—with names like PraiseMoves, Scripture Yoga and Yahweh Yoga. Seriously.

Yes, yoga came from India. Yes, its roots are intertwined with Hinduism. No, you are not sinning if you go to yoga class. No, you will not magically transform into a Hindu by doing breath work or downward dog.

For better or worse, the yogic teachings have been watered down and mainstream. Most public yoga classes are squarely secular. All interested bodies and minds are welcome. The most Sanskrit you’ll get is an “om shanti” chant or a grateful “namaste” at the end of the practice, if that.

As one evangelical blogger wrote:

Let me witness that yoga has never had any negative influence on me, and it doesn’t trigger any harmful religious impulses. Just the opposite is true.

The three hours a week I spend doing yoga not only make me more flexible, tone my muscles, and relax me. They also draw me closer to Christ. They are my bodily-kinetic prayer.

Even Pope Francis has opened his mind and is starting to “radically” evolve his Church’s doctrine to be more inclusive and accepting of all, just as Jesus taught. The Pope!

Yoga, practiced consistently, will open your mind, heart and tight muscles.

For Christians, that means it helps strengthen and deepen your connection to Christ. For all of us, that means we become more flexible, mindful, loving, compassionate and kind. And isn’t that the point of life?



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Mitch Mar 20, 2014 11:31am

Syncretists aside, similarities do not equate symbiosis, transliteration, acceptability, ontological/theological/scriptural/doctrinal soundness or spiritually safe practice for the Jesus-accepting, God (Yahweh)-fearing Christian. While there may be structural similarities between Buddhist or Hindu (which cannibalized most of its belief system and practices from others, especially the Buddhists), the similarities stop there. The spiritual precepts of yoga are not only antithetical to Christian perspective, their spiritually dangerous to even consider. The asanas are considered sacrificial poses to various deities and it is of little coincidence that "transcendental meditation" is included as a theological base in the practice to "yoke" oneself to whatever supernatural entity they want to believe is there to help them. It's also of little coincidence that a idol is present in studios (typically in every practice room and even in some waiting rooms!). I distinctly remember learning in the 1st and 2nd commandments NOT to do this!

Kundalini, clearly against Biblical teaching…in fact, we are clearly demonstrated in the Gospels and as well again in Paul's writings not to engage these things and to test the spirits. 1 John 4:1-7 specifically. Your mom was absolutely spot on in her biblically-grounded perspective to disagree with her and I hope and pray you listen to her.

As for what happens in the Papal city, as with Vegas, can stay there. The Pope does not represent Christendom and to those of us with Protestant doctrinal perspective hey may as well be another anti-Christ. I don't give one rip about what the Pope says, he does not speak for me or anyone else outside of the Roman-Catholic church.

Grace & Peace

Valerie Dec 22, 2013 8:25pm

Jesus in the Lotus-The Mystical Doorway between Christianity and Yogic Spirituality
by Russill Paul

Highly recommended as a great read on this subject

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Michelle Margaret Fajkus

Michelle Margaret is a heart-centered writer, teacher and creator of Yoga Freedom.

She has been a columnist on Elephant Journal since 2010 and has self-published inspiring books. She incorporates dharma, hatha, yin, mindfulness, chakras, chanting and pranayama into her teachings and practice. A former advertising copywriter and elementary school teacher, she is now a freelance writer and translator. Michelle learned yoga from a book at age 12 and started teaching at 22. She met the Buddha in California at 23 and has been a student of the dharma ever since. Michelle is now approaching her forties with grace and gratitude.

Join Michelle for a writing and yoga retreat this summer at magical Lake Atitlan in the western highlands of Guatemala!