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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Editor: Bryonie Wise

Image: sierragoddess/Flickr Creative Commons

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