Is it Okay for Christians to Practice Yoga?

Is it Okay for Christians to Practice Yoga?

Dear Roger, 

As a Christian, is it okay to take yoga classes since yoga is from a non- Christian practice?

Faith

Dear Faith,

Yoga originated and may still be used in a non-Christian way. You would want to avoid using, practicing, or attending yoga classes with religious overtones.

On the other hand, Yoga is practiced today by many solely for physical strength, flexibility and meditative purposes. I would not hesitate to use yoga in a non-religious setting for your own personal health and profit. Most exercise clubs offer yoga classes without the religious overtones. 

The term, “yoga,” refers to traditional physical and spiritual disciplines which originated in India. Based on images in the Indus Valley, yoga was practiced at least 5,000 years ago. The practice of yoga was codified between 1500 and 1200 BC and has spread throughout many civilizations and religions as a way to meditate and quiet one’s mind while merging with the infinite. Yoga is an integral practice of Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism as well as a plethora of smaller religions.

I was not at all surprised to Google “yoga” and find that the number of yoga-exercise sites outnumbered the yoga-religious sites by about four to one. One yoga center focused on the religious significance of yoga, promoting its classes of yoga as a:

path of self-study and meditative attunement which induces a direct perception into the nature of consciousness, the patterns of your mind and of Life itself. It is the art of total balance, a science for harmonizing the disparate parts of your being into wholeness, a way of creative living (This a direct quote from Goswami Kriyananda).

On the other hand, another site promoted only the exercise and fitness aspects of its yoga classes.

Bikram’s Yoga College of India … invites you to come in and experience the most exciting, challenging, effective and amazing hot yoga you’ll ever encounter! Scientifically designed by Yoga expert Bikram Choudhury, the series consists of 26 postures (asanas) and two breathing exercises, performed in a given order in a heated room. This series is designed to benefit every muscle, tendon, joint, ligament, organ, gland and cell in your body. It will detoxify you and improve the functioning of all bodily systems. Our certified instructors will guide you through the 26 Bikram postures helping you to achieve the maximum benefits from your practice. Our studio has separate men’s and women’s changing areas and showers ready for our guests. So come prepared to work hard, sweat, and have fun!

Some Christians take the position that any contact with yoga is wrong. For example, in 1989, the Vatican declared that Eastern meditation practices such as yoga can “degenerate into a cult of the body.”

Some Christian organizations consider the practice of yoga to be inherently tied to its religious background, and therefore, a non-Christian religious practice. Some also consider yoga to be a part of the New Age movement and therefore inconsistent with Christianity.

Personally, I would no doubt benefit from a yoga class at the fitness center. Unfortunately, I am afraid that I might rip some muscle that I didn’t even know existed and be laid up for weeks. Frankly, I see no problem with a Christian taking part in yoga classes that are basically for fitness and exercise. 

On the other hand, as a Christian, I would never be comfortable—nor would I ever—place myself at the feet of anyone who was teaching yoga from a religious perspective.

I hope these thoughts are helpful to you. Exercise well.

Love, Roger

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