Yoga is exercise. It is a form of fitness that promotes strength, flexibility, and stillness. Most yoga classes that I attend are void of religious references. You pose, you hold it, and you release the pose. Many times you’re trying so hard just to balance, keep your arms elevated, or stand in a strenuous position for several minutes that you don’t have the time or energy to think about anything else. I am persuaded that most Christians who oppose yoga have never even taken a yoga class.
Yoga is also form of meditation. It is a moving meditation. It has a spiritual side, which is probably where most of the controversy about yoga resides. Yoga has a mind-body-spirit connection. Central to yoga is our breathe. When the breathe slows down, the mind slows down as well. In fact, the purpose of yoga was to prepare the body for meditation. When the mind becomes still, we enter into a state of inner peace. When our mind is at peace, we create a greater space for God in our lives, to hear and experience Him on a deeper level, a spiritual level. The Bible says that “the spirit of God is within you.” Therefore, it is up to us to prepare our hearts to fellowship with Him. This is why yoga appeals to many Christians.
Those who are against yoga believe it opens Christians up to evil spirits and demons lurking in the darkness. They believe by being still and quieting our minds, we become prey to a host of spiritual unknowns. The majority of Christians who practice yoga know where their allegiance lies and they’re not so easily persuaded or manipulated. We know that Jesus is our Lord and we can use yoga to strengthen our relationship with him. We know in our heart and mind how to use yoga as a form to worship God.
I believe there are far more sinister practices that lead Christians down the path of deception and darkness than yoga. These include television, godless movies, popular music, and secular magazines. If Christians want to denounce evil and lead people towards the path of righteousness and holiness, help them to realize how the media is undermining their Christian walk every minute of everyday, not just the several hours per week spent at yoga class. Through the media, we are being feed a daily diet of anti-Christ propaganda that is deceiving us and keeping us from pursuing an intimate relationship with the Lord. Yoga on the other hand, does quite the opposite. Christians can use yoga to detach from these illusions, enter into oneness with God, and create a deeper connection with His spirit.
Jesus told the Pharisees in Matthew 23: 13, “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to. The growing interest in yoga to the Christian is a result of spiritual hunger. Going to church, listening to a sermon, serving in the church is not filling the gaping hole that continues to grow in Christians who don’t want more programs but more God. They are not finding it in the building, so they are looking elsewhere. Yoga or a Christ-centered yoga alternative is just another tool that allows Christians to put into practice the scripture that says, “Be still and know that I am God.”
When was the last time you we’re taught about meditating on God or practiced meditation in the church? When was the last time you spent time dwelling in God’s presence in the sanctuary? I can honestly tell you that for me the answer is very rarely. Most churches don’t value the quiet. Many may argue that abiding with God is a personal matter; however, many modern-day Christians aren’t even familiar with this concept and if they are, they have been discouraged to do so. In fact, there are Christians who have been brainwashed to believe that meditation is of the devil. But I believe that there is “no” greater practice that can help a Christian realize a personal, thriving, and growing relationship with God, than to spend time with Him in silence and solitude meditating on his word and abiding in his presence.
In all this condemning of yoga, Christians have forgotten the love and liberty that we have in Jesus Christ. John said in 1 John 3:21, “If our heart condemns us not, we have confidence towards God, meaning God is able to convict his children of sin or wrong-doing. Therefore, if in your heart you feel yoga is not of God, then you are obligated to not practice it, less you sin. In many such decisions God gives us a personal choice. He never appointed judges and juries to tell us to do this or that. That’s what the Holy Spirit is for. The Bible says, When the Holy Spirit comes you will not need any man to teach you because the Holy Spirit will teach you all things. I have actually heard stories of individuals receiving Jesus Christ on a yoga mat. What a wonderful opportunity to disciple the world. They come for yoga and get saved!
If Christians practice yoga as a form of worship, as a way to love and honor God and grow in relationship with him, what right has anyone to tell them any differently? Paul in Romans 14:4 declares, “Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand.” If as a Christian we practice yoga with the right motives and out of a pure heart, God receives our praise.
Are all yoga classes created equal? Absolutely not! There are yoga classes that are smothered in Hinduism, so Christians must be discerning when selecting a yoga class or teacher. I have actually walked out of yoga studios accessorized with huge Buddha statues, not because I don’t believe Buddha was a wise or enlightened man, but being a Christian I don’t worship Buddha, I worship the Lord Jesus Christ; there is no confusion in my heart. Hatha yoga or Yogafit are several types of yoga that have extracted all the religious components of yoga. Also, many gyms like 24 Hour Fitness offers yoga classes primarily for fitness and relaxation. God doesn’t want us to be discerning just about yoga, he wants us to be discerning regarding all aspects of our life as well. How we spend our time, money, what we eat, and where we attend church also have positive and negative ramifications.
Roman 14:2 says, “One man’s faith allows him to eat everything, but another man whose faith is weak eats only vegetables.” Should we therefore all become vegetarians? Perhaps those who oppose yoga believe that “they” themselves lack the strength to practice yoga without being seduced away from the Lord. Verse 13 declares, “Let each one be fully convinced in his own mind. He who regards the day [yoga] as special does so to the Lord. He who eats meat [or practices yoga], eats to the Lord, for he gives thanks to God. Therefore let us stop passing judgment. Blessed is the man who does not condemn himself by what he approves. But the man who doubts is condemned [if he practices yoga], because his eating [yoga practice] is not of faith; and everything that does not come from faith is sin.”
1 Corinthians 8:4 tells us, “We know that an idol is nothing at all in the world and that there is no God but one. For even if there are so called gods, whether in heaven or on the earth (as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords) yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live and there is but one Lord ”
Yoga will continue to be a controversial topic amongst Christians, but that’s okay. God has given us the freedom and liberty to serve him in ways that not everyone will approve of. Christians who practice yoga, do so unto the Lord, Christians who don’t practice yoga, do so unto the Lord, so regardless of what side of the fence you stand, if you are using your faith to exalt and honor the Lord, according to the scriptures, it’s really no bodies business, but yours and Gods. Interested in Christian Yoga? See popular Christian yoga DVDs below.