Being a former holistic health practitioner, of course, I have been exposed to and done yoga many times. Being a Christian, I have dealt with people that have gone against the practice of yoga mainly due to the history of it. Let me tell you, I get it. I really do, but having an open holistic mind and being a Christian sometimes overlap.
According to Christianity Today:
Yoga, deeply rooted in Hinduism, essentially means to be “yoked” with the divine. Yogic postures, breathing, and chanting were originally designed not to bring better physical health and well-being (Western marketing to the contrary), but a sense of oneness with Brahman—the Hindu word for the absolute being that pervades all things. This is pantheism (all is divine), not Christianity.
In order to find “enlightenment,” one must extinguish one’s critical capacities—something the Bible never calls us to do (Rom. 12:1-2). In fact, suspending our critical capacities through meditation opens the soul to deception and even to spiritual bondage.
No amount of chanting, breathing, visualizing, or physical contortions will melt away the sin that separates us from the Lord of the cosmos—however “peaceful” these practices may feel.
According to the Hindu American Foundation (HAF):
Yoga, from the word “yuj” (Sanskrit, “to yoke” or “to unite”), refers to spiritual practices that are essential to the understanding and practice of Hinduism. Yoga and yogic practices date back more than 5,000 years – the Indus Valley seals depict a number of figures in postures identical to various asanas. The term covers a wide array of practices, embodied in eight “limbs,” which range from ethical and moral guidelines to meditation on the Ultimate Reality. Yoga is a combination of both physical and spiritual exercises, entails mastery over the body, mind and emotional self, and transcendence of desire. The ultimate goal is moksha, the attainment of liberation from worldly suffering and the cycle of birth and rebirth.
Although the Western Yoga community fully acknowledges Yoga’s Indian roots, and even requires study of Hindu philosophy and scripture in most of its teacher certification programs, much of it openly disassociates Yoga’s Hindu roots.
The Hindu American Foundation (HAF) reaffirms that Yoga, “an inward journey, where you explore your mind, your awareness, your consciousness, your conscience” is an essential part of Hindu belief and practice. But the science of yoga and the immense benefits its practice affords are for the benefit of all of humanity regardless of personal faith. Hinduism itself is a family of pluralistic doctrines and ways of life that acknowledge the existence of other spiritual and religious traditions. Hinduism, as a non-proselytizing religion, never compels practitioners of yoga to profess allegiance to the faith or convert. Yoga is a means of spiritual attainment for any and all seekers.
Yes, yoga has its roots in a religion, but that does not mean you are of that religion if you so choose to practice it. Yoga has become known more now as a philosophy, a way to connect back to your own spiritually, whatever that may be to whomever that may practice it.
And if you’re thinking of the chanting that goes along with yoga, think again. Every teacher and every class is different. Even yogi for life Tara Stiles doesn’t do the chanting. Some call her a rebel, some call her simply standing up for what she believes. There’s even something called No OM Yoga classes. No OM Yoga is about helping people reap the amazing physical and mental benefits of yoga, that’s it. Asking people to chant can cause conflict for people who don’t necessarily identify with the tradition.
Also, what about the thousands of people yoga has helped get through countless situations? Are you going to tell the people that happened to be Christians and practiced yoga that they were wrong to do so?
- The 2007 National Health Interview Survey found that yoga is one of the top 10 complementary health approaches used among U.S. adults.
- Yoga may help women quit smoking, according to results of a pilot study that researchers say is the first to examine yoga’s effect on smoking cessation.
- Iyengar yoga may help improve fatigue and vigor in breast cancer survivors, according to a study published in the journal Cancer.
- Research has shown that yoga can be used to control physical functions such as blood pressure, heart rate, breathing, metabolism, body temperature, brain waves, and skin resistance.
- Yoga has helped women that have been victims of domestic violence
- Yoga helps people with psoriatic arthritis
- Yoga helps to relieve depression
And the list goes on…
I’m not here to tell you what to do. In the end the choice is ultimately up to you – you have to be comfortable with whatever you choose. All I ask is if you choose not to practice it, please be understanding and accepting of the people that do choose to.
Resources for You:
Christians Practicing Yoga (excellent website!)
Something else to think about…do you receive any of these alternative/complementary therapies?
Other Alternative Practices That Have Non-Christian Traditions:
Thai Yoga Massage