People are practicing yoga everywhere these days – at fitness centers, in schools, at retreats, and even in churches. Yoga is often seen in the movies and on television, including children’s programs, like Sesame Street and reality shows like Duck Dynasty.
With 21 million adults in the United States saying they practice yoga, the ancient practice is more popular than ever. While there are no numbers saying how many of them are Christians, many believers say practicing yoga has led to improvements with their health.
Some Christians are even forming yoga groups. Christians Practicing Yoga is an interdenominational group made up of Baptists, Lutherans, Catholics, and other denominations that say they are “drawn together through our individual and collective experience that yoga and meditation deepens our Christian faith.”
One member of the group is Reverend Kevin Flynn, an Anglican priest who has no qualms about being a yoga-practicing Christian. He states that Christians who practice yoga can relate it to their faith in different ways. “The bottom line seems to be that what makes the practice Christian is those who do it,” he says.
But should those who profess to be a Christian practice yoga? Are there negative spiritual consequences for doing so?
Many people, Christians included, say they practice yoga to reap some of its benefits, which includes stress reduction, increased flexibility, weight reduction, and relief of chronic pain. If the benefits are so good, Christians argue, then how can it be so bad?
The Bible says “my people are destroyed from lack of knowledge.” (Hosea 4:6). Many Christians jump into yoga without realizing the spiritual implications. And when churches host yoga classes, with some of them calling it “Holy Yoga,” it’s easy to see how Christians get led astray. Many believe that since they are not doing any chanting or engaging in any of the beliefs regarding the chakra theory, that they are doing a Christian version of yoga that is completely safe and pleasing to God. However, some Christians believe this could not be further from the truth.
Yoga is a spiritual and ascetic discipline founded 5,000 years ago in northern India by the Indus-Sarasvati civilization and is commonly practiced by Hindus. What some people may not realize is that the word yoga, which is derived from the word yuj, means “to unite” or “to yoke”. For this reason alone, Christian author, speaker, and blogger Julie Roys encourages Christians to stay away from yoga. She says that the mere definition of the word begs the question, “Yoked to whom?”
Some Christians blindly go about perfecting each posture and all the moves thinking they are doing something good for themselves. However, each posture and technique used in yoga was designed to be a type of offering to certain Hindu gods. The original intent of yoga was to become yoked with gods, like Shiva, which is the Hindu god known as the patron god of yoga, meditation, and arts.
Sometimes Shiva is called Destroyer. Other gods include Brahma and Vishnu. Brahma is considered the Hindu god responsible for creating the universe and Vishnu is the preserver of the universe. Together, Shiva, Brahma, and Vishnu make up a Hindu trinity that all get worshipped during yoga.
Many Christians believe that because they are not chanting or meditating, and that they are instead focusing on Jesus, they are doing a Christian form of yoga. However, some believe the words “Christian yoga” is an oxymoron. According to Roys, “Given its thoroughly Hindu foundation, I don’t think it can ever be fully stripped of all its religious meaning and become mere exercise. And, it certainly is not a valid means of Christian worship. Saying that we can Christianize yoga is, in a sense, saying that we can Christianize Hinduism.”
Christian speaker and author Laurette Willis practiced yoga for 22 years before finally realizing the negative consequences. According to Willis, there are stark differences between yoga and Christianity. “Yoga wants to get students to the point of complete numbness in their minds. God, on the other hand, wants you to be transformed by the renewing of your mind through his Word.”
According to Willis, some of the goals of yoga are to empty the mind and step outside the body. “If there’s nothing in your mind, you’re open to all kinds of deception. After coming to Christ, I wondered who—or what—came into my body when I ‘stepped out.’ While I don’t believe Christians can become possessed, I do believe we can become oppressed by demonic spirits of fear, depression, lust, false religion, etc. These are all things designed to draw us away from Jesus Christ.”
~ Christian Patriot Daily