Should Christians Do Yoga?
This question has been creating quite an uproar in the recent years whether it be in the yogi community or amongst the christians. So today I wanted to share my Yoga Journey as a Christian who also once feared to practice yoga.
3 years ago, I was burnt out - I was involved in numerous ministries, volunteer work and working on my business/career. Then one day I met a friend who was a yoga instructor and decided to to attend his classes. I fell in love with the practice because it allowed me to take time out to focus and evaluate my physical, mental and spiritual state. It was the only time I took out to just stop and pause. During this period of time, I found myself being able to learn to love enjoying the present and not always in the hustle and bustle. For a few months I was so absorbed into the yogi culture I became vegetarian for a few months and often met up with my yoga instructor and heard him share his philosophies on how to live. I admit, I was so heavily engaged in it that I started to question whether it was going to conflict with my faith. I was so afraid that I eventually stopped practicing yoga and ended up becoming a Pilates instructor.
For 2 years I was instructing Pilates and started to integrate some yoga in my teachings. It started to make me question whether I could teach yoga with my belief system. Was it really yoga itself that had philosophies that didn't align with my faith or was it just each instructor had their own set of belief system that they taught their students? What if I could create a space where students can learn yoga with christian meditation? These thoughts lingered around for a few months. Below are a few things that I have thought through before finally deciding that Yoga can be Holy and why I love practicing Yoga as a Christian.
As most Christians are concerned of the origins of yoga and afraid to be lead away from their faith, I would like to make two points in this blog. Is Yoga a practice that belongs to Hinduism? And secondly, does the origin really matter anyway?
What is Yoga and where did it come from?
Yoga is essentially a practice of movement, meditation and breath work. It’s origin can be dated back to a few thousand years ago. Carvings of yoga poses have been found to date back to 5000 years old! No one really knows where and who created the Yoga practice but it was definitely before the start of Hinduism. However it was adapted by the Hindu religion because of the numerous benefits it had on people’s ability to use the practice for devotion and worship. It later became widely popular in the western culture for people seeking physical and spiritual wellness. Yoga practice then adopted many new age philosophies as people started to seek spirituality. This has caused many Christians to be afraid to dip their toes into yoga practice and rightly so. We do not want to yoke with any practice that would lead us away from our faith.
However one must understand the difference between yoga and religion. Yoga is not a religion but it is often used in religious practices because of the benefits it provides, allowing individuals to quieten their minds and focus on devotion to their belief systems. As a Christian I have to say that it is extremely important to bring wisdom into the situation, to know who you are training with, because the instructor who guides your practice will greatly influence your views and your belief. In saying so, I have attended classes where the practice was purely for fitness.
2. Does it really matter where Yoga originated?
As we have cleared up, yoga is not religion, some may still argue that it is unsure where its origins and roots were formed and can lead others astray in their faith. One can also argue that Jesus has the ability to redeem anything to use it for his Glory. Now I want to say that anything and almost everything was once upon a time used for other purposes but the origin or the use of something should not stop us as believers to use it to glorify God.
For example, chocolate’s origin traced back to the Aztec word “xocoatl”. The cacao tree in latin literally means “foods of the gods” and pictures of kings and Mayan gods drinking chocolate were often seen on the walls of the stone temples. However the origin of chocolate does not stop christians or anyone for that matter, eating chocolate with a complete different agenda for other benefits other than using it for religious purposes.
As a Christian Yogi, I have a very simple way to view the yoga practice. I believe that all things that are good comes from the Lord Jesus and that He redeems and uses anything He wishes to bring him Glory and I thoroughly believe that Yoga is one of them. As Josephine, my dear friend and business partner for Grace x Strength says, “Don’t just question whether the practice is from God or not, just examine the fruits of the labour yourself.” I agree with Jo 100%, as Matthew 7:17-18 says, “Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit.” If by practicing Yoga with Christian meditation draws people closer to God, by all means do so! If you are to practice Yoga at a studio, be wise and pray about where and with whom to practice it because not all instructors will align with your beliefs. I am blessed to have found Holy Yoga ministries which is a christian organisation who trains people to become christian yoga instructors. My relationship with the Lord has grown ever since I completed an instructor training with them! Now, my hope is to provide a space for people to practice yoga so that they can not only improve their physical health but Spiritual health.
If you want more detailed answers to my views, please head to the GxS FAQ page!