This is not a theological exposé; these are just my thoughts on practicing yoga as a Christian. I first embraced Evangelical Christianity in my teens, left around the time I turned 30 and came full circle, once again kneeling at the cross not long after I turned 50, earlier this year (2020). As things stand, I’m not comfortable with any denominational labels. I have yet to find the right church home. Once burned, twice shy I guess…
Yoga On My Healing Journey
When I first started venturing out into the New Age and the occult, one of the main reasons for doing so was a need for healing on every level of my being. I experienced a healing crisis that involved serious physical illness as well as a mental breakdown. Allopathic medicine didn’t hold the answers and neither did my faith (possibly – at least in part – because I was poorly rooted), so I started looking for alternative healing modalities.
On my healing journey, I tried almost everything you could think of, including (of course) yoga. Yoga as prevention for a number of serious illnesses is almost unparallelled and this is, in part, thanks to how it reduces stress levels thanks to mindful breathing combined with slow and mindful movement. Also, as someone with a background in dance, yoga instantly appealed to me. In fact, one of my dance teachers had used yoga as part of our daily warm-up, so it felt familiar right from the start.
Arguments Against Yoga
When I surrendered my life back to Christ back in late April, one of the Christian teachers I came across was Mike Shreve, a former Kundalini Yoga practitioner. He was adamant that you absolutely cannot practice yoga as a Christian and I listened to him because I was looking for a clean break with my involvement in the occult and the New Age.
His main argument is that every pose you do invokes a Hindu deity. Although that may have been the case in his practice, it actually never was in mine. Honestly, I have trouble enough to remember to breathe properly, so invoking a deity at the same time seems a bit of a stretch (pardon the pun).
Is Yoga A Religion?
“Yoga is not a religion. It is a science, science of well-being, science of youthfulness, science of integrating body, mind and soul.”Amit Ray
While yoga no doubt can be part of someone’s religious practice, it is in and of itself not a religion. Though to someone who practised it as a religion, I can certainly see why it would make sense to give it up – at least for a while – when coming to Christ.
To draw a parallel to my own experience, I had to give up the Tarot for almost six months because I had practiced the Tarot almost as a religion for many years. I certainly had an unhealthy attachment to it at the time and I didn’t want the attachment to become between me and God.
Yoga was never a religion to me but it certainly did help keep me youthful!
Arguments For Yoga
My own bodily experience is the strongest argument for reintegrating yoga back into my daily routine. After almost six months without it, I was starting to walk like an old woman – I kid you not! And that’s not with me being physically inactive. I have continued to run, lift weights, walk the dogs and stretch.
The second argument I have is more to do with the times we live in. Access to health-care is scarce and for those of us who refuse testing, track & trace, and the vaccine, it may well become non-existent. Prevention is the key and yoga, together with eating right, can certainly go a long way.
Prevention doesn’t preclude healing miracles; it lays the foundation for them.
Finally, the third argument is also hugely to do with the times we live in… Stress reduction is more important than ever. This can and does come through prayer too, of course, but we are not just mind and spirit – we have bodies too. Tension can build up in the muscles, creating a sense of unease that adds to already high stress levels unless we have a way of balancing and stretching the whole body daily.
Learning from All of Life
Ultimately, I can’t shrink my existence to accept only what is found in one book, even if that book is the Bible. God is bigger than the Bible and wants us to learn from all of life. Only a bigot would deny that the Spirit of Wisdom flourishes in many different places, with or without a Christian label. Choosing to practice yoga daily feels like a wise and loving choice to me, as long as yoga or anything related to yoga doesn’t become an idol.
In His Love