TEXTS – ORTHODOXY
Should Christians practice Yoga?
by Jeremy Butler
What is Yoga?
Yoga is a practice that has become very popular in the United States. According to a 2008 study, there are 15.8 million Americans who practice Yoga. Before we can answer whether Christian’s should practice yoga or not, we need to define what Yoga is.
Yoga is a practice found in all sects of Hinduism. There are different types of yoga, but all are touted as a means to achieve unity with the divine and thus to earn salvation. There are several practices within Yoga. These include, but are not limited to meditation, repetition of sacred sounds or syllables (typically “Ohm”), breathing techniques, acrobatic exercises, and positioning one’s body in difficult postures.
Meditation is central to all forms of Yoga. Meditation helps its practitioners to be able to find release from the endless cycle of birth, death, and rebirth. “Yoga is a method of spiritual training whose purpose is to integrate or unite the self. A physical exercise, its goal is nonphysical-uniting with God. Yoga teaches that people should attempt to yoke the individual spirit to God, to atman – the individual soul or essence of a person – and to Brahman”. So we see that Yoga is essentially physical exercises in which one tries to attain unity with the universal divine essence of Hindu theology.
So Should Christians Practice Yoga?
No, Christians should not practice yoga since the intention of yoga is a path to attain salvation through union with a false deity. Some Christians practice yoga and say that all Christians can practice yoga. But, that is incorrect. Christians should not be involved in any meditative methodology that deals with energy balancing, focused energy movement, chakras, etc., of which yoga advocates.
Can a Christian practice yoga without getting caught up in the religious aspects of it?
By defintion, Christians should not practice yoga. They can, however, stretch. Stretching is good. The philosophical occult aspects of yoga are not. Yoga is religious in nature and an eastern philosophical one. Remember, the point of the practice of yoga is to unite oneself with “God.” Take this quote from the Yoga Journal…
“Connecting the mind, body, and breath helps us to direct our attention inward. Through this process of inward attention, we learn to recognize our habitual thought patterns without labeling them, judging them, or trying to change them. We become more aware of our experiences from moment to moment. The awareness that we cultivate is what makes yoga a practice, rather than a task or a goal to be completed. Your body will most likely become much more flexible by doing yoga, and so will your mind.”
As one can see, Yoga is more than just a physical exercise. We do not want to leave our minds open to false teaching.
Is there anything wrong with doing stretching exercises?
This is a fair question since stretching is a major part of yoga. There is nothing wrong with stretching. In fact, stretching is a very useful exercise to help people stay healthy. The problem comes when one incorporates Eastern “meditation” techniques or other inherently religious practices that distinguish yoga from mere recreational stretching. One needs to make a distinction between purely stretching and yoga. So if people are just exercising by stretching and not practicing yoga, then feel free to participate.
If there are medical benefits from practicing yoga, then why should Christians not be able to practice yoga?
With any physical fitness, there are going to be some positive medical benefits. There are many other great physical fitness programs that are out there with great benefits. So why take the chance in meddling with something that comes from, and is associated with, a false view of salvation? Why do we feel like we have to use an exercise that has religious values from a false religious system? Yoga is different than other exercise systems because it is more than just exercise. The point of yoga is to combine body, mind, and soul together.
There are a few reasons why Christians should abstain from practicing yoga:
Jesus is the only way in order to have salvation. Salvation is not found in any other religious system, practice or founder.
Jesus told us that he was the only way to the Father in John 14:6: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.”
Acts 4:12, “And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.”
We are not saved from any works that we can do ourselves. It’s all by grace through faith in Jesus Christ as our Saviour.
Ephesians 2:8-10, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.”
So we see by this passage that we are not saved by our good works. Our good works are a result of our salvation, but they do not cause our salvation. Our salvation is to bring glory and honor to God, not to ourselves.
We as Christians are to be different than the world. We are not to do things the same way as the world.
Romans 12:1-2, “Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.”
As Christians, we are not to be conformed to this world. We are to be different and set apart from the world. When we try and use the methods of the world in order to get to God, then we are in direct disobedience to God. Even if a Christian can practice yoga without any of the religious practices getting involved, would you want to take the chance of hurting your witness with Hindus or those of the New Age who think that Yoga is religious in nature?
As Christians, we are to meditate only on God and His Word. We are not to focus on ourselves or to clear our minds. The Bible never gives us a prescription to free our mind. The prescription that the Bible gives us is to only meditate on God and His Word.
Psalm 1:1-3, “How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, Nor stand in the path of sinners, Nor sit in the seat of scoffers! But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night. He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water. Which yields its fruit in its season and its leaf does not wither; and in whatever he does, he prospers.”
Psalm 63:6, “When I remember You on my bed, I meditate on You in the night watches.”
Psalm 119:15, “I will meditate on Your precepts and regard Your ways.”
Psalm 119:23, “Even though princes sit and talk against me, Your servant meditates on Your statutes.”
Psalm 119:27, “Make me understand the way of Your precepts, so I will meditate on Your wonders.”
Psalm 119:48, “And I shall lift up my hands to Your commandments, which I love; and I will meditate on Your statutes.”
Psalm 119:97, “Oh how I love Your law! It is my meditation all the day.”
Philippians 4:8, “Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.”
When one clears his mind, he is opening himself up to demonic powers. We are to only let our minds dwell on Godly things and meditate on Scripture.
Again, we are not to clear our minds, empty ourselves and open ourselves up to anything but God.