06 October 2008

My thoughts on "Christian" Yoga...

The other day I wrote about my new adventures in Yoga. Nearly as soon as I wrote my notes I started receiving feedback from my brothers and sisters - in Christ and blood! Well, let's say that those responses challenged me to examine my understanding and desires through the practice of yoga. I suppose I need to clarify that in order to give my defense of the physical practices.

First - when writing the other day, I did not mention that the class I am attending is a class titled "Christ-filled Yoga". The young lady that is teaching the class intentionally fills each part of our class with scripture or meditative prayers to the only one true Lord - Yahwah! Now, you may wonder why I didn't mention that the other day. First of all, it didn't occur to me. Secondly, I am usually quick to detour from something that the church takes, tacks on the word christian, and then produces the same thing anyway. So, I don't like thinking of watering down something by adding my christian title. In my opinion we often see this in christian TV, film, and music.
Why don't we give our BEST to the Lord? Often these are actually poor representations of God's gifting and embarrassing at the least!

So, I really don't want to defend my positions - I listen to music, I run, I exercise, and yes, I practice yoga. Now, what I didn't take into consideration is that not everyone will know my HEART like the Lord does.

My heart is in line with God, I am walking in his will for my life - as closely as I can! Brad and I often pray that God's hand would not move without us working to stay directly in the midst of it! Much like Abraham prayed, and later Moses prayed, we want our lives to be a covenental relationship with Yahwah - that HE knows - but not everyone else does! Oh would you think though this - when was the last time you ate at Olive Garden? Or how about even Pizza Hut? Well, did you know they sell beer and other liqueur there? Well, if I am to defend all my practices - such as yoga, than perhaps we should defend where we eat - being that others don't know whether we drink or not? Doesn't make much sense does it? Nope, not to me either.

So, thank you for challenging me - not to not do yoga - but to be more clear about my relationship with Christ! Not to not go into the places the world walks - but to go there proclaiming the saving grace of God in my life! Thank you for your love, your support - your challenges - though they do not move me away from exercising a certain way, or eating at certain restaurants - they do challenge me to be more outspoken about my creator - my maker - my Lord GOD! He is the one who said I AM and there is no other one besides him!

PRAISE GOD! HE IS! And because HE IS and because he has SAVED ME I can walk with my head held HIGH and redeem what Satan has tried to take for evil! As I stretch and twist I can meditate! I will Meditate on God's love for me, on his powerful saving GRACE!

Ok, enough MEG!

But I do want to share a resource with you. I took the last several day do do some reading on different types of yoga and (especially Hatha) and some readings on what the Christian church is saying. I found a great sea of mixed thought! But there is a Lady who (MANY people are producing Christian Movement/Yoga classes and DVD's) defends the practice in a way that I quite enjoyed and found useful. I would like to share her questions and answer section below.

Again, thank you for your thoughts, your challenges, and your prayers! As the body of Christ, as fellow brothers and sisters in the church, we need to be that "iron that sharpens iron". We need to be willing to speak in love to one another - and then listen as they speak back! Please know, I have appreciated you hearts that you speak to me though!


What are the physical and spiritual benefits of yoga?

This type of Christian yoga can benefit you physically through stretching and positioning, and spiritually, through the transforming power of God's gracious Word.

Physical benefits of yoga include:

  • improved flexibility and posture
  • reduced stress
  • strengthened and toned muscles
  • enhanced physical fitness
  • improved concentration
  • better coordination and balance
  • increased range of motion in joints
  • improved circulation.

Spiritual benefits of Scripture Yoga include:

  • experiencing God's peace (Isaiah 26:3)
  • drawing closer to God (James 4:8)
  • giving God your worries and cares (1 Peter 5:7)
  • invoking Godly wisdom (Proverbs 2:6)
  • resisting sin and temptation (Psalms 119:11)
  • becoming what God wants you to be and allowing God to give you everything you need (Acts 20:32)
  • worshipping God and spending time in His presence.

3. How is Scripture Yoga different from secular yoga?

Scripture Yoga is different from secular yoga because you listen to God's Holy Word as it is recited during the yoga class. This allows you to be still and quiet while meditating on scripture verses. The Bible instructs us to meditate on God's Word (Joshua 1:8). The Scripture Yoga class is conducted over 75 minutes providing a worship experience while exercising the body He has given you, and being still and quiet while meditating on God's Word. The postures for Scripture Yoga are the same as those used for Hatha Yoga. The difference primarily lies in the purpose and focus of the meditative session. If secular yoga is not completely separated from its eastern religion and philosophy, it could expose participants to spiritual forces that are not of God. Scripture Yoga is a Christ-centered approach that allows you to enjoy the physical benefits of yoga without the spiritual dangers presented by other forms of yoga.

4. What is the history of modern day secular yoga? Is there any history of yoga related to Judaism or Christianity?

The earliest archaeological evidence of yoga dates back to about 3000 BC; before the beginning of Hinduism and Buddhism. In biblical times this would be sometime after the flood and before the birth of Abraham. The term "yoga" was introduced around 1500 BC through the Hindu religion. Buddhism began its association with the use of physical postures and meditation around 600 BC.

Interestingly, physical posturing such as bowing and laying face down and meditation have also been associated with the Jewish and Christian faiths (Exodus 4:31, Psalms 1:2, and Psalms143:5). Yoga posturing has not been associated with Christianity until our era! Christian meditation is foundationally focused on God and His Word as opposed to the meditation of eastern religions like Buddhism and Hinduism. Eastern religious meditation is focused on principles of nirvana and self.

The most popular type of yoga in the United States is Hatha Yoga in which the Eastern religion and philosophical portion of yoga is completed separated from the yoga class. In Hatha Yoga the class is about performing the physical yoga postures and deep breathing. However, some secular yoga classes still include portions of the eastern religion. Therefore, if you are a Christian and want to do yoga I would highly recommend that you perform Christian yoga.

5. If I like to do yoga but I don't want to put myself in the environment of secular yoga, what alternatives are available?

Scripture Yoga allows the practice of posturing and meditation in a Christian context devoid of eastern religious influence. In addition to Scripture Yoga (ScriptureYoga.com or ChristianYoga.com) there are two other Christian yoga resources available, they include: www.ChristianYoga.US and PraiseMoves.com.

6. Don't Hindu's worship other gods while in these yoga postures? Am I worshipping a pagan god(s) if I put my body into these poses?

God knows our hearts. He knows who we are worshipping when practicing Christian yoga and listening to His Word and thinking about Him. God judges our hearts. Just as Jesus said in Mark 7:14 -15, 20-23, "All of you listen," He said. "and try to understand. It's not what goes into your body that defiles you; you are defiled by what comes from your heart." And then He added, "It is what comes from inside that defiles you. For from within, out of a person's heart, come evil thoughts, deceit, …. All these vile things come from within; they are what defile you." This principal can be applied to overeating, smoking, drinking alcohol or being tattooed. These things don't necessarily defile someone. Exercising a certain way, including yoga posturing, is not wrong or sinful because it is what is in a person's heart that God evaluates. Conversely, practicing Christian yoga outwardly doesn't make one right with God; although, it does a provide an avenue for God to impart His Word into our hearts.

7. My friends tell me that yoga is dangerous and I shouldn't be participating in it. To me it just seems like exercise. Why are they concerned?

Yoga is defined as "yoking" together. The exercises and stretches in yoga are designed to bring one to a place of meditation so that you can yoke, or join together with the spiritual realm. In Scripture Yoga, the goal is to prepare our bodies and minds to listen for the still, small voice of God. The danger of participating in non-Christian yoga is that one may unwittingly be lead to yoke, or join to the spiritual realm in an undesirable way and be exposed to dark spiritual forces (Ephesians 6:12). If you are concerned about any of your previous yoga experiences please email me at SusanNeal@ChristianYoga.com and I will send you additional information.

8. Doesn't the practice of yoga within an eastern religious context train your consciousness for a higher state of spirituality? Should I be afraid of that spiritual influence?

Any practice, behavior, or form of worship that adversely affects your commitment or devotion to Christ should be avoided. We are called to be discerning and to test the spirits to determine if they are from the one true living God (1 John 4:1). The Bible says the body of a believer is the temple for the Holy Spirit who lives within you (1 Corinthians 6:19). The focus of Scripture Yoga is to lead you to the highest level of true spirituality, a relationship with Jesus. Scripture Yoga should deepen the believer's walk with God by facilitating focus and concentration on His Word as it is recited during the class. Scripture Yoga provides an alternative method of exercise in a spiritually desirable and safe environment. Even so, Christian yoga may not be for everyone. As with all decisions, each person must choose for themselves.


Cool article. You know it's interesting that "Christians" rub in their 2 cents when it's only their words that ever show up. What I mean by this is "Christians" are ready to jump in and tell you how you are supposed to be and what you shouldn't do....nonsense! You live by the convictions the Holy Spirit gives you and by following God, not men (I see you are doing this, from what little I have read). If we were to try to live by people's standards the bar will always be moving 1 or 2 notches higher the moment we are getting somewhere. We are to live by God's standards and His alone. Praying that we honor the King daily!