Winter break has given me a perfect opportunity to get back in touch with one of my favorite activities: Yoga. I’ve been a fan of yoga since college. The poses, the breathing, the meditation…practicing yoga has always challenged me physically and mentally. Unfortunately, like everything else, I often find it difficult to make time for it. But life has a way of bringing you into the places and spaces you need to be.
Lately I’ve been having problems with my ankles. A chronic problem that has plagued me for years has recently gotten worse. I was sad to learn my beloved Zumba was contributing to the deterioration of my ankles and causing me much discomfort. As a result I’ve significantly cut back on my Zumba classes and started practicing yoga more.
Before I get into some observations from my yoga practice, I would be remiss to not acknowledge that there are some out there who believe that yoga is somehow demonic and conflicts with Christianity. Look at the “helpful” information I found from the Christian Research Services when I typed in “Christian Yoga” in google
- One author contends that “yoga is a spiritually dangerous practice designed to expose people to demonic influences”
- Another states: “Yoga–regardless of what shape, form or fashion it is packaged in–is an unfruitful deed of darkness. To practice it lends credibility to the false gods of Hinduism and the traditions of men, and is a rebellious violation of the commands of Scripture”
- Love the title of this article: Can One Christianize A Pagan Ritual? (not to be flippant…well maybe a little flippant….but isn’t that what they did with Christmas and Easter when they decided to make the Christian celebrations coincide with a pagan holiday in order to encourage more pagans to adopt Christianity?)
- Another scary sounding article: Christian Yoga: Rooted in Hindu Occultism
Admittedly, I didn’t read any of these articles, but a few years ago I pondered this question of Yoga and Christianity and read a couple of book about the topic. Like the references above, the authors were spewing some non-sense about how practicing yoga is the same as practicing Hinduism and when yoga encourages you to empty your mind you are leaving a space for demons to occupy (like the story Luke 11: 24 – 26).
Their arguments have a few basic flaws. First of all, while a popular component of Hinduism, yoga itself actually predates Hinduism by several hundred (if not a couple of thousand) years. It is an ancient practice that is not tied to a specific religion. Secondly, each person’s practice of yoga is specific to the individual. There is no rule that says you have to empty your mind, you can choose how you want to direct your thoughts. Finally – and this is where these two specific authors lost all of their credibility with me – their solution was a series of poses (that looked very much like all of the other yoga poses I’ve seen) set to bible verses (because no one has ever thought of that before).
My point here is not to berate these poor misinformed beings (although I wouldn’t mind the money back I spent on those books). But I would leave you with these 2 thoughts:
- Those of you who have never tried yoga should give it a chance. For me it has been great exercise to strengthen my body, increase my flexibility AND quiet my mind. If you have problems coming to a quiet place yoga may be the solution
- Do your research. There are a lot of theories out there about what Christians should and should not do. The Bible doesn’t layout specific detailed explanations for every possible scenario we’ll encounter. Some folks are spewing nonsense for personal gain, others out of pure ignorance. I once read a “sermon” where a minister stated Vegans were Wiccans and only a homosexual would eschew eating meat. Wow…don’t get me started on that one. Don’t take anything at face value; scrutinize, research and come to your own conclusion.