How Christians Approach Yoga, Physically and Spiritually
Many people use yoga as a way to stay healthy and fit. But in addition to its physical benefits, yoga is often tied to spiritual practices that stem back to religious Hindu principles. Can Christians practice yoga without compromising their own faith? The answer may depend on how you approach the mat.
“We need to keep in mind that, in the traditional Hindu expression of yoga, the exercises are integral to the higher spiritual goal of attaining union with the god Shiva,” authors Ross Clifford and Philip Johnson of the new book Taboo or To Do?: Is Christianity Complementary with Yoga, Martial Arts, Hallowe’en, Mindfulness and Other Alternative Practices? told Christian Today.
“However,” Clifford and Johnson continued, “it is apparent in the West today that there are many teaching yoga where the physical and mental exercises are clearly divorced from Hindu faith. Many in the West insist that Hatha yoga, which is centered in the bodily postures and exercises, may be practised without all the trappings and teachings of traditional Hindu faith.”
A purely physical yoga practice can help fulfill the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommended 2.5 hours of aerobic or muscle strengthening activity per week for health and body wellness. Yet some Christian yogis see the practice as an extension of their own faith and spiritual wellness, too.
Keleah Anderson, for example, opened her own studio, Beyond Yoga, in Franklin, TN, this year to incorporate more Christ-centered teachings into her classes.
“It occurred to me… [that] we can provide a place where people can come and worship God with their whole totality — their breath, their movement, their mind,” Anderson said. “We read the Bible and we pray and we use praise and worship music and we raise our hands and we fold them and we bow down. It’s difficult, active church.”
So what’s a Christian to do? The important part may be to simply maintain a self-awareness.
“What we are finding is that people want to have a conversation about these things,” Clifford and Johnson said. Talk with your church community leaders or yoga instructors to decide what’s best for you.