1 Corinthians 6:12
“I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but I will not be mastered by anything.
I have been struggling with the practice of doing Yoga as a Christian. As of today I have completed 8 consecutive days of Yoga and I’m already seeing some benefits; namely more energy, restful sleep, and the elimination of a few unwanted pounds. (BONUS!) I don’t think I will attribute these things exclusively to Yoga, but all things considered, there is no doubt that Yoga has fitness benefits. If there were a Christian alternative, I would unquestionably prefer it because I’m torn as to whether or not Yoga is really OK for anyone who professes to follow Christ? Could my unrest be the Holy Spirit prompting me to “STAY AWAY” or warning me to “TAKE CAUTION?” Whichever it is, I’m not comfortable and need a deeper understanding.
There is no question that this is a controversial subject. I have asked around my Christian circles in seeking wise council (Proverbs 15:22) and I have read numerous articles, blogs, and web resources; which have only added to the confusion. Some say it’s fine as long as I keep my focus on Christ and that I already know. Since my first class I have always been intentional about that by changing the words. For example: When they say, “Namaste,” I say, “In Jesus Name.” When they lay quietly to meditate, I pray! Most often for my fellow classmates – especially the instructor. But who am I kidding? I don’t go to Yoga for prayer, meditation OR a more grounded sense of who I am. I go to exercise…. that’s it… to work-out, sweat, stretch, increase mobility, toning, and to stay or be fit! Because of the creepy Ohm’s, sun salutations, terminology, and hyper-smiley Buddha statue, my mind is purposefully redirected toward prayer, Christ, and God.
I’ve found some peace in believing that I am truly living out 2 Corinthians 10:5b stating, “We take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” My thoughts are most certainly centered on Christ throughout the duration of each class. Maybe that’s a good thing? Considering other work-out venues of a more club-like nature, I get a clear picture of just how lost, sinful, broken, and deprived this world really is. Between the most vulgar music lyrics, heightened egos, uncensored language, and tempers firing – it’s much more tolerable to go through the motions of poses, bows, and binds.
But then there’s another side of the story. My greatest struggle and question is, “What example am I setting for those who know me as a follower of Christ that see me participating in something that is rooted in the traditions of Hinduism?” This can be easily misconstrued as something that I endorse as being permissible for Christians and that is not what I believe at all. If I’m confused, but my actions imply otherwise, I could be causing a brother (or sister) in Christ to stumble (1 John 2:10). In addition, Philippians 4:8-9 says, “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.” If this was my Yoga litmus test, I believe it would fail the test.
So if God’s Word is the authority and scripture has evidence to support that we [Christians] should NOT participate, then it’s a no brainier, right? In 1 Timothy 6:11-12, “But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses.”
To offer a counterpoint in favor of Yoga, how about 1 Corinthians 6:19? “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own”. If I have God in me and I am His… how can this be a threat? I have always tried to exercise with the awareness that my body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, but this whole spiritual regime takes “temple of the Holy Spirit” to a whole new level for me. It’s practically literal in a way.
Those who vehemently oppose Christians participating in Yoga say that Yoga is so deeply embedded into the spiritual realm that it is impossible to separate Christianity from the cult practice that it is. If this is true, that would mean that Yoga would be similar to playing with a Ouija board in denial that ‘it’ would or could do harm. So to this example I have to agree that we should NOT be messing with it.
So the question remains, “To DO or NOT do Yoga?” Whatever the ‘right’ answer is, I trust that God knows my heart. He knows I’m not trying to make an idol out of it, nor am I seeking some alternative realm to fulfill my unconscious needs. For now I’m going to continue my study into God’s Word and seek the answer that God ultimately teaches me.
For the readers of this blog, I would value your insights on this. Ideally with a scriptural reference that will help us all learn together. Trust me, there are plenty of opinions to be found through Google, but being guided by God’s Word is more reliable. In the meantime, I will be discerning and continue to make my Yoga practice be representative of my faith. Never know… God might use this to make a Kingdom impact for His glory.