Monday, September 19, 2011

Christian Yoga, an Oxymoron?

photo by Lululemon Athletica

"Yoga is associated with a wide range of physical and psychological benefits that may be especially helpful for persons living with a chronic illness," says  Steffany Haaz, MFA, certified movement analyst, yoga teacher, and Research Coordinator with the Johns Hopkins Arthritis Center. Yoga is defined by the Merriam Webster Dictionary as "a system of physical postures, breathing techniques, and meditation derived from Yoga but often practiced independently especially in Western cultures to promote bodily or mental control and well-being." The body needs oxygen and the blood supply needs to circulate, with illness resulting if these flows are interrupted, and yoga poses encourage both.

The poses allow the body to self-heal by oxygenating cells, relieving tension, building muscle strength and achieving balance. Are these healthful results opposed to the Christian faith? Some would argue so, as the practice has historically been intertwined with Eastern Spiritualism. Apparently the 'sun salutation' exercise, which includes such stress-relieving postures as the 'downward dog' and 'forward fold', hold meaning in some cultures as sun god worship.

Yoga 'Downward Dog' Pose
photo by Andy B.
Yoga and Christianity

The esteemed Founder and President of Gospel for Asia, K.P. Yohannan, thinks yoga is very dangerous for the Christian because it leads to idolatry. His upbringing in India and faith in Jesus Christ lead him to a strong denunciation of yoga. However, can the poses themselves be separated from Hinduism, especially to those who don't share Mr. Yohannan's background? Can they benefit one's spirit, developing the Christian virtues of patience, endurance, fortitude and an appreciation for God's amazing creation, the human body?

Satan usually has a twisted counterfeit to anything God has ordained for good. It would be safe to assume that healthful and healing poses have been hijacked by him to manipulate people into the worship of himself. He can also use music to tempt people to worship himself, causing many Christians to condemn entire genres, but music in itself is a neutral medium to be used for good or ill. When it comes to music, though, Christians don't throw out the baby with the bath water. They produce sacred music, and joyfully and unashamedly express themselves in a healthy way.

The early Christians disputed over a similar principle as recorded in Romans 14. They struggled over eating meat that was offered to idols, which they could buy cheaply in the marketplace. Everyone liked the great deals on beef, but they wondered if they were worshiping false idols when they sat down to dinner. The Apostle Paul assured them that meat was just meat, and consumers weren't worshipping an idol when they bought it, only getting a good price on groceries. A Christian would say grace before he ate it, knowing that God had created the cow and provided it for food. It mattered not that pagans had twisted a good thing, as the Christian saw the truth. He merely rejected the baggage associated with his steak.
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Christian Perspective on Yoga

Paul also says, "I know, and am persuaded by the Lord Jesus, that there is nothing unclean of itself (Romans 14:14, KJV)," and "Happy is he that condemneth not himself in that thing which he alloweth (Romans 14:22)." So if a Christians' conscience is clear when he practices yoga poses, he is acceptable before God. The rest of the passage discusses how Christians should act toward their brethren over questionable subjects like this. When one sees a Christian brother posing in yoga stances, he is not to judge him for doing so, but Paul also issues a stern warning to mature Christians that they take care to do nothing to confuse or harm a weaker brother. Yet truly, the "weak stage" of a Christian shouldn't last very long. When a born-again Christian studies the scriptures, he will learn of the wonderful liberty he has in Christ, and can slowly wean himself from the milk of the Word to consume the meat.

Beyond physical health reasons, if a yoga practitioner wants to build spiritual strength during his exercises, he should center himself on God, putting Jesus Christ on His rightful throne and taking himself off of it. He should "lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset him (Hebrews 12:1)." He should also meditate on Scriptures like Psalm 8, and praise the Lord for His works, especially His sacrificial death on the cross for the sin of mankind. When considering the universe, the Christian should remember that, "All things were made by Jesus Christ, and without Him was not any thing made that was made (John 1:3)," and that "by Him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers; all things were created by Him, and for Him: and He is before all things, and by Him all things consist (Colossians 1:16-17)."

There is no mother earth god or truth to reincarnation. Lucifer stole the physical benefits of yoga poses to worship himself, but the Christ follower can resist Satan and reclaim this spiritual ground for the Lord. The simple movements of yoga encourage the body to function better and are a gift from the Creator to humanity. People didn't always have access to surgery and the technological wonders of today's health industry. Sometimes they had to stretch and breathe deeply to work out their kinks.


Haaz, Steffany. "Yoga for people with Arthritis.", June 23, 2009.

Gospel for Asia. "Christian Students Avoid School Yoga Program.", March 15, 2007.

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