My neighbour asked me if I wanted to join her for a free outdoor, community yoga class.
Until recently, yoga has never interested me. In terms of exercise, it’s way too static – I’d much rather hop on my bike – but more importantly, without knowing much or ever doing any research, I have always had reservations about the philosophy behind yoga…I still do. Yoga is an ancient spiritual discipline deeply rooted in the religion of Hinduism. Yoga and Christianity have very different concepts of God, man and man’s fundamental problem. So I was left with one question:
Is it wise for a Christian to go to a yoga class?
I have always been a Christian who asks a lot of questions. I want to understand what I believe AND why I believe it. I need to wrestle with questions like, “what is cultural and what is biblical?” I delight in searching the scriptures myself and developing convictions based on what God says – not merely what other Christians tell me.
So, my husband found me a flat air mattress, (definitely not the right kind of mat for yoga!) I threw on a pair of old bike shorts and a wicking tank top and headed to my first yoga class.
Seven hours later, I’m sitting in my living room with VERY sore armpits – I haven’t stretched like that for a long time. From the moment that the yoga instructor talked about ‘intention’, I chose to focus on Jesus. I didn’t empty my mind. I renewed my mind with scripture… when I was able to, that is – to be honest,I was so busy discovering muscles that I didn’t know I had and trying to balance myself so that I didn’t collapse on the grass in a tangled mess, that I missed most of what the instructor was saying and showing. All I know is that my Tree Pose was wobbly, my Plank position looked more like a wet noodle and my Warrior III pose definitely lost the battle.
After we finished the yoga class, my neighbour and I did a one hour power walk in our backyard lake and talked about life.
This afternoon, I’ve done some research, made a couple of phone calls and given some good thought to this question about Christians doing yoga.
One of the more disturbing quotes I read was the following – something my instructor didn’t mention:
These (the different poses) are postures that are offered to the 330 million Hindu gods. Yoga postures really are offerings to the gods. If you do these postures and you do this breathing technique and this meditation, then you will be accepted by a god, little “G.” That’s the real danger, she said.
This is a new experience to ponder and as usual, I have lots of questions. Can I simply enjoy the physical benefits of yoga, without falling prey to the spiritual deception that is being taught? Are there alternative fitness classes out there that provide instruction in these worthwhile stretching exercises? Is there such thing as “Christian Yoga” or is that an oxymoron?
In any 12 Step Program, members are free to define God however they imagine or understand Him yet “Celebrate Recovery” makes some adjustments to this very unbiblical idea of God and it has become evangelical Christianity’s most prominent and widely accepted church program used to deal with addictions. Isn’t this an example of “Christianizing” a program? Can we do this with yoga as well? Can we separate the exercise from the philosophy?
…something to think about…