The quotes in this post will be from this post found on Dr. Mohler’s blog today. First, to set everyone on the same terms, I pulled up our trusty friends at Merriem-Webster to find out the definition. This is what it said:
1. Yoga: a Hindu theistic philosophy teaching the suppression of all activity of body, mind, and will in order that the self may realize its distinction from them and attain liberation.
2. yoga: a system of exercises for attaining bodily or mental control and well-being.
State first off: I completely agree with the first definition of big Y Yoga and do not practice little y yoga for the purpose of big Y Yoga.
Here are some quotes:
1. “When Christians practice yoga, they must either deny the reality of what yoga represents or fail to see the contradictions between their Christian commitments and their embrace of yoga. The contradictions are not few, nor are they peripheral.” I agree with this last statement. I don’t agree with the rest. I think Christians can practice the exercises of yoga with the mind-emptying, Hindu-implicating religious aspects. You can separate the two. Of course Scripture tells us to fill our minds with things of the Spirit, Col 3.1-3 and Phil 4.8 and all through Psalm 119. This is what I like to do when practicing these exercises, or I listen to praise music, or I focus on what I am doing so I don’t fall over.
2. “Syman describes yoga as a varied practice, but she makes clear that yoga cannot be fully extricated from its spiritual roots in Hinduism and Buddhism.” I think you can. How can putting your foot on the inside of the opposite thigh (tree pose) be an evil or cult or false-religion thing? How can stretching out your hips by laying forward in a pigeon pose be evil or anti-God? I think the movements, exercises, or little y yoga is actually good for us because it is allowing our bodies, or my body, to be healthier, to move better.
3. “Yoga beings and ends with an understanding of the body that is, to say the very least, at odds with the Christian understanding. Christians are not called to empty the mind or to see the human body as a means of connecting to and coming to know the divine. Believers are called to meditate upon the Word of God – an external Word that comes to us by divine revelation – not to meditate by means of incomprehensible syllables.” I agree with Mohler on this point, which I have already stated. I don’t say “ohm” when I am practicing yoga. Most of the time I just think about what I am doing and think about my day or use that time to ponder things that otherwise I may never be still enough to ponder.
4. “The physical is the spiritual in yoga, and the exercises and disciplines of yoga are meant to connect with the divine.” Ok – if I even want to agree with this – God created our bodies. He created them to move. When I practice yoga, and move my body in the ways that God has intended my bodies to be: healthy, mobile, active – then yes, I am using my body as God created me to – to bring Him glory. I can thank Him and praise Him for making my body to move, to be active, to be healthy, so I can do things that will bring glory to the only God of the universe, the great Creator. Why must an unbelieving false religion have hold and rites on this exercises and poses?
5. “While most adherents of yoga avoid the more exotic forms of ritualized sex that is associated with tantric yoga, virtually all forms of yoga involves an emphasis on channeling sexual energy throughout the body as a means of spiritual enlightenment.” Do I need to say that I don’t practice this form of yoga, nor do I believe this is in line with the Word of God because the act of sex is for a married couple, man and woman, and is not meant mostly for self-joy – it is for the joy of the other (1 Cor 7). But, again, this is not the type of yoga I practice. So just because this is wrong, does that mean all yoga is wrong?
6. “Americans have turned yoga into an exercise ritual, a means of focusing attention, and an avenue to longer life and greater health”. Is it wrong to be healthy? No. It is wrong to turn ANYTHING into an idol – yes.
7. “The bare fact is that yoga is a spiritual discipline by which the adherent is trained to use the body as a vehicle for achieving consciousness of the divine. Christians are called to look to Christ for all that we need and to obey Christ through obeying His Word. We are not called to escape the consciousness of this world by achieving an elevated state of consciousness, but to follow Christ in the way of faithfulness.” I completely agree with Mohler. But I don’t practice yoga poses to make me more acceptable to Christ. His blood bought my salvation and redeemed my life. I can freely choose to do yoga because of the freedom Christ has given me. There is nothing evil in the poses themselves. What we do with our minds and hearts while practicing these poses (or running, doing aerobics, walking, swimming, biking, hiking, surfing, etc) is important.
8. “There is nothing wrong with physical exercise, and yoga positions in themselves are not the main issue. But these positions are teaching postures with a spiritual purpose. Consider this – if you have to meditate intensely in order to achieve or to maintain a physical posture, it is no longer merely a physical posture.” Agree then disagree then disagree again. So, if a person concentrates on running, or on swimming in a lane in an olympic-sized pool, or focuses to not fall of a 4 inch balance beam – these aren’t merely physical? Yes, they are. So are yoga poses – even if I have to concentrate on them to stick them for a minute.
9. “The embrace of yoga is a symptom of our postmodern spiritual confusion.” I completely agree with this – especially in light of some of the more famous people who practice Yoga and believe the religious implications with it. Can’t we have a voice in this otherwise secular and false-religion practice?
If I truly thought that practicing the exercises in yoga was hindering my walk with Christ, I would stop. But, I do yoga poses for the same reason I hike, bike, run or walk or lift weights: to make my body better. This is something the church seldom touches on, because we live with such obesity and gluttony and laziness. But, I don’t think there is a need to knock out these exercises.
Two words in closing:
1. If you are in a predominately Hindu culture, seeking to live out Christ, no, I would not recommend practicing yoga, even the poses, because of what it might convey to the folks you are trying to reach with the gospel.
2. This, just like many other issues in Scripture that aren’t blatant black or white, comes down to Christian liberty and the “weaker-brother” principle. So…here is my personal conclusion. I can practice this in my own home and not announce it on facebook. My roommate is not bothered by my practicing these yoga moves. I can practice it with one or two others who know my stance on the subject and don’t have a problem with it. Should I go to a studio and practice it, no…because I do not know who I might offend, or who I might lead to believe that I am practicing Big Y Yoga.
Here are some folks in AZ who have pointed us toward Christ while exercising and doing yoga poses.