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Should Christians Do Yoga?

I received an email a couple days ago from a wonderful friend of mine. Her basis for emailing was out of concern for my newfound love of "yoga".

As christians, I have found this to be quite the touchy subject and rightfully so. To be a follower of Christ is to be set apart, this I am sure of.  So, to lay to rest the misinterpretation of Western "Yoga" and to also educate myself more on this matter, I thought I'd do some research and share it with you.

There are some major differences in the practice of yoga all across the world. I feel like we need to take a look at the origin of yoga to better understand what it's purpose was.

     Yoga is derived from the Sanskrit word yug, which means “to yoke.” This is a term [most Christians are] familiar with from the Bible (Phil. 4:2; Matt. 11:9). A yoke is a crossbar that joins two draft animals at the neck so they can work together; the term, therefore, is applied metaphorically to people being joined together or united in a cause. In Hinduism, as in many religions, union is desired with nothing less than God or the Absolute, and yoga is the system that Hindus have developed to achieve that end.

The historic purpose behind yoga, therefore, is to achieve union with the Hindu concept of God. This is the purpose behind virtually all of the Eastern varieties of yoga, including some of those we encounter in the West. This does not mean it is the purpose of every practitioner of yoga, for many people clearly are not practicing it for spiritual reasons but merely to enhance their physical appearance, ability, or health.

This is the true purpose and description of yoga. This is the context in which the Hindus created this form of worship and this is in all forms "pagan worship" in the eyes of Christ. There is no doubt about that. As the bible says, "...there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” speaking of Jesus Christ in Acts 4:12. And knowing how much God loves us, the word says, "You must worship no other gods, for the LORD, whose very name is Jealous, is a God who is jealous about his relationship with you." Exodus 34:14

I do not practice true yoga, which includes (1) moral restraint, (2) religious observance, (3) postures, (4) breath control, (5) sense withdrawal, (6) concentration, (7) meditative absorption, and (8) enlightenment.  I have taken away from yoga the stretches & breath control that improve the quality of my body.

I truly believe there should be a new term to describe the type of routine stretches and controlled regulatory breathing that the majority of Americans use and call "yoga".  It is simply not yoga. In fact, the Hindu culture overall is very frustrated with their religious worship being downgraded and dishonored into mere stretching. That alone tells me that the stretches I am doing are so separated from their original intentions and form of worship, that I am not practicing anything pagan at all.

These routine stretches, paired with controlled breathing have been proven to...
  • release tension in sore muscles
  • improve flexibility and range of motion in those with injuries and those who are healthy
  • improve posture
  • oxygenate the blood through improving lung capacity
  • calms the body from stress
  • lowers blood pressure through decreased heart rate
  • elongates and strengthens muscles
  • builds lean muscle mass
  • improves mood by relaxing stress
  • great workouts for those recovering from injuries and those that cannot do regular workouts
I have had great success with my "stretches & breath control" and will continue to move my body in ways that improve my health. I have found that by using this type of exercise at the beginning of my day and pairing it with my devotions and worship music, I have continued making healthier choices throughout my day.

Here are some ways I incorporate my faith in my morning stretching routine.
  • listen to worship music as you stretch
  • pray as your control your breathing
  • allow this to be a quiet time where you wait on God to speak to your heart
  • invite friends and neighbors to have a bible study and then stretch
  • listen to the bible on cd as you stretch
To each his own. I believe that we are all responsible for ourselves and accountable to God individually. So, take some time to pray and ask God if this is something you should or should not be doing. Allow the Holy Spirit to speak to your heart.

References: WebMD, Mark Driscoll, DoYogaWithMe

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