Christian Yoga: An Oxymoron

Tuesday 3 August 2010 | 9:59 pm | Laurette Willis

Ever wonder why practitioners of so-called “Christian yoga” are so keen to have us believe that yoga is not associated with any religion (particularly Hinduism)?

“Yoga is not religion” they say. ”It’s a science, a lifestyle” or “It’s just exercise.”

I would argue that “Yoga IS Religion,” and there is abundant proof. I’ll admit, my 22 years in yoga and the New Age movement before I became a Christian have given me a “big nose” for anything that even vaguely smells like yoga or the New Age.

People are so hungry for the spiritual in their lives. Yoga offers spiritual experiences, but very deceptive ones. Yoga exercises and meditation/relaxation offer stress relief and mind-numbing tranquility, but not true peace accompanied by the transformation that comes from renewing our minds on the Word of the living God.

Why do yoga instructors tell students to “empty” their minds? Romans 12:2 says you are to be “transformed by the renewing of your mind.” That renewing and transformation comes, I believe, as we grow in our relationship with God and meditate upon His Word.

Yoga is extremely popular in the fitness world, and many wonder if it has a place in Christian Fitness. Is there such a thing as “Christian yoga” and how is that different from PraiseMoves (and why do we call it “The Christian ALTERNATIVE to yoga“)?

While many know that yoga originated in India, few realize the multi-billion dollar yoga craze in North America has its living roots deeply planted in the Hindu religion.

Those who think yoga is little more than a series of stress-relieving stretching exercises may be surprised to learn about true foundation of yoga.

According to Webster’s New World Dictionary, yoga (coming from an east Indian Sanskrit word which means “union with god” or “to yoke”) is “a mystic and ascetic Hindu discipline for achieving union with the supreme spirit through meditation, prescribed postures, controlled breathing, etc.”

As a child growing up on Long Island, I became involved with yoga at the age of seven when my mother and I began watching a daily yoga exercise program on television (thinking it was “just exercise”). For the next 22 years I was heavily involved with yoga, metaphysics and the New Age movement until I became a follower of Jesus Christ in my late 20s. 

George P. Alexander, Ph.D., who taught World Religions at Biola University, is a friend of our family. Born in Sri Lanka, George grew up in India, the birthplace of Hinduism and yoga. He told us that yoga postures are actually offerings to the 330 million Hindu gods.

“Many Westerners who practice yoga today are unaware that the physical positions assumed in yoga symbolize a spiritual act: worshiping one of the many Hindu gods,” Dr. Alexander said. “To a Hindu, yoga is the outward physical expression of a deep spiritual belief. You cannot separate one from the other.”

Since yoga is tied so strongly to Hinduism, can there be such a thing as “Christian yoga,” or would that be an oxymoron (a contradiction in terms)? Many practicing Hindus as well as Christians agree that since yoga IS Hinduism, the two cannot be combined.

For more info and quotes from Christian and Hindu sources (such as quotes about “yoga missionaries” sent to the U.S., please see “Why a Christian ALTERNATIVE to yoga?” also available as a free downloadable pdf).

Are there other ways to bring flexibility training into a Christian’s fitness program without doing yoga? Yes! There are plain vanilla stretching courses–and pardon my bias– there is also PraiseMoves, ”The Christian Alternative to yoga,” which incorporates stretching exercises with Scripture.

PraiseMovers meditate upon Scripture or speak verses aloud which correspond with each stretching posture. For example, in the PraiseMoves posture “The Angel,” we meditate upon or speak aloud Psalm 91:11, “For He shall give His angels charge over you, to keep you in all your ways.”

As Dr. Alexander told us, “My question for Christians who practice yoga is, ‘Why would you want to better your body by aligning with a religious philosophy that contradicts the Christian faith?’” Good question.

To learn more, I invite you to see L. G. Marshall’s eye-opening article “Yoga IS Religion” (not for the faint-hearted), and my own extensive research and experience, which explores yoga in more detail, explains the fallacy of so-called “Christian yoga” and invites the Christian practitioner of yoga to think twice about their practice–for their own sake, and for the sake of those whom they influence.



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