I received a bit of a surprise the other evening. We were on our way home from Tulsa, having attended the Guts Church yearly evangelical outreach for teens – Nightmare – when I picked up this fascinating article in my Google alerts.
The Wall Street Journal referenced PraiseMoves in Stephen Prothero's article “Can Yoga Be Christian?”
The amazing thing was that no other alternative to yoga was mentioned in the article — just PraiseMoves! Needless to say we are honored and thrilled with the attention, and humbly thank Mr. Prothero and WSJ.com for the nod in our direction.
Here is the article, with a link to its source on WSJ.com. I have bolded in blue the reference to PraiseMoves.
I disagree, however, with Mr. Prothero's opinion that we are “working to bend yoga toward Christian ends.” We would consider it more of an “untwisting” than a bending. The word “wicked” means “twisted” (like the wick on a candle, or wicker furniture). Since redemption involves being bought or brought out of darkness, as believers we have been redeemed, and seek to do the same.
10/28 update: We've been mentioned and my comments accepted in two other articles: Religion Dispatches (“Is Downward Dog the Path to Hell?”) and Toronto Life (“Saluting the Sin”). Working on a press release now “Ex-Yogi Counters ‘Yogaphobia' Claim.” Thank you for your prayers and support as we get the Word out. No fear here — just amazing grace. ~ LW
Can Yoga Be Christian?
An exercise craze provokes questions of body and soul
BY STEPHEN PROTHERO
Inside the Western Hemisphere's oldest Hindu temple, in San Francisco, hangs a portrait of Jesus. Commissioned by the Old Temple's swami and executed in the 1920s by a Roman Catholic artist, the image depicts him sitting on the ground, his head encircled by a halo, meditating in the half-lotus position. In “Jesus in His Yoga Posture,” the founder of Christianity has become a yogi.
Over the past generation, so have millions of Americans—a development that has some Christian leaders concerned.
Last month, R. Albert Mohler—president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and “the reigning intellectual of the evangelical movement in the U.S.,” according to Time magazine—wrote that the practice of yoga among American Christians is “a symptom of our postmodern spiritual confusion.”
Christian yogis, according to Mr. Mohler, “must either deny the reality of what yoga represents or fail to see the contradictions between their Christian commitments and their embrace of yoga.” As he later told the Associated Press, “The idea that the body is a vehicle for reaching consciousness with the divine . . . that's just not Christianity.” In other words, man up and choose—you can't have your savior and your sun salutation too.
This concern isn't new. In 1989, the Vatican warned its faithful that yoga and other Asian contemplative practices could “degenerate into a cult of the body.”
Perhaps unintentionally, Mr. Mohler's statements largely echo what Hindu thinkers have long said about the Americanization of yoga. When I discuss the ongoing yoga craze with Hindus, they do not object to their venerable tradition being twisted toward sometimes banal ends. They ask only for practitioners to acknowledge that yoga emerged in ancient India and that its original intent was spiritual—a path to liberation rather than weight loss.
“Yoga cannot be neatly separated into physical and spiritual dimensions,” Mr. Mohler has said. “The physical is the spiritual in yoga, and the exercises and disciplines of yoga are meant to connect with the divine.”
Mr. Mohler does American Christians a favor by encouraging them to think more deeply about where the traditions of Christianity and the practice of yoga diverge. But he missteps when he insists that “Christians are not called . . . to see the human body as a means of connecting to and coming to know the divine.”
Catholics, of course, have long seen the seven sacraments—including baptism, Eucharist and others, all of which by definition operate on the body—as vehicles of grace. And Protestants, including Mr. Mohler's Southern Baptist denomination, have typically affirmed the sacramental nature of baptism and Holy Communion. There is no bending or twisting in these rites, but in both Protestants traditionally see the human body as a means of connecting oneself to the divine.
Christians have always been pulled in two different directions—the Jewish and the Greek—on the question of the body, a tussle that played out in early Christian disagreements over sex and marriage, for example. The Greek approach influenced the early Christian view, called docetism, that Jesus was a spirit with only a phantom body. But by the time of the Nicene Creed of the fourth century, Christians had dismissed that view as heresy. That opened the way for Thomas Aquinas's more Jewish-inspired view of the human being as body plus soul.
So it is not quite right to conclude that, while Hindu yogis get to the divine through the body, Christian believers get to the divine only through the spirit. As organizations such as the Young Men's Christian Association and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes attest, there is a strong tradition of “muscular Christianity” that sees physical fitness as building character and forming faith. And recent innovations such as “PraiseMoves”—”the Christian alternative to yoga”—are working to bend yoga toward Christian ends.
Religious traditions have long been mixed and matched. Indeed today's Southern Baptism is a cocktail of ancient Christian texts, Reformation theology and modern American preoccupations, including support for creationism. But don't expect to find Mr. Mohler in the half-lotus position any time soon.
Mr. Prothero, a professor of religion at Boston University, is the author of “God Is Not One: The Eight Rival Religions That Run the World—and Why Their Differences Matter” (HarperOne).
See the full article on WSJ.com here: “Can Yoga Be Christian?”
Great article! God is moving…..PraiseMoves is going to explode!!! can you feel the earth tremble????
PraiseMoves brings me closer to God. I feel an intimacy that stays with me throughout the day. I love Dancing My Prayers in the morning with PraiseMoves. After and during my workout I feel physically and spiritually fit. PraiseMoves makes my heart smile and I believe God like that! What a great article
Great article! It is about time that the church speak up and LOUD to wake God’s children up on learning what we are doing. I had no idea that Yoga is a religious practice that gives tribute to false idols. I always thought it was exercise until a wonderful Christian friend brought it to my attention and I did some research myself. The bible says…”My people perish for lack of knowledge”…As soon as I learned this truth, I immediately stopped and found PraiseMoves which gave me energy, taught me how to memorize scripture and has added value to my life and many of my friends! Great article and am very grateful to PraiseMoves for being there to continue to lead in the Light and empower God’s children in having a holy and undefiled temple! Keep up the good work!
I feel the earth MO-OO-VE under my feet! (nod to Carole King) — We stand amazed, Laura. Thank you for your comment!
Glory to God, Susan – what a precious thing to say, “PraiseMoves makes my heart smile” – yes, I believe God likes that, too!!! I have your book “Dancing My Prayers.” I imagine people can go to your website and purchase it – praise moves God…deeply!
Thank you, Rosemary. I so appreciate your words. What jumped out at me especially was your comment that a friend brought the truth about yoga to your attention “and I did some research myself.” That is so important – to find out the truth for ourselves. Once we learn the history and goal of yoga (the root and fruit, as it were), it’s difficult to bury our heads and mumble, “It’s just exercise.”
Those who want to learn more may find these articles interesting: “Why a Christian ALTERNATIVE to Yoga?” and “Yoga is Religion“
I LOVE PraiseMoves 🙂 It’s all about worshiping The One Who created me, the only One who actually knows me inside and out and loves me anyway, lol 🙂 PraiseMoves helps to bring my body, soul and spirit back into perfect alignment and deepens my relationship with the most amazing and awesome Being in the universe.
God conquered all the other gods around 2000 yrs ago. He exposed them as slave-traders.
To ask “Can Yoga Be Christian?” is to ask “Can Slavery Be Freedom?”.
How great to see the truth revealed in a newspaper as big as the WSJ. I’m sharing the article with all my PraiseMoves students (past & present).
Praise God for PraiseMoves!
Thanks for bringing this article to our attention.
I love how Praise Moves fills my mind with God’s Word as I work out. I’m left feeling rejuvenated in both body and spirit. Keep up the great work!
PraiseMoves is awesome.
In yoga, each traditional yoga position is in the formation of the hindu god being worshipped: example, the cobra. Hindus believe every time they do yoga, it is one less time they will have to reincarnate themselves. I tell them, why not just truly believe in Jesus who will get you into heaven the FIRST time around (which is actually your only chance anyway, according to the Bible.)
Praise God for this article. Holy Spirit infill…bring it on Lord!!!! I’m EXCITED!!!
I have worked with Laurette on PraiseMoves videos from the beginning. Having seen the true passion that has gone into every production has been nothing short of amazing! God has a direction for this work beyond our wildest dreams. With a vessel like Laurette spear-heading this movement the sky is the limit! Can’t wait for the next shoot!
I have done both yoga and PraiseMoves, and if you look at it for just physical exercise – I think PraiseMoves wins! I find it to be more challenging than yoga, while also minimizing body-damaging contortions! Not to mention the spiritual aspect – so much more uplifting! And what a blessing to be able to praise God and meditate on His Word while exercising!