Video courtesy of THE BEAT by Allen Parr

Yoga. It seems like it’s everywhere these days. From boutique studios to gyms to apps, yoga classes and advice about “living your best yogi life” barrage us from all directions.

With its focus on meditation, breathwork, and getting in touch with your body, yoga often gets lauded as the pathway to health, relaxation, and inner peace.

But as Christians, should we be doing downward dog—or avoiding yoga altogether?

Yoga’s popularity has exploded in the West over recent decades and many believers have wondered if a practice rooted in Eastern spirituality can be reconciled with biblical Christianity.

Is yoga just stretching and breathing exercises? Or is there more going on spiritually than meets the eye?

In this post, we’ll analyze yoga from a biblical perspective to help you make an informed decision about whether Christians should do yoga or not.

The Origins and Meaning of Yoga

The Origins Of Yoga

To start, we need to understand what yoga is and where it came from. When you hear the word “yoga” today, you probably think of physical postures and stretching.

However, for thousands of years in India, yoga has been a spiritual practice centered around connecting one’s soul with the spirit world.

The word “yoga” actually comes from the Sanskrit word “yuj” which means “to yoke” or “unite.” What does yoga aim to unite?

According to the traditional Hindu understanding, the goal is to unte the human spirit and soul (jivatma) to the universal soul (paramatma). This universal soul is believed to be part of the divine consciousness of the Hindu god, Brahma.

So at its roots, yoga is a vital spiritual discipline designed to achieve union with the Hindu concept of the divine through physical postures, regulated breathing, and mindful meditation.

Now, you may be thinking, that sounds rather different from the yoga practiced at your local studio or gym. And you’d be correct.

What has been imported to America often looks quite different from traditional yoga spirituality. Yet the origins of yoga cannot be ignored when analyzing whether the practice aligns with Christianity.

What Are the Potential Cautions Around Yoga for Christians?

The Potential Cautions Around Yoga For Christians

Given yoga’s inextricable links with Eastern religions like Hinduism and Buddhism, should Christians be wary of incorporating such practices into their lifestyle?

There are a few important considerations:

  • Idolatry: By engaging in spiritual activities like yoga, meditation, or chanting mantras rooted in Hinduism or Buddhism, some Christians worry they may be committing idolatry. These Eastern faiths involve concepts about the divine and paths to “enlightenment” that clearly differ from biblical teachings.
  • Occult influences: Throughout the Old and New Testament, occult practices like divination, sorcery, witchcraft, and magic are repeatedly forbidden. Yoga emerged from a context permeated with occult elements, though the degree to which modern yoga retains these aspects varies. Either way, the gospel calls us to separate ourselves from such influences.
  • New Age versions: There are certainly more liberal versions of yoga focused purely on physical poses and breathing techniques. However, there are also New Age “Christian yoga” blendings gaining popularity which incorporate unbiblical ideas and mystical experiences. Christians looking into yoga options would be wise to thoroughly investigate what’s being taught and practiced to detect occult influences.

So, if yoga is out, should we avoid practices like stretching, flexibility training, aerobic activity, breathing exercises, and meditation altogether? Not necessarily.

A Biblical Approach to Caring For Our Bodies and Minds

A Biblical Approach To Caring For Our Bodies And Minds

Movement and Body Care

The apostle Paul teaches in 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 (NIV) that our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit which should be honored as dwelling places of God’s presence.

19 Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20 you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.”

As God’s image-bearers, it’s good for us to care for the wonderful bodies we’ve been blessed with through regular movement, activity, fuel, and rest.

Meditation and Contemplation

Likewise, biblical meditation focuses on filling your mind with spiritual truth and pondering the awesome glory of God and His word.

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”

Philippians 4:8 (NIV)

“Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.”

Joshua 1:8 (NIV)

Passages like Philippians 4:8 (NIV) and Joshua 1:8 (NIV) present a method of biblical meditation centered on dwelling on whatever is good, right, holy, excellent, praiseworthy, and pure instead of emptying your mind.

So from a Christian perspective, the activities and techniques utilized in yoga aren’t necessarily the problem per se.

The issue lies with the unbiblical ideological foundation and goals of traditional yogic philosophy compared to a gospel-centered understanding of our identity in Jesus Christ.

Dangers Yoga Poses for Christians

The Dangers Yoga Poses For Christians

Going beyond concerns over the underlying ideas and meanings embedded in yoga, some Christians argue that yoga is spiritually dangerous, even if only practiced for exercise with no overt Hinduism or Buddhism attached. Why is that?

Opening deceptive spiritual doorways

One concern is that engaging in something like yoga or Eastern styles of mystical meditation can potentially open deceptive doorways to the demonic realm.

When you involve yourself in religious practices outside of God’s protection and boundaries, you’ll become vulnerable to demonic distortions of truth, light, and supernatural experiences.

Differing spiritual end goals

Additionally, the aims of yoga and Eastern meditation contrast starkly with a relationship with Jesus Christ and life in the Holy Spirit.

The end goal of yoga is an inward journey of self-realization and tapping into the “god within us all” to achieve enlightenment, peace, and divinity on our own merits apart from Jesus, our Lord and Savior.

Leading others into confusion or sin

Furthermore, some Christians argue it’s not just your individual yoga practice you should worry about.

Seeing fellow Christians incorporate Eastern spiritual activities without caution can confuse newer believers and lead them astray into unbiblical practices out of ignorance.

Romans 14:13 (NIV) reminds us, that rather than judge one another over disputable matters, we must be careful not to put a “stumbling block or obstacle” in a fellow believer’s path.

“Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister.”

Do Christians Need Yoga to Find Inner Peace and Relaxation?

Do Christians Need Yoga To Find Inner Peace And Relaxation

One major benefit touted by yoga adherents is achieving tranquility, calmness, and relief from stress. But do Christians need to look outside our faith to obtain such blessings? Absolutely not!

Followers of Jesus possess the permanent inner peace of Christ through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

Sin or lack of surrender can temporarily disrupt our sense of peace with God. But He invites us to continually receive cleansing and restoration through repentance and obedience as we learn to cling more tightly to our Prince of Peace.

Even during turbulent storms of life when pressures and anxieties weigh heavily, we can call upon the Lord’s supernatural peace that surpasses all understanding (Philippians 4:6-7 NIV).

6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

He alone equips us with strength and soul-steadying grace sufficient for every trial we face (2 Corinthians 12:9 NIV).

“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”

Conclusion: A Balanced Perspective

Fasting In The Bible

To conclude this analysis, where should Christians land when assessing yoga and whether it’s an acceptable practice? As with many issues the Bible does not directly address, there are fair arguments on both sides.

  • Some Christians will avoid yoga altogether given its background and the fact that we have all we need for healthy souls and bodies through abiding in Christ.
  • Other believers will feel comfortable with doing yoga that avoids overt spiritual elements and view it as a way to care for the sacred vessels God gave us.

Whichever path you prayerfully choose, may we as Christians nurture discernment concerning the influences we allow into our minds and bodies.

Rather than judging one another over debatable matters like yoga, my hope is we would extend grace while also spurring each other on toward a deeper love and faithfulness to Jesus Christ and his Kingdom.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. What is the Christian view on yoga?

A. Christians hold a range of views on yoga. Some avoid it due to ties with Eastern religions. Others are fine with more exercise-based types they don’t view as spiritually compromising. Prayerfully assess your instructors, the content, and your conscience to make your decision.

Q. Can I just do yoga for exercise as long as I avoid Hindu elements?

A. This is the most common compromise position Christians take toward yoga. As long as you’re aware and steer clear of philosophies and practices that contradict biblical truth, it may be fine. However, some still feel uneasy due to yoga’s background. Follow your conscience.

Q. What should I look out for in “Christian yoga” classes?

A. Investigate thoroughly, ask direct questions about spiritual beliefs taught, and pay attention during class. Any promotion of “god within us all”, tapping spiritual energy, occult practices, or mystical experiences beyond scripture should sound an alarm in you.

Q. Won’t yoga’s breathing and meditation calm me and reduce my anxiety?

A. Be cautious about assuming yoga holds special power to give you supernatural peace. Through Christ in you, plus adopting biblical meditation focused on God’s Word, you can experience freedom from anxiety and rest for your soul.

Q. I’m still not sure. How should I decide if Christians should do yoga or not?

A. Pray for wisdom and listen to the Holy Spirit’s guidance. Consult mature believers who know you well. Submit all aspects of your life to Jesus, walk in repentance of sin, and look to Him alone for your identity and purpose.

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