Yoga & Christians

In September, Albert Mohler wrote a post about Yoga and Christians. I read it and agreed with it but didn’t think much more about it. But it seems to have become a serious topic of debate and today I read an article about it from the Associated Press. Here is the link to Mohler’s post and a few quotes.

The Subtle Body — Should Christians Practice Yoga?

Some questions we ask today would simply baffle our ancestors. When Christians ask whether believers should practice yoga, they are asking a question that betrays the strangeness of our current cultural moment — a time in which yoga seems almost mainstream in America.

Then later he quotes from the book The Subtle Body: The Story of Yoga in America by Stefanie Syman a proponent of yoga:

There certainly was no better proof that Americans had assimilated this spiritual discipline. We had turned a technique for God realization that had, at various points in time, enjoined its adherents to reduce their diet to rice, milk, and a few vegetables, fix their minds on a set of, to us, incomprehensible syllables, and self-administer daily enemas (without the benefit of equipment), to name just a few of its prerequisites, into an activity suitable for children. Though yoga has no coherent tradition in India, being preserved instead by thousands of gurus and hundreds of lineages, each of which makes a unique claim to authenticity, we had managed to turn it into a singular thing: a way to stay healthy and relaxed.

He then summarizes with:

The embrace of yoga is a symptom of our postmodern spiritual confusion, and, to our shame, this confusion reaches into the church. Stefanie Syman is telling us something important when she writes that yoga “has augured a truly post-Christian, spiritually polyglot country.” Christians who practice yoga are embracing, or at minimum flirting with, a spiritual practice that threatens to transform their own spiritual lives into a “post-Christian, spiritually polyglot” reality. Should any Christian willingly risk that?

The article today in the Associated Press:

Southern Baptist leader on yoga: Not Christianity

A Southern Baptist leader who is calling for Christians to avoid yoga and its spiritual attachments is getting plenty of pushback from enthusiasts who defend the ancient practice.

Southern Baptist Seminary President Albert Mohler says the stretching and meditative discipline derived from Eastern religions is not a Christian pathway to God.

Mohler said he objects to “the idea that the body is a vehicle for reaching consciousness with the divine.”

“That’s just not Christianity,” Mohler told The Associated Press.

Mohler said feedback has come through e-mail and comments on blogs and other websites since he wrote an essay to address questions about yoga he has heard for years.

“I’m really surprised by the depth of the commitment to yoga found on the part of many who identify as Christians,” Mohler said.

It is funny how some can defend yoga as not being what it is.  I remember when yoga was first becoming popular and most Christians then were not so swept up in the yoga craze and they understood the risk of spiritual “emptying”.  We as believers should be filling our minds with Scripture and with Christ.  I also never considered letting my children take Karate for similar reasons.  What causes those who claim to be believers to play around the edges of other religions with little thought of the effect or the will of God?



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4 thoughts on “Yoga & Christians

  1. I have a set of workout DVD’s that has one yoga DVD in the set. I’ve done the DVD once or twice. It’s so hard I haven’t mustered much motivation to do it again, lol.

    But the guy never once says anything about spiritual emptying. No chanting, no nothing. He talks through the whole thing and even says, “I think we’re supposed to be clearing our minds, but I’m more concerned with instructing on getting the stretches right so you’ll be more flexible.” That is the extent of my exposure and experience with yoga.

    Of course, I knew it was an Eastern exercise tradition, but that was all I knew. I certainly never though of it as religious though I should have seen the correlation. I thought the idea of chanting was a little wierd, but I’ve only ever seen that on TV.

    I didn’t know karate was religious either. How so? My kids don’t take karate but I’m just a little surprised because while I can see some of the issues with yoga, I don’t think I’ve ever heard anything like with respect to karate.

    I’m not disputing your post, just expressing my supreme ignorance, which I suspect most Christians in America shares. I need to do my homework. And I will. Thanks for the intel.

    Berean Wife Reply:

    Terry,

    Albert Mohler says: “I have heard from a myriad of Christians who insist that their practice of yoga involves absolutely no meditation, no spiritual direction, no inward concentration, and no thought element. Well, if so, you are simply not practicing yoga. You may be twisting yourselves into pretzels, grasshoppers, but if there is no meditation or direction of consciousness, you are not practicing yoga, you are simply performing a physical exercise. Don’t call it yoga.”

    Obviously the reference in the video to clearing your mind gives evidence of what is a part of true yoga. The question is can you take an Eastern Religious practice and clean it up such that it is acceptable for Christians? Or would it not be best to start fresh? It is definitely worth considering what the Lord would have us do.

    As to Karate, I must admit I know even less about it than I do yoga. :0 However, always I have wondered about the validity of a Christian learning fighting techniques in relation to verses like (Matthew 5:39)about turning the other cheek. Yet even so Karate is based on Zen Buddhism. There is a quote from an early Karate developer Shoshin who said “Karate and Zen are one.” Others say “Karate is not for just self-defense but for self-realization.

    “Modern martial arts such as kendo, karate, judo, and aikido go back directly to the marriage of Zen and Bushido, the medieval chivalry code of the samurai.” Quote from a website about Karate.

    But I’m sure there are folks who have tried to divorce the religious aspects from the physical aspects of Karate just as they try in yoga.

    It is interesting and worth researching before participating in yoga and karate.

    Berean Wife

  2. It appears that what I experienced wasn’t truly yoga at all, as Dr. Mohler pointed out. I was just bending myself into a pretzel (or trying to, lol).

    I think the physical benefits of the exercise draws some people. I never knew you could break a sweat while barely moving! But like me, I don’t think most people bother to examine the origins of certain things.

    I know believers who shun Christmas. Our family stopped using the term “Easter” when referring to Resurrection Sunday a couple of years ago when we learned that “Easter” is actually a direct reference to a pagan goddess. Who knew? We’d been calling it Easter all our lives!

    Ultimately, we all need to be more informed about the things we engage in, don’t we?

    Berean Wife Reply:

    Now Terry, if you start tampering with Christmas and Easter you will be in even worse shape than Mohler! 🙂 I’m surprised that the term Easter was ever even accepted by early Christians.

    I’m afraid the truth is that we Americans don’t think anymore. If it has “Christian” in it somewhere then of course what could be wrong? I guess if the average person doesn’t read then where would they get information beyond just what another desires to tell them. Probably the same problem with elections and politics also.

    Berean Wife

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