Should Christians practice yoga? If you Google this question, you will undoubtedly find many varying opinions. Many reputable and well-known Christians, including pastors, have chimed in on this topic. Many have expressed the opinion that yoga is anti-Christian or “new age.” I have even read claims that practicing yoga is “witchcraft” and/or “demonic.” When I first thought about becoming a yoga teacher, I considered these claims and beliefs, took them seriously and prayed about them. Here are three reasons why I ultimately decided that Christians should practice yoga. I am sure this will become an ongoing conversation, and I welcome it! For more information about me, please click here: https://christcenteredyogareflections.com/susan-vanmeakins/
#1 – Christians Should Practice Yoga Because It is Good
First, God created the earth and everything in it and declared it all “good.” See Genesis 1:31 (NIV): “God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning – the sixth day.” Later in the story, the first man and woman sinned and were cast out from this perfect world that God created. This led to what has been termed “The Fall from Grace.” We Christians believe Jesus came to rectify this situation once and for all, and that by his death on the cross and resurrection, he saved us all. See, for example, John 3:16 (NIV): “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
The Roots of Yoga Predate Christ
So what does this have to do with yoga? Well, experts have traced the roots of yoga back to at least 5,000 years ago, and they could go back to as much as 10,000 years ago, from sacred texts developed by the Indus-Sarasvati civilization in Northern India. So the roots of yoga clearly predate Christ. Does this mean they are anti-Christian, or that they should be reviled, ignored or feared by Christians? No, it just means that the practice of yoga began before the world received Jesus. How could they be “anti” something that did not exist yet?
So how are we to know if something or someone is still good? Jesus himself gave this warning about “false prophets” in Matthew 15 – 17 (NIV): “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit.” The practice of yoga has so many benefits – physically, mentally, and yes, even spiritually. If we are to judge yoga by these fruits, I would say it is clearly good!
#2 – Why Christians Should Not Fear Practicing Yoga
Many Christian criticisms of yoga are rooted in fear. We often fear what we do not fully understand. Yet, in 2 Timothy 1:7 (NKJV), we read: “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” In this verse, the apostle Paul was telling Timothy not to fear preaching the gospel. I believe we should apply this more broadly.
The Bible is, of course, essential for Christians in determining God’s truth and purpose for our lives. However, we should not fear the teachings of people who came before Jesus, or those who follow other religions. God created us all, and humans have been trying to figure out answers to spiritual questions since time began. Does this mean that everything they learned and cherished was wrong? Of course not!
I think I do understand why some Christians fear any non-Christian teachings, including yoga practices. If a person is not firmly rooted in their Christian faith, could he or she be lured away by “new age” or other non-Christian teachings? Yes, I suppose so. However, for these people, the answer is to seek ways to strengthen their faith in Jesus. We should not forbid them from seeking answers out of fear. Jesus did not ask for mindless followers!
So we should not fear non-Christian beliefs, in secular yoga classes or elsewhere. Truthfully, practicing secular yoga in the U.S. is very unlikely to expose anyone to anything that goes against Christian beliefs. But if a Christian were to hear something that goes against Biblical teaching in a yoga class, that is OK. We have God-given minds to use to discern the truth, and our “way, the truth and the life” [John 14:6 (NIV)] as Christians is our Lord, Jesus Christ.
The Meaning of the Word “Yoga”
The word “yoga” does translate to “yoke” or “union,” which I find interesting since Jesus told his followers to “[T]ake my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” [Matthew 11: 29-30 (NIV)]. Clearly then, I agree that Christians are not to yoke themselves to non-Christian beliefs. However, doing the physical postures of yoga by no means “yokes” a person to everything the ancient creators of the practice believed. That would be magic, which is obviously not Christian! It’s all about one’s intentional choice to believe, or not.
#3 – The Best Reason Why Christians Should Practice Yoga
Finally, God continues to work in our world today, and the world needs to hear His word! This may be the strongest argument for Christians to practice Christ-centered yoga. Christian church membership in the U.S. has been declining for years. According to the Pew Research Center, the number of American adults claiming to be Christian has declined 12 percentage points from just ten years ago. The number of people claiming to be atheist, agnostic or “no religion” grew from 17% to 26% of the population.
Where are these people going to hear about Jesus? Certainly not from people knocking at their doors, social media or the mainstream press! Unfortunately, they are unlikely to set foot inside a church, outside of a wedding or funeral. Some may have had good reasons to leave the churches in which they were raised. Perhaps they left due to the failure of their pastors to correctly interpret the teachings of Jesus. Perhaps they left because their congregations failed to show His love. They may have simply chosen to follow the “way of the world,” rather than Christ. Many others have never been encouraged to learn about the teachings of Jesus.
Leading a Christ-centered yoga class gives teachers like me an amazing opportunity. We get to lead people in a physical practice that benefits their bodies and minds, while sharing about Christ! I would probably not feel comfortable doing this outside of my yoga class. Most Christians only discuss Jesus at home, at church or in a Bible study with other like-minded believers. Participating in a Christ-centered yoga class is a beautiful way to experience and spread the love of God. Check out the Christ-centered yoga school where I studied and received my certification here: https://www.livingsoulinstitute.com.
What About Secular Yoga Classes?
Many Christian yoga teachers lead both Christ-centered and secular classes, and some have told me they have found ways to informally share their faith with students in their secular classes, as well. Jesus commanded His followers to share their faith, something which is becoming increasingly difficult to do in our world today. As recorded in Matthew 28:19-20 (NIV), Jesus said, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Participating in a yoga class may be a beautiful way to make friends and experience God’s love in community.
So Why Should Christians Embrace the Practice of Yoga?
To conclude, yoga is NOT a religion. It is a practice. The physical postures of yoga are so beneficial for our bodies, and the breathing practices are so calming to our anxious minds. Therefore, they must be from God, for they are good! The idea that simply by performing these physical postures, one can somehow inadvertently allow demons to take possession of you, or be practicing witchcraft or sorcery is frankly ridiculous.
Remember that many of yoga’s spiritual beliefs and teachings were developed before Jesus came. Christians should not fear learning about them if we are firm in our Christian faith, and our intent is to remain yoked with Jesus. God loves and has always loved all of His children, and the Bible says they were all created in His image. All means all, even those who do not know Jesus. We should critically examine our Christian faith. Christians should use our God-given minds to compare and contrast and discern what teachings are congruent with Christian beliefs. You will become stronger in your Christian faith, not weaker, as a result.