Appreciated by almost everyone for its soothing effects and health benefits, yoga is garnering cultural acceptance even in some Christian circles. Yoga and Christianity, quite a controversial topic where Christians are conflicted whether if these two can be infused together. If you know and fully understand yoga’s history, you will see why this is a hotly debated practice that some Christians consider. Many cite its pagan roots – they think the stretching aspect is okay, but not everything else that goes with it. But on the other hand, some Christians attest that they have undergone life-changing yoga experiences. They are provided relief from physical health problems and even emotional issues that they have had difficulty battling using other techniques.
It is crucial to understand what yoga is and its origin before saying that yoga and Christianity can or cannot be practiced together. As per a study, yoga is a complete mind-body exercise that integrates the strengthening of the body and stretching poses alongside deep breathing, meditation, and relaxation. Much of doing yoga has more to do with strengthening muscles, developing and balancing through various postures, and poses synced with deep breathing. Some of its benefits include greater endurance, better muscle tone, peacefulness, and stress reduction. The practice has many beneficial implications for many individuals, including Christians. From Scripture, we know that God created our bodies and charged us to take good care of it. Some Christians’ distaste for yoga has to do more with its emphasis on a state of being, widely known as mindfulness. The word mindfulness is described in yoga as keeping one’s focus on the present moment. That is to say; you need to pay attention to what is around you without thinking about the past or worrying too much about the future.
Still, the true origin of yoga is difficult to ascertain; but over thousands of years, it is thought to have been founded in India as a means of enlightenment-oriented physical and spiritual meditation. In the 1890s, yoga was first introduced to the U.S. by a Hindu monk and then became popular in the 1950s in Hollywood. Today, we have more than a hundred forms of yoga, most of which are Western concepts. Today, yoga is a thriving industry that produces $10 billion in classes each year and claims 20 million yogis. In the present time, America has made yoga into a kind of brand, toning down specific elements and deliberately ignoring several of its Western traditions.
Yoga and Christianity: Can Christians Practice Yoga Even If It Originated from The Eastern Philosophy?
Yoga has its source in the East, but roots do not really dictate anything. There are a variety of holidays and festivals that we observe, which include Mardi Gras, Valentine’s Day, birthday celebrations – all from the pagan origin or with paganism elements. Many of these festivities are embraced and widely celebrated as a common culture, and Christians adopted it as well. Christian even put up Christmas trees to celebrate Christ’s birth where, in fact, the history of the Christmas tree is closely related to pagan winter rituals, and even tree worship among pre-Christian Europeans, according to research. Christians took from and reinterpreted something that had been done in pagan traditions, giving it new significance as a sign of Christian faith. This is equivalent to what yoga has done- it has been redefined to meet the needs of all those who practice it. Yoga can be reconceptualized to benefit believers of Christ, just as in the context of Christmas trees and several other holidays we enjoy.
Another thing many anti-yoga Christians fail to understand is that mindfulness is not inherently Hindu. Several early Christian spiritual teachers advised their adherents to establish what they referred to as “nespis,” which means being careful and attentive and observing what was around them. Jesus told us to let go of any worries and anxiety by becoming fully conscious, aware, and paying close attention to the surroundings.
If you are a Christian and are interested in learning yoga, focus on yoga’s positive benefits, and overlook the traces of the Eastern worldview. You could do this in a variety of ways. Firstly, reinterpret whatever leaves you feeling uncomfortable. Typically, a yoga session would end with hands in a prayer position, saying “Namaste,” an ancient Sanskrit greeting which means “my true self bows to your true self.” Alternatively, you may choose to say, “Thank you,” to the instructor. If you are called to reflect on “the world” or “nothingness” in a yoga session, concentrate instead on Jesus. Yoga can always be converted into a moment of reflection and a deep connection to God through prayer. This is also incredibly valuable given that Christian meditation is a practice that most do not do nowadays, but should have. Jesus can become an integral part of your exercise routine.
Furthermore, if you are a Christian keen to learn yoga, you should try different yoga classes or watch DVDs about it. Some teachers in their yoga classes teach and focus more on Eastern traditional elements, but others do not. Find a class that emphasizes more on stretching, deep breathing, and living in the moment – not Hinduism-focused lessons that are out of line with your religion. Some churches and recreation centers also provide Christian yoga, integrating spirituality into physical exercise.
Yoga is an excellent way of exercising and staying fit. It may not have much impact if you have wonky knees, but you will get a nice burn if you do it right. It is also irrefutable that it has its origins in Eastern religions and that Christians should be mindful of such spiritual factors. However, yoga need not have a negative influence on you as a Christian. Yoga is what you perceive it to be. Indeed, the deep-breathing and meditation that comes with yoga will make you feel closer to God and bring you closer to Christ. During practice, several Christians who do yoga have reported feeling more spiritually linked with God.
It is only important for Christians to be aware of what is happening around them, distinguish what is good and correct, and be brave to distance themselves if they realize that what they are doing is already putting themselves a distance from God.