Posted by: rhenderson8110 | February 3, 2014

Christian Yoga? It’s a Stretch… Part 2

Yeah, but I do it for the health benefits- not any of that spiritual stuff…

Okay so it’s time to dive back into this ‘hot topic!’ I have received many responses and I appreciate your participation and input! I want to remind readers that my objective is not to stop everyone from doing yoga. My purpose is to make Christians aware of the origins and intentions of yoga and warn them from taking part in something that is not supported by scripture. Further, I hope to offer a helpful alternative for Christians who recognize the health benefits of stretching as well as the spiritual dangers of yoga.

To begin I will say that I do not believe that stretching and taking deep breaths is in any way harmful. No one is trying to deny that stretching increases blood flow and breathing in oxygen is healthful. There are many stretches that can be done having nothing to do with yoga and that are extremely beneficial. I will share some resources to find these exercises at the end of this blog.

So, can yoga be purely physical?

First of all, let’s remember that yoga was not designed for physical benefits. “4Swami Vishnudevananda, well known authority of Yoga, in his book “The Complete Illustrated Book of Yoga” explains the purpose of Yoga, “It is the duty of each developed man to train his body to the highest degree of perfection so that it may be used to pursue spiritual purposesthe aim of all yoga practice is to achieve truth wherein the individual soul identifies itself with the supreme soul of God.”’ I will discuss that the ‘God’ referred to in this quote and Eastern religion is not the same biblical God that we worship in Part 3. However for now, please note that the purpose of yoga is indeed spiritual.

Having laid that foundation I’d like to explore the most popular form of yoga in the West- Hatha yoga. Hatha yoga is often touted as being purely physical and thus, many participate believing there are no spiritual ramifications. Again, let’s pull from the same article referenced above: 4”The words Ha and tha represent the energy which is on each side of the spinal column. Hatha yoga suppresses the flow of energies through these passages, forcing the kundalini (“serpent power”) to rise from the base of the spine through the psychic energy channel in the sushumn (the spine), up through each of the chakras (energy points in the body).” At this point I would like to note that I am not making the claim that yoga doesn’t work. I’m certain it does- and that is because it was specifically designed to channel certain energies within the body. The point once again is that none of this sounds purely physical- in fact it sounds extremely spiritual.

Christian Yoga

So, what about ‘asanas’; is there something innately wrong with the positions performed in yoga? 4Swami Sivenanda Radha, a well-known yoga teacher, has said in a book on Hatha Yoga, “Asanas are a devotional practice…each asana creates a certain state of mind…to bring the seeker into closer contact with the Higher Self” (Quote from http://cana.userworld.com/cana_yoga.html ). I think it is important for Christians to understand that the asanas are not arbitrarily chosen positions that offer a good stretch. They were chosen to channel energy and are designed with an extremely spiritual end in mind. Take this excerpt into account as well, “4The yoga positions are designed to reach the state of Samadhi, or a state of union with self as God. Hatha yoga in its postures bring the subtle body into a specific alignment with the physical which will alter the consciousness of the participant. In other words one is practicing one of the essential elements of Hinduism when doing their Hatha Yoga exercises; whether they are aware of it or not.” It seems to me that even Hatha yoga- supposedly only physical- is inextricably tied to the ideals of Eastern religion and metaphysics.

Dr. Alexander PhD a professor of world religions at Biola University says,
1Many Westerners who practice yoga today are unaware that the physical positions assumed in yoga symbolize a spiritual act: worshiping one of the many Hindu gods. To a Hindu, yoga is the outward physical expression of a deep spiritual belief. You cannot separate one from the other.”
C.G. Jung is a pioneer of the Eastern religious movement bringing yoga to the West. I will end this point with his own quote.
Yoga practice is unthinkable, and would be ineffectual without the ideas on which it is based. It works the physical and spiritual into one another in an extraordinarily complete way. “- C.G Jung, “Yoga and the West”, in Psychology and the East, R.F.C Hull (Princeton University Press) Pg.81

In summary to the question, ‘Can a Christian practice yoga solely for the physical benefits?’- the conclusion of the research I’ve done answers with a firm ‘no.’ I believe the positions specifically designed for yoga are rooted in Eastern religion and should be performed by those who believe in the whole of Eastern ideologies. Now, if your back is tight and you’re stretching in your living room to relieve your pain that is entirely separate, of course. So please don’t read into this what I don’t intend. If stretching is beneficial for you- go for it! I’m just asking you to be sure you aren’t putting yourself in an ungodly environment- often fit with idols and the greeting of ‘Namaste.’ (literally meaning “the God within me greets the God within you.”). Again I’d like to reinforce that I am not expressing ill will towards anyone who does yoga or practices Eastern religion. I simply disagree. And I don’t want Christians to fall prey to this Eastern religious practice due to a lack of understanding on its’ origins and implications.

So, what other alternatives are available to Christians who wish to gain the health benefits of deep stretching and breathing? Actually, a ton! From what I understand pilates may be a great alternative. Granted, I did my research on yoga and not extensively on pilates. But it seems as though pilates integrates many of the physical disciplines without the spiritual origin or overtone. Keep your eyes open though as it would be easy to sneak some yogic principles in.
If you were participating in yoga as a way to worship God I would recommend 2 organizations listed below devoted to providing a purely Christian alternative to yoga. Aside from these 2 programs I believe we can slow down, stretch, breathe deeply, meditate on God’s Word and find peace in Him as He asks of us in scripture. This is what I personally choose to do. I guess my point is that Jesus Christ did not need or use yoga to commune with God or relieve stress- and He had more than any of us can imagine! We do not need it either and there are many effective alternatives that are not based in Eastern religion.

Here is a bit of information on those two organizations I mentioned before.
Wholyfit- http://www.wholyfit.com/ 2 “WHOLYFIT IS NOT Christian Yoga and is not associated with Yoga culture, philosophies, religions, or practices, regardless of whether or not they are represented as Christian. We are committed to RADICAL purity for Christ and separateness from yoga,” the website proclaims.
PraiseMoves-http://praisemoves.com/
Both programs incorporate Bible verses and prayer into the exercises, and certain postures and poses performed.
* My caveat is that I have not purchased these programs as I am more of a go to the gym and stretch type of woman. I do not endorse everything as I have not purchased them myself- though I do agree with the ideology that I have come across from them.

Stay tuned for Part 3 where I address: What is the real harm to Christians anyways? How can we be sure it even matters to God?

Sources:

  1. http://praisemoves.com/about-us/why-a-christian-alternative-to-yoga/
  2. http://www.christianpost.com/news/is-there-a-christian-alternative-to-yoga-58971/
  3. http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2005/juneweb-only/123-22.0.html?start=2
  4. http://www.letusreason.org/NAM1.htm
  5. Yoga and the Body of Christ by Dave Hunt
  6. http://www.chopra.com/community/online-library/terms/namaste
    7. http://www.pure-yoga.com/en/hongkong/articles/index.php?article_id=227&folder_id=9

    Advertisements

Responses

  1. Again, really solid research hun! A great topic summary through the lens of a biblical worldview. I’m very proud of you 🙂

    • You are very blessed Alex to have such a Godly wife!

  2. Hi Rachel,
    I’ve really been enjoying your blogs about Yoga and if it is okay for Christians to practice it. I am glad you did this, because I didn’t understand a lot of what Yoga represented before and I have a totally new perspective.

    I am curious your thoughts on the Christian alternative to yoga though. It almost seems like what Christians did with Christmas by taking it from its pagan roots and putting Christ in its place to make it alright. Do you think that is similar to what is being done to Yoga?

    • Hi TSS! I’m so glad you’ve been reading and enjoying! Your question is a great one and one I considered a lot while writing. The reason I think pilates is not syncretism is because it has zero spiritual intent or origin. I think exercising is good and obviously does not have to be spiritual in any way. And the Praisemoves/wholyfit alternatives strive to be completely separate from yoga, rather than a “Christianized yoga.” All they’re doing is singing praise music and stretching… neither of which are wrong at all. But I completely understand your question and think it is always important for us to be asking! Those are just my thoughts… thanks again for reading!

  3. Rachel, I had the very same question as TSS. I would keep the praise moves out personally myself, although not wrong in themselves, one can more easily switch over into the Christian yoga more readily, as they offer it in the same way. You know that the Christian yoga will seemingly be more quickly taken in, as Satan will use his powers to give you the “spirit, i.e., Satanic spirit,” posing as God’s spirit. It’s too close for comfort for me to toy with. If anything I would just pray to thank God that I have the strength to do the exercises and the muscles and the energy and that I will be able to get the benefits of this avenue before I even start, and leave exercise be just that – exercise. Thanks for the very well written post. 🙂 I always enjoy reading your articles. 🙂


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Categories

%d bloggers like this: