I don’t do yoga. It’s a personal choice. I think stretching is wonderful. I love my foam roller and used to take Pilates classes regularly. I know many of my friends love yoga and often invite me to join them. But my answer is no and here’s why.
The practice of yoga goes beyond physical exercise. There is a deeper spiritual component to the practice of yoga, and while many mainstream American yoga classes may not emphasize the spiritual element, it is still there and cannot be separated from the practice. Each yoga pose carries its own meaning. “Yoga is a vast collection of spiritual techniques and practices aimed at integrating mind, body and spirit to achieve a state of enlightenment or oneness with the universe.” – Yoga 101: The Basics
“Americans are usually drawn to yoga as a way to keep fit at first, but the idea behind the physical practice of yoga is to encourage a deeper mind-body awareness,” explains New York yoga teacher and author Beryl Bender Birch. “Healing and balancing the physical body helps bring clarity and focus to the mind as well.”
“Initially, the sole purpose of practicing yoga was to experience spiritual enlightenment. In Sanskrit (the ancient language of India), yoga translates as “yoke” or “union,” describing the integration of mind and body to create a greater connection with one’s own pure, essential nature.
“Classes that have gained popularity in the United States usually teach one of the many types of hatha yoga, a physical discipline which focuses mainly on asanas (postures) and breathwork in order to prepare the body for spiritual pursuits.” – Not All Yoga is Created Equal
Here is Deepak Chopra’s explanation on yoga:
“Even if yoga only enhanced physical fitness, the time spent in practice would be fully worthwhile. However, while the health benefits are many, yoga offers much more than just a way to exercise the body. The deeper meaning and gift of yoga is the path it offers us into the timeless, spaceless world of spirit. Yoga teaches us both to let go and to have exquisite awareness in every moment. We remember our essential spiritual nature and life becomes more joyful, meaningful, and carefree.” – Deepak Chopra, MD – The Deeper Meaning of Yoga
I cannot separate the physical aspect of yoga from its spiritual roots.
“Americans have turned yoga into an exercise ritual, a means of focusing attention, and an avenue to longer life and greater health. Many Americans attempt to deny or minimize the spiritual aspects of yoga — to the great consternation of many in India. When Christians practice yoga, they must either deny the reality of what yoga represents or fail to see the contradictions between their Christian commitments and their embrace of yoga. The contradictions are not few, nor are they peripheral. The bare fact is that yoga is a spiritual discipline by which the adherent is trained to use the body as a vehicle for achieving consciousness of the divine.” – Al Mohler, The Subtle Body: Should Christians Practice Yoga?
So is “Christian yoga” okay? No, not for me. All that is doing is “Christianizing” what I consider to be a spiritual practice contrary to what the Bible teaches. The meditation element may be Christ-centered, but the practice of yoga itself is rooted in the worship of something other than the One, True and Living God.
In Romans 12, it says, “Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.”
For me, it does not matter the popularity of yoga. I don’t want to live as someone conformed to this world, even in a so-called Christian yoga class. I believe stretching is beneficial, but I can perform stretches without the unnecessary spiritual baggage from yoga.