Should A Christian Practice Yoga?
What is especially intriguing about this question and others like it is that it can be taken in one of two ways. It can mean “Will Yoga enhance my connection with God? Hence, Is it something I should (i.e. ought to) do?” Or, it can mean “Is Yoga permissible? Is it something I can get away with doing and still call myself a Christian?”
As always, our Lord is primarily concerned with the believers heart. So it is important that before considering the surface question one examines the underlying motives of one’s heart. Is it seeking tools which might enhance one’s spiritual growth… Or is it testing how far one might stroll from the flock yet still be fed and protected by the Shepherd?
Twice in his letter to the Corinthians Paul addresses ‘disputable’ activities. He writes,
“I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but I will not be mastered by anything.” (1 Cor. 6:12).
“I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but not everything is constructive.” (1 Cor. 10:23).
Though you may, or though you may think you may, have the right, the freedom, the permission to do a thing, Paul says, is not the only consideration. One must also ask what effect might the activity might have over time. Will it pull them in deeper, tempt them to deeper levels, subtly lead them to a more blatant backsliding? And what testimony does it make to other believers… believers who may be unaware of the boundaries you have set regarding it?
The danger of yoga is in its metaphysical roots. The name ‘Yoga’ comes from the Sanskrit root ‘Yuj’, meaning ‘to join’ or ‘to unite’. It seeks a harmony of mind and body to the point of self-enlightenment and union with a ‘Universal Consciousness.’ In short, yoga is a Hindu philosophy of personal salvation. It is in fact “another gospel” the messengers of which Paul strongly condemned saying “let them be under God’s curse!” (see Gal. 1:6-9).
“But,” you say, “I just want to do the exercise part. What’s wrong with that?” Well, that may or may not be a boundary you will keep, or that others, following your example, may set. So, if I were to advise you then clearly the safest advice would be to avoid it. Get a good book of neutral stretching exercises and leave it at that. Examine your heart, and remember the wisdom of scripture that
“…physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.” (1 Tim. 4:8).
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