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Can Yoga be Christian?--Skeel

Knowing so little about yoga, I am particularly unsuited to try to answer this question. But I had a friendly debate about it with a lapsed Catholic friend (and yoga enthusiast) earlier this week, and today’s Wall Street Journal has a fascinating column on the topic. And I’m a law professor, after all, so I won’t let a dearth of knowledge stop me from expressing an opinion.

My impression is that traditional yoga is based on a spiritual framework that has some similarities to aspects of Christianity but is quite inconsistent with it. The Bible teaches that God created the world and is distinct from it, which seems at odds with the eastern spirituality on which yoga as based. And, at least as practiced by many in the U.S., yoga seems to invite an odd combination of preoccupation with self, on the one hand, and complete emptying of self, on the other. Both seem inconsistent with our being subordinate to but made in the image of God, as the Bible teaches.
This doesn’t necessarily mean that yoga-like practices are always un-Christian, in my view, any more than mysticism is. But it does raise serious red flags, and suggests that while some of the insights of yoga may be useful, yoga itself is a spiritual distortion that is more likely to lead practitioners away from than toward the God of the Bible.


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Comments ( 6 )

I have often considered this as I am in a yoga class at least once a week. If the leader of the class is not particularly intentional I think your conclusion is valid, but I have seen Christianity and yoga (as a health practice) mesh very effectively. I would love to listen to you and Sarah at redeemingyoga.com continue this conversation. I'll forward your article to her, but check out her newsletter.

Alomst everyone I know in LA does yoga and I'd estimate that 95% of them treat it as an exercise class.

Greetings! Thank you for posting this. I was amazed and thrilled the Wall Street Journal mentioned our PraiseMoves Fitness Ministry in the article. I didn't quite agree with some of their description, but hey, grateful for the nod nonetheless!

If you and your readers would like more information about the dangers of yoga (I was involved in it for 22 years as a New Ager -- yoga being what I call the "missionary arm of Hinduism and New Age movement" - in fact, Hindu scholars refer to their instructors as "missionaries"), as well as so-called "Christian yoga" (an oxymoron I liken to "Christian Buddhism" - syncretism doesn't work!)-- please see http://praisemoves.com/calt .

We call PraiseMoves "The Christian ALTERNATIVE to yoga." Thanks for the listen. Both my parents were attorneys in NYC and LI, so I've a soft place in my heart for the legal profession (Titus 3:13!).

Feel free to contact me if I may be of service.
Praise moves God...deeply. So, keep praising the Lord! ~ Laurette (:

Yoga could very well be connected with Christianity. I consider the writings in The Bible a coded language, with a lot of spiritual information (I dont mean religious) which could be understood by the realized and by those who are initiated into the mystics. The Guru of Paramahansa Yogananda, Swami Shri Yukteshwar has done a great work trying to relate the Eastern spiritual practices with the Bible in his work, 'The Holy Science'.

I have to agree with Steve, though I would like to further his comments. While most people practice the art of yoga as a simple way of exercise, one must understand the intention of taking yoga. If it's part of their daily exercise, then I don't see any issues regardless of their faith. Thoughts?

Charles, I think you hit the nail on the head. While the roots of yoga may have arisen from a religous background, in modern times, yoga has become a part of lifes daily routin for most people. I love yoga as an exercise, but I would not be offended if someone was not religious yet practice it.