When you say the universe, I hear Jesus.
When you say the divine within, I hear the Holy Spirit.
When you say you are equipped with everything you need, that you are meant to be in this moment, that this is exactly where you need to be, I hear that with God nothing is impossible, that we are all called to bloom where we are planted, that no matter where I am, I can live out a purpose bigger than I am.
Yoga has become a somewhat controversial topic in the realms of spirituality– especially for Christians. For years I’ve been hearing about how ‘Christians shouldn’t do yoga’ and while the list of things Christians should or shouldn’t do could go on and on and on (and can vary, depending who you talk to!), the state of our heart is at the root of what we should or shouldn’t do.
YOGA ROOTS + CHANGES
First of all, the roots of yoga are somewhat muddy. A recent book called The Roots of Yoga by Sir James Mallinson and Mark Singleton, highlights the differences between ancient texts that all reference yoga practices in their various forms across the ages. What one culture made of it was different than another. Even things most yogis agree on now, like vinyasa meaning a sequence of poses, did not actually originally hold that meaning. Yoga has been a malleable practice with some basic foundations the same (the physical practice of movement and breath) but the details and the heart behind the practice have been in a continual state of shifting and changing since it began.
As the world changes, yoga has changed and has been adapted for any kind of practitioner. Have you seen yoga classes specifically designed for athletes? Runners? Those who are ageing? Christians? No matter who you are, you can find a yoga practice tailored to benefits unique to you… And yes, Christian yoga is a thing! Check out Holy Yoga to learn more!
Keeping in mind how yoga has shifted and changed, I think the view the modern world has of yoga has a way of attracting people to a new age philosophy because people are searching for something more. Depending who is teaching a yoga class and the words they choose to speak, you can hear incredible themes about the Universe guiding your steps, the law of attraction (you can attract what you want into your life), the way everything happens for a reason and how you are meant to be here, in this exact moment. For people who are searching, they can relish the idea that things, right now, are how they are ‘meant to be’. Emotions and feelings can be reasoned by the moon, performing rituals can get you what you want out of life or reading tarot cards can give you incredible insight. For people who haven’t heard of God, or who have been ‘burned by the Church’ as becomes a story for many, these sentiments can be appealing and inviting.
For people who haven’t heard of God, or who have been ‘burned by the Church’ as becomes a story for many, these sentiments can be appealing and inviting.
As Christians, we believe in a God who is amazing and loving and just and who guides us and teaches us and helps us when we make bad choices and can find a way to make good come from bad. Through yoga we can find ways to meditate more easily on scripture (Like the monastic form of breath prayer of inhaling and exhaling prayers which we can do during yoga sessions and savasana) and can be more aware of the beauty God created all around us (I am more continually in awe of the amazingly intricate pieces of nature that we are surrounded by, which calls me to worship God, even more, when I stand in awe of it all). The idea of Namaste (the light in me acknowledges the light in you) is a constant reminder that the Holy Spirit dwells within me, and God has a desperate longing to live in each and every single person you meet.
YOGA + THE ‘JESUS FILTER’
I think it is actually quite easy to see how well Yoga & Christianity can go together– as long as one doesn’t focus too much on how many ‘new age’ and ritualistic aspects are often attached to it. People always talk about ‘making your yoga practice your own’, so if that means flowing to worship music, and spending time before and after in prayer, then that’s what yoga is meant to be for your practice.
I truly believe Christians can practice yoga and it’s all about the filter you put on when you go out into the world. As Christians, we put on our ‘Jesus Filter’ every time we interact with others, go see a movie, read a book, or attend any kind of workshop or class. As Christians, we aren’t supposed to be OF the world, but to go out and be a LIGHT to the world– how can we be a light if we avoid places where non-Christians are?
As Christians, we aren’t supposed to be OF the world, but to go out and be a LIGHT to the world– how can we be a light if we avoid places where non-Christians are?
When you have a strong base in your faith, you can go out into the world with your Jesus filter and act differently than those around you, causing others to go ‘hey, you’re different. Tell me more about that!’. This actually just happened to me recently– a friend of mine has come to church a couple of weeks now and she said to me in a text message over the weekend “I’m not even a church person but even that one service about ego has made a difference in my thinking”. Isn’t it incredible how God uses people like us, just the average human with struggles and trials, dreams and a longing to be more like Him and be in a relationship with Him, to impact other people? Living your life to the best of your ability with God as your focus means we can be a light to others in the places we find ourselves!
I believe there is a balance though; If you’re battling any kind of addiction you don’t put yourself directly in the place of harm to relapse. As a new Christian, it’s the same thing. If you’re working on certain areas of your faith, it’s smart to remove yourself from areas that may make you stumble backwards. When a friend of mine first became a Christian, he removed himself from his friend group because their actions weren’t in line with how he wanted to live his life. Now that he has grown and has built a more solid foundation of his faith, he can enter back into relationships with the confidence in God to not be swayed out of his beliefs. If someone is a Christian and they don’t feel rooted enough in their faith in God to attend a yoga class and be persuaded out of their belief system by the yoga instructor who is maybe speaking a more new-age philosophy, then staying away from Yoga would be a smart idea. If you feel rooted enough that you can go to a class, put on your Jesus filter, and take time to process what is being said before you believe it, you can choose whether you want to believe what they are saying as truth or as their truth and not your own.
Having a ‘Jesus Filter’ means we are always taking what we are being told and what we are seeing and seeing how it stands up to what we believe as Christians.
It’s amazing how beneficial our ‘Jesus Filter’ is. We ingest so much information and so many opinions daily. Having a ‘Jesus Filter’ means we are always taking what we are being told and what we are seeing and seeing how it stands up to what we believe as Christians. If it doesn’t align with our faith, we can say ‘no thanks’ to that information or opinion. If it does fit in, we can accept it. In both of these situations, we can remain loving the way Jesus was loving to those He encountered.
LIVE IT OUT
I believe, as Christians, we should be looking to grow in a deeper relationship with Christ and be continually trying to live like Him as much as we can. If doing yoga helps you make time to workout (caring for your body), pray and build relationships where you have the ability to share ‘the good news’ with others, then that is great! If someone finds that attending a yoga class is drawing them further away from God, then it wouldn’t be a smart practice.
I think what scares people most about yoga is the unknown. They see one yogi and think everyone is like that– and if their experience is ‘bad’, then their entire perception of this practice is now written off. Does this sound familiar? The parallels with Christianity can be the same. How often do people say they met a Christian once who was hateful, slanderous, seemed to act differently than they said they would, break promises or live without loving others, and that this one interaction made them view all Christians with a tainted view. When I hear stories like this I want to say a few things; not all Christians are like that– AND we are still human and make mistakes. The difference is the humanization of the person as an individual who isn’t perfect and the willingness to understand. Seeking to understand one another is one of the greatest acts of love we can do. Acceptance is not agreement and to stand in love with someone and hear their story, do life with them, then say I don’t agree with you but I accept and love you anyways is incredibly powerful.
Seeking to understand one another is one of the greatest acts of love we can do.
My personal journey with Yoga has been wonderful. I’ve made awesome friends (both Christian and non-Christian and I’ve been able to speak about my faith to the non-Christian ones!), have been able to have a better relationship with my body (which can be hard in a world where women are told continually over and over again of their lack), and I love how I am taking time to pray and meditate on scripture before and at the end of class.
I also practice using my ‘Jesus Filter’ often and, if anything, this brings me more in tune with the Holy Spirit who is seeking to guide us. One class I attend begins with a call and response chant in Sanskrit. Since I believe our words have power, I choose to not take part in this part of the class. I don’t know what they are saying (and every time I get into the class I mean to ask after but then I totally forget!) I don’t want to speak words that could go against my belief system and my truth. Instead, I stand with my hands at heart, bow my head, and respectfully allow those who want to take part in the practice to do so. I use this time to pray or just stand in silence.
Yoga has been a wonderful practice for me and I will continue to do yoga as much as I can– including taking my yoga teacher training. My goal is to be able to provide yoga classes to Christian women who could also benefit from the slowing down of their mind, gaining a better relationship with their bodies and really begin to become more aware of the incredible beauty hand-created by God that is around them. Partnered with coaching, I’d love to be able to offer both a yoga practice and coaching workshops to women at retreats or more small and intimate gatherings.
God meets you where you are at to make Himself real to you. If you meet God on the yoga mat, on your knees in prayer, while singing along to worship music or tending your garden, allow Him the space to speak to you, guide you, and shower you in love and grace.
*I resonate with basically everything this article says. If, as the pastor the writer refers to says, doing yoga opens us up to demons, then going to watch a non-christian movie does the same, as does going for coffee with a non-christian friend. We live in a world full of spiritual warfare and, as Christians, we believe God protects us!
*The last paragraph of this article I love:
“Yoga doesn’t have to have a negative influence on you. It’s really what you make it. The deep-breathing and focus that comes along with yoga can actually allow you to feel closer to God and draw you closer to Christ. Many Christians who practice yoga have cited feeling more emotionally connected with God during practice. This can be a great opportunity to allow your prayers to lift up high to Christ.”
Holy Yoga – On the app, you can find challenges where you focus on scripture, yoga videos, and more!
SoulTime – This is a Christian meditation app! Calming music, meditations to suit your needs or meditation where a calming voice reads scripture sweet and slow to you is beautiful! The app has a daily check in which then provides meditation options for you!
This is so well written and forward thinking! Thank you for laying it all out and simplifying the yoga relationship to our faith. This is how I feel when I go to the Mat, and yet have had thoughts of… should I be here?… at times when there is a lot of new age talk. Thank you for writing this article!!!
This is awesome. I am a Christian and not really a yogi but does one every now and then especially on days when I don’t lift or just want to rest and clear my mind. I believe so much in what you have said. It always boils down to intention. If yoga is a way for us to move, embrace the calm and breathe out everyday worries, then let’s enjoy it that way.