Saturday, October 09, 2010

Is Yoga Compatible With Christianity?

A good question that I have been pondering for a while.
I have wanted to write on this subject, but was not motivated until Dr. Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist seminary, said that yoga is not compatible with Christianity.
On the surface, Dr. Mohler is correct.
But I find that there are caveats to saying whole cloth that yoga is not compatible with Christianity.
In reading Dr. Mohler's essay on the subject, he addresses the spiritual aspects of this popular exercise discipline. And he is right since yoga is a Hindu spiritual practice. And Hinduism is not a monotheistic religion.
Make no mistake, Hinduism is a religion. But it does not believe in one God the way that Jews, Christians and Islamics do. The Hindu believe that there are many Gods. It is a version of Roman, Greek and Nordic religion.
What Dr. Mohler addresses in the essay is that if one is a Christian and does practice yoga, can they be buying into the different Gods that Hinduism focuses on? After all, according to this in Wikipedia, there are six different kinds of yoga practices.
Although it is changing, most of those that practice yoga are not Christians. Many of the leading proponents of the practice are what I would term the usual suspects. Liberals, Hollyweird types, so-called "freethinkers" and those opposed to any form of authority.
What is changing, and what can make the practice much more acceptable to the Christian is the expropriation of the physical aspects of yoga with Christian scripture and discipline.
And Christianity has done it before.
You know the two biggest Holy days in the Christian calendar, Christmas and Easter, were essentially stolen from the pagans. The Roman emperor Constantine was the one that took the celebration of Jesus Christ's birth from pagan ritual. Same with Easter. The reality is that there is no real date to celebrate the birth of my Lord and Savior. Same with Easter. And Easter is a very pagan word as it was the celebration of spring.
This is where the whole contradiction of the Eastern meaning of yoga and whether a Christian can practice it or not has raised concern among many diverse groups of Christians from Roman Catholics to fundamentalist Protestants and everything in between.
In the linked article from The Blaze, one Stephanie Dillon, is an Evangelical Protestant Christian. And she said this about how she has incorporated Christian aspects to yoga:

She (Dillon) said she prayed on the question of whether to mix yoga and Christianity before opening her studio, PM Yoga, where she discusses her relationship with Jesus during classes.
“What I found is that it opened my spirit, it renewed my spirituality. That happened first and then I went back to church.” Dillon attends Southeast Christian Church in Louisville and says many evangelical Christians from the church attend her yoga classes.

Personally, I do not get how an Eastern religious practice got her closer to God and Jesus, but I can not argue and will not. For God is God and he leads us to Him in ways that we do not nor can not understand. And if you think that a Christian view of practicing yoga is not out there and happening, you are wrong.
There is this group, Holy Yoga, that incorporates Christian discipline in the practice of yoga. And when one visits this website, it is very clear that these are committed Christians. Another site that is also very Christian and very yoga is Yahweh Yoga, a place where yoga instructors are trained. Take a look at what they believe and argue that they are not really Christians. You would be hard pressed to do that.
Type in the words Christian Yoga on your search engine. At AOL, it is one of 1,060,000 potential matches.
See, it is happening. Christians are taking an Eastern religious practice and making it distinctly Christian.
What Dr. Mohler and others are talking about is practicing yoga as an Eastern spiritual discipline rather than practicing it from a Christian point of view.
And there is where I am on it. If one practices it with a mind fixed to God through Jesus Christ, no problem. If one practices it without that, then as a Christian it is a contradiction. And thus it is incompatible with Christianity.
So, Dr. Mohler is right. But he should be aware and encouraging the Christianizing of yoga. And it is happening right before our eyes.

1 comment:

An Unmarried Man said...

Wow, I saw this article and I shook my head.

First of all, it's not really a shock to see Christians trying assert their monopoly on the spiritual sub-reality. Yes, Yoga is indeed based on many Eastern precepts and frankly, it is contrary to the teachings of Christianity. So in effect, if you seek to lead a sheltered life, Albert Mohler is correct.

A few years ago I began to study Zen and the arts of peace and relaxation...this while I was still taking my son to weekly Catholic masses!!!

But I did notice one thing: many of the Christian tools for self-actualization jived with much of what I learned from Zen! The manner of praying and breathing and intaking the world...entirely Eastern in origin. Amazing.