"Can Christians do yoga?" A question and response


Hello Dr. Pendergrass,
I am Christian and I love yoga and helps me with stress. I have seen many critiques of yoga by Christian websites and magazines. If my focus is on God when I do it, I don't see the problem. I am wondering why yoga condemned by some Christians who don't do it? Trying to figure out what to do since I find good stress relief from its practice.

Thanks,
Internet Friend


Hello!

That's a good question.

Yoga is truly a religious ritual. It's roots and meaning derive from the areas around the Indus River Valley. Here's more information: Yoga - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
I used to teach it in my World Religions classes.

However, I fully understand that a person can perform the movements without smuggling all the religious beliefs. It's like celebrating Christmas but without anything at all concerning Jesus. Some argue, "it's not Christmas if you take away Jesus." In the same way, some might argue, "It's not yoga if you take away its Hindu roots."

So, it seems to me that it depends on why you do it.

I don't see why a Christian can't perform the movements and exercises in yoga, but not import all the religious meanings. I could just as easily pray to Jesus while I did the poses. I don't need to be meditating about the teachings of the Vedas or of Buddha.

Whatever people say against yoga, they would need to say against most forms of Kung Fu, since Kung Fu is also based on ancient Chinese beliefs concerning the Dao. But who in the world does that in America? How many people just practice the moves of Kung Fu but don't care at all about the original religious meanings? If you already believe in Daoism, then you'll practice Kung Fu as a Daoist. But, I can be a devout Christian and practice the exercises of Kung Fu.

So, in my view, you could tell people that you practice the exercises of yoga, but not any of its religious practices. 

As a Christian, you're not importing all the religious meanings, you're just doing the exercises.

That's my view, at least!

In Christ,
David