When Pontus Pilate questioned Jesus, shortly before His crucifixion, Pilate asked, “What is truth?” That question still resonates today as we are confronted with the Gospel. Jesus declares, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the father except through me.” (John 14:6) Jesus is truly the one and only way to the father. So where do practices like yoga fit? Is yoga an evil offering to the pantheon of Hindu gods? Is it a great from of stretching that emphasizes the mind body connection? Or is it something in between.
The New Oxford American Dictionary defines yoga as “A Hindu spiritual practice and aesthetic discipline, a part of which, including breath control, simple meditation, and the adoption of certain bodily postures, is widely practiced for health and relaxation.”
It is pretty clear that yoga is closely yoked to Hinduism. But what do others have to say? In Yoga for Christians, Susan Bordenkircher states, “…to forego the healing benefits of yoga because it is sometimes practiced within a different belief system is like telling God that He is not big enough to take something from the dark and bring it into the light. Let’s keep in mind that it was God who created the breathing process, oxygen, muscles, movement and our body’s natural relaxation response….Furthermore, suggesting that yoga cannot be separated from its Eastern history and therefore should not be practiced by Christians s like saying Christians can’t enjoy the sunshine God provides because some religions actually worship the sun. Was the sun not given to us for life, health, and enjoyment? If God is big enough to make the sun, is He not big enough to discern those who enjoy it from those who worship it?” (Pgs. 4-5)
We face a dichotomy here. Those who say that yoga cannot be separated from Hinduism and those who say that God can redeem anything for His good purposes.
1 Thessalonians 5:21-22 read, “Prove all things; hold fast to that which is good. Abstain from all appearance of evil.”
A Christian practicing yoga is not necessarily engaging in evil. 1 Samuel 16:7 teaches, “The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” Before God, what matters is the heart. Is a Christian able to put God at the center of their practice. Yes! Agnieszka Tennant posted on Christianity Today, “Worship is a conscious act of the mind. It it’s busy overflowing with gratitude to Christ for the way he made my body, I simply don’t have mental space to give up to an idol. Second, can a non-existant idol snatch me away from Father God who has adopted me as His child. No chance.”
Personal yoga practice does not seem to be the issue. The crux of the matter is centered on the appearance of evil. When people look at a Christian practicing yoga it is difficult, if not impossible, to discern what is truly the meditation of their heart, the center of their practice. Could one be led astray? Very possibly. Is Christ centered yoga a way to share the gospel with those who might never come to church? Yes. Is there any possibility that those who lack discernment might intermingle Hinduism and Christianity. Yes.
Where is the place of balance between the two? Perhaps at the mercy seat.
(This post was originally published on my other site, praisestretchpraisebreathe.wordpress.com. The mysterious, disappearing content means 3 posts are resurfacing here).