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Is It Okay for Christians to Practice Yoga?



This a complicated question. On the surface many of the stretches in yoga are

spiritually fine, they are nothing more than mere physical exercises. But like I said that’s

on the surface. Before I delve into the spiritual component, let me say that the exercise

movements that many yoga classes teach are not necessarily the problem in and of

themselves. It’s the spiritual mindset that accompanies them sometimes. Yoga, itself in

its original context was always intended to be more than physical exercise, it was

always part of Hindu worship. Essentially the Hindu’s believe in 330 million different

gods, and they also believe in reincarnation. In Yoga, they perform what is called,

“pranayama” breathing. Prana a Hindu term for “life force” is often performed

meditatively, while manipulating your body, in various Yoga poses. Essentially, you are

attempting to manipulate and control that life force. For example, they had a belief that

if while you meditated you moved your body into the same position of a certain animal

or insect (think downward facing dog, or lotus position) while doing these movements

you could harness that animal’s spiritual power for your own. In the end this would help

you reach a truly enlightened state of mind and one day evolve into a higher spiritual

being or even reach Nirvana. In the 1960’s and 70’s when Hinduism made its way to

the States, they knew that they would have a hard time getting Westerners to embrace

Hinduism as a religion. So instead, they soft sold it, and pitched it to the American public as “just exercise” and called it Yoga. The Hindu spiritual master Swami Satchidananda

came to the US in 1966 and founded the Integral Yoga Institute in Virginia. He was also

invited to open the Woodstock festival in 1969 with a time of meditation. It has been

growing ever since, in fact, according to a study from the Ipsos Group, 36.7 million

Americans now practice Yoga.


However, the approach of most modern Yoga studios is to still market it as only

exercise. But then the longer you practice and participate in their exercise, they subtly

start introducing meditation. From there, it becomes more and more “spiritual.” You

might call Yoga the “gateway” to Hinduism. Many Recreation Centers and Fitness

Facilities offer Yoga classes, and again the basic approach is just exercise. However,

many of the instructors practice the meditative aspects of it personally, and often have a

hard time not promoting those aspects to their students. In some cases, if you are

mourning the loss of a loved one, you can even attend a “Grief Yoga” class. Founder

Paul Denniston says “Grief Yoga uses yoga, movement, breath (pranayama), and

sound to release pain and suffering and to connect to love.” Clearly, there is a

difference between mere physical exercise versus the spiritual practices of Yoga.

Chances are you would be hard pressed to find a “Grief Aerobics” class, or circuit

training for those who mourn.


Often what happens, is that perhaps a Christian takes an introductory Yoga class,

where the approach is simply stretches and physical exercise and there’s no promotion

of the spiritual aspects. But in time, they desire to learn more than just the basics, so

they take a more advanced class. With the advancing of each level, they are subtly

being introduced to bite-sized servings of Hindu spirituality that is so subtle it’s almost

imperceptible.


However, with all that said, if you were just looking at how to videos on YouTube, to see

how to perform certain stretches or movements it’s not like you are accidentally going to

get demonically possessed. Again, the movements in and of themselves are just

movements. It can become more problematic if you start attending classes and

placing yourself in environments where you’re subtly encouraged to let down

your guard to things like Hindu meditation and spirituality.


That said, Yoga in its purest and originally intended form as part of the Hindu religion, is

not compatible with Christianity. While some of the stretches can be performed by

Christians and are nothing more than just exercise, a Christian, needs to exercise

caution and discernment, before signing up for the next Yoga class. Romans 12:1 says,

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living

sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship” (NIV). As

followers of Christ, we cannot offer our bodies in worship to both the True and Living

God, as well as to the 330 million false gods of Hinduism.


Here’s a helpful article from GotQuestions.Org that can provide more insight.

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