On Yoga


    The fun part of being in Christianity for any length of time is, inevitably, you run into some sort of ill-formed opinion that some preacher touts as fact.  This is often one of them.

    What is yoga?  Wikipedia suggests it is a group of physical, mental, and spiritual practices that originated in India.  However, generally, Americans tend to call any form of relaxing stretch exercises "yoga." 

    What do these pastors often say?  They often say that yoga is a foreign religion.  To a point, this is both true and untrue.  And I'd like to explain how and why.

Physical Practices

    The most commonly understood aspects of yoga are the stretches one conducts on a mat.  Often, when you go to yoga, the one running the group leads people to engage in these stretches.

    Given my own experience with lower back pain and damage, I went through chiropracty, stretches, and exercises for my lower back. I continue to do these stretches and exercises, and they handle 99% of my pain.  Indeed, when I don't do them once a day, I can tell as the day wears on.

    I recall incorporating a stretch colloquially called the Frog Pose.  My PhD spine doctor encouraged me to do it when I told her I had incorporated it, saying it was very good for my back.

    So you can imagine, putting yourself in my shoes, my reaction when some random reformed friend of mine claims that "all" yoga is Hindu mysticism.  I do a yoga stretch every morning: what makes it Hindu?  Why am I a bad Christian for doing this one stretch, as the person's Facebook post strongly implies?

    The first problem is that the Bible never mentions yoga or stretching in general.  The second problem is that in the absence of any specifically religious or spiritual practice, a stretch is just a stretch.  So because the person's post strongly implied "all" because they didn't specify and engaged in logical fallacies, I'm left with the conclusion that they don't know what they're talking about.

    A more accurate way to say it would be to warn Christians about yoga that incorporates spiritual practices.  A more accurate post would point out that mere stretching, by itself, in the absence of spiritual or religious practices, is not wrong.

     Instead, every Christian that has ever had any pain relief from any yoga stretches, even if those Christians go to "Christian yoga" where the only spiritual or religious practices that are incorporated are Christian, is left to assume they are being judged.  What of all those who find pain relief from the stretches who stop going to yoga?  I would hate to see them become opioid crisis statistics.

Mental Practices

    Often, yoga is accompanied by meditation.  Meditation is itself a vast topic, and I can't cover it here, but please see that article.  Basically, to summarize, meditation is commanded by Scripture, and not all meditation is of a religious nature.

Spiritual Practices

    So does this mean there are some yoga meetings that incorporate spiritual practices?  You bet.  Are the majority of those of Hindu or Buddhist tradition?  It's highly likely.

    Can a Christian engage in such types of yoga meetings?  I would say yes, but it should probably not be intentional.  First, because we are Christians, we should not be engaging in other religious practices.  Second, if a Christian accidentally went to such a meeting, they could simply make a mental note to not attend again.  Third, anyone can go buy a yoga book that teaches the stretches and simply "throw out" everything else.

    But the point of this article is that if your pastor is saying or implying that "all" yoga meetings are a foreign religion,

  1. They probably don't fully understand the subject,
  2. They are wrong, and
  3. You should start looking for a different church/pastor to follow.

    The reason is because if they engage in such ignorant, false teachings, judgment will come upon them (just like for all false teachers, see 1 Timothy 6.

    It's one thing for a pastor to make a mistake.  It's another for them to willfully teach an error.  And I say this because unfortunately churches like this, where congregations cheer on pastors for being against all the things they don't like and/or don't understand, are not rare.  They're common, even if I believe they're not the majority.  But this type of church culture where the "right" way to be is to be "against" all the "wrong things" and for all the right things, i.e. where "being right" (or so they think) is more important than our relationships with others, this culture is toxic and will poison your soul.

    I had to learn this the hard way in life: if you are more concerned about being right than about how you treat other people, you're just going to shipwreck your faith.  But of course, the more important factor this article addresses is that people should actually do research, not just regurgitate whatever some pastor or friend told them.  To tell lies is a sin.


    So if your pastor is saying or implying that "all" yoga is Hindu/Buddhist religious practices, they are wrong.  And because of how rampant this type of toxic "gotta be right" attitude is, often I must unfortunately recommend to people that they find a new church.  You can try addressing it with your pastor, sure, but I would point out my experience with this is you're not likely to impact their understanding.