yoga and christianity are they compatible
There is such a huge controversy surrounding the use of yoga by the christian community. We look at the benefits of yoga – what do christians say?
This is what the Christians say about yoga – if one opens the mind to clearer thinking and inner vision, they open the spirit to demonic possession. It is felt that Yoga practice borders on occultism, and that opening one’s mind and spirit to the benefit of yoga is both dangerous and against everything Christianity preaches.
The benefit of yoga is twofold – increased health and unification of the spirit with the body. It is accomplished through the use of many different aspects, but mainly through the combination of Asanas, or postures, and breathing/meditation practices.
This raises many questions in the Christian community. When I did my research on this article, I was very surprised at the way some Christians look at yoga and its practice. However, I feel that this question and the stance of the Christian community warrants reflection on the subject.
History of Yoga
Yoga has been around for more than 5,000 years to the beginning of the civilization of man unlike other workout fads that come and go, but virtually no other exercise program is as enduring as yoga. So, while yoga on its own has been a irreplaceable discipline for healing, growth and wholeness and yoga does more than burn calories and tone muscles. It’s a total mind-body workout that combines strengthening and stretching poses with deep breathing and meditation or relaxation. There are more than 100 different forms of yoga. Some are fast-paced and intense. Others are gentle and relaxing.
Little is really known about Yoga. it is believed to have originated in Mehrgarh, a neolithic settlement in what is now Afghanistan. Some belief that it oroginated from India .
Scholars believe it has grown out of Stone Age Shamanism. In this early period of civilization’s beginnings, Yoga was a community resource, because of its attempts to determine cosmic order through inner vision, and apply it to daily living. In later years, yoga evolved into an inner dialogue through which the Yogis sought to develop their own salvation and enlightenment.
Archaeological evidence of the existence of Yoga first appeared in stone seals excavated from the Indus valley. It depicted figures in many Yogic Asanas, or postures, and officially put Yoga in the time period of approximately 3000 B.C. Of greater import, it also linked yoga to the great Indus-Sarasvati Civilization, a period in time that was considered modern and efficient.
From the Indus-Sarasvati civilization came the ancient texts known as the Vedas, the oldest scriptures in the world. The Vedas are a collection of hymns that praise a higher power and contains the oldest recorded history of Yoga teachings. The Vedas required the practitioner to transcend human limitations, and reach a higher spiritual plane. In later years, texts known as the Brahmanas were written to explain the rituals and the hymns of the Vedas.
Following this came the Aranyakas texts, which outlined the practice of Yogis living in the seclusion of the forest. This led to the beginning of India’s medical tradition, known as Ayurveda. All in all, Yoga transformed into a practice of health, harmony of the spirit, and a way of life.
The Christian perspective is that – yoga means yoking or union with the evil spirits of the Hindu religious practice. They believe that if one opens the mind to clearer thinking and inner vision, they open the spirit to demonic possession. It is felt that Yoga practice borders on occultism, and that opening one’s mind and spirit to the benefit of yoga is both dangerous and against everything Christianity preaches. Christians believe that studying yoga is akin to practicing Hinduism, and one cannot separate the philosophy of Hinduism from their Christian beliefs, regardless of the health benefit of yoga.
Why Do We Pray?
One would ask? why do we read Scripture? To be more fully connected to God, of course. If the Holy Spirit is dwelling within us, an inward practice is not selfish or demonic—it’s necessary. For someone with the spiritual gift of discernment, this practice can be extremely valuable in cultivating your ability to recognize the truth.
Many people are now practicing yoga even christians and mostly the kind of yoga practiced in yoga studios today is modern postural yoga that has origins that are a hybrid of Eastern and Western influences.
I believe that it is sheer narrowmindedness that a Christian is expected to open their heart and minds to Jesus, and to give in to the spirit of the Lord. They are expected to rely on blind faith, and to accept the word of God as the only truth in the world. A thinking person would find this hypocritical, for on the one hand Christians preach that Yoga must be avoided because opening the mind to clearer vision encourages the possibility of demonic possession, yet on the other hand preaches that one must open the mind and heart to accept Jesus into their lives.
Opening one’s heart and mind is exactly that – whether it is to look into one’s self, or to accept Jesus into their lives. If, as Christians preach, we are open to demonic possession if we look inside ourselves and open the mind to all the possibilities, how then can we safely open our hearts to the concept of Christianity? Is there a gatekeeper who makes this decision when we do so that determines what path we are to follow? I think don’t think so.
Life is a matter of choice, and I believe that we are not required to operate under the illusion of blind faith, but to do what is right to us as an individual. It is simply a matter of choice, and questioning everything in this universe is allowed.
I believe that the practice of yoga is a good thing. It provides us with great health benefits, clearer vision, and harmony in our souls. And in this day and age, what else is there? Whether we be Christians, Muslims, or Buddhists, we must not disrespect the feelings and thoughts of others, their rights to practice as they wish, or try to push our views down other people’s throats. To live in harmony is exactly that.
What makes yoga uniquely yoga, is that a posture done with the intentionality of the breath opens up these various aspects of who we are. We become aware of each and how they interact with one another. God created us in such a way that our physical beings can provide access to our other beings as we give intentional focus to the postures. There is a mystery in this, but it is true. It is also true that as we focus our attention on scripture during our practice, the truth of that scripture begins to take residence in who we are. I believe that other physical activities do have the potential to do this, but it seems that in general the breath is not used to open these other dimensions up to us.