Can Christians do yoga? Truly, I believe that it depends. Is yoga for everyone? No. But, I am finding more and more that what many believe about yoga and its place in the life of a Christian comes from a place of fear and misconception.
I want to take a moment to clarify – we each have a different background. Some of us have been seeking God in all things for many years, while others are yet just finding Him. I believe that anyone who is not intentionally seeking Christ daily can be deceived by the enemy, and those that are yet new to the body of Christ are more easily led astray.
So, from my perspective, it is a matter of intention. There are those who’s spirits long for the wholeness we can only find in Christ, but whom, for whatever reason, find themselves on the fringe of the Church. A Christian yoga class offers them the opportunity to meet the Holy Spirit, to hear His Word, and meet with someone without judgment willing to love them as a neighbor, pray for them, and grow with them.
Christ commands us to "worship with your heart, soul, mind, and strength," and “love your neighbor as yourself.” These are His precepts - the ones on which hang all the laws. This is the "why!"
In this article, we will examine how we can intentionally posture our hearts toward Christ mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually and why.
Often, when we consider worship, it involves singing Sunday morning. It can look like arms raised, or maybe a sway; it can look like someone on their knees. But God gave us incredible, complex bodies that He calls His temple. And He commands us to show Him reverence with all aspects of what He has bestowed.
Worship involves our whole self. It is necessary to integrate our breath, our minds, and our mobility into our worship. By reading Scripture aloud and singing; meditating on Scripture – filling our minds with His Word, contemplating it, digesting it, letting it change us; and moving into postures of reverence we worship according to His commandment.
"Our message of the Gospel came to you, not in word only [intellectually/ processed by our minds], but also in power [physically/ in strength], and in the Holy Spirit [emotionally/ to our souls], and with full conviction [intentionally/ with heart]." – 1 Thessalonians 1:5
The Gospel is rooted in the heart/intention, soul/emotion, mind/intellect, and strength/physicality.
Yoga is not a religion and we are not practicing religion while we do yoga. We come together in Christ's name to fellowship and surrender our whole selves to the Lord. Yoga predates Hinduism and Buddhism. It is no more confined to Eastern mysticism than prayer is defined as a Christian practice.
Our yoga is the discipline of strengthening and stretching our bodies and our faith while praising His name and bringing our collective thoughts on Him as an act of worship toward our King.
"All things work together for God's glory."
The world is His and ALL that is within it, ALL that it contains. He is above all and all are subject to Him. There is nothing in creation that He can not use for His glory.
God is able to reconcile all things for His purpose. He took the Greek word “theos,” meaning god (little g), and adopted it as His own name, Theos (big G) and used it 1,343 times. If our God is capable enough to redeem the name for idols, He is more than willing to receive our worship through the modality of yoga provided we do it as an offering.
“The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof.”
1 Corinthians 10:26
Yoga is traditionally a three-part practice: Breath, Meditation, and Posture.
“Let everything that has breath, praise Him.”
Somewhere around the 6th century BC, it became punishable by death to speak the name of God, YHWH. This led to a superstition against even writing His holy name. It perpetuated for nearly a thousand years (and continues even today among some) until the utterance of God’s name was lost. With the Reformation came freedom from the man-imposed laws, including speaking His name, that had prevailed for centuries. Since then it has been spoken phonetically as Yahweh, Jehovah or some variant. But curious researchers and theologians have studied the language of God and found that the name of God sounded like a breath. An inhale: Yodh Ha; and an exhale: Waw Ha. His name is the first thing on our lips when we are born. It signifies life. It is the last thing on our lips before we depart. We inhale His Word and exhale His glory.
The Greek word “psyche” is used 105 times in the new testament, to mean “breath of life” or “the vital source which animates the body and shows itself in breathing”. It signifies not just breath, but life and the presence of the soul. Each breath, the name of God on our lips, represents the life in which He gave us. When we breathe with intention and purpose, we capture the importance of each breath we are gifted. For they are limited in their number and only God knows exactly how many we have left. Let each breath be a prayer for more of Him.
“...pray without ceasing.”
1 Thessalonians 5:17
“I will praise you as long as I live, and in your name, I will lift up my hands”
Every description of worship depicted in the Bible also describes the position of the body in worship. Mark Batterson says, “Physical posture is an important part of prayer. It’s like a prayer within a prayer. Posture is to prayer as tone is to communication. If words are what you say, then posture is how you say it... Physical postures help posture our hearts and minds.”
(from the Circle Maker)
Our posture is a mirror for the condition of our heart, mind, and soul.
Is your heart postured to worship our Creator?
“Before me every knee shall bow; by me every tongue will swear.”
“You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast because they trust in you.”
Meditation is where we meet the Holy Spirit. It is turning our entire focus upward, not inward. Meditation, when done with the intention of worshipping Christ, is not emptying the mind, leaving us vulnerable to the enemy. It is the listening in our praying.
"May my meditation be pleasing to him, as I rejoice in the LORD."
C.S. Lewis wrote in Letters to Malcolm, “May it be the real I who speaks (in prayer),” and “may it be the real Thou that I speak to.” We pick and choose our masks publicly AND privately, but in prayer and meditation, we are at our most genuine. There are no facades with God.
"May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer."
Scripture mentions meditation 23 times – 19 of which are in Psalms. Jesus was well known to find a quiet place and meditate. The prophets were also known to isolate themselves to hear the whisper of God. We need to learn to withdraw from those things that absorb our attention – not just in the physical sense, but a place of peace in the soul, heart, and mind.
“I meditate on your precepts and consider your ways.”
What are the motives and intentions of your heart?
“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”
Lastly, yoga literally means to yoke. We must be cautious about what we yoke ourselves to. I arrive at my mat with a purpose. My practice is intentionally yoked to my Maker.
"Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light."
Your mat is a safe space for you to spend time with the Holy Spirit, that He may resonate in your soul and begin to revitalize your spirit.
Put down the burden of striving to achieve on your own and simply ask Him to work on you. Ask Him to show you how He sees you.