Christianity and Yoga...

(Tim:This from ClearNote Blog, by Joseph Bayly) Is it possible to worship God while practicing Yoga? This is a very practical question since Yoga is quite popular in America today with Christians practicing in ever-increasing numbers. Many brothers and sisters in Christ might think I'm asking, “Is it possible to worship God while exercising," making the assumption that Yoga is simply an exercise regime. It is not.

The purpose of Yoga is to enter an altered mental state where you realize the union between yourself and the Universal Spirit. In other words, you discover the secret of “true spirituality” in which the body doesn’t really matter. From its inception prior to the birth of Jesus until now, this has been the purpose of Yoga. To the Hindu, the physical world is merely an illusion, and Yoga is meant to help you forget the illusion.
 
Sannyasin Arumugaswami, managing editor of Hinduism Today is refreshingly honest: “...based as it is on Hindu Scripture and developed by Hindu sages... Yoga opens up new and more refined states of mind, and to understand them one needs to believe in and understand the Hindu way of looking at God. ... A Christian trying to adapt these practices will likely disrupt their own Christian beliefs.”
 
Everything you do in Yoga is designed to help you reach that altered state of mind... (to continue reading...)

Comments

"The humans are hybrids: what they do with their bodies affects their souls".

C.S. Lewis, /The Screwtape Letters/ (writing, of course, from the point of view of a senior devil instructing a junior one).

Joseph,

I could be wrong, but I have to disagree. I'm not saying that there aren't many forms/classes of yoga that are nothing more than church for Hindu worship. There certainly are. But I've taken many a yoga class- everything from Bikram yoga (which is yoga done in a room 98 degrees or hotter)to Vinyasa yoga. I can tell you (especially in excruciating Bikram yoga), that people were there for a hard workout and wanted to ultimately see bodily changes and progress from doing so. In fact, there was a statement before signing up and paying for the class, that even though there were other yoga classes that focused on the spiritual/meditation aspects of yoga, that this was not what this class was for. There was no OHM-ing or AHM-ing, and that was certainly far from anyone's mind while twisting ourselves in near impossible pretzels. While we were in the poses, our instructor would describe to us what was going on physiologically- "This pose is cutting off the circulation here, and when we let go, the oxygen will replenish these certain glands which control the yadda, yadda, yadda..." In fact, people that were suffering from many ailments such as high blood pressure, kidney issues, hormone imbalances, arthritis, etc. found much relief from these exercises, and some were able to abandon their medication altogether. Some people, after taking so many meds, seeing doctor after doctor and chiropractors were able to get relief only through these exercises. It wasn't a "Praise the Hindu god" moment, but people learned that if they let go of tension in certain muscles or encouraged more blood flow or oxygen to other parts of the body, that both major and minor differences took place. One of the basic things in yoga is establishing good posture- before you start ANY pose. I know this sounds ridiculous, but would having someone properly stand up straight and align their spine constitute as Hindu worship? What if we took all those poses/exercises, and just put a different name on it? It just seems that this could go along with the whole no one should celebrate Christmas, Halloween, and Easter because of pagan origins.

I had a very similar experience in yoga as Rebecca. There was nothing new-agey whatsoever in my class--no talk of anything other than our poses and reminders to observe how we were breathing. I found it to be an incredible workout for strengthening my back, and as Rebecca said, posture as well.

I am curious, is there any of the martial arts such a kung fu, karate.. akaido (I think that is how it is spelled) that would be questionable for a christian to practice?

This is a little too much like the "rock music is inherently evil." I do P90X yoga and for me it's nothing but moves. I skip the "close your eyes and breath" stuff and go right to the action. Yoga is an interesting mixture of strength, balance and stretching. FWIW, if you ask P90X'ers which workout they hate the most, most say the yoga.

I think what his happening in the US with yoga is what's happened with martial arts... it's evolving into a harmless workout shorn of its original trappings. I'm not saying that a class you take is there yet; there's still a strong "spirituality" push in the genre, not to mention a healthy dose of organic/environmentalist nonsense. Discernment is necessary, which is why I am careful who I recommend it to. However, I don't think that the origin of some contorted pose means anything more than when I look through a telescope at a star in a constellation named after a pagan god, nor should a certain move get patented by some pagan religion as if it owns it. This is our Father's world.

I think there's a difference between Yoga and yoga. I've never been to a Yoga class, but I've seen Yoga tapes and Yoga shows on PBS and haven't been able to get past all the Hindu goo. If I'm flipping channels on the TV and come across that simpering Hawaiian woman, I can't change the channel fast enough. Her voice makes me want to put a sledgehammer through the television.

But then again, I do yoga poses all the time - I never knew they were yoga until someone gave me a name for them. And I'd be willing to bet everyone reading this who has had any back problems and been to a chiropractor or physical therapist has done the same thing.

What about Pilates? It's a take-off of Yoga developed for dancers that seems to have broken out into the mainstream of fitness/exercise stuff.

Kamilla

Pilates is not even remotely based on Yoga.

At least attempt to have a clue. Pilates was developed by a German gymnast, Joseph Pilates, during the first World War to help injured soldiers recover physically. Please refrain from passing on false info to suit your needs.

[NOTE FROM TIM BAYLY: Actually, it's universally acknowledged the inventor of Pilates, Joseph Pilates, was inspired by yoga in his development of his own exercise regimen. (And he developed it for himself prior to applying his own regimen to others, including soldiers.) This is why, today, google "Pilates" and "Yoga," together and the results page explodes with hits. Everyone sees the two as two peas in the pod. Two peas--not one; but both in the same pod with Yoga the original. Here is how About.com puts it: "Joseph Pilates studied many kinds of self-improvement systems. He drew from Eastern practices such as yoga and Zen Buddhism, and was inspired by the ancient Greek ideal of man perfected in development of body, mind and spirit." And so on...]

Bart,

It is well-know that as a teenager Joseph Pilates studied yoga and his system was clearly influenced by it. Please refrain for being inaccurate, rude, and jumping to conclusions.

Michael,

Thank you. The Yoga roots of Pilates are all over the literature. The premier Pilates exercise book authors like Brooke Siler all talk about Joseph Pilates' background in Yoga and Gymnastics and how he drew that together to create whst we now know as Pilates. Siler, in particular, should know what she is talking about since she trained with the (then) oldest living protege of Mr. Pilates.

Kamilla

who (really cares at all, you know?). this blog is so (like really dumb; you know?)

Ira's note reminds me of a yoga chant that my freshman year English teacher cured me of:

"um"

(thanks again, Mrs. Robbins, for reminding that 14 year old that verbalized pauses are bad form!)

I have to wonder whether we would have to say the same thing about some of the Tai Chi poses my grad school roommate from Taiwan taught me. It's an age old question among fundamentalists like myself; if X has roots in pagan religion, how far do we need to separate from it? Martial arts, yoga, tai chi, etc..

Does anyone have any info on something called "Nia Dance?" It seems to be very New-Agey in its claims of self-healing in the form of free-form dancing. I have a cousin who's an instructor in Nia; I'm more than a little concerned for her.

Lisa,

I think you're right to be concerned. Nia seems to be a veritable new-agey, self-focused stew of things thrown together to guide the body in feeling "pleasure" or something like that. It draws from three different martial arts, three forms of dance and three bodywork techniques, including Feldenkrais which seems to be about the most worthless but self-affirming practice I've heard of in a long time.

I used to have a co-worker who went to Nia classes. She also went on Yoga retreats, etc.

I'd run the other way.

Kamilla

I just finished taking a beginning yoga class at a local community college. During the first class, I asked the instructor whether she would be teaching yoga as exercise or yoga with elements of Hindu religion. She emphatically replied that this would be a 100% exercise class -- to do anything otherwise would be inappropriate in a course taught in a public college or university. She was true to her word. So my experience sounds similar to Rebecca's and Chantal's.No Om's or prayers to Krishna or anything like that.

Conversely, about 5 years ago, I took a noontime yoga class not far from my workplace at that time. It did include the Hindu aspects of yoga (although I didn't "get it" until I was through several classes). Guess where the classes were taught -- Riverside Methodist Hospital -- go figure!

You do not have to chant or meditate to be in spiritual danger from yoga. The positions and breath ing patterns were developed to allow The Spirit of the Serpent (Kundilini) to gradually come up the spine. Many people are experiencing symptoms, that are very disturbing, after being involved in "generic yoga". These people are only getting relief after submitting to, what amounts to, a Biblical exorcism.

Just do basic exercises and sretches without going to a class that has Far Eastern roots. Why totter around on the edge and risk getting something that you didn`t bargin for?

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