Should Christians Practice Yoga? My Journey, Yoga Explained and Benefits for Christ Followers
One of the most common questions I get (and often thought about myself as I first began enjoying the practice) is, “Can Christians practice yoga? It seems new-age-y.”
Yeah, great question, honestly. I have been committed to growing in relationship with the Lord since 2005, so when I first stepped foot inside of a yoga classroom my freshman year of college, I had to seek the Lord’s guidance on what to think. My first thoughts? Wow, my body has never been this pain free. Wow, I didn’t even know I could get this still and quiet before God, a true listening posture. These are two thoughts I still stand behind today as a 500 Hour Registered Yoga Teacher.
What is Yoga?
The word yoga means “to yoke” or “union.” As Christians, our whole goal is to create union with God. I love what DeAnna Smothers from Yahweh Yoga shares, “Yoga is a health methodology, not a theology.” Let me dive into this a bit.
Through rock carvings, the practice of yoga postures can be dated back to 1500 BC. This is important to note because it reveals that the practice of yoga pre-dates the beginning of all major world religions. Two of these, Hinduism and Buddhism, use the tool of yoga heavily. Thus, the practice of yoga was not created by the Hindu or Buddhist religions, but influenced by them. This means that Christians can also use this tool as a way to connect with God and influence the development of yoga just the same. Some of us may use other tools such as music, running or books in a similar way…to be pointed to and worship our Creator.
Benefits of Yoga for Christ Followers
It is obvious; the pace of life we live at does not match that of Jesus. How many times do we rush between meetings, skip lunch, let our eyes glaze over with exhaustion in a conversation? Jesus, the very man that through loving we hope to become more like, demonstrates a pace of life that allows connection with the Father.
"Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed." Mark 1:35
“Jesus withdrew with his disciples to the lake, and a large crowd from Galilee followed.” Mark 3:7
“Jesus went out to a mountain side to pray, and spent the night praying to God. When morning came, he called his disciples to him.” Luke 6:12-13
This command of rest is also demonstrated in Creation, as God rests on the 7th day.
"So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation." Genesis 2:3
The pace of this world swept me up, until the Lord in His kindness put yoga in my life, allowing me to intentionally slow, move and breathe before Him.
I also first experienced meditation in a Christian yoga class, which is a command!
“Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it.” Joshua 1:8
Meditation can take two forms, clearing the mind or intentionally focusing the mind. In Christ-centered yoga, we love the later, intentionally meditating on the Word of God only.
“Blessed is the one…whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night.” Psalm 1:1-2
Jesus commands us to meditate on His word and to focus on whatever is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy (Philippians 8). So, let’s get on our mats and do just this.
We are commanded to love the Lord our God with all of our hearts, minds, souls and strength. Often times, we as Christians put an emphasis on the spiritual body so much so that we disconnect from our physical bodies. How then, are we to love with all four of these things: heart, mind, soul and strength? Yoga is a great tool for this, offering all of ourselves, spiritual AND physical as an act of worship through movement, breath and meditation.
Yoga, a God-Given Gift
God has given us many gifts that we can use to praise Him. Each of these things has the potential to be sinful. Each of these also has the potential to be worship.
I believe in the entirety of the Bible, which includes God creating our world in Genesis 1 and deeming that “God saw all that he had made, and it was very good” (v. 31). God created all things, and ultimately, all good things point back to our Creator.
I, as a unique and made-in-His-image person, I have found no way better to connect so intimately with my creator spiritually, mentally, emotionally, and physically.
You know what friends? Life is about knowing Him. That’s it. That is our purpose. So I offer one question: Does yoga allow you to take your heart, your mind, and your soul and your strength to know Him better? If so, count me in.
Let’s take yoga back for the good, to honor God and draw nearer to Him stepping onto our mats with our only intention being to worship Him.
500 RYT & Founder of Yoga Moore, LLC