Should Christians Do Yoga Is Yoga Compatible With Christianity
In the present day, in nearly any city, suburb, community, or college campus, we can frequently see people engaging in what they know as yoga, a practice which they think will help them achieve peace, relaxation, fitness and/or a focused mind.
In addition to its wide representation in movies, TV shows and other media, a study by the Yoga Journal depicts that 20.4 million Americans practice yoga in the present day, which conveys the shocking popularity of yoga.
Since we live in the Western world, we dwell in eclectic societies with diverse philosophies and influences. Historically, outside influences have always tried to infiltrate the church, even since the early first century A.D. in the Roman Empire. Now that we are in the last times, this has not decreased in any way, and we should be prepared.
The practice of yoga appears to have proliferated to a large degree, in part aided by a lack of awareness regarding its origins. We will carefully zoom into, scrutinize, and flesh out the origins of yoga until there is no doubt as to where it came from, what it consists of, and answer the question: Should Christians do yoga?
No Yoga Does Not Contradict The Teachings Of Christianity
We can say mindfulness, but we definitely cant say meditation.
In 2018, one of my fellow trainees in teaching childrens yoga made this distinction while speaking about yoga in schools. This sparked a long discussion about how to pitch yoga to young people, especially in our heavily Catholic region of south Louisiana. There has been a similar debate in Alabama, which this spring lifted its ban on yoga in schoolsbut only as long as teachers refrain from using traditional Sanskrit words like namaste or even om, terms many conservatives deem inseparable from yogas origins in South Asian religions like Hinduism. And so the questions remain: Is yoga necessarily religious? Does yoga contradict the teachings of Christianity?
Alabama lifted its ban on yoga in schoolsbut only as long as teachers refrain from using traditional Sanskrit words like namaste or even om.
These are difficult questions to answer. Scholars have determined that yoga originated in the South Asian tradition because yoga is one of the six Hindu darshana, meaning philosophical traditions, and some key tenets of Buddhism and Jainism appear in yogic philosophy. But yogic philosophy cannot be reduced to these three tracks of religion.
Making the sign of the cross does not make you Catholic. Practicing yoga does not make you Hindu.
After a while we start to realize meditationand yogabecomes something not to be labeled as a Hindu thing or a Christian thing but a human thing.
Is Religious Freedom Under Siege
The U.S. religious landscape is changing. Between 2007 and 2014, the proportion of Americans identifying as Christian dropped from 78 to 71 percent, while ranks of the unaffiliated jumped from 16 to 23 percent. The ratio identifying as spiritual but not religious rose from 19 to 27 percent between 2012 and 2017.
Many Christians, among them the 80 percent of white evangelicals who voted for Trump in 2016, worry that governments unsympathetic to Christianity may infringe on peoples freedom to practice their own religion or coerce people to act in violation of conscience. A quarter of pro-Trump voters say they chose him in large part because of their concern about Supreme Court appointments. The Trump administration has submitted more friend-of-the-court briefs in religious liberty cases than did those of either Barack Obama or George W. Bush.
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Why Yoga Cannot Be Claimed By Any One Religion
The argument that Christian yoga is not real yoga, in my view, assumes that yoga is or has been a static tradition that has always featured Hindu symbols, practices and ideas.
In reality, as research shows, yoga includes a variety of historical as well as living, dynamic traditions that have changed and evolved. Yogas history is rooted in a vast array of South Asian religious movements going back over 2,000 years ago. In India alone, yoga practitioners have included Hindus, Buddhists, Jains, Christians and Muslims.
Yoga has never had a single purpose for its seekers whether it is philosopher-ascetics seeking enlightenment, ecstatic devotees expressing love of God, people in pursuit of yogic superpowers, fitness buffs seeking the perfect yoga butt or Christians wanting to get closer to Christ.
In other words, yoga has never belonged to any one religion, but it has always been packaged in a variety of ways. This is the problem with the question of whether or not Christian yoga is real yoga there has never been one real yoga.
Is Yoga A Religion
Jul 31, 2019 | Blog |
Yoga is practiced in most settings in a completely secular way. However, for many, yoga is spiritual. Others use yoga alongside their religious practices without conflict. The philosophy of yoga can be applied in a way that respects, and even enhances, your beliefs and practices.
Following are further thoughts from several respected yoga therapists and yoga teachers.
Yoga recommends ethics and life values as a pathway to bringing calm and steadiness to the mind and well-being to the body. The philosophy of yoga is an extension of its psychology and practices. Yoga does not consider any particular religious belief as a requirement for the practice, and one does not need to forgo any faith to benefit from yoga. The only requirement is to uphold the values of ethics and inner peacefulness.Ganesh Mohan, MBBS, C-IAYT, director of Svastha Yoga Therapy and Teacher Training programs
Yoga therapists Smitha Mallaiah, MSc, C-IAYT, and Tina Walter, C-IAYT, demonstrate anjali mudra, which is often used at the beginning and end of a yoga practice. Gestures like this one are also used to encourage particular energetic effects and to aid in concentration.
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Essentialist Discourse And Strategies
As I peruse the many protests against the popularization of yoga, I see a series of streams crossing, and, if one evaluates any one of those streams without considering it in the context of a larger movement, then it may come across as some outlying voice. Furthermore, Christian and Hindu protesters have a variety of home organizations and leaders that they affiliate with or follow closely, the missions of which are different. Yet protestors participate in a shared broad-based movement that is conditioned by certain assumptions. When considered together, therefore, it becomes apparent that these voices share a discourse and strategies toward a common goal: defining postural yoga in terms of a Hindu essence as a protest against its popularization. Their discourse and strategies are in conflict with historical experience, which Said convincingly argues suggests that all cultures are involved in one another none is single and pure, all are hybrid, heterogeneous, extraordinarily differentiated, and unmonolithic .
The Indians reinterpreted key concepts of their traditional self-understanding, adjusting them to Western modes of understanding. By appealing to the West, by using its conceptual tools, they tried to secure and defend the identity and continuity of their tradition.
Why Is Yoga Incompatible With Catholicism
- FATHER JOHN A. HARDON, S.J
Yoga is incompatible with Catholicism because the best known practice of Hindu spirituality is Yoga.
Inner Hinduism professes pantheism, which denies that there is only one infinite Being who created the world out of nothing. Indian spirituality is perhaps best known by the practice of yoga, derived from the root yuj to unite or yoke, which in context means union with the Absolute. Numerous stages are distinguished in the upward progress toward the supreme end of identification: by means of knowledge with the deity the practice of moral virtues and observance of ethical rules bodily postures control of internal and external senses concentration of memory and meditationfinally terminating in total absorption , when the seer stands in his own nature.Yoga is incompatible with Catholicism because the best known practice of Hindu spirituality is Yoga. Inner Hinduism professes pantheism, which denies that there is only one infinite Being who created the world out of nothing. This pantheistic Hinduism says to the multitude of uncultured believers who follow the ways of the gods that they will receive the reward of the gods. They will have brief tastes of heaven between successive rebirths on earth. But they will never be delivered from the wheel of existence with its illusory lives and deaths until they realize that only God exists and all else is illusion . To achieve this liberation the principal way is by means of concentration and self control .
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The Difference Between Religion And Spirituality
Spirituality is an inclusive concept, that includes lots of different perspectives and interpretations. It can also be very personal what one person considers sacred might not be meaningful to someone else. Dr. Larry Dossey, an advocate for spirituality in healthcare, describes spirituality as a sense of connectedness with something greater than oneself. In this context, it is a universal human experience and something thats accessible to everyone. Although the broad nature of spirituality can sometimes cause confusion, it is this flexibility that separates it from religion.
On the other hand, religion is a system of faith thats organized around certain beliefs and practices. As Dr. Dossey explains, it is a ritualized form of spirituality involving a specific set of beliefs, worship, and conduct. As modern yoga is not an organized system and does not contain any rituals or requirements, it cant be categorized as a religion. Instead, yoga nurtures spirituality and allows for connectedness.
I Christianity And Culture: Fiction Music Aerobicsand Yoga
In 1951, the theologian H. Richard Niebuhr identified an enduring problem in the relationship between Christ and culture as Christians strive to live in the world without being of the world.Footnote 7 Self-identified evangelicals imagine themselves avoiding the poles of cultural withdrawal or assimilation of worldly values, instead balancing purity from and presence in the world.Footnote 8 Evangelicals characteristically adapt cultural resources for Christian purposes. Historically, evangelicals have often debated whether certain cultural products are inherently corrupting. Two notable examples are fiction and music.
Into the mid-nineteenth century, many evangelicals worried that fiction was too dangerous to touch. In the 1856 book Religious Novels: An Argument Against Their Use, Charles Wesley Andrews laments that the best novelists brought in the Trojan horse, since preaching truth through fiction is no better than promoting temperance through rum.Footnote 9 Godly texts engage intellectual interest to provoke moral action. But novels, like rum, hurl readers into the fire of consuming passion, and then, at last, into the fire which is unquenchable.Footnote 10 Evangelicals gradually became more comfortable with novels, publishing bestsellers such as Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin , Charles Sheldon’s In His Steps , and Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins’s Left Behind .
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Claiming The Yoga Tradition
But is any of this really yoga?
Since yoga morphed into a multi-billion-dollar industry, there has been a growing public movement suggesting Christian yoga is not legitimate. The movement pivots around an attempt to define yoga by locating some monolithic center or essence, especially one that attributes a Hindu religious identity to yoga.
One public campaign is based on the argument that Christians have been duped into thinking yoga is merely a consumer product and warns that yoga is essentially Hindu. Yogaphobic critics have included Albert Mohler and Pat Robertson .
Recently, for example, Mohler suggested, When Christians practice yoga they must either deny the reality of what yoga represents or fail to see the contradictions between their Christian commitments and their embrace of yoga. The contradictions are not few, nor are they peripheral. And Robertson warned on an episode of the Christian talk show, 700 Club:
But along with yoga, they have a mantra. And the mantra you say is in Hindu. You dont know what the Hindu says, but actually its a prayer to a Hindu deity, and so it sounds like gibberish, and so youre saying, you know, Kali, Kali, Kali, whatever, but youre praying to a Hindu deity Stretching exercise is cool, praying to a Hindu deity is not too cool.
Yoga In Advaita Vedanta
Vedanta is a varied tradition with numerous sub-schools and philosophical views. Vedanta focuses on the study of the Upanishads, and one of its early texts, the Brahma sutras. Regarding yoga or meditation, the Brahma sutras focuses on gaining spiritual knowledge of Brahman, the unchanging absolute reality or Self.
One of the earliest and most influential sub-traditions of Vedanta, is Advaita Vedanta, which posits non-dualisticmonism. This tradition emphasizes JÃ±Äna yoga , which is aimed at realizing the identity of one’s atman with Brahman . The most influential thinker of this school is Adi Shankara , who wrote various commentaries and original works which teach JÃ±Äna yoga. In Advaita Vedanta, JÃ±Äna is attained on the basis of scripture and one’s guru and through a process of listening to teachings, thinking and reflecting on them and finally meditating on these teachings in order to realize their truth. It is also important to develop qualities such as discrimination , renunciation , tranquility, temperance, dispassion, endurance, faith, attention and a longing for knowledge and freedom .’ Yoga in Advaita is ultimately a “meditative exercise of withdrawal from the particular and identification with the universal, leading to contemplation of oneself as the most universal, namely, Consciousness”.
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Yoga And Christianity: What Are The Differences
Many people today are taking up yoga practice. Well later consider whether yoga philosophy can truly be separated from yoga practice, but we must first establish that there are crucial doctrinal differences between yoga and Christianity. Lets briefly look at just a few of these.
First, yoga and Christianity have very different concepts of God. As previously stated, the goal of yoga is to experience union with God. But what do yogis mean when they speak of God, or Brahman? Exactly what are we being encouraged to unite with? Most yogis conceive of God as an impersonal, spiritual substance, coextensive with all of reality. This doctrine is called pantheism, the view that everything is God. It differs markedly from the theism of biblical Christianity. In the Bible, God reveals Himself as the personal Creator of the universe. God is the Creator the universe, His creation. The Bible maintains a careful distinction between the two.
A second difference between yoga and Christianity concerns their views of man. Since yoga philosophy teaches that everything is God, it necessarily follows that man, too, is God. Christianity, however, makes a clear distinction between God and man. God is the Creator man is one of His creatures. Of course man is certainly unique, for unlike the animals he was created in the image of God. Nevertheless, Christianity clearly differs from yoga in its unqualified insistence that God and man are distinct.
History Of Christian Yoga
The Christianization of yoga is not new. For example, the 19th-century American social radical and Protestant Christian Ida Craddock was an early sex therapist who incorporated yogic elements into a system for enhancing sex for heterosexual married couples.
She considered the Christian God to be a third partner in the sex life of a married man and woman. Her efforts were not without controversy. In 1902, facing incarceration for charges of obscenity, Craddock took her own life. The attempt to silence Craddock was based, in part, in yogaphobia, a fear of yoga grounded in the assumption that it is incompatible with ones own religious doctrines or moral codes. Over a hundred years after Craddock, yogaphobia is still alive and well.
Despite this, Christian yoga is taking many forms in different parts of the world. Christian yoga entrepreneurs are marketing products and services that claim to strengthen Christian identity and practice.
There are now Christian yoga brands founded by Protestant Christians, such as Yahweh Yoga and Christ Centered Yoga. The website for Holy Yoga, based in Michigan, describes it as a community of believers on mission to bring the Gospel to the ends of the earth through the modality of yoga. Holy Yoga has an instructor training program, and there are hundreds of Holy Yoga classes each week in locations across the United States and Canada.
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What Is The Spiritual Significance Of Common Yoga Poses
If you practice yoga , you may recognize some of these common poses from yoga class. Though helpful stretches in Western culture, they also have a spiritual significance in Eastern religion. William Kremer writes, To those in the know, for example, the yogic asanas, or positions, retain elements of their earlier spiritual meanings.
1. Sun Salutation
This series of poses is done as a warm up or cool down in yoga. It gets the blood flowing and warms the body. The benefit of a sun salutation is to stretch the whole body and prepare you for more challenging poses if done as a warm up. As a cool down, its aim is to calm and focus you, preparing your mind to face the rest of the day.
In Hinduism, the Sun Salutation or the Surya namaskar is a series of positions designed to greet Surya, the Hindu Sun God.
2. Cobra Pose
This part of the Sun Salutation stretches the torso, as you look upward and arch your back with hands planted firmly below shoulders on the mat with toes gently resting behind.
The alternate meaning behind this pose also called Bhujangasana is the Hindu idea the spirit-snake power that is activated and elevated in the body by means of yoga also associated with Patanjali, the sage who wrote the Yoga Sutras, who is depicted as a hybrid man-snake.
3. Warrior Poses
4. Half Spinal Twist