“To yoga or not to yoga,” that is the question.
It’s at least a question that I’ve been asked a half-dozen times over the last few days. The questioners had been told that yoga was demonic – and that yogis would be opening themselves to demonic power.
(Just for clarification, a “yogi” is a person who practices yoga. It is not referring to Yogi Bear, Yogi Berra, or Yogi Tea).
I’ll start with a quick answer to the question: “I’m not good at yoga, but I am definitely good with yoga.”
Now, let’s upack why I’m good with it.
1. I have grown weary of Christians being known more for what we’re against than what we’re for. Let’s see, just in my lifetime, there has been rock music, movies, cards, wine, dancing, long hair, tattoos, swimming with the opposite sex, kissing someone before you are engaged, reading “Harry Potter” or “DaVinci Code.”
Have I missed one? Probably. You can add your own. Well, Yoga, for some people, is on the list.
Each of these activities, we were told, can lead to your spiritual downfall. Wouldn’t it be nice to be known what we’re for – love, kindness, goodness.
2. Because yoga has Hindu roots, a lot of Christians condemn it. Two things here -First, “All truth is God’s truth.” – Thank-you, Augustine. Just because something does not have a “Christian” label, doesn’t make it untrue or unChristlike. The universal Christ is much bigger than our culture. Second, will the good folks who condemn yoga based on its Hindu roots have a Christmas tree in their house in a few weeks? According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, and other sources, that Christmas tree in our living rooms has its origin in pre-Christian worship of trees and pagan customs. Throughout history, Christians have taken something from the culture and re-framed it, re-interpreted it, giving it new meaning as a symbol of Christianity.
Maybe people are doing that with yoga. Why not? Christmas trees and yoga. I like them both.
3. Is yoga like the meat offered to idols which Paul addresses in 1 Corinthians 8:1-8? Maybe so. “Can I put this meat that had been used as a sacrifice to an idol on my sandwich?” That was the question asked by Christians in Corinth.
Here’s Paul’s answer: “We know that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is no God but one…Food will not bring us close to God.We are not worse off if we don’t eat, and we are not better if we do eat,”
“But,” Paul adds, some people’s consciences are so weak they can’t separate the meat from the idol.” So, to them, Paul seems to say, “Don’t eat the meat.” To others? “Pile it on the sandwich and enjoy.”
Maybe there are some “weak consciences” when it comes to yoga. Maybe for Paul, and others, yoga is just fine.
4. The term “yoga” is from the Sanskrit word yuj, which has three meanings:
- To “unite” or “yoke” as in uniting/yoking together our mind and body and spirit.
- To be aware. Nothing exists except awareness.
- To have control or focus.
Those things don’t seem too scary, do they? In fact, they sound kind of spiritual – not too different from the spiritual disciplines many of us have been taught.
See how these expressions of yoga fit with our connection to Christ:
a. It is God’s purpose to “bring everything together in Christ, both things in heaven and things on earth in him” (Ephesians 1:10). Yoga recognizes and releases the interconnectedness between our mind, body, and spirit (1 Thessalonians 5:23).
b. Awareness. Oh my goodness, I need this. How many distractions there are in life! The notifications buzzing, ringing, vibrating on my phone. Non-stop news. Incessant talking.
I need something that helps me tune out everything except my awareness of the present – of my breathing – of the peace that comes from being still.
“Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10).
Yoga helps make that real.
c. To have control or focus. Wow. I need that, too. I need to control my thoughts, my desires, myself! Isn’t that kind of a part of the whole Christianity thing?
“I discipline my body and keep it under control so I won’t be disqualified” (1 Corinthians 9:27 – Paul was a sports fan).
“For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love, and of self-discipline” (2 Timothy 1:7).
Yoga can help us move toward a sense of union with God…
…union with ourselves.
…union with all of God’s creation.
Yoga can create an environment in which I intensify my awareness of:
….wow, I’m tight!
…God’s presence in me and love for me.
You know that “the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak” thing (Matthew 26:41)? Yoga helps make both strong. It combines both to make both strong.
I’m good with that.