Should Christians Practice Yoga?

yoga poses for Christians

Image Credit: By lzf on shutterstock.

Christian yoga can seem like an oxymoron. Because of some of its roots in Eastern mysticism, it seems to contradict the Christian faith. Yet there is more to yoga than most realize. The physical, mental, and emotional benefits are documented, and practicing yoga can actually draw you closer to God.  

When Did Yoga Originate?

Evidence of the origins of yoga can be found on stone seals that archaeologists uncovered from the excavation site of the Indus Valley Civilization, now India and Pakistan. This archaeological evidence dates yoga back to around 3000 BC, which is before the establishment of Hinduism and Buddhism. From a biblical timeframe, this would have been after the flood and Noah’s time but before the birth of Abraham.

Around 1500 BC, the Hindu religion created the term yoga. Buddhism began its association with the use of physical postures and meditation around 600 BC. Therefore, yoga postures were performed by humans hundreds of years before Hinduism and Buddhism existed.

Why Does Yoga Have a Bad Rap With Christians?

Yoga is Sanskrit for “union” or “yoking together.” The exercises and stretches in yoga are designed to bring those who practice it to a place of mindfulness, also called meditation, so you can yolk or join with the spiritual realm. The Hindu and Buddha religions realized this and incorporated yoga into their practices. 

Some people believe participating in yoga may unwittingly lead a person to yoke or join to the spiritual realm in an undesirable way and expose them to dark spiritual forces (Ephesians 6:12). Dr. Kevin Flynn, an Anglican priest, responded to this premise by saying, “Are baptized Christians, nourished by God’s word, really so susceptible to dark forces? I think not.”

When you as a Christian practice yoga, you prepare your mind to hear from God. Finally, you are quiet and not worrying about your troubles. It can help you listen to the Lord’s still, small voice. God knows our hearts. He knows who we are worshiping. Exercising a certain way, including yoga posturing, is not wrong or sinful because God evaluates what is in a person’s heart (Mark 7:14–15, 20–23). 

Interestingly, physical posturing such as bowing, lying face down, and meditation have also been associated with the Jewish and Christian faiths (Exodus 4:31, Psalms 1:2, and Psalm 143:5). Christian meditation is foundationally focused on God and his Word, and this is the focus of Christian yoga.

God-Focused Yoga

A form of Christian yoga, Scripture Yoga™, is different from secular yoga because you listen to God’s Word as it is recited in the yoga class. Participants meditate on Bible verses while holding yoga poses. This allows their hearts and minds to be open to God’s presence. Other forms of Christian yoga also incorporate aspects of Christianity into the class. These methods include playing Christian music, meditating on a Bible verse at the beginning or end of the class, or depicting a Christian theme throughout the session. There are numerous ways to weave Christianity into a yoga class. A Christ-centered approach allows you to enjoy the physical benefits of yoga and experience communion with the Spirit of God.

The spiritual benefits of Christian yoga include:

  • experiencing God’s peace (Isaiah 26:3)
  • drawing closer to God (James 4:8)
  • giving God your worries and cares (1 Peter 5:7)
  • worshiping God and spending time in His presence.

Here Are the Top 20 Benefits of Yoga

The benefits of yoga are profound. Yoga helps regulate and improve the functioning of many body systems including the respiratory, immune, musculoskeletal, circulatory, endocrine, and metabolic.

  • Enhances Muscles Tone, Definition, Strength, and Physical Fitness: muscles become well-defined, and the additional strength helps to prevent injuries.
  • Increases Range of Motion in Joints: yoga prevents muscle and joint stiffness.
  • Prevents Cartilage and Joint Breakdown: the full range of motion performed during the poses supports joints.
  • Enhances Coordination and Improves Reaction Time: muscles become stronger and leaner, and balance, coordination, and even reaction time improve.
  • Increases Overall Flexibility: the flexibility of your spine improves your posture, which makes you look younger. It also keeps the spinal disks supple.
  • Relieves Muscle Pain and Tension: stretching muscles, ligaments, and tendons reduces muscle pain and tension.
  • Eases Pain: several medical studies have shown that yoga reduces back pain, arthritis, fibromyalgia, and other chronic conditions. 
  • Eases Stress, Tension, and Anxiety: yoga creates inner peace, so perform yoga to relieve stress before taking anti-anxiety medication, as you may not need even need it.
  • Improves Depression: some studies have found yoga increases serotonin levels, which makes you feel happier.
  • Improves Memory: focusing on the breath and the present moment, through meditation, enhances concentration, and memory.
  • Eases Migraines: yoga helps relieve migraines, so try yoga before medication.
  • Deepens Sleep: no more tossing and turning, just sound sleep.
  • Improves Lung Function: usually one does not think about respiration, but during yoga class you do. In turn, this enhancement gives you more energy and vitality!
  • Improves Circulation: exercise increases the heart rate, and this delivers more oxygen to the whole body.
  • Lowers Blood Pressure: medical studies have proven that doing yoga decreases blood pressure.
  • Reduces Blood Sugar: studies have shown diabetics’ blood sugar drop through the practice of yoga.
  • Reduces Bad Cholesterol (LDL) and Boosts Good Cholesterol (HDL): studies have demonstrated that the practice of yoga can decrease LDL and increase HDL.
  • Improves Metabolism: have you ever thought your metabolism does not work as well as it should? Give it a jump start with yoga.
  • Relaxes the Body Systems: focusing on deep breathing throughout the session increases blood flow to all internal organs which lowers breathing and heart rate.
  • Boosts Immunity: many yoga postures stimulate the lymph system to drain toxins out of the body, which heightens immunity.

The physical and mental benefits of yoga are powerful and have been proven through scientific studies. Yoga helps the body function better and improves overall health.

Should I Be Afraid of Secular Yoga?

The most popular type of yoga in the United States is Hatha Yoga in which the Eastern religion and philosophical portion of yoga are entirely separated from the yoga class. In Hatha Yoga, the class centers around performing the physical yoga postures and deep breathing. However, some secular yoga classes could still include Eastern spiritual leanings.

We are called to be discerning and to test the spirits to determine if they are from the one true God (1 John 4:1). Any practice, behavior, or form of worship that adversely affects your commitment or devotion to Christ should be avoided. 

Christian Yoga provides an alternative method of exercise in a spiritually desirable and safe environment. Christian yoga’s focus is to lead participants to the highest level of true spirituality: a relationship with Jesus Christ. It should deepen the believer’s walk with God.

Susan Neal RN, MBA, MHS
Latest posts by Susan Neal RN, MBA, MHS (see all)
Susan Neal RN, MBA, MHS
Susan Neal RN, MBA, MHS
Susan Neal is a certified yoga instructor with over 30 years’ experience in practicing and teaching yoga. She is an RN with an MBA and a master’s degree in health science. As a pursuer of ultimate health, Susan merged her practice of yoga with her passion for God’s Word. Founder of Scripture Yoga™ Susan recites theme-based Bible verses during her yoga classes. Susan published seven healthy living books, and two are about yoga: Scripture Yoga and Yoga for Beginners; two sets of Scripture Yoga Card Decks, “How to Receive God’s Peace” and “Fruit of the Spirit” and two Christian yoga DVDs, God’s Mighty Angels and What the Bible Says About Prayer. You can find Susan on ChristianYoga.com and SusanUNeal.com.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Send this to a friend