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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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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