It's Not About Yoga

Christians + Yoga (pants) // it's all between you and God

First things first (I'd awkwardly continue Iggy's song if we were in person): If you've never done yoga and don't plan to now or in the future, then go ahead and skip down to the "Final Thoughts on Yoga" section below or read my post Everything We Do.

It seems we're stuck on yoga and missing the point.

A couple years ago I wrote a post called “Why I Quit My Yoga Class.” And that's exactly what it was about. Yet instead of seeing the heart of the matter, people seem to misread my words as saying everyone should quit anything reminiscent of yoga. Period.

I said I'd write more in the journey, and I did. Kind of. With the posts Christian Meditation and Everything We Do.

Now, several emails, some Google hits, a few face-to-face conversations (and a whole new, unrelated debate on yoga pants) later, I'm going back to the Christians and yoga discussion. This time a little more specifically and hopefully more helpful in your journey.

Should Christians Do Yoga?

It's not my place to say if Christians in general, or you specifically, should do yoga. I can only share my own experience. And I did, including a "should Christians do yoga" section of my last post. If you haven't read it yet, I invite you to do so. I share some related Bible texts that led me to decide to quit a weekly class I was taking at the time. I still agree with where I landed in that process and all that I wrote in that post.

I won't repeat all of that here. I do have one thing to add from my own journey.

It's found in 1 Corinthians 10:25-28. Paul talks about meat offered to idols. He says to not make a big deal about it because as Christians, we know idols are nothing. So if meat is bought in the market or if it's offered by a friend, then don't worry about whether it was previously offered to an idol.

But if the person giving the food makes a big deal about it previously being offered to idols, then we shouldn't accept it. At that point it's no longer harmless. We know idols are nothing and offerings to them are nothing. It doesn't hinder our faith or stance with God. It's by the other person's conviction that we may appear to support or approve of idol sacrifices.

This seems to be fitting with the yoga decision, too. It's not about yoga. As Christians we know yoga itself is not the worship for us; we know in our hearts we are worshiping God in the calming and quiet practice.

It's the environment and what the instructor is saying and doing that might convict us to refrain. If the class and the instructor's words are covered in universe talk and using the poses as stances to worship gods, at that point it's no longer harmless. We know where our hearts stand; it doesn't hinder our faith. It's by the instructor's conviction and possibly others in the class that we could appear to support or approve of worshiping anything but the Creator God.

Just like eating food alone isn't idol worship, neither are yoga poses. (I get that some might disagree with that; that's my current belief and stance.) But if a class I'm taking makes a big deal about how yoga is Hinduism for them, then I have no business continuing as a Christian.

What Should Christians Do Instead?

Of the emails I've received in response to my original post on yoga, a recurring question I get from others similarly convicted is what should we, as Christians, do instead of yoga? What are some alternatives to consider?

I'll start with another Bible reference. This one in Leviticus 17:1-7.  Moses writes about the importance of sacrifices being made at the entrance to the tent of meeting in front of God, and not out in the field like the Israelites were in the habit of doing. This was important, because out in the field they offered their sacrifices to demons. They needed to break their old routines. They couldn't pass their old places as God-worship.

We usually need a change of habit to complete the change of heart that God works in our lives.

That was the basic application from my last post. I didn't necessarily quit the stretching that occurs in yoga. I still find health and soul benefits from it and enjoy the calming, quiet practice to pray to God and meditate on His truth.

Instead, I quit my class. The one where it seemed to be too much about the universe and traditional Hinduism. I broke that routine. And after I did and prayed for God's direction, it seemed doing yoga (or stretching, if the term yoga is too contradictory for you) following Biblical principles was possible.

That was my journey. Yours might look different.

That said, here are a few suggestions of what you could do if you too, as a Christian, decide to quit your traditional yoga class. Read God's Word, pray about it, and decide for yourself what He would have you do.

Get a DVD.

Not all DVD yoga routines are created equal. Some are certainly going to be traditional following the usual universe talk and Hindu practices. Ask around, do some searches, and check reviews to find a DVD that leaves those things out. One example is the P90X yoga workouts. Tony strictly does the exercise of it, leaving religion out of it.

Try Holy Yoga.

My first experience with Holy Yoga was at a conference a few years ago. We were all Christians, meeting early in the morning for a little calming exercise before the rush of meetings for the day. Praise music and hymns played softly in the background as the instructor lead us in stretching and read from God's Word in between.

And I cried. There I lay on a hotel towel shedding actual tears in the middle of a yoga session. The calming, quiet stretches of yoga have been a helpful addition to my life for a while. And now, the awkward parts of it that weren't Christian were gone. The universe talk was stripped away, and instead of praying quietly in my heart, we were all together in it, music, instructions, and our hearts all in the same place worshiping God.

I haven't done a Holy Yoga session since. But if you're looking for a Christian atmosphere to do yoga, that is one place to look.

Make your own routine.

If/when I do "yoga" lately, it's making up my own stretching routine as I go. Whatever postures you know is enough to do on your own. Hold them and breathe deep a few times and go onto the next. You don't have to be a pro or have a perfect flow or venyasa to make up your own yoga/stretching routine in the safety of your home. That way you're in control of the poses, the atmosphere, the music. It's all up to you, and no weird universe talk or Hindu-terminology to cause conflict.

Checkout PraiseMoves.

I shared an article about Laurette Willis at the bottom of my Why I Quit My Yoga Class post. She converted to Christianity from New Age and decided she shouldn't do yoga any more. As a Christian alternative, she came up with PraiseMoves. I've never done it, so I have no opinion. But it's an option to consider. (Reading the description, it sounds a little like Holy Yoga to me.)

Get recommendations from others.

If you happen to know other Christians who did/do yoga, then ask what they do now. Have they found a neutral class that doesn't interfere with their beliefs? Maybe they even know of a local Christian-focused class. Perhaps they have a DVD or YouTube channel they recommend. You won't know if you don't ask.

The internet makes it so you don't even have to personally know these people. There's a whole network of Christian bloggers who share their yoga experience online. Some offer online classes, blog posts that might help, or you can even email or tweet them to ask what they suggest.

Stretch and meditate.

If yoga itself bothers you, then don't do it. Just do your own stretching and quiet meditation on God's Word and in prayer to Him.

Just be warned that most “stretches” are also adapted into yoga, so you might find a crossover of the two when you search for stretches online.

God owns your body and the way it moves, only your heart, mind, and atmosphere can determine if it's being offered to God or not.

Do pilates.

If you care more about the floor exercise than the meditation, then try pilates. It's a great core-building floor exercise. Again, plenty of DVDs, YouTube videos, or gym classes to get you started.

Final Thoughts on Yoga

I'm learning that it's not really my place as a Christian to tell others what to do. I've been called to love and share what God's done for me, not call out other people based on my own convictions. Throughout history there have been prophets for that, and so far I've had no clear dreams or specific callings from God to tell me that's my place.

There were people that were great at calling others out based on their own convictions. They were called pharisees and Jesus mostly just told them to get down off of their high horse.

That said, I don't really plan to continue writing about yoga. I've shared my story and experience and that's enough. There are more important decisions threatening to hinder my growth in Jesus.

Whether it's the stretching I do at home or the yoga pants I choose to wear (even, gasp, out of the home), it's a debate that distracts from more important things. Get in God's Word and get on your knees before Him. Whatever you choose to do is between you and Him anyway.

I'll continue my stretching and meditation (yoga if you're okay with using that term loosely), and I'll continue to wear my yoga pants. Until Jesus convicts me otherwise.

I trust He'll do the same for you. On issues He chooses for you and in His timing for you.


also read:
christian meditation
everything we do
why I quit my yoga class
quit looking at the picture