Have you ever asked, “Can Yoga and Christianity go together?”, or “Should Christians do Yoga?”. If so, you’re in the right place.
It’s likely that if you’re here, you’re either:
- Feeling weird about the meditation and spirituality practices done in Yoga
- You’ve heard there’s a controversy about Yoga and Christianity, and you want to understand it better
- Or, you know someone who is Christian and you want to respect their worldview and understand it
In this article, we’ll be talking about Yoga and Christianity, whether they can go together, what the Bible says about Yoga, and more. If that sounds interesting to you, stay tuned…
I grew up in a Christian home, but I tend to be an out-of-the-box thinker. Although Christian people may tell me something is good or bad, I like to study the Bible, ask questions, or find loopholes that might exist.
I remember being told at one point that Yoga was bad, but I disregarded it because it sounded like an opinion rather than a matter-of-fact view from the Bible.
When I believe that something is outside of God’s design for my life, then that’s when I’ll set a boundary, however, I know the boundaries I set are based somewhat on my personal convictions, and somewhat based on how I see the Bible, so I don’t expect everyone to percieve things how I do.
I’m writing this article to explain the Yoga controversy as objectively as possible using history and biblical references.
The Yoga-Christian Controversy
You might be wondering why there’s a controversy between Christianity and Yoga at all.
I know I was.
There are some people who say it’s bad, but some Christian organizations who host Yoga classes, and it might seem like alot of contradiction. I know that’s how it seemed to me.
However, the Yoga-Christian controversy stems from the history of Yoga and what the positions and symbols (you’ll find in the practice) actually mean.
The History of Yoga
According to historians, Yoga goes back 5000+ years. It was originally a religious practice that internalized the idea of ritual sacrifices, and instead focused on sacrificing the ego.
It is an intermingling of eastern religions with exercise.
In the eastern world, Yoga is practiced as a means to acquire deep knowledge of Self and to connect to Brahman. When Yoga came to the eastern world, it has changed a bit to make it an exercise and personal development practice, however, it’s still religious components to it that are conflicting with Christian biblical principles.
Webster’s Library Dictionary defines Yoga as:
“Yoga is a system of Hindu philosophy, strict spiritual discipline practiced to gain control over the forces of one’s being to gain occult powers but chiefly to attain union with the Deity or Universal Spirit.”
Can you do Yoga without the Spirituality?
Since Yoga is an intermingling of spirituality and exercise, it can’t be done separately. You can create stretch and muscle strengthening routines with different music or commentary than what would be in Yoga, but it wouldn’t be considered Yoga at that point.
Does Yoga Conflict with Christianity?
There are concepts where the Bible coincides with Yoga and other concepts where they conflict. For example, the concept of the Chakras and life problems originating from energy blocks in the Bible isn’t something the Bible says.
Instead, the Bible talks about life problems stemming from many root causes such as:
- Bad decisions
- Bad relationship ties (or inheriting consequences from people who are close to you)
- Bad keadership – When we’re submitted to bad leaders then we reap consequences)
- Testing – Sometimes, we experience life problems to grow in character and resilience
Of course, some ailments in the body can be relieved with practices such as stretching, muscle development, massages, and self-reflection, but internalizing doesn’t solve all of life’s problems. For some things, we need to pray, seek God, and go beyond ourselves.
Is Holy Yoga Biblical?
Holy Yoga is a practice where Christian people have attempted to take the eastern practice, and change elements to make it a “Christian” practice. Instead of typical “yoga music”, you’d be listening to Christian music. Instead of typical yoga chants, you’d chant scriptures, but many of the other concepts are the same.
Considering the connotations and association of the name “Yoga”, it doesn’t seem “Holy” if you take the same name and moves and adapt them. Instead, since the practice, positions, chanting, and philosophies have derived from eastern religions. it’s best to start from scratch and find alternative ways to exercise that are less questionable.
The Pros and Cons of Yoga
Since Yoga is something many people love, it might be tough to give up without strongly considering the pros and cons. As a result, I’ve laid them out for you. The pros are great, but the cons can’t be ignored.
The Pros of Yoga
- muscle toning
The Cons of Yoga
- Religious origins
- Is intermingled with spirituality
- Originated from eastern religions
- Includes chanting, posing, and other things designed to worship eastern gods
What Can I do Instead of Yoga?
There are many types of exercise that you can do that have less spiritual influences. You can find ways to tone your muscles, stretch, relax, self-reflect, and meditate without having to compromise by including eastern religious practices in the mix.
My List of Christian Yoga Alternatives
While Yoga seems to have conflicting origins with a biblical worldview, you can (and should) do exercises that help to keep your muscles developed and maintain your agility.
Here’s a list of alternatives to Yoga you might want to consider…
Swimming is an option that helps you to stretch, lose fat, build muscle, and it’s easy on the muscles, so many doctors recommend it.
2. Water Aerobics
Like swimming, water aerobics has many great benefits. The difference is that you wouldn’t have to hold your breath, float, or build technical swimming skills in most instances. Water aerobics is solely for the resistance and exercise benefits of being in the water.
Although Zumba can be somewhat controversial at times, it can be a form of dance exercise that serves as an alternative to Yoga. For some Christian people, the moves aren’t modest enough (especially when it’s a mixed gender class), however, if you feel comfortable, it could be a nice alternative.
Parkour is an exercise that derives from military training where you do obstacle courses, build strength, climb, and jump. It can be a great yoga alternative.
Yoga is supposed to help relieve stress, and for some people meditation is enough. For others, you want to hit something to relieve stress, and boxing can be a great way to “hit things”, build muscle, lose fat, and get rid of stress.
6. Kick Boxing
Like boxing, kick boxing lets you “hit things”, and you can kick with your feet too! If you’re looking to build muscle with the hands and legs, get rid of stress, and “hit things”. kickboxing could be a great option.
Sports like Basketball, Football, Soccer, Baseball, and others are used to build a sense of teamwork, work ethic, discipline, and physical fitness. It can be alot of fun to participate in a sport, and it’s a great yoga alternative.
Like Yoga, Ballet requires stretching, flexibility, and helps to tone muscles all over the body.
Gymnastics is considered a sport and an art. You migle competition with flexibility, jumping flips, strategy, coordination, grip, and the gamut of things you’d need to physical fitness. It would be a great yoga alternative.
10. Muscle Toning Techniques
You don’t have to do any “formal” exercise practice in order to get the benefits normally recieved from Yoga. Instead, you can simply find muscle toning techniques that can help you achieve your fitness goals without sacrificing your spiritual ones.
Stretching is a must. When you warm up your muscles, you want to make sure you’re stretching and cooling them down.
12. Lifting Weights
Lifting weights can be a great way to challenge yourself and build muscles. Rather than doing yoga, you can grab weights and begin building muscle that way.
Walking is one of the exercises people in Bible times did quite often. You can read about how far the Israelites traveled when they left from Israel, or other similar feats when Jesus’ ministry traveled to share the gospel. Walking is very simply, requires no tools or real training, and can be done practically anywhere.
If y ou want a little more of a challenge than walking, you can pick up the speed and take a brief job.
15. Bike Riding
My famuly and I have alot of fun with bike riding. It can be done competitively, or as a leisure exercise, but it’s a great way to build muscle, see scenery, self-reflect, and lose weight.
Should Christians do Yoga?
Ultimately, this isn’t a black and white issue that’s directly addressed in the Bible, but it does mingle with topics that are. Yoga was originally founded as a part of Hinduism, and the worship of other gods. As a result, I wouldn’t recommend Christian people to do Yoga, however, it’s most important for you to seek your Bible, your prayers, and your personal convictions on the matter.
But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.1 Peter 2:9 (NIV)
Final Words on Yoga and Christianity
By now, hopefully, you can see the controversy that lies with Yoga and Christianity, and your questions, “should Christians do Yoga” and “Can Yoga and Christianity can go together?” have been answered. Although it has some great body toning and weight loss benefits, it’s quite a compromise when you have to chant, listen to spiritual music, or position yourself into poses designed to worship eastern gods. Hopefully, these Yoga alternatives gave you some things to think about
If you have questions about this, leave them in the comments section below.
If you’d like to learn more about living life by God’s design, get started with the By God’s Design Manifesto here.