I recently spoke with a gentleman who is struggling to relate well to his supervisor. His supervisor, a woman, does yoga. She’s really into it, in fact. And he, being a Christian with a high level of integrity, is having trouble even listening when casual conversation turns to her involvement with yoga practice. Understandable. It’s a common question now that yoga has increased in popularity–many Christians are thinking about practicing yoga, but have some anxiety around the spiritual implications. I’ve even seen Christian versions of yoga advertised.
Here’s a thought: it’s unlikely that we could pick up some unsavory spiritual element like we might catch a cold. The other side of that thought: let’s not be overly naïve.
Without going into strenuous detail around the origins and current variations of yoga, we can say a few things for certain. It developed in a polytheistic culture; and, it is founded in the understanding that mind, body and soul are integral parts of the whole person with very little division (very unlike our Greco-Roman compartmentalized perspective). So, what do we do with that? It would seem that, to avoid involvement in something that could have spiritual repercussions, it would be best to avoid it altogether.
But it’s popular, and it’s a really good form of exercise.
For Christians, there are a few things we know about our God and our tradition that may help with this dilemma. In the beginning God created…everything. He created the heavens and the earth. He separated light from darkness, waters from dry land. He caused everything to be: Genesis 1:14 (NRSV) “And God said, ‘Let there be lights in the dome of the sky to separate the day from the night; and let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and years,'” (emphasis mine). Here in the creation narrative we proclaim that our God, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, is above all others. He is the Most High God. Not only do we know who our God is in relation to other little-g gods, we also know that after the death and resurrection of Jesus–Word of God made flesh–God’s Spirit was released to dwell in any and all those who believe in their heart and profess with their mouth that Jesus is Lord (Rom 10:9). Immanuel, God with us.
This may appear to set up a situation of spiritual warfare, but here are two more points for consideration: Jesus is the Prince of Peace; all humanity is made in the image of God. We don’t need to go into a yoga studio with a warrior mentality. Let’s avoid the assumption that everyone in the room is a pagan. To view them as such can form a barrier to building relationships. When we remember that everyone is made in God’s image, everyone has his fingerprint on their souls, then it’s easier to be curious about people. What drew the woman who works in corporate finance to come to this studio? Was it difficult for the gentlemen to decide to come? How does a particular teacher talk about connections between physical and spiritual? We can learn from traditions outside Judeo-Christian beliefs, when we are humble and aware.
Returning to our God, we also know that he protects us. Jesus prayed in John 17:11 (NRSV), “Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one.” God is with us as we move about the world, and through his Spirit, we can hear his wisdom.
For some, yoga will not be a good exercise option. For others, it will. We can ask our God who knows each one of us uniquely.
May God our Father keep you always in the shadow of his wing. May the Lord, Jesus Christ, bless you and nourish you in communion of faith. May the Holy Spirit dwell richly within you, and guide you down right paths. In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, go in Peace.