I have to admit, I’ve been pretty skeptical of Yoga my entire life. I think as a Christian, this hesitation has some reasonable roots – after all, yoga has its origins in Hindu, Jain and Buddhist practices. It is often associated with astral travel (“out of body experiences”), offerings to other gods, etc. Those are things you can imagine I’m not promoting around here 😉
The health benefits are undeniable, though – increased strength and flexibility in a workout that is physically appropriate even for people struggling with injuries, back problems, etc – so I think it’s clear why it has remained popular in modern western culture, despite the fact that eastern religions such as those mentioned above are certainly in the minority in the midwestern suburbs. So is it all “evil”? I have to say, I don’t think so.
Now don’t get me wrong. In my quest to find more free, streaming home workouts (after canceling our local gym membership) I’ve found some stuff I find, um, not exactly God-honoring. I’m sure there are classes offered in your area, too, that encourage some of the spiritual practices that are related to yoga from its earliest incarnations.
In some cases, it’s also just plain silly to me. In one instance an instructor told me to “soften my brain”. Maybe it’s my medical training, but that just made me laugh. A mushy brain sounds ridiculous, physically, and mentally I think it’s already mushy enough with three kids, thank you very much. 😉
But if you find the right instruction – one that focuses on isometric exercises that aren’t offerings to buddha, on stillness and quiet without an attempt to become a god oneself – I think you may find it can even be used as time of worship.
I don’t do yoga often; honestly, I get bored too quickly. But sometimes I like the stillness. And one time recently, while I was lying still and taking deep breaths and doing whatever else I was being told, I felt a near-tangible peace of God come over me and could think only of Psalm 46:10: “Be still and know that I am God.” “I am God… though the earth gives way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea” (Psalm 46:2). “I am God… though you keep trying to do it all and keep worrying about all of those things and feel overwhelmed.”
I think, like many other things that may have Pagan roots (Christmas trees, anyone?), we can redeem Yoga. I think that if we want to make wise choices we need to be intentional in where and how we choose to partake in it, but I think it’s naive to suggest that it’s all bad.
If you’re unsure still? Just do Pilates instead. It’s more fun, anyway. 🙂
I’m curious, because I honestly haven’t given this much thought beyond being surprised by and grateful for the time of peace and worship I was given during a workout… do you do yoga? Do you think it’s of the devil? 😉 I won’t be offended either way, I think it’s a good conversation starter. What else do we redeem that is historically “non-Christian”?