If only I had a nickel for every time I’ve been asked about or struggled with this question. Why is this such a hot button in the Christian community?
I think the heart of the concern lies in the roots of yoga. It’s foundation lies in the Buddhist and Hindu communities and, therefore, gets wrapped into religion as well, creating instant conflict for Christians.
During my years as a psychology major at a Christian college, our department chair was in the midst of a contemptuous attack from within the school. It was the staunchly held belief of one of the Bible faculty members, and a few students, that psychology should not be taught at a Christian college.
Much of the argument revolved around the concern with humanism (a belief that emphasizes the importance of humanity over the Divine). Counseling itself was also questioned by dissidents who believed in seeking God’s help alone for all of life’s troubles.
I could go on a long diatribe about that, but here’s the bottom line. We all (yes, all), tend to throw the baby out with the bathwater sometimes. We react rather than examine.
For 4 years in college, while under constant personal and professional attack, my psychology professor, friend, and mentor, infused every class and conversation with this principle… integration.
I learned how to use the Bible as my primary foundation for all of life. And through that filter, sift through all of what I read, heard, and learned, to find Truth in the rubble. Capital “T” truth. God’s Truth.
No matter what the foundation or intention, His Truth finds it’s way to the surface. There are gold nuggets in the midst of the muck if we’re willing to look.
How does this relate to yoga?
The word yoga itself means “to join” or “to yoke.” Though intended, in it’s beginning, to prepare participants for “spiritual enlightenment” through it’s series of physical and mental exercises, there are proven health benefits to the practice.
Scientific research suggests some of the following benefits:
- reduced low-back pain and improve function
- reduced stress
- lowered heart rate and blood pressure
- relief of anxiety, depression, and insomnia
- improved overall physical fitness, strength, and flexibility
Can these benefits be found elsewhere? Maybe. But, from personal experience, I can attest that my body has never found the same kind of satisfaction from any other form of exercise or stretching. Ever. My body craves the release that comes from yoga inspired movements.
So, I integrate.
I stay out of the studios and away from instructors who promote “yoga philosophy” (aka: enlightenment). I stopped attending classes at a local studio shortly after discovering it because of its funding of metaphysical practices (physics, tarot cards, etc.). Though my body loved it, my spirit (the Holy Spirit) told me to flee. Even the local YMCA is adept at “preaching” beyond the movements, too.
My resulting solution is to utilize yoga DVD’s in my own home. These workouts are part of overall fitness programs aimed at promoting active recovery for the body, not spiritual philosophy.
Honestly, I continue to wrestle with yoga. Even as I’m writing this I’m conflicted, though I thought I knew where this was headed when I began.
Here are a couple of things I know for sure:
- My body feels great when I’ve finished a yoga workout.
- The act of raising my hands, lifting my head, or sealing them together in prayer are as charismatic as I get in my praise to God. I offer my whole self to Him in those movements.
- This won’t be my last post about yoga.
Isn’t it possible to find Truth within human traditions? Hasn’t God infused Himself into every living being, even if we don’t acknowledge it? Don’t we have the responsible to find Him in the nooks and crannies of all things?
Truth isn’t limited.
I invite you to think. I invite you to seek Truth. I invite you to a life of integration.
Will you join me?
Question: What do YOU think about yoga?
“Blest be the tie that binds
Our hearts in Christian love;
The fellowship of kindred minds
Is like to that above.”