Yoga construed as just a physical exercise is probably fine. But some people are emphasizing its religious content. And some Christians are trying to make that religious content Christian.
Christian pop music played quietly in the background as instructor Bryan Brock led a recent yoga class at the nondenominational Church at Rocky Peak in Chatsworth.
Incorporating prayer and readings from the Bible, Brock urged his class of about 20 students to find strength in their connection to their creator through yoga’s deep, controlled breathing. “The goal of Christian yoga is to open ourselves up to God,” he said. “It allows us to blur the line between the physical and the spiritual.”
The instructor then recited the Lord’s Prayer while his students moved slowly through a series of postures known as the sun salutation.
Such hybrid classes, which combine yoga practice with elements of Christianity or Judaism, appear to be growing in popularity across Southern California and elsewhere.
Some Christians call their versions of the discipline holy yoga or Yahweh yoga and some teachers urge participants to “breathe down Jesus.” Jewish yogis, in turn, have developed — and in some cases, even trademarked — Torah yoga, Kabbalah yoga and aleph bet yoga, applying Eastern meditative movements to Jewish prayer and study. . . .
Rayna Mike said she was skeptical of yoga before she started going to Brock’s class at the Church at Rocky Peak, an evangelical congregation. “I never did it before because I considered it Eastern philosophy and I didn’t want any part of it,” said Mike, a Bel-Air businesswoman.
Mike changed her mind when her trainer at the Church on the Way in Van Nuys recommended the yoga class, and she said the practice has improved her health while feeding her soul.
“You can go and sweat anywhere, but that’s not the point,” she said. “This is a beautiful thing. It’s an answer to my prayers.”
Brock completed a 200-hour accredited course in Phoenix designed by Brooke Boon, author of the book “Holy Yoga.” Boon has trained nearly 200 Christian yogis, about a dozen of whom are teaching in Southern California.
“Christ is my guru. Yoga is a spiritual discipline much like prayer, meditation and fasting,” Boon said in a telephone interview. “No one religion can claim ownership.”
What’s the problem with “breathing down Jesus” or making Christ your guru? But why do so many people feel a need for this kind of thing? Can it be that Christianity, as currently practiced, is missing its “spirituality”? What are better ways of blurring the distinction between the physical and the spiritual?