From Ed Hird, an Anglican minister in Vancouver, who thinks Christian and yoga do not belong together. What say you?
You may find this a stretching article in body, mind and spirit. I have intentionally avoided writing this article for years, because I knew that it would be unavoidably controversial. With genuine reluctance, I faced my conflict avoidance, obeyed the Lord and read hundreds of yoga books in our local public libraries. In preparing this article, I have not read one book which warns against yoga. All book citations in this article are from yoga advocates and practitioners.
To many people, yoga is just the hottest new exercise fad for younger women. Twenty million North Americans are now doing yoga, including around four million men. These twenty million people are currently being trained by over 70,000 yoga practitioners in at least 20,000 North American locations. Many people confuse yoga with simple stretching. Stretching and calisthenics are good things which I participate in weekly at the local gym. Yoga has not cornered the market on healthy stretching and calisthenics. I am convinced that we do well when we take care of our bodies as part of our Christian stewardship.
I unknowingly participated in yoga, in the form of martial arts, for twenty years before renouncing it. It is not an easy or light thing for someone to renounce this, even as a Christian. In hindsight, I realized that the ritual motions and postures (asanas or katas) had gotten very deep into my psyche, shaping my very identity. Without intending it, I was to some degree serving two masters….
Sadly a number of well-meaning Christians have been recently promoting Christianized yoga in North America. Subhas R. Tiwari, a Hindu University of America professor who has a master’s degree in yoga philosophy, comments: “Such efforts [to Christianize yoga] point to a concerted, long-term plan to deny yoga its origin. This effort . . . is far from innocent. It is reminiscent of the pattern evident throughout the long history and dynamics of colonizing powers.” Tiwari holds that efforts to Christianize yoga are unjust “encroachment” and thinly veiled Christian proselytism of Hindus.
With yoga and Hinduism, nothing is what it seems. This is why it has been described as the embrace that smothers. Yoga has always been shrouded in illusion and secrecy, and can intentionally look like whatever you want it to in the short term. In the end, the road leads to idolatry and monism, to serving two masters. The Lordship of Jesus is what is at stake. Just as there is no Christian Ouija board and no Christian astrology, so there is no Christian Yoga that is either truly Yoga or truly Christian. I invite you to do the stretching, perhaps unthinkable thing of turning from Yoga towards healthy stretching and calisthenics.