Hello and welcome to Parent Like You Mean It – the podcast where we examine healthy ways to stretch yourself beyond what is comfortable or convenient and into what is intentional and purposeful in regards to raising your kids. I’m Jefferson Drexler, and just like you, I want my kids to be accepted and viewed as “normal”, without compromising an inch of their integrity and values.
Which brings me right to this week’s topic: should good Christian parents allow their kids to participate in yoga?
I have seen one article after another basically saying, “Absolutely not! It’s the ‘gateway drug’ to all things ungodly. Spiritually speaking, you may as well dance with the devil, himself (or at least Ganesha).”
On the flipside, I have spoken with several others who say, “I know the origins of yoga, but we don’t ‘go there’. We ignore every utterance of “aligning your chakra” or “centering your chi”. We don’t truly ‘empty ourselves’, because there’s simply too much on my todo list to ignore it all.”
So, what’s the right answer? Both? Neither?
I tend to view things like this from a much broader lens. Lately, my wife and I have been much less concerned about the specificities of what we are allowing into our kids’ live, and more concerned about what is being “normalized” in their lives.
In other words, we look at the things what were once outside of their day-to-day lives, or even considered “taboo”, by their understandings of our rules and family culture, that are now being questioned whether or not they should be moved into the “normal” category of life.
We easily see this in American entertainment.
Once upon a time, any “bad words” at all were kept from all television programming airing before the 11:00 news.
Then came Hill Street Blues.
Hill Street broke ground by showing an intense gunfight where an officer was caught saying “Son of a Bitch” by New York news cameras.
Suddenly, it was normal for “bad words” to be aired in the 10:00 time slot.
It didn’t take long at all before you started hearing more and more previously banned swearing in the 9:00 slot, and even earlier. Now, with hundreds more channels available 24 hours a day, you never know what words you’ll hear as you flip from the Disney channel, through Nickelodeon, past Cartoon Network and into Esquire or AMC.
And no one cares.
It’s become normal.
Now, don’t get me wrong – I’m not saying that all channels should be censored. I’m merely pointing out that what was once taboo in American broadcasting has been redefined as normal.
The same thing applies in movies in regards to language, violence, and partial nudity. I mean, when I was a boy, there wasn’t even a separation of full nudity and partial nudity. If clothing were removed from where they once were, the movie got an R rating. If they kept their underwear on, it got a PG rating. Now, with the advent of PG-13, the lines are blurring and different standards for what is considered “normal” is ever changing.
Combining these two situations, where it was once racy to see married couple Frank Furillo and Joyce Davenport merely talking about their day while in bed (again, Hill Street Blues, after 10:00) – now the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show is primetime and promoted like it’s the Super Bowl.
All this to say, there has been a shift in what broadcasting companies and television viewers determine as “normal”.
So, what does this have to do with yoga?
Well, firstly, let’s look at what yoga is “normally” defined as: It’s exercise and core muscle toning through a variety of stretches and poses. Under that normal definition, I see it as totally harmless. Good for you and your kids.
But, wait! There’s more!
It’s really no secret that yoga is derived from an ancient spiritual discipline deeply rooted in Hinduism. It’s traditional poses and origins all point to Hindu gods, rituals, and ideology. One technique that often accompanies the stretching and poses is mentally emptying oneself in order to center and balance oneself.
So, as Bible-believing Christians, do you want that to be a part of your weekly fitness diet? Or, if you would forgive yet another metaphor, can your diet consist of fast food, so long as you don’t partake of the fries, shakes and soda? In other words, can your fitness diet consist of yoga, without the “focusing your id”, “cleansing your aura”, or “bowing before Ganesha”?
Most people would answer yes!
However, then there are those who point to yoga’s origins and protest, insisting that its very foundation is steeped in Hinduism, so therefore has no part in a Christian household.
That’s a tough argument, assuming consistency is a priority in your life. Especially since so many of our Christmas and Easter traditions are steeped in paganism and other non-Christian practices.
You’re wondering why I’m on the fence.
Here’s the deal: I believe that the Bible is very clear on having no other gods but the Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob – the God Jesus prayed, “Abba, Father, hallowed be Thy name” to. That’s the only God – no exception.
Therefore, if the yoga you are working out to hints to any acceptance (or normalization) of another god – run!
Don’t make even the acceptance that there are other gods “normal” in your workout routines, much less in your household.
Likewise, the Bible tells us that we should fill our lives with the Holy Spirit. How does this look? I believe “being filled with the Holy Spirit” is evidenced by your life showing examples of what the Bible calls the “fruit of the Spirit”: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Therefore, anything that instructs us to “empty ourselves”, or “empty your mind” runs against this Biblical teaching. We’re not created to be empty. We are meant to be filled!
So, my bottom line on yoga is this – if you work out at home, at a studio, at the beach, at a park… wherever, and you do it in such a matter that doesn’t “normalize” what the Bible clearly defines as out of bounds – stretch away!
However, if your instructor, or studio, or video, or app brings anything into the mix that God wants us to avoid, not in a harmful way, but in a neutral or even helpful way… run!
And my main point is this – I’ve been using television, movies and yoga as simple illustrations of a larger issue facing parents today.
The major question is: What are you “normalizing” in your house? What are the areas that you know were once considered taboo, but because of a shifting culture outside your home’s walls, are now considered “normal”? These things may or may not be harmful to you and your kids, but I guarantee that once they are accepted as normal, they take residence in your home and change the direction of your home’s moral compass.
Am I saying that all television is bad and only hell-bound families subscribe to HBO? Absolutely not!! I am saying that if you allow your kids to watch certain programming because everyone else is, the next level of “questionable shows” will be queued up much sooner than you think. Therefore, maybe you should even reconsider what you and your spouse view as “normal” things to be watching.
Am I saying that Godly homes never have any alcohol except rubbing alcohol and Nyquil?
Absolutely not!! I am saying that the Bible is very clear on not getting drunk. If you want a beer or two at a backyard barbecue, knock one back! If you enjoy a fine glass of Georges Latour or even two-buck-chuck with your steak, swirl and sip away! But if you’re drinking for the purpose of getting buzzed, much less loaded… run!
(You know, now that I think about it, there seems to be a common thread here… maybe we should all just take up running!)
Anyway, the same thing can be said about medicinal marijuana, recreational pot, trashy entertainment, horror flicks, fifty-shades of whatever books… the list goes on and on. Ask yourself what you consider “normal”, what you consider “out of bounds” and how do these boundaries measure up against what Scripture says?
I’m not saying we should all be monks. I am saying that we need to be perpetually on guard to what is being defined as “normal” in the lives of our family and continually discuss with our kids what the Bible says about filling our minds and our bodies with such things.
That is how my wife and I Parent Like We Mean It!