This Might Be a Stretch: Christian Thoughts on Yoga

This Might Be a Stretch: Christian Thoughts on Yoga March 28, 2024

Woman on a pink yoga mat doing a pose.
Image by StockSnap from Pixabay Should Christians bow down for exercise?

To Yoga or Not? 

Feelin’ like you wanna polarize the potluck? Bring up Yoga! 

I know what you’re thinking. Do we really need another post about whether or not Christians should practice Yoga? Is this helpful since this is such a major source of division in the Church right now? I hope to answer these questions not with condemnation, but with facts as well as how I made the decision on whether or not to practice Yoga as a Christian.

Christians have been doing Yoga in their local gyms for years, seeing it as simply stretches to build strength, calm anxiety, and aid in their overall health. But should we though? And is this a salvation issue or a matter of conscience? 

First, we will highlight the research others have done on the topic of Yoga, and then, looking to God’s Word, we will stretch our knowledge on this particular point of contention in the Church.

While this post does contain a fair amount of research sourced by others (much more informed than myself), it is not simply an info-remix.

This post is intentionally personal. It is my story of how I looked at the info and, by God’s grace, came to a decision on how to proceed as a Christ follower. 

It is not a judgment or indictment upon those who differ from where I have landed, but it is a call for unity, to look squarely at what Yoga is, and to ask the Church to take this matter into prayer. 

But before we go any further, would you do me a favor and ponder this- 

Have you stopped to ask God about doing Yoga first? 

This might be where we start, right? 

The Growing Divide Amongst Christians & Jesus’s Call to Unity

Christians who practice Yoga versus the believers who claim it does not align with God’s will for the Church, seem to be growing further and further apart from each other. This should not be.

Overall, this division is grieving because God tells us over and over that His people should be united in hearts and focus. We see this call to unite in these verses:  

1. 1 Corinthians 1:10: “I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment.”

2. John 13:35: ““By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

For more verses on the Body of Christ and unity, check out this article on 

Personally, I have dear friends in both camps that I love and value! I myself have been on both sides, and have even partaken in several classes at my local gym to help my disconnected connective tissue. I have also had one of my daughters try it out based on a recommendation from a trusted source in the medical field. 

Christian Research on Yoga

Sisters, our goal is to gather our facts to make a decision that would allow us to, “seek first the Kingdom and His righteousness” (NIV, Matthew 6:33). 

We can look to some Christians who have done ample research on this separative subject. By searching out facts about the roots of Yoga, we can hopefully decipher if it is truly just an exercise or if it is something that we should consider abstaining from. 

1. The Roots of Yoga

When researching this topic, I have found it helpful to listen or read about Christians who were at one time practicing New Age beliefs. Yoga is considered by many, both nonbelievers and believers alike, to be a New Age practice, but it has ancient roots tied not only to Hinduism, but also other Eastern religions and belief systems. 

At one time Marcia Montenegro, a fellow believer and ministry founder, was deeply involved in the New Age and occult practices. Now, after giving her life to Christ, she helps to expose New Age ideas that are creeping into the Church through her ministry: Christian Answers for the New Age. 

Marcia has written many helpful articles regarding Yoga’s roots such as: “Yoga Training: Not Just Exercise” and “The Basic Spirituality of Yoga.”

Another trusted Christian source is the team at Mama Bear Apologetics, whose recent post on Yoga was so popular it crashed their server multiple times! People of faith are seeking info on this subject!

Since I started gathering information for this post, I have learned that there are many different types of Yoga. To properly discuss each type and its origin story is not be feasible or productive in this post. If you are curious to delve further, I found this thesis written by a graduate candidate for Liberty University, Injib Kim, to be very informative as far as the history of Yoga. 

When we look at the meaning of Yoga and the intent behind the poses/stretches, we can learn more of the purpose behind the practice. 

2. What the Word Yoga Means

An excerpt from the article, “A Crash Course on Yoga,” tells us: 

“The word yoga literally means yoke or union. By and large, the purpose of yoga is to unite yourself (or fully realize your union) with the “Divine Consciousness,” the supposed eternal power that permeates everything in reality and which encompasses all knowledge (of like, everything!). The worldview behind yoga assumes that your inner self is divine, that everything that exists emanates from one impersonal force (Brahman), and that therefore your divine self and this force are connected.”

As a Christian, I immediately see many red flags here, but the most concerning to me is the idea of the “divine self.” This screams out at me! Nothing about me is divine, Honey! Save the Holy Spirit and the work of Christ alone done on the cross. 

There is nothing that I can do to become divine. I am a sinner saved by grace! 

Brahman is mentioned throughout the research, note how the author stated that this entity is seen as an “impersonal force.” 

Church, we have a personal God who loves us, and we in turn are to love Him only. (More on this later). 

In reading the Mama Bear Apologetics article, I learned a good deal, and I recommend reading it (maybe with your kids), along with their most recent post: “ROARing Through Yoga.” This post takes the practical application route very effectively. 

3. The Meaning of the Stretches (Poses)

According to Marcia Montenegro, “The poses themselves are often depictions of Hindu deities, and the hand positions mimic the hand positions seen on the statues of Hindu gods.” This does not apply to every pose, but the idea that some poses are linked to other gods and or nature worship should give you pause. 

In another article entitled, “Yoga: Yokes, Snakes, and Gods,” she states, “Hatha yoga uses various postures called asanas. Many asanas are based on postures that honor Hindu deities who manifest themselves in forms such as the sun, the tiger, the tree, the snake, etc. Asanas were designed to aid in meditation and to strengthen the body for the strenuous mental exercises (The Essence of Yoga, Feuerstein, p. 24) leading to realization of the true divine self, and eventually to samadhi, union with the divine (Feuerstein, p. 34; Melton, p. 501).”

Whether yoga practicers are conscious of it or not, choose to ignore or replace the significance with Christian elements, they are literally bowing and placing their bodies in a stature of submission in many of the poses. 

4. Ultimately, Yoga is About a Worldview

Alexa Cramer for Mama Bear Apologetics, has this to say, “Remember: yoga is a philosophy about reality, not just physical exercise. In fact the physical poses are intended to more deeply entrench you into the philosophy. Regardless of how a person practices yoga, we cannot ignore that the underlying philosophy is present, and that matters. We must acquaint ourselves with the worldview yoga is promoting. (A Crash Course on Yoga).”

5. What Does Occult Mean Exactly? 

Prior to my New Religious Movements Course at Southern Evangelical Seminary, I used to think that the word ‘occult’ pertained specifically to Satanic activities and or witchcraft (Sidenote: Satanism and witchcraft- by the way, have nothing to do with each other in terms of beliefs). I have learned that it is much more broad in its definition.

Distinguished apologist and professor at SES, Dr. Richard Howe, gives us this meaning for the word occult: ’Occult’ comes from the Latin ‘occultus’ meaning “hidden or secret.” It should not be confused with the word: “cult.” This is important to note as many Christian scholars categorize Yoga as an occult practice. 

Yoga is Occultic? Say What Now?  

Alexa Cramer mentions the following about chakras, which showcases just one facet of the occult nature of Yoga, “They (chakras) are supposed points in your body in which a mystical (and mythical) divine energy, called Kundalini energy, moves through. Kundalini is often portrayed as a snake and is believed to be “coiled” at the base of the spine, and moves up the spine when activated.” 

I’m going to need to stop right there. 

Y’all, I have had two major spine surgeries. Fresh out of a fusion, part of my spine is metal! I’m just saying my spine is too expensive, and my soul is worth too much to even steal a glance at occult stuff. Those are my first, rough thoughts on the issue! (I promise I am going to lay out much more Scripture-based reasoning below.)

In noting the words “mystical” and “mythical” used to describe chakras, we begin to understand how this could be considered an occultic practice. 

Testimonies of Ex-Yogis & Practicers

If you are interested to hear testimonies of former Yogi (Yoga instructors) and Yoga practicers- here are some to check out: (Disclaimer: I cannot vouch for these bloggers and their YouTube Channels in their entirety.)

Where I Have Landed

Now, I am a believer in Jesus. A momma who serves at church, studies God’s Word, and loves people. I am not a standout in any regard. My heart is simply this: for the world to experience God’s grace and know and trust the truth.

Like many of you, I found myself atop the Yoga decision fence staring down at both backyards each filled with a gaggle of friends I trust. But ultimately, given the information, I have decided not to partake in practicing Yoga.

My Scripture-Based Reasons For Not Doing Yoga

First, I do not believe that doing or not doing Yoga will provide salvation for our souls. We are saved only by the free gift of grace given by Jesus Christ. Therefore, it appears that this is a matter of conscience issue. Each person should decide through prayer, Scripture study, and guidance from the Holy Spirit on how they will proceed. 

With the following verses, I would love to share why- with as much grace as you will allow- I believe God has led me to this decision.

As a fellow Christ follower, please know my heart is for you and these verses have helped me; I pray they help you as well. We all know that God’s Word does not return void (Isaiah 55:11). 

1. 2 Kings 17:35: “For the LORD had made a covenant with the Israelites and commanded them, “Do not worship other gods or bow down to them; do not serve them or sacrifice to them.” 

This command is repeated throughout the Old Testament: We are not to worship any other gods.

I know that not every pose constitutes worship, but it is hard for me to separate out which ones do. I admit, I am playing it safe by just omitting all based on the info I have to go with. And I do not do this legalistically, but simplistically. 

The Bible explicitly says: “or bow down to them.” If I am too simple in this regard, then I am too simple, and I have peace about that. It would not be the first time or the last that I have been called too simple! 

2. Mark 12:30: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’”

“Strength” or ischys in the Greek means “ability, force, strength, might” according to the handy-dandy concordance tool found in the Blue Letter Bible. 

In pursuit of my strength and fitness, I cannot forego this important commandment- what Jesus says is THE most important commandment (along with loving my neighbor). We are to love God with every part of who we are. 

3. 1 Cor. 6:19:  Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?”

Be it the YMCA or a devoted Yoga studio, I find it hard to take my temple into another temple or place practicing worship (overtly or not). May I ask, can you picture the Holy Spirit or even Jesus doing the poses with you? Again, maybe my mind is narrow, but so is the gate…? I can’t envision it.

Wherever we go, the Holy Spirit goes with us. If I don’t think the Holy Spirit would do yoga, then perhaps that is my answer. 

4. Romans 1:25: “For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.”

Bowing to the Sun for a sun salutation? Nope. I worship the Creator, and not the creation. 

5. Ephesians 6:12: “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.”

Having the information about Yoga and deciding to continue by inputting our Christian beliefs instead, might not be prudent. Since we do not see the spiritual world, we might not be the best judge of what is actually going on around us. 

What if what we call “just exercise or stretching” is actually partaking in the supernatural we do not see? It could be possible to think one thing, and have our body perform actions that constitute something else. While we do not live in fear, I do not want to willfully or unknowingly participate in something that is not of God. 

6. 1 Cor. 6:20: “You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.”

I was “bought with a price,” and so were you. We are told to honor God with our bodies. 

Friend to friend here, if I were to happen upon you doing your poses on your mat, I would not wag my finger to shame you. No, no, I would reach down gently, meet your eyes with kindness, and offer my hand to help you up. 

Then I would pray with you, if you’d allow me, this prayer with all my heart: 

“Lord, help us. Help us make a decision that honors you and the bodies you have given us. Let us do what is “pleasing in your sight,” Father, and nothing else. In Jesus’s Name, Amen.”

Sister, I might not know you, but I am praying for you, and I am for you. Remember this, you are a treasure. 

 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”- Matthew 11:28-30

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