This is a question I’ve asked more than once over the last ten years. Why? Because I love Jesus and I love yoga, sooo it was pretty important for me to know if yoga was something God condones or *gasp* could even be worshiped through.
The Bible says:
- God created our bodies.
“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.”
- He created humans to worship and glorify Him.
“For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.”
- Our bodies are “temples of the Holy Spirit.”
“Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, who you have from God? For you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” 1 Cor 6:19-20
- We are to love the Lord with heart, soul, mind and strength
“You shall love the lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.”
After diving deep into the word, reading stuff, and experiencing yoga, I’ve drawn 5 conclusions:
1) Worshiping God through physical movement is acceptable and pleasing to Him. We worship with our strength by raising hands during a worship set at church. We sometimes get down on our knees to show our humility in prayer. Physical postures help us express what our hearts feel.
Therefore, yoga with the intention of praying and worshiping God is simply another expression of living out Mark 12:30.
2) Since God created our bodies, no other god or religion can “own” a physical posture.
Standing with your hands raised above your head is a yoga pose. Sitting with your legs in “butterfly” or cross-legged is technically “yoga.” Sitting on your knees is a yoga pose. If physical postures can be sacrilegious or deemed as “worship to false Gods,” Christians would find themselves unintentionally sinning all the time, especially as they seek to stretch out before or after a workout.
It’s in the heart, is it not?
People practicing other religions can put their body into postures with the intention of worshiping their gods, but so too can Christians use their bodies to worship God Almighty. God redeems lots of things. For example, the pagan rooted celebrations of Easter and Christmas. Google them. Have Christians adopted new “redeemed” meanings for these practices and celebrations? Absolutely. God is in the business of redeeming, as I’ve experienced personally, and there is nothing outside the scope of his redeeming reach.
3) The word yoga isn’t scary or sinful.
I’ve carefully tiptoed around for a long time with certain people, honestly just in effort to avoid the “yoga” debate. I’ve called my holy yoga practice “QC Breathe”, a name I love! But I want to address the word yoga. The most common definitions say that “yoga” means “to yoke,” “to unite” or “to attach.” In the literal sense, it means “yoke” the way you would yoke a horse or oxen (Oregon trail anyone?!). “Connection” and “diligence” are also words that have been used to define the word yoga.
Does holy yoga unite practices to Christ? No more than worshiping through music or reading scripture does. But worshiping through music…prayer…Bible reading…all of those things do provide a “thin space” in which we connect with the Lord. We commune and connect with Our Creator through them. We make space to diligently listen and we present our requests before Him.
Holy Yoga is a practice devoted to meditating on Scripture and providing space for prayer and quietness, both things I find myself wanting more of on this sanctification journey.
4) Holy Yoga, or even yoga with the sole purpose of stretching and exercise, is not syncretism.
Syncretism is the combination of different forms of belief or practice. Let’s look back at number two: “religions cannot own movements or poses.” In Holy yoga, we aren’t worshiping the sun by doing a series of stretches while we worship God the Father. In fact, the Hindu or Buddhist goals and focuses are completely lost in holy yoga or yoga practiced strictly for the health benefits. We aren’t doing these poses to empty our minds, worship a false god, or reach nirvana/enlightenment. In Holy Yoga, we are practicing to worship God. The physical benefits of stretching and exercising happen to be there too. Holy Yoga isn’t a combination of the Hindu yoga practice and the Bible; it’s redeemed altogether.
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” 2 Cor 5:17
I have been made to feel ashamed about my practice of holy yoga by certain Christians, and I’m thankful. Their doubts and questions have driven me to dig deeper. And after tons of digging, seeking God, and examining my heart (asking God to search me and reveal it to me if holy yoga is in any way a sinful or non-beneficial practice…Psalm 139:23), I feel more confident than ever that this is a ministry God has called me to lead, teach, and practice.
5) Holy yoga is for anyone who wants to worship God with all their heart, soul, mind and strength. It’s for anyone who desires more time to meditate on scripture. It’s for those who love worship music. It’s for anyone wanting to sloooooow down and reflect, listen, breathe deeper. It’s for anyone who wants the health benefits of stretching and strengthening their muscles. It’s for anyone who has an unhealthy relationship with their body and wants God to heal. (I have a story with this for another day). It’s for anyone who wants to know more about God.
If you’re still unsure, please feel free to send over your (preferably non-attacking) questions. I have no reason to be ashamed or scared. 🙂 You’re always invited to come to a class and see for yourself. I’ll soon be taking a maternity leave, but I teach about once a week in my basement studio and will be adding more classes late summer/early fall. The schedules are posted on the QC Breathe facebook page or you can send me your email address and I’ll add you to that communication. It’s a $5 suggested donation…one of the cheapest yoga classes around ;)!
“All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be dominated by anything.”
1 Cor 6:12b