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LostInParadise's avatar

Is yoga un-Christian?

Asked by LostInParadise (17926 points ) January 9th, 2013

I came across two stories related to this today, this and this I don’t get it. Aren’t these the types of people who were asking for a moment of silence in classrooms? They now have their moments of silence, in spades.

Yoga is a form of meditation. Meditation does not play the same role in Christianity that it does in Hinduism and Buddhism, but it certainly is a part of Christianity. Quaker workship services are one long meditation. Many Christian groups organize retreats featuring periods of silence. I have seen Christian interpretations of meditation as a means of surrendering to Jesus.

The only thing that I find disturbing is that the military has found a way of turning a spiritual practice into a way of creating better killers. If the military can find a way of co-opting yoga, Christians should surely be able to do so as well.

I am putting this in the general section to avoid snide comments. What I want is a simple explanation for what is upsetting these people.

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25 Answers

diavolobella's avatar

While I totally disagree with them, I think in a nutshell that these people feel that yoga cannot be separated from the religions in which it originated. Therefore, they feel that if you are practicing yoga, you are practicing Buddism or Hinduism and ergo not Christian. You could argue yourself blue in the face about it, but they will insist that (in their belief) it cannot be used as a form of non-religious, simple meditation and that it is, in and of itself, a form of religious worship of non-Christian god/gods/deities.

Here is a link to an article where one of these people speaks for themselves:

http://www.christiancentury.org/article/2010-09/yoga-unchristian-says-baptist-leader

josie's avatar

It is not specifically un-Christian. It predates the time of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

But it is in fact one of the several schools or philosophies of Hindu.

It isn’t really the issue anyway. It is just one more group of people who believe that they are being put upon by another. It is a manifestation of the new tribalism that is eroding Western Culture.

Judi's avatar

I have been on a couple of Holy Yoga retreats.
I have also heard people say that the devil will steal your mind if you do yoga.
I think that yoga is like the eating meat that has been sacrificed to idols that Paul referred to. (I think in Romans. )
There is nothing really wrong with it unless your faith is weak and it might lead you astray. If someone is worrying about it they shouldn’t do it.
I skip the OM in my yoga class. The devil haven’t taken me over yet!

Trance24's avatar

I find this ridiculous considering the fact that yoga has become completely separated from most religious context since its introduction to the United States. In addition if you do the research and talk to real Hindus who practice a variety of different Hindu and Buddist philosophies very rarely participate in a physical yoga practice. For the most part the minor physical aspect that yoga has, has been extremely over exaggerated since being exposed to Europeans and later Americans. Original physical practice was more about the posture in which you sat and meditated. The yoga that people are most familiar with now-a-days is so far from original tradition. Also, yoga is considered to be separate from the religion itself, it is more of a philosophy in which Indians and others who practice Hinduism can enhance their connection to God. Yoga to Hindu religions can in some ways be compared to how Christians will perform charities or promote good health. Yoga can be broken down into three different ways there is the practice of Karma Yoga, which has to do with selflessness and giving to others without the expectation of anything in return. Karma Yoga is to a Hindu what Charity is to a Christian with a different name. Jnana Yoga is the yoga of knowledge or the process of obtaining knowledge, and Bhakti Yoga is devotion to your God. None of this has to do with the physical practice that was known as Hatha Yoga which was introduced way after the latter. Hatha Yogis were originally and still are considered to be of th elowest form of yogi. All physical practice of yoga that you see now-a-days stems from Hatha yoga. And much of the other types of physical activities you see today are. For example gymnastics and palates have both been connected to Hatha Yoga when the Europeans were present in India and bringing certain ideas and practices back to Europe. I guess what I am trying to say is for these people to be up in arms about Ashtanga yoga being un-Christian are over reacting. At this point it is just another form of exercise that is actually very good for you and stretches all means of the body and really does reduce stress without the use of any religious context.

bolwerk's avatar

Many even pious Jews embrace Buddhism. They don’t see it as a problem because some forms of Buddhism don’t even have deities and don’t demand worship – probably the problems Christians would have with other spiritual traditions.

So my answer, as a non-Christian, I don’t know why the same can’t be said for yoga and Christianity.

DominicX's avatar

I feel that you could also make an argument from the Hindu side saying that non-Hindus practicing yoga are misusing a piece of their religion.

Nullo's avatar

As I understand it, there is a spiritual or religious component to yoga, and participating in that would be un-Christian. But there’s nothing wrong with stretching exercises.

gailcalled's avatar

…or breathing from the diaphragm (aka belly breathing, which might be considered an obscene term, however).

Uberwench's avatar

@LostInParadise Meditation in Christianity is not the same thing as meditation in Hinduism or Buddhism. It’s not just that it doesn’t play the same role, it’s that the words don’t mean the same thing. In Christianity, meditation is a form of prayer or a concentrated study on a piece of scripture.

“Yoga” is also something that means different things to different people. In the US it normally just refers to the exercises. I don’t see anything un-Christian about that. Some sects of Hinduism elevate yoga to a higher position and imbue it with special meaning, though. If you’re doing that, and if the meaning you’re imbuing it with is a Hindu meaning, then I guess that’s not very Christian. But I also don’t know why a Christian couldn’t imbue it with a spiritual meaning that was compatible with Christianity if he or she thought that the mental state yoga helped them achieve was one that got them closer to God.

WillWorkForChocolate's avatar

Hahahahaha, no! My mom is about as Christian as you can get (without being a complete bible-thumping, hatred-spewing, fanatical moron) and she does yoga every morning. She has even taught a few yoga classes.

YARNLADY's avatar

What I don’t get is why not just change the name to something American that these fanatics won’t object to?

wundayatta's avatar

Yoga is a practice that is designed to get your out of your mind and into your body. Personally, I think it moves you out of your thinking mind into your being mind. It shuts up the words, which allows us to “hear” the other things that are going on inside us.

Now that is what I would call a spiritual practice, but it is not a religious practice. When we are out of our minds, it becomes easier to become aware of how we are not separate from the rest of the universe.

To me, none of this is religious, but for some, it is quite religious. I can see how they would think it, because many religions have magical beliefs about this kind of stuff. When you are out of your mind, it is easier to “hear God.” This is the frame of mind that I believe most people are in when they converse with God and are made aware of various truths. They think they are actually speaking to God and have no idea the voice they are hearing is actually their own.Or maybe that would destroy the magic for them.

So, since some people use this frame of awareness in their religious practice, they assume it is religious for everyone. Either that, or they merely want to make some kind of political statement about allowing Christianity in schools.

It is quite bogus, of course. It’s a very cynical thing to do. But fundamentalists tend to lack perspective in this area. I am sure they couldn’t understand what I’m saying, and even if they did understand, they’d never admit to it because they have an ulterior motive: they want religion back in the schools, so to speak. If yoga is a religion and yoga is in the schools, then they should be allowed to have school sponsored Christian meetings.

ETpro's avatar

After observing the Christian Right in action, if they can be called Christian, then so can witchcraft. And Yoga is way inside the limits.

LostInParadise's avatar

Maybe the unspoken fear is that a secular practice is capable of producing the same sense of well being and at oneness with the world that religious practice does. This is a legitimate concern, because it creates a competing means that confers some of the same benefits as religion. It is not, however, the same as practicing religion. They can say that the government is practicing secular humanism, but that is not going to fly.

tedd's avatar

The irony is that modern yoga as practiced in the US, has about as much to do with the Hindu religion as what we call “chinese food” and fortune cookies have to do with actual chinese food.

mattbrowne's avatar

Yoga is as un-Christian as the Easter bunny, the Christmas tree and the word Sunday.

ETpro's avatar

@mattbrowne Great examples. Unfortunately, most Christinas haven’t a clue why those are great examples. The would foreswear those celebrations if they did.

rojo's avatar

Is yoga unChristian? No. it is not. but you will never convince the fundamentalist Christians who are up in arms that this is the case. Tolerance is not a word they are familiar with.

Perhaps if you chanted “Jeeeeesusssssss” instead of “Ommmmmmmmm” you might be able to convince some of them but for the most part anything different from the way they think or act is “of the devil”!

More is the pity.

Judi's avatar

Check out www.holyyoga.net

Mission Statement
Holy Yoga is an experiential worship created to deepen people’s connection to Christ. Our sole purpose is to facilitate a Christ honoring experience that offers an opportunity to believers and non-believers alike to authentically connect to God through His Word, worship, and wellness.

LostInParadise's avatar

Thanks for that. I just knew that there was a way to adapt yoga to Christianity, or any other religion for that matter.

mattbrowne's avatar

@ETpro – Unfortunately, too many people (believers and non-believers) think that religions are static and unevolving, defined at a particular time in history. Globalization increases the productive exchange of cultural ideas, and the same applies to religions as well. Eastern traditions can complement all monotheistic religions very well without having to deal with too many contradictions.

Milano's avatar

That’s ridiculous. Yoga has nothing to do with Hinduism and Buddhism. The fact that many Hindus and Buddhists practice yoga doesn’t necessarily mean that yoga is part of the religions. In fact, yoga traditions are much older than Hinduism and Buddhism.

ETpro's avatar

@mattbrowne Personally, if I believed the assertions of the Old Testament, then I would fully expect the religion/s flowing from it to all be the same, and to remain forever immutable. I fail to grasp the belief system that asserts that an Omniscient, Omnipotent, Omnipresent God showed up some 3,500 with a message for man, but that the message was terribly garbled and has been being refined for accuracy by that deity ever since. It makes as much sense as Popes being infallible when speaking on doctrinal matters, but having to abandon doctrine after doctrine. Sorry, but try as the Pope may, this simply is not a geocentric solar system.

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

It is, but that is only because yoga has nothing to do with Christ or salvation; but it is not sinful, if that is what you wish to know.

rojo's avatar

@Hypocrisy_Central good clarification there.

I believe that what the folks in the two examples have done is equate something that comes from a non-Christian tradition, or is not specifically sanctioned in the bible, as a threat to their faith.

And yet, as you indicate, something different is not necessarily sinful, nor a threat.

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