The Yoga Debate

I have never practiced yoga and frankly am not all that familiar with it. Even so, the Christian blog-waves seem to be abuzz these days with yoga dialog since Southern Baptist Seminary President Albert Mohler blasted (on his blog) the practice of yoga by Christians saying:
When Christians practice yoga, they must either deny the reality of what yoga represents or fail to see the contradictions between their Christian commitments and their embrace of yoga. The contradictions are not few, nor are they peripheral. The bare fact is that yoga is a spiritual discipline by which the adherent is trained to use the body as a vehicle for achieving consciousness of the divine. Christians are called to look to Christ for all that we need and to obey Christ through obeying his Word. We are not called to escape the consciousness of this world by achieving an elevated state of consciousness, but to follow Christ in the way of faithfulness.

There is nothing wrong with physical exercise, and yoga positions in themselves are not the main issue. But these positions are teaching postures with a spiritual purpose. Consider this — if you have to meditate intensely in order to achieve or to maintain a physical posture, it is no longer merely a physical posture.

The embrace of yoga is a symptom of our postmodern spiritual confusion, and, to our shame, this confusion reaches into the church.
Some in other places say that yoga is simply a structure of stretching and exercise that does not really involve religion. Others espouse a different kind of yoga that uses Christian meditation and prayer. Others embrace a Jewish style of yoga where the Kabbalah is used.

The debate, for me anyways, is about how a person incorporates the disciplines of physical and spiritual exercise. If physical exercise incorporates the chanting of words that are not understood then I have to question the practice. But if a person is simply urged to pray or meditate on the scriptures while they stretch and exercise then I do not see a problem with it.. unless it involves the meditation on a specific religious word or phrase - in such cases I would challenge the practice as it puts the exerciser in a passive, rather than an active, state of consciousness.

How about you? Have you ever practiced yoga? What was your experience?


  1. I love yoga. I've been doing it off and on for several years now. When I was doing it at the gym, I'd often take a Sunday morning class, right after church. It was an excellent way to meditate on what I had been reflecting on/learning in church that morning.

    Yoga, in the West, is pretty much an exercise. You should clear your mind while you're doing it. But, it has nothing to do with religion. I had a friend who was concerned that when one cleared his mind, demons would have access to it. I don't know why she thought demons would have more access to a clear mind than the Holy Spirit. But, that was her reason for being afraid of yoga.

    I currently do yoga an hour and a half a week (one session). It's great for the mind, body and spirit.

  2. It will be interesting that Southern Baptist Al Mohler came out against yoga.

    Then I may ask him, how about Pilates (which is based on yoga), Tai-Chi, the martial arts and some dances? That's gonna open a can of worms. Does that mean we cannot kneel to pray or lift up our hands because the pagans do it too.

    In his blog, he writes Consider this — if you have to meditate intensely in order to achieve or to maintain a physical posture, it is no longer merely a physical posture. Interesting as one do not need to meditate in order to maintain any posture.

  3. @Brian - I was hoping that you would comment as I knew that you did yoga. What you said about being just exercise (in the West) is what I have always thought it to be.

    @Alex - Great points about Pilates and martial arts. My impression was that Mohler overreacted and overstated on this one.

  4. I personally have never practiced yoga nor do I have any desire to ever start.

    My sister was involved in Eastern religions for years and she doesn't recommend anyone who names the name of Christ practice yoga or anything else that has it's roots in a false religion.


  5. While in college, I ran track and used yoga exercises for flexibility and strength. Strictly physical, any concentration was on doing the pose correctly and holding it.

  6. Ditto what Brian said. Yes, there are some elements of yoga that are spiritual in nature but 90% of the yoga done in the US is a wonderful physical exercise.

    Geesh....Its people like that guy who blasted it that make me want to run the other way screaming.

    Some classes do use the phrase "Namaste" at the end of their class. Here is a definition of that word.

    The gesture of Namaste is an acknowledgment of the soul in one by the soul in another. "Nama" means bow, "as" means I, and "te" means you. Therefore, Namaste literally means "bow me you" or "I bow to you."

  7. Hi Barbara,

    Namaste is a eastern way to show greetings and show signs of respect. This will be equivalent to your shaking of hands.

    We are very aware that we are embodied spirits.


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