Just this past week CBC television covered a story about an elementary school in the east that was participating in a study to find out the impact of yoga on children. They were teaching children to practice yoga as a means of promoting calmer, less stressed students.
Yoga is certainly nothing new, but it has spread in recent years. There are yoga exercise mats, yoga clothing, yoga cruises, all sorts of yoga books and much more. Yoga is practiced in schools, offices, medical centres, and even in some churches. There are some who practice what they call “Christian Yoga”.
With so many jumping on the yoga bandwagon you might wonder why there are others (like myself) who are critical of what’s going on when it all seems like harmless fun.
To understand yoga we need to understand its basis. Where does it stem from? What is really happening during yoga?
For some people, yoga is just an exercise. But is it really? Yoga may involve exercise but yoga is essentially a whole philosophy based entirely on eastern mysticism, a philosophy that is seriously contrary to Biblical Christianity.
Merriam-Webster defines yoga as “a Hindu theistic philosophy teaching the suppression of all activity of body, mind, and will in order that the self may realize its distinction from them and attain liberation.” Even the word “yoga” comes from the word meaning yoking. The whole point of yoga is not exercise; it is a practice that strives to unite the individual soul with the “greater soul” of the universe. In fact, if you told a Hindu that you were going to practice yoga for exercise or stress relief they would be just as insulted as you should be if someone told you they were going to practice baptism as a way to learn how to hold their breath longer. You don’t need baptism to practice holding your breath and you don’t need yoga for fitness or stress relief. A Christian can engage in any number of forms of exercise that are not based on Hinduism.
Brian Flynn, of One Truth Ministries writes, “rather than trying to persuade Christians that they are in error, (the hard way) we have chosen to accommodate their error and call it “Christian” Yoga to make them feel better. For once I can say that on a spiritual topic I agree with the Hindus, there is no such thing as “Christian” Yoga.”
Swami Param of the Classical Yoga Hindu Academy agrees. He writes, “Every week, we get calls from Christians and Jews who would like to study “yoga.” When we inform them that all of Yoga is Hinduism, they are shocked! Of course, they choose not to come to our classes. These people should be informed, for they waste our time to say nothing of their confusion. The phoney yoga teachers do not care. Many Christians and Jews have taken such classes, and, when they discover they have covertly been learning Hinduism, there are many mental and emotional ramifications.”
The fact is, yoga is a form of eastern religion, a religion that teaches an entirely different philosophy from Biblical Christianity. Exercise is good, but when it embraces a method that includes meditation of the soul with the greater soul universe (as just one example), there shouldn’t be room for it in our schools, let alone our churches.