To yoga or not to yoga
I have practiced yoga for many years now. Recently, I have seen things on social media stating that “real Christians” don’t do yoga and it really bothered me, so I felt compelled to investigate things further. I understand that my journey with the Lord always has room for new understanding and improvement, so I was definitely willing to listen and research further what I was hearing. As I dug deeper, listened to the videos and looked up referenced scriptures, I was still not convicted in my heart that my going to yoga class a couple of times a week was somehow sinful. So, I prayed about it. I would like to share with you where I landed on the subject.
In this sin soaked world, anything can be misused, distorted or perverted. I now understand that not all yoga is created equal. Just as with anything in life, I allow my internal connection to the Lord and good old fashioned common sense lead my decisions. Personally, I have never been in a yoga class where chanting or “emptying of the mind” is happening. If I felt that the class was headed in a way that was uncomfortable to my spirit or would jeopardize my relationship with God, I would quietly and respectfully get up, gather my things and leave.
However, the classes I have chosen are about calming the mind to the internal chatter that can cause anxiety by intentionally returning to the breath, stretching and recovering with a well deserved time out from the hustle and bustle of life. During class, we are gently reminded to come back to our center and just breathe. We are reminded to not strive, but to tune into our bodies and honor what we can and cannot do. We are reminded to be gentle with ourselves physically and mentally.
Have you ever noticed in times of stress that your shoulders are shrugged way up by your ears and your breath is more shallow? I have found yoga counters that. As a runner, I feel that going to yoga classes have helped give my body time to stretch and recover. Yoga has also taught me the art of intentional breathing. Training the body to breathe, stand up straight and stretch when you are tense has been a real game changer for my body.
I have also specifically looked at my home studio and made sure that it does not have any idols or pictures of false gods anywhere in the building. There is a picture of a huge tree on the wall with words of encouragement on the leaves. (picture attached) I feel grounded, calm and safe in the space I have chosen as my home studio.
At the end of class, as we are given quiet time to relax and unwind, I pray. I thank the Lord for giving my body the ability to move and stretch and breathe. I spend time with the Lord literally counting my blessings. This uninterrupted time in prayer is precious to me.
I have made a personal choice that at the end of class when others bow and say “Namaste,” I simply say, “Thank you Jesus.” I choose not to bow because what is in front of me is another person and I do not bow to people, only the Lord. But again, that is simply a personal choice. I do not judge the choice of others around me and no one has ever judged or condemned me for not bowing. A yoga practice is a very personal practice. Personal space and choices are respected.
During my research, I noticed many Christians feeling very strongly about their aversion to yoga that felt extremely aggressive and even judgmental. I would give caution that as with all things in our lives, we would pray for others to have wisdom and discernment and then release it to our loving God for Him to direct the Holy Spirit to minister to them and their choice to yoga or not to yoga.
I will continue to listen to the direction of the Lord. I am open to gentle discussion and reasoning as well as deeper understanding of the word of God. At this time however, I do not feel that I am sinning against the Lord in any of my exercise or stretching decisions. I hope any conversation this evokes remains “seasoned with salt” and full of grace and kindness as directed by the Lord. (Colossians 4:6) As Christians we are called to be “iron sharpening iron” but must remember that all things said or done must be done with love and compassion. (Proverbs 27:17)
At the very least, I hope this post gives you a better understanding of what really happens behind the yoga doors.