Christian yoga is an oxymoron. To some, it seems to contradict one’s Christian faith. Yet there is more to yoga than most realize. The physical, mental, and emotional benefits are fascinating, and it can draw one close to God, and God will draw near to you (James 4:8). I hope this article will enlighten your perspective on yoga.
When did yoga originate?
Origins of yoga can be found on stone seals that archaeologists uncovered from the excavation site of the Indus Valley Civilization (India/Pakistan). This archaeological evidence dates yoga back to around 3000 BC, which is before the establishment of Hinduism and Buddhism. From a biblical timeframe this would have been after the flood but before the birth of Abraham.
Around 1500 BC the Hindu religion created the term yoga. Buddhism began its association with the use of physical postures and meditation around 600 BC. Therefore, yoga postures were performed by humans hundreds of years before Hinduism and Buddhism existed. Isn’t that amazing!
Why does yoga have a bad rap with Christians?
The exercises and stretches in yoga are designed to bring one to a place of meditation so you can yolk or join with the spiritual realm. Yoga means yoking together. The Hindu and Buddha religions realized this and incorporated yoga into their practices.
When a Christian practices yoga, it prepares the mind to hear from God. Finally, you are quiet and not worrying about your troubles. So you can listen to the Lord’s still, small voice. How often do we take time to listen to God?
Some people believe participating in yoga may unwittingly lead a person to yoke, or join to the spiritual realm in an undesirable way and expose them to dark spiritual forces (Ephesians 6:12). Dr. Kevin Flynn, an Anglican priest, responded to this premise by saying, “Are baptized Christians, nourished by God’s word really so susceptible to dark forces? I think not.”
God knows our hearts. He knows who we are worshiping. Exercising a certain way, including yoga posturing, is not wrong or sinful because God evaluates what is in a person’s heart (Mark 7:14–15, 20–23).
Interestingly, physical posturing such as bowing and laying face down and meditation have also been associated with the Jewish and Christian faiths (Exodus 4:31, Psalms 1:2, and Psalms143:5). Yoga posturing was not associated with Christianity until our era. Christian meditation is foundationally focused on God and his Word, and this is the focus of Christian yoga.
A form of Christian yoga, Scripture Yoga™, is different from secular yoga because you listen to God’s Word as it is recited in the yoga class. Participants meditate on Bible verses while holding yoga poses. This allows their heart and mind to be open to God. To provide others with the peace I found through Christian yoga, I’ve published two yoga books, two Christian yoga DVDs, and two yoga decks.
- Scripture Yoga
- Yoga for Beginners
- How to Receive God’s Peace yoga deck
- Fruit of the Spirit yoga deck
- What the Bible Says About Prayer yoga DVD
- God’s Mighty Angels yoga DVD
Check out ten beginner yoga poses I provide in this blog post Yoga for Beginners.
Other forms of Christian yoga incorporate other aspects of Christianity such as playing Christian music, meditating on a Bible verse at the beginning, during, or the end of class. Others might incorporate a Christian theme in their class. There are numerous ways to impart Christianity into a yoga session. A Christ-centered approach allows you to enjoy the physical benefits of yoga and experience communion with the Spirit of God.
The spiritual benefits of Christian yoga include:
• getting closer to God (James 4:8)
• feeling God’s peace (Isaiah 26:3)
• casting your worries and cares to God (1 Peter 5:7)
• spending time with God.
What are the benefits of yoga?
Yoga has profound benefits. It helps regulate and improve the functioning of numerous body systems including the immune, respiratory, musculoskeletal, endocrine, circulatory, and metabolic.
• Augments Muscles Tone, Definition, Strength, and Physical Fitness: muscles become well-defined, and the additional strength helps to prevent injuries.
• Expands your Range of Motion in Joints: yoga prevents muscle and joint stiffness.
• Prevents Cartilage and Joint Breakdown: the full range of motion performed during the poses supports joints.
• Improves Coordination and Improves Reaction Time: muscles become stronger and leaner, and balance, coordination, and even reaction time improve.
• Grows your Overall Flexibility: the flexibility of your spine improves your posture, which makes you look younger. It also keeps the spinal disks supple.
• Eases Muscle Pain and Tension: stretching muscles, ligaments, and tendons reduces muscle pain and tension.
• Lessens Pain: several medical studies have shown that yoga reduces back pain, arthritis, fibromyalgia, and other chronic conditions.
• Relieves Stress, Tension, and Anxiety: yoga creates inner peace, so perform yoga to relieve stress before taking anti-anxiety medication, as you may not need even need it.
• Improves Depression: some studies have found yoga increases serotonin levels, which makes you feel happier.
• Improves Memory: focusing on the breath and the present moment, through meditation, enhances concentration, and memory.
• Alleviates Migraines: yoga helps relieve migraines, so try yoga before medication.
• Deepens Sleep: no more tossing and turning, just sound sleep.
• Enhances Lung Function: usually one does not think about respiration, but during yoga class you do. In turn, this enhancement gives you more energy and vitality!
• Expands Circulation: exercise increases the heart rate, and this delivers more oxygen to the whole body.
• Reduces Blood Pressure: medical studies have proven that doing yoga decreases blood pressure.
• Lowers Blood Sugar: studies have shown diabetics’ blood sugar drop through the practice of yoga.
• Decreases Bad Cholesterol (LDL) and Boosts Good Cholesterol (HDL): studies have demonstrated that the practice of yoga can decrease LDL and increase HDL.
• Improves Metabolism: have you ever thought your metabolism does not work as well as it should? Give it a jump start with yoga.
• Relaxes the Body Systems: focusing on deep breathing throughout the session increases blood flow to all internal organs which lowers breathing and heart rate.
• Increases Immunity: many yoga postures stimulate the lymph system to drain toxins out of the body, which heightens immunity.
The physical and mental benefits of yoga are powerful and have been proven through scientific studies. Yoga helps the body function better and improves overall health.
Should I fear secular yoga?
The most popular type of yoga in the United States is Hatha Yoga in which the Eastern religion and philosophical portion of yoga are entirely separated from the yoga class. In Hatha Yoga, the class is about performing the physical yoga poses and deep breathing. But some secular yoga classes could still include Eastern spiritual qualities.
We are called to be discerning. Any practice, behavior, or form of worship that adversely affects your commitment or devotion to Christ should be avoided. Attend a yoga class and discern for yourself whether any aspects of it make you feel uncomfortable. If it does, do not return to that class, but try another one.
Christian Yoga provides an alternative method of exercise in a spiritually desirable and safe environment. Christian yoga’s focus is to lead one to the highest level of true spirituality which is a relationship with Jesus Christ. It should deepen the believers walk with God. Even so, Christian yoga may not be for everyone. As with all decisions, each person must choose for themselves.
Susan Neal Bio
Susan Neal is a certified yoga instructor with over 30 years’ experience in practicing and teaching yoga. She is an RN with an MBA and a masters in health science. As a pursuer of ultimate health, Susan merged her practice of yoga with her passion for God’s Word. Founder of Scripture Yoga™ Susan recites theme-based Bible verses during her yoga classes.
Susan published seven healthy living books, and two are about yoga: Scripture Yoga and Yoga for Beginners; two sets of Scripture Yoga Card Decks, “How to Receive God’s Peace” and “Fruit of the Spirit” and two Christian yoga DVDs, God’s Mighty Angels and What the Bible Says About Prayer. You can find Susan on ChristianYoga.com and SusanUNeal.com.