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Is Yoga Un-Christian?

Unread postPosted: Sat Oct 09, 2010 1:27 pm
by Rick Shaw
I was reading an article recently and it brought up an interesting point. What do you folks think? IS Yoga an un-Christian thing to practice? Is Yoga only un-Christian if the meditative precepts are applied to, but acceptable if you're just doing the stretching moves?

What about other faiths? Is Yoga un-Islamic, un-Judaic, un-Wiccan, etc.? Is Western Yoga, which doesn't have as strong a religious connotation (unless your god is a green-colored piece of linen), still to be considered a Pagan ideology because of its roots?

Here's the article I read, as per Yahoo's Shine site:
http://shine.yahoo.com/channel/health/yoga-what-is-it-exactly-2398028/

And here's the original article that brings that first one up, also per Yahoo! news:
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20101007/ap_on_re/us_rel_southern_baptists_yoga

Summary:
Baptist preacher Albert Mohler claims that practicing Yoga is un-Christian.

Re: Is Yoga Un-Christian?

Unread postPosted: Sat Oct 09, 2010 5:58 pm
by Lady Wu
This is actually a difficult question to answer because both "Yoga" and "Christian" can be defined along a continuum. The extra difficulty comes from the fact that yoga comes from a tradition that has less of a divide between the physical and the divine, where it's harder to draw a line between physical practice and religious practice. Therefore, this cannot be a yes-or-no question.

I have been to various yoga classes in North America (it's really not my thing, but I go for my chronic pains). Some of them are just exercise classes, as religious and spiritual as aerobics can be. Some of them we do quiet meditation or just chanting "Om" at the end. And yet other classes include a short reading from an Eastern spiritual text.

If one is to reject yoga due to its religious roots, then all things from candles to Christmas trees to the celebration of certain Christian holidays should be rejected. Of course, there are people who do, and good for them. I like people who are consistent. But it is a bit extreme.

Otherwise, it really depends on the nature of the class, and the state of mind that a Christian brings to the exercise.

I think it's silly to say that a God-loving Christian who has God on his mind all the time can become un-Christian just by doing some exercises that were once derived from a spiritual practice.

I also think that such a person cannot become un-Christian just by listening to someone talk about another spiritual tradition.

Some of the fundamental precepts of yoga as a spiritual tradition do clash with Christian thought. The focus on the self and the body as a "vehicle for reaching consciousness with the divine" is definitely not a Christian idea. However, can one not adapt it to fit his own flavour of Christianity? After all, Christians do believe that the body is a sacred piece of work by God, a "temple of God", and that one has the obligation to care for and respect it. Christianity also has a tradition of putting the body in a physical state such that one's mind can focus on God, such as fasting or silent prayer. It's just a matter of bringing the right mindset, based on one's own religious affiliation, to the exercise.

On a tangential note, some of the most hard-core contemplative Catholic religious orders have had people learn about meditation in the Eastern traditions and adapting them to Christianity. I've been to a Zen meditation session run by a Catholic nun, and I've been to an Easter Mass where the music was composed by a visiting priest, who spent a couple of years at a Buddhist monastery in India and brought back an Indian-flavour musical style back with him. It was neat.

Re: Is Yoga Un-Christian?

Unread postPosted: Sat Oct 09, 2010 11:44 pm
by Tigger of Kai
Such a cool question! You know, I bet somewhere there *are* Christian yoga classes, just like there are Christian rock 'n' roll bands, and Christian pro wrestling.