If you’ve been around my blog for a while, you probably know that I am a Christian.
You’ve also likely heard me talk about doing yoga.
Christianity and yoga…
Some of you hear those two things and you’re like, Yea, big deal. What’s the point?
Others hear that and red flags start waving. How do you combine the two? Christians shouldn’t do yoga! Isn’t yoga an eastern religious thing? Well, over time a lot of people have asked me about this, and I’ve kind of put off responding. If I’m honest it’s just because this can be a sticky topic.
But I don’t think it has to be. Today I am going to do my best to explain what I am talking about when I mention yoga and mediation, and where my faith fits into that. As unstickily as I can.
Before I dive in though, I want to make clear that I am aware that not everyone who reads my blog shares my faith. I get that, and I respect that. It has always been my hope that everyone feels welcome here, and that there is always something you can take away from my writing, wherever you’re coming from. Today I am just sharing a bit of my heart, and my position in response to a frequently asked question.
And it is a good question.
Most of you know that my professional background is in sports medicine, and fitness. I love all kinds of fitness; Running, resistance work, group fitness, and…yoga. And if I’m honest, yoga is probably my least favorite. I’m much more of a cardio junkie. I love to get my heart pounding and I really do love to sweat. Slowing down and focusing on breathing? Well that is hard for me. But I know that stretching is good for me. I know that the older I get the more important it is to keep flexible. I also have a particular low back issue that has been bothering me increasingly lately, and I have been going to a physical therapist for it. My PT recommends specific stretches for flexion and extension of my back, as well as for my hamstrings quads, and general flexibility. Pretty much, she recommends yoga.
So I do the stretches, and sometimes I do it in the form of a yoga class. Occasionally I go to a studio to take yoga classes, and sometimes I do yoga at home.
Yoga makes me feel stretched out and strong and long and really good. I like it.
However, technically speaking, I’m really not “doing yoga.” Yoga is a philosophy with Hindu roots. It includes the stretches, (‘asanas’) but it is much more than that.
Webster defines yoga as:
Yoga : a system of exercises for mental and physical health
Yoga : a Hindu philosophy that teaches a person to experience inner peace by controlling the body and mind
So in light of the full definition: No– I don’t “do yoga.”
My spirituality: I have a Christian world view. The Bible is my authority on matters of God and Spirituality. I have a personal relationship with God, and my faith is grounded in an absolute truth and a conviction that God has a purpose and plan for my life. I have God’s Spirit living in me. It gives me counsel, wisdom, peace, and deep fulfillment. As a result, I don’t care to dabble in any other spiritual practices. Jesus claimed that He is the One Way to God and this stands contrary to Eastern religious views or the New Age movement. I am completely satisfied in Him, and I have no desire to seek anything else.
So when I say “I do yoga” what I really mean is, “I stretch.” I could say that I “do asanas” but that probably isn’t totally accurate either. “Yoga” has become a general term for the physical practice of stretching, strengthening, and balance work, done on a mat.
When I am in a yoga class, I don’t “om.” I don’t chant. I stretch. I balance. I go for an occasional head stand when I’m feeling brave. I get quiet and I try to slow my breathing and it is really good for me physically, and no doubt it is a stress-reliever.
If I’m in a class and they suggest we focus on our internal energy or power source, I simply turn my mind and heart to my Creator God. It’s not that complicated, and I really don’t think the instructor minds a bit.
I have friends with different spiritual beliefs from me, and their yoga practice might have more of a spiritual element to it, and that is ok. We can still connect on the level of the physical aspects of yoga (and a whole lot of other things :)). You also might have heard of “Holy Yoga” classes, which is a way Christians have found to combine a spiritual focus on God and Scripture, with the physical practice of yoga. There are no Holy Yoga classes near me, but I think it’s a cool idea. (I have taken their online classes at home.)
I personally focus on God throughout the day every day, so there is not a real break or separation from that in the things I do. I often pray when I run. I pray when I drive or do dishes or fold laundry. If I’m on a mat in a yoga stretch, I’m very likely communing with God (or planning what to make for dinner, but He’s cool with that, too.) That’s one of the things I love about my faith: God’s in it all.
Meditation is another subject that I’ve been increasingly interested in. I wrestled with the topic for a while because I know a lot of “spiritual” people (New Age and others) who are really into mediation, and I wondered if it is wrong for Christians to meditate. Though there are variations, the object of Eastern Meditation is to empty the mind completely, and aims at an enlightened or altered state of consciousness. I kept thinking of verses in the Bible that talk about meditating on God’s Word and I thought that surely Christians should all be meditating in that way. Instead of emptying our minds, Christians can use meditation to fill our minds with the powerful Word of God.
So more recently, I have begun to practice Biblical meditation more. I find it super challenging, (that whole thing about being still and quiet –) but I know it is good for me to quiet my mind and heart and I find it a great way to start the day. I have been using an app on my phone called “The 5-minute Christian meditation”. This offers short meditations focused on breathing using specific verses from the Bible. (You can choose stress relief, peace, assurance, etc.) I love it! I’d like to find more like that (or make my own one day.)
A few more thoughts:
Even as I have been pondering this topic, I have been reminded of the awesome supernatural nature of my relationship with God. Nothing–nothing–could be more exciting, intriguing, and satisfying than a genuine spirit-filled life. Sadly we (Christians) sometimes come across to the world as religious, rule-following people, but that ought not be! (Jesus rebuked the “religious” leaders for making spirituality all about rules.)
Even writing this post has challenged me to realize that as much as I live daily in this awesome relationship with God, I am often quiet about it. In an effort to not offend anyone, I might miss opportunities to share my greatest treasure. The truth is, I want everyone to know that anything good you see in me or my family is because we try to keep God at the center , and His spirit is leading us. That’s nothing to be shy about. I sincerely want every person who is searching for answers to know that this is available to all who are seeking.
In closing: It could hardly be a coincidence that as I prepared this post a friend shared something on Facebook that is SPOT-ON this topic. I don’t know this guy, but from everything I have found about him, he is both sincere and an excellent communicator. (He’s also really smart!) I’ll be following his journey on his website and YouTube for sure! Whatever background or belief you are coming from, I think you’ll find this Youtube video compelling and worth a watch.
Thank you for letting me share a bit of my heart on this topic. I know I did not do a perfect job, and you are welcome to add your thoughts and comments. Please note that I did not try to cover in full the teachings of yoga or any other spiritual practice because that was not my intent here. I do ask that if you comment you are respectful and keep the tone positive. Also: Feel free to ask any follow-up questions and perhaps we can continue this conversation in a future post. If you want to talk to me personally about a relationship with God, please email me at: [email protected]
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