Can a Christian Practice Yoga to the Glory of God?
- 2022 4 May
The following is a transcribed Video Q&A, so the text may not read like an edited article would. Scroll to the bottom to view this video in its entirety.
That’s a great question, it is one of a whole family of similar questions. What about acupuncture, homeopathic medicine, reflexology (massaging parts of the feet with a whole theory behind it). I think the way I would answer all those questions is that there is an explanatory framework attached to those which may be candidly anti-Christian: new-Age, Buddhist, Hindu, theories of energy flow, etc. And yet is there something per se wrong, with rubbing my feet? Is there something fundamnetaly wrong with sticking needles into pressure points or certain types of massage, like Shiatzu which is based upon Eastern philosophies? Is the actual act of massaging those pressure points wrong?
When you say the word “yoga”, the word itself means “discipline”. There are a hundred different forms and many of which are candidly wrong. They are New Age/Hindu (sort of a high Hinduism) meditative techniques. I can speak with first hand experience because I was basically a Hindu before I was a Christian, and I remember many of the meditational processes and experience I had as essentially a New-Age Hindu. And those are wrong.
Would doing some of these kinds of stretching, understood purely as stretching as a release of muscular tension be wrong? I would say, “No”. But, whether it is acupuncture, reflexology, homeopath, or yoga you’ll need to make sure you aren’t drinking in philosophy. This might seem unrelated but your kid taking karate lessons—there is a whole worldview often attached to that. Is it wrong to learn self-defense? No, but you as a parent or guardian need to make sure you aren’t drinking in philosophical assumptions through the door of something which is purely a physical activity in its own right. It needs to be entered into discerningly.
Some of those philosophical assumptions are viewing all life as energy. God’s world is personal, it is not just energy flow. There is a personal God and we are persons who live in a relationship with him. Along with an energy view there tends to be a goal of having your own participation into that energy. Thinking of Star Wars, the force be with you, that is a pop-adaptation of some of that energy flow way of thinking. There are views that basically self-mastery, self-discipline, self-control, which are very hard to square with a sense of real-life living in God’s world. Much of it has a stoic goal—though framed in more of a Buddhist or Hindu version—it is a desire to detach yourself from the sufferings of the world. Christian faith takes on the suffering of the world. It is the opposite of stoicism. Jesus Christ is grieved by things, upset by people’s sufferings, he hates when people are mistreated, he weeps at the presence of death. There is an extreme attempt at control of emotions or control of your body which can be subtly playing into something which the opposite of living in the real world as a sufferer living in the real world with relationship with a Savior. We are changed not by only self-control. Christian self-control is certainly a virtue but its prime expression is that in the trials of life you go to the Lord and are living the Psalms. That is a much different type of self-control than a mind-control or a physio-mental type of control. Those are things to be aware of, they may not immediately say “hey I’m Buddhist or Hinduism” A certain type of exercise might be helpful but….but….but….be careful in your thinking.
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