Christianity and Yoga: My View

*** ALERT: LONG RELIGIOUS WORDS ONLY POST******

My faith is important to me.  I remember looking forward to going to Sabbath School on Saturday to sing about Jesus’ love for me.  As a 4 year old God and his love was very real to me.  It was a comfort to know that God loved me even when I was naughty; which for the record was never because I didn’t like to see my mom sad.

When I was 9 and at the height of my difficult phase (only at school) we revisited the story of creation.  At 9 I thought I new everything. Why are we doing creation.  I know all about creation.  I want to learn about revelation.  But then I learned that the story of creation is not about who tricked who or who was the first to sin.  It was not a blame game like you hear very often from the pulpit.  Instead I learned that the most important thing God did was give me the freedom to choose and whether or not I choose him he still loves me.  Actually there is nothing that I can do that will make God stop loving me.  Coming from a home where my mom loves me no matter what this was an easy concept for me to grasp. It changed the way I interacted with people.  For the first time I realized that I shouldn’t be kind just because it’s the right thing to do.  I should be kind to everyone because God loves everyone just as much as he loves me.

Somewhere along the way I learned that God is omnipresent.  He is everywhere all the time.  One of my favorite explanations said that “Everything is in God and God is in everything”.  In my teens the song “The Jesus in me loves the Jesus in you” became popular.  I immediately saw it as an encouragement to look beyond the differences between us and find that good part of everyone to love.

Fast forward to my yoga training.  I wasn’t sure I should delve into yoga philosophy.  I had heard all about how yoga is devil worship.  After skimming the internet I decided to read the yoga sutras for myself.  After all I had sat in Morals and Ethics class and declared Plato’s “I think therefore I am” bullshit and Kant as crazy.  So I read the yoga sutras believing that my christian education and the bible class that the adults tried to have us banned from was enough of a foundation to judge for myself.  I found things that I agreed with and things that I didn’t.  I came away thinking God loves me and wants me to be happy.  I read my Bible and thought the same thing.  I prayed and listen to my heart (or the Holy Spirit whichever makes you comfortable) and paid the thousands of dollars for my yoga teacher training.

I knew that I would meet resistance when I started teaching yoga in St Lucia.  I knew people would think it was devil worship.  I was ready to deal with it all.  So when I received and email citing this article I was not surprised.  But I was disappointed.  After crafting my response and sending it off I thought that I should put it on here because my some of my clients have been discouraged from taking yoga and when future clients have concerns I can point them to this post.

Here is my response (spelling errors and all):

There are several incorrect statements in that article.  To properly address these would require and in depth discussion of yoga philosophy.  However I will do my best to address it.http://www.expressionsofspirit.com/yoga/eight-limbs.htm

This website provides and overview of yoga.  You will notice that yoga seeks union between body mind and spirit.  As a girl I learned in bible study that God made us with body, mind and spirit and  that we need to nourish all aspects of ourselves to grow with God.  It is only recently, since the enlightenment, that western culture has placed emphasis on thinking above all else.  Plato said I think therefore I am and this has led to a justification of slavery and destruction of God’s creation.

You will notice that the limbs translate to devotion to God and meditation on God.  While yoga philosophy does not require adherence to any religion it does require that you believe in something bigger than yourself.  As yoga became westernized God is sometimes removed to make westerners feel more comfortable. 

Regarding introspection and interconnectedness. I invite you to read Psalms chapter 8 as an example of David examining who he is and his place in God’s universe:
When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained;What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him?

For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honour.

Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things under his feet:

All sheep and oxen, yea, and the beasts of the field;

The fowl of the air, and the fish of the sea, and whatsoever passeth through the paths of the seas.

O Lord our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth!

From my experience teaching yoga is that it is transformative. As people do yoga their bodies change and begins to do things they did not think was possible. This opens the mind and makes you think that anything is possible.  (As a christian you should already believe this because God made the world in seven days and raised persons from the dead).  As your mind begins to open you want to fill it with things.  This is where your background comes to in to play.  When I get questions during yoga I turn to the Bible.  Where you turn is up to you.

Finally I will add that while yoga philosophy calls for incorporation of all 8 limbs of yoga, all of the books I have read say the same thing.  The easiest path to peace and integration of body mind and spirit is complete devotion and surrender to God. For this reason sometimes people come to me for yoga and I give them Bible Study instead.  God loves you and wants you to be happy may be all someone needs to hear.

I hope this addressses the concerns.  If there are any further questions I will be willing to answer them as best as I can through email or in person.  If the person is still concerned, I invite her to observe one of my classes and judge for herself. 

What it boils down to is that I don’t think people should be bullied into one way of thinking or another.  I am tired of bullies co-opting religion as a means of controlling others by saying that it is “God’s will”.  I could go on about this but I want to say that I love you whether you do yoga or not.  I love you whether you believe me or not.  We are all on earth trying to survive and I just want to make your journey a little better.

How has yoga affected your religious views?

****Please not that I will delete any negative and disrespectful comments*****

Now back our regular scheduled blog fluff: yoga, running, food and fun