There are many misconceptions surrounding the relationship between religious faith and yoga practice, and these misconceptions are deeply entrenched in many Christian communities. Because pop culture often mixes yoga with new age, Hindu, or pagan spirituality, many people believe that it can be harmful to other religious practices.
For much of human history—and especially in the religions that we consider Eastern’—many elements of yoga, including yoga poses, meditation, and mindfulness, were used as physical tools to worship or to achieve spiritual enlightenment.
Though Hinduism and Buddhism both utilize the physical movements of yoga in their own religious traditions, practicing yoga is not innately religious! You do not have to follow Hinduism, Buddhism, or any other specific faith to practice yoga. Yoga is a tool, and it is completely up to you how you wish to use it to further your own mental, physical, and spiritual wellbeing. Buddhism and Hinduism often feature yoga heavily, but yoga is not an invention of either religion; they co-opted it, just as many Christians have co-opted it, as a way of making their minds and bodies fitter and healthier. You do not have to follow any aspects of Buddhism or Hinduism in order to practice yoga.
Yoga, which has been around for thousands of years, is a physical and mental exercise that can serve as an excellent tool for deepening one’s faith—no matter what that faith is. Christian yoga is not an oxymoron. Yogic practice is not in any way un-Christian—in fact, for many people, it is a powerful practice that helps them grow and nourish their faith.
One of the most important elements of meditation (Christian or otherwise) is to set your intentions. Before you step into the art of yoga, pause to ask yourself why you are interested in adopting this practice. Because yoga is not an innately religious practice, the way you do it is crucial—what ideas do you plan on bringing into your meditation practice? What intentions are in your heart and your mind when you enter a quiet space and begin warming up for a yoga session?
If you fill your meditation sessions with Scripture, the Word of God, and contemplation of your own relationship with Him, you are practicing Christian meditation. In that way, yoga is just another form of prayer. Most people do not pray in exactly the same way as their friends, family, or their neighbors, but we still recognize their practice as valid and useful. If you bring Christ into your yogic practice, then you are practicing Christian yoga!
Yoga is one of the best ways to solve a problem that plagues many in the Christian community: the issue of bringing faith into everyday life. Because we have busy lives (and because most of our society is set up in a secular way), we do not have daily worship built into our schedules—many of us attend church on Sunday, and then forget to think about Jesus until the following Sunday. Adopting a daily Christian yoga practice is a way that you can set aside thirty or fifteen or even ten minutes every single day just for you and Christ.
When you engage in yoga while focusing on the Word of God, you have turned your own home into a place of worship. The physical postures and breathing exercises clear your mind and relax your body, which helps to clear away all of the usual distractions that keep us from deep focus on our own faith. For some, it can be overwhelming and uncomfortable at first—many of us are not used to self-directed worship; at church, we passively sit back and let the preacher’s words wash over us. When we engage in Christian yoga by ourselves at home, it is up to us do direct our own hearts and minds. This is a way to deepen and broaden our own spiritual fitness.
Christian yoga enables us to achieve the physical, mental, and emotional discipline necessary to not only understand the Word of God, but to live it every day of our lives. And, because we can practice yoga more regularly than we attend church, we can give ourselves daily reminders that allow us to stop, clear the slate, and refocus on faith.
In the long term, Christian yoga can make us better Christians by improving our health. A healthy mind living in a healthy body has a much greater capacity to accept the Light of the Lord than a weary mind living in a sick, tired, or sore body. Yoga teaches us to look after ourselves—after all, we are some of God’s greatest creations. In doing so, we engage with our faith more fully, and we are better able to live in a way that is guided by His Love.