Yoga has become an immensely popular practice in the West, with millions of people reaping its physical and mental health benefits. However, some Christians view yoga as contradictory to biblical teachings as it has roots in Eastern religions like Hinduism. This article examines yoga from a biblical perspective – can Christians practice yoga without compromising their faith?
- 1 Understanding Yoga and Meditation
- 2 Biblical Perspectives on Meditation
- 3 Can Christians Practice Yoga?
- 4 In Conclusion
Understanding Yoga and Meditation
To address the question “what does the bible say about yoga”, we first need to understand what yoga actually entails.
At its core, meditation is a practice that involves focusing the mind on a particular thought or activity to achieve mental clarity, emotional calmness and spiritual insight. While the most common types of meditation today are secular and focus on mindfulness, stress relief, etc., nearly all meditation techniques originated in religious contexts.
For instance, meditation techniques like mantra chanting and visualizations of deities are an integral part of Hinduism, Buddhism and other Eastern faiths. The aim is generally to detach oneself from worldly suffering and connect with the divine.
The word “yoga” literally means union. The goal of yoga is to unite the body, mind and spirit, leading to inner peace and tranquility. There are several limbs of yoga:
- Asanas (poses/postures): These physical exercises increase strength and flexibility.
- Pranayama (breath control): Breathing techniques are used to influence vital energy.
- Dhyana (meditation): Meditation is practiced to achieve Samadhi or enlightenment.
- Chanting of mantras: Sacred sounds are chanted to invoke deities and access higher states of consciousness.
While yoga has its roots in Hinduism, the yoga practiced in the West is generally focused on physical fitness rather than spirituality. However, it is important to be aware of yoga’s spiritual aspects as well.
Biblical Perspectives on Meditation
Now that we understand key concepts related to yoga and meditation, we can examine what the Bible says about related practices.
Meditation in the Old Testament
The Old Testament refers to meditation using words like “hagah” which means to murmur, ponder and imagine. Joshua 1:8 instructs readers to constantly meditate on the Book of Law:
“Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.”
This shows how biblical meditation differs from Eastern forms – the focus is on God’s words and commandments rather than emptying one’s mind.
Meditation in Psalms
The Psalms also repeatedly emphasize godly meditation:
Psalm 119:15 says “I meditate on your precepts and consider your ways.” Again, the focus is on scripture and its application.
Meditation in the New Testament
In the New Testament, Philippians 4:8 provides guidance on cultivating a meditative mindset:
“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”
This recommends a form of meditation revolving around virtuous thoughts and ideals.
Can Christians Practice Yoga?
Given the spiritual baggage associated with yoga, a key question is whether it is compatible with Christianity.
Yoga through a Biblical Lens
While yoga has roots in Eastern religions, Christians can view yoga through a biblical lens.
Verses like 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 emphasize our bodies as the temple of God:
“Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.”
Therefore, engaging in physical practices like yoga to take care of the body God gave us can be an act of worship rather than contradictory to the Christian faith.
Controversy Over Yoga in Christianity
However, some evangelical Christians are still opposed to yoga because of perceived associations with Eastern mysticism.
There are concerns that the spiritual components of yoga like chanting mantras could lead people away from God. Some argue the risk of idolatry is too high.
This controversy has led to varied responses. Some churches have actively banned yoga classes while others have Christianized yoga by removing objectionable elements.
As practitioners rather than authorities on theology, yogis tend to avoid this debate and focus purely on the physical aspects. But these differing perspectives show the complexities involved in answering “what does the bible say about yoga”.
While the Bible does not directly address yoga, analysis of key scriptures gives us some valuable guidance. The core principles of yoga – achieving oneness with the divine – depart from biblical teachings. However, the physical and mental health benefits associated with yoga appear to be well aligned with various biblical passages related to honoring one’s body and cultivating concentration through meditation. As long as the practice of yoga focuses exclusively on the physical without integrating spiritual rituals, Christians can reasonably participate in yoga without compromising their faith. This balanced perspective allows believers to make their own judgments on this issue through study, contemplation and prayer.