A Christian and Yoga
Being an Indian theologian in America, I have received several questions over the years about how a Christian should respond to yoga as seen in American culture.
I honestly don’t know the details of yoga in America so I won’t give a yes-no answer. Instead I will list a few biblical guidelines and let the reader decide the right approach. If I go by the abject failure of Starbucks’ dishwater-esque chai tea to reflect actual Indian chai, I am almost confident that American yoga’s separation from the original Indian yoga should be measured not in meters, but in lightyears.
1. Hindu Yoga is part of what is called as the Jnaya Marga – the way to salvation (Moksha) through knowledge. It involves deep inward meditation while the devotee tries to focus on certain body parts (the navel, for example). The goal is to come to an awareness of the spirit of a person and then, by extension, think about Brahma, the ethereal, non-being essence of the universe. Hindu Yoga is more of a demure, passive, mind-focusing with “less” involvement of demonic/spiritual influence than other Hindu rituals.
2. Christian meditation is similar to Hindu yoga ONLY in relation to its physical posture of silence. Christian Meditation, unlike yoga, is focused outside of oneself – usually on God and the Bible and allowing the Holy Spirit to impress on our hearts His truth. In the recent past I have been more and more cognizant of the general lack of meditation in contemporary Christendom and have personally thoroughly enjoyed its benefits.
3. There are many rituals and objects that are used in animistic, polytheistic and pantheistic cultures that invoke demon spirits’ involvement. It is prudent to stay away from anything to do with the devil or demons regardless of how spiritually “strong” one is. Humans are no match for demons and they will hit us where we are weak. My family is involved in drug and alcohol addiction recovery in several Indian cities and many times see first hand the consequences of demonic and spiritual influences in addition to the physical, physiological and chemical effects of substance abuse.
4. Paul’s directive about food sacrificed to idols. (Romans 8). The basic premise is that an idol is nothing compared to the eternal God and therefore anything related to that idol is essentially nothing. This command is true if there is no direct demonic influence.
Now, the reader is welcome to decide the approach to American yoga.