Eight years ago, I was enjoying a work-from-home career as a health writer for various corporate wellness programs and raising my two young daughters. I stumbled on a Holy Yoga class one weekend, and that ultimately brought me to where I am today.
That class changed my experience with yoga and created a desire to connect with God every time I got on my mat. After much persuasion from friends, several “God winks,” and a turn of events with my career (I was laid off), I decided to pursue a yoga teacher certification through Holy Yoga. I wanted to provide the same opportunity for others to connect with Christ on the mats that I had experienced. Holy Yoga embraces the essential elements of yoga: breath work, meditation, and physical postures. In all of these elements, Christ is the focus of intention and worship.
My heart’s desire and prayer for many years was for God to use me. I wanted to do something bold for Him but didn’t know how. I’m not an extrovert. I hate small talk. I avoid walking into a crowd at all costs (I like being early so all eyes don’t turn to me at once). So, to think God would use something like yoga and allow me to share His Word and love with people through this practice humbles me and brings a smile to my face every time I think about it.
Last year, I led a few community sessions at our downtown farmer’s market, and I remember thinking after it was over, “I just read the gospel outside to a group of total strangers.” Without the opportunity to teach yoga, I would have never done that.
God continued to build my confidence and planted a seed in my heart to create a studio dedicated to Christ-centered yoga. On October 1, 2018, we opened our doors for business in Frisco, TX. We are blessed with amazing instructors who also have a desire to serve and share the love of Christ while leading top quality yoga classes.
Since the studio opened, we have frequently been asked the same three or four questions related to yoga and Christianity. Perhaps you share similar questions or concerns. I wanted to offer my thoughts and responses here. I am certainly not the authority on these things; they are just my opinion. But as a girl who loves Jesus and loves yoga, I do feel confident in my beliefs. Of course, if your spirit is telling you otherwise, you must pay attention to that. What works for me and what God reveals to my spirit may not be the same for you. No harm done and no offense taken if we disagree. My goal is not to change you, just to offer a new perspective.
Is yoga a religious practice?
I personally don’t believe yoga is a religion or owned by any religion, just as prayer and meditation are not exclusive to any one religion. Is yoga a spiritual practice? Yes, I believe it can be, and so I think you have to ask yourself, “What is my intention in doing yoga? What am I hoping to achieve as a result—is it simply to achieve the physical benefits and some stress relief?” For many people, the answer to that last question is yes. That’s what draws people onto their mats. However, once they begin, they start to realize the deep connections between mind, body, and spirit. Therefore, I think it’s important to find a class and instructors that align with your goals, your values, and beliefs. Some styles will be more spiritual in nature; others will be more physical.
Yoga is a broad term, but in its most basic form, yoga is breath work, mindfulness, and physical postures. There are a variety of styles and forms of yoga. Most yoga done in the West falls under the category of “hatha” yoga with the intention of leading participants in mindfulness and bodywork that results in a sort of “enlightenment.” But what “enlightenment” means to each person is different. For some, it’s the point of achieving stillness in the mind. For others, it’s an understanding of one’s place in the universe. For Christians, the practice of yoga may create a greater connection to our Creator and a deeper understanding or “enlightenment” of who we are in Christ.
Is practicing yoga contrary to my faith?
Some may feel that a practice that began centuries ago with religious roots is contrary to their faith or even unallowable or forbidden. To this point, I have a few thoughts. One, I simply believe God knows the intentions and desires of my heart. If I kneel, He knows if I’m doing so to simply kneel down or to pray. Thus, if my intention is to come onto my mat, lift my hands in praise, connect with my breath and be reminded it is His breath in my lungs that gives me life, and to bow down on my knees and give thanks to God, I believe this does not contradict my faith in any way. Rather, it is my opportunity to worship in body and mind. Mark 12:30 says that we are called to love the Lord with all our heart and with all our soul and with all our mind and with all our strength.
Secondly, as we wonder if yoga is contrary to our faith or even permissible, we have to go back to God’s Word. In 1 Corinthians 6 and 10, we are reminded that all things are lawful, but not all things are helpful. We have been given great freedom in Christ, but not everything is constructive. How do we determine what is helpful or beneficial? Well, we start by asking if what we are doing is Biblically lawful, as in The 10 Commandments lawful, or is it causing you to sin against God and others? And if it is lawful, we can then ask ourselves if our activity is edifying. Is it bearing fruit like faithfulness, patience, kindness, gentleness, self-control? Is it providing an opportunity to build the Kingdom of God? Edification helps others understand God and the gospel and helps them grow in wisdom and righteousness. In my opinion, what happens in a Christ-centered yoga class checks the box to each of these questions. And for my sisters in Christ who teach and attend yoga in secular studios, I believe they too have an opportunity to share the light and love of Christ.
I love these verses from 1 Corinthians 10:27-33 that not only remind us of our freedom, but they remind us that we are called to live in this world, to participate in it, to mingle with all people, and to shine the light of Christ while we do it.
“Eat whatever is sold in the meat market without raising any question on the ground of conscience. For ‘the earth is the Lord’s, and the fullness thereof.’ If one of the unbelievers invites you to dinner and you are disposed to go, eat whatever is set before you without raising any question on the ground of conscience. But if someone says to you, ‘This has been offered in sacrifice,’ then do not eat it, for the sake of the one who informed you, and for the sake of conscience—I do not mean your conscience, but his. For why should my liberty be determined by someone else’s conscience? If I partake with thankfulness, why am I denounced because of that for which I give thanks? So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God, just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved.”
I’ve been told that yoga is not “safe” to practice. Am I going to open myself up to dark forces doing yoga?
As I mentioned above, we have freedom in Christ. We are not called to live in Christian bubbles, only participating in church activities and only having Christian friends. How do we share the love of Christ and make disciples if we are only around people who believe what we believe? Christ went out and met people where they were at—at the well, at the water’s edge, at the edge of town. If we are doing the same, we might find ourselves in a Christ-centered yoga class or in a secular one.
But again, you have to ask yourself, “What are you seeking, and what is your intention?” If, as a believer, you are seeking to strengthen your body and mind, to connect with Christ, and to feel His presence, I believe you are protected. The Word says upon belief in the gospel of Christ that we are sealed with the Holy Spirit. This seal should provide encouragement for us against the spiritual battles in this life. There are plenty of opportunities in this world to come against the evil one—he, after all, is considered the ruler of this earth. The movies we watch, the music we listen to, the gossip we enter into, the envy and jealousy we feel towards our neighbors… Everything we do creates an opportunity to interact with darkness. We are called to live not in fear but confidence. As a believer, I want to stand boldly and confidently in the power of God’s indwelling Spirit within me. Romans 8:13 says, “For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.”
I hope my responses to these common (and sometimes controversial) questions spark an interest to pursue your own answers, to prayerfully enter into a conversation with God, and to allow His Holy Spirit to lead you in your decision. All things are lawful, but not all things are beneficial, and what is beneficial for one may not be beneficial for everyone.
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