I have tried to write numerous times over the last two years. Our family Bible verse is:
Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong. Do everything in love. 1 Corinthians 16:13-14
To those of you reading this, I hope that you know that my words are coming from a place of love. Not from condemnation or malice. I enjoy sharing how God continues to mold and shape me, thanks for reading!
A few years ago I wrote a blog post titled “Does Downward Dog dishonor God?” I tried to address the question “Should Christians practice yoga?” Over the last few years my desire to know God has grown so much that last year I finally disciplined myself to read the Bible in its entirety.
Even before I began reading my Bible something had just continued to feel off over the last several years when I would practice and teach yoga. I would have loved to have stumbled across a blog post like this back when I was looking into teaching Christian yoga. The only reason I ever felt comfortable signing up for my 200 hour yoga certification was because the word “Christian” was in the title.
Before I go further let me give you a brief history on how I became involved in the yoga community and started teaching.
How I Started Teaching Yoga
The summer before I entered college I purchased a yoga DVD from Barnes and Nobles. This was back when I still went to the bookstore and didn’t simply Amazon prime everything to my front door. I used this DVD numerous times and began to also take a few yoga classes at the gym.
I continued to take yoga classes occasionally over the next four years and during my senior year of college the Kinesiology department offered a Movement Analysis Lab focusing on yoga. I was so excited! The instructor was very relatable, and told the class up front that she was a Christian, and used yoga as a way to “connect” with God. I felt like I had hit the jackpot, especially because I had never in all my years at Arizona State University had any of my teachers state they were Christians.
Up until this time I had never viewed yoga as a way to “connect” with God and had only used it as a way to exercise. I had only taken yoga classes at the gym and in 2005 the yoga classes being offered at my gym were strictly posture based.
Fast forward to March of 2007 and I became very, very sick. You can read more about the neurological disorder that paralyzed me from the neck down and my road to recovery was HERE.
On the road to recovery in 2009 I signed up for a Chrisitan Yoga Teacher Training. Since yoga had been one of the tools I had used during my recovery, I really wanted to share its benefits with others and the added bonus of sharing the gospel message at the same time really appealed to me.
That summer I learned all about “Christian” yoga. I was fired up and ready to encourage others to experience God more deeply through the practice of yoga at my church and any other church that would allow me to teach. Each class included scripture reading, a playlist that contained praise/worship songs, low impact movements, and ended with prayer. The only problem was that the churches that I approached with this amazing opportunity, my own church included, did not want to offer Christian Yoga classes.
I was perplexed and if I am being totally honest, slightly offended, about the reaction I received from local churches in my area. I felt equipped to teach yoga in a manner that honored the Lord yet wasn’t able to get my foot in the door to teach at any church.
Since I was having trouble finding my own yoga classes to teach, the Christian yoga studio that I took my training from offered me a few classes on their schedule. From there I continued to branch out and seek out more studios to teach. Over the next 4 years I taught at 8 different studios/gyms, became a certified personal trainer, and began to teach group fitness classes as well.
From 2010 – 2012 I was teaching upwards of twenty classes weekly. At this point I was no longer teaching at the Christian yoga studio. My classes didn’t contain scripture or prayer because they were being offered in a secular setting but my playlist did contain a mix of pop and praise music.
Once my second baby arrived in 2014, I was no longer teaching classes or practicing yoga, and the further removed I became from teaching and practicing the more I began to wonder if I should really be teaching yoga anymore at all.
Why I Stopped Teaching Yoga
My initial intentions of wanting to share Jesus with others were soon replaced with only wanting to stoke my own ego. During my time teaching yoga I took many yoga workshops and classes to help me fine-tune my own teaching ability. I began setting goals for myself that had nothing to do with my initial desire to help others. The more I embedded myself into our local yoga community the more yoga began to shape and form my identity.
Instead of being excited to share my faith I began to become prideful over how full my classes were and that I was actually able to contort my body into some pretty advanced yoga postures. I spent hours of my time in front of my camera taking pictures of myself in these advanced postures to post on social media in order to promote my classes.
I allowed my successes to become an idol and overshadow my Savior. While there isn’t anything wrong with being successful or taking pride in our gifts, our ability to use discernment often gets pushed aside when we elevate things or people to a position that only rightfully belongs to the one true God.
But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ. 2 Corinthians 11:3
Being a “Christian” yoga teacher made me “feel” close to God. But I can’t say that I knew God. Feeling God and knowing God are two completely different things. Even when I was strictly teaching only Christian yoga I based my classes more off what I was feeling as opposed to what I had been studying in God’s word. Because truthfully, back then, the only time I really opened my Bible was to find a scripture that resonated with me for a class.
As a Christian my actions should point others to seek and find an ever deepening relationship with the Lord which is why I am no longer teaching or practicing yoga. Yoga is rooted in Hinduism and as a Christ follower I can no longer in good conscious be associated with teaching something that may cause others to stumble or open up a path to them that leads them away from the saving grace of Christ’s death on the cross.
God gives us all free will. But a Christian must not merely consider what is lawful, but what is expedient, and to edify others.
“I have the right to do anything,” you say–but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”–but not everything is constructive. 1 Corinthians 10:23
What About Christians Teaching/Practicing Only Christian Yoga?
There is no governing authority or church body presiding over Christian yoga or Christian Yoga Teacher Trainings. Even with all the best intentions, without this governing authority, there is no elder board or pastoral staff ensuring that the doctrine is sound and inline with what the Bible teaches.
The ability for new and even mature believers in Christ to be able to discern what is or isn’t biblically based can become much more blurry especially when churches are offering Christian yoga classes. If a person really starts enjoying a Christian yoga class there is a high probability that they will start to seek out other classes. Yoga can, in some regards, become a gateway into many new age practices that the Bible specially warns believers to stay away from. (Leviticus 20:6, Deuteronomy 18: 10-12)
Please know, I am not saying that everyone who practices yoga will participate in these activities but they do become much more accessible.
For someone who is seeking more peace in their life or looking for a greater purpose I can see how these things could become very attractive. For several years I had put so much weight in the fact that because I was a yoga teacher I should have zero stress and not deal with anxiety. When I was suffering with postpartum depression and anxiety I didn’t realize I had elevated my yoga practice to a place where I had actually made it an idol. Instead of seeking out God for comfort and wisdom I was looking at myself to calm my anxiety and overwhelming feelings of sadness and fear.
As believers we have to stay alert and be mindful of how our actions can be perceived by others.
Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith. 1 Pet. 5:8-9
We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. 2 Corinthians 10:5
Even things that are good can distract us away from God. Taking care of our bodies is a good and even a biblically based practice to follow, but we have to be so careful not to let the pursuit of healthy living become an idol.
Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will. Romans 12:2