Hi. My name is Tamara. I am a Christian and I am a registered yoga teacher.
This is a topic that I have never really spoke about with anyone in depth. I have felt the judgment from other Christians because I teach and “practice” yoga. There have been several times over the last few years that I have struggled trying to figure out if what I was doing was dishonoring God.
A few pastors have even brought the topic to their congregation and also to their blogs to much mixed reviews. Check out what Pastor Mark Driscoll has to say on the subject. His post starts out by saying:
“There is nothing wrong with stretching, exercising, or regulating one’s stress through breathing. But when the tenets of yoga are included, it’s by definition a worship act to spirit beings other than the God of the Bible. By way of analogy, there is nothing inherently wrong with intimacy, sex, and pleasure. But when the tenets of adultery are included, it’s a sinfully idolatrous worship act. A faithful Christian can no more say they are practicing yoga for Jesus than they can say they are committing adultery for Jesus.
A little over a year ago, I said yoga was demonic. My stance hasn’t changed since then, but…”
I felt sick to my stomach when I first read this article. I was super confused and continued to read as Pastor Mark went on to discuss the history and the eight limbs of yoga. This article is an interesting read if you have time.
If you have never before heard about the eight limbs of yoga here is what they involve:
- Moral restraint
- Religious observance
- Breath control
- Sense withdrawal
- Mediative absorption
Most yoga in the United States barely resembles anything close to the yoga that originated in India and is rooted in Hinduism. American based yoga studios and gyms focus primarily on exercising the body using postures and breath control. When the postures and breathe are put together in the entire context of what yoga embodies you will find a salvation based system that relies on self effort. This is not the yoga I practice or teach.
I never ever want to misrepresent myself and what I believe. I do not practice yoga to worship animal gods or achieve nirvana. I practice it because it is fun and it allows me to challenge, explore, and create using my own body. If God had gifted me with the talent and ability to dance I would be dancing and sharing my love and passion for dancing with others. Unfortunately I look like Elaine Benes on steroids when I attempt to bust a move.
The point I am trying to make is God gives each one of us unique talents and abilities. It is up to each of us to discern how our gifts can be used. When I started teaching yoga I prayed that my classes would always be laced in joy and that God would allow his Spirit to pour out of me. I wanted to make sure that anyone who came to my classes would leave feeling like there was something different or special. Of course you can’t always please everyone, but for the most part I do feel that I have been successful in creating an environment the encourages fun and creativity.
It is ok to be different. I have learned that I do not need to adhere to the traditional yoga teacher standards in order to teach or to take a yoga class. That being said their are certain types of yoga classes and many teachers who I would never go take a class from because I know that there will be chanting and singing that would not align with my beliefs.
If you have ever been to a yoga class you know that you will traditionally close with a namaste or chant om a few times. The translation for namaste means “the light with in me honors the light with in you”. There are several different variations that exchange honor with bow. For those who have been to my class you are already aware that I never say namaste at the end of my classes. I don’t know what others are referencing when they speak it, which is why I avoid it when I teach. I have never wanted to create any confusion for others in regards to who I am or what I stand for. When closing my classes I invite my students as they are seated to bring their hand together at heart center in prayer and from their I say…
Hands to your forehead, remembering to think good thoughts,
Hands to your lips, remembering to speak good things,
Hands to your heart, remembering to do good things.
And that is how I end my classes. No yoga scriptures, no meditation, and no pranayama. Just a bunch of sweating, smiling, and stretching.
Here is my take on this whole thing and I am sure some of you will disagree with me. My intention when I teach and practice yoga is to shine for Jesus. I want to shine for him in everything I do. From the words that I speak to the clothes that I wear. I hope others see the great joy I have in my life. My life is no where close to perfect. I am a sinner just like everyone else but I am joyful and happy because I know I am loved and forgiven. Using yoga as a form of exercise has helped me to build strength, connect with God, calm my anxiety, and most of all to let loose and have fun. Phillipians 4:8 says,
“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.“
I know what my intentions are when I practice yoga and I know what my thoughts are when I practice yoga. I also know the power of my God. I firmly believe that the environment, what we do with our thoughts, and who we choose to lead us matters when you take a yoga class.
So now I want to hear from you. What is your take on Christian’s practicing yoga? Have you ever taken a yoga class that made you feel uncomfortable because what the teacher was saying or asking you to do went against your beliefs? Why do or don’t you practice yoga?