Why I Stopped Teaching “Christian” Yoga

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.

Recommended Reading: 10 Bible Verses for Anxiety and 10 Ways to Deal with Anxiety

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

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The Graham Cracker, Pornography, & Why Quick Fixes Don’t Work

The following is one of my more open and honest posts. This is a topic that I have struggled to write about but one that I felt desperately needed to be written. Interestingly enough, once I actually sat down and committed to writing this my thoughts freely flowed.  I think the lesson I learned from this experience is that when fear holds us back from doing something we give it more control than it deserves. I challenge you to evaluate your own life, step out in courage, and release yourself from the power of fear.  If we continue to let fear control us nothing will change.

Tamara

THE GRAHAM CRACKER

I love graham crackers. I think they are a great snack. My kids love them too. They are easily portable, fit nicely in a ziplock, and can be broken into smaller crackers for littler hands to hold. I mean really, what is not to love. Oh, and who can forget the graham crackers claim to fame, the s’more.

Imagine my surprise when I recently discovered that this little snack was invented for an entirely alternate purpose. Hold on to your pantry doors. If you are anything like me you will be in complete shock.

While the graham cracker has become known to my generation as a beloved childhood snack, it’s creation was inspired by a preacher, Sylvester Graham, who has part of the 19th century temperance movement. Graham believed that a vegetarian diet anchored by home-made whole grain bread, as part of a lifestyle that involved minimizing pleasure and stimulation of all kinds, was how God intended people to live and that following this natural law would keep people healthy.

Are you wondering how this relates to the graham cracker? Keep reading, I promise I am getting there.

Graham thought that if people could just eat a bland diet, in other words stay away from spicy foods, they would be less likely to engage in pornography and masturbation.

The idea at the time was that foods that contained more spices were causing people to be filled with lust. So, if you removed spicy foods from the diet, and replaced them with something that was more bland, the lust would be removed from your heart.

It sounds so easy, right? Eat your cracker a day to keep the lustful thoughts away.

These perforated crackers came into existence with the goal of controlling your sexual desires.

Obviously the graham cracker did not rid us of our carnal urges and general evils.

Because I can’t sit on this information, and feel the need to share it with you, did you know that cornflakes were also invented for the same purpose??? I know. I know. I just totally ruined snack time and breakfast for some of you. You won’t ever be able to look at graham crackers and cornflakes the same way again.

THE IDEA OF THE QUICK FIX

The idea of a quick fix is nothing new. As you can see with the graham cracker, we as a society, for centuries, have tried to control our lack of self control with a quick fix.

Quick fixes don’t work. But they are highly profitable and marketable.

People would rather pop a pill, drink a shake, or eat a graham cracker instead of dealing with the issue itself. It is easier and not as painful to deal with a problem on a surface level instead of digging deeper and eliminating the problem at the root.

Just to give you an example, my social media feeds are filled with people selling and promoting supplements and remedies for weight loss. Everyone wants to be healthier, but the majority of people would rather go about it the easy way by taking a pill that claims to lower blood pressure, covert fat into liquid that you will eliminate out of your body, and leave you with glowing skin and a six pack.

Recommended Reading: 3 Biblical Reasons to Take Care of Your Body

I think most of us know that a pill isn’t going to magically make us healthier. But we so desperately want to believe that it will. A pill is simple. It doesn’t make us change the habits that led us to an unhealthier life, and it requires little investment of time.

THE HIGH COST OF PORNOGRAPHY

I wish that there was a quick fix to the pornography epidemic that is ruining our families and relationships.

I think it is easier for us to talk about sex trafficking and how horrific it is then it is to discuss pornography. It shouldn’t be, because one fuels the other, but I think it is harder because for some of us pornography hits closer to home.

Let me be real for a second. I hate pornography, it is vile, addictive, and not at all how God intended for us to view sex.

It amazes me that shows on television that are so popular contain scenes that are so pornographic. We have become desensitized to the problem. By allowing it into our homes as primetime entertainment, we have given the ok that this type of entertainment is acceptable.

We can do so much better.

As a parent to a four year old boy I know that he will be exposed to pornography. It isn’t if he will be exposed, it is a question of when he will be exposed. By all current statistics the average age of the first exposure to pornography is 11, but I have also read as young as 9.

Thanks to the internet, pornography that was once hidden has become readily accessible and is being consumed by the masses. I don’t want my kids to learn about sex by watching pornography and sadly that is what is happening to our youth.

The unrealistic expectations pornography creates about sex for both men and women is a problem that isn’t going away anytime soon. It has embedded itself into our lives and sadly it has done so with our own blessing.

By not standing up and speaking out against it, we have allowed ourselves to become part of the problem. As parents we know we need to talk to our kids about sex, alcohol, and drugs but we also need to bravely and confidently speak truth into their lives about the dangers of pornography.

For Josh and I staying silent on this topic with our kids isn’t an option. We know we have to be intentional with our kids now in order for them to value what we say later.

There is no quick fix to this problem. There is no pill, cracker, or treatment center that can cure a person who is addicted to porn. People have to want to change, you can’t change for them.

The cost of pornography is high. Porn affects the brain like a drug. Numerous studies have shown that porn, like cocaine, tricks your brain into releasing pleasure chemicals. Overtime your brain begins to rewire itself and will need more and more of the stimulant to produce the same effect. This is why once a person starts watching porn they will need more and more to produce the same arousal level. Porn addiction often leads to less sex and sex that doesn’t satisfy. Eventually this can mean preferring porn to sex.

Our world is a dark place and pornography is not some fantasy world full of pleasure and fun. The making of pornography is filled with drugs, disease, slavery, trafficking, rape and abuse. The women that are being glamorized in porn are often victims and were once little girls just like my daughter. It kills me to think of anyone looking at her or using her as an object.

Below are some resources my family and I have found helpful. Hopefully these can encourage you to start an open dialogue with your spouse and older children or be helpful in creating a plan on how to approach this subject later with your little ones.

Fight the New Drug – This website has great resources, relevant news, personal stories, articles, and videos about the real harmful effects of pornography.

Covenant Eyes – Covenant Eyes is an internet accountability system that monitors the websites visited, the search terms used, and the YouTube videos watched, and lists them in an easy-to-read Report that is designed to start a conversation about healthy online habits. Family accounts are available to protect your family with accountability and filtering.

The Talks – Every parent fears having “the talk.” But what many fail to realize is that one conversation isn’t enough. The Talks will help you to focus on 15 conversations that every family must have about sex and dating and lay the right foundation on critical issues with your younger children.

Sex, Dating, and Relating DVD Set Teen Edition – Josh and I LOVE Mark Gungor’s Laugh Your Way to a Better Marriage DVD and this is the teen edition. If we equip our kids with the right information we should see better results and spend less time trying to untangle the train wrecks that happen because people continue to make the wrong choices.

The cost of pornography is high and a graham cracker isn’t going to fix this problem.

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Cheers to 9 Years

Josh Tam Wedding

Josh was 34 years old on our wedding day and I was a few days shy of turning 24. Today I am a few days away from turning 33 and I as look back on the last 9 years of our marriage I can proudly say that our love story is my favorite, and the best part is it isn’t over yet!

I would be lying if I told you that everything has been smooth sailing since the day we said I do. Neither of us are perfect and thankfully we don’t pretend to be…wellllll sometimes I can be pretty close, just kidding, just kidding. But in all honesty it takes two people to make a marriage work and Josh and I always joke that we are stuck with each other for life because of our covenant marriage*.

With age comes more maturity and the ability to look back on life events from a different perspective. When Josh and I got married I thought I knew what love was. I knew love needed to be patient, kind, hold no record of wrong, not easily angered, not proud, not rude, not boastful, and not self seeking. I knew all these things but I didn’t know how to apply them to my marriage. It has taken years and with daily effort for me to actually attempt to be that definition of love in our marriage. And here is a spoiler alert: I still fail at this most days!

If I have learned anything it is to constantly keep praying, renewing my mind, and focusing on the positive so I can pour out unconditional love onto Josh and now also our children. Not seeing your husband for 24-48 hours at a time, multiple days out of the month, can create a real disconnect in your relationship if you are not careful.

I crushed on him hard at the age of 17 and told my friends I would marry him one day and have his babies. I promise I was not a stalker, but I am super happy that my teenage dream came true! In honor of 9 years of marriage I wanted to brag on Josh for a second and share how he has been a great example of biblical love.

I was super sick when we got married. Like paralyzed from the neck down, couldn’t feel anything sick. The older I get, the more amazed I am that he still wanted to marry me, not knowing what our life would be like several years down the road. Only knowing that I had been sick for 8 months prior to our wedding and that there was no real treatment plan to get me better. He could have easily walked away from me at this time and I know now looking back that he was 100% committed and all in. Most guys don’t go into their marriage prepared to take care of a sick wife who was at the doctors office weekly, in and out of hospitals, and needing help to do everyday tasks most people take for granted. Read more about my autoimmune disorder in The Girl Behind the Blog

He works so hard to provide for our family and does so without complaining…except when it is time to get out of bed in the morning. I can’t tell you how many times I have heard “I wish shift change happened at 8am” muttered under his breath as the alarm goes off for the third snooze cycle. When he comes home from work to two toddlers running around chasing after him, because they are excited to see him, and a wife who can sometimes talk his ear off if she is not careful, he still makes the time to be present with us even if he didn’t get an ounce of sleep, when all he really wants to do is fall into bed and close his eyes.

Marriage is a balancing act. It is learning to put the other persons needs above your own, no matter how hard it is. And sometimes it is really, really, hard.

The disappointments I have had in marriage have come from me thinking that God owed me something because I had done things the “right” way. I thought that God was going to bless me and reward me with a happily every after. I failed to understand that I wasn’t guaranteed a happily ever after in marriage. When two sinners marry there are going to be struggles and hard times.

Hard times will happen in marriage. Hard times will happen in life. For followers of Christ the happy ending is not immediate in this life, but it is guaranteed. We know how this will end for us, and where our hope is centered.

When I reminisce over the last 9 years of our marriage I am in awe of all the God has done. God has used our marriage to teach us and sanctify us so we can love and honor each other and also love God more and more.

Josh has seen me at my worst and has still been able to find a redeeming quality in me that has sometimes been hard for me to see myself and loved me through it. He is kind, believes the best in people, and forgives much easier than I do. For these reasons and many more myself and our children are lucky to have him.

I am thankful for anniversaries because they remind us to seek the best out of of our relationships and look back on how far we have come. I seriously can’t believe that we have two kids and another one soon on the way!

cheers-to-9-years

Tomorrow I am sure I will go back to being more easily annoyed by the small little things that Josh does that bug me, but today I am going to reminisce on the happy memories that have made us us.

Happy Anniversary Josh!

*Arizona, Arkansas, and Louisiana are the only three states that offer a covenant marriage. A covenant marriage is a legally distinct kind of marriage in which the marrying spouses agree to obtain pre-marital counseling and accept more limited grounds for later seeking divorce. To read more about covenant marriage visit The Policy Pages.

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