Jump directly to the content

Yoga: An Exercise in Discernment


Apr 22 2010
How I submit the meditative practice to Christ.

About 16 million adults in the United States practice yoga—an increase of 85 percent from 2004 to 2008—and the Los Angeles Times reports that both Christian and Jewish groups are incorporating the Eastern meditation practice into their respective faith tradition. Explicitly Christian yoga classes, such as Laurette Willis's PraiseMoves, seek to "transform your workout into worship!" I've practiced yoga for over six years now, but haven't sought out a Christian class, instead being content to bring my faith to the class I attend. This exercise in Christian discernment has strengthened both my body and my spirit.

I had two reservations when I began practicing yoga. One, I don't like trying new things, and the thought of contorting my not-so-flexible body in front of others made me nervous. Two, I knew that yoga had Eastern origins, and didn't want to turn exercise into an unwitting endorsement of Hinduism. But the class was free, and I wanted to be more willing to try new things, and I figured my faith could withstand one yoga class. So I went.

And I loved it. As a Christian, the spiritual aspect of yoga both attracts me and concerns me. It's easy to affirm the goodness of taking care of my body. Even though "honor God with your body" (1 Cor. 6:20) was written to address sexual morality, it extends to the care we take in other areas as well. Christian theology insists that our bodies matter. God's physical creation is a good one. In contrast to the Greek idea that the body is corrupt, Christ's incarnation affirms the importance of physical existence. Moreover, Christian hope is built on the promise that our souls and our bodies will be resurrected as a part of God's new heaven and new earth. Again, Christian theology insists that our bodies matter—even though our spiritual practices, especially in private, are often devoid of physical expression.

Yoga offers a way to connect the physical and the spiritual. A posture of hands raised (a "sun salutation") can be an expression of worship to the God who made the sun. "Child pose," a posture of dependence, head to the ground, knees drawn into the body, can be a reminder of humility, reverence, and vulnerability before God. Yoga also emphasizes the significance of breathing. When I start a yoga class with breathing exercises, I think about God's Spirit—a word in Hebrew that can also be translated breath—hovering over the face of the waters, and breathing life into Adam. I think about Jesus on the cross, breathing his last that we might live.

To add a comment you need to be a registered user or Christianity Today subscriber.

orSubscribeor
More from Her.menutics
Parents: Give Up Your Great Expectations

Parents: Give Up Your Great Expectations

Embracing the imago Dei over childhood milestones.
How HGTV Built a Network on Redemption Stories

How HGTV Built a Network on Redemption Stories

The real reason we get hooked watching home renovations.
If I See Blue, and You See White, Why Does It Matter?

If I See Blue, and You See White, Why Does It Matter?

The significance of our viral debate over #TheDress.
Too Frugal for Our Own Good?

Too Frugal for Our Own Good?

Saving money saved our family, but I refuse to let it become an idol.
Include results from Christianity Today
Browse Archives:

What We're Reading

CT eBooks and Bible Studies

Christianity Today
Yoga: An Exercise in Discernment