Waves and waves of shimmering pain from my back taught me the Bible inside and out. When you’ve been married long enough you have a sixth sense for when your spouse is troubled or awake in the middle of the night. Given the ever worsening difficulties with my back I tended to be awake a lot at night. I didn’t want to worry or keep my wife up so my solution was to get an MP3 player and the NIV Bible on CD’s and have that beside my bed. When I knew that I would not be sleeping anytime soon I would slip on the head phones and listen to the Bible. My wife didn’t hear a thing. I was no longer focused on pain or not sleeping but was transported to Jerusalem with Jesus, or Patmos with the Apostle John or even a Roman Prison with Paul. I was fascinated, comforted, learning like crazy and actually beginning at times to make peace with back pain because of the nightly opportunities to study the bible.
You would think with all that study under my belt that I could resolve a related question about my health in a morally acceptable way. I am still trying to figure out if I can do Hatha Yoga for the sake of my back without insulting the spirit of grace. Let’s be clear: Yoga works wonders for my back and does all the things the physical therapists want me to do in an enjoyable, easy to find group setting that is clearly beneficial to my well being. For the record I am also well aware that Hatha yoga is a Hindu spiritual practice, I have no illusions on that score. As silly as it seems to me, I do have concerns about somehow being unfaithful to my Christian faith by taking part in a yoga class that clearly benefits my quality of life.
I have been thinking a lot about Christian freedom and all that goes with it and I keep coming back to something that Paul said:
1 Cor 10:23-11:1
23 “Everything is permissible”-but not everything is beneficial. “Everything is permissible”-but not everything is constructive. 24 Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others. 25 Eat anything sold in the meat market without raising questions of conscience, 26 for, “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it.” 27 If some unbeliever invites you to a meal and you want to go, eat whatever is put before you without raising questions of conscience. 28 But if anyone says to you, “This has been offered in sacrifice,” then do not eat it, both for the sake of the man who told you and for conscience’ sake— 29 the other man’s conscience, I mean, not yours. For why should my freedom be judged by another’s conscience? 30 If I take part in the meal with thankfulness, why am I denounced because of something I thank God for? 31 So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. 32 Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God— 33 even as I try to please everybody in every way. For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved.
What if it all comes down to faith? The important question in Gods eyes is not if we practice yoga or not, we are free to do so, but if we keep our faith and that of others as well. Is it possible that the answer is that it’s ok for me to practice yoga as long as I do not become a stumbling block for someone who is, legitimately concerned, as I am, about not insulting the Holy Spirit with which I was sealed. What if not wanting to insult the Spirit of God was and is a good thing and representative of faith just as now concluding that I can do yoga with a clear conscience if I thank God for it and do it for the glory of God is equally representative of my faith now? Is it possible that the answer changes based on Christian development and maturity? If I adopt this view have I achieved a moral and spiritual equivalence with the United States Congress? Or any other band of wimpy politicians? Consider this from Paul again:
1 Cor 9:19-23
19 Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. 20 To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. 21 To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some. 23 I do all this for the sake of the gospel that I may share in its blessings.
So here is my best approximation of an answer for now: I am free to practice yoga as long as my practice is for the glory of God and done in thanksgiving but I am not free to use the fact that I practice yoga to say or boast that my faith is greater than one who honestly feels he or she should not practice yoga. I should use caution and some discernment in talking about this to others because faith is the important thing and any faith in God, including the idea that we dare not do yoga lest we insult the spirit, is still an example of precious faith deserving of protection and respect. I have a nagging suspicion that this is the answer. Of course I had the nagging suspicion that not practicing was the answer earlier. Am I reasoning like a slimy politician or simply growing up a bit in the faith? Either way I go I could be wrong….. I guess that’s why I have to walk by faith.