Freedom in the Spirit: Why a Christian can Practice Yoga

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.

NIV

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.

NIV

 

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.

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3 responses to “Freedom in the Spirit: Why a Christian can Practice Yoga

  1. Why would you want to practice Hinduism? By doing this you are indeed breaking the First Commandment.
    By promoting this as ok you are misleading people.
    Check the link to the definition of Yoga from dictionary.com.

  2. The Bible teaches us to abstain from ALL forms of evil. You aren’t praising God by practicing a pagan religious ritual. You are in fact disobeying God and breaking His commandments. Jesus said that paganism, evil, wickedness, etc. have NOTHING in common with God and we can not serve both. With your line of reasoning, its okay for a Christian to practice a Satanic religious ritual as long as you are praising God while you do it. Don’t be deceived. Just like Satan told Eve that there wasn’t anything wrong with eating the fruit, you are telling others that there is nothing wrong with Gods people practicing paganism. Just like your yoga may feel good, I’m sure the fruit tasted good. Just because something looks good, feels good, or tastes good, doesn’t mean it has Gods seal of approval on it.

    • It begs the question of intent.

      I have no intentions of joining the pagans by taking a yoga class it’s a simple matter of it being recommended by my physician. My doctor recommends such a thing because he’s got hard evidence that Yoga is beneficial for all the problems that plague my body. Physically yoga is good for your health and flexibility and strength: that is a fact: A scientifically demonstrable, measurable, reproducible fact. Yoga was developed as a form of Hindu worship: that’s another fact. Does the fact that an ancient religious tradition developed an outstanding regimen of physical exercise necessarily preclude its use by committed Christians in 2009? Is exercise the problem or the fact that it was developed by Hindu’s and not Jane Fonda or Richard Simmons?

      By your line of reasoning prayer would be wrong because Satanists also pray, they pray to Lucifer to be sure, but they pray. Does the fact that Satanists pray to Satan make it unchristian for us to pray to the Father and Jesus? Is prayer the problem, or the fact that one is praying to God and the other to Satan?

      Do you think it’s ok to run competitively and to dedicate it too the Lord? Pagans do that too. If it’s not ok to run competitively and dedicate it to the Lord should we stop running because a Jewish man and a Hindu man and a Buddhist man are running with us also dedicating their run to Jehovah, Buddha and Rama? Is it the running that’s the problem or who we’re running for? Because people of other religions run must we stop running so as not to be deceived? If we can run as a Christian can we not stretch like a Christian too?

      When a Catholic simply sits with the Lord during adoration is that wrong because it’s just like what Zen Buddhists do?

      What about when Christian Children participate in Halloween? That’s got its roots in paganism.

      Easter Egg Hunts have their origin with the Druids if memory serves.

      Social Workers routinely give agitated or anxious or depressed clients exercises that have them repeat a given word like “Love” or “Jesus” or “God” as an exercise to control their racing or painful thoughts. This is essentially a mantra as practiced in yoga. Just because another culture or religious faith has practiced a given physical or mental technique first that makes it non kosher for Christians?

      When I visualize the mountains in Israel where Jesus taught and visualize myself there just listening to him speak is that wrong because its “Creative Visualization” as taught by the New Age Movement and a host of other religious traditions including Catholicism, Buddhism, Hinduism, and so on?

      The question I would ask you to ponder is the Apostle Paul saying that all things are possible for him and nothing is forbidden but not everything is advisable. Would Paul in saying that he’s become all things to all people so that by all means he might save some of them have gone to a Stretching Class/ Yoga Class and would that indeed be a sin? A professed, unashamed Christian going to a Yoga Class as a Christian because the stretching involved is recommended by ones physician is a sin? Paul had some interesting opinions on what one should do if invited to an unbeliever’s house for a mean and when one should raise an issue of conscience….. It was Very interesting reading, to be sure.

      I respect your opinion on the matter and I’ve shared your opinion for most of my life. I once made a special study of what Paul had to say and that changed how I view things. I admit that I may be wrong and I urge everyone to make their own study of the biblical issues involved and as Paul might say whatever the outcome of that study, if they are fully persuaded in their heart that they’ve found the right answer they should stick with that answer.

      I am not a preacher nor a teacher and I make plenty of mistakes and I welcome diverse opinions on this blog. You never go wrong by doing a thorough bible study and opinions developed from careful study are always honorable even if people get different answers. This whole blog is an attempt to understand not only what’s coming our way but why it’s coming and what we should try to do about it. I’m not a professional preacher, I have no authority and everything offered here is simply my opinion.

      Thank you for sharing yours.

      Peace be with you

      Conway Stone

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