Should Yoga Scare Christians?
The Oxford church I used to attend, St. Aldate’s, had a deliverance ministry written by Neil Anderson called Freedom in Christ. It required you to renounce various things. Including yoga.
I went through the course with two rather unintelligent but dominant women who over a exhausting period of 4 hours insisted I read out the book, orally recanting and renouncing and repenting of lists of things, no matter whether I had done them or not, or even knew what they were.
“What’s this?” “Never mind, repent and renounce it.” I did it to speed my exit!!
Putting yoga on this list is an example of Christian narrow-mindedness. Yoga is a system of exercises and deep breathing, which calms body and mind. It brings a relaxed calm of mind and clarity of thinking by stretching every muscle in the body—and in the process, giving one immense flexibility.
Yoga was originally an ancient Hindu spiritual practice, of course, but a Christian can use its system of slow stretches and deep breathing to calm their mind, to think about important, even spiritual things, to focus on Christ. This is particularly true in a class, in which the instructor tells you what to do, and you do it with your mind in a calm, alive state.
Yoga is particularly good for recognizing the body-mind connection celebrated by the ancient Greeks–a healthy mind in a healthy body. It is difficult to have clear, inspired, creative thoughts–or even pray and reach a breakthrough– in a stiff, restless, tense and uncomfortable body. Conversely, a restless, stressed, hyper mind causes physical restlessness and discomfort.
The Benedictines realized this mind-body connection when they balanced prayer, study and physical labour.
Yoga both calms the mind by exercising the body, and relaxes the body by calming the mind.
There is no inherent opposition between yoga and Christianity. I often pray or think while doing yoga in a class.
My father took it up in his late fifties, and practised it for 30 years, dying a very fit and limber 89.
I do yoga off and on, and when I am practising it regularly, I find it clears my mind, stills my emotions, helps me feel calm and even happy, and I am, of course, a whole lot more flexible and energetic.