Mr. Mohler has requested a biblical argument upholding the use of yoga in the Christian church. He bemoans the email responses as (and I paraphrase here) mostly women, so-called Christians, who have ultimately replaced the Christian biblical religion for yoga. And he may be correct, some Christians have chosen to practice yoga as a means for spiritual growth in lieu of their religious obligations. An issue all Christian churches (including the Catholic church) have been battling for years, what some call "cafeteria Christians", people choosing parts of the religion they wish to believe or follow. A clue to this is church attendance dropping over the years - except for high holidays like Easter and Christmas of course.
So is Yoga replacing the biblical religion? Perhaps for some it may. But I personally know a contingent of Christians that are active in their church (weekly even!) and their local yoga studio. So, given that this population does exist, can Yoga and Christianity work together? According to Mr. Mohler, no. According to The Daily Yoke, yes.
1.) The very definition of yoga is "union, to yoke". The yoking done in yoga is to God. However, yoga - not being a religion - does not prescribe any one God "to yoke" with. Therefore, Yoga is not anti-Christian. One may use yoga practices to calm the mind and the body while meditating on Christ without conflict.
2.) The bible calls Christians to meditate:
- Psalm 77:12 "I will meditate on all your works and consider all your mighty deeds."
- Psalm 119:15 "I meditate on your precepts and consider your ways."
- Joshua 1:8 "Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful."
3.) The bible calls Christians to care for our bodies:
- I Cor. 6:20 "Glorify God in your body, and in your spirit."
- I Thessalonians 5:23 "And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ."
- I Corinthians 6:19-20 "What? Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's."
Ultimately, "people are destroyed for lack of knowledge." Hosea 4:6 And I find Mr. Mohler's (and others') attack on yoga to be full ignorance and intolerance. This intolerance is killing Christianity (and many other religions) today. All religions must find in roads, not build walls. The Golden Thread that weaves through religions and spiritual practices throughout the world can teach us about our humanity. The similarities do not threaten Christianity but may serve to preserve and potential grow it. Building walls, drawing lines in the sand, will kill any religion (or society for that matter).
Paul wrote to the Church of Corinth saying "I buffet my body (handle it roughly, discipline it by hardships) and subdue it, for fear that after proclaiming to others the Gospel and things pertaining to it, I myself should become unfit (not stand the test, be unapproved and rejected as a counterfeit)." I Corinthians 9:27
Yoga provides a means to subdue the body and mind, creating what Tom Gillete describes as a "mini crisis" on our mat. We then have the opportunity to practice basic humanity and love - to be nonreactive (as was Christ) in the face of crisis and hardship. A discipline that can be learned through reading the bible (and other religious texts) but also should be practiced. Yoga allows us to practice our religion internally and then bring that beautiful calmness and unity out to the world.
So I may be preaching to the choir, but Mr. Mohler, if you hear me, I beg you to dive into the bible and find the reasons to practice yoga. If you can't find those, please provide me the biblical reasons not to practice yoga. I still haven't been able to find those ...
All in good spirit,
The Daily Yoke