Yesterday a friend of mine, who has been taking Yoga classes for the past six months, wrote a brief reflection of his experience on his FaceBook wall by saying, "Yogis and Christians are professing very similar philosophies...quit competing, quit comparing, God created you and God loves you." My initial response to this friend was this: One has to ask what God each is referring to? Yoga, typically associated with Hinduism, has 330 million gods and their gods don't leave me with this impression. Christianity has one God who by definition is love, sent himself in the form of Jesus (God-man) to save us and show us his love through death in our place. So while the two may sound similar as there are many correlations between Christianity and other belief systems, the two are not one in the same. In addition, if one removes Jesus, where does that leave the God of love in Christianity?
My friend may have been innocent in his posting of this, but I know this guy personally, he is a professing Christian, and it was posted publicly. This post is not meant to be a rant against him, but rather to take a brief look into Yoga and whether or not it is a good idea for a Christian to participate in such a practice. While the philosophies may sound similar, there is a big distinction in the two. There is only one God of the Bible, creator of the universe and he is not the god associated with Yoga and its practices. In addition to that, Yogis do not have Jesus, which is a key essential to the God of the Bible. If you take Christ out of the equation it can sound as similar as you want, but without Christ you are left with nothing.
I have to agree with Pastor Mark Driscoll who says, "There is nothing wrong with stretching, exercising, or regulating one's stress through breathing. But when the tenets of yoga are included, it's by definition a worship act to spirit beings other than the God of the Bible. By way of analogy, there is nothing inherently wrong with intimacy, sex, and pleasure. But when the tenets of adultery are included, it's a sinfully idolatrous worship act. A faithful Christian can no more say they are practicing yoga for Jesus than they can say they are committing adultery for Jesus." To see Driscoll's full and lengthy post on Yoga go here.
One must ask the question, can you really practice Yoga and separate the spiritual elements from it? I with Driscoll, along with a prominent Hindu academic professor Aseem Shuka, do not think that you can completely separate the two. Go here to see his full article that appeared in the Washington Post.
So, in conclusion, Yogis and Christians are not professing similar philosophies, but very different philosophies. I did not get into the history, type, or the idea of Christian yoga here, but I encourage you to read Driscoll's article to get a lengthy view into all of this. Keep stretching, exercising, and regulating your stress through breathing, but do so in a way that does not leave you vulnerable to the tenets of Yoga and non-Christian mysticism.