In news that should surprise no one, there’s a lady out there in the world today that believes that if Christians do yoga, they could be inadvertently offering praise to a hindu god (“little G!”) and emptying their minds, manipulating life energy and leaving their holy bodies, inviting satanic possession (“I wonder with those experiences when I left my body what got in there when I was gone?”). But don’t worry, she’s got the solution: it’s still yoga, but it’s called Praisemoves. For the Christian who wants all the physical and spiritual benefits of yoga with none of the discomfort of feeling they might be worshiping someone other than their favorite bearded man in the sky.
Yoga calls us to be joyful towards the enlightened, compassion towards the unenlightened, delight towards the virtuous, and indifference towards the wicked. Reading the article, I was finding compassion a bit difficult, though the more I think about the gross misunderstanding of yoga this woman and her potential followers have, the more I realize it’s really only them who are missing out.
Yoga is a compliment to all spiritual life, not a substitute for the spiritual path you’ve chosen. Christians who practice yoga will find themselves getting more Christlike, not less.
A problem that I have with this article, among many, is that it dismisses yoga as “relaxing.” Yoga is not relaxing. Relaxing means sitting in front of a fireplace with a cup of tea watching a shallow movie. Yoga is challenging; you’re called to be patient with yourself and others. You’re called to reserve judgement. You’re called to forgive. All the while, you’re called to hold an abs-quivering forearm plank for 60 seconds. The “relaxing” part only comes during savasana, a deep rest designed to help mind and body absorb the benefits of the practice. But savasana is hardly the entire practice – much like Christianity, the worth is in the work itself.
Yoga has roots in eastern religions: either Hinduism, Buddism, or Jainism in the fifth or sixth century BCE depending on what you read. However, if I’m choosing to follow Jesus’ example of balking in the face of religious customs that don’t ultimately foster reverence for creation, peace, and unity (think Matthew 21:12 – throwing over moneychanger’s tables) and accepting outsider’s methods that do (such as in Luke 9:49 -50 when Jesus tells the disciples not to stop someone doing good in his name just because he wasn’t a member of their posse) I’ve got to accept that practicing peace and good deeds through yoga is a thoroughly Christian endeavor.
Silent, still meditation and prayer through movement are beautiful expressions of Christianity, Hinduism, Judaism, and even humanism. With such ugliness on the name of Christianity such as Praisemoves, the “war on Christmas,” and the Westboro Baptist Church, it forces the question: why do so many self-proclaimed Christians seem so afraid of sharing the beauty of the spiritual life with others?