Saturday, October 9, 2010

Yoga and Christianity

If you are even somewhat interested in yoga, and you have computer access, you’ve surely by now heard of Southern Baptist seminary president Albert Mohler who is making waves by his assertion that Christians shouldn’t do yoga.

First of all this is nothing new. He is but the latest Christian leader to come out against yoga. Actually he’s just the latest in a long line of Christian leaders to come out against many activities in modern society from yoga to martial arts to Pokemon cards to Harry Potter books.  There is a lot of potential temptation in the world and always someone willing to speak out against it.

My first instinct when I heard this is he should just be ignored. Give him his 15 minutes of fame and soon enough this will be a non-story.  But so many of my fellow yogi’s and friends are asking me about it I feel like I have to try and make sense of it myself.  I’m not a theology master, I’m not a yoga master, and honestly I’m not even a regular church goer. But I believe in God, and I’ve been fortunate to have been mentored by wonderful Christian women and yoga leaders.

Mohler says that stretching and meditation are not a Christian pathway to God.

Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 1 Corinthians 6:19

If our physical body is a temple only on loan to us, than we are responsible for caring for our bodies in a way that would please the Lord.  The asanas, the physical poses of yoga, are but one way to do that. Keeping our physical body flexible, strong and free of injury should be our duty and our desire. Most yogis I know are very aware of eating a healthy diet and don’t abuse their bodies with alcohol, tobacco or other drugs.

And David danced before the Lord with all his might. 2 Samuel 6:14

Keeping our bodies healthy, and moving them in an aesthetically pleasing way can be a tribute and a show of gratitude for the form we’ve been given.

This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night Joshua 1:8

The physical poses of yoga, from down dog to warrior, are the best known part of yoga here in America, but they are actually not the most important. The ancient yogi’s knew that physical activity was first necessary to get rid of excess energy and to loosen the muscles and make the body more flexible so that sitting for extended periods in meditation would be possible.

And if you don’t believe that, try taking a toddler to church. There is a reason moms let their little ones run around the vestibule or climb under the pews before service starts. A little physical movement first leads to a quieter, calmer time later.

The purpose of meditation in yoga is to quiet the mind of the daily clutter and confusion of the outside world. Only when the mind is quiet can we truly find peace.

Mohler’s biggest complaint against yoga is  "the idea that the body is a vehicle for reaching consciousness with the divine."

Love the  Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength Mark 12:30

I’m not a religious person. I admit to having some issues with organized religion. But I am a spiritual person. If yoga and meditation lead me to a deeper spiritual place, isn’t that deepening my relationship with God?

I was a little hesitant in writing this and quoting scripture. Anyone can use scripture to promote their agenda.  Wars have been started and lives have been killed in the name of God. And really, that’s what bothers me most about Mohler’s teachings.  He is using the word of God to put fear in his followers. Fear that honoring their body is somehow against God. Fear that quieting their mind will lead to sinful temptation rather than divine inspiration.

I don’t believe in Albert Mohler or any human who claims to speak for God. The God I believe in would weep over someone burning a Koran. The God I believe in would be ashamed of someone being told they aren’t a “real” Christian. The God I believe in doesn’t deem one group good and one group bad based on geography or history.

The God I believe in would open his arms and take joy in any activity that helps a person drown out the noise and move away from negative worldly distractions. The God I believe in would dance with me through a vinyasa and sit quietly with me in meditation.  The God I believe in would show me love and light when I was ready, no matter what path I took to get there.

There are many paths to one truth. I respect Mohler for the path he’s chosen. I ask that he not condemn mine.


  1. thanks Jennifer, for speaking truth, not rhetoric.
    I appreciate you!

  2. Jennifer, That was totally awesome and you said it beautifully.

  3. Wow". You are awesome and brave as always! Couldn't possibly agree more. Hey everybody that's my baby girl writing this!