Let me repeat that: yoga is NOT a religion. Nor does it belong to any one religion. In fact, it’s merely a philosophy developed independently of religion but adopted by religions to enhance worship experiences of the individuals practicing.
In Luke 10, Jesus says the greatest commandment is to “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” (v.27 NIV). Yoga allows the Christian worshipper an avenue, a mode by which the body – the strength – can be integrated into the worship experience, along with the heart, mind, and soul.
In yoga, we practice a series of ‘asanas’ or poses, which translated means ‘to sit.’ It is a physical, tangible way we can sit in worship at the foot of the cross, meditating on the Word of God.
Everything was created by Him, and for Him, and through Him (Colossians 1:16, Romans 11:36), and so we should be able to find the gospel in all things, and all things should be able to be reclaimed in the power of Christ. Many ancient practices were ahead of their time, and yoga is one of them.
I do believe we, as Christians, should be careful to judge the spiritual benefits of such practices as inappropriate – or worse – just because they are also practiced by those of other religions. After all, we would never stop meditating on His Word and His goodness (Psalm 1:1-2), or praying to our God in heaven, simply (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18) because those who practice other religions also meditate and also pray. Think of all we would miss – how little we would know Jesus – if we committed to avoiding all of the spiritual practices used in other religions based on that principle alone.
I, for one, am so grateful for yoga – Holy Yoga, in particular – for the way that God has used it to work in my life, to hold onto me, and to remind me that His love is real. Our God is BIG, friends. Nothing is beyond His reach. Not me, not you, and certainly not yoga.
And just for fun, because I find this idea fascinating and contrary to what I have been taught about Buddhism in the West, I have included this quote from Thich Nhat Hahn as simply food for thought. I don’t practice Buddhism in any sort of intentional way; any traits I might ever possess that could be similar I would credit to the work of the Holy Spirit (though I, too, have met Christians who believe Buddhism has made them a better Christ follower, and I’m inclined to believe them). But I do love and respect his perspective as a Buddhist monk, and especially his inclusion and explanation of yoga in this way – it is a practice, not a religion. Please do not misunderstand it before making a judgement call about it.