Since I started practicing yoga decades ago, I’ve had lots of discussions with folks brought up in the Christian faith who are curious but skeptical about the practice. For me there’s no reason to question if or why Christians should practice yoga, but I understand some of the hesitation I’ve encountered. For whatever reason, some people believe yoga is spiritually dangerous. But that couldn’t be farther from the truth
The Main Reason Why Christians Should Practice Yoga
Yoga is about union. Specifically, it’s about union with God. The tool we use to connect with God is stillness. If you’re a Christian, my guess is you know this verse from Psalm 46:
Be still and know that I am God.
The number one reason Christians should practice yoga is to become still and know God.
There’s a lot of noise out there, and most of it is distracting. Our minds, limited by words, often get in the way of truly experiencing the divine. In the West, religious practices too often focus on talking about, thinking about, and analyzing the meaning of God. We try to define who God is and how God wants us to act. As a result, we miss the experience. We don’t know how to be with God.
Yoga will put us directly in touch with the experience of God if we practice with intention. It will get us out of our heads. It will calm our minds and bodies and give us the tools to sit in meditation—or prayer—and really get to know God from within.
Yoga is Not a Religion
Yoga is not a religion, but it can help us have a better experience of religious or spiritual life. In the West, we tend to do religion mostly in our heads. For me, yoga is a way to manage the physical and mental aspects of life, so I can align with my true nature and connect with God.
Since yoga came from a culture where Hinduism was the major religion, people often think it is the same thing as Hinduism. Yes, many Hindus practice yoga, but that doesn’t mean Christians can’t or shouldn’t. There’s nothing in yoga that is fundamentally un-Christian. In fact, there are many similarities.
The Eight Limbs of Yoga and Christianity
Yoga is an eight-limbed path that starts with ten tenets—the yamas and the niyamas—that have a lot in common with the Ten Commandments. In fact some (like being truthful and not stealing) are identical.
The goal of yogic exercises and breathing practices is to prepare the body and mind for meditation. Christians—especially Christian mystics like Saint Ignatius of Loyola—have been meditating for centuries. Centering prayer is a Christian practice not unlike mantra meditation.
Yogis focus on loving kindness and non-attachment to worldly things. Jesus taught his followers to do these things as well.
The Yoga Sutras and the Beatitudes
Father Anthony Randazzo, a Catholic priest and yoga teacher, co-wrote a book with yoga teacher Madelena Ferrara-Mattheis called Beatitudes, Christ, and the Practice of Yoga. Non-religious in a sense, the Beatitudes are sayings that Jesus shared with his followers in the Sermon on the Mount. They are “sutras”—sayings—that guide how we should interact with and think about each other.
Centuries ago, a yogi known as Patanjali wrote a collection of sutras that are guidelines for practicing yoga. These, of course, are the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali.
Christians Practicing Yoga
We don’t need to refer to yoga specifically as Christian versus non-Christian. The point is if you are a Christian and meditation on the Word of God is your tool for union with the divine, a yoga practice is an ideal opportunity to deepen that connection.
There’s no reason to wonder why Christians should practice yoga. It can be as simple as eliminating anxiety and sluggishness from your life, so you can live more deeply in love. Or it can be a deeper experience of blissful union with the truth, which for a yogi who is also a Christian, is the Word of God.