I have practiced yoga for about 6 years, though I have been a follower of Jesus for much longer. And now, though I've consciously deleted the Eastern mysticism aspect from my yoga practice, I suddenly find myself at odds with it and am considering another path to wellness.
Yesterday, I went with a friend to an outdoor yoga session, which on this particular day was free and open to the public. My friend is a yoga instructor, and though I don't know her very well I do know that she loves yoga and loves the Lord.
As we waited for the session to begin, we talked about her vision to help young women who've been victims of abuse by teaching directed yoga classes. She admitted a specific fear of moving forward with this, and I started to see the conflict that she may or may not be aware of.
All morning -- before, during, and after the session -- I felt ill at ease with the entire event. From the emcee's "Namaste" greeting (which I replace with God Bless You), to the encouragement of bending my "third eye" to the mat in submission, to the ending relaxation which was organized to look like a gigantic hug in the shape of a heart while we were encouraged to feel the connection with each other and everything else -- I felt the conflict in my heart and asked Jesus for help.
Why was I feeling this now? Maybe it's because my friend shared a great deal of how much she believes in the yoga practice and its associated Eastern philosophies such as chakras, and I knew I was hearing blasphemy. If my friend didn't see the conflict, I certainly did, and it made me very uncomfortable. But I thanked her for the experience and went on with my day. Later, my husband asked me why I didn't enjoy it. I told him "I felt like everyone there were true believers, and I just couldn't drink the punch." Later that day, and this morning, I have been researching this conflict so I can be better informed.
I am praying now for wisdom and discernment, and asking God to reveal the plank in my eye long before I even consider pointing out a speck in my friend's eye, lest I reveal myself as a hypocrite for practicing yoga at all.
The question is, can a person love Jesus and enjoy yoga?
Instructors run the gamut from the spiritually removed to true believers, so influence could be a matter of who I'm learning the practice from. I use the analogy of horoscopes: Reading a horoscope in the newspaper is fairly harmless and far removed from drawing my own astrology charts, but at the end of the day my indulgence in it takes me away from Jesus and toward self-worship by seeking my own answers to life's questions instead of asking Jesus for his guidance. So I don't do it anymore. Why would yoga be any different, especially since its original philosophies, which are still current, are diametrically opposed to biblical teaching?
This is the question I am now asking myself, and the obvious conclusion is that it isn't and I need to make a change.
I admit that it makes me a little sad, but instead of signing up for my regular yoga class at the gym I'm going to try pilates which does not involve any spirituality and includes all of the stretching, strengthening, and concentration that I love so much. There are plenty of other Christians who've turned yoga around as a Christ-centered spiritual practice, and I might check out a DVD to see if it works for me. But since I really want to get out of the house for this kind of exercise, I'll see if pilates scratches the itch without exposing myself to deeper wounds.