A while ago I saw a newspaper article about a Christian Mysticism class being held somewhere near where I live. At the time I wondered why they needed a special class for Catholics. I could imagine that Catholics wouldn’t want to chant to Shiva or Ganesha, but I seldom find chanting to Hindu gods in mainstream or beginner yoga classes. So I was left wondering why, if Christians see a value in practicing yoga, that some feel it necessary to customize this non-religious practice to their religion.
Since then, I’ve read a few books on how to practice yoga as a Christian written by Christians. From the books I read, I came away with three main ideas:
- Yoga is not a religion and Christians have nothing to fear from it
- Yoga has spiritual value, even to Christians
- Yoga works by connecting the body, mind and soul
These ideas didn’t surprise me, but I was pleased to find them expressed by Christian yogis.
ustin O’Brien made the first point most eloquently in his book A Meeting of Mystic Paths, Christianity and Yoga when he said, “To put Christian minds at ease, it is important to remember that yoga does not displace religion. Yoga can no more threaten genuine religious beliefs than can a basic course in animal husbandry.”
The main reason that Christians should not have any misgivings about practicing yoga is the idea of intent. If Christians practice yoga with good, Christian intent, then no evil can come of it. Beyond that, there are some parallels that can be drawn between yoga practices and Christian ideals. If you are interested you can read more about those on your own.
As for the second and third points, anyone that has practiced any yoga with any regularity understands that yoga works by connecting the body, mind and soul, and there lies its spiritual value to people of any religion. Nancy Roth, in An Invitation to Christian Yoga, says simply that yoga offers people ways “of expressing with their bodies the prayer that is within them”.