Christian Author Says Yoga Okay for Christians
By T.D. Jakes
Webster’s defines yoga as “a Hindu theistic philosophy teaching the suppression of all activity of body, mind, and will in order that the self may realize its distinction from them and attain liberation.”
Many simply define it as a system of exercises for attaining bodily or mental control and well-being.
The Lighthouse Trails and Research Project, a religious watchdog organization founded in 2000 by David and Deborah Dombrowski, call eastern spiritual practices “New Age Spirituality” and list it as “a sweeping phenomenon.”
The Lighthouse Trials and Research Project goes on to further say, “Christian leaders are embracing practices and a new spirituality that borrows from Eastern mysticism and New Age philosophy… and involve many of the most popular evangelical leaders including Rick Warren, Brian McLaren, Richard Foster, Tony Campolo, and Eugene Peterson.”
In Warren’s Purpose-Driven Life, he does encourages people to practice “breath prayers” by repeating words and phrases over and over in a mantra-style prayer, a practice that is similar to that found in Hindu yoga and Zen Buddhism, but I don’t view that as a recommendation to forgo the laws of the God of Abraham.
In many cases yoga can be viewed as a quiet place where we individually meditate on God’s word and who that God is. For Christians, the Bible does encourage believers to meditate and think on God’s word and positive affirming thoughts. In Psalm Chapter 1, the psalmist advocates meditation on God’s word. The apostle Paul says in Phil 4:8 that we are to think on a list of positive things.
While I am sure that yoga was not what either writer had in mind, it seems plausible that many of the people who do practice this generic contemporary style yoga from a physical development perspective do so without compromising the tenets of their faith.
I believe at the core of the debate is what your intentions are when one practices the exercises of yoga or when you meditate. If you are embracing or practicing “New Age” eastern spirituality in search of finding an alternative to your current religion, then you have already left the practices and laws that previously governed your religion.
However, if I am a Christian, then the fact that I do yoga to enhance my physical condition, or meditate to help me clear my mind, do not change my beliefs in Christianity or remove or weaken my faith. My primary concern only lies with wondering if new Christians are adept at discerning where breathing and meditation end, and a newfound religion begins. Like many things in life, perhaps the answer lies in each individual’s ability to have boundaries that are adjusted to his or her maturity level as a Christian.
In Hebrews 11:1 faith is defined as the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. And that is the real question: Where does my faith lie?
The important issue here is not that as a Christian, Muslim or Jew I participate in a yoga or meditation class at the local health club a few times a week, but how committed am I at practicing the principles and laws of my faith and religion?