Should I Do Yoga if I’m a Christian?

Ever since yoga hit the western world’s fitness scene in the early 2000s, much of the UK has been hooked on the spiritual, mental and physical discipline that originated in India around the fifth century BCE.

Should I Do Yoga if I’m a Christian?

Recently I’ve been on a spiritual journey that includes deep prayer, meditation, and mindfulness to help me to connect with God. At the same time, I’ve also been on the hunt for some low-impact stretching that could potentially help with chronic pain in a natural way.

Meditation and stretching. Put those two together and what do you get?

Yoga.

So, I’ve said I need to stretch. And I find that meditation brings me closer to God. These all naturally come together in the form of yoga. But, as a Christian, should I do yoga? Am I allowed? Will Jesus love me less?

Well, first, let’s see…what does the Bible say about the word “yoga”? Nothing. Zero. There’s no record of that word being used.

So now what do I do? Since the Bible doesn’t talk about yoga specifically, I have to use the brains God gave me to dig a bit deeper. Then I can determine how best to deal with this current cultural trend.

Let’s start with a few of the basics:

Yoga began as a spiritual disciple in Hindu which includes breath control, meditation, and static postures of the body. Some people who practice yoga are active Hindus or Buddhists. Many are not.
In the western world, yoga is a broad term that is often descriptive of people engaging in the physical body postures that encourage strength and stamina. Sometimes this is combined with meditation for mental strength, but not exclusively. Some yoga classes used sacred words such as “Om”, “Namaste”, and certain chants that hint to Buddhism and Hinduism. Other classes make no reference to the spiritual world at all and are simply a form of physical exercise. Yoga potures have Sanskrit names that have spiritual meanings. Many times these are replaced with English names that simply describe the form the body is taking. (For instance, “lotus” has become “criss-cross applesauce”.)

The word “yoga” in Sanskrit means “yoke” or “union with God”. God tells me to not worship another god, and I must obey.

So I know that yoga started as an ancient spiritual practice of another religion which should lead me to move forward with caution. But I also know that Jesus came to redeem all things.

Is it possible to engage in a moderated form of yoga that feeds our Christian souls, or should we avoid it altogether? Can we be aware of the potential pitfalls and dangers of the spiritual side of yoga and then practice it in a meaningful way with a Christian bent and attitude?

The famous American minister John Piper seems to think that we can’t. He says we should avoid yoga completely, citing it as antithetical to Christianity.

Don’t get me wrong, I think Piper has some good things to offer. But in this situation I tend to think that maybe he’s throwing the proverbial “baby out with the bathwater”.

Christians have often taken “secular” symbols or practices and re-stored them into something that is healthy and even God-glorifying. Take Christmas, for example. December 25, the day on which we now celebrate Jesus’ birth, was reclaimed from the pagans. That date was redeemed from a pagan holiday to a Christian celebration.

Jesus has come to redeem all things. Even pagan holidays. Possibly even stretching and meditation and breathing?

Over the ages, Christians have used wisdom and the discernment to choose what is right for them as individuals and as a Body of believers. To apply Jesus’ redemption to various non-Christian things.

“Everything is permissible but not everything is beneficial.” 1 Corinthians 10:23

So I need to decide if yoga could be beneficial (or detrimental) to me. In my case, I truly believe God has given me the wisdom and discernment to be able to stretch and strengthen my body without accidentally worshipping a false god. I even believe that I can meditate and breathe while I simultaneously reflect and contemplate how incredible God is. All without slipping into the devil’s snare.

But I am aware that this may not be the case for all people.

Personally, think that I can apply the idea of a “yoke” or “union with God” in yoga to my relationship with Christ. But that doesn’t mean I’ll just sign up for any yoga class that is offered. I need to be wise and first ask questions about how spiritual a class is before taking it. For my own purposes, I tend to learn at home with videos, so there’s not much of a risk of me getting caught in an awkward situation. If something gets a little weird, I can just turn it off.

Holy Yoga is a practice that is gaining traction, offering the grounding of the Gospel while reframing the positive aspects of yoga in a Christian way.

Holy Yoga embraces the essential elements of yoga: breath work, meditation and physical postures. In all of these elements, Christ is the focus of our intention and worship.”

So as I‘m making a decision about yoga (or anything in my life!), I need to ask if it creates a risk of becoming a detriment to my walk with Jesus. If so, then I absolutely shouldn’t do it! But if yoga can be practiced in a way that is healthy to my body and mind, while drawing me closer to Christ with mindfulness and meditation, then is it possible that even John Piper can’t argue with that?

Written by Julie Workman

Julie Workman enjoys knitting, whitewater rafting, and drinking coffee—usually not all at the same time. She, her husband and their four teenagers are part of a movement of God’s people who are reaching Europe to impact the world.

31 Comments

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  1. I don’t know. I think this is a to each their own subject. I love stretching my body. Yoga while in theory looks cool, but I’m lazy so it doesn’t really happen. Meditation on the other hand, I am a big believer in.

  2. The question would then lean to which aspects of yoga ,there is simple meditation, which is recommended to every Christian, mediate on this law of the the Lord and the silence and solitude,
    Then there is breath control of course which is essential to human body ,oxygen is essential
    But the third which is the chanting of certain mantras then this is something a Christian is to take in

  3. I do yoga but at home, or by myself when practising it in public. Doing it at home or by myself in public allows me to be in control of the situation where as I am a Christian and I don’t believe it’s right for me to practise meditational yoga.
    Even if I found a class that had little to no spiritual aspect to it, or an open class that allows anyone (of all yoga types, forms, and levels) to participate, I wouldn’t sign up.
    My reason not to go is because even though, I know where I stand in my yoga comfort zone and what I believe in, but I can’t say that about everyone else. Also I get it that some people say ‘we’ll you’d have a great opourtunity to bring up your faith and religion’ to the class, but would I really? I’m not so sure. Is bringing up christianity in a yoga class going to make someone question my christianity in a good or bad way?

  4. Hi Julie, Thank you for this article. I am having this kind of situation wherein I am on the verge of deepening my relationship with Christ yet the paths are leading to yoga practice. Praise God for His wisdom and use yoga to glorify Him further? More power and I pray for your continuous journey with Christ.

  5. Hi Julie, Thank you for this article. I am having this kind of situation wherein I am on the verge of deepening my relationship with Christ yet the paths are leading to yoga practice. Praise God for His wisdom and use yoga to glorify Him further? More power and I pray for your continuous journey with Christ.

  6. If the question is this “SHOULD a christian participate in Yoga?” The answer for everyone should be simply no. What do I mean? I mean what is the WISEST choice for a christian to make? To not engage in Yoga. It doesn’t mean you CAN’T do Yoga, it means it’s not the wisest choice to make.

    Here is a simple rule to live life by… if you have to ask all sorts of questions and investigate this or that before you partake in something… leave it alone. Things that truly glorify God never have to be “investigated” further.

    Also you NEVER have to find justification to Glorify God. You don’t have to find reasons why it might be ok for some people, but not others. You see what I mean? Glorifying God is GOOD FOR ALL PEOPLE all the time and that is how we should make our choices.

    The same is true of alcohol. SHOULD a christian drink alcohol? No. That is the wisest choice. Period.
    Why? Because you can NEVER know with 100% certainty at what point you will become intoxicated which the Bible clearly forbids.

    Lastly Julie I will say this, you mentioned in a comment that you can never be possessed by a demon. We could debate this for hours, and I don’t agree at all with that assumption. But you ABSOLUTELY can and will be Oppressed by demons if you give them open doors into your life.

    Recently I visited a Martial Arts studio, Aikido specifically and watched a class. At the beginning, all of the black belts and students lined up in a kneeling position… clapped their hands loudly, said something in Japanese and bowed down to a photo of the Aikido Founder hanging on the wall. They did this a number of times. I walked out. I can never bow down to anyone besides Jesus Christ. Period.

    We have to set boundaries in our life, and walk wisely. I believe John Piper is right about this… and when you begin to dabble in these things with all the confidence in your faith… your pride may be the bigger problem.

    Food for thought.

    • Keith,
      I’ve read your points above several times. I have questions.

      1. You say, “If you have to ask all sorts of questions and investigate this or that before you partake in something…leave it alone.”

      The problem with this comment is that I don’t think it reflects what we are taught in the New Testament. Two brief examples: 1 John 4 teaches us to test the spirits. By your logic, if there is a question then we shouldn’t test the spirits, but simply ignore it and leave it alone. Was John wrong to challenge us to test the spirits?

      The second example is that of the Berean’s in Acts 17. They are praised for their willingness to examine the Scriptures (to investigate) if what Paul says is true. I think it’s easy for us to forget that when the gospel was first proclaimed it required much investigation and questioning. Can you help me see in Scripture where we are encouraged to not question or investigate and that to do so implies it is something bad that we must leave alone?

      2. You have written, “Also you NEVER have to find justification to Glorify God. You don’t have to find reasons why it might be ok for some people, but not others.”

      In Colossians 2 Paul states that we should not let anyone judge us with regard to what we eat or drink, or with regard to religious festivals we participate in. It seems he is saying exactly the opposite of you (both here and in other places). Romans 14 would be an interesting place to test your premise as well. Do you disagree with the premise put forward in Scripture that in fact some things are ok for one but not another? Colossians is but one example of several Paul puts forward.

      3. Lastly, I am sad for your sense of fear that as a Christian you could potentially be possessed by a demon. I believe the Bible’s promises about the triumphant and victorious love of Christ. I believe that nothing can separate me from him or his love. Do you genuinely think that as a Christian a demon can come in and take over where Christ has made his home?

      These are genuine questions I had as I read your words. I may be wrong about my perception of how you’ve taken this article, but my general observation of your comments is that perhaps you have lost the plot in all of this. Maybe not, but it does seem you’ve spent your energies trying to define and put in place rules for others, rather than recognising your freedom in Christ

      Lastly, just an aside. It’s interesting that you give the example of bowing before a picture of some man as a part of your explanation about why the author is so wrong. I’m fairly certain she didn’t encourage worship of anyone but Jesus in what she wrote. (There isn’t really a question there, it’s just my observation.)

  7. I, too, believe this is an excellent article. You are encouraging each person to take stock and study for themselves whether they would engage in yoga or not. If a person is worried about demonic possession, then they should stay away from it. As with anything, we have to decide for ourselves where we stand. We individually work out our salvation.

    We have to approach these difficult subjects with humility. I believe you have done that. Thank you for your bravery.

  8. I agree with this article! Each person can decide for themselves. Most yoga classes I’ve been to and videos I’ve done at home are simply exercising!! Nothing spiritual in them, no conjuring up of demons. Westernized yoga is seriously just exercising, it’s no different than doing push-ups and sit-ups, hitting up the gym to use the machines, or taking a Zumba class. It’s just doing slower controlled movements in a quiet atmosphere, which can lend itself to connecting with God and meditating on His attributes, Goodness, and His Word if you’d like to. When others say Namaste you can say “Thank you Lord for this time to connect with you and keep my body healthy so that I can continue to serve You, my family, and neighbors without being a burden to others.” When you get into the Warrior stance, you can pray, Lord make me a warrior for your gospel and your love and grace.
    Mrs. Workman wisely said many times, each Christian should decide for themselves if it’s edifying or if it’s detrimental to their relationship with the Lord. Rather than conjuring up demons what I would be most worried about for christians in yoga is making it an idol. For some people they can become consumed with going to class, their yoga friends, getting nice new yoga gear, practicing more than others, etc. Just like cross fit, or any other athletics, yoga can quickly be all consuming and what we find our identity and comfort it, so we should approach with caution. But once you find your healthy limits, go for it! Be healthy, connect to God!

  9. Yoga can open doors to demonic possession, I don’t advice any divinely reasonable Christian to engage in it.

    If you want to do Meditation, then meditate on the word of God, and if you want to stretch your body then go for regular exercise. We should not try to make what is demonically inspired look as if it’s now a normal thing for we Christians to do.

    The Bible said we should be sober and vigilant.

    • Thank you for your concern about demonic possession but there is no power of hell or any scheme of man that could ever take me from the hands of Jesus. There is no potential for me to be possessed by demons when I am covered by the power of the blood of Jesus. I need not live in fear. I am secure in Christ. I live in freedom.

      Also, I may not have made it clear that the meditation I engage in during yoga-like stretching is all about the Word of God. My apologies for that.

      Romans 8:38-39 “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (NIV).

  10. At most yoga classes the word “Namaste” is said.
    It means “I bow to the god within you.”
    I would not go to any class that wants me to say this word – sure, I want others to bow to my God, the Almighty … but never to any other!

    • Of course, we should never bow to any other God! I think that using the word “namaste” is probably not required in most classes. I wouldn’t go either if it was. As I said, if something could be a detriment to our walk with Jesus, then we shouldn’t do it!

      • After leaving the fundamentalist religion I grew up in at the age of 36 I too went to yoga classes on and off for many years as well as meditation retreats. I became a Christian in the UK and recently due to ill health went to physio classes using Hanna somatic movement with some gentle yoga. Even though the instructor said we didn’t need to participate in the Buddhist prayer at the end and the Namaste, increasingly I became uncomfortable and ceased attending. Each person needs to decide what is right for them.

      • I had a quick look at the link you provided and I have had half a lifetime of Biblical interpretations to suit whatever the person/organisation wanted it to say pushed onto me. I believe the contemplative traditions in the 2,000 years of Christianity and liturgies that have been around for hundreds of years continue to provide comfort and stability rather than thought bubbles with business opportunities attached.

  11. Jewel
    I would just do some normal stretching and meditate on the Word of God and breathing exercises. No yoga classes. I believe it is an open door to the enemy.

  12. Can i just say there is nothing about Christmas or yoga that glorifies God let’s not kid ourselves. They are both pagan and will always be. God came to redeem us not pagan practices. But of course when we want what we want then we can argue anything to make it right. But always obedience is better than sacrifice.

    • That’s an interesting thought, Keesha. I have found the celebration of God’s incarnation as a baby into this world to be a time that is filled with worship, praise, and glory to Him. I’m sad that you have not.

      Also, I’m grieved by your limited view that God only came to redeem people and not anything else. He’s came to redeem ALL THINGS! I think the Bible speaks clearly to this here:

      Colossians 1:19-20 “For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.”

  13. Yoga calls upon and conjures many demonic spirits. Kundalini for one is a demonic spirit. I wouldn’t do yoga as a Christian. It is a door to the demonic spiritual world.

    • You’re absolutely right. For many years I was involved with a ministry in India. Many new believers familiar with the U.S. said things like, “I can’t believe we’re coming out of the bondage of Hinduism and Americans are embracing its practices!”

      • I do agree that people who have been redeemed out of the bondage of Hinduism should take great care not to practice anything that could become a stumbling block or draw them back into the demonic world. Just like Christians are free to drink alcohol but those who struggle with it should avoid it.

        But do these redeemed Hindus pray? Do they worship? Do they breathe? Yes! I’m sure they do. But now it is redeemed by Christ. And that’s an incredible gift!

    • Yoga is a spiritual discipline that has certainly been used by Hindus, but it actually predates Hinduism. Hindus don’t own yoga any more than they own breathing, praying, or meditating. All of these things can be used for darkness or for God’s glory. We humans can choose.

      Also, I don’t believe that a mature Christian who is practicing yoga can accidentally conjure up Kundalini or any other demonic spirits. But thank you for sharing your thoughts, Anonymous. If it makes you afraid, then you certainly should avoid it.

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