The first “Christian Yoga” emerged in a book of that title, which was published in 1960, but it has taken some decades to really get going. Today, though, there are thousands of Christian yoga instructors worldwide, Vice reports. One of them, New Yorker Caroline Williams, recently raised more than $10,000 via Kickstarter to fund her Christian yoga tutorial videos.
Meanwhile some Christian-friendly adaptations are swapping out Buddha statues for hardcover Bibles, incorporating Christian study sessions and using “Shalom” in place of “Om.”
The health benefits of practicing yoga know no denominative bounds, and as a 2011 Northwestern University study found that young adults who attend weekly church or Bible study are 50 percent more likely than nonreligious adults to be obese by middle age, the uptake of yoga in the Christian community is a positive step for public health. Research recently conducted by the journal Diabetology & Metabolic Syndrome found a link between practicing yoga and weight loss, making this alone a compelling motivation for anyone seeking to improve their overall wellbeing.
However, others are skeptical about the alignment of Christianity and yoga. “The assumptions and consequences of yoga run counter to much of Christianity”, says Rajiv Malhotra, yogi and author of “Being Different: An Indian Challenge to Western Universalism. While it is fashionable for many Westerners to say they believe in karma and reincarnation (cornerstones of yoga’s metaphysics), they have seldom worked out the contradictions with core biblical doctrines.”
Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, also maintains that contradictions between Christianity and yoga are too blatant to reconcile.
“Most [Christians] seem unaware that yoga cannot be neatly separated into physical and spiritual dimensions,” Mohler writes in his personal blog. “When Christians practise yoga, they must either deny the reality of what yoga represents or fail to see the contradictions between their Christian commitments and their embrace of yoga.”
Whilst no one view can claim ultimate authority on the compatibility between yoga and Christianity, opinions are certainly divided; Suhag Shukla, executive director of the Hindu American Foundation, told Vice, that the Christian spin on yoga isn’t enlightened — it’s “coming from fear and insecurity and a resistance to experience”, yet many Christian yoga adherents don’t see it that way.
According to Laurette Willis, creator of PraiseMoves, a so-called “Christian alternative to yoga,” her
150 postures are “really a way for people to have a closer relationship with God.”
Regardless of individual positions, it seems that yoga’s ability to bring together the physical and the spiritual is speaking to people of varied religious and philosophical backgrounds.
Read the full story at New York Post.