There is no Christian Yoga.
By Yogi Baba Prem, Vedavisharada, CYI, C.ay, C.va
It was quite astonishing to see on the flyer “Christian Yoga! This Thursday night….” I could feel the wheels spinning in my brain. “Christian Yoga”, I thought. Now while Christians can practice yoga, I am not aware of any Christian teachings about yoga. Yoga is not a Judeo/Christian word! It is not a part of the Roman Catholic teachings and certainly not a part of protestant teachings. It is not found within the King James Version of the bible. It is a Hindu word, or more correctly a Sanskrit word from the Vedic civilization. So how did we get “Christian Yoga”?
From this I could conclude that “Christian Yoga” could only indicate one of two possibilities:
1) Christianity is threatened by yoga and is attempting to take over this system that is expanding and successfully teaching spirituality to the masses.
2) Christianity is subconsciously attempting to return to the spiritual roots of civilization—the Vedic civilization.
I thought to myself, “why would they want to take over yoga?” Could it be due to the decline of members within the Christian church within the last 60 years? Is this an extensive marketing plan cooked up in some New York marketing guru’s head? Is it an attempt to water down the teachings of yoga and import their own teachings into the system? Or is it that they cannot stand not to own everything spiritual?
I think the best reason might be that yoga, and eastern spirituality, offered answers to the spiritual questions that the spiritually hungry masses had. It offered a practical, rational, logical, and truthful approach to spirituality. It did not contain any form of self-righteous condemnation, but offered love and acceptance to all. It did not prey upon victims with terms such as “Sin” and “eternal damnation”. But most importantly, it had answers! It offered a practical approach to cultivating a relationship with divinity. It offered a systematic approach and an abstract approach to meet the varying temperaments of the spirituality hungry.
The second possibility was that Christianity was itself looking for answers. Possibly the fundamentalist view, inflexibility, and condemnation was no longer fulfilling the needs of the masses or the leaders of the church. Offering yoga classes allowed the Christian to secretly practice Hinduism without having to renounce their Christian tradition.
Possibly by embracing the technology of yoga and meditation, the Christian church could finally return to the idea of love and acceptance that it believed it was founded upon. It is ironic that one religion would need to look to another religion to teach them about love, peace, harmony, and forgiveness. If successful, it could embrace these ancient teachings and save itself from what has been a steady decline in church attendence of the past few decades.
But possibly in their wisdom, the current fathers of the church realized that their time as a dominte religion was coming to a close. So within America they must absorb yoga before they are absorbed by it. This is a common religious view that has appeared numerous times within world history. Absorbing yoga would allow the church to more quickly move their resources to India. Taking over the country would allow them to own all the spirituality, and then ‘pick and chose’ which tasty spiritual treats they would share. After all they have 2000 years practice with this.
Indian being a loving, peaceful people, openly embraced their brothers from the west. They looked the other way as their temples were torn down. They accepted it as karma as their families were torn apart over differing religious beliefs. The Indians thought it was thoughtful of the missionaries to dress up just like swami’s, to be “just like them” and to share in their kindred spirit.
Modern day scholars from India frequently present the attitude of “let them have yoga, I am interested in protecting Hinduism.” I have heard this sentiment on numerous occasions, but the reality is that yoga is a part of Hinduism. Allowing one part to be taken from Hinduism opens a door for the distortion of the teachings. We must remember that the roots to modern day yoga comes from Vedic Yoga. The same Vedic Yoga that is the authority of Hinduism. Allowing one branch to be severed from the tree of knowledge will not necessarily kill that tree, but it can produce strain and have an unbalancing effect upon the tree.
Hinduism should reclaim its full heritage and not allow other groups to rename its sacred teachings under their banner, especially when they have no history of those teaching within their own system. If they wish to ‘borrow’ and say this comes from our brothers and sisters in Hinduism, then that is another thing. But frequently groups attempt to privatize the information and present themselves as the original authority. Hinduism should guard against its sacred traditions becoming distorted and taken away.
Scholars at universities should take the stand that yoga is part of Hinduism, though one is not required to be a Hindu to practice yoga. It is important to acknowledge the roots of the tradition; after all we are expected to give credit to the orginial sources within books and research papers, but yet Hindu scholars have ignored this fundamental western view when it comes to their own heritage.
One does need to be Hindu to practice yoga, but it is clear from historical evidence that Yoga comes from Hinduism.
Copyright 2005. All Rights Reserved.
The Aurther of this letter is reading alot more into this than it needs to be. Much of the western world are very ignorant to the fact that Yoga is indeed seriously practiced by those in the east as a way of life. Alot of christians see Yoga is a form of exercise. Not that they are trying to be offensive, its just that they are plain ignorant of Yoga. I'm sure if they learned about the true nature of Yoga, they would have a different view entirely of it.The real problem I see is the author coming up with the possibilities of "Christians feel threatened by yoga" lol no. I highly doubt yoga is on christian's top lists of threatening religions.and"Christianity is subconsciously attempting to return to the spiritual roots of civilization—the Vedic civilization."That sentence right there is one of the reasons why I don't like Freudian psychology...It really gets us nowhere.
Reading through these comments has brought me sadness. Such a Christian thing to do; posting about how the "use" of a very ancient and spiritual practice is "just exercise" or "just stretching". How disrespectful to quote from Christian text in this forum. If you are to "borrow" even a minor piece of an honored practice, you should show it due respect. You can not simply take pieces of spiritual practices and claim them as your own to do with as you wish while you talk negatively of their origins.
I appreciate this perspective, noting that yoga is not just exercise. However, to then say that the Christians trying to practice "Christian Yoga" are doing so because they are seeking yogic spirituality to fulfill something they are missing, misses the fact that they are all trying to do yoga merely as a form of exercise, or are (misguidedly, I agree) attempting to re-interpret or transform the spiritual aspects in "christian" terms.
I think in many cases it is true that they are seeking something they are not finding in their Christian church, but that is largely because these churches have given up the true teachings of Christianity and have taken up a modernistic, basically materialistic religion in which the Christian terms are taken as metaphors, and even God is considered to be something like Santa Claus -- only real as a concept of goodness or something like that. They try to replace the true Gospel with good works and self-improvement, and exercises like those in yoga are seen as a good way to self-improvement and any spirituality attached to them is seen as all the same as all other forms of spirituality.
@Steph -- You seem to have missed the fact that what I wrote makes it very clear that I wasn't saying "all Christians" are one way or another. I was only speaking about churches that DO have yoga.. As for accepting (not "excepting" -- look it up!) Christ as Savior, you seem to be again under the mistaken notion that I have not, although the materialistic Christians I wrote about I described as having "given up the true teachings of Christianity..." and "They try to replace the true Gospel..." Obviously I wouldn't write like that if I were one of them. Maybe you should try to read more carefully before you write things in response.
First let me say that you are not speaking about all Christians. There might be a 5% chance that some Christians practice yoga but only for exercise. In my church we do not have yoga and there are no teachings about Hindu. We teach about love, strength, life, and finances just as we do eternal hell. It is everyone's own choice to except Jesus or not, no one is making anybody except Jesus. Jesus in fact is real (more real than you and me) and maybe you should try Him before you deny Him.
as a Christian the meaning of our God is love, forgiveness, peace, strength, light and harmony.(is al over the bible) so NO we are not looking for that in yoga, we are already enjoying of all that and more when we accepted Jesus Christ as our savior. The only reason I like yoga is to physically enhance flexibility and strength. And when I'm in a class and they doing meditation and any kind of prayer. I pray to God and meditate in the Holy Spirit and is so wonderful!!!! so really to us is just a form of exercise and yes I agree there should not call it Christian Yoga!!
Agreed there is only ONE GOD no matter how you call him! I am from the Caribbean but also lived in India for my work and I can tell you that when you look closely there is no basic difference in either religion only one says that Jesus is the son of God and the other call him Mohamed and we should never forget that God also blessed Ismael and not only Jacob! Genesis 21: 13 and 18.
I do not agree with this statement.
I started practicing Kundulini Yoga exercises more than 40 years ago and do it on a daily basis and I don't see how Kundulini Yoga exercises has anything to do with Hinduism religion.
I learned that Yoga is not based or linked to any specific religion but is the spiritual way to The Divine one who is our Lord GOD. After practicing I am able to relax fully and completely and get into spiritual contact with the Divine one and never experience any Hindi spiritual feelings.
Even when Yoga's origin is Hindi practicing the exercises has nothing spiritual linked to the Hinduism or Indian for instance.
Kindly note that yoga has never been equated with just exercise. Even in the most basic yoga text 'Yoga Sutras of Patanjali', asana is relatively minor and as one of the limbs of yoga it (asana) would be equated with only 1/8 of the total steps in the system. I am sorry that someone taught you so poorly that you did not learn about the origins and traditions of yoga. Most yoga texts refer to Hindu deities, use Hindu imagery and philosophy. In fact the term kundalini that you refer to is a Sanskrit term, using Hindu imagery and is certainly an important part of the Hindu tradition that is even found in various forms within the Vedas. Likewise, Hinduism does not embrace the concept of radical universalism that you extoll in your additional post. While Hinduism is pluralistic it is not some type universalism in terms that it teaches the exact same teachings as Christianity for example. There is no 'son of God' in Hinduism aside from the Paratman or supreme soul. There is no author of the Vedas. There is no salvation in Hinduism, rather there is liberation. These are just a few but significant examples of differences between Hinduism and Christianity. Likewise Hinduism follows Dharma and stands against Adharma which has become quite profound in several of the Abrahamic religions.
...orr maybe we (Christians) like to do exercise, see the positive physical aspects of yoga, and wished to approach it from a Christian point of view, or without any religion attached at all and to simply enjoy exercising together! You're thinking too hard, man. If you base your view of Christians on the actions of major "churches", such as Westboro, then your basis of opinion is in error, for they are not accurate representations of the Christian church. Many people assume that disapproving of certain practices (such as being homosexual) is equivalent to hatred or is not an open-minded, accepting response to those actions. This is not so. One can be saddened by the fact that a beloved friend is doing drugs without hating the person. In the same way, Christians - TRUE Christians - can be saddened by the pervasive homosexual culture that is slowly dominating our society and yet STILL LOVE THEM. People need to see that disapproval does not equal hatred, and that love does not necessarily mean total acceptance. Christians are not trying to become Hindi (or whatever your claim is here), Christians are merely gathering together in order to exercise and fellowship with one another.