Is Yoga Unchristian?

I honestly can’t remember the last time I tried to touch my toes.  I’m tempted to try it now as I write, but I’m afraid that I might hurt something, and I have a deadline to meet on this blog post.  I know my wife has attended a few yoga classes at Wilson’s Total Fitness over the years and she would say it is one of the best workouts you can possibly have.  My workouts consist of 18 holes and a cart.  I’m not kidding.  I literally don’t run unless I’m running from somebody.  

Due to my general lack of enthusiasm with exercise, the topic of yoga is understandably not one I am extremely excited about.  However, I noticed an article concerning an editorial by the president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary about that very subject.  Dr. Albert Mohler poses many interesting questions in “The Subtle Body-Should Christians Practice Yoga?”.  Ultimately Dr. Mohler feels the contradictions between the origins of Yoga and the Christian faith are too great to ignore.  He feels the compromises necessary for Christians to practice true yoga are indeed central to their faith.  

I truly can empathize with Dr. Mohler and his cultural stance.  However, I have to ask the question of whether it is really helpful?  I have spent most of my life in church and I must admit this article brought back a strange sense of nostalgia from my youth.  The feeling is not unlike I experience when I hear someone refer to a radio as a boombox or the use of the exuberant adjective “rad”.  My mind drifts to how we could have possibly thought it was okay to talk that way?  

I am concerned of the ultimate value in building the kingdom of God when the academic leader of an entire denomination targets an exercise program.  I agree with Dr. Mohler as he laments our cultural tendency to ignore historical context in our choices as Christians.  In fact, I had posted this blog and then rescinded it after I was made aware of Dr. Mohler’s most recent editorial “Yahoo, Yoga and Yours Truly”. I have gone back and adjusted some of my original thoughts after reading his latest article.  

Dr. Mohler is clearly exhausted with the endless stream of abusive and nasty responses he is getting over his original article and I didn’t think it would be helpful to be added to his list.  My response to the article is not about the theological foundations of a case for, or against, yoga.  I merely question the benefit of a Christian leader making broad generalizations about an entity with an even broader cultural context.  I liken it to a stance against dancing, drinking, Disney or even attending movies on a Sunday.

It seems to me a church built on “don’ts” makes it hard to get people to hear the “do’s”.  I don’t find it common in scripture for the early church to engage culture by dictating and defending the activities of its members.  Can you think of an example?  For certain Paul wrote letters to the church admonishing them in “don’ts” but many times the “don’ts” were in regard to Christians adding to the gospel.  Paul’s admonishments also seem directed at encouraging the church to spend less time in internal conflict and more time in external love and service.   

I can just see it now.  A coworker asks a Christian at her office if she would like to join her for yoga after work.  Sensing a good opportunity to “share” her faith, the Christian proceeds to pontificate on the overtly hindu origins and strong sexual energy of yoga as she rejects the notion of partaking in such a obvious example of post-modern spiritual confusion.  What she does not “share” is her own struggles and fears, which is exactly what her coworker wanted to talk with her about at yoga.

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