Yoga: a biblical response (Part 1 of 4)

Al Mohler, the president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, is a man whose biblical wisdom I respect. So it attracted my attention today when he wrote an analysis of yoga with this conclusion:

When Christians practice 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. […] Christians who practice yoga are embracing, or at minimum flirting with, a spiritual practice that threatens to transform their own spiritual lives into a “post-Christian, spiritually polyglot” reality.

Now, the reason that Mohler’s article caught my attention is because I’m about a month into the popular P90X workout program. Of the twelve workout DVDs, one of them is titled “Yoga X”, which trainer Tony Horton advocates because “it gives you strength, flexibility, coordination, and balance, plus calmness of mind.” If Mohler’s conclusions are sound, I could not continue to do this workout. I’m okay with that; in fact, I was suspicious of it when I started P90X because of yoga’s origins in Eastern religions that would lead me away from Jesus Christ and a Christian worldview.

But even though I share Mohler’s concern about yoga, I can’t agree with his conclusions. The main weakness in Mohler’s approach to yoga is that he doesn’t turn to the Bible to see how God says we should respond to practices that may be “borrowed” from other religions. Like Zach Nielsen and others whom I see responding to Mohler’s article, I believe that a Christian should approach yoga with more nuance than “don’t do it.”

So here’s the (tentative!) plan: tomorrow we’ll take a look at 1 Corinthians 8–10, in which Paul talks the church in Corinth through a similar controversy. The next day, we’ll see how the principles we learned from Paul’s letter are significant to a Christian’s approach to yoga. Finally, I’ll end with an example—how I plan to respond to this teaching in my own life situation.

I’d love to read your comments on this series if you have insights into the Eastern and Western approaches to yoga or if you have thoughts on how the Bible addresses this important issue. And if you want to insult me for my yoga/yogurt pun, that’s fair too.

6 thoughts on “Yoga: a biblical response (Part 1 of 4)

  1. Uh, there’s reading something and then there’s understanding it. I think you really misunderstood what Mohler was getting at…as did many people.

    Mohler wasn’t saying that doing p-90X (or ANY form of stretching, bending, or physical posturing) was bad, or would have bad consequences. He was saying that those things are wrongly confused with being yoga.

    Mohler was saying that bending and stretching is NOT yoga. It’s Asana, which is 1 of 8 components of any yoga, and there are 5 different types of Yoga. Yoga is the path off the wheel of samsara, the nightmare of death and rebirth.

    Mohler was basically arguing that Christians who are doing actual yoga shouldn’t, because actual yoga is a fulfledged religious practice (like repentance, prayer, singing worship songs, etc.); Yoga is the “practice” of the religion of Hinduism. “Doing yoga” is synonymous with “doing hinduism”.

    But, people who confuse stretching and posturing with yoga are simply wrong and should not refer to that as yoga; it’s stretching and posturing. The problem is that people get decieved when people who practice stretching and posturing (i.e. pilates) wrongfully call that “yoga”. Those people who stretch and posture think that yoga is safe, and then get another yoga teacher who teaches them actual yoga (not just asana); who starts peddling blatant hinduism to them under the guise of yoga, which they’ve been taught is “only stretching”.

    1. Yup, apparently that is what Mohler meant, according to his follow-up statement anyway. I think the fact that a lot of other people were confused as well makes me wish he had made this more clear in his original statement.

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