Is Yoga An Anti-Christian Practice?

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Warning to Christians: There may be churches that will bless your Blackberry, but your favorite morning workout may undermine your faith.

In a recent blog post, Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr. president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, examines the argument that practicing yoga may be in direct conflict with the values of Christianity. “Yoga begins and ends with an understanding of the body that is, to say the very least, at odds with the Christian understanding,” Mohler writes.

We wonder what he’d think about New York City’s “Star Wars Yoga.”

Mohler’s warning to Christians stems from Stefanie Syman’s recent book, The Subtle Body: The Story of Yoga in America,  a “masterpiece of cultural history” according to Mohler, who argues that it’s yoga’s deeply rooted – and almost ritualistic – meditation through physical positions that should cause Christians to think before they stretch. “Yoga begins and ends with an understanding of the body that is, to say the very least, at odds with the Christian understanding,” he writes. “Christians are not called to empty the mind or to see the human body as a means of connecting to and coming to know the divine. Believers are called to meditate upon the Word of God — an external Word that comes to us by divine revelation — not to meditate by means of incomprehensible syllables.”

Mohler even cites Douglas R. Groothuis, Professor of Philosophy at Denver Seminary, who once wrote, “All forms of yoga involve occult assumptions.” Though connecting yoga with the occult seems like a bit of a dramatic overstatement, Mohler’s post heeds his own warning to the Christian population, claiming that “most seem unaware that yoga cannot be neatly separated into physical and spiritual dimensions. The physical is the spiritual in yoga, and the exercises and disciplines of yoga are meant to connect with the divine.”

(Photos: The Unlikely Exercises of Facial Yoga)

A traditional spiritual and physical practice originated in India, yoga is no longer a “fringe” practice in American culture, with devoted gyms sprinkled all over the country. Still, anti-Christian accusations are nothing new – the Catholic Church has expressed concern over the encouragement of Eastern meditation as far back as the 1980s. Still, there’s cause to ask if the “yoga” most Americans experience is really yoga at all, or just some watered-down stretching routine popularized by celebrity culture?

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