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Christian Yoga

Christian Yoga, Clergy, and
Faithful of Christianity
Indirectly Promoting
Traditional Yoga

by Swami Jnaneshvara Bharati 
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Christians argue that Yoga is a religion

Whether there is or is not such a thing as "Christian Yoga," it has become a quite controversial topic recently. Many so-called Yoga teachers claim that Yoga is just a physical fitness or alternative health program, and therefore has no conflict whatsoever with Christianity. Meanwhile, many Christians argue that Yoga is a religion and should therefore not be practiced in any form by the Christian faithful. Still other Christians bridge both of these views by creating a new category that they call "Christian Yoga."

ABOUT THE VIDEO BELOW: Can a Christian Practice Yoga? It depends on the individual Christian and the extent of his or her deep longing for union or Yoga that may lie deeply in the mind and heart. If one practices physical posture without the higher goals, it can hardly be called Yoga. It may be physical fitness, but it is no more Yoga than drinking wine and eating bread alone are Christianity. The point of this video is utterly simple. It is in support of Christians who would not want their communion practices with bread and wine denigrated. Practitioners of authentic Yoga also do not want their practices denigrated. Yoga is simply not a physical fitness program. It is a spiritual path or process. Nothing in this video is telling Christians to change their religious practices. It is suggesting that if one seeks the authentic goals of Yoga, then do it. If not, then don't do it. But don't distort and denigrate the true goals and nature of Yoga so that it matches your religion.

Can a Christian Practice Yoga?
(YouTube site of Swami J)

See also the article: Yoga and Christianity

Yoga principles are contained within religions

For thousands of years Yoga has been a universal process leading to subtle spiritual realization or direct experience, regardless of the religious orientation of the practitioner. Many of the principles of traditional Yoga are contained in the esoteric or mystical teachings of virtually all of the world's most known religions, including not only those of the South Asia region, but also those of the Judeo-Christian heritage. It has often and correctly been said that Yoga is in religion, but that religion is not in Yoga.

Spiritual roots have been thrown out

A big part of the confusion about Yoga and "Christian Yoga" stems from the fact that modern so-called Yoga teachers and their institutions, particularly in America, have significantly distorted or devolved the authentic, traditional Yoga of the sages. By attempting to reduce Yoga to a mere physical therapy or medical treatment, they have effectively thrown out the spiritual roots and goals of Yoga.

The true goals of Yoga relate to kundalini and samadhi

Modern Yoga styles and studios emphasize postures. The Sanskrit word for posture is "asana" and the root of that is "~as" which means "to sit." The Yoga Sutras (ca 2nd century BCE) is one of the most known of the ancient texts on traditional Yoga. According to the Yoga Sutras, asana or sitting posture is rung three of eight rungs of Yoga, and the purpose of that is meditation and the deep absorption known as samadhi, rungs seven and eight. The Hatha Yoga Pradipika (ca 15th century CE) is the most known traditional text that describes physical postures. Even a glancing overview of that text will quickly reveal the true goals of Hatha Yoga as also being the awakening of the subtle energy known as kundalini, and the subsequent experience of samadhi.

Christian opposition to Yoga effectively promote Yoga

Ironically, it is the Christians opposed to Yoga who seem to indirectly be doing the most in the US to promote the truer meaning of Yoga, although it is self-evident that this is not their intent. Most of the Christian critics emphasize the orthodox or exoteric practices of their religion, and either fail to see, or are opposed to the esoteric or mystical roots of their own traditions.  Because of this, they also either fail to see the utility of traditional Yoga for their adherents, or are opposed to it. While they are wrong in saying that Yoga itself is a religion, they are most definitely right in pointing out the spiritual goals of Yoga. 

Following represents one Christian perspective.
Is this compatible with all Christians and
Christian denominations?
You decide.

Is this perspective compatible with the
spiritual goals of realization
that are central to Yoga (and Christian Yoga)?
You decide.

Opposition to Yoga should be appreciated

The Christian clergy and the followers of Christianity who are most outspoken against either Yoga or "Christian Yoga" need to be acknowledged and appreciated for doing so much to promote authentic, traditional Yoga. They are quite blunt in their descriptions of how Yoga is a spiritual practice. While they make the mistake of saying that Yoga is a religion, which it is not, Yoga is most definitely spiritual in nature. Even the proponents of "Christian Yoga" are effectively promoting the authentic spiritual goals of traditional Yoga by virtue of the fact that they are attempting to create an alternative Yoga, which clearly has a spiritual orientation, although theirs is in the context of a specific religion, unlike traditional Yoga.

The continued efforts of the Christian clergy opposed to traditional Yoga, as well as both the advocates and opponents of "Christian Yoga" will bring many fruits for the Yogis and mystics within all of the religions active in America. Their efforts will continue to make it evermore clear that Yoga truly has to do with mystical, spiritual realization, something for which many people have a persistent yearning and cannot find in their institutional religions, "Christian Yoga" classes, or modern so-called Yoga studios. Though not their intent, their convictions will continue to lead many sincere seekers of direct experience to the authentic, spiritual methods of traditional Yoga.

Opposition to Christian Yoga

From the Hindu American Foundation

HAF Protests Christian Appropriation of Yoga

TIME Magazine recently carried an article "Stretching for Jesus" that covered the concept of how Christian churches, probably troubled by yoga’s growing popularity in the US, are trying to appropriate yoga by replacing all Sanskrit mantras with Christian words and by renaming all yoga asanas. HAF wrote a letter to the editor making it clear that yoga is integral to the Hindu spiritual tradition while simultaneously affirming our pluralism in that Yogic spiritual practices are available to all without necessarily requiring conversion on the part of the practitioners. The original TIME article can be found here.

September 5, 2005

Dear Editor:

Your coverage of the growing concept of "Christian Yoga" in American churches was timely ("Stretching for Jesus", Time, August 29, 2005). Hindu Americans are rightfully outraged by the brazen appropriation of one of their vibrant faith's most lasting contributions to this country's health, well-being and popular culture. Hindus are increasingly sensitive to this intellectual property theft, as they have long endured evangelical and proselytizing groups co-opting Hindu icons, rituals, music and other traditions in efforts to deceive, dominate and fraudulently convert too many throughout the Hindu Diaspora.

Hinduism teaches that yoga, which literally means union of the body and mind in a quest to unite the soul with God, is comprised of eight steps of which the popularly practiced postures are an integral part. Indeed, the ultimate goal of yoga and Hinduism is one and the same: union with God. As a pluralistic and tolerant religion, Hinduism teaches-and every yoga teacher can attest-that one need not become a Hindu or repudiate their own faith to practice yoga and reap its immense benefits. It is a sad irony that some churches seek to exploit Hindu pluralism, and its gift of yoga, to increase their own legion of churchgoers.


Swaminathan Venkataraman
Mihir Meghani
Hindu American Foundation

See also these related articles:
Yoga and Institutional Religion
Mysticism, Yoga, and Religion
Is Yoga a Religion?
Modern Yoga and Traditional Yoga
Yoga and Christianity
Philosophy, Not Religion






This site is devoted to presenting the ancient Self-Realization path of the Tradition of the Himalayan masters in simple, understandable and beneficial ways, while not compromising quality or depth. The goal of our sadhana or practices is the highest Joy that comes from the Realization in direct experience of the center of consciousness, the Self, the Atman or Purusha, which is one and the same with the Absolute Reality. This Self-Realization comes through Yoga meditation of the Yoga Sutras, the contemplative insight of Advaita Vedanta, and the intense devotion of Samaya Sri Vidya Tantra, the three of which complement one another like fingers on a hand. We employ the classical approaches of Raja, Jnana, Karma, and Bhakti Yoga, as well as Hatha, Kriya, Kundalini, Laya, Mantra, Nada, Siddha, and Tantra Yoga. Meditation, contemplation, mantra and prayer finally converge into a unified force directed towards the final stage, piercing the pearl of wisdom called bindu, leading to the Absolute.