Friday, September 21, 2007

yoga and Christianity

I got an email from my sweetheart cousin Beth in DC. She asked me about an article recently in Christianity Today about yoga. She said she didn't remember me doing the "OM" in my classes.

It made me want to point out one more time that Christians can (and should) do yoga.
Beth is right, I don't do the "OM" -- not because I think it's honoring another "spirit" or any of that, but because it makes people uncomfortable, which is NOT the point. Besides I can't sing. :)
To be honest the OM is pretty misunderstood. The idea behind it is that the vibrations of the vocal cords warm the body internally and set the mind's focus on the breath (sort of like singing forces you to pay attention to your breath). People can bring whatever spiritual component they want to it but the truth is, that's what it's really about. Nothing to fear.
I have really studied all the spiritual sides of yoga, and they really do not conflict with Christianity. I've decided it's like saying the pledge of allegiance with your hand on your heart -- it's not worshiping a graven image --- it's a completely separate thing. You can be a patriotic American and also a Christian. Same thing: you can be a Christian and practice any aspect of yoga. To be honest, and don't quote me on this because it will be misunderstood, the yoga sutras are completely parrallel with the teachings of Christ -- all about loving and doing good. They don't involve worship of any kind.
I always tell people that going to yoga is like going to a movie -- it might be a romantic comedy, it might be a Disney show, or it might be a "Die Hard" experience. :) Truly, I've been to rejuventating lay-on-your-back and breathe the whole hour classes and to others that were complete sweat fests. And I've been to classes where the teacher really got into the meditation and chakras and others where they didn't. Current exercise science research is showing that the "chakras" are actually points in the body that correspond to "intersections" of nerves in the central nervous system and to glands that produce hormones. So there's a complete physical reason; no magic for crying out loud. This is very cool to me, as it shows that those people in India thousands of years ago were on to something (how the heck did they know? there were no physiologists, I really think God gave it to them). It also shows (I think) that the body has many gifts to recieve from yoga. And of course I believe yoga is a gift from God, and all the benefits of yoga are a gift from God.
The other controversy you'll see is based in a fear of India -- many people in India are Hindu, and so there is an association of yoga with Hindu. To further confuse the issue, there ARE types of yoga that do have roots in Hinduism, but not all. Yoga is global; all kinds do it.
Create a healthy, happy weekend