I was having a look for articles on Christianity and Yoga the other day just to see what was out there. Here were some of the popular ones.
- Christian Yoga Some contrasting views.
- Yoga and Christianity: Are They Compatible? Can yoga philosophy can truly be separated from yoga practice? This article explores some of the issues.
- Does Yoga Conflict with Christianity? A Christian counter-cult apologist responds to claims made in Yoga Journal.
- Spiritually Incorrect A more sympathetic exploration review of Nancy Roth’s book, “An Invitation to Christian Yoga.”
- Yoga and Christianity: Loving with All Your Parts This was an article from a more Hindu influenced perspective.
Surveying the Field
Reading these articles, the big disappointment for me was that none of them approached the subject of Christian Yoga from a missional-incarnational perspective.
On the one hand there were plenty of critical responses that focused on theological and spiritual boundary maintenance, which I admit has its place. But amongst these there was no critical reflection on why people were being attracted to yoga, no critical reflection on why Christian disciplines were not satisfying and, even more concerning, no development of a positive witness. It was all about keeping Yoga contamination out, there was nothing about Christians becoming more contagious themselves.
On the other hand there were also a number of feel good responses that focussed on the positive aspects of Yoga, which also has its place. But amongst these there was preciously little to be found in the way of deeper thinking and philosophy, it was all about feeling and experience, the irony here being that Yoga is traditionally a discipline which aims at integration of mind and body.
Towards a Missional-Incarnational Response
What I feel is desperately lacking here is a deeper exploration of Yoga that takes full stock of both the compatibilities and the incompatibilities with Christianity, of both where we can learn from Yoga practitioners and teachers and where they can learn from us and our teacher, Jesus, in what it means to find union.
And one of the critical issues I feel needs to be explored here is the mind-body link, or to put a more theological spin on things, Christian anthropology and pneumatology in relation to spiritual discipline. The resurrection affirms a crucial link between mind body and spirit that has, unfortunatley, not always been fully appreciated by Western theologians and philosophers. The popularity of Yoga should goad us into a deeper exploration of, firstly, the role of the body in spiritual practice and, secondly, of the relationship between Spiritual awareness and self awareness. I would posit that Christian practice must begin with the understanding of self being radically dependant on Spirit, and of both body and mind being the locus of Spiritual training. What emerges – would it be fair to call it Christian Yoga or not – that’s a second order issue for me.