There are good ways to Christianize a non-Christian practice … and there are not so good ways. Care to see an example of how NOT to Christianize Yoga? Let me introduce you to Scripture Yoga.
But first, read this article by Mike Frost on Risky Negotiation.
Done? Ok, let’s proceed. Here is what Scripture Yoga has to say for itself:
Scripture Yoga is a form of Christian yoga with Biblical scripture verses recited during the stretches and postures. The scriptures are based on themes like Peace, Angels and Prayer.
Does the mere insertion of verses make a practice Christian? If I highlighted the scriptural references within Metallica’s “Creeping Death”, could I use it as a worship song?
Christian yoga allows you to practice yoga in a Christian environment. If a secular yoga class is not completely separated from its eastern religion and philosophy, then you may be exposed unintentionally to a non-Christian environment. Therefore, Scripture Yoga provides a Christ-centered alternative to secular yoga.
Scripture Yoga allows the practice of posturing and meditation in a Christian context devoid of eastern religious influence.
Does the mere environment, the mere context, make a practice Christian or Christ-centered? If I sang the Mr Hankie song in church, would that make it Christian?
Scripture Yoga is different from secular yoga because you listen to God’s Holy Word as it is recited during the yoga class.
How secular is secular Yoga? Is there such a thing? How deeply does this instructor understand Yoga philosophy?
The postures for Scripture Yoga are the same as those used for Hatha Yoga. The difference primarily lies in the purpose and focus of the meditative session. If secular yoga is not completely separated from its eastern religion and philosophy, it could expose participants to spiritual forces that are not of God.
Does this instructor not recognize that the asana poses and pranayama breathing exercises flow directly from Hindu spiritual practice, that pneumatology is an issue in all of it, and not just the meditation session? And more, even if it were possible to completely secularize it, is secularity any more philosophically neutral than Hinduism?
The most popular type of yoga in the United States is Hatha Yoga in which the Eastern religion and philosophical portion of yoga is completed separated from the yoga class.
Completely? It may not be explicit … but not even implicit? Surely you jest.
Ok, enough critique, what can I constructively add?
- Well, if you refer back to the Mike Frost article again, what is lacking here is an exegesis of Yoga, an exploration of Yoga. In particular, differences between Hindu and Christian understandings of Spirit and the mind-body link need to be explored and understood.
- What is also lacking here is an exegesis of scripture. Insertion of verses is insufficient. A theology of Yoga needs to be developed, a Christian philosophy that engages with the Hindu philosophy. So, not just Bible verses but Biblical thinking. How would a Christian pneumatology potentially reshape the practice?
- Next, the asana and pranayama themselves need to be critically examined. Do some poses and breathing exercises themselves need to be rejected or modified? May some alternative exercises need to be introduced to balance things out?
- Finally, it all needs to be integrated.
In summary, I am not criticizing attempts to Christianize Yoga per se, I am just saying let’s try for something with more substance, that’s not so superficial.