Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, blogs today about a new book by Stefanie Syman, The Subtle Body: The Story of Yoga in America, calling it "a masterpiece of cultural history" even as he decries her findings.
... the growing acceptance of yoga points to the retreat of biblical Christianity in the culture. Yoga begins and ends with an understanding of the body that is, to say the very least, at odds with the Christian understanding. 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.
...Nevertheless, a significant number of American Christians either experiment with yoga or become adherents of some yoga discipline. 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.Mohler reminds believers,
...We are not called to escape the consciousness of this world by achieving an elevated state of consciousness, but to follow Christ in the way of faithfulness.But are Mohler's warnings too late to slow the widespread Christian yoga craze?
In 2005 a writer for Christianity Today talked about the advantages of yoga without any fear that it would lead a strong evangelical astray. Agnieszka Tennant wrote:
The Hindu gods don't make it onto my mat. Yoga purists don't lead classes at mainstream American gyms. Could it be that some of them learned yoga from the purists? Yes. But no one's making me repeat any mantras. The closest any of my gym's several yoga teachers get to religious utterances is by bowing and saying "Namaste" at the end each class, which can be translated as "The soul in me honors the soul in you" or "The image of God in me honors the image of God in you." I like it! It just reminds me that, as C. S. Lewis put it, there are no mere mortals.There are multiple web sites citing a Christian twist on yoga.
Outstretched, Inc., an outreach ministry of Jubilee Shores United Methodist Church in Fairhope, Alabama, suggest on line that...
We become more spiritually healthy through the yoga practice by calming our minds and quieting ourselves to the point that we can tune out the world's frequency and tune into God's frequency.And ChristiansPracticingYoga.com says yoga offers people of all faiths
an embodied spiritual practice that inclines toward deeper prayer. It is embedded in our spiritual DNA to go to God the way God came to us -- in and through the body.Mohler, however, sees the proliferation of yoga posing as ...
... a symptom of our postmodern spiritual confusion, and, to our shame, this confusion reaches into the church. Stefanie Syman is telling us something important when she writes that yoga "has augured a truly post-Christian, spiritually polyglot country."Are you feeling spiritually fractured or enlightened in yoga class? Does it interfere with, or override or reinforce, your religious beliefs?