The debate surrounding yoga has always been a hot topic in the church, but in recent years it has grown increasingly more controversial.
Recently, a church in India took a stand against the practice of yoga, stating it did not align with Christian beliefs.
The Syro-Malabar Church, in Kerala India, is an Eastern Catholic Major Archiepiscopal Church. Their doctrinal commision recently released a report against the practice of yoga.
The Mananthavady diocese claimed that even though yoga brings positive benefits, it cannot unite a person in a closer relationship with God.
The report stated, “There is danger in interpreting the results obtained through yoga practise as spiritual benefits. Hindu leaders also do not agree in presenting yoga as separate from Hindu religion. The contention that yoga practise will help in building religious amity in a multi-religious culture is baseless.”
The Syro-Malabar Church commission stated that Christians cannot understand yoga, as the doctrine is beyond them. They point out that some of the main traits of yoga are conflicting with Christian beliefs.
“The experience of yoga is that the practitioner, nature and God becomes one but according to Christianity, nature and God cannot become one,” the report said.
The report also added that Christians use yoga as a way to convert Hindu’s, infringing upon their customs.
“Many Hindus view the love of Christians towards yoga as part of a covert attempt to convert people and as an unnecessary infringement on Hindu customs,” the report stated.
The debate surrounding yoga has been touched on by many influential religious leaders. In the past, Pope Francis even addressed it, saying imitating the ways of other religions can cause spiritual accidents.
“There is no need to seek spiritual answers in a yoga class. When you try to imitate the spiritual ways of other religions, chances of spiritual accidents are more,” the report said, quoting Pope Francis.
Yoga, a spiritual, mental, and physical discipline comes from ancient India. It has become widely popular in Western cultures, as people of all ages have taken it up for different reasons. The once spiritual practice has become a multi-billion-dollar industry all over the world.
Not only has it hit Western culture, it has also become popular in the Christian scene. The Syro-Malabar Church is not the first group to push back against the new form of Christian yoga.
Albert Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, critiqued the practice in 2010 stating, “Christians practice yoga they must either deny the reality of what yoga represents or fail to see the contradictions between their Christian commitments and their embrace of yoga.”
Many people Christians still believe that it is perfectly fine for Christians to practice yoga, but many disagree. Regardless of your belief, it is always important to tread carefully when it comes to spiritual waters. What do you think of yoga as a Christian practice?