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Christianity is not anti-yoga

by Mathew Joys
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There is a wrong notion that Christians are against yoga and physical exercises. “Even though yoga brings positive benefits, it cannot unite a person in a closer relationship with God” (Faithwire.com). But it is not at all a Christian principle. So the practice of yoga has become confusing and controversial to Christian faith groups worldwide, beyond the United States and even in yoga’s own birthplace, India.

I have a friend who attends only yoga classes led by Christian instructors. I have yet another friend who avoids yoga and advocates that others do the same. I believe yoga is an issue where we can make decisions alongside others following Jesus.

According to the Hindu perspective, yoga is practised as an important part of achieving their ultimate goal, Moksha, which is unity with God and freedom from the cycle of birth and death. Three major religions (Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism) adopted yoga practices, which stemmed from ancient Indian texts. Hence yoga was not a tradition in the Christian community.

An article posted on the website of Crossroads Church says: “Yoga is most closely associated with Eastern religions like Hinduism and Buddhism. Many who practice it in an Eastern religious context use it with meditation and as part of achieving the spiritual goals of unity with God and nature and unity with what is called your ‘divine self’. Trouble for Christians is the Bible says we meditate on God’s Word, that we are not divine in ourselves, and that God and nature could never be one.”

Many people look to the Bible for guidance and wisdom about many issues in life. Even the Bible often talks about leading a healthy life in many passages. But in reality, what does it say about health, exercise, and athletics? You might be surprised.

From this author’s life experiences, the benefits of yoga brought a second life after an unexpected Poliomyelitis paralyzed and made life totally immobile. On returning from school, a three-day flu-like fever ended up with total paralysis below the neck. All were awaiting nothing but death, embracing me soon. Neither the English allopathic medicines nor treatments in various hospitals worked. I ended up selling much of the family property to meet the expenses.

Surprisingly, as a last resort, my optimist grandfather took the pain of taking me to a famous Ayurvedic Hospital, where I was forced to take rigorous massaging with various oils and herbal mixtures. Treatments continued, and I got up on my feet. This is where physical exercise and yoga were administered as a part of the treatment. And, at the end of every session, I was thrown into my favorite pose, “Lay on the Floor and Don’t Move”, otherwise called ‘Shavasana’ in yoga.

 It took months before I started limping and making slow strides with the help of crutches and braces. I can confidently endorse that yoga motivated me rather than medicines; and transformed me into what I am today.

During those days, the topic of doing yoga was anathema for an orthodox Christian like my grandfather. Yet, he enlightened me with various passages from the Holy Bible. He was ferreting them to convince his conscience first and then asserting the same while persistently continuing with massages and yoga regimen for me. Over the decades, my faith in yoga practices substantially progressed. Sometimes, I have to quote the Bible to others in doubt.

It may be attributed to spiritual growth when I quote, “I have competed well, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7).

“A tranquil mind gives life to the body, but jealousy rots the bones.” (Proverbs 14:30); this amounts to meditation on yoga.

“At the time, all discipline seems a cause, not for joy but pain, yet later it brings the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those trained. So, strengthen your drooping hands and your weak knees. Make straight paths for your feet, that what is lame may not be dislocated but healed”. (Hebrews 12:11-13).

“He gives strength to the fainting; for the weak, he makes vigor abound. Though young men faint and grow weary and youths stagger and fall, they that hope in the Lord will renew their strength, they will soar with eagle’s wings; they will run and not grow weary, walk and not grow faint” (Isaiah 40:29-31)

“Beloved, I hope that you are prospering in every aspect and good health, just as your soul is prospering.” (3 John1:2)

Of course, it motivates me when I read, “A joyful heart is the health of the body, but a depressed spirit dries up the bones.” (Proverbs 17:22)

To my ultimate hope and Christian faith, the following verse is good enough to preserve my body and soul with yoga practices disciplined by spiritual beliefs.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us rid ourselves of every burden and sin that clings to us and persevere in running the race that lies before us while keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, the leader and perfecter of faith”. ( Hebrews 12:1)

Hence “I have the strength in everything through Him who empowers me. according to Philippines 4:13”.

If you need any more convincing facts that leading a healthy life is the way to go, hopefully, let my testimony persuade you accordingly.

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1 comment

Prof. Joy Pallattumadom January 20, 2023 - 8:03 pm

An article like this which is based on a personal testimony is really worth reading, thanks to Dr. Mathews Joys. Each branch related to health and wellness and which are being practiced through centuries has its own relevance and helped a lot to surpass the difficulties faced by human population physically, mentally or spiritually. No way we can say ‘no’ to such practices which were the only available means of help to improve the quality of life in those long past decades. May be today we have lot of latest schools of thought regarding medical, behavioral and spiritual treatments, still practices like yoga, Ayurveda, Homeopathy, Acupuncture etc., all have relevance in this most modern times of artificial intelligence and robotic surgeries.
Prof. Joy Pallattumadom, Dallas.

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