Is it acceptable for Christians to participate in yoga?
Popular in Eastern culture for centuries, yoga has recently become a popular activity for many Westerners as well, including some professing Christians. A popular yoga website explains yoga this way:
Yoga means "joined together." The word comes from the ancient Sanskrit root word yug, which means "to unify." A yogi is one who consciously unifies body, mind, emotions, and spirit so that they work together very well. The yogi strives to open the gift of life and discover his fullest possibilities. A yogi endeavors to discover the higher consciousness and how the body, mind, and emotional nature can be truly fulfilled through unifying their purposes — rather than living in constant interior civil war.
Based on this description, yoga is an activity mixing physical exercise and Eastern mysticism, and therefore traditional yoga should be avoided by Christians. The stated goal of traditional yoga is two-fold. First, yoga seeks to "unify" body, mind, emotions and spirit and end the "civil war" inside us. Biblically, we know that the human experience can only be unified in perfection and peace through faith in Jesus Christ and the regeneration that comes as a result of His grace.
No other means for unifying spirit and body exists, therefore the essential teaching of yoga qualifies as "another Gospel," which competes with the Gospel of Jesus Christ for the hearts and mind of humanity. It is a lie of Satan intended as a stumbling block to prevent the world from knowing the truth.
As Paul said, if anyone comes to us preaching another Gospel, we are to reject both the messenger and the message entirely:
Gal. 1:8 But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed!
Gal. 1:9 As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed!
Secondly, yoga claims to promote "higher states of consciousness," which is coded language for seeking an encounter with the demonic realm. The Bible plainly commands believers to steer clear of worship of angels (demons) and to rely entirely on Christ for our spiritual enlightenment:
Col. 2:18 Let no one keep defrauding you of your prize by delighting in self-abasement and the worship of the angels, taking his stand on visions he has seen, inflated without cause by his fleshly mind,
Col. 2:19 and not holding fast to the head, from whom the entire body, being supplied and held together by the joints and ligaments, grows with a growth which is from God.
Furthermore, associating with the enemy even in a casual way is a dangerous and foolish practice:
2Cor. 6:15 Or what harmony has Christ with Belial, or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever?
2Cor. 6:16 Or what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; just as God said,
“I WILL DWELL IN THEM AND WALK AMONG THEM;
AND I WILL BE THEIR GOD, AND THEY SHALL BE MY PEOPLE.
2Cor. 6:17 “Therefore, COME OUT FROM THEIR MIDST AND BE SEPARATE,” says the Lord.
“AND DO NOT TOUCH WHAT IS UNCLEAN;
And I will welcome you.
2Cor. 6:18 “And I will be a father to you,
And you shall be sons and daughters to Me,”
Says the Lord Almighty.
Regardingless of any potential physical benefits of yoga, if the practice includes these mind techniques, it violates scripture and will lead the believer into unprofitable and potentially dangerous practices. The demonic realm is powerful and not something with which believers should experiment.
In some cases you may find a yoga instructor who has dispensed with yoga's Eastern mysticism and teaches only the stretching and strengthening routines associated with yoga. Such classes may still be called "yoga" to indicate the style of exercise being offered, yet the class has little in common with traditional yoga. Specifically, exercise-only yoga events will have no calls to meditation, no appeals to higher consciousness and no talk of uniting body and mind.
Under these circumstances, such yoga groups are simply exercise classes, and therefore they are acceptable for believers to enjoy. Nevertheless, believers participating in this type of "innocent" yoga should remain on guard for any unexpected shift into mysticism by the instructors. If the class begins to move away from simply exercise and into a spiritual dimension, the believer should cease participating.