I wrote an article about Christians and yoga for the CSB Apologetics Study Bible for Students. I understand that this a controversial subject for some Christians but this is my perspective. Here is my article.
If you were to do an internet search with the words “Yoga” and “Church,” you would discover a wide variety of results. You would find everything from churches offering yoga classes to claims that yoga is participation in the worship of false gods. How should Christians navigate these differences of opinion?
It is important to understand what yoga is and where it came from. Yoga is a program of exercises and controlled breathing that helps to relieve stress and other health concerns. However, yoga did not originate simply for the purposes of benefiting mental and physical health. Yoga emerged as a spiritual discipline within Hinduism. Any judgment of yoga must take these origins into account.
A connection to Hinduism does not necessarily make yoga wrong for Christians. Christians would not abandon charitable giving just because it is one of the five pillars of Islam. There must be something specifically against Christian beliefs for there to be a firm rejection.
However yoga began centuries ago within Hinduism, it must be acknowledged that popular versions of yoga take different forms. There are yoga classes that include Hindu and other spiritual teachings but there are others that focus on the exercises and breathing.
While the Bible does not discuss yoga, there are principles that can give Christians guidance. In 1 Corinthians 8, the Apostle Paul teaches on a comparable situation. Some of the Corinthians were eating meat that had been sacrificed to idols. Paul tells the Corinthians that these false gods do not exist and so the meat is just meat and appropriate for Christians to eat. At the same time, Paul warns the Corinthians to not abuse their freedom by causing those who take the pagan gods seriously to stumble in their faith in Jesus. In the same letter (1 Corinthians 10:28), Paul also teaches that if an unbeliever informs a Christian that some food was sacrificed to an idol, then the Christian should refuse it. What is most important is the impact of one’s actions on others with little or no faith.
This has a direct application to Christian participation in yoga. There is nothing sinful about exercises, stretching and controlled breathing. Even though these particular exercises may have risen within Hinduism, it must be remembered that Hindu gods do not exist. The exercises are no more harmful than the meat that the Corinthian Christians were eating.
At the same time, Christians should be asking questions before practising yoga. What is the goal of the yoga instructor for the class? Will any of the other religious aspects of yoga be included along with the exercises? Will your participation in yoga cause other Christians to stumble?
Should Christians practice yoga? If a Christian feels it is wrong to be involved in yoga, they should definitely avoid it. If the instructor and the participant are clear that the goal is only for stress and health reasons and if it is not a stumbling block, it may be permissible.