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Yoga and Christianity
Actually there are probably just as many Buddhists practicing yoga as there are Hindus and certainly Shinto is very close behind. And now of course Secular and
Is Yoga Religious?
Nope it is not. It can be. And like all things ancient it was developed by the intellectuals of the time and like all thing ancient those were also priests (save Greece, and that is about the latest thing we can call ancient) It probably developed in a land that is at least part of or neighboring modern day India. Indians are for the most part Hindu. So it would make sense that the thoughts of the region which were then the beginnings of Hinduism would be part of it.
But we have to face it, that is pretty re-visionarybecause most likely Yo Ga was around before any formalization of Hinduism.
Let us look at a reasonable 3 part definition of Yoga.
1.a school of pre-Hindu philosophy advocating and prescribing a course of physical and mental disciplines for attaining liberation from the material world and union of the self with a Supreme Being or ultimate principle. 2. Or Methods or disciplines prescribed, especially a series of postures and breathing exercises practiced to achieve control or lack of control of the body and mind, serenity and harmony. 3. Or Union of the self with a Supreme Being or ultimate principle.
Yes that is the author's edited edition using "dictionary.reference.com" and correcting it where it was wrong. Generally that was in the area referencing time and "a" rather than "the" type issues. Also for some reason the editor at dr.com did not get the concept of the dichotomy of gaining control in order to lose it and be outside of self.
But now we have a baseline for which to further the discussion.
For the meditative part you must have a mantra.
Oh My! You say how blasphemous. Well if you are a catholic and you say the rosary that is a mantra. That is all mantra means. In fact if you are in a pew kneeling forward and remaining in that position saying the rosary or Lord's prayer for 5 minutes remaining totally focused and not moving --- that is pretty much yoga.
Being a preacher man and practicing yoga and meditation has been a trip. So I knew I had to get a mantra that resonated for me.
Part of the mantra is just how the tonal aspects of the words effect your body. Some mantra's are uplifting. And some are coming. Though I do not practice the rosary I do know it and it is quite calming.
But general my mantra's are in order to inspire the Holy Spirit within me. So this is the mantra I use daily:
Everybody needs a mantra
And if I need calming I use this one:
Professional Athletes practice yoga
Get early to a pro or college game of your choice (basketball is a little different but not if you watch close and think about it) And the champions are stretching out and repeating little mantras to themselves. And if you do not think that those athletes put their whole mind, body and spirit into what they do, you really do not get the game at all.
A ten year career in downhill ski racing showed that at the top of the course the athletes would be off stretching and repeating things to themselves and visualizing the course over and over again.
As an amateur hiker we find ourselves when trudging up a hill repeating mantras to ourselves and each other in order to encourage and keep loose as muscles tighten and breathing becomes strained. And that is very much like yoga. Requiring both the will to persevere and and the out of bodiness to escape the pain.
How about you?
Have you ever done something that required a yoga like practice?
For some reason one of the mounts in the distance is called Shiva
Meditate while stretching or exercise -- especially running or walking or anything stationary.
Paul is one of my favorite authors, and one reason is because he speaks differently and is different to all he speaks to I think it applies perfectly to Eastern to Western ways - and in fact historically this did:
1 Corinthians 9:19-22: "I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. . . . To those not having the law I became like one not having the law . . . so as to win those not having the law. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some."
So after reading that how could a Christian faithfully say to stay away from Eastern traditions?
Philippians 4:8 New King James Version (NKJV) Meditate on These Things
'8 Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things arejust, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things"
Now how can some one read those two passages together, practice yoga and meditation using the mantra Amen and Amazing Grace and feel like they are blasphemes?
A Church that sits in splendor yet isolation has few followers
So there is a last argument fearful Priests use:
There is no point in flirting with the devil. Yoga could give a doorway open for satin to come through.
Here is how it went down in the Enicnitas School district where yoga is instructed at every school. (note the change the name of the "lotus" position to "crisscross applesauce" and they use no Sanskrit chants or mantras) Of course we highly doubt that the yoga classes allow Amen out loud and maybe not even silently ;-) . The Judge ruled that it was just fine and promoted health and quiet minds and was good. The area is local but we found the best factual piece on it in all places: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/07/01/yoga-religion-case_n_3529203.html
At the moment the Vatican has not banned yoga but some churches have and some YMCA's have: http://www.nationalturk.com/en/hindus-disheartened-at-catholic-church-banning-yoga-in-england-uk-news-26329
Let me put it this way. If it is allowed in public schools in California then it ain't religious.
If you are jumping into meditative yoga with both feet and find a HIndu Priest as your yogi and everyone chants in clear praise to Shiva or Ramda and the visualization your are given is of reincarnation as an ant then probably that is not conducive to a Christian faith. Or if your Christian faith is weak and there is anything but Christian chanting you should probably stay away.
But if you are a mature Christian and for you the mantras are Christian based there probably is no harm at all. Probably if the pastoral team speaks badly of it no matter what form it is in then you should examine their motives. If it is ignorance that is not good. And if it is maintaining control that is not good.
And here is where the love comes in. If you practice yoga and it helps you to focus your love on Jesus Christ, keep doing it. If you practice and are open about your faith and are surrounded by love keep doing it. If you really love to do it but are concerned switch to my mantras until you find the ones for you. Find where it is practiced in churches. If it interferes with your good Christian love do not do it. Actually pretty simple.
Thanks for reading