Yoga is very popular worldwide, and its popularity is increasing by the day. With 34.4 million Americans practicing yoga, and more than 7,000 studios spread across states, most Americans are familiar with the practice.
However, yoga has been a controversial topic. While some consider it just a form of exercise, others think yoga is a spiritual practice that may take its practitioner away from their religion. There are still others that believe yoga has demonic roots. So is yoga a sin? This article’s here to help you understand why it is controversial in the first place.
Is Yoga A Sin? Why?
To determine whether yoga is a sin or not, let’s first dwell on what yoga is and what its roots are.
Yoga has deep cultural roots that link it to ancient Indian civilization. The Upanishads make many indirect and direct references to yoga between the third and fifth centuries BCE.
Yoga is one of the six Darshanas or schools of thought that makes Hinduism, the other five being Nyaya, Mimamsa, Vedanta, Samkhya, and Vaisheshika.
When these darshanas unite, the concept of pluralism arises. This is the belief that a person can attain enlightenment or moksha through one of several paths. Hinduism also considers divinity or the supreme being present in everything that exists. Yoga is the means of achieving unity with the divine and earning salvation.
Yoga comes from the Sanskrit word yuj, which means to unite — the joining of the finite and the infinite. The Bhagavad Gita mentions four types of yogas through which one can achieve moksha — dhyana (concentration), bhakti (devotion), karma (action), and jnana (knowledge).
So, to put it simply, yoga is a spiritual practice that helps one detach from the world and attain a supreme state of moksha. It is a state where one rises over the world’s sufferings and is released from the cycle of birth and death.
Can Yoga Be Considered A Religion?
The ties of Yoga with Hinduism are undeniable, and yoga is often termed “Hindu’s gift to Humanity”.
While the most neutral form of yoga — consisting of three components: movement, meditation, and breath work — is argued to be separate from any religious or spiritual practices, it is still a form of dhyana yoga.
Also, yoga poses are a way of worshiping different Gods, and the names of many poses translate to the names of religious idols.
However, when separated from religious belief and viewed as an exercise routine, yoga has great benefits like promoting well-being, flexibility, endurance, calmness, and strength.
As contemporary yoga is more about physical activity and focuses more on posture, it is far from the concept of moksha and can be separated from Hindu Yoga.
The ancient practice has changed drastically over time. It no longer focuses on spiritual energy but is more about physical energy and inner peace.
Can Christians Practice Yoga?
It is by definition that Christians cannot practice yoga. Christianity believes in the being of a supreme power or God, while the concept of Hinduism and, subsequently, Yoga consider divinity in everything that exists. So, essentially, yoga nullifies the presence of God by saying God is in everything or everything is God.
Also, Christianity emphasizes the presence of Jesus, who opened up a channel of communication between the supreme being and humans. However, yoga proposes a direct connection with God, taking the glory away from Jesus.
So, according to Christians, they worship the creator, while yoga is essentially the worship of (his) creation.
Another huge reason why many Christians oppose the concept of spirituality through yoga is the concept of clearing all thoughts to attain moksha. The Bible asks for meditation on the word of God and not on clearing the mind of thought.
However, as mentioned earlier, yoga can be detached from its spiritual aspects and performed as an act of physical exercise alone. It can be applied to improve physical wellness, unwind, and de-stress. This requires you to disregard the “meditation” component.
Do Catholics Do Yoga?
While Catholics do not believe in Jesus and his teaching and follow the Abrahamic religion, they still believe in the presence of one supreme being and do not consider all things to be God.
So, naturally, like Christians, Catholics have mixed opinions on whether yoga affects a person’s religious belief and if they can follow it.
However, the Catholic Church does not have any official beliefs or morals regarding the practice of yoga. So long as the spiritual and physical parts are kept separate, and one just accommodates the physical aspect, most people think it is safe to practice yoga.
Even still, many believe that it is impossible to separate the two components and that anyone who does is only deluding themselves, committing a sin.
What The Bible Says About Yoga
The Bible asks its followers to meditate on the word of God. It says,
I meditate on your precepts and consider your ways. I delight in your decrees; I will not neglect your word. Be good to your servant while I live, that I may obey your word.
There is no mention of any system or practice like yoga that can make humans one with God.
Other Biblical verses that Christians believe are in reference to Yoga are below:
The Spirit says clearly that in later times some believers will desert the Christian faith. They will follow spirits that deceive, and they will believe the teachings of demons.
But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ.
Timothy, guard what God has entrusted to you. Avoid godless, foolish discussions with those who oppose you with their so-called knowledge. Some people have wandered from the faith by following such foolishness.
Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.