Would Jesus approve of Yoga?

Spirituality, January 02, 2022

Religion likes to label and place things in boxes. Unfortunately many Christians miss out on the benefits of yoga due to fear, and poor teaching within the church.

Many people from a Christian background have reservations about yoga based on ignorance, poor information, and biased teachings.  Just because something predates your religious teachings, has ties with another religion, or has origins from other cultures does not mean it is ‘evil’ (many Christians have warned me against the evils of yoga) or has nothing to offer. 

I have a feeling Jesus would love his followers to reinforce their wellbeing, and a service driven life with a sprinkling of yoga in their daily habits. There are even many suggestions over the last 2000 years that Jesus was a yogi. He lived the yogic life through acting in a way which was harmonious with our natural world, He had the presence of God within His own being. Christians belief he is God. Muslims believe he was a messenger, a prophet from God, and many other religions hold up Jesus as an excellent example of how to act towards others.

There are as many ways to practice yoga as there are ways to unite with joy and enlightenment or self actualisation . There are four primary types of yoga: karma, bhakti, jnana, and raja.

  • Karma [KAR-muh] yoga is the path of service through selfless action for the good of others - for example, Mother Teresa's works to serve poor people as a way to connect the compassion of God with humanity. Unconditional service is a tradition in Hindu monasteries or ashrams, and many yoga teacher training programs require candidates to practice karma yoga by cooking and cleaning or providing other voluntary service for others.

 

  • Bhakti [b-HUHK-tee] yoga cultivates the expression and love of the Divine (or a particular god depending on your upbringing, belief or culture)  through devotional rituals. Forms of this path include regular prayer, chanting, singing, dancing, ceremony, and celebration. For example, bhakti yoga is practiced and shared in the uplifting music of renowned kirtan (devotional chant) vocalist and spiritual leader Krishna Das.

 

  • Jnana [YAAH-nuh] yoga is the path of intellect and wisdom, and its components include study of sacred texts, intellectual debates, philosophical discussion, and introspection. Socrates was a jnana yogi, as are modern-day yoga scholars such as David Frawley and Ravi Ravindra.

 

  • Raja [RAAH-juh] yoga, also known as the "royal path," refers to the journey toward personal enlightenment or self actualisation (working towards the best version of yourself) This path consists of balancing the three main yoga types just described - karma, bhakti, and jnana - while integrating the eight limbs, or stages, of yoga (for further discussion, see my earlier article talking about the 8 limbs https://everfit.co.nz/articles/why-should-i-do-yoga  ) Hatha [HUH-tuh] yoga is represented as a combination of the third and fourth limbs of the royal path - that is, asana [AAH-suh-nuh] and pranayama [praah-naah-YAAH-muh]

I would like to go into more detail on Bhakti yoga, which is described as one of the spiritual paths for ‘salvation’ as discussed within the Bhagavad Gita (The Bhagavad Gita is the best known and most famous of Hindu texts Hinduism does not have a single sacred text like other religions. Some of the important Hindu sacred texts include Vedas, Upanishads, Purana, Itihasa, Bhagavad Gita and Agamas) Basically it is connecting to the ‘source’ through love. The personal god varies with the devotee's that practice. The 6 pillars that make up this form of yoga have universal worth and overlap with basic teachings within all religions and current holistic wellness principles. I have linked each pillar with scripture from the Bible.

 

1. Stop criticising others. The sound out of your mouth can be toxic. Discern, don't condemn. Condemning , critical language has no value being spoken

"Judge not, that you be not judges.....why do you see the speck that is in your brothers eye, but not notice the log that is in your eye? .....you hypocrite, first take the log our of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of yoru brothers eye." Matthew 7:1-5.

2. Being tolerant - stop placing total blame on the world/governments/corporations for your situation. Look to champion peace and unity rather than division to create excessive drama. Many people seeking drama are subconsciously creating diversion so they don’t have to address uncomfortable issues in their own lives.

 

"Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body." Proverbs 16:24

"With all the humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace." Ephesians 4:2-3

3. Take no offence- stop holding resentment against people - you need to forgive. Everything happens for you, not too you. Try to take  benefit out of difficult situations (at the time this will seem impossible but time will reveal the lessons)

"Do not take to heart all the things that people say.....your heart knows that many times you yourself have cursed others." Ecclesiastes 7:21-22.

"Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense." Proverbs 19:11.

4. See good in others and let them know it. Look for commonality rather than focusing  on what divides   is a relationship saver. A lack of appreciation can kill love.

"Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins." 1 Peter 4:8

5. Quick to apologise. Sorry can be the hardest word to say, but one of the most powerful.

"Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and no city or house divided against itself will stand." Matthew 12:25

"Be kind to one another, tender hearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you." Ephesians 4:32

6. Have a gratitude practice, what are you grateful for? Keep a thankful list rather than an grumble list. Tally your blessings.  An entitled attitude makes you sad - gratitude makes you happy. If you live like the world owes you something you will never be satisfied.

"Give thanks in all circumstance; for this is the will of God in Christ jesus for you." 1 Thessalonians 5:18

Practicing yoga, and looking deeper into the teachings has strengthened my spiritual outlook. If anything the strands or pillars of the different yoga practices reinforce the service principles, and simple purpose driven life of Jesus.  The main reason I practice yoga is the excellent full body stretching, balance, and isometric strength workout it gives me while balancing my breath with my body. I also love the fact my mind is on the continued journey of self improvement, service, and living simply - I’m sure Jesus would approve.

 

Brad Dixon is a sports physio, coach, and wellness evangelist based at EVERFIT Physio & Coaching. His passion is promoting enhancing daily habits that nudge people towards potential and save the planet. His book ‘Holistic Human’ is available here - https://everfit.co.nz/Store/Category/Book . The power is in our daily habits! Connect with Brad at www.everfit.co.nz, Facebook, Strava, Instagram (@everfitcoach), and YOU TUBE https://youtube.com/c/EverFITcoach