No Such Thing As Christian Yoga?

If you are a Christian practicing yoga you may have heard something along the lines of. “There is no such thing as Christian yoga,” or “You can’t practice yoga if you’re a Christian.” In the context of what the membership based organization Yoga Alliance deems ‘traditional yoga;’ rooted in Samkhya, a school of Hindu philosophy, then I would agree 100%, there is no such thing as Christian Yoga. However, the Christian yoga I know is not the yoga of Hinduism.

Founded in 1999, the Yoga Alliance is a membership based organization that claims to set standards for yoga professionals and teacher training programs. Yoga Alliance is often confused as an accreditation agency rather than a member directory, which can be misleading for those seeking membership, training programs or potential employers such as studios and gyms.

“It’s a common misconception that Yoga Alliance provides a certification or accreditation for yoga teachers. It doesn’t. Credentialing is the umbrella term. What we specifically do is a registry. A lot of people will say certification or accreditation, but that actually isn’t what we do. We’re a registry.” Says former Yoga Alliance CEO Richard Karpel [1].

Membership with the Yoga Alliance is not a requirement to teach yoga or have a successful yoga business or school. No matter what walk of life one comes from, religious or non religious, traditional yoga defined by Yoga Alliance is from Samkhya, a school of Hindu philosophy.

Origins of Yoga Continue to be Debated

The origins of yoga have been debated for thousands of years, and will surely continue being debated. Many yoga practitioners outside of the Hindu religion have been accused of stealing yoga or cultural misappropriation by practicing rituals and postures that Indians and Hindus claim to first have been created in India. Within its own structure, there is debate in Hinduism over the origins of yoga. It’s unclear where, when and who created yoga. Does it ‘belong’ to someone? What was the first record of postures? Was it one person or a group of people who created it?

Yoga, Inclusive or Exclusive?

Regardless of the many questions and controversies surrounding where and when yoga was created, Yoga Alliance proclaims that their aim is to “promote and support the integrity and diversity of the teaching of yoga.” However, Yoga Alliance now rejects Christian teachings as education and requires member trainers and schools to teach from Yoga Alliance’s defined traditional roots of yoga, or Hindu philosophy, and then choose a ‘lineage’ for their school. Despite their claim of diversity and inclusiveness, Christ centered materials are now being rejected as acceptable curriculum. Because of Yoga Alliance’s definition of yoga, everything but Christianity is accepted as education hours [2], which is why Christian’s must use discernment when entering into this kind of relationship.

You have become spiritual adulterers who are having an affair, an unholy relationship with the world. Don’t you know that flirting with the world’s values places you at odds with God? Whoever chooses to be the world’s friend makes himself God’s enemy! James 4:4, The Passion Translation

Though the origins and history of yoga isn’t new to being part of a member school or training program, there is a new required module called: The Ethics of Cultural Sensitivity: Roots and Context of Yoga, it stems from the Inclusion Advisory Working Group (IAWG) [3].

For educational purposes, YogaFaith observes how others practice yoga. We observe the Yoga Sutras through the lens of Christ. The Yoga Sutras, organized in 4 books with verses arranged much like the Bible, were written by Pantanjali, unknown to be one man or a group of people, who is known to have systematized (not created) yoga. We also look at the Yoga Sutras in comparison to Biblical scriptures. Though some verses in the Yoga Sutras may sound parallel or similar to scriptures and commands in the Bible, we must remember they do not stem from Christianity and the “god” of Pantanjali’s writing is unknown. Because we believe God created all things as Biblical scriptures declare, we do not credit man for any creation. Our Bible based Teacher Training focuses on Theology, Christian Leadership, Ministry, Christian Meditation, the Trinity, and the Postures of Prayer found throughout the Bible. Each posture found throughout scripture signifies prayers, you can read more on biblical postures of prayer at https://yogafaith.org/postures-of-prayer and what we believe at https://yogafaith.org/statement-of-faith.

Though YogaFaith became a member school of Yoga Alliance in June of 2014, our accepted curriculum has never required vedic literature or Hindu philosophy within our teachings. All of our trainings are taught from the Bible, what we deem as the sovereign Word of God. YogaFaith leaders and trainers seek to be Holy Spirit-led in all that we do and any curriculum developed is biblically based.

I appreciate what the Yoga Alliance has set forth as hourly standards, yet I am among many practitioners outside of the Hindu belief system, whether Christian, Atheist or other background, that find subjects within the hourly standards a compromise of our core beliefs and/or faith. YogaFaith has had many successful trainings and will never acknowledge anyone but Christ as Creator of our temples; mind, body, spirit and soul.

Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price.Therefore glorify God with your body.

Do not bow down to any idol or worship it, because I am the Lord your God and I tolerate no rivals. I bring punishment on those who hate me and on their descendants down to the third and fourth generation. But I show my love to thousands of generations[a] of those who love me and obey my laws.“Do not use my name for evil purposes, for I, the Lord your God, will punish anyone who misuses my name.

Exodus 20:5-7

1 Corinthians 6:19-20, NIV

If an educator is part of Yoga Alliance but claiming their curriculum is Christ centered, one must do their diligent research. This would mean they are playing both sides of the coin as Yoga Alliance no longer accepts Christian yoga teachings and one must submit curriculum that adheres to their Core Curriculum. On the other hand, if the school is teaching Yoga Alliance Curriculum you may be walking a slippery slope as schools and trainers are required to teach not only from Hindu philosophy but new modules require teachings on how to contextualize the use of statues and the use of iconography (Viṣṇu, Śiva, and Devī are visual images of Hinduism. Each of these deities is worshiped in concrete images – mūrti).

Never worship or serve their gods or follow their practices. Instead, you must destroy their gods and crush their sacred stones.

Exodus 22:24, God’s Word Translation

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