When I started practicing yoga in 2008, I was very naïve to what others thought about yoga especially in faith-based communities. With a diagnosis of osteoarthritis in tow, I made my way to my first yoga class at the recommended of my doctor. I was seeking physical relief from lower back pain but what I found on the mat was so much more. The practice was quiet yet interactive, the movements were expressive yet gentle, and the time that I spent on the mat was a straight up spiritual experience for me. I began to call what I was doing, worship on the mat. At the end of practice when laying there on the mat I could feel myself soaking in God’s grace and mercy. It was divine, and I told anyone and everyone about how much I loved yoga. Some people were thrilled for me and others gave me the side-eye.
In the beginning, I was shocked by the responses, that I received from people when they found out that I was a Christian who was attending yoga classes. Comments like, “you’re going to hell”, “you’re a Buddhist”, or “you’re sending people to hell by teaching this” use to cut me to my core. But with more than 10 years under my belt, I’ve learned a few things that I hope will help those of you who are interested or already practicing yoga. You see with every question or challenge about my decision to practice yoga, I’ve learned to respond in love. Ultimately, God showed me that the people who comment really do care about me, however, the care in some cases is rooted in fear. Fear that the person will fall away from the faith, fear of spiritual manipulation, fear of this hugely popular yoga thing that many just don’t understand. Are some of the concerns valid? Yes, I know of stories where people have abandoned their faith and chosen the philosophy of yoga as a way of life. But those stories are the exception and not the rule. Many things can lead us away from God and yoga is no more powerful than other things that can become idols like money, material possessions, jobs, other forms of exercise, food, and relationships.
When fear challenges and meets you with mean and judgmental comments consider the responses below:
1. Don’t be surprised when people are not happy for you. Everything ain’t for everybody so stop trying to convince people to be happy for you. It’s okay.
2. Ask for prayer. This response came about because I was trying to be funny, but it stuck. When people disagree and challenge you about your decision to attend a yoga class ask that person to pray for you. And give them specifics. Tell them to pray that God protects you, keeps you close to the cross, and that God will bless you with wisdom, knowledge, and discernment in all your decisions.
3. Don’t engage in debate. Offer a solution and keep the relationship intact. When you know that someone isn’t really interested in your perspective and the person is suddenly a theologian please don’t engage. It’s not worth it. You are not the yoga defender!! Let it go. Remember there are no winners or losers here. Thank the person for their concern and consider ending the exchange like this: Thank you so much for your concern. This is my decision and I am comfortable with my choice. But I offer you this if you notice that I am falling away from the faith and turning my back on God then please reach out and hold me accountable. In the same regard if you notice that my physical, mental, and spiritual health is improving and there appears to be a deepening of my faith then I would love talk to you about my experience with yoga.
Throughout this journey with Christ I have held onto Proverbs 4:7, “Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore, get wisdom: and with all thy getting get an understanding. This scripture strengthens and challenges me daily to listen and think before I speak with others about their decisions.
Photo by Jared Rice