If you are an average secular person, you probably never heard anything negative about yoga.
If you are a Christian, you probably heard more positive than negative things about yoga.
Let us be clear from the beginning.
The practice of yoga is grounded in idolatrous and demonic aspects of eastern religions, and Christians who are filled with the Holy Spirit should not partake in it.
As a physician anesthesiologist I regularly ask patients about their level of physical activity in order to assess their cardiopulmonary status before surgery. More than half of them claim they practice some form of Pilates exercise mixed with elements of yoga. This led me to research yoga, and the results I came across were astonishing.
Not only is yoga tremendously popular, but there are many Christians who practice it and there is even “christian yoga” out there.
What is yoga? It literally means “union” or “to yoke” with the universe and the Hindu gods.
Yoga is a school of Hindu philosophy defined as “the stilling of the changing states of the mind.” Mumbo-Jumbo that makes you smile… But in reality it addresses physical, mental and spiritual techniques geared toward attaining permanent peace. In the western world we tend to associate yoga with stretching, body posture, breathing exercises and meditation, but these are grounded in a practice meant to unite the individual with the universe and ultimately with the Hindu supreme god.
The Bible strictly forbids Christians from engaging in elements of other religions, in this case Hinduism. We are called to avoid pagan methods of attaining peace and tranquility, and instead undergo the new birth which will give us a completely new outlook on life:
“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Rom 12:2 ESV
Attaining a nirvana state of peacefulness via physical posturing and meditation should never be our goal. By hiding ourselves in Christ we will attain the “peace that surpasses all understanding” which Paul talks about in Philippians 4:7.
What about the so-called benefits of deep breathing and stretching?
Instead of the physical aspects of yoga, I highly recommend traditional exercise like running, biking and swimming which raise the heart rate for sustained periods of time and have been definitively shown to increase the HDL (good cholesterol) and lower the LDL (bad cholesterol).
Incorporating yoga elements in your life will lead to spiritual downfall because of disobedience to God’s Word which is explicit about detesting other gods and worship related to them.
If you are a Christian, you belong to Jesus who paid the ultimate price for you, and therefore yoga and any practice associated with other religions is not for you.