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Do Christians have a problem with yoga and meditation?

post #1 of 37
Thread Starter 
I was telling my SIL (a Southern Baptist) about a yoga class I was taking. She’s been really stressed and I mentioned that she might enjoy taking a class. She immediately got uncomfortable and said something like “Oh no, I couldn’t do that. Don’t they do, like, meditation?” I explained about yoga classes just being the postures and some deep breathing, but she changed the subject quickly.

I’ve heard other Christians mention yoga or meditation like they’re bad. I’ve even heard meditation referred to as anti-Christian. Makes NO sense to me at all. Meditation is just deep relaxation and focus on something. I’ve even heard of people repeating the Hail Mary or the Lord’s Prayer to meditate. And yoga postures are just standing a certain way. How can the way you stand be anti-Christian? Do they just not realize what it entails? Are they labeling something they’re not familiar with as evil?
post #2 of 37
it depends entirely upon the type/style of christian. more conservative, evangelical groups tend to say that yoga is incongruous with christianity, but most mainstream churches have no problem with it.

i tell my students (i live in a fairly conservative christian area) that yoga is a spiritual discipline like prayer or group worship or fasting. many religious traditions utilize the same kinds of spiritual disciplines, but they have a different cosmology.

yoga (and meditation) as spiritual disciplines can be utilized by a christian in the same way that it is used by a hindu, buddhist, etc (traditionally)--but with a different focus or intent. Just as a Hindu may pray to Krishna, a Christian prays to Christ/God. In the same way, a hindu practices yoga to connect with their sense or understanding of the diety while the christian would do the same with a focus on their own diety.

there are, of course, different places where people draw the line. most of my students have no problem chanting Om, which is the bija mantra and has multiple meanings. one of those meanings includes being a diety itself (in a certain sense, traditionally), and so it is part and parcel that it is ALL of those meanings. For some christians, it's not appropriate to chant om or even listen to om being chanted in class--as this is considered honoring or worshipping another diety.

Also, meditation is really more than deep relaxation and focusing--but those are part of the picture. we focus in order to reach a state of meditation, and the results of meditation (once we're finished) is a calm state in our lives.

Meditation has long been practiced by christians. It is one of the traditional monastic disciplines, along with contemplative prayer (which many people confuse with meditation).

many people mistakenly believe that meditation means "emptying the mind" and then they jump to the conclusion--as stated in the bible--that if you don't fill the empty house with Jesus, some other unsavory folks will move in. For many, this is very literal, a very real fear.

it is based on a misunderstanding. the mind isn't "empty" it is "still." that would be a more accurate description. In buddhism, it's often called an "empty" mind because it is empty of thought--which is part of the point of meditation. it's not to think, it's to be. we remove the clutter of thinking from our mind in order to be fully present.

this process can be practiced in any context (religious), including christianity, in which a christian meditates on God--choosing Christ as a focal point or a bible verse, etc--and then when all thoughts have ceased, they are being, and only being, in the presence of God.

a lot of churches today actually teach meditation not only as a way to relax, etc, but also as a way to be more connected to the Holy Spirit.
post #3 of 37
I personally feel it doesn't mesh with my religion (I'm Catholic.) I think meditation is a great thing, but I perfer to do it on my own for one and for two, I don't do it while excersizing. I wish I could find just a stretching class because I really thing yoga moves are great for the body, I just don't agree with the religious aspect of it, cause like it or not, it has a religious past.
post #4 of 37
I think it depends on the person more than the branch of Christianity most of the time. The above poster feels it doesn't mesh with Catholicism, yet I've known plenty of devout Catholics that attended or even taught yoga classes. I'm LDS and we had a yoga instructor in my area for a while that taught classes for free at our church a couple times a week. They were VERY popular.

Meditation is the same way. A lot of people just think it's odd regardless of religion because they are inclined to make more of it than it is. People like that love to blame religion because it makes them feel like their opinions are indisputable. Your SIL may have just spent too much time listening to someone like that. lol Personally, my kids both have anxiety issues and I've taught them to meditate to control them. 9/10 people think that is just SO COOL when I tell them to meditate when they start to lose control. Leaders at church have actually had them teach their classmates and when one of the children gets too disruptive, they are asked to sit off to the side and calm themselves. It's a MUCH different attitude than time outs or punishments or getting sent to their parents till they're calm, and things run much more smoothly. That 1/10 that isn't impressed though, just looks at us like we're weird. It's the same look we get when dd6 starts discussing vitamin C consumption or something though. lol
post #5 of 37
I think things like meditation or yoga are what you make them to be.
I know plenty of people who take yoga classes just for the physicality. I know some who go to a yoga centre for the deeper religious aspects.

I think meditation is so similar to "deep prayer" anyway, when it comes right down to it. When I meditate and when I pray, it's very nearly the same thing.
post #6 of 37
This is interesting. I was recently listening to an evangelical style preacher (I am not a Christian, per se, but I like all different types of religion) and she was saying that meditation=prayer. That is that we have since the beginning of time, recognized that the state of mind of prayer and meditation is an important one...I read a study about how the brain goes into a different physiological state during prayer/meditation...

Anyway, I'm of the belief system that all roads lead to...and not to judge other's beliefs. But if it made a person uncomfortable to practice yoga, then they probably should not practice yoga, and if their belief system saw it as bad, then maybe they could change it to "Christian Yoga"? Or if there were certain parts that made them uncomfortable, they could modify their practice, perhaps?

Interesting thought, I never encountered that type of resistance before, but it's understandable in context.
post #7 of 37
it should also be noted that yoga can be done completely secularly, with no impact or aspect related to the religion. some people just do the movement, and that's it.

now, in the yoga community, that's called "gymnastics" because in order for it to be 'yoga,' the mindset must be there, and this is part of a total spiritual practice. it doesn't matter which spirituality/religion, but in order to be yoga, it has to be spiritual.

a lot of people do yoga postures for no spiritual reason, but for physical ones. it's still "asana" or "postures"--but it's devoid of religious context.

when i teach, i teach with a spiritual component. i am very frank about this when describing and discussing my classes and my style of teaching. i know teachers who are more secular, and i'm happy to recommend them to people who want to stretch, but don't want any of the spirituality.

as to meditation and prayer, i think that meditation prepares one for a richer, deeper prayer experience. there are aspects of it that are very similar, but prayer is also a thought process--which meditation is not.

it's not wrong to have a thought process--prayer is phenominal and important--but meditation is technically not having a thought process. they are not the same thing--at the brain wave level, at the spiritual level, etc. not one is "better" than the other either. I think it's great for one to choose prayer and never meditate, or choose meditation and never pray.

different folks need different disciplines. personally, i need yoga, meditation, prayer (contemplative, largely), scriptural/wisdom study (any religion), and fasting. those are my favorite disciplines. But, i know others who do other sorts of prayer, prefer corproate prayer/worship, and community service as a spiritual discipline.

our needs are different. and it's good!
post #8 of 37
It does have a religious past but it dosnt have to be religious. The date of Cristmas was took from a pagan celabration but you still acept that as the birth of crist even thou the true date is aug 22 at noon, and many atheist also celabrate cristmas.
post #9 of 37
I am a practicing Christian and I have studied Zen Buddhism. The two compliment each other well, and have many philosophical similarities.

Living Buddha, Living Christ by Thich Nhat Hanh, is an excellent read on this subject.

ETA: please don't group all Christians into one group - sometimes I feel our differences far our number our similarities. Believing that Christ is the human incarnation of God and offers a new covenant for those who chose to follow his rules is about the only thing we all have in common - and sometimes I wonder about that.
post #10 of 37
When I was a JW they did not allow yoga or meditation. Well, they actually changed the meaning of meditation to mean "reflecting on the things we have learned". When I looked at the scriptures myself in the bible that pertained to meditaion, to me it sounded a whole lot more like the real type of meditation, not the JW version. The reason they didn't want us to meditate or do yoga was because they thought that if we emptied our minds and participated in a false religious practice it would let the demons into our minds. Not necassarily that we would become possesed by demons, but we would be influenced by them to leave our religion. Pilates was okay to do, but yoga and meditation were forbidden.
post #11 of 37
Whoa, that is really weird! I have nothing against yoga or meditation at all!

(I should actually do more of it! )
post #12 of 37
Quote:
Originally Posted by zoebird View Post

this process can be practiced in any context (religious), including christianity, in which a christian meditates on God--choosing Christ as a focal point or a bible verse, etc--and then when all thoughts have ceased, they are being, and only being, in the presence of God.

a lot of churches today actually teach meditation not only as a way to relax, etc, but also as a way to be more connected to the Holy Spirit.
This is what I do. I find a lot of the poses mirror many scripture verses and use the poses as a physical act of worship, living the verse. (like when practicing a tree pose I'll focus on the part of Jeremiah 17 that says "blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in Him. He will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream..." or when doing the child pose I concentrate on bowing down and humbling myself before God. Instead of "sun salutations" I practice "Son salutations" and pray through the movements to Jesus)

As a Christian, I would not feel comfortable experimenting with Kundalini Yoga. The one time I did I felt very uncomfortab;le spirtually. I also am wary of group classes if I don't know the instructor well or if it's not a purely physical class.

For me, I do best when I'm alone and can choose what to include and what to avoid. Cafeteria style yoga I guess.
post #13 of 37
My former church (Episcopal, but very evangelical) offered yoga classes and my very conservative evangelical college did, too, so not all conservatives are anti-yoga! I am a practicing Christian who has been very deeply ministered to by practicing yoga and learning to be more perceptive of my breath and my body. I am "fearfully and wonderfully made" and since God created me to have a body, I see it as part of my spiritual practice to care for it and delight in it. I have moved recently, and miss my old yoga class! I'm not disciplined enough to do it on my own!

The practice of meditation and disciplines of all sorts have long histories in the Christian tradition. I see yoga as being very compatible with Christianity, when the practicioner is focusing on Christian spirituality, of course! I think it's more of an individual thing than any one group. Personally, I feel totally comfortable practicing yoga in a class where others have different spiritual foci.
post #14 of 37
Quote:
Originally Posted by MoreThanApplesauce View Post
Believing that Christ is the human incarnation of God
rofl. nope, not even that. I only recently found out that some people think that. No church I ever went to growing up, or now, teaches that Christ and God are anything but separate beings with a common purpose. Can we all agree that Christ is a downright good guy, and we should follow his advice, at least, though?
post #15 of 37
I just do the poses and ignore any hippy dippy meditations.
post #16 of 37
Quote:
Originally Posted by CherryBomb View Post
I just do the poses and ignore any hippy dippy meditations.
Yeah, me too. I have a chronic back condition and have found some of the poses to be invaluable for controlling back pain. I personally don't get any kind of religious or spiritual "benefit" (for lack of a better word) when I'm doing yoga poses.
post #17 of 37
Quote:
Originally Posted by zoebird View Post
it should also be noted that yoga can be done completely secularly, with no impact or aspect related to the religion. some people just do the movement, and that's it.

now, in the yoga community, that's called "gymnastics" because in order for it to be 'yoga,' the mindset must be there, and this is part of a total spiritual practice. it doesn't matter which spirituality/religion, but in order to be yoga, it has to be spiritual.

a lot of people do yoga postures for no spiritual reason, but for physical ones. it's still "asana" or "postures"--but it's devoid of religious context.

when i teach, i teach with a spiritual component. i am very frank about this when describing and discussing my classes and my style of teaching. i know teachers who are more secular, and i'm happy to recommend them to people who want to stretch, but don't want any of the spirituality.

as to meditation and prayer, i think that meditation prepares one for a richer, deeper prayer experience. there are aspects of it that are very similar, but prayer is also a thought process--which meditation is not.

it's not wrong to have a thought process--prayer is phenominal and important--but meditation is technically not having a thought process. they are not the same thing--at the brain wave level, at the spiritual level, etc. not one is "better" than the other either. I think it's great for one to choose prayer and never meditate, or choose meditation and never pray.

different folks need different disciplines. personally, i need yoga, meditation, prayer (contemplative, largely), scriptural/wisdom study (any religion), and fasting. those are my favorite disciplines. But, i know others who do other sorts of prayer, prefer corproate prayer/worship, and community service as a spiritual discipline.

our needs are different. and it's good!

I checked out the link for the Yoga For Mummy Tummy, thanks for that

Finally, I know why I'm having ongoing problems with my stomach area since having my son.

Peace
post #18 of 37
[QUOTE=incorrigible]
"rofl. nope, not even that. I only recently found out that some people think that. No church I ever went to growing up, or now, teaches that Christ and God are anything but separate beings with a common purpose. "



Incorrigible,
Interesting! Which churches do not teach that they are one? I thought this was a pretty mainstream belief in Christianity.
post #19 of 37
Imogen:

I'm glad that you benefitted from it! I was so thankful to PixiePunk for putting in the time to write it. I learned a lot too!

I just do the poses and ignore any hippy dippy meditations.



this is very true. even as a particutioner who uses it as a spiritual discipline, there are often meditations that make me turn my head like a curious puppy (what? LOL)!

but, i also know that there are folks in my classes who have to put up with my "nonsense" in order to get the physical benefits they want.

even so, i make sure that they know that i'm teaching it from this perspective. how they practice it is up to them. LOL i don't want complaints about my hippy-dippy meditations!
post #20 of 37
Quote:
Do they just not realize what it entails?
The ones I've heard saying such, yes, they do not really realize what it entails or cannot imagine for themselves that they could meditate on their Jesus.

Quote:
Are they labeling something they’re not familiar with as evil?
Most of the time.

Not all Christians are like that though. I think most can distinguish between practicing Hinduism and practicing Yoga--such that they focus on their own religion.
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