Please think carefully before you say something as hurtful as ‘Yoga is Demonic.’
First. What does ‘Demonic’ even mean?
Biblically, ‘Demonic’ is a word often used to describe darkness, specifically darkness outside of God. As to what is essential about God, we know that God is described as Light. We are told that God is Light and that though God can penetrate darkness and subsume darkness, God, God’s self, is without darkness. We also know that God is more powerful than darkness (Jesus tells us this and demonstrates it many, many times). God can be present in the darkness (Jesus shows us this unequivocally), and we know that during Creation, God reached into the darkness to form our world.
Demonic is a word that is also used to describe the idea of darkness as a force. As a ‘force,’ the darkness that exists outside of God can be understood as an opponent to God and outside (and perhaps even working against) God’s purposes.
What can spring from the force of darkness is frightening, without order, and destructive to God’s creation. We anthropomorphize this darkness into embodied demons because it helps us understand the evil it can represent. “Satan” is the word we most often associate with this darkness, and Jesus confronts this force as Satan directly after He is baptized and goes into the Wilderness.
Demonic, then, means: 1.) Darkness that exists outside of God. 2.) An evil force that opposes God. 3.) A force destructive to Creation and God’s work in the world.
What is Yoga?
When we talk about Yoga, then, does it fit the definition of demonic? Is it a darkness outside of God? Is it an evil force that opposes God? Is it destructive to the creation?
First, we should recognize that yoga is an exercise. In terms of muscular stretching and body movement it is no different than any other stretching routine or the warm-up calisthenics you did in high school. Were those demonic? No. Of course not. So that part of yoga is not at issue.
The second part to consider is that while some practice yoga simply for exercise, others incorporate ‘energy-awareness’ with the stretching, and still others seek to use yoga as a pathway to spiritual purity. There are a number of different yoga practices incorporated by different eastern religions. Yoga, then, is at its essence a prayerful state the incorporates the body in the prayer. This is not so different than kneeling for Christians, as in kneeling the position of the body is important for the humbling of self in prayer.
Some Muslims practice yoga, but the practice is generally forbidden in Islam. For Muslims, God is a being far removed from us humans. They do not believe that God can take human shape. So for a Muslim person to practice yoga, which engages both the divine and the human body, is considered abhorrent to Muslim orthodoxy.
Christians do not have this issue. Christians embrace the notion of God as present with us. We recognize in Jesus Christ the embodiment—God made flesh—of the incarnate God. Yoga, then, can be seen as a celebration of the divine-with-us and God’s Love all around us.
What is your faith?
The bible tells us to pray unceasingly. Christians are asked to live every moment with gratitude and the love of God in our hearts. So, who is the God in your heart? If you are a Christian, then you are mindful of the Love of God when you prayerfully stretch through yogic exercise. As you encounter these particular stretches and movements, and feel the muscles loosen and the energy of the body move from your head to your toes, as you feel God’s love all around you, can you recognize the joy of your body and the movement you make as part of God’s perfect design for you and all of Creation? Are the words you speak in praise of God? If so, then this exercise is fully compatible with Christian faith and belief.
Christians celebrate faith in Jesus Christ.
Christians from all over the world celebrate their differences as they proclaim their one Faith in Jesus Christ. One of the strengths of Christianity from the very beginning was that Christ was interested in reaching all people and across all cultures. Our New Testament speaks loud and clear that Jesus is here for all people, not just for one group.
Look around at all the ways the Love of Jesus Christ is celebrated all over the world. The Bible is translated into every language on the planet! There are more Christians than any other religion and Christians share a wide variety of traditions that originated in different cultures. Celtic traditions, African traditions, and South American traditions all intermingle in praise of God. Did you know that a group of Christians in Africa celebrate communion with sweet potatoes and honey? Did you know that some Christian worship services are filled with loud singing and dancing and others are absolutely silent?
Tradition tells us that Christianity reached India from the earliest times. The disciple Thomas journeyed as far as India with the Good News of Jesus Christ. God blessed Thomas’s journey, and there is a group of Christians in India still today who trace their faith tradition to Thomas’s teaching.
Prayerful and Spiritual Exercise
Yoga isn’t the only physical exercise that encourages the use of energy to strengthen the body and make us more aware of—and grateful for—our living existence. Early Saxon Christians prayed with their arms wide open to imitate the cross. Pray that way for a few moments and experience the difference the position of the body makes. It helps us deepen our prayerful awareness of our Christian faith.
Should Christians practice yoga?
As Christians, should we practice yoga? The greater community of our faith says yes. Yoga as prayerful exercise and meditation is a good thing. A Christian who practices yoga borrows the knowledge of another culture and draws it into their own worship practices. Just like when sharing sweet potatoes and honey, a Christian who practices yoga does so with joy and prayerful attention to God and God’s purposes in Creation.