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I know a lot of people who claim to be Christian but practice Yoga. I always thought (and Wikipedia seems to back me up on this) that Yoga was about meditation in Hinduism or Buddhism.

Is practicing Yoga a sin since you're actually following another religion? Or is it possible to practice Yoga in a Christian manner? Also, if you are able to practice Yoga in a Christian manner, is there a conflict with that and the problem with the weaker brother?

Specifically, I'm seeking a mainstream Protestant viewpoint on this. I suspect that they will all be the same, but if they differ, let me know so that I can refine the scope.

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I have a personal experience so that is not appropriate to answer here. Feel free to email heath.hunnicutt in the gmail place, and I'll share. –  Heath Hunnicutt Feb 17 '12 at 3:30
    
See James 4:11. A lot of your Christian brothers practice Yoga in a Christian mindset. –  Heath Hunnicutt Feb 19 '12 at 20:02
    
This question appears to be off-topic because it is about "Is X a Sin?" –  Affable Geek Oct 30 '13 at 13:23
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Yoga has big science in it. Just search google about yoga, you will get something, but nothing useful:). But if you practice the yoga truthfully from a real master(Guru), your life will be changed. And it is called a sin? Impossible to think man, first understand what yoga is and then ask these kind of questions... –  MoonMind Oct 30 '13 at 17:53
    
and surely there is problem in practicing it, because you will not be you once you learned this. –  MoonMind Oct 30 '13 at 18:22
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I would say it's impossible to do so without first acknowledging that the historic grounding in and modern implementation of pagan spirituality is real. The next step would be identifying how both Hinduism (or spiritual Indian wisdom or whatever moniker you give it) and Christianity see the intrinsic relation between the spiritual and physical realms. If someone is able to paint at least a general picture of the differences, I would start asking what the purpose of trying to separate them would be. Personally I fail to see any advantages in continuing to dwell in a Dorothy-house removed clean away from it's foundations and now situated on someone else's land.

Before I rant on this, let me start by giving a little ground here. I do think that is possible to have physical exercises perhaps physically modeled after those of of some other religions ritual without it necessarily making us participants in a false religion. However several objections remain. Certainly not all situations are equal and I have limited experience in the matter, mostly dating to quite a few years ago and discussions I had with folks who were involved. These included some who embraced the conjunction of spiritual and physical exercise, and some who could care less what religion it came from as long as it left them with better digestion.

Now for my rants.

First of all let us address the often forwarded notion of being able to retain the religious elements, but merely in name not in fact. This seems preposterous to me, sort of like trying to use the gutter language of crime to speak of things fair and beautiful. Without the right diction you are stuck in a little box of your own making. Speaking of boxes, it's also like taking the engine out of a car because it ran on the wrong kind of fuel. Without putting another engine in it make a really useless vehicle, although I suppose it would be good exercise.*

Secondly the idea that the religious connection can be lost altogether doesn't sit well with me. My initial objection in the first paragraph was that this discussion does not get past square one until we have come to some agreement about there being a connection. The first things I would bring into the discussion is the historical connection, but I think we then need to continue into a discussion about what modern spirituality is like and what kind of world view thinks there is no connection between the spiritual and physical.

I do not think false religions should have all the best exercises any more than I think we should let them have all the best music. However I don't think our best option is to start a bunch of "christian" bands flooding the market with half baked goods but rather to bring back a theological understanding that we are artistic and creative because we are ourselves made in the image of an artistic and creative God. Those who produce anything good or beautiful do so only use a grace given them on loan and it is our job to point out the source and through an understanding and acknowledgement of that grace turn it into worship.

I think something similar ought to be done for exercise. Instead of trying to separate the physical from the spiritual at all I think it would behoove us to develop a biblical understanding of how these things actually relate, then modeling our exercise lives around this. While the things we do with our bodies might resemble Yoga or Tai Chi, it should be carefully delineated what we believe about our bodies being temples of the Spirit so that it is entirely clear to the world what makes us different than them. It seems to be that this is best done at the instructor level and that an individual participating under an instructor with a different world view who is not actively identifying his spiritual beliefs to himself and those he interacts with runs a great risk of not only muddling his own spiritual life but misleading others.

Our sensibilities and sensitivities ought to lead us to actions and words distinct enough that no-one, whether from Hindu, humanistic, christian or undecided world view, could mistake our participation for tacit acceptance of either the premises of a false religion or the decoupling of physical and spiritual realms.

Sometimes it is suggested that such ritual meditations pre-date Christianity and as such might be able to be considered separately from it rather than in competition with it. I think there is a fallacy here in that Christianity did not begin 2k years ago with Jesus or Paul or John the baptist or anyone else, it began with Christ before he created man. And since the first Adam Christianity has always looked forward to the coming of the Christ. Thus I think it is silly to claim that anything is pre-christian in the sense of time. Certainly there are sources and influences so we be careful to consider whether the things we include in our lives and practice of Christianity conforms to the Word. I think some pagan rights are actually perversions of things that originated with us. For example ceremonial washings in Islam do not originate there but are actually adaptions of Mosaic law.

*Forgive the pun.

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Wow. +1 for the Dorothy-house line. That's excellent. –  Richard Sep 22 '11 at 15:15
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"Thus I think it is silly to claim that anything is pre-christian in the sense of time." I think that is rather stretching the definition of Christianity. Nothing you would recognise as Christianity existed until CE+. For example, the Christ story is not quite what the Jews were expecting... –  Marc Gravell Sep 22 '11 at 17:05
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@MarcGravell You are right it is not exactly what the Jews in the last couple centuries before Christ were expecting but here is the deal: The Christ Story was written before the founding of the world and it always has been exactly what it is, however strong or weak the understanding of it has been through various ages. Actually the expected Messiah was much more accurately understood early on, and late in Jewish history it got clouded. See When did Christianity originate? –  Caleb Sep 22 '11 at 17:28
    
"I would say it's impossible to do so without first acknowledging that the historic grounding in and modern implementation of pagan spirituality is real." What is this sentence supposed to mean? Are you trying to say, "First, acknowledge that Yoga is part of Hinduism"? –  Sean McMillan Oct 20 '11 at 19:33
    
@Sean Actually I wrote this as a reply to a slightly different question, I should edit this to explain. Basically I think any effort to sepparate the physical from the spiritual aspects is doomed if you don't even acknowledge that there is a real connection. –  Caleb Oct 20 '11 at 21:33
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I personally believe this to be a matter of conscience and Christian liberty.

The introduction to the wikipedia article on yoga reads:

Yoga (Sanskrit, Pāli: योग yóga) is a physical, mental, and spiritual discipline, originating in ancient India. The goal of yoga, or of the person practicing yoga, is the attainment of a state of perfect spiritual insight and tranquility. The word is associated with meditative practices in Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism.

Within Hindu philosophy, the word yoga is used to refer to one of the six orthodox (āstika) schools of Hindu philosophy. Yoga in this sense is based on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, and is also known as Rāja Yoga to distinguish it from later schools. Patanjali's system is discussed and elaborated upon in many classical Hindu texts, and has also been influential in Buddhism and Jainism. The Bhagavadgita introduces distinctions such as Jnana Yoga ("yoga based on knowledge") vs. Karma Yoga ("yoga based on action").

Based on its stated goals, I also personally believe that practicing true yoga is incompatible with being a Christian.

If all one wanted were the health benefits (eg flexibility and stretching), then it should not be termed "yoga", but a "flexibility class" or similar.

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Only people who have never done yoga compare it to a 'flexibility' or 'stretching' class. The correct term for yogic exercises is "asana." –  Heath Hunnicutt Feb 18 '12 at 1:30
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@Heath Hunnicut - you are the first (and only) person I have ever heard who has participated in a yoga practice of any kind that did NOT characterize it as I did. I have met or heard from hundreds of individuals who describe it precisely the way I did. –  warren Feb 20 '12 at 2:52
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What is "pranayama" and do you consider it part of yoga, or have you ever heard of it before? Have you ever heard of someone named Patanjali, who wrote his Yoga Sutras? Referencing the Baghavad Gita and not Patanjali is a dead give-away that you don't know Yoga from Yogurt. –  Heath Hunnicutt Feb 20 '12 at 3:21
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@Heath: Please watch your tone. You're free to disagree, but only if you can do it without being disagreeable. One of the fundamental rules of our community is respect, because a place like this can't survive without it. –  Mason Wheeler Feb 20 '12 at 14:32
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@Heath: I never said anything about who was correct WRT your yoga terminology. But when you start to insinuate that Warren is obviously an idiot who knows nothing about the subject at hand, you're crossing a line. He didn't do that. You did. This isn't about being "open-minded;" it's about being respectful. Your tone is not fine. –  Mason Wheeler Feb 20 '12 at 18:30
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