What is yoga?

With the recent announcement of a plan to hold yoga classes at the Cathedral Memorial Hall have come some questions.

Is it appropriate for a Christian Church to practice yoga? The goal is fitness — to use yoga exercises, primarily stretching and breathing, to promote health and well being. The goals of the Cathedral Health Ministry and, more specifically our parish nursing ministry, is to provide opportunities to improve health of body, mind and spirit.

There seem to be a lot of (mis?) information around about what the term “yoga” describes in our 2017 north american context. While some ancient religions have used yoga, yoga is not a religion. It is questionable whether the yogo practiced in gyms, health clubs, and, yes, Christian churches, is really yoga at all in the way some ancient religions have used it. What will be offered at the Cathedral classes are: Hatha Yoga, and the gentler Chair Yoga and Yin Yoga, well suited for individuals with restricted mobility.

“Yogo,” as the term is being used, refers in a colloquial way, to a philosophy that guides exercises which admittedly promote a unity of mind, body and spirit through stretching, breathing and mindfulness.  While meditation may be part of yoga exercises, its usually not. If meditation is part of an exercise, its the choice of the participant. Meditation is not “unchristian.” (See a resource about Christian meditation.) The focus of a mindfulness component, if it is desired, is entirely up to the participant. Some Christians who practice yoga use the time for prayer and meditation.

By some, yoga may be perceived as originating in ancient eastern religions, but yoga is actually much older than that. Those religions have identified in yoga positive benefits that are in line with their own spiritual goals and incorporated it as a spiritual practice. Its quite possible (and increasingly common) for Christians to do the same. Many Christians have discovered that “loving God with all our heart, all our soul, all our mind and all our strength” is furthered through yoga exercises.

Everyone will have an opinion. In the end, each will need to decide if yoga is for them.

15Those who are spiritual discern all things, and they are themselves subject to no one else’s scrutiny. 16 ‘For who has known the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?’ But we have the mind of Christ. (1 Corinthians 2)

Stretching, breathing and mindfulness exercises (yoga) are quite commonly offered these days in both Christian and non-Christian contexts.

To read more about what yoga is and is not, follow the links below.

The Christian Yoga Myth
Christians Practicing Yoga
Yes to Yoga – Christianity Today
Is it Okay for Christians to Do Yoga? – Relevant Magazine
Yoga 101: A Beginner’s Guide to Practice, Meditation, and the Sutras



4 thoughts on “What is yoga?

  1. Geoff : Good to see your response to the questions you may have received. I think it’s great for the Heath Ministry to be offering such a program that is “in tune” with mind , body and spirit.

  2. Thank you for your article I have been the subject of discussion because I attend yoga. I admit it has distressed me to know that fellow church goers avail themselves at my expense. My physician recommended Yoga. I was glad of the advice to use gentle exercise instead of pain medication. I find myself surely in Gods presence every time as the slow and gentle movement, and stillness of mind, help me reconnect with his beautiful breath, which enables life to flow and ebb like a dance in my spirit. He is the light in me.
    I thank God for your article. I am grateful for your research and give him Glory for the restoration of muscle strength in my body.

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