“When we practice looking deeply, we have the insight into what to do and what not to do for the situation to change. Everything depends on our way of looking.” Thich Nhat Hanh
As more people are experiencing the benefits of yoga, Christian leaders are telling their flock that yoga will lead them astray. I’ve heard this before, actually 30 years ago when I began a serious practice of yoga. According to the Christians I encountered at the time yoga was considered an abomination, a link to the devil. I was damned for practicing it and I was doubly damned for walking away from the Church. I was pretty well damned, and yet I knew in my heart that it brought me closer to the divine.
The thinking today, according to Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, is that Christians who practice yoga, “Most seem unaware that yoga cannot be neatly separated into physical and spiritual dimensions. The physical is the spiritual in yoga, and the exercises and disciplines of yoga are meant to connect with the divine.” And herein lies the misunderstanding.
According to the sage Patanjali, who recorded what we know about the Eight Limbs of Yoga some 5000 years ago, Asana (hatha yoga postures), are of little importance and are practiced merely to calm and focus the mind of a beginner and to prepare the physical body to sit for long periods of time in meditation. Ultimately yoga is not about the physical body, but about revealing one’s true self and one’s connection to God, regardless of one’s religion.