A photograph capturing a serene moment of a person engaged in yoga poses, with a Bible open beside them, symbolizing the peaceful coexistence of spiritual practices and biblical teachings.

What Does The Bible Say About Yoga?

Yoga has become an increasingly popular practice in Western cultures over the last few decades. With its focus on spirituality, breathing, and poses, many Christians wonder if yoga aligns with biblical teachings or if it goes against their faith.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: The Bible does not directly address yoga. Some Christians view yoga as a spiritual practice and believe Christians should avoid it, while others see yoga as primarily physical exercise and accept Christian-adapted versions.

In this comprehensive article, we will dive deep into the debate around yoga and Christianity to help you understand both perspectives. We’ll cover the history and religious roots of yoga, arguments for and against Christian yoga, what Scripture and Christian leaders say about new age spirituality, and best practices for Christians interested in yoga.

The Religious Roots and Meaning of Yoga

Yoga’s Origins in Hinduism and Buddhism

Yoga originated in ancient India over 5,000 years ago as a spiritual practice in Hinduism. The word “yoga” comes from the Sanskrit word “yuj” which means to unite or join together. The goal of yoga is to unite the individual self (jivatman) with the divine self (paramatman).

This union is ultimately what provides liberation from worldly suffering and the cycle of rebirth.

In Hinduism, yoga is one of the six “darshanas” or philosophical schools. It uses physical postures, breathing techniques, meditation practices and moral disciplines to achieve a state of spiritual insight and tranquility.

Many yoga poses mimic the stances held by Hindu gods like Shiva, Brahma and Vishnu.

Yoga later became an integral part of Buddhism around 500 BCE. Buddha himself was known to meditate in the lotus pose. However, Buddhism focuses more on meditation and ethical living over the physical practices of yoga.

The Eight Limbs of Yoga

The eight limbs of yoga provide a step-by-step guide to achieve spiritual enlightenment according to Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, which systematically outlines the essence of yoga philosophy and practice:

  • Yama: Ethical disciplines like non-violence, truthfulness and non-stealing
  • Niyama: Personal observances like cleanliness, contentment and austerity
  • Asana: Physical postures and poses
  • Pranayama: Breathing techniques and control of breath
  • Pratyahara: Withdrawal of the senses from external distractions to focus inward
  • Dharana: Concentration or single-pointed focus
  • Dhyana: Meditation and reflection
  • Samadhi: State of bliss, enlightenment and self-realization

Together, these eight limbs work in unison to bring harmony between the body and mind.

Yoga as a Spiritual Practice

Though yoga has become a popular fitness trend across the globe today, as one of the six orthodox schools of Hindu philosophy, it remains a spiritual practice at its core for many.

The postures and poses of yoga were created to prepare practitioners for meditation. The breathing techniques and body movements help calm the mind, lower stress and relax the body to sit in meditation for extended periods.

By withdrawing the senses and conscious thought, yoga allows meditators to focus on the divine inner light of the self. The ultimate goal is to attain samadhi – a state of enlightenment, bliss and oneness with the universe.

For this reason, there continues to be debate around whether Christians should practice yoga since some argue it propagates subtle Hindu religious beliefs.

1990 About 4 million Americans practiced yoga
2020 Over 55 million Americans include yoga in their routine

Despite its debated spiritual roots, yoga’s surge in popularity highlights the mental and physical health benefits supported by an increasing number of studies.

What the Bible Says About Other Religions

Old Testament Warnings Against Idolatry

The Old Testament contains many warnings against idolatry and false gods. For example, the Ten Commandments state that “you shall have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20:3). This commandment forbids the worship of idols or false gods.

In Deuteronomy 4:15-19, Moses warns the Israelites when they enter the promised land to not make idols or images to represent God, such as objects in “the form of a man or a woman, or like any animal on earth or any bird that flies in the air, or like any creature that moves along the ground or any fish in the waters below.”

This shows that God does not want to be compared to any created thing.

Throughout the Old Testament prophets, worshiping other gods or idols is often rebuked and seen as spiritual adultery (Jeremiah 3:6-10). The prophets warn that idolatry and syncretism, or mixing beliefs with other religions, is displeasing to God.

New Testament Teachings on False Gods

In the New Testament, Jesus says that no one comes to the Father except through him (John 14:6). The early church proclaimed faith in Christ alone. There are warnings against false gods, teachings, and beliefs that do not align with Christ.

For example, 1 Corinthians 10:14 says to “flee from idolatry” and 1 John 5:21 says to “keep yourselves from idols.” Here idols likely represent not just physical statues but anything that takes the place of God in one’s life.

Arguments Against Christians Doing Yoga

Yoga is Inherently Hindu

Many argue that yoga is inextricably linked to Hinduism and cannot be separated from its spiritual roots. The postures and breathing techniques were originally developed as part of Hindu spiritual practices.

The word “yoga” comes from the Sanskrit word meaning “to yoke” or “to unite,” referring to the goal of uniting body, mind, and spirit. From this perspective, practicing yoga could be seen as embracing Hindu philosophy.

Critics point out that some yoga classes continue to incorporate Hindu spirituality, including chanting “om,” meditating on Hindu deities, and using namaste as a greeting. They argue it is impossible to entirely separate the physical practice of yoga from its spiritual Hindu roots.

The Spirituality Cannot Be Separated from the Poses

Related to the point above, some believe that even if yoga is practiced solely for exercise without overt spiritual elements, the postures and rituals themselves have spiritual power. The physical movements of yoga were designed to manipulate energy flows in the body and prepare practitioners for spiritual experiences.

Some Christians argue that the positions and rituals of yoga open up practitioners to latent spiritual forces, even if done solely for physical training. They point out that Hindus and Buddhists themselves continue to value yoga as a spiritual practice.

From this perspective, removing overt spirituality from yoga classes fails to protect practitioners from spiritual influence on a more subtle level.

The Risk of Opening Oneself to Other Spiritual Influences

Most opponents of yoga emphasize that Christians should avoid any practice that might open the door to spiritual confusion or influence from other religions. Even if a Christian yoga practitioner has no interest in Hindu spirituality, critics argue that yoga could still influence them in subtle ways outside of their awareness.

They contend that opening one’s body and mind to spiritual forces through yoga poses risks inviting unbiblical beliefs, perspectives, or entities into one’s life. This view sees yoga fundamentally as an invitation to spiritual experimentation outside of Christianity.

It argues that Christians should avoid yoga entirely to maintain their spiritual purity and prevent any subtle distortions in their thinking or worldview.

To summarize, those arguing against Christian yoga practice contend that yoga is inseparable from Hindu spirituality. Even supposedly secular yoga could open practitioners up to spiritual influences through its history of religious ritual.

From this perspective, yoga should be avoided entirely to prevent unwanted spiritual impacts on a Christian’s life.

Arguments for Christians Doing Yoga

The Physical Benefits of Yoga

Many studies have shown that yoga provides numerous physical health benefits, such as improved flexibility, strength, balance, and circulation (source). These physical enhancements can aid in injury prevention, stress relief, and an overall sense of well-being.

As we are called to honor God with our bodies (1 Corinthians 6:20), participating in an activity like yoga that promotes bodily health and restoration aligns with scriptural principles for Christian living.

Some specific physical perks of yoga include:

  • Increased flexibility and range of motion
  • Improved muscle tone and strength
  • Enhanced respiration, energy, and vitality
  • Better circulation and cardiovascular health

As Christians, stewarding our physical bodies wisely allows us to be better equipped for acts of service and sharing the gospel with others.

Yoga With Biblical Affirmations Rather Than Spiritual Chanting

Traditional yogic mantras and chanting can conflict with Christian beliefs. However, many yoga instructors offer alternate versions, replacing the traditional mantras with biblically-based affirmations or completely removing the chanting altogether.

For example, words like “Jesus” or “Hallelujah” could be repeated instead of the traditional Sanskrit terms during yoga sessions.

Traditional Mantra Biblical Affirmation Alternative
Om/Aum Jesus, Hallelujah, Amen

This allows Christians to enjoy the physical aspects of yoga without compromising core theological principles. Christians can also opt to practice yoga at home with worship music rather than worldly or New Age-inspired playlists.

Yoga as Exercise Rather Than Religion

While yoga does have historical ties with Eastern religions like Hinduism and Buddhism, modern yoga practiced primarily for exercise and health reasons does not necessarily contradict Christian doctrine.

The physical postures and breathing techniques maintain value for fitness goals even when divorced from the mystical dimensions they once held.

Similar to concepts like meditation and mindfulness, the context and intent behind yoga determines its compatibility with Christianity. While Ye cannot serve two masters, regular exercise focused on physical conditioning without adherence to non-Christian spiritual elements does not inherently conflict with scriptural teachings.

Best Practices for Christians Interested in Yoga

Investigate Your Yoga Studio

With yoga’s roots in Eastern spirituality, many studios integrate practices that conflict with Christian beliefs. Before signing up for classes, kindly ask about the studio’s philosophy, imagery, music, chanting, and worship practices to ensure alignment with your faith.

Ideally, find a studio that focuses on the physical benefits without heavy emphasis on Hindu spiritual elements. Some churches and Christian organizations now offer “Christ-centered yoga” classes, removing objectionable elements while retaining the yoga poses and breathing exercises.

Adapt the Practice to Your Beliefs

If your local yoga classes include spiritual elements you wish to avoid, consider asking the instructor to minimize chanting, replacing namastes with a simple hello or goodbye, and using neutral terminology like “Supreme Being” instead of Hindu names.

Be respectful but honest about your faith-based needs. Most instructors will gladly accommodate. You can also skip portions that make you uncomfortable without disrupting the class. A home practice lets you design sessions however you wish.

Focus on Physical rather than Spiritual Benefits

Approaching yoga as a form of exercise rather than worship helps reconcile it with Christianity. While some enthusiasts tout mystical energy and consciousness expansion, many use yoga strictly for physical health without subscribing to spiritual aspects.

As the Bible encourages stewardship of our bodies (1 Corinthians 6:19-20), view yoga as a tool for strength, flexibility, balance, pain relief, and stress management. The meditative focus on breathing can calm the mind while postures challenge muscles.

Take advantage of these impressive physical benefits while keeping your heart and mind centered on God.


Christians come down on both sides of the yoga debate. Some view yoga as an inseparable part of Hindu spiritual practice and encourage Christians to avoid it. Others see value in the physical benefits of yoga and believe Christians can do yoga if they avoid spiritual elements by not chanting mantras and instead focusing on exercise and breathing techniques.

There are good arguments on both sides, so Christians must pray and seek wise counsel to decide what is right for them.

The most important thing is keeping your faith whole and guarding against any subtle deception or erosion of beliefs through spiritual influences contrary to Christianity. But with responsible practices like investigating yoga studios, adapting the poses, and concentrating on physical wellness, yoga can be one option among many healthy lifestyle choices for some believers.

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