A black and white photo capturing a serene yoga practitioner in a meditative pose, juxtaposed with a Bible open to a page discussing the conflicting perspectives on yoga within Christianity.

Why Is Yoga A Sin In Christianity?

Yoga has become an increasingly popular practice in the West in recent years, offering many health and wellness benefits. However, some Christians view yoga as contradictory to their faith. This article will analyze common Christian objections to yoga and provide context around this debate.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer: Many Christians believe yoga goes against core tenets of Christianity because of its roots in Eastern religions like Hinduism. They take issue with the spiritual elements of yoga and view the physical practice as inseparable from the philosophical and religious foundations.

Yoga’s Origins in Eastern Spirituality

Yoga’s Roots in Hinduism and Buddhism

Yoga originated in ancient India over 5,000 years ago and was rooted in Hindu spiritual practices. The earliest references to yoga are found in ancient Hindu scriptures such as the Rig Veda, Upanishads, and the Bhagavad Gita (Yoga Journal).

These texts describe yoga not just as a physical practice, but as a spiritual one aimed at uniting the individual self with the Supreme Being or Divine.

Key foundations of yoga drawn from Hinduism include the concepts of karma (actions and subsequent reactions), samsara (reincarnation), moksha (liberation), and the ultimate unity between the Atman (individual consciousness) and Brahman (Supreme Consciousness) (Yoga International).

Many yoga traditions also honor important Hindu gods and incorporate Hindu rituals and symbolism.

In addition to Hinduism, yoga’s origins are also found in ancient Buddhist meditative practices, which similarly aim to unite body, mind and spirit. Buddhism’s influence is seen in yoga’s emphasis on mindfulness, compassion, ethics and the goal of liberation from suffering.

Key Spiritual Elements of Yoga Tradition

Beyond its origins, yoga has retained core spiritual elements passed down through centuries of practice and tradition:

  • The body is seen as the temple of the Divine within.
  • Attention is focused inward to increase self-understanding.
  • Meditation and conscious breathing help calm the mind.
  • Ethics and moral conduct are vital parts of the path.
  • The Ultimate Reality or Divine is understood as both transcendent and immanent.

Thus, while yoga has permeated mainstream culture as primarily a physical exercise, traditional yoga remains deeply rooted in Eastern spirituality aimed at self-realization and connecting to the Divine. With 24 million Americans now practicing yoga (Yoga Journal), these spiritual origins remain an important point of dialogue around yoga’s place in Christianity.

Christian Objections to Yoga’s Spiritual Aspects

Belief That Yoga Conflicts with Commitment to Christianity

Many Christians argue that the spiritual and philosophical aspects of yoga are incompatible with Christian beliefs. Here are some of their main concerns:

  • Yoga teaches that divinity or “God” exists within each person, rather than as an external being. This contradicts the Christian concept of God as a separate, omnipotent creator.
  • Yoga aims to “unite” the self with the divine, while Christianity teaches that people are distinct from God and can only come to God through faith in Jesus.
  • Hinduism and Buddhism have influenced yoga philosophically. So practicing yoga could open Christians up toExposure to conflicting beliefs or spiritual influences.

These Christians believe that since yoga was developed within Eastern faiths, Christians who practice it may gradually start to adopt those spiritual worldviews too. They feel that Christians should avoid yoga, and focus on prayer, church attendance and other Christian spiritual practices instead.

Concerns About Idolatry and Pagan Influences

Some Christians also express unease about the statues, symbols or rituals used in yoga practice. Examples include:

  • Chanting “Om”, the mystical Hindu sound of the universe, at the start and end of yoga classes.
  • Using statues and icons representing Hindu gods or goddesses as focal points during yoga.
  • Giving spiritual significance to ritual objects like crystals, incense or mandalas in yoga spaces.

These Christians view such practices as idolatry or paganism. They point to Bible verses prohibiting idolatry and argue that adopting these practices could lead believers astray from their Christian faith.

Many urge fellow Christians to carefully scrutinize yoga centers and instructors to avoid exposure to these non-Christian spiritual elements.

However, some Christians counter that yoga need not involve spiritual worship at all. They say the physical, mental and relaxational benefits of yoga can be separated from its roots. But critics argue that it is difficult to entirely separate yoga’s physical and spiritual dimensions in practice.

Perspectives on Separating Yoga’s Physical and Spiritual Elements

Arguments That Asanas and Meditation Can Be Practiced Secularly

Many argue that the physical poses and breathing techniques of yoga, known as asanas and pranayama, can be practiced without embracing the spiritual beliefs behind them. Over 36 million Americans were practicing yoga in 2016, with most focusing on the physical benefits rather than spirituality.

Secular yoga practitioners point out that the word “yoga” simply refers to spiritual union in Sanskrit. The physical practices of yoga are separate tools that can be used to promote physical and mental wellbeing without subscribing to religious beliefs.

Much like stretching helps flexibility without a spiritual component, yoga postures can have physiological benefits from increased blood flow, muscle strength, and balance.

Meditation and mindfulness are also increasingly practiced in secular ways. Scientific research shows techniques like diaphragmatic breathing and body scans powerfully reduce stress by activating the parasympathetic nervous system. Concentration practices strengthen cognitive skills.

Meditation is now commonplace in hospitals, schools, and workplaces to improve health, focus, and emotional resilience without religious connotations.

Christian Alternatives Removing Spiritual Aspects

Some Christians practice adapted forms of yoga and meditation that actively remove Eastern spiritual elements. For example, Praise Moves is a Christian alternative to yoga launched in 2001, swapping out language about chakras and namaste for scripture and prayer.

Holy Yoga is another popular Christianized form started in 2003 that removes spiritual elements some believers find contradictory like chanting “Om”. Over 500 Holy Yoga instructors now teach classes focused on Christian scripture, prayer, and worship music across 35 countries.

Christian meditation typically differs from Eastern practices by focusing on Bible passages or imagery like Jesus or a cross rather than sensation or mantras. Devotional meditation explicitly seeks divine communion, insight, or blessings around an intention like gratitude or compassion.

Eastern Forms Christianized Alternatives
Sun salutations, chanting “Om” Raising hands in praise, praying
Emptying/quieting the mind Contemplating Bible verses or Jesus
Seeking enlightenment Seeking divine wisdom and grace

Debates Within Christian Denominations

Differing Positions Among Catholics, Evangelicals and Mainline Protestants

There are differing views on yoga among the major Christian denominations. Catholics tend to take a more open stance, with the Vatican declaring that yoga can be considered a “spiritual path” if used simply as a form of exercise.

However, caution should be exercised regarding some eastern religious elements. Evangelicals and fundamentalist Protestants take a firmer stance against yoga, believing it is intrinsically tied to eastern religions like Hinduism and Buddhism. They advise their members to avoid the practice entirely.

Mainline Protestants tend to have varying views, with United Methodists and Episcopalians generally being more open to yoga, while Lutherans and Presbyterians take a more cautious approach.

According to a 2019 survey by the Pew Research Center, 62% of Catholics believe yoga is compatible with their religious beliefs. However, 71% of Jehovah’s Witnesses, 58% of Baptists, and 53% of Pentecostals believe yoga conflicts with their faith.

These statistics demonstrate the clear divide between openness to yoga across Christian groups.

Stances of Prominent Christian Leaders and Theologians

Some prominent Christian leaders and theologians have voiced concerns over yoga’s incompatibility with Christianity. Evangelical leader Albert Mohler believes “the embrace of yoga represents a rejection of Christianity.”

The Southern Baptist Convention released a statement advising followers to avoid yoga’s “self-focus” which “can contradict a Christian’s core beliefs.” Even Pope Francis has cautioned against “false forms of meditation.”

However, some prominent Christians have expressed more openness to yoga. Famous evangelical pastor Rick Warren practices yoga for exercise and endorses the physical benefits. Renowned author and theologian C.S. Lewis did not outright condemn yoga, but cautioned discernment regarding mystical elements.

Prominent pastor John Piper differentiates between permissible physical yoga and prohibited transcendental meditation associated with Hinduism.


While most Christians recognize the physical benefits of yoga, many take issue with aspects of yoga that conflict with Christian theology. However, perspectives differ on whether the spiritual and physical can be separated.

This debate within Christianity seems likely to continue as yoga’s popularity rises in the West.

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