In recent decades, yoga has shifted from being thought of as obscure ‘witchcraft’ to a legitimately important part of western life.
In fact, you’d be hard pressed to not know anything about the subject, regardless of your opinion.
But despite its widespread adoption, many people- particularly those with strong religious ties- don’t believe it’s appropriate to practice this ancient Indian system.
Because of the strong spiritual undertones in many yoga classes.
In fact, even the pope has chimed in on the subject, stating the following:
“You can follow thousands of catechism courses, thousands of spirituality courses, thousands of yoga or zen courses and all these things,” his papalsty said. “But none of this will be able to give you the freedom as a child (of God). Only the Holy Spirit can prompt your heart to say ‘Father.’ Only the Holy Spirit is capable of banishing, of breaking that hardness of heart and making it … ‘docile’. Docile towards the Lord. Docile when it comes to the freedom to love.”
Certainly, he’s not saying yoga shouldn’t be practiced…but he isn’t exactly encouraging it either.
This has led many Christians (Catholic or otherwise) to forgo yoga all together, claiming it conflicts with their faith.
But is that the right perspective?
A Brief History of Hinduism
First and foremost, the origin of yoga, and Hinduism in general, are completely unlike any religion or spiritual discipline in the world.
Whereas Christianity, Islam, Judaism, etc. created a closed set of rules that set a specific blueprint to follow, Hinduism sort of follows the opposite perspective: the belief that all legitimate spiritual disciplines lead to the Divine.
As long as the inner connection to spirit is there, it leads to the same thing…no matter the religious affiliation.
This led the core of Hinduism to develop a very open system of religious tolerance and beliefs, creating innumerable sects and belief systems within the religion.
As time went by, Hinduism developed sects devoted to particular gods, goddesses, and philosophies; even developing a sect that followed an atheistic approach (very unique indeed).
In short: Hinduism is very fluid, moving and absorbing everything that seems to work for practitioners- as long as they’re following precepts of self discipline, spiritual seeking, universal love, and inward growth.
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The Universality of Yoga: Breaking Down Barriers
At its heart, Hinduism seeks to understand the nature of truth, wherever it may lead.
It provides a framework for each person to find their own spiritual connection.
Yoga and meditation can both be intimately connected to spirituality…or not. It’s up to the practitioner.
Their roots were born of spiritual seeking; but that doesn’t mean you have to be a Hindu to practice them.
In fact, many aspects of both are completely universal and can be practiced by anyone.
Some basic rules to follow for a great yoga class:
- Forgo the chanting- You don’t need it if you feel uncomfortable. Just remain silent until the time period is over, or meditate instead.
- If there’s a story, listen- There’s no harm in listening to the stories of Ganesha or Shiva when they carry lessons. Recognize they’re symbolic characters and let yourself enjoy them.
- Stop judging- Everyone has their own unique spiritual path, and yours may be different. You have to let that go if you’re truly going to enjoy something like yoga.
- You don’t need a guru- Your teacher isn’t your guru! And you don’t need one in order to do yoga.
- Bring your own spirituality- Any class you attend can be a blank canvas. Go into it with your own perspective and dedication.
Some basic rules for meditation:
- Find one that works for you- There are plenty of meditation techniques that’re secular. Do a little investigation and find something that works for you!
- Set an intention, or pray- Prayer and meditation can be a powerful combination. If you’re not into a eastern style of prayer, do something else. But praying before meditation can really heighten the entire experience.
Because yoga and meditation are so malleable, there’s no reason to believe they can’t be incorporated into your life.
Whatever religion you follow, you can easily incorporate it into your practice; or, you don’t have to at all.
When you get down to it, there are plenty of benefits to love, without feeling like you’re being converted.
What do you think? Can you practice yoga while being a Christian? Comment below!