You open your Bible, ready to dive into God’s word and draw closer to Him. As you read about the life of Jesus, a question pops into your mind – did Jesus practice yoga?
Yoga’s popularity has skyrocketed in recent years. Over 30 million people in the United States alone say they have practiced yoga at some point in their lives. As a Christian, you may be wondering if it’s acceptable to do yoga. Is yoga just stretching and exercise? Or is there more to it spiritually? Did Jesus himself ever practice or endorse yoga?
These are important questions to consider. As believers, we want to honor God with our bodies and spirits. We don’t want to naively participate in practices that could open our lives to demonic influence.
So let’s take a thoughtful, biblical look at the question – did Jesus practice yoga?
- Yoga has roots in Eastern religions like Hinduism and Buddhism.
- The goal of yoga is to achieve union with the divine self.
- Jesus did not practice or endorse yoga, but rather warned against pagan mysticism.
- As Christians, we are called to focus our minds on Christ rather than altering our consciousness.
- We can practice healthy stretching and exercise without spiritually compromising poses and mantras.
The Spiritual Roots of Yoga
To understand whether Jesus practiced yoga, we first need to understand yoga itself. Where did it originate? What was its purpose?
Yoga has its roots in ancient Eastern religions like Hinduism and Buddhism. The Sanskrit word “yoga” means to yoke, join, or unite. The goal in yoga is to unite oneself with Brahman, the supreme self or divine essence of all things. This is a panentheistic view – believing that God is in everything and everything is in God.
Hindu scriptures like the Bhagavad Gita and Upanisads contain teachings about yoga postures, breathing exercises, and meditation. Yoga developed within Hinduism over thousands of years as a path to spiritual enlightenment.
“Yoga brings the fluctuations of the mind under control and helps focus one’s attention. In this sense, it has been an integral part of India’s spiritual traditions for centuries.”
So we see that yoga is not just physical exercise – it is a spiritual practice, designed to bring practitioners closer to the Hindu concept of divinity.
Jesus Warned Against Pagan Mysticism
Did Jesus ever practice, endorse, or encourage yoga as a spiritual pathway? Absolutely not. In fact, he warned against pagan mysticism.
“Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ.” Colossians 2:8
Jesus made it clear he was the only way to the Father:
“I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6
The early church fathers also condemned mysticism and Gnostic philosophies that promoted special knowledge and secret rituals as pathways to God:
“See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.” Colossians 2:8
Attempting to altar consciousness, achieve mystical experiences, or become “one with the divine” contradicts the teachings of Scripture. We as Christians have all we need in Christ alone.
Be Holy in Body and Spirit
As believers, we are called to be holy and set apart for the glory of God. Our bodies and spirits belong fully to Jesus:
“Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.” 1 Corinthians 6:19-20
We do not need to run after spiritual experiences – rather, we walk by faith in Christ alone. We renew our minds through God’s word, not through mantras or hypnotic states:
“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Romans 12:2
As children of God, we are called to mindfulness – but a mindfulness centered on Christ:
“You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.” Isaiah 26:3
“Be still, and know that I am God! I will be honored by every nation. I will be honored throughout the world.” Psalm 46:10
We don’t need to contort our bodies or chant repetitive phrases. We can meet God right where we are, through humble obedience to His word.
Exercise with Discernment
This does not mean all stretching or breathing exercises are off limits! We can nurture our physical health through movement and exercise. However, we should use discernment. Yoga positions were designed to facilitate spiritual experiences. Specific poses, flows, and mantras invoke pagan deities and mystical energies.
As Christians, we don’t want to open our bodies as vessels for anything but the Holy Spirit. We can avoid yoga classes that incorporate spiritual elements and instead focus on safely improving flexibility and balance. We can also replace Hindu mantras with Christian meditation – dwelling on scripture, hymns, and prayers.
“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” Philippians 4:8
The best course of action is being informed about yoga’s roots while finding safe alternatives that honor Christ.
Focus on Christ in All Things
The resounding conclusion from Scripture is that Jesus did not practice yoga. As Christians, we must thoughtfully consider this spiritual practice and its incompatibility with the truth found only in Christ.
Rather than pursuing mystical rituals, our goal is knowing Christ:
“I also count all things as loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death” Philippians 3:8-10.
We can nurture our bodies through healthy habits while cultivating our spirits through God’s word. In all things, our minds can be centered on the truth and hope found only in Jesus Christ. He is the true path to peace, wholeness, and life everlasting.
Rather than looking to yoga, may we look to the Savior and “…be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.” 1 Corinthians 15:58