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Today I will be talking about why I no longer teach or practice yoga. I’ll be sharing what brought me to this decision in light of my close to two decades of yoga practice and professional training. This is my personal story and I share it not to tell you what to do, but to explain what brought me to my new decision since it impacts my work here on this site and as a health coach.
Well, here we are. I’m writing a post that I really never imagined I’d write. But with God’s urging, I felt it pertinent to write it and share. I’ve been a big advocate for yoga for many years. I even went through a challenging training program to become a certified yoga instructor (CYT).
And now I am saying goodbye to all of it.
Why you may ask? Especially after investing quite a bit of time and money on the certification and also lots of supplies like books, mats, blocks, bolsters…
Well, because my gut told me to. And I attribute that to God’s Holy Spirit urging me to make a decision that falls in line with His Word. When we commit to following Christ, our attitudes should become one of “Yes Father. If you like it, I love it. If you hate it, then I do too.”
If you love Me, keep My commandments. – John 14:15 NKJV
If you are a Christian and also practice yoga, I am not here to tell you what to do. I am simply sharing my experience and the things that brought me to this decision. Because yoga has been a big part of my life and coaching practice for so long, it’s only fitting that I explain why that part of me is being left behind. I have advocated for it for years on my site and within my practice as a health and wellness coach.
My History with Yoga
Yoga has been part of my life since the early 2000s. So at the time of this writing, it has been almost 20 years. I practiced it on and off during that time, but in 2012 I got serious about my practice and committed to making it a part of my regular daily life. While I did have some periods during that time where I took a break, I practiced pretty consistently from 2012 to 2020.
In 2018, I decided to get my teaching certification so that I could incorporate yoga into the work I was doing as a health coach. I had experienced many benefits from my regular yoga practice and I wanted to share those with my community and clients too. In the summer of 2019, I graduated with my teaching certification and was ready to take on this new path with gusto.
Shortly after graduating from my training program, something started feeling a little “off” for me when it came to yoga. I couldn’t really pinpoint it so I didn’t pay any attention to it. I just kept moving forward with my plans. Practicing daily and looking forward to teaching classes. I found out I was pregnant shortly thereafter and committed to really keeping up with my practice in order to prepare my body for labor and delivery.
A little while after that, an old friend sent me a Facebook message and said:
“I have been meaning to really ask and challenge you to pray on why you are choosing to practice yoga. I haven’t pressed the issue because it is your choice, but as a sister I feel that I need to do the ol’ iron sharpening iron deal for half a sec…“
Ok, I wasn’t expecting that message at all but it really hit a nerve with me. Not one that made me angry or frustrated towards the sender, but one that kept gnawing at me little by little in the back of my mind.
Then, a few months later I got a mysterious package in the mail. To this day, I have no idea who sent it or how they got my address, but in it was a ton of info on why Christians should not practice yoga. It included both written materials and a DVD.
If I’m being honest with you, I threw it in the trash. I was irritated at that point. I had just spent all this time, effort, and money on my certification. I had goals and plans. I didn’t want to deal with accepting that maybe I needed to rethink everything.
As I write this, I am laughing a little bit at the preceding paragraph. Because that’s how it seems to work. When we are doing something we should not be doing and God starts prompting us to think differently, our stubbornness may kick in and we get irritated. It’s not the right response by any means, but at the time, I didn’t know better. I didn’t fully understand what was going on. Hindsight is always 20/20. Oh, how much I had to learn since that point. I wasn’t laughing at the time, but I am now because I am in a new, much better place spiritually.
Baby Arrives, Yoga Leaves
Fast-forward about 6 months after the mysterious package arrived. I had a newborn baby boy and was eye-deep in the world of being a new mother. Working out of any sorts, even my beloved yoga, was the last thing on my mind. While I had practiced yoga every day of my pregnancy, I never once practiced it again after Jacob arrived.
Something shifted during that time without me even realizing it. When I got to about 6 months postpartum, I knew I needed to try to get back into some semblance of an exercise routine. When I assessed what I wanted to do, yoga did not appeal to me at all. The practice that had once been an integral part of my life suddenly felt unattractive.
Over the months that followed, I really didn’t give it much thought. I tried to get my daily walks and a little strength training and stretching. But turning on my old yoga videos never even crossed my mind again.
Around the 15-month postpartum period, I started thinking about yoga once more. Not about picking up the practice again but about what God thinks of yoga. And about whether it is something that I ever wanted to pursue again.
My mind immediately said “no” and I closed that chapter of my life. Please note, at the time of publication of this article, I still need to go back and update, delete, or revise a lot of content on this site. Since yoga has been such a big part of my life for so long, there’s much to update (and I have very little free time right now) so bear with me as I slowly make these changes.
What Made Me Change My Mind
To be honest, the process of changing my mind happened pretty easily and seamlessly. Once I accepted it, my gut was pretty clear on what my decision needed to be. When I’d had that space away from my regular practice after my little one was born, the desire to continue pursuing it had totally faded.
As time progressed from that 15-month postpartum point, I started feeling like I should gather my thoughts around the subject so that I could speak somewhat eloquently about my decision. I mean, I’ve got tons of content on my blog and social media about yoga so it’s only fitting that I explain why that is no longer a part of my life.
Really it came down to asking myself, “Does God approve of this?“.
My mind said no.
Is Western Yoga Really Yoga?
Western yoga, the form that we are all acquainted with, has been commercialized and Westernized. Some of the poses and moves that are commonly practiced are not actually found in any ancient yogic texts. So it has definitely evolved from its ancient form into something more modern and less religious.
While many teachers do incorporate things like chanting, incense, etc. into their classes, there are just as many who don’t. Many classes are simply focused on strength and flexibility training.
But does that really matter? No. It doesn’t in my mind. Remember that just because our intentions are good, we could still be sinning. Sin is sin, regardless of whether our intentions are good or not.
There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death. – Proverbs 14:12 ESV
I was having a hard time gathering my thoughts on this topic and then I stumbled across an article on the Bible Reasons site that summed up everything I was feeling and helped me collect my thoughts on this topic. Here are the primary reasons that I, as a Christian, can no longer justify teaching and practicing yoga.
6 Reasons Why I No Longer Teach or Practice Yoga
There are so many reasons that I could list here, but these are the ones that I settled on as being the biggest reasons for me personally.
1. Yoga is a Pagan Spiritual Practice
Yoga comes from an ancient Indian spiritual practice. It is a component of Hinduism and yogic practices are also used in other Eastern religions like Buddhism and Jainism.
Any religious or spiritual practice that falls outside of God’s Word is considered pagan. And we are commanded to have nothing to do with pagan practices. Pagan practices, and anything having to do with “the world” (i.e. Satan), are referred to as darkness. God is light and also refers to His children as lights.
Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? – 2 Corinthians 6:14 NIV
This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. – 1 John 1:5 KJV
Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven. – Matthew 5:14-16 KJV
By practicing yoga, are we, the lights of this world, fellowshipping with Satan, the darkness of this world?
2. Yoga’s Yoke is Very Different from Christ’s Yoke
Yoga translates to “yoke”, which literally means “union” or “join together”. Christ also talks about “yoke”. But they are two very different things. We are to join together and unite with God the Father. When we become baptized, we are literally entering into a marriage covenant (a holy, sacred union) with the Father. We are not supposed to yoke ourselves with yogic practices and philosophy.
For My yoke is easy and My burden is light. – Matthew 11:30 NKJV
Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. – Matthew 11:29 NKJV
3. The Goal of Yoga is Focused on the Self, Not God
In yoga, the ultimate goal of your regular practice is to:
…experience the Truth, by realizing the true nature of our ‘Self’ and the Universe. Then one can become free from the chain of cause and effect (Karma) which brings us to earthly life again and again. In that highest state of yogic realization, one can regain one’s real nature – Eternal Existence, Supreme Wisdom, Absolute Bliss (Sat-Chit-Ananda). According to Yoga, the ‘self’ (soul) is timeless, unchanging and free of sorrows. Yoga is therefore a spiritual quest. However, along the path of yoga, the yogi also gains health, happiness, tranquility and wisdom, which are indicators of progress and an encouragement to continue the practice. (source)
Essentially, you are to become self-actualized and at one with the “Universe”. You will be set free from karma (action and consequence — sin and death) and you will have supreme wisdom. Does this sound like something a Christian should bring into their life?
We are not called to be self-actualized. We are not called to have supreme wisdom. We are called to understand that there is no truth or wisdom outside of God. That we are nothing without Him. That we are broken and He is the only one who can truly fix us. We cannot fix ourselves, not fully and completely. Christ is THE way. He is THE truth.
In addition, we are not called to set ourselves free from “karma”. We ALL sin, even if we are baptized, and we are not free of the consequences of our actions (the price for sin is death) unless we humbly repent and ask for forgiveness (and even when the Lord forgives us, we still may have to deal with the ramifications of whatever sin we made).
For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding… -Proverbs 2:6 ESV
Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil. – Proverbs 3:7 ESV
Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me. – John 14:6 NKJV
For the word of the Lord is right, And all His work is done in truth. – Psalms 33:4 NKJV
For the Lord is good; His mercy is everlasting, And His truth endures to all generations. – Psalms 100:5 NKJV
Your righteousness is an everlasting righteousness, And Your law is truth. – Psalms 119:142 NKJV
For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. -Romans 6:23 NKJV
If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. – 1 John 1:9 NKJV
4. Satan is the Greatest Deceiver of Them All
I really didn’t think that I was doing anything wrong practicing yoga as a Christian. I’ve had so many discussions with fellow Christians about this, many of which felt the same way I did.
I personally reaped fantastic physical results from it by immensely improving my flexibility, strength, and stamina. As someone with multiple chronic illnesses, this is important. Hard, vigorous exercise is often too much for my body. I learned how to breathe properly using my diaphragm, rather than the shallow lung-based breaths most of us do. This is beneficial for regulating our nervous system, something that I also needed help with, especially after the trauma of the violent dog attack we endured.
There was so much good coming from it that I certainly didn’t believe I could be doing anything wrong. My justification was that I wasn’t actually bowing down to or worshipping Hindu gods. I never used the hand mudras and I avoided any and all chanting or any element of spirituality. If a teacher was a chanter, I never went back to their class. As a matter of fact, when I practiced, I wasn’t even thinking about religion (Christianity or otherwise). I was literally focused on my body, my breath, and the movement in and out of poses or flows.
But does that mean it’s OK? Or was I being deceived? Was I being led to believe that participating in something with pagan roots was not influencing me on a spiritual level? Let’s remember that Satan masquerades as an angel of light. He is the master at taking things of darkness and tweaking them juuuuuuuuust enough to make it appear as though it’s of the light.
And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. – 2 Corinthians 11:14 NIV
Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons, 1 Timothy 4:1 NKJV
5. You Open Up Your Mind to Spiritual Influence
One of the big tenets of yoga is to clear your mind. Even in classes where there is no spiritual focus this aspect is still taught. This seems harmless enough, especially in a world that is growing ever more chaotic and overwhelming. Our minds are constantly buzzing with all sorts of noise. Sitting down and clearing that out surely could have no ill effects, could it?
Unfortunately, yes, it can and does. We are commanded to always be sober and vigilant (definition: keeping careful watch for possible danger or difficulties) because Satan walks about as a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour. There is nothing he would love more than to hop into a quiet, empty mind and start influencing us. If we let our guard down, even for a moment, he could take hold.
Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. – 1 Peter 5:8 NKJV
In addition to being sober and vigilant, we are told we must put on the full armor of God so that we can withstand the attacks of the Devil. Satan’s attacks don’t always come as fiery darts and big, dramatic trials. They also come as subtle influences on our minds that cause us to compromise the Word of God.
Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. -Ephesians 6:11 NKJV
What better time for Satan to influence us than when our minds are “clear”?
6. Yogic Meditation is Not Biblical Meditation
Meditation is not a bad thing, as long as we are doing it correctly. The dictionary definition of “meditation” means to reflect upon, ponder, or contemplate. This falls perfectly in line with God’s command that we are to meditate on His Word.
- We are to reflect upon God’s Word.
- We are to ponder God’s Word.
- We are to contemplate God’s Word.
Unfortunately, meditation, as it is done within yogic practices, is very far from what God approves of. From Yoga Journal Online:
In the yogic context, meditation, or dhyana, is defined more specifically as a state of pure consciousness. It is the seventh stage, or limb, of the yogic path and follows dharana, the art of concentration. Dhyana in turn precedes samadhi, the state of final liberation or enlightenment, the last step in Patanjali’s eight-limbed system. These three limbs—dharana (concentration), dhyana (meditation), and samadhi (ecstasy)—are inextricably linked and collectively referred to as samyama, the inner practice, or subtle discipline, of the yogic path. (source)
God does not call us to be in a state of enlightenment. Nor does he call us to final liberation, unless that is the liberation of sin and death through baptism in the name of Jesus Christ and receiving of the Holy Spirit by the laying on of hands. Yogic enlightenment and liberation are the complete opposite of what God wants for us.
Instead, God tells us to meditate on His Word day and night. He also desires that we come to repentance and be baptized so we may seek HIS kingdom first. We are not to seek enlightenment, we are to seek His kingdom.
I will meditate on Your precepts, And contemplate Your ways. – Psalms 119:15 NKJV
But his delight is in the law of the LORD; And in his law doth he meditate day and night. – Psalm 1:2 KJV
Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things. – Philippians 4:8 NKJV
Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. -Acts 2:38 NKJV
But seek the kingdom of God, and all these things shall be added to you. – Luke 12:31 NKJV
7. Just Because You Call it Christian, Doesn’t Mean it is…
If you do a search for “Christian yoga” you will find a number of schools and programs that have a “Christ-centered” focus on their yoga. I was a follower of some of these sites and it made me feel good and justified. Unfortunately, they are still calling it yoga and still utilizing yogic poses and philosophy in their practice.
Like much of modern Christianity, a “Christ-centered” label was slapped on something pagan and it was called Christian. This isn’t how TRUE Christianity works. We can’t take something pagan and try to clean it up and make it clean. God doesn’t accept that. He has many verses in the Bible about not partaking in anything pagan. We cannot get away from the roots of yoga as a pagan practice. We are told to come out of this world, not conform to the traditions of men.
Therefore, come out from among unbelievers, and separate yourselves from them, says the LORD. Don’t touch their filthy things, and I will welcome you. – 2 Corinthians 6:17 NLT
You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men. – Mark 7:8 ESV
There is a lot more that I could write about this topic, but I feel like this is a good stopping place. There is so much more that goes into the practice of yoga and how it conflicts with God’s way of life than I could ever write in one single blog post.
Some of you may be asking, “but does it matter if I practice yoga if I’m not using it as a spiritual practice?“.
My personal belief now is yes. It does matter. As I spoke about above, I justified my yoga practice for years but now, here I am. This is my story. Your story is between you and God.
Some of you may be asking if you, as a Christian, should stop practicing yoga now. That is not for me to say. That is between you and God. There is a reason we are told that we must work out our own salvation, one-on-one with the Lord Almighty.
Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; – Philippians 2:12 NKJV
My journey is my journey and I can’t tell you what you need to do. I encourage you to do your own Bible study and pray about it. Talk to God about it. Look into yoga and its history and methods. Even though what most of us are familiar with is the Westernized version, that doesn’t mean it’s not still rooted in paganism.