When Christ came into my life, I was a different me. My relationship to everything around me changed including practicing and teaching Yoga. I remember early on, as I read more of God’s word; each time I would then go to teach a Yoga class or get onto my mat, the knowledge from my studies of the traditional eastern practices of Yoga would cause me to feel deeply convicted that it wasn’t honoring Christ. As if I was cheating on the Lord by my Yoga practice. I later realized it was the Holy Spirit guiding me to my decision of no longer practicing in this way.
Confused, and looking for alternatives; I would research and share with others this deeply felt conviction and naturally, I received a range of opinions on the matter from “do not practice yoga, it’s not honoring the Christian faith and is demonic” to “it’s fine, yoga is for fitness and simply means to ‘yoke’ in union of mind & spirit and has no direct religious connotation”.
Then I took a closer look at Christian Yoga (developed in the 21st century) which offers a westernized version of the practice by adding Christian scripture and prayer yet continuing to practice with the use of asana sequencing and breath movement, which from ancient Hindu Vedic scripture was originally designed to give homage and prayer to the many Gods and deities of its spiritual tradition. My Christian yoga friends would say, “it’s all about the posture of the heart and what your intention is while doing the asana postures”
…conversations like this would immediately remind me of reading scripture of God’s many warnings about the heart being deceptive and the dangers in being guided by our own heart.
For me, doing Christian Yoga would be like flirting in front of my husband yet telling him that it’s harmless and meaningless fun; that my intentions are good. “You’re the man I love, You have no reason to feel jealous.”
Ultimately, the idea of continuing a yoga practice of any form just didn’t feel in integrity to my new relationship with Christ.
Romans 14:19-23 & 1 Corinthians 8-10 encourages believers to be fully convinced before God before they do anything and that some brothers and sisters in Christ who were converted from idol worship cannot do these things in clear conscience and to be careful in your own actions as to not lead others in weaker faith to sin. As a previous new ager and a student and teacher in the traditional teachings of yoga; this was true for me. Paul means specifically that for someone to violate their own convictions by participating in one of these disputed areas is to act against faith instead of from faith. When the Bible gives no clear direction, we have the liberty to make our own choice. If our conscience is telling us no, we are obligated to refrain regarding that issue. Understanding what Paul was saying in these verses offered me the clarity and peace of mind in making the decision that I personally, as a newly converted Christian, could not, in clear conscience, teach a practice; that, at its very origin, was designed to honor any God other than the Lord Jesus Christ.
This decision does not give me reason to judge another in their choice to practice in this way & I wholeheartedly respect anyone in their spiritual walk and desire to be closer to God. My primary intention is to encourage that journey and I hope that stre✞ch can be another vessel in doing just that. At the end of the day, we’re all just walking each other home.
God was so kind and patient with me on this walk too; allowing me to stumble along the way (as I did many, many times) & to faithfully be there when I humbly came back to Him once more, having stumbled yet again. For an entire lifetime, I had pridefully attempted to “do it on my own” with no discipline much less directive other than whichever way the wind blew me that day and how I felt in each moment as being my compass. For this, I was exhausted and very lost. Being a truth seeker all my life, I had finally found it in the strength of Christ and in God’s word. The Holy Spirit faithfully guided me to the truth through His word like a GPS taking me back home in obedience to God.
I had a brand new path with Him leading the way.
God promises us He’s going to finish the work He started in us. Conforming us to the image of the Lord Jesus Christ
…and He is faithful.
I want to be faithful to Him.
…and shortly after, Stretch in Faith was born as the alternative that I was searching for. Simple stretching exercises, diaphragmatic breathing with breath prayer and meditation on scripture. That’s it. No emptying the mind meditation, no chanting or reciting scripture out loud, no asana postures (ie warrior sequences, sun salutations) or breath work. Yet, still receiving the same fitness, stress relief and relaxation benefits of my former practice.
What I have found in my routine is that the days I don’t feel like showing up for myself, I am reminded of the nature of this practice and feel eager to show up for Him…and I do, because that’s who it is always about.
It has become a gentle and sweet devotional & prayer time that reminds me of my new identity in Christ.
My hope is it will sweeten your time with Him the same.