Is "Faith and Fitness" Like Yoga?


When I told my doctor I write about connecting the body and faith, she cocked her head to the side and said, “so it’s like yoga?"

I get a similar response among Christians and non-Christians alike. Yes, the practice of yoga does connect body and faith; the word itself means “union.” But traditional yoga has deep Hindu roots.  Because yoga is so well-known in America and using fitness as an overflow of worship to the Lord is a confusing concept, I start with asking them if they have ever been to a yoga class. 

But there are two main differences:

1. Jesus connects us with God; fitness is a response

"For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus,” 1 Timothy 2:5

According to Yoga In Religion, "Yoga is the most prominent way to connect with any Hindu God, (Shiva) and its purpose is to be one in union with the ultimate.” Christianity said Jesus is our only connection with the one true God. Anything we do with our bodies cannot accomplish salvation or connection with the Holy One: only Jesus can do that. He came to us first, sacrificed His own body, and now serves as the bridge and the only way to the Father.

Jesus is our focus, and fitness is our response. 

2. Fitness is an opportunity to experience the filling of the Lord’s power.

"And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.” Ephesians 5:18-21 (emphasis added)

A few yoga instructors have encouraged the class participants to sit, breathe, and empty their minds. I find this impossible to do on my own. The best way to empty myself of stress is through prayer, to lift up requests to God, to get those worries out of my head and let the Holy Spirit transform them into the fragrant incense of prayer. In turn, the Spirit fills me with the peace that surpasses all understanding.

He wants us to have life to the full, not life to the empty.

I don’t really understand “emptiness” being equated with “tranquility,” since the Bible describes peace like a river. A river isn’t peaceful; it is full and flowing. And the source of the river of peace isn’t from my inner being; it's from the throne of God Himself: 

"Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb” Revelation 22:1

Can Christians do yoga?

If the Christian has any doubt in her mind, she should whole heartedly seek the Lord. Anything done without faith is sin: 

"But if you have doubts about whether or not you should eat something, you are sinning if you go ahead and do it. For you are not following your convictions. If you do anything you believe is not right, you are sinning.” Romans 14:23 NLT (emphasis added)

Personally, if I go to yoga and the instructor leads the class through any kind of Hindu prayers, I’m out. Most of the yoga classes lead me through stretches and breathing exercises where I can pray to my God. I don’t believe yoga has a monopoly on feel-good stretches, so I don’t believe I should stop doing them just because yoga has labeled certain exercises for its own purposes.  

God made my body and I feel closest to Him when my body feels good, so I don’t believe doing the lizard stretch is a sin, unless it will make a fellow believer stumble. If I’m around someone who thinks yoga is the devil, I’m not going to do any "cat-cow" poses in front of them. Above all, I am called to love God and people.

God made the body.

The body is for God.

Fitness is for the body.

Fitness is for God.

Faith and fitness are as directly connected to one another as the body and spirit, so fitness is just an overflow of my being!

"For in him we live and move and have our being." Acts 17:28

I want to hear from you

What does faith and fitness mean to you? 

What are your thoughts on yoga and Christianity?