Baptist Leader Says Christians Shouldn't Do Yoga

| by Kate Wharmby Seldman

A Southern Baptist Church leader says Christians shouldn't do yoga because of its religious implications.

Southern Baptist Seminary President Albert Mohler disapproves of the Eastern exercise and spiritual discipline, and the idea that the body can be a pathway to God. "That's just not Christianity," he said to The Associated Press.

After Mohler wrote an essay airing his opinion of yoga, he is now facing a flood of emails and blog comments from Christian yoga enthusiasts who don't think their religion is incompatible with their exercise routine. "I'm really surprised by the depth of the commitment to yoga found on the part of many who identify as Christians," he said.

Mohler told the Associated Press he doesn't have a problem with the exercises themselves - several readers have written to him to ask if it's OK to do yoga but leave out the Eastern spiritual aspects of the discipline. Mohler says, "My response to that would be simple and straightforward: You're just not doing yoga."

However, he writes in his essay, "Most seem unaware that yoga cannot be neatly separated into physical and spiritual dimensions. The physical is the spiritual in yoga, and the exercises and disciplines of yoga are meant to connect with the divine." In other words, even if you think you're doing yogic exercises without the spiritual aspect, you're not - the two are inextricably intertwined. Therefore, according to Mohler, yoga is still a no-no for Christians, however they practice it.

I believe it's possible for a Christian to practice yoga without compromising his or her religious faith. Most forms of yoga aren't asking people to worship false idols" most Christians who do yoga don't find it draws them away from their religion.

Mohler takes an unnecessarily alarmist position when he makes statements like "Christians who practice yoga are embracing, or at minimum flirting with, a spiritual practice that threatens to transform their own spiritual lives into a “post-Christian, spiritually polyglot” reality. Should any Christian willingly risk that?"

I really don't see "a spiritually polyglot reality" as a problem. A Christian can learn about other spiritual practices without it damaging his or her own faith. An open mind and a thirst for knowledge doesn't mean that a person is weak and easily led. It's not a "risk" for a Christian to practice yoga - and, if a Christian is questioning his or her faith, it's certainly not fair to blame that on yoga.