Q: Question: Is the practice of yoga sin for a Christian? What about the practice of "Christian Yoga"? Is it a form of deception leading to new age beliefs?
A: The entire question you have asked hinges on the meaning and use of the word “yoga”—in what way it is being employed. If one takes yoga as it was originally practiced and meant to be practiced and simply puts the adjective “Christian” on it, then yes it would be problematic and wrong. The reason is that its purpose and aim is to improve ones karma, to bring one to enlightenment. Both karma and enlightenment are inconsistent with Christian teaching at the very root.
With karma, it is said that a force governs the world and the gods and that men should try to produce good karma through good deeds or devotion the Hindus gods, etc. The Bible tells us God is the one who rules the universe, not an impersonal force and that there is no way to achieve goodness with God unless we are perfect according to His perfect standard. The truth the Bible teaches is that we have all sinned and need forgiveness. We cannot gain God’s favor by trying to practice more good deeds to try to outweigh out bad deeds or motives.
The idea of enlightenment is that one can come to a certain way of thinking and insight that will suddenly make one see things as they supposedly are and this will bring one a higher level of being and bring one to reach moksha or nirvana. The Bible teaches us that the true perspective we need is God’s perspective—and His demand is holiness and not a new of looking at the world. So both of the aims of yoga are not consistent with biblical ideas.
Many people claim that yoga can be merely for physical exercise. In this sense, if a person actually does practice yoga merely for the physical benefit, then I suppose it is acceptable. However, it is often true that many who teach yoga often also teach a sort of watered down eastern religious view as well: empty the mind, control your body or breathing, etc. These often promote openness to new ideas (empty minds are easier to fill). Some say there is a brand of yoga (Hatha is the most common claim) that is only physical. I suppose it is possible that there is someone now who does this for only physical exercise, but Hatha yoga was never in the past merely physical—but a way of devotion to the gods of Hinduism. The opening chapter of the Hatha Yogic text says, “Salutation to Âdinâtha (Śiva) who expounded the knowledge of Haṭha Yoga…” Yoga is a practice associated with the Hindu deity, Siva. Hatha yoga seeks to awaken the kundalini(snake) power and teaches the concept of chakra centers through which one can awaken and gain power. These are clear Hindu teachings that are contrary to the teaching of Christ. We are to seek, not power, but God Himself and not for the sake of our gaining power.
Can one do “Christian” yoga? As I have pointed out, the two terms, taken in the true meaning are exclusive of each other. This is why I said it depends on the meaning of the word yoga. Some have taken a new meaning of the word ‘yoga’ to simply mean certain types of stretching, body postures, and gentle exercise. If this is truly the meaning meant and carried out, then I suppose it is possible to do Christian yoga. I suppose you could have people meet together and do some yoga positions for mere stretching and exercise while listening to Christian music and have a devotion from the Bible—this would perhaps fulfill the idea of Christians yoga. One might just as easily call it “Christian exercise.” But I understand that yoga is a very popular word, and could possibly be employed in this way. I would be very concerned that people should check out what is actually taught in any yoga class—giving attention to the suggestions and ideas explained while doing the yogic positions. If they are trying to get people to empty the mind, control their breathing, unite with the universe, entertain ideas of “all is one,” find energy within the self, etc., then I would say this has little to with “Christian.”