Can Yoga Be Jesus-Centered?

Yoga is a controversial activity for many Christians. With deep connections to Eastern religions, yoga is often viewed within conservative Christian circles as a possible gateway to religious pluralism and occultism. However, other conservative Christians believe that the ancient practice can be divorced from its religious roots and used as a useful tool for relaxation and exercise. One Christian lady is determined to teach yoga as a Jesus-centered activity that can aid in a Christian’s spiritual development.

Caroline Williams set up her Kickstarter page in order to raise enough money to produce “a multi-video series that teaches you the foundations of yoga with Jesus at the center.”

Introducing herself, the yoga instructor writes, “I love Jesus and yoga, and I’m wildly passionate about helping people connect more deeply with God and find more freedom in their body, heart, and soul.”

In a video titled “Introduction to Christian Yoga With Caroline Williams,” she urges:

There’s something so powerful that happens when we show up on our yoga mats, and commit to just moving and breathing with an awareness of the presence of God saturating our lives in this world. I know this, because for the longest time I always struggled with sitting quietly and reading my Bible or praying. … I couldn’t focus, and it never really felt life-giving. Most of the time I just felt like a failure. Then I started going to yoga classes. And I discovered that as I moved my body and focused on my breath, it opened up all this new space inside of me. And the Holy Spirit just said, ‘Ah, now that I have your attention, let me tell you how much I love you.’ And that just changed everything for me. I was sobbing on my yoga mat in the middle of class feeling so connected to the heart of the Father.

Since then Williams has been dedicated to creating “a yoga experience that is about so much more than just your body; a spiritual experience that is about so much more than just your intellect.”

Her new video series is designed to aid Christians who want to learn about yoga and want to grow in their faith. Offering a wide array of topics, like “Yoga for When You’re Feeling Disconnected,” “Christian Pre-Natal Yoga,” and “Christian Yoga for Advent,” Williams has produced a line of Jesus-centered yoga videos that are applicable for Christians facing a variety of circumstances.

However, according to some theologians, Caroline Williams and other Christians who practice yoga are dabbling in the occult. Author and seminary president Dr. Albert Mohler observes that many Christians who practice yoga “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 an article detailing the anti-Christian origins and aspects of yoga, Mohler quotes several philosophers and scholars who specialize in New Age and Eastern Religions. After providing some specifics about why he believes that yoga should be off-limits for Christians, Mohler writes:

When Christians practice yoga, they must either deny the reality of what yoga represents or fail to see the contradictions between their Christian commitments and their embrace of yoga. The contradictions are not few, nor are they peripheral. The bare fact is that yoga is a spiritual discipline by which the adherent is trained to use the body as a vehicle for achieving consciousness of the divine. Christians are called to look to Christ for all that we need and to obey Christ through obeying his Word. We are not called to escape the consciousness of this world by achieving an elevated state of consciousness, but to follow Christ in the way of faithfulness.

There is nothing wrong with physical exercise, and yoga positions in themselves are not the main issue. But these positions are teaching postures with a spiritual purpose. Consider this — if you have to meditate intensely in order to achieve or to maintain a physical posture, it is no longer merely a physical posture.

The embrace of yoga is a symptom of our postmodern spiritual confusion, and, to our shame, this confusion reaches into the church.

In our hectic world that places stressful demands on our time and energy, Christians are looking for ways to unplug and focus on learning about God. Some Christians believe that yoga is a helpful aid; other Christians believe that yoga is dangerous activity connected to the occult. Both sides are passionate about their belief. The divide suggests that Christians shouldn’t be quick to either wholeheartedly embrace or reject yoga.