Christianity and Yoga can be compliments of one another. While personally being a Christian who practices and teaches yoga (aka Christian Yogini) it seems fitting to shed more light on this subject matter. There may be be controversy however, can we take a moment to learn something new.
Yoga is definitely not religion, rather it can be seen as philosophy. While this differentiation could be confusing, I would like to simply state philosophy can be viewed as the rational investigation of truth. So, for the sake of moving on, philosophy seeks to understand IF we exist and religion seeks to know HOW to live in the existance.
Thanking God for my body, mind, spirit and soul can't be put into a box. Could it just be actualized that connecting to God with all my faculties in tact in a yoga practice is sacred? It is a giving of my whole self in surrender of who I think I am and trading my sorrow into who He made me to be, wrapped in His glory.
Looking at things can get blurry, especially through the eyes of others. There are things in life that either bring you closer or further from God. Believe it or not, you get to choose the things that you can use to enrich your relationship. My heart simply can't believe that My Father looks down on me for taking care of my mind to be captivated by Him, honoring my body in a healthy way or looking at myself fully to peer into the things I need to change. Getting quiet, deliberate, focused and intentional, with my practice to listen to the deeper things that distractions simply drown out, has been profound. Even in my activities that are good for me spiritually, I still have to take time to digest for practicality.
Can we come to the understanding that Yoga is not religion? It is a system yes, however please know that it does predate Buddhism, Hinduism, and definitely Christianity. The teachings were originally spoken, so the pinpoint of origin is indefinite. Just as in all cultures the ideas and views once believed about God has changed with time. Religion can argue the nature and correct view of God, yoga can help us to reach understanding that God is all powerful and all knowing. You bring your own spiritual beliefs to your mat. This is your religious freedom.
Yoga Principles : Appreciation for other ideas, religions and philosophies has allowed God's wonder to be seen in many things. Let's look at some yoga teachings I have received and became a better Christian putting them into practice.
: Ahimsa= Nonviolence. Sensitivity.
: Satya= Truthfulness. Honesty
: Asteya= Nonstealing. Not taking.
: Brahmacharya= Nonexcess. Focus. Prudence.
: Aparigraha= Non-possessiveness. Generosity.
: Saucha= Purity. Commitment.
: Santosha= Contentment. Satisfied.
: Tapas-Self= Discipline. Passion. Spiritual intensity.
: Svadyaya= Self-study. Inquiring into the essence of what is. Reading Scripture.
: Ishvara Pranidhana= Surrender or Devotion to God. Gratitude.
Many times I have thought to myself if people would just live by the Yamas & Niyamas they would be so effective and loving. These characteristics seem close to the teachings of what I understand of Christ. The simplicity is what I find attractive about the Yamas and Niyamas. Patanjali, organized the first codified writings of yoga in what we know as the Yoga Sutras. He was not the original writer. Remember, the teachings were traditionally orally taught. Yoga can be seen as an eight limb path to reach union with God. Prayer and reading The Word, I see for myself within Dhyana. I have my own spiritual beliefs rooted in Christianity, but I can still see the practicality of this system as ideals for living moral.
Yama: Outward morality (see above)
Niyama: Inward morality (see above)
Asanas: Yoga practice.
Pranayama: Breathing exercises.
Pratyahara: Control of the senses or desires.
Dhyana: Devotion, Meditation on God.
Samadhi: Union with God.
Everyone can have a fulfilling theological belief and participate in yoga (asana) practice. Yoga is a self inquiry to see the places you are getting stuck in unnecessary suffering or behaviors that are limiting your growth. Yoga can enrich your life and your personal spiritual belief. Honestly, you can leave all the teachings at the door. Come to your mat and just be.