Yoga + Christianity: Part 3

This is the third of three posts that lay the foundation for why I believe it's ok (and even good!) for Christians to practice yoga. You can read the first post here (about how we infuse yoga with meaning) and the second post here (about how we walk in and with the authority of the Holy Spirit).

And now for reason number three why I think Christians can (and should!) practice yoga:

3. Jesus is the redeemer of all things and call us into that ministry

Paul, take it away: 

“[Jesus] is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together...For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.”
- Colossians 1: 15-17, 19-20

And then we have one of my favorite stories in the Bible, ever: Peter’s radical vision about a sheet and a bunch of animals.

Peter is a devout Jew, well-versed in and a strict abider of the Mosaic law. The Mosaic law commands Jews to eat only kosher food. But then this happens: 

“Peter went out on the balcony to pray...he fell into a trance. He saw the skies open up. Something that looked like a huge blanket lowered by ropes at its four corners settled on the ground. Every kind of animal and reptile and bird you could think of was on it. Then a voice came: ‘Go to it, Peter – kill and eat.’ Peter said, ‘Oh no, Lord. I’ve never so much as tasted food that was not kosher.’ The voice came a second time: ‘If God says it’s okay, it’s okay.’ This happened three times, and then the blanket was pulled back up into the skies.”
- Acts 10:9-16 (MSG)

If you read a few verses before and a few verses after, you’ll see God was up to something bigger here. God didn’t care so much about the food, but about Peter’s belief that some things were still clean and unclean. That included people as much as it included food. But Jesus’s sacrifice on the cross and the gift of the Holy Spirit was not just for the Jews, it was for everyone. And Peter would have missed out on an opportunity to spread the Gospel and baptize believers outside the Jewish circle if he had kept operating under the old mindset:

“Cornelius introduced Peter to everyone who had come. Peter addressed them, ‘You know, I’m sure that this is highly irregular. Jews just don’t do this – visit and relax with people of another race. But God has shown me that no race is better than any other...God plays no favorites! It makes no difference who you are or where you’re from – if you want God and are ready to do as he says, the door is open. The Message he sent to the children of Israel – that through Jesus Christ everything is being put together again – well, he’s doing it everywhere, among everyone.” - Acts 10:27-28, 34-36

Lastly, in a letter to the church in Corinth, Paul passionately argues that we are to live and preach the message of Jesus in a way that all people can understand. We stay rooted in Christ and we go out and rub shoulders and build relationships with, care for and serve, a wide range of people, regardless of their spiritual background, behaviors, or beliefs.

“I have voluntarily become a servant to any and all in order to reach a wide range of people: religious, nonreligious, meticulous moralists, loose-living immoralists, the defeated, the demoralized – whoever. I didn’t take on their way of life. I kept my bearings in Christ – but I entered their world and tried to experience things from their point of view.”  - 1 Corinthians 9:19-22 MSG

When we practice yoga as followers of Jesus, we keep our bearings in Christ while also entering the world of women and men hungry for spiritual truth, meaning, freedom, and purpose. I’ve found that yogis are more than happy to have a conversation with you about spirituality, and being present in their midst, practicing alongside them, has opened up many doors to talk about what yoga means to me as a Christian.

 I’ll be sharing some more about the yoga tradition here, specific things you might encounter in a yoga class (like chanting om or saying ‘namaste’), but I hope this gave you permission to explore some of your fears and desires with the Holy Spirit on your own journey towards greater freedom body + heart + soul.

Caroline Williams

Caroline Williams Yoga, PO Box 323, New York, NY