Postural Yoga and Christianity

Recently, as we discussed how to apply Deuteronomy 18:9 to modern day practices, Carson invited a discussion to help in the discernment of the practice of yoga at the gym. So, I have tried to put together some information I have gathered on the issue along with my thoughts -

I have met many Christians who practice yoga for its physical benefits, and not everyone considers its spiritual implications. Usually, if chanting, meditation, sun salutation, and Kundalini yoga are avoided, yoga is considered acceptable for a Christian. However, the answer to whether postural yoga is compatible with Christian faith may lie in how we understand the spiritual origins of postural yoga, the meaning of the different poses, the scientific basis for the development of yoga poses and our understanding of Christianity.

Mark Singleton, in his book Yoga Body: The Origins of Modern Posture Practice, provides a comprehensive history of yoga, focusing on the evolution of modern postural yoga (1). The ancient roots of yoga trace back to texts such as the Upanishads, the Bhagavad Gita, and the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali (250 CE). These texts laid the spiritual foundations of yoga, emphasizing meditation, morals, and mental disciplines for the purpose of systematically increasing the state of inhibition of all senses of the body and mind and experience unity with universal consciousness. The ancient Yoga Sutras of Patanjali mention asanas only briefly as a meditation seated posture that is easy and comfortable. The expansion of the definition of asanas to include more seated and non-seated yoga poses came through Hath yoga from Shaiva and Tantric traditions in the medieval period. This period saw a gradual proliferation in the number of non-seated asanas in the different Hatha yoga texts as shown in the table below, suggesting these asanas were in practice before the British arrived in India (2).


Early Hatha Yoga texts, Goraksha Sataka (10–11th century) and Gheranda Samhita describe the origin of the 84 classic asanas as being revealed by the Hindu deity Lord Shiva, who is considered the first yogi. The text states that Lord Shiva fashioned an asana for each lakh (100000) of the 8,400,000 living species, thus giving 84 asanas in all. The Hatha yoga tradition is also responsible for the teachings on the subtle body, including the network of nadis (energy channels), chakras (energy centers), the concept of Kundalini (a dormant serpent energy that is believed to reside at the base of the spine), yoga practices like pranayama (breath control), shatkarmas (bodily purification techniques), mudras (seal for energy) and bandhas (lock for energy) meant to regulate prana (life force) to awaken the Kundalini for enabling samadhi ( occult enlightenment). Interestingly, some of the symptoms of Kundalini yoga have been recorded and include, cranial pressures, energies up the spine, vibrations, light, heat, cold, abnormal heart rate, trance states and spontaneous assumption of yogic postures (3). These Kundalini manifestations have been attributed by some scholars to demonic spirits (4).

What struck me as I read about the tantric beginnings of yoga is that yoga poses, and its associated practices were a means of communicating with spirits, something we are clearly warned against in the Bible (Lev 19:31). It’s also concerning that these poses were given by Lord Shiva, and not the God of the Bible. I have to wonder if the spontaneous assumption of yogic postures lead to the description of postures in hatha yoga texts. Another concerning aspect about the spiritual roots of yoga is that yogic postures can be depictions of Hindu deities. B.K.S. Iyengar in his book “Light on Yoga” confirms that some yogic poses are depictions of Hindu deities such as ‘Natarajasana’ for ‘Lord Shiva’ (5) Mike Shreve, an ex-yogi Christian convert also has a great article describing how yoga poses symbolize different gods and their stories (6). So, in assuming yogic poses, Christians could be using their bodies for pagan idolatry, albeit unintentionally.

Despite all these spiritual connections, a valid argument is that modern yoga no longer resembles the original poses. There is some truth to this. Mark Singleton explains how by the end of the 19th century, Hatha yoga was almost extinct in India, due to negative reputation of the Shaiva yogis. Yoga however became popular again in a new way as the physical culture movement that emphasized physical fitness, strength, and bodybuilding grew in British India leading to the incorporation of Western gymnastics into traditional asanas. Yogendra (starting in 1918) and Kuvalayananda (starting in 1924) began teaching yoga as a means of attaining physical wellbeing and studied its medical effects to build a scientific rationale. The YMCA in India devised programs that combined both Indian asanas and Western exercises, due to which international postural yoga began to be perceived as a system for holistic development of mind, body and spirit. This hybrid practice was soon followed by the “father of modern yoga” Krishnamacharya, who studied under Kuvalayananda in the 1930s. He blended traditional Hatha yoga with modern gymnastics according to Norman E. Sjoman, author of ‘The Yoga Tradition of the Mysore Palace’. Krishnamacharya passed on his techniques to several prominent students who popularized yoga in the West: Russian Eugenie V. Peterson or Indra Devi; Pattabhi Jois, who founded Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga; B.K.S. Iyengar, who founded Iyengar Yoga; T.K.V. Desikachar, who taught Viniyoga.

Considering this amalgamation of asanas with physical exercises, it is difficult to know if yoga poses still have a spiritual significance. While more research is required, according to Jason Birch, a yoga scholar, certain types of asanas still correspond to modern yoga though some do not. It’s important to note the spiritual side of Krishnamacharya who spent 7 ½ years studying the Yoga Sūtras and at age sixteen, obeying a strange dream went to a town called ‘Alvar Tirunagari’, where he fell into a trance and found himself being instructed ‘Yoga Rahasya’, (meaning: Yoga secrets) by a sage Nathamuni, a Shiva devotee as well (7). Krishnamacharya is credited for developing the Suryanamaskar routine based on the ritual practice of worshipping the Sun and thus indirectly promoting worship of creation. Finally, an unexpected spiritual influence we see in yoga in the West is the influence of the New Thought movement, which emerged in the United States in the late 19th century, and emphasized positive thinking, self-healing, and the mind-body connection. Yogananda, who founded the Self-Realization Fellowship in 1920, taught techniques combining traditional yoga practices with principles from New Thought movement to make his teachings more appealing to Western audience.

Where does all this history of yoga leave us in our ability to discern yoga in the gym? I think we cannot fully separate the spiritual from the physical aspects of yoga and factors like sociopolitical demands and individual aspirations contributed significantly to the spread of modern yoga.

Mark Singleton writes,

“The history of modern physical culture overlaps and intersects with the histories of para-religious, “unchurched” spirituality;……They may indeed be at variance with “Classical Yoga”, but it does not follow from this that these practices, beliefs, and aspirations are thereby lacking in seriousness, dignity or spiritual profundity.”

In my view, practicing yoga as a Christian can weaken the Christian testimony in front of non-christians who practice yoga for spiritual benefit (1Cor 10:28-29). Some psychological openness to eastern philosophy may follow as a result of self- identification with eastern minded communities in the yoga studios (Miller, 2008.). Supporting this idea, several studies suggest that motivations for doing yoga gradually change from physical to the spiritual with continued involvement (Park, 2014).

So, to sum up, considering the spiritual nature of yoga and having other non-spiritual options for attaining physical fitness, I personally wouldn’t practice yoga whether for physical exercise or worship (a matter that I haven’t delved into in this post). Yoga in Christian circles is a contested topic but I hope this post has provided some helpful information and leads to further thoughts and discussion.


  1. Singleton, Mark. Yoga Body : The Origins of Modern Posture Practice. Oxford ; New York, Oxford University Press, 2010.
  2. Birch, Jason. “The Proliferation of Asanas in Late-Medieval Yoga Texts.” Yoga in Transformation: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives, edited by Karl Baier et al., Vienna University Press, 2018, pp. 103–179.
  3. Scotton, Bruce. “The Phenomenology and Treatment of Kundalini.” Textbook of Transpersonal Psychiatry and Psychology, by Scotton and Chinen, edited by Batista, New York: Basic Books, 1996, pp. 261–270.
  4. Kundalini Yoga - Part 1 - JA Show Articles. 13 Aug. 2003, Kundalini Yoga - Part 1 - JA Show Articles. Accessed 20 June 2024.
  5. B K S Iyengar, Light on Yoga. New York, Schocken books, 1979.
  6. 10 Yoga Poses That Offer Worship to Hindu Deities – the TRUE LIGHT PROJECT. 3 Sept. 2021,
  7. Ruiz, Fernando Pagés. “Krishnamacharya’s Legacy: Modern Yoga’s Inventor.” Yoga Journal, 28 Aug. 2007, Accessed 16 July 2023.
  8. Miller, Elliot. THE YOGA BOOM: A CALL for CHRISTIAN DISCERNMENT PART 1: YOGA in ITS ORIGINAL EASTERN CONTEXT. Vol. 31, no. 2, 2008, Accessed 20 June 2024.
  9. Park, Crystal L, et al. “Why Practice Yoga? Practitioners’ Motivations for Adopting and Maintaining Yoga Practice.” Journal of Health Psychology, vol. 21, no. 6, 16 July 2014, pp. 887–896,

Hi @lakshmi ,

I’m really grateful for the research you’ve done on this. This is one of the most detailed overviews that I have seen from a Christian perspective, and it gives a clear historical framework in which to understand yoga in all it’s forms.

I think that we can safely say that the origins of yoga are spiritual, even if some yoga forms today focus only on the physical benefits. One thing that has always been a prominent part in my decision to abstain from all forms of yoga is the scripture in Romans 12:1,

“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.”

I think there are a couple of things to consider from this verse. Our bodies are always expressing a form of worship in some way, either to worship of God or ourselves, whether we know it or not. This scripture should draw our attention to the fact that in everything we do, our bodies are either glorifying God, or denying God his rightful worship. By choosing to live for Christ, we should daily be ‘picking up our cross’, dying to our own desires, and choosing to live a life pleasing to God. This may be require us to deny our bodies certain things, in order to glorify Jesus. If yoga postures are inherently forms of worship to Hindu deities, it would be grievous for our bodies to enact the postures, even if only for physical exercise. Now of course in exercise, we may sometimes coincidentally form our body into the shape that also happens to be used in yoga. I have understood that yoga postures are always performed in certain sequences to enact stories of Hindu deities. The sequence of postures tell a story of a battle, or a death, or a conquest. It is the entire sequence played out together which is the act of worship. Regardless of whether a Christian is denying the spiritual aspect of yoga or not, I think it would be misguided to assume that yoga can be compatible with honouring God with our bodies.

My second consideration regarding this scripture is my understanding of God’s design for humans throughout the story of creation. In Genesis 1:26-27, God creates mankind ‘in his image’. For a discussion on what the role of image bearer is, there’s a helpful discussion here -

If the role of every human is to bear the image of God, how can it every be reconciled with twisting our image into the narrative of Hindu deities? It seems a contradiction at best, and a heinous abuse at worst.

I would use my arguments above against every form of yoga, however spiritually ‘benign’ it is made out to be. Regarding the overt spiritual forms such as Kundalini yoga and others, there are many Christians who would say that the practitioners would be unwittingly inviting demonic activity into their lives. I know several Christians who have prayed for healing over people who have practised Kundalini yoga. At such times, the serpent spirit manifested with the person writhing on the floor like a snake until it was cast out out of them. Our secular culture has largely numbed the church to the reality of spiritual warfare, but Paul writes many times, especially in Ephesians 6 to be alert for all this.

In every aspect of life, not just yoga, but everything, we are called to be set apart from the world. Our lives should display the gospel, and point to the true identity of Jesus Christ through our actions, our words, our appearance, our relationships and our love. The question that we should apply to everything we do is if we are imitating culture, or imitating Christ? Are we truly living lives that set us apart from the world whilst living in the world? Do people look at the way we live our lives and wonder what’s so different about us? It may lead to awkward conversations sometimes, or it may lead to wonderful explanations of why we abstain from certain practices. If our love of Jesus comes through then we will be showing the world something different, something that truly brings life and hope to those who are lost and dying.


I’m grateful for the research and wisdom you both bring to this topic. It’s outside of my experience and expertise.

To help me (and possibly others) understand this better, here’s a scenario that I’d be interested in your evaluation.

A Christian opens up a Yoga Worship Center to invite her clients to worship the Triune God of the Bible as they participate in yoga as a form of exercise.

Throughout the day, she plays worship hymns. Each session opens with a thoughtful Bible devotion and a time of heartfelt prayer in the name of Jesus. At the end of each session, they thank God for his grace and ask for his help to follow Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit.

During the exercise portion of the yoga sessions, they move their bodies according to classic asanas and new poses developed by the Christian yoga studio owner. However, all poses are described in terms of Biblical theology and with reference to offering our bodies (and our lives) as a living sacrifice to God.

The participants believe they are strengthening their bodies, building Christian fellowship, and worshipping God. There are no references to pagan deities in the studio.

To your mind, is this disobedient? Foolish? Wrong?

Or is there a possible way of reclaiming these physical movements as an act of worship to the true God?

In advance, I look forward to learning from your perspective.


Hi, Alison and Lakshmi and Carson :slight_smile: . I appreciate your contributions to this discussion. I respectfully disagree, though, with the statement that certain body positions are “inherently” spiritual. For it to be inherent would mean that God assigned them as such in creation. Something which is inherent is not assigned externally. The movements do not become inherently spiritual just because someone else assigned them as such. I think we can get legalistic with this. Presenting our bodies as living sacrifices takes conscious intention, just like any worship does. Prohibiting Christians from doing certain body poses to stretch and for physical fitness simply because some other person used it for evil is, in my mind, legalistic. There are many things that have historically been used for evil, but that doesn’t mean that historical use dictates the inherent nature of things. Our bodies do not suddenly become unholy or an offense to God because we are taking certain poses while intentionally rejecting anything evil associated with it. Because the poses are not, by definition, inherently evil or spiritually connected in any way to evil spiritual forces, then the poses themselves can be disconnected from any externally assigned spiritual significance. The demonic is invited either with the intention of worshipping false gods or even with intention of playing with spiritual forces without any acknowledgement or respect of their reality (like people often do with ouija boards).

That being said, while I have no problem with doing yoga movements in the privacy of the home, because of its spiritual significance to those who do practice it with intended spiritual significance, I would not condone a Christian publicly opening a yoga shop and trying to redeem it for the Lord. It could make someone who has pulled away from it stumble or influence other Christians who may later be tempted to apply unbiblical spiritual significance to the practice. I could totally be wrong, but this is just my line of thinking about it at this time.

My husband has been doing Yoga movements from a book for years, because it helps loosen his body up and helps the pain he can often have in his back and shoulders. He is the most devoted Christian I know and loves the Lord with all his heart and has not deviated at all into some false spiritual practice or thought. Had I seen spiritual changes happen, I’d be the first one to go against using the poses and would have asked my husband to talk about it. I’m very protective of my family, including my sweet spouse :). Usually, though, he’s so much more mature than I am, and I’m the one who needs correcting!


Hi @Carson,

Thank you for your comments and question. You have raised a very important issue and it is something I experienced in a church. In the scenario you presented, yoga is not just seen as an exercise but as a means to worship the Triune God. What do you think about redefining yoga? As a Christian, I think our responsibility is to draw our practices and truth from scripture. For us, our union to Christ is not based on our feelings or effort but on the finished work of Christ on the cross. I think practices like yoga which do not have origins in the pages of scripture deny the sufficiency of scripture and the sufficiency of the atonement of Christ. The Bibles exhorts us to worship God in Spirit and truth (John 4:24). Based on 2 Tim 3:16, the scripture we have been given is sufficient to make the man of God complete for good work. There are no other techniques required than what is revealed in the bible to draw close to God. The bible is clear that physical training may be of some value to keep the health of the body, but it is in a different category than godliness (1 Tim 4:8). Yes, we are free to use different postures in worship reflecting the condition of our heart, considering that the bible describes worship with clapping (Psalm 47:1), lifting hands (Psalm 63:3-4), bowing and kneeling (Psalm 95:6), and dancing (Psalm 149:3) but these expressions are responses to God’s grace. I think yoga as a form of worship fits the Eastern worldview perfectly as it was revealed by their gods and is for union with their gods. A comparison of the Eastern worldview behind yoga and the Christian worldview will help us appreciate better why yoga as a technique of worship doesn’t fit in the Christian context.

At a very basic level, the Vedas inform us that the individual soul is the life-giving spirit (Jivatma) common to all living creatures and is the source of “consciousness” for the body. Per Bhagavad Gita 13.31 the Supreme soul (Paramatma), who is above in heaven also resides in all living beings. The problem of mankind is a problem of self-perception and is described as “Maya” which means illusion. It is described as the tendency of the individual soul to view itself disconnected from God and be misled by the selfish desires of the material body leading to entanglement / entrapment of the soul in the body. (Bhagavat Purana 5.5.8). The ultimate goal of human life is “moksha” which is liberation from ‘Samsara’ the cycle of birth and death through union of the individual soul with the Supreme soul. It is believed that that the progression of consciousness (Samsara) is manifested by the passage of the individual soul through a cycle of birth and death (reincarnation) through six broad "classes of life, "namely (1) aquatics, (2) plants, (3) reptiles and insects, (4) birds, (5) animals and (6) humans, including the residents of spiritual planets based on the law of karma (every action has a reaction). As the Eastern view sees the problem of man as misidentification with the body, a solution that trains the body and mind to move away from this misconception, to experience a sense of oneness would be the way to pursue worship in this view, like yoga. In “Light on Yoga”, BKS Iyengar writes:

Whilst performing asanas the yogi’s body assumes many forms resembling a variety of creatures. His mind is trained not to despise any creature, for he knows that throughout the whole gamut of creation, from the lowliest insect to the most perfect sage, there breathes the same Universal Spirit, which assumes innumerable forms. He knows that the highest form is that of the Formless. He finds unity in universality. True āsana is that in which the thought of Brahman flows effortlessly and incessantly through the mind of the sādhaka.

Yoga aims at ignoring the bodily distinction between humans and animals. In this worldview, even gods are born in the form of both humans and animals. By blurring the distinction, the emphasis is on the soul and the body loses its value. Moksha is liberation of the soul from the body.

But the bible teaches us differently. I recently came across Sam Allberry’s book, “What God has to say about our bodies” and I want to share some of the theology of body and scriptures he discussed in the book as it can help us see how it conflicts with yoga foundations.

• Our human identity is both body and soul (Gen 2: 5-7). We don’t just have a body, but we are a body (Gen 2:5-7). God showed great care in making our human bodies (Psalm 139:13-14) and that means we receive our bodies as a gift. The bible advocates for a holistic worship of God with both our soul and body, with all of our heart, mind and strength (Mark 12:30). Yoga on the other hand emphasizes only the soul as our identity, and calls us to dissociate from our bodily identity.

• God cares for both our body and soul and God’s salvation is all-encompassing redeeming both body and soul (1 Peter 1:8-9, 1 Cor 15: 42-44). God even has a plan to redeem all of creation, which includes the bodies of animals (Rom 8:21). But yoga is mainly about liberation of the soul.

• Humans are made in God’s image to represent God to the world by living with a love for God and others (Gen 1:26-28, Rom 12). God chose different kinds of bodies for different animals but they are not made in God’s image (Gen 1:21, 1 Cor 15:39). As Christians we celebrate all of God’s creation and humanity was supposed to be as God to the creation, tending and taking care of it. When we view ourselves as nothing different from animals as in yoga, it would minimize God’s call to us for stewardship of His creation. God of the bible does not incarnate in animals as they are not made in His image and this contrasts with the yogic view.

• As Christians, we are united in Christ. And that union involves every aspect of who we are, bodies included. So our “bodies are members of Christ now”. Our bodies are a temple of the Holy Sprit. So in light of our union with Christ, how can we then follow a philosophy that comes from union with another spirit?

• Jesus promises the gift of the Holy Spirit to all those who come to him. (John 14:16-18, 20, 23). We don’t have to strive in our own effort as in yoga to unite with the Holy Spirit.

• The suffering in this world is not due to sin at an individual level but at a humanity level (John 9:3). The only hope for us is the body of Jesus, broken fully and finally for us (Col 1:22). The solution for our sin as Christians does not come through anything we do with our body as in yoga.

As the yogic and Christian worldviews are in conflict, how could we take a technique from another worldview and redefine it for the worship of God of the bible? On what authority could we do it when God has specifically told us not to worship Him like the pagans do? (Deuteronomy 18:9). I wonder how those who believe it is okay to use yoga for Christian worship deal with these issues.


Hi @alison,

Thank you so much for your kind remarks. Mark Singleton’s book helped me with the historical overview behind modern postural yoga. The history actually is even more complex when we include other forms of yoga, and you can get a glimpse of it in the picture here. As you can see, yoga has strong spiritual foundations.

Thank you for sharing the wisdom from Rom 12:1 and Genesis 1:26-27 and I am in complete agreement with you. Romans 12:1-2 lays the foundation for acceptable Christian worship as being a response to what Christ has already done. We worship because of our union with the Holy Spirit made possible by the grace of God through Christ on the cross (1 Cor 6:15-19). Our worship doesn’t aim for a union with God’s spirit as in yoga but is an outflow of the union we already have received by grace through faith in Christ. So, we are not to conform to the customs of this world because the world’s methods come from ignorance of what Christ has done. The rest of Romans 12 explains how we must use our bodies in worship of Christ, and it is about using our gifts to serve others with a sincere love. I like how John Stott explains it:

Then our feet will walk in his paths, our lips will speak the truth and spread the gospel, our tongues will bring healing, our hands will lift up those who have fallen, and perform many mundane tasks as well like cooking and cleaning, typing and mending, our arms will embrace the lonely and the unloved, our ears will listen to the cries of the distressed, and our eyes will look humbly and patiently towards God (John Stott, Romans, p. 322)

This is what it looks like to use our bodies to bear God’s image in worship! Our body is a means to love God and others. Yoga on the other hand being based on a starkly different worldview and understanding of god offers a mystical view of offering our bodies for worship. Whether traditional yoga poses are done in a sequence to reveal a story of a Hindu deity or simply done in a series with no story, it is all still about the embodiment of the spirit of yoga, which I agree goes against being God’s image bearers. You mentioned you know of Christians who have prayed over people who have done Kundalini yoga and seen the serpent spirit manifest until it was cast out of them. I believe you as I have seen it before in India! I will try to communicate more about other differences I see in the worldview of yoga and Christianity in my response to Carson.


Hi @Carson

Great question! Lakshmi has answered this very well, but I just wanted to add to what she wrote regarding the issue of ‘Union’:

The word ‘yoga’ comes from the Sanskrit word meaning ‘to yoke’. The entire basis and purpose of ‘yoga’ is to yoke oneself with the Hindu gods. It is one of 3 paths of obtaining moksha (release from the cycle of death and rebirth). Therefore, ‘Christian yoga’ is a contradiction of terms. Jesus reminds us to take on his burden and yoke (Matt 11:28-30) because they are lighter than any other yoke we could take on. Even if Westerners are removing the spiritual focus for a physical emphasis, I would suggest that any Christian should pay attention to the deeper spiritual undertones of the very word they are using to describe their workout session!

My other concern with the scenario you put forward is what message it will send to anyone who has been redeemed out of the New Age into Christianity? For someone who used yoga in its original context of being a pathway to release from the life/death cycle, it will be highly confusing for them to see Christians espousing the practice. I think that @lindsay made a good point about it being highly inadvisable to be practised publicly by Christians, especially where they are trying to show an entirely different path to relationship with Jesus than what the world is offering. Even if an individual Christian feels comfortable practising in their own home, as Lindsay illustrated (and I’m really grateful for your perspective and experience here), I would be concerned about the mixed messages we could be potentially sending out at a public level.


Hi Everybody!

Lindsay brought this thread to my attention - I’m that husband she mentioned. I am really intrigued by the conversation, and would like to offer a rebuttal. Please feel free to critique my reasoning or conclusions. I fully think that we should be able to engage with ideas that differ from our own and openly discuss, rather than dismiss.

Lakshmi, I appreciate your diligent research.

Alison, I appreciate your heart for those at risk of demonic forces.

Carson, I appreciate your approach of thinking outside the box.

Lindsay, I appreciate you emphasizing the difference between the physical side and spiritual side of yoga.

apparently, as a new user I can only mention two people. I didn’t know who to exclude, so I didn’t use any “mentions”

The argument, as I understand it, is “Since yogis, and maybe even demons like Shiva, invented the poses and practice of yoga, then we as Christians should flee from any and every form.” I believe that the argument is flawed, both in hypothesis and conclusion. Furthermore, the inevitable corollaries lead to a form of Pharisaical legalism that Jesus sought to correct.

I greatly appreciate the research that Lakshmi put into this, because knowing the roots of any practice is valuable, but I believe the data shows something very interesting. In the table provided, the research indicates that asanas were first laid out around the 1400’s as Europe was in the midst of venturing off to discover two brand new continents. I think it is unreasonable to assume that the poses have only been around for the last 600-700 years. If a person has ever done a proper pushup, then she has taken the poses called ‘dandasana’ and “chaturanga dandasana.’ There are many more everyday poses or positions that people take that most likely existed long before yoga: kids crab walk (catuspadapitham), people reach and touch their toes (paschimottanasana or padangusthasana, sitting or standing, respectively), if someone kept her back straight while touching the toes (urdha mulcha uttanasana), and on and on. But, two more poses that nearly every human has taken are savasana and tadasana, what most people know as laying on your back and standing up straight, respectively. I find it foolish to believe any of these poses have only existed for 700 years, or even that Shiva invented them.

Moving to the conclusion that Christians should not place their bodies in certain poses because they are used in worship of other gods, seems more compelling than the hypothesis, but still is flawed. I fully believe Alison and Lakshmi that they have witnessed demon possession while people are in some of these positions, but that doesn’t mean the position itself led to the possession. The Bible points out several examples of exorcism: Mark 1:23 mentions a man in a synagogue, Matthew 8:28 points out two men were in a cemetery, Mark 7:25 tells about a little girl in a house, Luke 9:42 tells of a boy walking towards Jesus, to name a handful. We cannot assume the heart of each of these individuals, nor conclude the being in a synagogue, cemetery, or house is what led to the manifestation of the possession; and we cannot especially say that about trying to approach Jesus. I do believe that many people are demonically possessed do in fact practice yoga, but possessed people also go to church, sing songs, play instruments, and do any other activity known to mankind. Otherwise, the Muslims are correct in their conclusion that Jesus was a Muslim when in Matthew 26:39, Jesus prays with his face to the ground. Allah doesn’t have a monopoly on people prostrating themselves and Shiva doesn’t have the monopoly on people standing up straight.

If we are to accept both the hypothesis and conclusion to be true, then this has ramifications beyond yoga. I grew up playing baseball, which does not sound like much. What might be unknown to most outside of the world of baseball, but is well known by those inside, is that superstition plays a huge role in baseball. Baseball players will develop their own little rituals and unwritten rules that mandate or prohibit certain behaviors, for fear of upsetting the ‘baseball gods,’ which is closer to a form of Karma than idol worship (kind of blurry). Other players would watch to make sure that I didn’t step on the foul line or pitcher’s mound. If you were standing when a teammate hit the ball hard last time, you better be in the same place for his next at bat. If a pitcher is having a phenomenal game, then we weren’t allowed to talk to him. All of this is ridiculous, but a very Eastern way of thinking. If everything is true about yoga, then we can’t allow baseball, or be seen playing baseball outside of our homes, because true baseball players might conclude that we are just as superstitious as anyone else, which doesn’t seem to point to a very strong faith in Jesus. Furthermore, the only form of martial arts we could partake in would be boxing (since Paul praised the sport in 1 Cor 9:26-27), but we better not study Karate (my college roommate earned his second degree black belt, but learned to progress he would have to study Japanese spirituality - perhaps he never should have started).

Ultimately this does come down to what Paul says in Romans, but two chapters later in Chapter 14, which further developed in 1 Cor 8. Idols are nothing compared to the Lord, Shiva is nothing compared to the Lord. Demons are real and do possess people, but we are not to fear them. So if meat was used in sacrifice to idols, Paul says “Don’t worry about it, but don’t condemn others who are convicted not to, nor should those who won’t eat it condemn those who do.” We run the risk of getting to the point where our rules for ‘being holy’ become like the Pharisees in Matthew 12 that there is a better way than sacrifice.


I understand that this an incredibly sensitive topic and hits home hard for some who have experienced the evils and results of someone using their bodies to worship other gods. Though it has not been with this, I have had my own experience with demonic presence and activity in a very unstable, violent home I grew up in where Christianity was professed but the opposite was lived out. We had people who would come to the house to visit, knowing we would be there shortly after them, and would not get the house key from out of its location to go in because of things that they had experienced there. They would not go in without someone else being there. Thankfully, I think the Lord protected me from seeing/hearing most of it…MOST of it.

I bring this up, because having experienced that, I have great respect for the reality of demonic forces that love to use footholds to get into people’s lives and empathize with others who have also witnessed and/or experienced that reality in their lives. However, I worked to not allow that to turn into a fearfulness that would dictate how I thought about things. I think that’s important, because I think when we experience something like that, it is sometimes hard to keep from going to an extreme to avoid it again. I’m not afraid, because I know to Whom I belong, and so do they. This doesn’t mean I’m careless with what I do, but I do think it helps me to be able to make healthy distinctions.

I think it is probably very important to define what we mean when we say that someone is “practicing yoga.” I define “practicing yoga” as intentionally taking on the philosophy behind it and acting accordingly. Even in Romans 12, where the verse about presenting our bodies as living sacrifices resides has in its immediate context the aspect of the mind. In fact, the renewal of the mind is directly connected to the previous verse about the body with the word “And.” Immediately following that verse, Paul starts his next thought with the word “For,” which keeps it in direct connection with the previous verses. Then he goes on to talk about how we are to think. Paul is connecting offering our bodies as living sacrifices with how we think. Our body does the things we think of doing whether consciously or subconsciously. To say that someone is “practicing yoga” when they are just using the body movements to stretch while rejecting the philosophy really doesn’t seem to have any basis. God made our bodies to move in the all the ways they are able to move, and He called it good. Simply because someone has used those movements for evil doesn’t make the movements themselves inherently evil. As Paul says in Romans 11:36 (NKJV), “For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen.” Just like we know the idols to which meat had been offered are nothing, we know that the idols to whom our God-given abilities to form different body postures have been and are offered are nothing.

Scripture calls for us to meditate. Should we not meditate because pagans do it, too? The word is far more likely to be taken as an Eastern religion practice than attributed to a Scriptural Christian practice. And as I have already presented, worship with our bodies has to have intent behind it. Using my example of a ouiji board, a person using that and attempting to say he/she is redeeming it for Christianity is contradictory, because the oiiji board itself was made to serve an ungodly purpose. However, the poses in yoga were not made or created by those assigning them some other spiritual value. Our bodies and all their range of movement were, again, created by God and called good. So, yes, any of those poses absolutely can be separated from the actual practice of yoga and used while meditating on Scripture.

I still stand on my opinion regarding utilizing a public space as a “yoga Christian” place, because as already mentioned, that’s contradictory. “Yoga” suggests the actual embracement of the philosophy and practices behind it. I would also be wary of it, because those who used to practice that false religion and have come away from it could be caused to stumble or would be greatly offended by it.

While simply reaching down to touch your toes or lying flat on your back are a couple of yoga movements, some of the other poses are more prominently recognized and could offend or retraumatize someone even if being used apart from the philosophy in a Christian context.

So many Christians are biblically illiterate today. It’s a huge problem, and there are New Age beliefs and practices subtly creeping their way into churches and individual Christian’s practices. There is such a lack of discernment that I would worry about new Christians and even those who have been Christians for a long time but have not grown becoming ensnared if a Christian place even simply using yoga movements opened up. There are a lot of Christians who are craving connection to God through mystical experiences because they haven’t learned enough to be able to know how to connect with Him in everyday life. I think that is why the things of New Age are so alluring for a lot of Christians and why opening a public place utilizing the same movements as Yoga utilizes would maybe be dangerous to the body of Christ.


Hi everyone,

I appreciate the rich discussion from multiple perspectives!

I am glad that we recognize that our perspectives on these questions can vary based on our life experiences and how that affects our conscience.

Before posting, I read through Romans 14 to remind myself to pursue what promotes peace and builds up one another.

From my perspective, the deepest issue is what is going on in our hearts.

If our hearts are loving God and our neighbor, that is more important than the posture of our bodies.

However, we are embodied creatures, and we can move our bodies in certain ways that make it harder (or even impossible?) to connect with God.

@ben2, I appreciate the story about baseball. For you, it seems like your conscience allows you to watch and play baseball. However, I can see that other people - those who became superstitious by nature because of their playing experience - might decide to no longer participate in sports in order to honor the Lord.

Let’s consider another example: pole dancing.

To my mind, there is no way that I could do pole dancing as a form of exercise, even if Christian worship music were playing. Its connection to the erotic disqualifies it, for me, as a way of using my body to honor the Lord.

However, when I saw Kristy Sellars’ pole routine in America’s Got Talent, I was mesmerized by how she had innovated to use the pole as a tool. To my mind, she uses it to demonstrate athleticism, create dramatic tension, and tell stories. I learned today that mallakhamba - or ‘wrestling pole’ according to Wikipedia - is an ancient gymnastic sport.

I can see many believers feeling that a Christian Pole Dancing studio is an absurd idea. It wouldn’t seem legalistic to insist that no church host a Pole Dancing studio - what an offense to the gospel!

But, given the world’s cultural diversity, I can see another Christian feeling that their vocational calling - dedicated to the Lord in all sincerity - is to do a kind of gymnastic or artistic approach to pole sports or performances.

I bring up this example because, to the degree that a yoga position imitates animal movements, it can be so obviously degrading to the imago dei that no right-thinking Christian would want to participate in these movements.

To deepen my understanding on this, I looked up yoga poses and found the Marjaryasana-Bitilasana movement. It’s a stretch I’ve done many times without considering it being a cat-cow pose. I had no idea! I thought it was a good way to warm up or cool down from exercises in the gym. But if I had internalized that these movements were repeating the form of a cat and a cow, I don’t know that I could do them.

Yet, for me, because my experience of this movement is embedded in caring for my body, and gently stretching it, it’s hard for me to see the connection to a cat or a cow.

Still, I see so many complexities. For instance, I once hired a personal trainer to help me get active in the gym. Our kids were young, and I needed help getting motivated to exercise.

However, she often had me crawl across the floor with various weights. I couldn’t explain what felt wrong about it, but it seemed degrading, and I switched to another, more respectful trainer. I don’t think there’s anything inherently wrong with those exercises, but I felt uncomfortable with how she taught them. I’ve avoided those movements ever since then, and I don’t know that I’ll ever integrate them into my routine because of the association they hold for me.

My point is that I think there’s room for each of us to be right - and wrong - about the legitimacy of postural yoga, playing baseball, or utilizing a pole for artistic or athletic purposes.


Hi @lindsay,

I really appreciate that we share a common desire not to practice yoga at a public level because of how it may impact our Christian witness. You have raised some valid objections. I think in matters where it’s not easy to discern and there are differences of opinion, we are to be convinced in our own minds about our reasons, otherwise it is indeed legalism and dogma. I apologize for the delay in response as I was just not able to get to your comment before the site closed on Friday.

You stated -

Prohibiting Christians from doing certain body poses to stretch and for physical fitness simply because some other person used it for evil is, in my mind legalistic….Our bodies do not suddenly become unholy or an offense to God because we are taking certain poses while intentionally rejecting anything evil associated with it.

I don’t think there is anything wrong with physical stretches. We often assume some of the classic postures in yoga even in other forms of exercise. But yoga’s spiritual aspects come from the spiritual symbols associated with certain religious postures and mudras (the hand gestures) and the focus on breathing and movement over a sequence of postures that facilitates meditation. When we look at some asanas like Garudasana (eagle), Vatayanasana (horse), Gomukhasana (cow), Vrschikasana (scorpion), Simhasana (lion), Padmasana with hands in Anjali mudra (Buddha pose) etc. they are clearly symbolic of other gods/sages and creation.

Connie Fait, a former Tibetan nun, yogi, who spent 40 years steeped in the practice and study of the yogic traditions before returning to Catholicism says, “The Yoga asanas are the basis for the theology of Hinduism. In the beginning, the first recluse yogis sat yearning for union with their believed creator Brahman. While sitting in mystical altered states, they began experiencing the spontaneous movements called kriyas, which later became the asanas we know today. While perfecting these asanas, yogis would experience high meditative states during which they experienced gods and deities who appeared to them, moving their bodies into postures/kriyas, and so created the names of some yoga poses as gods or deities…. The well-known Yogacharia (Iyengar)who has taught people of the west, has made clear that if performed well, asanas will bring about a spontaneous pranayama response in the body…… When the pranayama aspect starts to occur, it is the beginning of the spiritual yogic induction for people practicing asanas.” (Source: womenofgrace website). Asanas (postures), mudras (hand gestures), pranayama (extended breathing techniques) are thought to help manipulate and channel “prana”, a cosmic life force energy. Yoga scholar Stephen Cope affirms that postural yoga is a form of moving meditation. He states, “With postures, you’re also training equanimity [composure], and you’re training the mind to become focused. You’re using the body as the object of that focus”. The function of this kind of meditation is to reach an altered state of consciousness. The initial benefit of the calming of the mind, the focus on moral disciplines in some forms of yoga, the fellowship of yoga community, can make yoga a spiritually attractive option for a Christian who doesn’t understand their faith and doctrine in depth. Even for a strong Christian, it could potentially cause spiritual oppression at least with some people. These are some of the reasons, why I think the spiritual cannot be separated from the physical.

Though we may have Christian convictions, when we imitate the postures used for worship by yogis, I worry about what our bodies communicate to the Hindu gods. In Eph 3:10 , one of the purposes of the gospel is for the church to reveal the wisdom of God to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. For someone from a Hindu background like me, no matter how Christians choose to redefine a yoga pose, these symbolic postures communicate the original spiritual meaning, and it’s also because I witnessed the spontaneous yogic postures being performed in a trance by a Shiva devotee in front of me as a young Christian in India as I sat down to pray and read the Bible with a friend. I have also met yogis with paranormal powers. Now, many years later I see so many testimonies online of people who started yoga for physical interest but moved on to spiritual interest. These experiences cause me to caution at least Christians about yoga. In the Western culture, a lot of things are being called yoga though they are not truly yoga. When I use the word yoga, I am talking about the traditional system mixed in. I hope that provides some clarity.

I haven’t yet had a chance to read your second response, Ben’s, or Carson’s response. I will try to get to them but I wanted to respond to you without further delay. I have been busy with other things to take care of.

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Hi @ben2, I think it’s the first time I am reading a post from you on UP. Welcome to the community! Unfortunately, I was not able to respond right away to you because of other personal commitments. In this community, we do value discussions from different points of view but sometimes the dialog may take time because of the thought and research needed and our schedules. I appreciate the openness from both Lindsay and you for a discussion and share your concerns to not spread superstitions or make legalistic rules based on superstitions. It was my experience of superstitious beliefs in Hinduism that I couldn’t come to terms with, and it led me to openness to Christianity. For some people in the West, spiritual experiences fall in the same category as superstitions and so they reject God completely. Based on Lindsay’s response, it appears the reality of demons operating is not in the category of superstition for you. I hope my response to Lindsay’s first reply helps you understand my perspective better. But based on your response and Lindsay’s follow up post a few more clarifications may be necessary.

I agree with you that people take on yoga poses naturally as you explained as they go about their day with absolutely no spiritual intentions. In my brief post on the historical roots, I mainly focused on the branch of Krishnamacharya as postural/physical yoga is attributed mainly to his students. The table I posted shows the written record of postures in some of the Hindu ancient scriptures but yoga was transmitted through oral traditions as well and I have come across resources that say it was in practice in other parts of the world like Egypt. When it comes to other non-Christian gods, I think some gods are just human imaginations like the ‘baseball gods’ you mentioned, but some are real spirits. Whether you call it life- force, Brahman, or Shiva, there are several records of bodily manifestations of those in a yogic spiritual trance. There are videos online of people in spontaneous Kriya yoga when taken over by the life-force, there are similar accounts on Quora/Reddit about twisting of people’s bodies with Kundalini awakening, accounts of ability to attain paranormal power as in the autobiography of a yogi who became a Christian, “Death of a Guru: A Remarkable True Story of one Man’s Search for Truth” by Rabi R. Maharaj and Dave Hunt., in Dr. John Weldon and Dr. Ankerberg’s work in an article entitled, “Innocent yoga?”, and many more. It was from Krishnamacharya’s son, TKV Desikachar’s writings, that I originally learnt about Krishnamacharya receiving yoga knowledge through meditation. When so many people share similar experiences and when I have seen a manifestation by a Shiva devotee in a trance manifesting spontaneous yoga postures in response to me and my friend praying to Jesus, I do not find it foolish to say that people began to copy the poses that they saw come upon yogis in spiritual trance.

I probably need to communicate better because that is not what I intended to convey. @Lindsay brought up a very important point about defining what we mean by “practicing yoga”. Sometimes same words have different meanings and that may have caused confusion. Yoga for marketing reasons means a lot of different things these days. The yoga poses I am referring to are those with traditional poses with mudras and breathwork that overlap to a large degree with traditional yoga, like BK Iyengar’s yoga. I don’t think we venerate other gods when we accidentally assume the simpler yoga poses, however, when we follow a sequence of postures as the yogis practiced, our vocabulary doesn’t change the fact that it is still yoga. When genuine Christians bring yoga into the church, it is often because yoga has been reinterpreted as an exercise. In the church context however, I think we need to pay attention to the spiritual philosophy behind yoga because of the many ways it can be received. I agree we are not to fear demons as Christ in us is greater than he who lives in the world. I do think it is important to be discerning about its spiritual implications.

I have certain convictions on yoga, which are probably contrary to many others in this Christian community, due to different experiences, upbringing and information. Perhaps as we discuss and share, our different Christian convictions will grow nearer. I feel convicted not to do yoga as a Christian, but not doing yoga does not make me a better Christian than those who do. My confidence before the Lord is only on what Jesus has done on the cross. I think we would all agree that no matter where we land in our discernment about yoga, we ought to do it in faith before God and not out of fear, compulsion, or legalism, as that would be sin (Romans 14:23). Please feel free to share more of your perspective if you feel led to do so. We are brothers and sisters in Christ trying to make informed decisions as we listen to different perspectives. Many blessings in Christ.


Hi @Carson and @lakshmi !
Thank you for responding last week. I am not very good at keeping up with chats and posts on various forms of social media, so please forgive my delay in responding.

To somewhat synthesize the two ideas that you each shared, I think much of the question and therefore answers become a matter of conscience, as Paul wrote about in Romans 14, but we ought to be wise and aware of the potential for certain practices to lead down disastrous paths.

I think that it is wise for Christians to regularly question what we are doing on a regular basis and to look at our hearts in the matter. For Christians in the East, I can understand how Yoga or Tai Chi could be a major stumbling block. I remember taking a Tai Chi class at university and the instructor directing us to feel the flow of nature or the Universe of something, for which I was able to instead meditate on the Holy Spirit, but someone younger in the faith, or a seeker might get caught up in the mysticism and later on feel the conviction of the two being inseparable, much like @lakshmi with yoga.

I think in the West, though, there is a a bigger issue of the sexualization that becomes inseparable from certain activities, like pole dancing or even yoga. There has been a growing problem of “gym culture” that hypersexualizes both exercising and attire. For this reason, I think that Western Christians would have a bigger problem with a Christian yoga studio; there would be more outcry about temptation & immodesty, rather than about spirituality & demonic forces.

Of course there isn’t a clear cut dichotomy, but this seems to me to be generally what the state of the world is at the moment.

I can offer no solution for someone wanting to move away from spiritualization of different activities (nor do I suppose I ought to), because this was never something I faced. However, I can offer some guidance for the problem of the sexualized thought patterns, which unfortunately I have had to battle. The best I can offer, which came further down the road in my journey than I would have liked, is to see other people as created in the image of God. My brain was conditioned to see women in a sexualized manner, and I hated that about myself. I tried all sorts of tactics to fight that thinking, to take every thought captive (2 Cor 10:5), but I wish the Church had instead challenged me to see these women as God’s image bearers, which would have saved a lot of heartache and pain. I have shared this wisdom with my students, and they were so appreciative that many took it to share with fellow Christians at other schools.


Hi @ben2,

Thank you for your humble and thoughtful response.

That’s a nice summary and good advice in general . Thanks for your perspective on the concerns about sexualization in “gym culture”, which had not crossed my mind in the context of yoga. That could certainly serve as another distraction in Christian worship depending on the context. Sam Allberry’s book I previously mentioned in this thread is a great resource for biblical guidance on understanding gender, sexuality, and identity and its written for a popular audience.

I would like to be a bit more specfic here to avoid misunderstandings about myself (just to be sure) that I have never personally entered a yogic mystic state but hold to the conviction that the physical aspects cant easily be separated from the spiritual aspects of yoga. I think the key reason we differ in our opinion about the inseparableness of the two aspects of yoga is because we have different thoughts on whether yoga poses can be reinterpreted with a new meaning. Your view, if I understood correctly, seems to be that no one including the spiritual world can monopolize on the meaning of our physical postures, and I see things differently. For me, just as both verbals and non-verbals carry meaning in our world, I see postures and hand gestures in certain yoga styles as carrying meaning. I think the physical postures and gestures communicate the same message to the spiritual world that they once had among yogis, even if we reinterpret them. So rather than the fear of mystical forces, as a Christian my fear is of offending God. Not to belabor the point but hopefully it clears possible misunderstandings.

Thanks again for your insights!