Christian yoga, if it really is yoga, is the same as Hindu, Buddhist or any other yoga. When the Bible says, "Be still and know that I am God," it is echoing the heart of the spiritual teachings of all religions. When Christ said, "My yoke is easy," he was referring to his yoga technique of "surrender," a word that also adds more depth to the word sacrifice.
The Sanskrit word "yoga" is the same as "yoke." To progressively exercise surrender to the Holy Spirit within is to yoke with It. Unfortunately, this can't be discussed in many places that claim to offer yoga. I know many yoga teachers who are forbidden by their employers to say anything more in Sanskrit than the word "yoga." If Hinduism or Buddhism comes up, for instance, so does a good reprimand or even a replacement for their job. And yet the one who gets reprimanded probably has more trust and faith ("fruits of the spirit") than their fearful fitness supervisor.
Professor Daniel Rutledge argues this well when he says, "If one's religion (religious understanding) is true, if it is valid, then what others have to say should not threaten but only strengthen what one already believes."
Those who forbid the teaching of things they don't understand also call to mind these words of Jesus: "You shut the kingdom of heaven in men's faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to. ... How often have I longed to gather your children together ... but you were not willing" (Matthew 23:13, 37).
When it happens that someone in power uses it to set restrictions on how yoga is to be taught, it essentially forces a divorce of the philosophy from the practice. They end up with a teacher who feels as though he or she is lying to their students. They know that without the students properly understanding what's happening behind the practice they'll be restricted to what should really only be called asanas (stretching/postures), not yoga.
But it's not just religious groups. Many people teach stretching under the name "yoga" while wearing the symbol of yoga on their trendy yoga outfits. Meanwhile, they ridicule the concepts they don't understand. It's like wearing a trendy red, white and blue Tommy Hilfigger jacket while burning the U.S. flag. So these folks will create or go to what they call Christian Yoga — or perhaps it's Buddhist, Jewish or atheist yoga — and yet be unaware that another definition of yoga is "unity" and unaware that yoga is wholly (holy) non-sectarian. And yet every religion is a practice of yoga.
WILLIAM BRASHEAR is a Yoga Psychologist and owner of Cincinnati Yoga School in Blue Ash. He's been practicing progressive meditation since 1988 and gives lectures and instruction locally and internationally. Contact him at [email protected].