Yogis: You’re Going to Hell

Why some Christians believe yoga is a sin

Jenna Bergen

Did you know that practicing yoga is a sin? You didn’t? Well, that’s okay, neither did I until a fellow yogi sent me a link to an article posted on the American Family Association’s Rightly Concerned blog last week. Yoga, a practice that couldn’t be more peaceful and continually inspires practitioners to reach out and help others in their communities and around the globe (take a spin through Off the Mat and Into the World‘s or Street Yoga‘s website if you’ve been living under a good-will rock for the last 10 years) was being touted as something evil—something against God and against Christianity.

It boggled my mind. Of course, once I started Googling about it, I couldn’t stop. Turns out that the Rightly Concerned post was commenting on the hate mail that R. Albert Mohler, Jr., the president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, received after blogging about why good, God-fearing Christians should never, ever, practice yoga.

Two of his main gripes:

1. Yoga (no matter how much it has been altered and changed over the years to fit America’s need for an exercise that both stretches and strengthens) still stems from the pagan religion of Hinduism and is thus in complete disharmony with Christianity. (I’m guessing this guy doesn’t put up a Christmas tree at Christmas, either.)

2. Yoga tells you to search for answers within yourself—a major no-no in Christianity, where followers are never to look inward for answers, but always to their outside object of faith—”the Lord Jesus Christ.”

While all too many Christians have bought into this claim—I actually found one poor teen asking if participating in the oms at the beginning and end of class could lead to demon possession—many, thankfully, have not. In fact, most of the hate mail Mohler received was from other Christians who strongly believed they could reap the benefits of yoga without compromising their faith. They called Mohler “insane, incompetent, stupid, vile, fundamentalist, and perverted,” among other choice words.

While the Rightly Concerned blogger thought it was unchristian of them—”So much for Christian love,” she wrote—I wanted to applaud them for hitting back at such unnecessary dogma.

At the bare minimum, yoga is an amazing way to stay in shape and de-stress—no matter what your religious beliefs—and teaches one to live in the moment. If you want it to be, it can also be a tool for raising your awareness and reconnecting with whatever you’d like to call it: a Higher Power, God, Chi, Prana, Life Energy. But the same goes for walking, running or any other exercise. It’s all about what you mentally choose to put into it and what you want to get out of it.

What I do know: I feel more peaceful and more alive after practicing yoga than I ever have after coming out of a church.