Don’t Fall into the Holy Yoga Trap

TA writes: “ There are few Catholic Church promote Holy Yoga teaching in their workshop/seminar/teaching.  From what I know, Holy Yoga is a part of New Age.  Please help us understand more about Holy Yoga.”

Brooke Boon

Holy Yoga is the brainchild of Brooke Boon, one of several people who admit to being influenced by the theologically flawed work of Nancy Roth, author of An Invitation to Christian Yoga (Seabury Books, 1989), who started the Christian yoga fad years ago. Roth, an episcopal priest with “an ecumenical ministry in spirituality” believed there needed to be a “new Christian asceticism that respected the integration of body and mind and reflected both the newest research in psychology and physiology and the wisdom of other, even more ancient, spiritual traditions.” Her attempt to fill this perceived need is what became known as Christian yoga.

In a series of articles entitled, “The Yoga Boon:  A Call for Christian Discernment” by Elliott Miller of the Christian Research Institute, Roth’s misguided theology laid the foundation for the growth of so-called Christian yoga in the U.S. and greatly influenced two more recent authors such as Susan Bordenkircher’s Yoga for Christians (2006) and Brooke Boon’s Holy Yoga, (2007). 

It’s not surprising,then, that Boon’s writings should also contain theological flaws. As Miller explains, Boon’s work is riddled with problematic ideas about both yoga and Christianity.

For instance, knowledge of one’s true self is the ultimate goal of classical yoga, but has never been the goal of Christian spirituality. In order to “baptize” this major difference, Boon reconstructs the yogic goal of “acquiring the deepest knowledge of oneself” to “acquiring the deepest knowledge of oneself in Christ” and thinks she has fixed this problem.

However, as Miller points out, “Adding Christ into the equation does not make the pursuit of self-knowledge in ‘Holy Yoga’ any more of a Christian practice than adding sprouts to a greasy hamburger makes it health food.”

Boon also writes: “God calls us to be bold in our walks but reminds us that we are strengthened most when we surrender. Manifesting that principle in our bodies through the physical postures helps us to manifest it in our spiritual and emotional bodies as well.”

As Miller points out, “the idea that human beings have additional bodies besides the physical is foreign to Christianity (the soul is not a ‘body’), but an important feature in yoga as well as Western occult theory. If you doubt this, simply type ’emotional body spiritual body’ into the Google search engine on the Internet. Every result will pertain to yoga or occultism.”

Saying that we can Christianize yoga is, in a sense, saying that we can Christianize Hinduism. This is what’s known as syncretism – an attempt to combine two incompatible philosophies.

Not surprisingly, Hindus agree. Sannyasin Arumugaswami, managing editor of Hinduism Today, offered the following astute observations to the Knight Ridder News Service that proponents of Christian yoga should take to heart: “Hinduism is the soul of yoga based as it is on Hindu Scripture and developed by Hindu sages. Yoga opens up new and more refined states of mind, and to understand them one needs to believe in and understand the Hindu way of looking at God….A Christian trying to adapt these practices will likely disrupt their own Christian beliefs.”

Sadly, poorly catechized Catholics and Christians are becoming involved in these yoga classes thinking everything is okay because the organization sells t-shirts that say “Jesus is my guru” and plays Christian background music during class.  They do not have the training to spot the flawed theology that underlies these programs. Even worse, the instructors and even Boon herself, doesn’t either!

Stay away from Holy Yoga. If you want to deepen your relationship with Christ, spend some time sitting in the Presence of the Living God in your local adoration chapel. Do it once a week for one hour for at least three consecutive months, asking God to help you fulfill His most holy will for your life, and see what happens to your desire to pose your body in positions of worship to Hindu gods. Call it Holy Yoga vs. the Holy  Eucharist.

Guess which one will win. 

Send your New Age question to newage@womenofgrace.com

8 Response to “Don’t Fall into the Holy Yoga Trap

  1. I recently went through the Holy Yoga training and I have never been so authentically connected to the One True God, his Son, and Holy Spirit. Brooke Boon, founder of Holy Yoga is a beautiful follower of Jesus Christ and is sharing the Gospel with others I in a way that is bringing people to CHRIST. I am wondering if the author of this article has have actually prayerfully attended a Holy Yoga class with the intent of connecting to Christ.

    • I’m disappointed to hear that you had to resort to a Hindu practice in order to connect to Christ! Our Church needs to do a better job of helping people to learn about authentic Catholic prayer which enables a person to make contact with God in ways that go so far beyond what they can ever hope to experience in a yoga class – even one with a Christian veneer – that I can only shake my head and wonder. Instead of investing in yoga, pick up a copy of Father Thomas Dubay’s “Fire Within” which will help you to become familiar with the glory of authentic Catholic prayer!

  2. There is a pervasive misunderstanding about yoga and what exactly it is. It is a not a religion nor a “Hindu” practice. It is exhausting to explain this to people who are convinced yoga is something it is not. I have connected with Christ deeply on my mat and completely agree with Jennifer. I too wonder if the author of this thread has attended a Holy Yoga class or ever interviewed Brooke Boon. She shines the glory of God and is committed to furthering the Gospel through yoga (especially into nations that worship other deities) so they may come to be in relationship with our one true Father.

    In Grace ~ Kelly

    • To say that yoga is not a Hindu practice is simply wrong. Please visit the Hindu America Foundation, whose Hindu founders launched the “Take Back Yoga” campaign a few years back to counter this prevailing fallacy that yoga can somehow be reduced to its postures. Yoga postures were designed as either positions of worship to Hindu gods or to facilitate the flow of a fictitious energy form known as “prana.” They were never designed to be exercises. To say otherwise is to imply that one can use the sign of the cross as a tricept exercise. This article, written by a Hindu, explains why yoga will always be Hindu. http://www.hafsite.org/media/pr/yoga-hindu-origins And incidentally, Boon might seem to be shining with the glory of God, but the theology behind Holy Yoga has been cited by experts as being deeply flawed. This blog explains what went wrong with the Christian yoga movement and how it is almost entirely based on an incorrect understanding of both Christian and Hindu teachings. http://www.womenofgrace.com/blog/?p=11461

  3. It never ceases to amaze me at how much time Christians spend telling other Christians how flawed their worship, beliefs, prayer and actions are. To SBrinkman it may do your life more benefit to worry about perfecting your own worship and life instead of spending so much time judging and worrying about others. I welcome you to consider John 8:7 But as they persisted asking him, he stood up and he said to them, “He among you who is without sin, let him first cast a stone upon her.” And to Jennifer Froning & Kelly Whitworth I welcome you to consider Matthew 6:5 And when you pray, be not like the pretenders who like to stand in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets to pray, that they may be seen by the children of men, and truly I say to you, they have received their reward. If praying on your mat gets you closer to God that is great, but that is your business and not something you need to prove to anyone but you and God. I find when people whether they are Christian or not seek to find common ground and understanding of each other and regard each other with love, tend to be more Christ like.

    • Note to Mr. James – this is a Q&A blog which means when people ask us a question, we answer the question by availing them of our professional opinion on subjects that we have thoroughly researched. Personally attacking us for this opinion is not exactly a good example of the non-judgmental Christian charity you are touting here.

  4. Sbrinkmann – Thank you for your inightful thoughts on holy yoga. It seems yoga has made significant inroads into the mainstream of Christianity. This does concern me. Do you have any thoughts about stretching classes that do not use the term, “yoga”…..but may be similar in some ways?

    • Jerry – the body can only move in so many ways and some stretching exercises may look like yoga but aren’t. Go on our New Age blog index and search through the yoga blogs – http://www.womenofgrace.com/blog/?page_id=120 – there are a few posts that describe stretching exercises that are not associated with yoga. Good luck!