NC’s letter is indicative of what Christians are encountering in the real world when it comes to yoga and stretching exercises. Like so many of us, her doctor (a Catholic) recommended yoga, then sent her to a physical therapy establishment that also offered Reiki (HUGE red flag). She’s looking for alternatives and we’ve got a few recommendations.
“What’s the line,” NC asks. “Our bodies are gifts and God made them flexible. Surely not all stretches can be bad? But, I am thinking what if I were to go to a non-yoga class and learn some stretches that, while they aren’t yoga, are essentially the same as yoga poses? I also could do some stretches on my own that might end up being like the yoga poses. Would I be inadvertently paying homage to some Hindu deity? I don’t say that to be difficult– I just really don’t want to do any homage to some snake or sun deity, and I don’t want to put myself in a pose that’ll make me receptive to something diabolical!
“I’d really like to some type of stretching and breathing exercises to get my body and mind to relax and let the tension go. What can I do that is safe? I want to be faithful. Maybe this is wishful thinking or the influence of the culture on me, but, I believe there must be some kind of stretching that I can do that is spiritually safe for Catholics. Could you please let me know what and where I can find something physical like this? I am sure you get that question a lot, and I’m really hoping there is something I can do.”
First of all, poses that might end up “being like” yoga cannot be considered yoga unless they are bona fide yoga postures. Yoga postures were specifically designed to worship Hindu deities. In fact, if you travel to India, you will see people standing in these various postures while praying before statues of their gods.
The best yoga alternative I can recommend is called PraiseMoves. It was developed by Laurette Willis, a Protestant and former Hatha yoga instructor who returned to the Lord after being convicted of her involvement in yoga.
Here’s a link: http://praisemoves.com/christianalternative.htm
Laurette is a fitness expert who created stretching and strength moves to accompany scripture so this is a very relaxing and prayerful routine. Although some of the poses may look like yoga, as Laurette explains, “there are only so many ways a body can move” so any similarities are inadvertent.
Being a former certified fitness instructor myself, I know that a person doesn’t need yoga in order to stretch and relax. Fifteen years ago when I was still instructing, yoga was barely on our radar screens and yet we all managed to stretch and relax just fine. And yes, doctors were recommending our classes to clients just as much as they’re recommending yoga now.
The bottom line is this yoga is not some new miracle cure. It’s a fad, complete with a clothing line, floor mats, DVDs, books, jewelry and all kinds of other paraphernalia that will one day be balled up in the back of a drawer somewhere.
The best evidence I could give you to support the fact that there is a world without yoga is to invite you to google “stretching exercises” and see how many hits you get. I got more than a quarter million – 298,000!
These are my favorites:
The Mayo Clinic (includes a slide show of stretching exercises) http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/stretching/HQ01447
Sports Injury Clinic website has a large collection of (illustrated) stretching exercises for all muscle groups. (Note: This site also instructs on proper sports massage and does NOT include Reiki, Therapeutic Touch, Reflexology or any of the many forms of “energy work” that are being passed off as sports massage these days.) http://www.sportsinjuryclinic.net/cybertherapist/stretching/allstretches.php
I’m sure you can find something else that works just as good, if not better because it comes without all the offensive spiritual baggage of yoga.
Our Learn to Discern: Is it Christian or New Age series includes a booklet on yoga that was designed for evangelization. For more information, click on the “New Age Resources” link on the navigation bar above.
Send your New Age question to firstname.lastname@example.org