This weekend, Washington Cathedral in Washington state will feature a yoga class infused with Scripture.
The two-day Holy Yoga & Revelation Wellness workshops are described as being "all about Christ," "all about Freedom," and "all about connection at the Core." They are "designed to encourage victorious living in Christ.”
Holy Yoga, which quotes Acts 17:28 (for in him we live and move and have our being), says its purpose is to honor God through movement and exercise.
One of the instructors, Brooke Maline, told Vail Mail, “Holy yoga is the practice of connecting our entire body – body, mind and spirit – with God; the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
“There is often a misunderstanding that yoga is a religion, it is not. Yoga is a spiritual discipline, much like prayer, fasting and meditation. Yoga has the capacity to enhance our faith. Holy Yoga is truly a unique form of worship.”
Evangelicals have a different take.
Yoga, according to Pastor Mark Driscoll from Mars Hill Church in Seattle, is a form of demonism. He said in a sermon last year, “It’s absolute paganism. Yoga and meditation and easternism is all opening to demonism.”
He clarified that while stretching and exercising is not demonic, yoga is Hinduism.
What yoga espouses is “[that] there’s a spark of divinity within you, it’s pantheism or panantheism, depending upon the version, that there’s not a creator and creation, that all has collapsed into what we call oneism. And the result is you don’t go out to God, you go into self and it’s not about connecting to God through the mediatorship of Jesus, it’s about connecting to the universe through meditation.”
“If you just sign up for a little yoga class, you’re signing up for a little demon class,” Driscoll asserted. “That’s what you are doing. And Satan doesn’t care if you stretch as long as you go to hell.”
Holy Yoga’s website states that yoga predates Hinduism, but that Hindus were the first to popularize the discipline of yoga by giving it written structure. It insists, nevertheless, that yoga is not owned by one specific religion and that it has “the capacity to enhance personal beliefs and faith.”
Brooke Boon, founder of Holy Yoga, told Seattle Pi, “Holy Yoga is a holistic worship experience. We use our minds to study and meditate on the word of God, our hearts to listen, our bodies to glorify and our souls to respond to the promptings of His Holy Spirit.”
Each class beings with a Scripture reading followed by Christian music played during the session. Music often emphasizes messages on grace and forgiveness as well as encourages spirituality.
Pastor Linda Skinner of Washington Cathedral emphasized that yoga is about following what God said in the scriptures about taking care of our bodies – the temple of the Holy Spirit.
Pastor Chris Enstad at Elim Lutheran Church in New York told a local newspaper in Brooklyn when Holy Yoga visited their church, "We're not doing this to worship ourselves and we're not going to lead anybody off the path. For me, I feel it's like the one time someone preaches to me. It really fills my cup back up again."
"There's so many other ways to experience God, think about God and deepen our relationship with Him. Our bodies have been the most neglected part of that equation throughout history," he said.
But not matter how much Scripture or Jesus you try to infuse, Driscoll is convinced that Christians should not engage in yoga.
Even if you “chant Jesus” in yoga class, that’s like “trying to treat the name of Jesus like a little magic formula that you sprinkle over the demonic,” Driscoll said bluntly.
“What fellowship has light with darkness? Answer: It doesn’t.”