Uh oh. Is yoga threatening Christian faith? And the debate marches on! This time Dr. Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, faces off with Stefanie Syman, author of The Subtle Body: The Story of Yoga in America, on his online talk show. The interview (listen here) is actually a very civil and engaging discourse on the fascinating history of yoga in America, and it’s rise to super industry status, though we can’t help feeling like we’re witnessing a turkey shoot when the conversation turns to yoga and sexuality, spiritual realization and whether or not yoga can be detached from its Hindu roots.
Interestingly, Mohler loves the book! But he is not a fan of Christian Yoga. And he’s sure to remind us that this once “bizarre” practice is now “probably right down in your neighborhood, right down on your STREET. ” (emphasis ours)
Mohler continues his own post-interview commentary on his website, citing Ms. Syman’s words to elaborate on why he’s not hip to the mainstream yog-enlightenment, and why believers should keep their holy toes off the mat:
Syman describes yoga as a varied practice, but she makes clear that yoga cannot be fully extricated from its spiritual roots in Hinduism and Buddhism. She is also straightforward in explaining the role of sexual energy in virtually all forms of yoga and of ritualized sex in some yoga traditions. She also explains that yoga “is one of the first and most successful products of globalization, and it has augured a truly post-Christian, spiritually polyglot country.”
To which he responds:
Christians are not called to empty the mind or to see the human body as a means of connecting to and coming to know the divine. Believers are called to meditate upon the Word of God — an external Word that comes to us by divine revelation — not to meditate by means of incomprehensible syllables.
So can yoga be just physical? Er, no. Dr. Mohler continues:
There is nothing wrong with physical exercise, and yoga positions in themselves are not the main issue. But these positions are teaching postures with a spiritual purpose. Consider this — if you have to meditate intensely in order to achieve or to maintain a physical posture, it is no longer merely a physical posture.
When does yoga move from physical to spiritual? And when does spirituality cross the line to conflict with religion? Sounds dangerous. And it lives among us RIGHT NOW. Hide your children! Hide your wives!
Sidenote: USA Today reported on the story (check it out for a variety of pro-yoga opinions from other Christian groups). Guess whose photo they used? You betcha, it’s everybody’s favorite Sarah Palin in tree pose! So will politicians who want to appeal to the religious right have to quit the yog?
ps. we made that church sign.
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