ask-yogi-rooftop2Earlier this month, I read an article in the Associated Press about Southern Baptist Seminary President Albert Mohler,who is calling for Christians to abandon the practice of yoga.  Mohler poses (no pun intended) that yoga is incompatible with the teachings of Jesus, and that those who practice yoga are either denying what yoga is about, or they are ignoring the tenants of Christianity itself.

I was shocked.  I suppose that intolerance, hatred and outright ignorance shouldn’t shock me, but the source of it threw me for the proverbial loop.  In speaking out against yoga, Mohler joins another bastion of tolerance, Pat Robertson, who referred to the practice of yoga, particularly chanting, as “spooky.”   It is clear that Mohler, Robertson, and people like them, do not understand what yoga is.

Yoga is not a religion in itself.  It is not exclusive of any religion, rather, it is inclusive of all religions. Yoga is for everyone – young and old, black and white, Christian or Jew, Hindu or Arab.  Yoga is, indeed, a spiritual practice, but I am still lost as to where spirituality is incompatible with the teachings of Jesus. I am also fairly certain that Jesus would welcome a practice that works to create overall wellness among its practitioners.  A strong mind and body are not anti-Christian themes.  If our body is our temple, taking care of that vessel and keeping it strong and healthy is a testament to God. Perhaps Mohler is more against the idea of healing and calming the mind through meditation for fear that a healthy mind would shun his very own intolerance and ignorance.

Meditation is, itself, a kind of prayer.  By quieting the mind, we can often bring ourselves closer to God – be that Yahweh, Jesus, Allah, or Buddha.  This is not, to this writer, in conflict with Christianity or any other religion.  I often tell my students that when we come to the mat, we bring our hearts to the practice.  We put forth our best efforts, and the yoga mat becomes a metaphor for the goals that we set for ourselves.  It becomes our vehicle to our higher selves, and as we become stronger in mind and body, we become better people.  Striving to become a better person, to do unto others, is the very basis of the human condition.  It is not in conflict with Christianity, or any religion, but rather the very heart of it.

There are many paths of yoga.  We each walk on our own yogic path just as we each walk on our own path to God.  A born-and-raised Catholic, I was always taught that the path to God is through the heart.  If the practice of yoga opens your heart, and helps you find inner peace, why would God not want that for you?  Why should taking care of yourself, relieving stress, and finding some calm in this hectic world be labeled by an ignorant and intolerant man as “anti-Christian?” Should we abandon yoga for Prozac??  Maybe Mohler’s sermons can melt all of our stress away?

The irony, of course, is that while Mohler denounces yoga as being “of the devil,” he himself sits in judgment of people and a practice that he does not understand.   Ignorance may be bliss, but this is most certainly a case of the blind leading the blind.  Albert Mohler should be ashamed of himself.

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