Thursday, September 23, 2010

Should Christians practice Yoga? (cartoon)

No, Christians should not practice yoga. Let them be fat and inflexible. What does it matter? Jesus may have been a yogi, a wandering ascetic meditator -- but why should his followers be?

Let them wear stiff gray suits and throat-chakra choking ties; that's what the Church wants. And who are Christians to question Church officials?

If someone is sincerely torn between religion and health, there are now many "Christian Yoga" resources (just like Christian karate classes).

Having done yoga for years, there has rarely been a Hindu anywhere near a mat, even in India. But yoga is for every body, especially any temple calling itself "Flabby-for-the-Lord."

All this is needless controversy and ironically reveals the fact that most American yogis have never done "yoga" -- an eight limbed integral science of health and spirituality. Instead, most of us have had to subsist on a watered down diet of one limb (asanas).

Call it "stretching" or "calesthenics," and don't tell anyone at Bible study. Or just take Pilates. Better yet, pray on it. That's the fundamentalist answer to everything.

The Subtle Body — Should Christians Practice Yoga?
...Yoga seems almost mainstream in America. It was not always so. No one tells the story of yoga in America better than Stefanie Syman, whose recent book, The Subtle Body: The Story of Yoga in America, is a masterpiece of cultural history.

Syman, an engaging author who is also a fifteen-year devotee of yoga, tells this story well.

Her book actually opens with a scene from this year’s annual White House Easter Egg Roll. President Barack Obama made a few comments and then introduced First Lady Michelle Obama, who said:

“Our goal today is just to have fun. We want to focus on activity, healthy eating. We’ve got yoga, we’ve got dancing, we’ve got storytelling, we’ve got Easter-egg decorating.”

Syman describes the yoga on the White House lawn as “sanitized, sanctioned, and family-friendly,” and she noted the rather amazing fact that a practice once seen as so exotic and even dangerous was now included as an activity sufficiently safe and mainstream for children.

In her words:

"There certainly was no better proof that Americans had assimilated this spiritual discipline. We had turned a technique for God realization that had, at various points in time, enjoined its adherents to reduce their diet to rice, milk, and a few vegetables, fix their minds on a set of, to us, incomprehensible syllables, and self-administer daily enemas (without the benefit of equipment), to name just a few of its prerequisites, into an activity suitable for children.

"Though yoga has no coherent tradition in India, being preserved instead by thousands of gurus and hundreds of lineages, each of which makes a unique claim to authenticity, we had managed to turn it into a singular thing: a way to stay healthy and relaxed."

In her book, Syman tells the fascinating story of how yoga was transformed in the American mind from a foreign and “even heathen” practice into a cultural reality that is widely admired and practiced. More>>

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