Christian Yoga is a branch of yoga that seeks to unify the mind, body and spirit by overcoming psychological and physical barriers that hinder one’s relationship with God. Instructors teach yoga as a religious discipline, as opposed to a religion.
Susan Bordenkircher describes the value of Christian Yoga in her book, Yoga for Christians, grounding her rationale in biblical scripture. In the first chapter, she references I Corinthians 6:19, “Don’t you know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit?” She also examines the effects of this physical exercise on the mind, defining yoga as “meditation in motion” (p.4). Her book, thus, introduces the two major aims of Christian Yoga: physical health and spiritual health.
Historically, yoga is an ancient mind-body practice rooted in the Hindu religion. In the West, however, it has evolved into a mere method of physical exercise. Christian Yoga is perhaps the best example of this evolutionary expansion. The Christian approach to yoga utilizes many of the same postures and breathing techniques as its predecessors, but substitutes the ultimate pursuit of union with the Brahman with the pursuit of a relationship with Jesus Christ.
Since the fundamental tenets of yoga appear to be incompatible with Christianity, the conception of Christian Yoga is rather controversial. The argument is essentially whether or not theory may be distinguished from practice. Some instructors combat this incongruence by warning their students that yoga is not the path to self-realization, as taught in the Hindu faith, but rather a supplement to their continuous relationship with God. Others explain that their goal is not to alter the traditional tenets of yoga but to seek other benefits from the practice.
Christian Yoga presents many of the same physical benefits as other yoga disciplines, e.g., improved flexibility, increased strength, reduced blood pressure, improved circulation and more. Mental health benefits include improved concentration and reduced stress.