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Saturday, November 20, 2010

TEXAS FAITH: Should Christians (and other non-Hindus) beware of yoga?

TEXAS FAITH: Should Christians (and other non-Hindus) beware of yoga? 
Oct 19, 2010 - Dallas Morning News 
Sam Hodges/Reporter   

Here's what we posed this week to the Texas Faith panel:

The president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Albert Mohler, caused a stir with a recent column decrying the practice of yoga by Christians. He did a follow-up, not backing down, but noting the fierce reaction to his original piece.

Mohler wrote the column after reading Stefanie Syman's book The Subtle Body: The Story of Yoga in America, which describes how yoga has been adapted and secularized here.

Mohler concluded the column this way: "Christians who practice yoga are embracing, or at minimum flirting with, a spiritual practice that threatens to transform their own spiritual lives into a `post-Christian, spiritually polyglot' reality. Should any Christian willingly risk that?"

If you agree with Mohler, why? If you don't, do you see anything objectionable about how a Hindu spiritual practice has morphed into something quite commercial and secular in this country - including "power yoga" and "hot yoga"? Are there cautions you would give to Westerners who want to borrow from non-Western religious traditions?

Or should everyone, including Al Mohler, just limber up and chill out?

After the jump, you'll find the panelists' responses:

MIKE GHOUSE, President, Foundation for Pluralism, Dallas
Mohler seems to be threatened by the popularity of yoga, a beautiful practice to bring composure to oneself. He is obsessed with the idea that yoga is a bait to lure his congregation away into "a spiritual practice that threatens to transform their own spiritual lives into a `post-Christian, spiritually polyglot' reality", and then he asks, "Should any Christian willingly risk that?" How mistaken can one be? Yoga is not a mutually exclusive practice, nor is it a religion; it is indeed a catalyst in achieving the union of mind and body that is central to all spirituality.
A similar call was made in Malaysia a year ago. The Muslim clerics said yoga was Hinduizing their faith and wanted to ban the practice. Likewise, the radicals among Hindus routinely vandalize stores that sell Valentine cards, claiming that is an invasion of their culture.
The insecurity of self-proclaimed guardians of faith is exhibited by their desire to keep a tighter leash on their followers without realizing that humans are born to be free.
When you are scattered with too many things in a given moment, you take a break, have a cup of coffee, go for a walk, meditate or make a list. This act of refreshing oneself is called yoga, getting your act together, bringing your body and mind together to function well.
Yoga is neither Christian nor Hindu; it is a beautiful gift that originated in India for the benefit of mankind.


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