Christian yoga – tensions over spirituality?

Reading time: 3 minutes

Christian yoga – tensions over spirituality?

Christian yoga has grown in popularity during the last decades. But what kind of tensions does it cause, to whom, and why?

Yoga: from India to the Western world

Yoga is a physical, mental, and spiritual practice that originates in India and Oriental religions in particular.[1] During the last decades or so, however, yoga has grown in popularity in the Western world. These days, so-called ’modern yoga’ is practised worldwide.[2] [3] [4] Some Western yoga practitioners view yoga as a primarily physical exercise that nurtures the body and mind.[5] Indeed, yoga classes are offered at many gyms among other group exercise classes.[6] However, some Western yoga practitioners have also discovered the spirituality of yoga; they lean on either the original forms of yoga spirituality, ranging from the Eastern religious-philosophical teachings, or develop new ones.[7] [8] Next, we turn to one of the new applications of yoga spirituality: Christian yoga.[9]

Christianising yoga

Among other forms of yoga in the West, Christian yoga has also gained popularity during the last few years.[10] Christian yoga is an application of yoga exercises that “combines aspects of the ancient practice of yoga – particularly the poses, meditation and breathing exercises – with Christianity.”[11] This way, yoga is applied to ‘deepen one’s faith’[12] and to reach out to the ‘peace and love of the Holy Spirit’.[13] Instead of Buddha or Ganesh statues, there can be a Bible or cross on display at Christian yoga classes.[14] [15] Some teachers of Christian yoga incorporate reading the scripture, praying, or singing hymns with yoga postures and breathing techniques.[16] [17]

Christian yoga: tensions over spirituality

Teachers of Christian yoga do not see tensions in mixing yoga practices with Christian spirituality. Instead, they appeal to Christian traditions, such as meditation, mysticism, and contemplation, whereby yoga can be viewed as a natural continuum in the trajectory of Christian spirituality.[18] For example, one Christian yoga teacher, Rita Saari from Finland, argues that “yoga philosophy talks about the soul and God in different terms, but its goal is compatible with the Christian spiritual search.”[19] Another yoga teacher, Caroline Williams from the US, notes that “child’s pose is a good time to reflect with a scripture.”[20]

Despite the growing popularity of Christian yoga classes, yoga has not been incorporated into Christianity without discrepancies. Some Christians oppose yoga because they see its roots in Eastern religions as too controversial.[21] Some Christians have even called yoga ”demonic,”[22] [23] and others, if not that critical, are yet sceptical of the spiritual aspect of traditional yoga practices. Yoga postures are seen as “dedicated to deities other than Jesus.”[24]

From the Eastern world to the West and back again

Christian yoga has not raised tensions only in Christian circles, but in other communities too. For instance, some Hindus have criticised the Christianisation of yoga as they see mixing teachings of Christianity with Hinduism as inherently controversial.[25] The battle over Christian yoga shall thus continue. What will remain, is the ultimate question of the nature of yoga.[26] Is it something that can be incorporated into other religions or even secularised at all, or is there something inalienable in the spirituality of yoga?

Rosa Huotari

To all news items ->

Our team of analysts conducts research on topics relating to religion and society. Find out their relationships on the EARS Dashboard.


[1] Yogapedia: Yoga

[2] Brown, C. G. (2018). Christian Yoga: Something New Under the Sun/Son? Church History (87):3. 659–683.

[3] De Michelis, E. (2007). A Preliminary Survey of Modern Yoga Studies. Asian Medicine (3). 1–19.

[4] Mitä on hiljaisuuden jooga?

[5] Inside the Growing World of Christian Yoga

[6] De Michelis, E. (2007). A Preliminary Survey of Modern Yoga Studies. Asian Medicine (3). 1–19.

[7] Modern yoga

[8] Yoga: How did it conquer the world and what’s changed?

[9] See also Can Christians practice yoga?

[10] Why Christian yoga?

[11] Yogapedia: Christian yoga

[12] Ibid.

[13] Mitä on hiljaisuuden jooga?

[14] Yogapedia: Christian yoga

[15] Inside the Growing World of Christian Yoga

[16] Ibid.

[17] Mitä on hiljaisuuden jooga?

[18] See e.g. Mitä on hiljaisuuden jooga?

[19] Kristittykin kaipaa liikettä – Töölön seurakunnassa joogataan tänä syksynä

[20] Inside the Growing World of Christian Yoga

[21] Inside the Growing World of Christian Yoga

[22] Ibid.

[23] Why Christian yoga?

[24] Ibid.

[25] Inside the Growing World of Christian Yoga

[26] Cf. Can Christians practice yoga?