Seeking a ‘Christian alternative’ to yoga

A former American practitioner of yoga has perhaps for the first time cast the fitness regime in a narrow Hindu religious context and offered a “Christian alternative”.

“From experience I can say that yoga is a dangerous practice for the Christian and leads seekers away from god rather than to him. You may say, ‘Well, I’m not doing any of the meditation stuff. I’m just following the exercises.’ It is impossible, however, to separate the subtleties of yoga, the technique from yoga the religion. I know because I taught and practised hatha yoga for years,” Laurette Willis.

Yoga

Most westerners are naive to the religious origin and nature of yoga. Many practitioners who do, merely presume that the exercises are harmless if they are not practiced with a spiritual intent.

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Yoga is a series of exercises and postures (asanas) which are advertised as a way to tone up, reduce stress and experience tranquility.

Yoga though is an intrinsic part of Hinduism. Swami Vishnudevananda, well known authority of Yoga, in his book The Complete Illustrated Book of Yoga explains the purpose of Yoga, “It is the duty of each developed man to train his body to the highest degree of perfection so that it may be used to pursue spiritual purposes… the aim of all yoga practice is to achieve truth wherein the individual soul identifies itself with the supreme soul of God.”
– Source: Yoga, a Profile by Watchman Fellowship

“Perhaps you have sensed uneasiness while doing yoga (what some call a “check in your spirit”), but you ignored that quiet nudge. I urge you to pay attention to it,” Willis says on her website praisemoves.com.

“Those who think yoga is little more than a series of stress-relieving stretching exercises may be surprised to learn about the true foundation of the multibillion-dollar yoga craze in North America.

“There are an estimated 15-20 million people practising yoga in the US and over 50,000 yoga instructors offering classes at approximately 20,000 locations,” she says.

Over the last several decades, she says, yoga has been embraced by the mainstream of society — and even the church.

“We don’t often think of other religions having missionaries, but the philosophy and practice of yoga have been primary tools of Hindu ‘missionaries’ to America since ‘Indian priest and mystic’ Swami Vivekananda introduced yoga to the West at the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago,” Willis writes.

“Another Hindu missionary welcomed into elite circles was Paramahansa Yogananda who started the Self-Realisation Fellowship in Los Angeles. He cleverly chose to demonstrate that yoga was completely compatible with Christianity.

“Wearing a cross, he came to America in the 1920s with the Hindu Bhagvad Gita in one hand and the Bible in the other. He reasoned that yoga was the binding force that could connect all religions,” she says.

Willis offers an intriguing perspective on pranayama, one of the fundamental techniques of yoga that teaches breathing well.

“Yoga’s breathing techniques (pranayama) may seem stress-relieving, yet they can be an open door to psychic influences, as is the customary relaxation period at the end of a yoga session. Before becoming a Christian, I remember numerous instances of ‘travelling outside my body’ during yoga relaxation periods. I wonder who – or what – checked in when I checked out?” she says.

In support of her analysis of yoga as a sort of subtly couched Hindu agenda, she cites an unnamed staff member of a yoga academy.

“I’ve received some stunning confirmation from an unlikely source. A staff member of an east coast Classical Yoga Academy wrote to me, ‘Yes, all of yoga is Hinduism. Everyone should be aware of this fact.’ This staff member went on to say she didn’t appreciate my “running down of the great Hindu/Yogic religion,'” she says.

It was in February 2001 she said the idea for a Christian alternative to yoga came “from the Lord.”

“I’m careful to tell people it’s not ‘Christian yoga’, which I believe is an oxymoron. What would you say about the woman who says she’s a “Christian Buddhist?” Wouldn’t you think she’s bit confused? Actually, PraiseMoves is a Christ-centred alternative to the practice of yoga,” she says.

Source

(Listed if other than Religion News Blog, or if not shown above)
IANS, via the HindustanTimes.com, India
May 18, 2005
Mayank Chhaya
www.hindustantimes.com
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Religion News Blog posted this on Wednesday May 18, 2005.
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