January 26, 2002
The word, yoga, today has so many different and negative connotations and misuses associated with its usage. For North Americans the word is associated with New Age practices or possibly seen as the new trendy exercise. In the conservative Christian community, yoga is associated with paganism or evil practice. While in other Christian communities, the Universalist and Unitarian Churches, yoga is seen as a form of outreach to draw people into the Church. In India, yoga is considered a practice of the Hindu or Buddhist religions or as an exercise. In upper Asia, yoga is viewed as a practice associated with Zen Buddhists or a meditative life. In different parts of the world and to different communities the word yoga carries a different nuance, but there are a few commonalities in thoughts about yoga found among all these different groups. Yoga is universally connected to spirituality and to religious discipline or practice. By most religious communities- Christian, Buddhist, or Hindu- yoga has some relatedness, bad or good, with spirituality and communicating with God.
The Western Christian church, universal, has largely overlooked the practice of yoga. Missionaries from these churches in the past have thought of it as pagan practice and of little or no value for Christians. As a result of this type of thinking and this ignorance, yoga has only recently been thought of as a tool for use by Christians for discipling. The main point of this paper is to bring a new awareness to yoga for use by Christians as a spiritual discipline and discipling tool in many different cultural contexts. In this paper, we intend to shed light on the origins and practices of yoga in its original Hindu and Buddhist setting, to show parallels and possibilities for its use in the Christian community, to outline the hesitations in implementing yoga ideas in the Christian community, and illustrate its... [continues]
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