Note from Hannah: This is my friend's testimony of how the Lord brought her out of yoga. It is written with the Christ following woman in mind. If you are not a follower of Christ, I still welcome you to read this story. If you are a woman who is a Christ follower, I invite you to ask the Holy Spirit to guide you as you read this article.
Christian Yoga to Christ Alone
I was often anxious.
Searching for ways to hide.
Looking for ways to numb out.
I considered myself a grey-area drinker. For me, this is the space where:
I never got a DUI. No one ever got hurt. You would never look at me and say, "Saralyn, I think you have a problem..."
I just didn't understand people who could be satisfied with just one glass of wine. That was never me.
I drank when I was anxious, not always, but most days. I liked white wine and it often took up a ton of head space.
Was it in the house?
Was it cold?
Did I have enough to get me through the week?
On February 12, 2018, the Lord called me to fast from wine and, by the grace of God, I have been alcohol-free ever since. To read more about my testimony, please click here: Saralyn's Testimony
After the 40-day fast, I continued to see changes in my body, spirit and mind. I was really in this place of wanting to feel my feelings, my body and to get to the root of why I needed to drink. During this exploration, I discovered a "Christ-centered" yoga practice.
I still remember the first time that I did Christian yoga. I could not believe how connected I felt to Christ, my prayer life catapulted and I felt like it was something I was called to share with others.
I was determined to get certified and to help others experience Christ like I had. My husband was incredibly reluctant, but over time, his heart was softened.
I enrolled in an online training program in the spring of 2019. I was in love and I had so much support from my family, friends, and community.
That summer I was teaching as much as I could. In different churches, people's homes and other secular spaces. At one time, I was teaching at 5 different churches in one week. It was so much fun, and tiring at the same time. I felt like this was where I was supposed to be. I was passionate about Christian Yoga and I felt like this was how the Lord wanted me to share the Gospel.
By the end of the summer, I joined the marketing team for the organization, and I considered it an honor to be able to share my gifts in this way.
On October 6, 2019, I was baptized as an adult in the Roanoke River.
I was now a new creation in Christ and things started to shift in my life. This baptism was about going ALL IN with Jesus. I felt like the Lord was calling me to be more focused on being home and making our family the priority. I took a step back and then fully left the organization at the beginning of the pandemic.
Since I had taken the marketing position, I no longer had time to teach or to have much of a home practice. I felt like the Lord discreetly took the desire out of my heart... almost without me noticing.
Once the pandemic hit, I was homeschooling and quarantining. So if I only had 30 minutes to workout, I found myself choosing other forms of exercise over Christian Yoga. And of course, due to the pandemic, I could not teach even if I had wanted to.
During my quarantine, I was leading a Bible study about the Armor of God. This study was all about Spiritual Warfare, and it was a biblical topic that I had not previously studied. Over time, one of my mentors, who was in the study, asked if I would like to learn more. Spiritual Warfare was becoming a passion of mine, and I agreed to join her in learning more.
Together, we met with a deacon from church for 4 weeks to learn about the topic of Kingdom Authority; how to live in the abundance of what Jesus did for us on the cross. It was very powerful, and led to some much-needed spiritual healing in my life.
After leading the Bible study on the Armor of God, I stepped into leading another study about Discerning the Voice of God. Both have been crucial in my walk with the Lord. Specifically, I feel better equipped when it comes to the deception of the enemy; how the enemy twists the truth just a little. The most important way to enter into spiritual battle is on our knees.
I had scales on my eyes from things that were passed down.
I was still kept warm with the wool from my old life.
My own willful ignorance covered up truth and righteousness.
School was getting ready to start back, in-person, for my children. A mom asked if I would be interested in leading a bi-weekly Christian yoga class. I felt like this might be the Lord's way of inviting me back into this space. So why not?! I agreed.
The Lord placed a very special friend into my life for a specific reason. This is the kind of friend that will pray with you when she feels like you need it. The kind of friend that meets you with Love and Truth.
I was sharing with my friend about my opportunity to get back into teaching Christian Yoga. I could tell there was a pause on the other end of the phone. She asked me, "Do you ever feel convicted about yoga?" I don't even recall my reply. I was stunned! She continued to tell me that she felt prompted to pray about me teaching yoga. I was taken back, but still very much open to praying about this.
So, we prayed.
The next morning was my scheduled private group class. It was strange because I had this lingering feeling of the prayer that I had experienced the day before. This is when the Lord started to reveal things to me.
I opened up the back of my car to collect the extra yoga mats to take up to the house like I always had. Except this time, I didn't even want to get the mats out of my car.
I just didn't understand why.
Once at the house, I learned that one of my students had a neck injury. I was so relieved to guide the class through restorative stretching, while reading scripture over these women. That felt safe.
I felt dirty taking their money, and I left as fast as I could.
As soon as I came home, I found myself on YouTube and a video popped up about Why I Left Christian Yoga. I could not believe I was pressing play for this video.
The woman who was in this interview went through the same training as me. I was blown away by what I was listening to! I was a wreck to say the least, and I was crushed all the same. But it was in the strangest way; like I was being held safely in it too.
I took a deep dive into researching yoga. It was like I was seeing this for the first time. I was shown so much about yoga and its Hindu roots.
According to Yogapedia, The word "yoga" means "to yoke" in Sanskrit.
Yoga is a physical, mental and spiritual practice that originated in ancient India. First codified by the sage Patanjali in his Yoga Sutras around 400 C.E, the practice was in fact handed down from teacher to student long before this text arose. Traditionally, this was a one-to-one transmission, but since yoga became popular in the West in the 20th century, group classes have become the norm.
The word yoga is derived from the Sanskrit root yuj, meaning "to yoke," or "to unite". The practice aims to create union between body, mind and spirit, as well as between the individual self and universal consciousness. Such a union tends to neutralize ego-driven thoughts and behaviors, creating a sense of spiritual awakening.
Yoga has been practiced for thousands of years, and whilst many different interpretations and styles have been developed, most tend to agree that the ultimate goal of yoga is to achieve liberation from suffering. Although each school or tradition of yoga has its own emphasis and practices, most focus on bringing together body, mind and breath as a means of altering energy or shifting consciousness.
Yoga is a collection for meditative disciplines for withdrawing one's senses from the world, to yoke with Brahman/Universal Spirit the all-pervading, divine reality behind everything in the universe.
In yoga, we usually start off with certain postures like Sun Salutations to get the body warm and to produce heat. In Sanskrit, a sun salutation is called "surya namaskara" this is a prayer or honoring the god of the sun, Surya.
According to the Bible and the 10 Commandments, this is a clear violation of the First Commandment: You should not have any other "gods" before me.
I was in complete agreement with this in my mind and in my heart. Why would I want to disappoint my good God by paying homage to other gods in these poses? That no longer made sense or was worth it to me.
I was done.
In the classes I taught, we went through many different poses, or asanas, that represented various deities in the Hindu faith.
Going back to what I mentioned earlier about my new knowledge of spiritual warfare and the battle we are constantly fighting, Scripture is clear that our battle as believers is not of the physical but of the spiritual.
According to apostle Paul, Ephesians 6:12 tells us this: "For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places."
I really appreciated the insight from Corinna Craft on the topic of Christian Yoga:
Christian yoga is an oxymoron. Authorship implies ownership. Ownership implies right of possession and control. Yoga is "not just a human invention" but co-authored with the "Spirit realm."
Whatever Christians call yoga postures, they are a "moving liturgy, an embodied form of worship, a physical offering to Hindu gods" who are "attracted to the offering."
1 Corinthians 10:20-21 - No, but the sacrifices of pagans are offered to demons, not to God, and I do not want you to be participants with demons. 21 You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons too; you cannot have a part in both the Lord's table and the table of demons.
While I believe that my intentions were always pure, to point people to Christ, I also realize that it was an idol for me. Being linked to Christian yoga made me feel special. I felt like this was the primary way that the Lord wanted me to share the gospel.
There were many tears over this particular weekend and a painful yet beautiful experience of repentance.
In my awakening, I realized that I didn't need any kind of prop or crutch to share the gospel.
His word is all we need and it stands alone....on its own!
Hebrews 4:12 - For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.
Christianity is full of mystery. For some reason, the Lord had me walk through Christian yoga, walk out and walk back in it again.
While the Lord opened my eyes to the truth about spiritual warfare, listening to His voice, spiritual healing, and yoga, this is my conviction.
In my personal, spiritual growth, the Lord has placed me in a ministry of leading others to Christ. I never want to confuse, or lead anyone astray. He has taken the scales off my eyes and I share all of this because I want others to be aware of too.
Thank you for taking the time to read my experience with Christian yoga. If there are any questions or you would like someone to pray with, feel free to reach out to me at Saralyn.firstname.lastname@example.org!