As an occupational therapist trained in therapeutic exercise and as someone who taught aerobic exercise in clinical settings years ago, I have always watched the trending in the health and fitness industry. I recently explored various fitness certification opportunities as part of my continuing education requirements as an OT, including those oriented toward low impact dance and yoga. ROM Dance was part of my repertoire years ago when working in mental health settings. Match these interests with keeping a close eye on the alternative health industry that came on the heels of the New Age movement of the 1990s. Early on I decided to match all of these observations against the available clinical research and especially the truth of Biblical scripture as guiding lights.
So is there a back-story? Yes, there’s more! I am seeking a gentle, supportive movement practice, ideally consistent with my Christian faith, to aid in my recovery from serious illness. The trauma of this serious illness has left me with several medical complications, deconditioning, weakness, physical limitations, and an altered body awareness that I believe can get better. I had been exploring and pursuing some possibilities in the world of dance, exercise, massage, and traditional occupational and physical therapies when along came Holy Yoga: a “community of believers on mission to bring the Gospel to the ends of the earth through the modality of yoga.”
In a few blog posts, I will explore Holy Yoga and come to a personal decision about whether or not I will pursue it at this time. I started my research at the Holy Yoga website then jumped right into some challenging viewpoints but not from the Christian or even medical communities. Instead I listened to a lengthy YouTube video of Hindu philosopher, Rajiv Malhotra’s, interview of Holy Yoga Founder Brook Boon. Talk about what the political world calls “opposition research!” Below is the feedback I posted after viewing the interview. My next steps will be to research the response of the Christian community and probably attend a class locally.
Here’s Part 1. Stay tuned for Part 2!
Nice job Brooke Boon! I might clarify to Mr. Malhotra that Jesus is God, the Holy Spirit is God, the Father is God: the God of the Bible and NOT a manifestation of God. Each person of the Trinity is one God, 3 persons. Liken this to the fact that I am one human being but a wife, sister, and daughter or 3 person-alities. Not an exact analogy but it can help understand that the one true God is a clear, Biblical distinction from the plethora of Hindu gods that are dead, powerless manifestations of their “god.” But more on that theology is a discussion for another time.
Further, I really wish Mr. Malhotra would have had the decency to give Ms. Boon his interview questions beforehand, especially if he intended to debate the nuances of Hinduism and Islam in contrast to Christianity. He said the interview was to be a “dialogue” however his theological questioning and word choices indicated otherwise. His agenda to discredit Holy Yoga was polite yet clear. For example, he said at the end of the video that Hindus must “be aware” and essentially wake up to what Christians were doing with Holy Yoga; he also claimed that Holy Yoga’s purpose was to evangelize. Seems like evangelism may come with the Foundation’s outreach to victims of sex trafficking but wasn’t this an interview about the story, benefits and beliefs of Holy Yoga classes not the Foundation? Might want to differentiate the two sir.
It was important for me as a born-again believer in Jesus Christ who is exploring Holy Yoga, to view this interview. I saw clearly how someone who is not a Christian cannot fully understand the tenants of the Christian faith from, for example, literal translations of scripture. These literal interpretations weaken Mr. Malhotra’s subtle challenges, arguments, and warnings about Holy Yoga. Specifically, his references to “the law” were not about Roman law as he claimed but God’s law given to Moses (as documented in the God-inspired Old Testament) to help guide the nation of Israel. The Mosaic law helped define right and wrong to a lost people, lost society, and provide guidance as to how to live. It also instructed them on how to relate to God and atone for sins or wrongdoing. This law was later replaced with the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, indwelling of the Holy Spirit, and New Testament teachings from Christ and His disciples. Persons of various “religious affiliations” or “denominations” outside of Christianity seem to like to focus on “the law” concept instead of Christ’s concept of grace because they are used to the structure and constraints of rituals . . . as if it is the rituals themselves that make them somehow right or wrong: better people or worse yet, right before their definition of God. And their definition does not match that of the single God of the whole Bible. Christians who are born-again believers are free to express themselves with various traditions, cultural garb, etc. (and even try on the dressings of others) but never look to them for salvation. Cultural traditions/trappings have no inherent power. Only faith in Jesus Christ alone can save: bring us eternally into a right relationship with The One True God and eternal life. It’s simple really:
John 3:16 New International Version (NIV)
16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
Of course we want to share our faith with others as our joy and calling as believers in Jesus Christ. (Matthew 28:19-20). Looks like a lot of fun to me, to find an established method of breathing an exercise while praising God! Wish they didn’t use the Hindu words though, as it will be confusing to many who think that Holy Yoga is completely Bible-based. There are gray areas for sure. Holy Yoga borrows many traditions of Hinduism. I hope that the classes clarify this for participants. But is that enough to avoid it? Or not find a way to enjoy its benefits? Perhaps the earthly “gurus” of Hindu yoga could view the adaptation of the breathing and exercises of their yoga traditions as more of a compliment than a threat. Such is the nature of humanity to not want their invention changed. I am sure that the major drug companies don’t like competitors making generic copies of their drugs either! But hey, children often imitate the characteristics of their parents and hopefully a lot of times this is a good thingy! Imitation can be an expression of flattery, friendship, even love.
Because of the prevailing pull of the world on Jesus’ own disciples and their need to overcome it, Christ petitioned for divine intercession to keep his disciples “not of the world” by being sanctified through the word of God, which is truth (see John 17:16–17 below*). Believers must guard our hearts in all pursuits with the truth of Scripture, spiritual armor (Ephesians 6), prayer, heeding the conviction/discernment of the Holy Spirit. Mr. Malhotra quoted the apostle Paul extensively in his post-interview analysis. Perhaps the apostle Paul just wanted to be friendly as he adopted some behaviors and garb of the people groups he was trying to reach out to with the hope found in Jesus Christ? Surely we can understand this today. Don’t we bring a gift a friend would like to his or her birthday party even if it is not our own favorite hobby, taste, brand, or preference? Or let a co-worker listen to a CD of our music in hopes he or she will enjoy it and share it with others? Let’s be clear, however, that the lovely cultural trappings or activities that make life sweet are never equal to the incredible gift of salvation that comes from belief in Jesus Christ.
Please look beyond the rituals, the cultural trappings, the methods of exercise and breathing, the physical stuff of this world as you evaluate the practice of Holy Yoga. Each believer in Jesus Christ must decide for him or herself, how to apply the real substance of the Bible (and of life for the believer) is the Word and the truth it professes to our daily lives. Explore Holy Yoga with knowledgeable believers. Pray about it. Examine the world view of your particular instructor too. And if everything checks out o.k., enjoy a really cool exercise/meditation class in the meantime.
*John 17:16-17 New International Version (NIV)
16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. 17 Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.