Should Christians or Muslims do Yoga?

I have friends who are devout Christians or Muslims, and they ask me if they should be doing yoga. “Is yoga religious?” they ask.

My first reaction to that question is: “Of course not!” But when I had the time to think seriously about this topic, I am not that sure of the answer.

Yoga is a unique form of exercise. It does not focus purely on the physical aspects, but also on the spiritual aspect of the mind. In fact, the term “yoga” is derived from the Sanskrit root “yuj”, which means “to join” or “to unite”. This is taken to mean the union of the self with the mind, which makes yoga sound like a spiritual practice.

That said, yoga does not seek to explicitly promote itself as a spiritual practice. The yoga that is being taught in studios nowadays is usually harmless forms of stretching and breathing. There is no ulterior motive behind teaching these postures.

This, to me, is a very crucial point. To use an analogy, if a Buddhist friend invites a Christian or Muslim to share a vegetarian meal with him, he or she is not using the opportunity to convert the Christian / Muslim to a different religion. The Christian or Muslim can safely partake in the meal, even on a regular basis, without any danger of being converted, if he or she is strong in his faith.

Personally, I think it would be good for devout Christians or Muslims to practice yoga, if only to promote an understanding of others’ beliefs. There can be many other external influences, such as movies or songs, that can affect a person’s core beliefs. There is no way a person can be protected from all these influences. On the other hand, we should promote tolerance, understanding and diversity in thinking. Being exposed to a practice that has some roots in Hinduism, albeit 4000 years ago, would help a little towards that goal.


  1. Hiya,
    thanks for the comment on my blog! It's funny since I was thinking about some of these 'religious or not?' yoga stuff recently as well. I know there is a certain branch of yoga that has been 'converted' by Christians, with christian names for poses and everything.
    I have found that many studios in Halifax are much more spiritual (with the bhagavad gita being a huge part of yoga), and although I like the spiritual goal of yoga, I find it weird at times as I'm not monotheistic, Buddhist or Hindu.
    Love your blog! :)


  2. Hi there,

    Thanks for the compliment on my blog!

    Yes, you’re right. While researching this blog entry, I was also curious to learn that there is a type of yoga called “Christian Yoga” which allows Christians to practice yoga in a Christian environment. Sometimes, Biblical scripture verses are recited during the stretches and poses.

    I suppose this form of practice will attract the firm believers and soothe their uneasiness with practicing yoga. In fact, I thought it was quite innovative of them to kill two birds with one stone by combining both their religious practice with exercise!