By the Rev. Dr. Ed Hird
You may find this a stretching article in body, mind and spirit. I have intentionally avoided writing this article for years, because I knew that it might be unavoidably controversial. To be honest, I have been waiting for someone else to write this article instead of me. Like most pastors, I want people to like me. With genuine reluctance, I eventually faced my conflict avoidance, obeyed the Lord and read hundreds of yoga books in our local public libraries. In preparing this article, I have not read one book which warns against yoga. All book citations in this article are from yoga advocates and practitioners.
To many people, yoga is just the hottest new exercise fad for younger women. Twenty million North Americans are now doing yoga, including around four million men. These twenty million people are currently being trained by over 70,000 yoga practitioners in at least 20,000 North American locations. Many people equate yoga with simple stretching. Stretching and calisthenics are good things which I participate in weekly at the local gym. The term ‘calisthenics’ comes from the combination of two Greek words ‘kallos’: beauty and ‘sthenos’: strength. Calisthenic exercises are designed to bring bodily fitness and flexibility of movement. Yoga has not cornered the market on healthy stretching and calisthenics. Is it possible that physical fitness does not begin and end on a yoga mat? I am convinced that we do well when we take care of our bodies as part of our Christian stewardship. God wants us to be healthier in body, mind, and spirit. We all need to get back to the gym on a regular basis, whatever our views of yoga. Your body will thank you.