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Yoga: WWJD?

Christians all over the world must be asking themselves "What would Jesus do?" about taking part in the ancient tradition of yoga.

That's in light of a recent commentary on the inherent conflict between the practice of yoga and the practice of Christianity that's been making news since its publication on line last month. Southern Baptist Seminary President Albert Mohler wrote an essay in which he urged Christians to reconsider practicing yoga, a discipline he views as a spiritual endeavor -- and one that conflicts with Christian teachings.

Stephanie Dillon conducts a yoga class in Louisville, Ky. Dillon's practice of yoga puts her at odds with Southern Baptist Seminary President Albert Mohler, who feels the stretching and meditative discipline derived from Eastern religions is not a Christian pathway to God. (AP Photo/Ed Reinke)

It's an age-old debate: Must all who do yoga embrace its spiritual teachings, or can you justify taking advantage of its physical, mental and emotional benefits and pleasures while setting aside its more mystical side?

I am no theologian, nor am I a Christian, so maybe I'm not entitled to an opinion. But I have one, anyway. As a yoga devotee, I believe that any tool we have to make the world a more peaceful place, to help people learn to be kinder to themselves and to others and to help us keep our minds and bodies healthy has got to be worth taking advantage of, no matter what our personal religion may be.

But that's just me. What are your thoughts? Is the practice of yoga incompatible with the Christian faith? Or can the two co-exist in harmony, without hypocrisy?

By Jennifer LaRue Huget  | October 11, 2010; 7:00 AM ET
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I'm not a Christian in the strict sense of the word, in fact my belief system incorporates elements of many different religions. For me that blending enriches my practice and faith.

If one simply does the hatha yoga breathing and stretches, I don't see how that can impact on one's other beliefs. Even meditation is something that is practiced in many different faiths by contemplatives.

It seems to me that it takes work, study, and effort to expand one's practice to include Hinduism as a whole, or even in part, beyond the exercise.

As I understand it, the ancient Romans used medicine balls for exercise. Does that mean if one uses one for exercise one is practicing ancient Roman paganism? And yet I'm sure that staying healthy, respecting the body, was an integral part of their beliefs.

The Catholic rosary beads were even imported from other cultures, other religions, and adapted for use by Catholics.

We live in a blended culture whether we like it or not, and have done so since humanity has existed. That blending, or at least curiosity rather than fear of different cultures and religions, has for the most part enriched us all. It's when a refusal to even consider another way causes differences to be focused on, that conflicts between people arise.

Anyone who loves peace and health will surely benefit from the physical practice of yoga, no matter what their religion.

Posted by: Tara12 | October 11, 2010 1:40 PM | Report abuse

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