Commonly said when practicing yoga, for some reason I just always assumed it was a word that meant “peace.” Instead, it is actually a Hindu greeting that is translated “I bow to the divine in you.”
Back in the spring, I became slightly obsessed with yoga. Life was crazy, and I felt like I was drowning. At the tail end of a couple of the hardest years of my life, I was grasping for something. I needed something sturdy, something dependable. I wanted to escape and I wanted to feel like I had some semblance of control in my life. I wanted peace.
I turned to yoga, without fully realizing that was what I was doing.
I started doing “Yoga with Adriene” videos that I found on YouTube, and I loved it. I would roll out my mat when Copeland was napping and Riley was doing rest time, or in the evenings that Jordan worked, when everyone was in bed and I had the quiet to myself. Sometimes I would light candles and dim the lights. Sometimes I would put meditation music on in the background. Sometimes I would do one video, but other times I would attempt 2 or 3 because I just couldn’t get enough. It was my “me” time.
Eventually, it started replacing my “God” time. Instead of grabbing my bible when I had a moment to myself, I would grab my mat. When another wave came knocking me down into the stresses of life, I turned to yoga as my flotation device. I would frantically start thinking about when I could get another yoga session in.
It was helping me find peace.
Or at least I thought it was.
Over the course of a few months, I started noticing some changes in myself. The first was physical, and I liked that! I had become addicted to the results I was seeing and was happy with my new yoga body.
The other changes were not so attractive. I noticed that I was thinking about myself ALL day. I was all about this idea of self-acceptance and would tell my husband things like, “I love that yoga is all about embracing yourself as you are! That it promotes self- acceptance. It’s not about what you look like, it’s about who you are and what you can do! It’s really amazing what the body can do!” Self-care. Self-love. Self-acceptance. These are all terms I was using frequently.
Now, it’s good that I wasn’t experiencing self-shame or self-pity. But it was still all about me. About me getting my “me” time. About me focusing time on myself. On me getting better and improving myself. On me feeling good and celebrating myself and my body. Me me me me me. I felt entitled to all of these things.
The interesting thing is that while yoga was helping me appreciate my body, it was not overall helping me with body image. I was still getting on the scale, and still motivated by seeing results. It was as if yoga was offering me something, but it wasn’t enough. I wanted more and more and more. It felt insatiable.
I realize now that there was more to it than that. I can’t really explain this, but I started sensing a strong darkness inside myself, and I couldn’t shake it.
I think there was something spiritual taking place. Yoga was what I was turning to, not the gospel. I was looking to yoga for peace and happiness and sort of felt like I was finding it. But I wasn’t completely finding it – it always felt a little bit out of reach. Like if I just kept doing a little more, a little more, a little more, maybe I could attain it. But I never did. It was shallow. It was lacking.
And this part may sound a little crazy, but I wonder if by doing yoga I was inviting in some spiritual attack. Yoga is of Eastern world origin and was essentially started as pagan worship.
The bible talks about the enemy coming as a wolf in sheep’s clothing. He is evil, yes. But often, especially to believers in Jesus, he comes to tempt us through things that are or seem good. Things that are positive. When he tempted Jesus in the wilderness, he did so by quoting (and distorting) scripture.
Yoga initially seems like a good thing. It is exercise, it causes us to slow down and focus on our breathing. Meditation is a biblical spiritual discipline. It’s not wrong to take time to ourselves to recharge (trust me, as an introvert I truly understand that need and support that 100%). Yoga seems to be such a positive thing.
But I now believe that it was leading me away from Christ and into myself. I started seeing myself as wonderful, not looking to the wonderful Cross and clinging to it. I started to see myself as beautiful – which initially isn’t bad, that’s a good thing. Except that I wasn’t seeing God as the most beautiful. I wasn’t viewing beauty as something that comes from bearing the image of He who made me and saved me, but as something that I was creating for myself and wanting credit for. I was neglecting time in scripture and time alone with God, but was completely devoted to doing yoga 6 days a week (and sometimes more than once a day).
By the grace of God I started realizing just how self-focused and self-indulgent I was becoming as a person. I had started believing that I deserved it. That I’m worth it. That I’m worth celebrating and appreciating, all the while I was neglecting to celebrate and appreciate the blood that was shed for me to save my soul. Left to my self and my own “inner resources” I cause destruction, both to myself and to those around me and I desperately needed a Savior! I am a wretched sinner. Without Him, I am destined for death and life apart from the God I am created to know and be known by, the One I am designed to worship.
Honestly, yoga would never accept the idea that I am a wretched sinner. It teaches instead that I am a goddess. “Namaste.” The divine in me. If you actually research what the spiritual foundations of yoga are – that’s what you will find. When I started questioning my practice of yoga I did some deeper research about it. The history and purpose of this practice really opened my eyes to what I had been getting myself into. Yoga isn’t just exercise, this is a very spiritual thing! And it’s core belief is that there is a god in each of us, and that we are truly divine and worthy.
Which is the opposite of the gospel of Jesus Christ and the foundation of Christianity.
Now, I don’t mean to take the responsibility off myself and my own heart and sinful nature. I do not believe that yoga is responsible for my self-worship. I’m naturally prone to self-indulgence, by nature of being human. Left to my own resources, without even ever having done yoga, I would still gravitate towards this. I’m simply wondering if my involvement with yoga has made me more vulnerable and susceptible to these things. I wonder if I’ve been believing and following false teaching, without even realizing it.
The truth is: a journey towards self-love and self-acceptance, apart from Jesus, is a lie. It does not deliver what it promises to. It turns up empty and leaves the wanderer wanting.
I don’t need to seek out self-love and self-acceptance. What our souls need is to seek out Christ and more of Him. And the coolest part is: the more of Christ I have, the more I will see myself as loved and accepted! All other promises of these things apart from Christ are false and shallow. They either lead to self-worship or self-hatred/self-pity. It is only when I am secure in Christ that I feel the most loved and accepted. And finally free.