Not so sure: The hesitations and religious trauma that stop Christians from a healthy yoga practice

Have you, as a Christian woman, had your doubts about starting yoga because it seems to clash with your biblical faith?

I know, I know. It’s 2023 and this topic seems dated somehow. Except for the fact that it isn’t:/

Listening to women from all walks of life has been my day job for well over a decade now, and I continue to encounter women who have either been shamed for practicing yoga or have been dissuaded altogether from even getting started because of the negative preconceived notions about yoga that are held by members of their church or religious family members.

When women tell me this, I always start with validating their concerns. After all, I get it! As a young girl I unconsciously downloaded all kinds of messages about yoga being dangerous, unspiritual, demonic, and the list (unfortunately) goes on.

I have vague recollections of pamphlets that discussed how the poses in yoga open you up to demonic possession, or were forms of worship for something sinister and evil. And the chants that some teachers do at the end of yoga classes? Forget it! That’ll brainwash you faster than it takes you to spell “OM.”


Don’t even get me started on being a teenage girl who wasn’t sure if my body would be taken over by any moment by something beyond my control and without my consent, while I was also was navigating a world in which sexual assault or abuse could happen. The massive fear trip placed on women and girls in hyper religious institutions, who may have already had their own experiences of bodily violation, is bordering on criminal.

(For any of you out there who are resonating with those last lines in particular, I see you and I am so sorry this was done to you.)

So with all of that fear conditioning in my past, it might be surprising that I am such a huge proponent of yoga, as the woman I am today. Obviously, those strongly held opinions and ideas never came from me in the first place. So once I was old enough to start exploring the practice and its origins for myself, I had a natural curiosity about what this was really all about.

Coming from the world of Pilates, the progression to yoga felt natural, like a no-brainer. And the more I practiced the simplest routines, or Vinyasa flows, the better and better I felt.

In fact, my practice was in no way a hindrance to my spiritual growth- it was a huge magnifier my for it! (I know, right? This is totally making some people’s heads spin, haha.)

I now had simple ways that I could clear my head, ground my body, and become more to present to the presence of the Spirit. Not to mention, easier access to the worries of my heart and where they were originating from. The ability to grow a bigger heart towards others, including the cultivation of forgiveness towards those I needed to let go of, for one reason or another.

My yoga practice has been shaped by my spiritual beliefs, as opposed to the other way around, and this has allowed me to stay aligned in my journey with the faith values that matter most to me.

I don’t look at yoga with fear or suspicion because I know I can consciously choose the way in which I engage with it and benefit from it.

My loved ones, especially my husband and children, benefit when I get in a yoga practice because I show up so much more relaxed, grounded and playful. Essentially, I am more of the nurturing figure my children can feel at ease with, and I more perfectly mirror the woman that my husband fell in love with in the first place.

Also, plot twist, my husband used to be someone who mostly biked and lifted weights to stay in shape, with a good deal of muscle strain to show for it. But for the past three years, he has been doing yoga almost daily as part of his evening routine, and feeling better now than he did in his twenties. I mean…

And while I know that we estrogen-dominant people often like to think of ourselves and evaluate ourselves based on how well we are doing in our relationships to others, it’s not just about being better for my family.

Ultimately, I am more myself and I feel more like myself when I am consistent in my practice. I get to reflect on the decisions I am making and if they are in alignment with what I really want out of my one precious life. And same with my words, my thoughts and how I use my time. All of these aspects of my self come under more regular reflection and are therefore more intentional. Let me tell you, it’s a lot easier to pray when you know what you need to be praying about.

So here’s the deal. I’m really not talking to you if you already have your mind made up about this whole yoga thing and you are very clear that you are not about it. That’s fine! I’ve never been remotely interested in forcing others to see things my way. You do you, and I am sincere when I say I wish you well.

But for those of you who have been on the fence, occasionally dabbling and then pulling away, and generally feeling uncertain of yourself? This was really written for you. You aren’t weird for having your doubts about all of this. In fact, with everything you’ve been taught, it’s no wonder you feel the way that you do.

If you are willing, I invite you to take the path that I did, and investigate for yourself if there might be a way of developing a yoga practice that supports your faith journey instead of interfering with it. You might be surprised to find a great deal of overlap in the principles that guide yoga and also show up in your own belief system.

Isn’t it funny how God works?


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