A recent study showed that the number of Americans practicing yoga and mindfulness meditation grew at a steady pace over the last few years.
The study, released by the National Center for Health Statistics, found the percentage of Americans practicing yoga grew from 9.5% in 2012 to 14.3% in 2017. In addition, while only 4.1% of Americans practiced meditation in 2012, the number in 2017 stood at 14.2%.
Many Christians view yoga as nothing more than a way to get into good shape, but some Christian leaders have warned that yoga has spiritual roots Christians cannot ignore. Last fall, Pastor James Lindell of James River Church in Ozark, MO set off a firestorm by telling Christians that they are opening themselves to demonic power through yoga.
According to CBN News, he told his congregation, “Every single body position has a meaning.” Then he added, “Let me say this, yoga positions were not designed by your local fitness instructor. They were designed and they were created with demonic intent to open you up to demonic power. Because Hinduism is demonic.”
In a 2015 episode of “Ask Pastor John,” pastor and theologian John Piper warned that the roots of yoga are radically different than the roots of Christianity. He said that it is “profoundly in those roots antithetical to a Christian understanding of God and the way he works in the world.” He concluded, “as I assess maximizing rather minimizing my pursuit of God’s goals and the flourishing of my own soul, I would go another way and find another kind of exercise.
However, leaders commend the practice of meditation, as long as it is focused on and rooted in the Scriptures. The Bible mentions meditation on God’s word 20 times. God told Joshua in Joshua 1:8 to meditate on the law of the Lord so he will obey it. In Psalm 1, the Psalmist said that he meditated on the law of the Lord “day and night.”
Donald Whitney, Professor of Biblical Spirituality at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, explained the importance of biblical meditation in his book Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life. He said, “As opposed to daydreaming wherein you let your mind wander, with meditation you focus your thoughts. You give your attention to the verse, phrase, word, or teaching of Scripture you have chosen. Instead of mental aimlessness, in meditation your mind is on a track – it’s going somewhere. It has direction.”
This distinctively Christian practice of meditation differs from Transcendental Meditation, which was developed by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and has its roots in Hindu philosophy.
Scott Slayton writes at “One Degree to Another.”
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