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Yoga and Christianity are compatible: Yoga is increasingly being practiced by Christian people of the world, particularly in the West. While it is easy for critics to argue that the two are incompatible, many people intuitively know that Yoga, which is not a religion, and Christianity can be compatible. Actually, some principles of Yoga are already contained within Christianity and Christian meditation. To say that Yoga can be compatible with Christianity is not to say that that the two are the same. Compatibility and sameness are two very different principles. In addition, it is important to note that there may be individual denominations opposed to Yoga practices with body, breath and mind, just as there are individual denominations opposed to medical treatment, modern technology, or a variety of social and cultural activities. However, the fact that some denominations are opposed, and thus incompatible with Yoga in their individual view, does not mean that the whole of Christianity is incompatible.
This paper seeks to provide a bridge (this is only one of many) for those aspirants who are already practicing Yoga as the spiritual practice that it is, and who are also trying to integrate their roots in Christianity with that practice.
Being more available for love: Through Yoga, one can gain greater access to Heart, Soul, Mind, and Strength, so that these are more available for Love. It is as simple as that. In whatever context people practice their religion and Christian meditation, the ability to gain greater access to these instruments of Love is most beneficial.
Meaning of Yoga: Yoga meditation is holistic. Yoga comes from "yuj" which means "to join," to bring together the aspects of yourself that were never divided in the first place. Yoga meditation and Christian meditation are both involved in the whole person.
Room for diversity: While some critics of Yoga say that it is not at all compatible with Christianity, there is already tremendous diversity of opinions and practices within the Christian religion, which serves a broad variety of people. The World Christian Encyclopedia (pub. 2001) is quoted as estimating that there are over 28,000 Christian denominations (later updated to 33,830, 39,000, and 40,000 according to the International Bulletin of Missionary Research) (pdf file reflecting 40,000 denominations). This same Bulletin states a goal of 55,000 denominations by the year 2025. The World Christian Database says that over 9,000 denominations are represented in its database (2004). Another Christian resource on the Internet says that the number of Christian denominations has increased to over 35,500 from approximately 1900 denominations that existed a hundred years ago.
If there is room for tens of thousands of denominations within Christianity, surely there is room for Yoga to be practiced by its adherents who choose to do so.
Esoteric and Exoteric: It is very useful to be aware of the polarities of Esoteric and Exoteric religion. Many of the people practicing Yoga are drawn to the Esoteric end of the spectrum, which is the domain of mysticism. Throughout human history the Esoteric practitioners have been shunned by the more Exoteric people. Thus, it is not only Yoga that some Christians are opposed to, but also the the mystical practices of their own religion. In such cases, Yoga is a convenient, visible target, while the effort is actually one of attempting to suppress the subtler essence of their own roots.
What Jesus referred to as the "most important" instruction includes the instruction for the follower of Christianity to:
A simple question: One might ask himself or herself a simple question, "How much, or what percentage of my heart soul, mind, and strength is available for loving, and what percentage is being dissipated in other ways?" Increasing the percentage by reducing the dissipations is the goal of Yoga.
Dom. John Main OSB, founder of the World Community for Christian Meditation (WCCM.org) is quoted as saying, "What is clear from the New Testament is that Jesus achieved his mission by total abandonment of self, by handing over his life to the Father: 'Not my will [but] by thy will be done.' That is exactly the way for all of us. And that is the precise purpose of all meditation."
Four Instruments of Love: The "most important" instruction speaks of Loving with Four Instruments of Love: