Yoga With a Christian Bent


April 25, 2006 — -- The poses may be the same as in the Hindu version of yoga, but the philosophy associated with the practice has been reinvented by those of a different faith.

"I approach each class as a way to share with people something great about their faith," said Christian yoga instructor Susan Bordenkircher.

Her class, "Outstretched in Faith," is a switch from traditional yoga, which has its roots in the Hindu religion and predates Christianity.

The original goal of Yoga was to develop self-awareness and help individuals find divinity within themselves.

But those Hindu ideals offend some Christians. Bordenkircher said that as a devout Methodist, when she first tried yoga she loved the exercise but not the Hindu-based chanting.

"It made me feel uncomfortable. It made me feel as if those were elements that I certainly did not want to participate in," Bordenkircher said.

So she joined a growing trend of modifying traditional yoga by replacing many of the chants with biblical phrases or Christian themes. While breathing in, she speaks of inhaling the holy spirit.

There are clear physical benefits to this activity regardless of the philosophy, as it stretches the muscles and relaxes the body.

But yoga purists say that without Hinduism this simply isn't yoga.

"If you take a tree and chop off its roots, then you don't have a tree, do you?"said Subhas Tiwaris, a professor of yoga philosophy.

"Yoga is mind, body, spirit. You want to make those separations," he said.

But Bordenkircher bristles at this charge and defends her practice.

"There is no way that you can take a posture that is from a body that God created and say this can only be used for the Hindu faith," Bordenkircher said.