Love Jesus and Yoga?


Recently, a Jesus-following friend expressed deep concern about my yoga practice. She believes I am in grave danger and felt compelled to warn me.

Isn’t that an amazing kindness?

For some of you, living in busy urban areas where yoga studios and coffee shops are equal in number, that’s crazy talk, but I live in the Bible belt where a lot of people consider yoga demonic.

I don’t. Let’s talk about it.

I am hardly the first to weigh in. In fact, if you Google Can Christians … “do yoga” autocompletes fourth after drink, eat pork and get tattoos. Opinions vary, but one article said by practicing yoga you’re unconsciously offering worship to Hindu gods.

Wait, what? Unconscious worship?

Maybe I don’t understand the meaning of those words, but I think that phrase is an oxymoron at best, fear mongering at worst. So I had an imaginary conversation with the writer.

Anti-Yoga Writer – “I don’t believe yoga can be separated from Buddhism, Hinduism and/or the occult. I think you’re wandering around in idol worshipping territory.”

Me – “Do you meditate?”

AYW – “Yes. The Bible tells us to meditate on scripture.”

Me – “Did you know Hindus meditate too?”

AYW – “Of course, but I don’t meditate on Hindu texts.”

Me – “So when you meditate, you choose the object of your focus, and meditation is the vehicle?”

AYW – “Basically.”

Me – “Interesting.”


Survival is her focus right now. Photo: Robert Bejil

Yoga As Vehicle

A lot of yogis try to calm the fears of their Christian students by insisting yoga is nothing more than exercise, but that just isn’t true. We rob it of its power by promoting that. Oh oh. Yoga has power?

It does.

Yoga’s secret sauce lies in its ability to cultivate a calm, working relationship between our bodies and our minds. There is nothing in Western culture I know of that does that more efficiently than this 5,000 year-old Indian practice with its Hindu roots. Perhaps that’s why it is prescribed for sexual abuse survivors, traumatized refugee populations and soldiers with PTSD.

Done well, in good sequence, the poses demand a singular focus on breath and movement, which is why after a well-taught class you’ll be sweaty, breathing deeply, with a calm, quiet mind.

When was the last time you experienced those three things at once?

On Focus

I can spot the moment in my classes when people really start to focus.

Are they focusing on Buddha, Jesus, Hanuman, Shiva, nail polish on their toes? I have no idea. Their thoughts are their own, and how absurd would it be for me, a non-Hindu, to encourage some sort of Hindu observance? Asking them for long spines, soft hamstrings, quads on the edge, a level sacrum, and ujjayi breathing, while standing on one foot is plenty.


“Ok but what about the giant Buddha on the wall,” says anti-yoga writer.

I know people will disagree with me here, but I’m open to that.

Thought #1 I feel about Buddha or Shiva statues exactly as I do about pink flamingoes in your yard. You like them, but they are meaningless to me. I love to shop at Pier 1 and there are a thousand Buddhas in there. Should I avoid that store? Am I really that suggestible? Do people follow Jesus because they saw a cross once? Come now.

I think the average Pier 1 shopper, (certainly not all, but many) who buy Buddha statues, exhibit the same dedication to Buddhism they do to Christianity – observing the easy parts, and ignoring the hard ones. I know some committed Buddhists, and they are remarkably disciplined. Spiritual devotion will cost you deeply. Statues at Pier 1 will cost you $12.95.

Photo: Ann Harkness

This costs something. Photo: Ann Harkness

Thought #2 –  My goal is to be so filled with the light and love of Jesus that you won’t see me anymore, you’ll only see him – certainly a lifelong and costly endeavor. Therefore, when I walk into a yoga studio, a medium security prison full of maximum security offenders, or down the street in Santa Cruz California, a town known for it’s tolerance of every possible spiritual practice, my aim is to be as light there as I am anywhere else. Same person. Different place.

So do I teach “Christian yoga?” No. I teach yoga. Square your hips, engage your locks, drop your tailbone and hold for five breaths. Modify if you like, but dismiss the voices saying you can’t. And if you can hold hanumanasana and smile – rock on!



The funny thing is, I work for a Christian NGO that sends me to Africa a couple times a year. Often, my yoga students, who may or may not be Christians, ask me about that, and I happily tell them about my job and my Jesus.

But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, 1Peter 3:15

These conversations happen under a big picture of a silent Buddha. I have nothing against Buddha, in fact, my childhood nickname is Booda, but I follow Jesus because I need God to tell me, in real time, when to open my mouth and when to shut it, and that he loves me.

Jesus does that regularly.


Who is she worshipping? Maybe no one. Maybe she’s just holding Warrior I.

There are countless out of shape, stressed out, pharma-dependent Christians, whom yoga could help, but I think many are afraid to show up in a random class in case someone is bowing to Shiva, which they sometimes do.

But millions of Indians bow to Shiva every day, does that mean you should never go to India? What a pity. The Taj Mahal is awesome. Devotion is an act of will, into which nobody can trick or force you. Use your holy discernment.

For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love and self-discipline.

II Timothy 1:7

Your polite, thoughtful comments are most welcome.

*As ever, my thoughts are my own, not those of my employer.

Tarry On the Boulders

May 2009 159 copy

Sometimes in May, a little warm snap will grip the mountains of the Colorado high country. In their excitement they shed their snow like white mink coats – all at once and fast. Piles and piles come sliding down the canyon, melting into the valleys. There, the water collides with itself, in such a hasty and reckless tumult, it rearranges the boulders all down the river.

To the rare listener, it sounds like muffled bone crushing, powerful and unseen, like centuries of things starting and stopping. The boulders move because they have to, forced by the will of the water.

Change is the river’s only constant.

Making Hay 2010 100

But as spring turns to summer, the big water slows and slips quietly into New Mexico, unnoticed by anyone but a few fishermen tying their flies. Finally the boulders rest, their mottled grey backs rise steadily as the water drifts south.

Queen Anne’s Lace loves the river too, so she hangs around all summer with the Prince Gentians, the last of all wildflowers. Her slender green arms reach over the river; lacy, white fingers graze the last of the snow pack as it slips by.

Photo Credit: Theophilos Papadopoulos

Photo Credit: Theophilos Papadopoulos

This is a thing worth seeing, but I won’t unless I go and tarry on the boulders. If I will sit and wait, the magic will struggle up through the piles of ordinary, and I will see what was buried all along.

Ordinary is an illusion everywhere.

It was on this very river, on some long departed boulder, that I first understood Romans 1:20. I memorized it with my feet in the water.

For ever since the creation of the world his invisible nature and attributes, that is, his eternal power and divinity, have been made intelligible and clearly discernible in and through the things that have been made (his handiwork). So men are without excuse, altogether without any defense or justification. Romans 1:20 AMP

This is no joke. These mountains, this boulder, this ache in my soul are the signature of The Ancient of Days. They are the voice of the Infinite Omniscient saying:

You hear me best in stillness and light, but I am everywhere. You can’t grab the water or capture its sparkles in a jar. There is only now. I am here, and I am willing to overwhelm you.

This is the pain of an unseen God. The yearning is real, but the trust is hard.

May 2009 128

So we seek transcendence everywhere else. We chase it, try to buy it, swallow it, fall in love with it, convince ourselves we’ve got it and give it proud names. But the mountains know things we’ve forgotten, or maybe we never knew.

God is alive and we are eternally without excuse.

That is the hope and heartbreak of Romans 1:20. We can glimpse God’s eternal power and divinity, in a thousand year old river whose stones will cry out if we don’t.

But only for a second.

The hope is: What we see now, in glimmers and through aperture of memory, we will someday see in full. The mountains and rivers promise.May 2009 115

So go outside tonight. Watch the Perseid meteor shower. Sit still and let the creation remind you of things you already know, and perhaps let it introduce you to the one who knows you.

It Takes A Village to Publish a Book

Tim SullivanI’d like you to meet my friend Tim Sullivan, a cowboy singer/songwriter from Durango, Colorado.

Tim once said something to me that felt so important and generous that, years later, I quoted it in my book.  I sometimes write about how our words can ripple through people’s lives long after we’ve forgotten saying them and Tim did that for me.

I’d written an article for the local newspaper about Tim, who says he’s just a guy who loves to sing and play music. It doesn’t matter if five people show or 5,000 do, Tim is happy to play for them. When the article ran, he said it was one of the best anybody had written about him, and he was grateful. After that, every time I’d see him in town, he would say to me:

“Are you writing? You need to be writing. Whatever else you are doing that’s fine, but just make sure you are writing.”

Today is my 43rd birthday, and the book I wrote three years ago is gathering dust in a drawer. People ask me all the time what’s happening with it, and when I answer I feel like a nine-year old who can’t tie her shoes. I don’t want to admit I need help to get it out of the drawer, but I do. Specifically, I need you to help me grow.

Incredibly, Going to the Sea – A Sassy Liberal Wades in with Jesus made it, unrepresented, into a publishing committee last year, where it was shot down by marketing people who likely said:

Who is the author? Who? Somebody Google her. Nope. Next.

Maybe that should freak me out, but it doesn’t. The proposal got into a publishing committee on its own merit; it died there on mine. That’s not really bad news, because I can work on my Google rank. That’s where you come in.

It feels chancy and self-indulgent to ask your help because I have to be vulnerable and admit how important this is to me. It’s hard to lay your dreams bare for others to examine, but if people love you and/or your work, they will hold you accountable and encourage you like Tim did for me.



So, in my 43rd year, I am going to do everything I know to get that manuscript into print. If I have to rewrite 90% of it, that’s fine, as long as someone will hold my hand in the process.

All I can do is write a little each day and talk to you as I go.

All you can do is share. So, if you like something I post, will you share it on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram?

The rest of it is up to the Lord.

I have agents who are still interested in the book, they’ve just got to know they can sell it. How do they know? How many people already read and like your work? Thousands? Great, let’s do business.

And we can complain about that all day, but if Tim were here I think he’d say, who cares? Just like he is a guy born to sing and play music, I am a gal who was born to write and speak about Jesus. He’s the reason I can do it at all anyway.

So if you want to join my little team, here are three things you can do right now.

Follow Erin Kirk Writer on Facebook.
Follow me on Twitter.
Keep reading and sharing.

Thank you friends.