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Christian Hatha Yoga  

  Joining of the East and West 


    The most familiar form of yoga to Christians is hatha yoga, which is yoga of the physical body. This type of yoga involves the use of body postures and breathing practices and is the most commonly accepted form of yoga. However, its true purpose is often overlooked. In America, hatha yoga has been largely stripped of its spiritual significance and has been viewed only as a means of maintaining the physical health of the body. The original spiritual purpose of hatha yoga, as it was created thousands of years ago, was to develop the body as a healthy device for the purpose of practicing sitting meditation in order to transcend the physical world.

    Consequently, for hatha yoga you can have one of two distinctly different meanings, depending upon what you are seeking in the way of content from your yoga practice. If you are seeking physical health, then yoga would be the means to that end of good health. On the other hand, if you are practicing yoga so you can meditate better and improve your chances of spiritual transformation, then yoga would be the means and Christ would be the end. The latter could rightly be called “Christian hatha yoga,” while the former could not. However, it should be remembered that hatha yoga itself is universal, of course, and therefore it can be adapted as a means of growing toward any spiritual ideal.

    Miracle Yoga specifically based on the Course includes hatha yoga as part of Miracle Raja Yoga. Because Miracle Raja Yoga focuses on encouraging meditation and contemplation, Christian hatha yoga performs the useful service of preparing the body as a healthy vehicle for practicing inner attunement. The Course indicates that the body itself is neutral. As with all concerns, the Course always directs you to ask “What is it for?” Some forms of hatha yoga can be directed toward making the physical body an end in itself. However, according to the Course, it is unwise to allow the body to be an end in itself. Instead, the Course maintains that the only useful purpose of the body is for it to be a “communication device.” As such, the body can be used beneficially as a means of joining in common purpose with others to recognize the divine in others and in yourself. Your body can help you to communicate with others to show them that they are not bodies, but rather spiritual beings. This recognition of the true spiritual nature of others and of yourself is the purpose of Miracle Yoga in general. Also, the body can be used as a vehicle for meditation, in which you can communicate with the divine within. This inner communication can not only be with God and with the Holy Spirit, but also with your brothers and sisters in Christ. This inner communion is the goal of Miracle Raja Yoga, and Christian hatha yoga can prepare the body for experiencing this inner attunement.

    The autobiography Memory Walk in the Light offers instructions and illustrations of the most basic yoga postures and some breathing practices. However, there is not just one kind of hatha yoga that could be used by someone who wants to practice Miracle Raja Yoga based on the Course. Any form of hatha yoga would be acceptable for Miracle Raja Yoga, but Christian hatha yoga would be preferable.

    Christians who are teachers of hatha yoga may think of their own personal practice as “Christian hatha yoga” or simply “Christian yoga.” Nevertheless, they are often called upon to teach in colleges and other non-sectarian settings. This presents a dilemma for the yoga teacher who seeks to focus on more than just physical health, yet cannot express spirituality in an overt manner. A compromise appropriate to these non-sectarian settings is to talk about “hatha yoga for a calm mind.” This would likewise include discussing “breathing practices for a calm mind.” The purpose of having a calm mind is an acceptable universal goal for hatha yoga postures and breathing practices because this goal is understandable and acceptable to those who want physical health and to seekers of spirituality.

    Hatha yoga is the third member of traditional Hindu raja yoga and likewise the third member of Miracle Raja Yoga, related to holding the body in an “asana,” which means steady pose. The benefits from the body postures come from holding steady poses in order to stretch the body without straining. Stretching muscles, ligaments, and tendons helps to increase flexibility and suppleness. Sometimes when doing various postures you may feel one particular area of the body that is being stretched. While holding the posture you can bring the awareness of your mind to that area that is being stretched. You can also simultaneously repeat the Name of Jesus, if you feel guided to do so. Repeating the Name of God is recommended in the Course. When you have your awareness on the stretch, you do not strain or pull harder, but just relax into the stretch.

    The yoga postures have a beneficial effect on the endocrine glands that regulate the body functions. The body postures also work on the nervous system to calm the nerves, which leads to a calm mind. In fact, seeing hatha yoga as a means of calming the mind is the proper understanding of the true purpose of this discipline. The yoga postures enhance your potential for spiritual transformation by keeping the spine flexible, which ironically enables the back to remain comfortably motionless in meditation. A strong body is also needed to withstand the impact of the rising of the kundalini.

    The fourth member of Hindu raja yoga and Miracle Raja Yoga is called pranayama and has to do with controlling the prana, the vital energy of the body, through breathing practices. These breathing practices, when employed in moderation, can be very important in purifying the channels within the body that assist the practice of meditation. Both the postures and the breathing practices of hatha yoga are recommended as a daily practice because of the physical and spiritual benefits. However, reading about these spiritual disciplines online or in books is not the best resource for learning these practices. Ideally if you decide that you are interested in the practice of hatha yoga, it would be best to seek out a local hatha yoga instructor.

    The easiest and simplest way to do this is to take a hatha yoga course lasting six, seven, or eight weeks. These courses are often offered privately by instructors and many health food stores have bulletin boards that advertise local yoga classes. Many community colleges or regular colleges have yoga courses available and sometimes these are part of the continuing education programs. Also city recreation departments sometimes offer yoga classes. You will probably not find any class identified as “Christian hatha yoga,” since hatha yoga is usually taught as a health practice in a non-religious setting. This is fine since it would probably be best to have a teacher who is not affiliated with a religious group. In this case, you can be shown how to practice the techniques, and you can mentally add your own spiritual meaning to what you learn.

    If you practice some hatha yoga and want a more in-depth experience, you may possibly want to temporarily live in a yoga community, but you must be cautious if you do so. You must resist the temptation to dilute or lose your distinctly Christian identity in the name of universality. If the community has a guru, and if you decide to receive mantra initiation from the guru, this would be an example of lessening your Christian identity. Of course, that would be your choice, but why would you, as a Christian, want a mantra given to you by a guru? Will the yoga guru give you a better mantra than the Name of Jesus? Why would you want to replace Jesus, who is already your guru?

    If you are living in a yoga community, you will see so many others follow this path of guru initiation that you will be tempted to do likewise. Jesus will, of course, bless you whether you turn right or left, but why let go of His hand? You will be tempted to think that you are being humble by submitting to the guru. But by taking the guru’s hand, you show that you do not really believe you already have the hand of Jesus. Your lack of faith in Jesus cannot produce progress on the path to Christ.

    Other than this temptation, much good can come from temporarily living in a yoga community. It would be ideal if you could find a Christian yoga community, but I am not aware of any such community, although hopefully this will manifest at some time in the future. You could also go to a yoga retreat, especially a silent retreat. An ideal retreat for the intermediate seeker would be a Christian retreat which includes yoga and the extensive practice of meditation. After receiving yoga training of some kind, you will be able to incorporate what you have learned into your ongoing private Christian hatha yoga practice, preferably on a daily basis.

    Some students of hatha yoga become very enthusiastic and do a lot of yoga initially and then discontinue the practice. Actually, it would be much more beneficial to do a limited set of practices for a short period of time each day and make a commitment to yourself to make this a lifetime practice. You do not have to be physically well conditioned or athletically gifted to practice hatha yoga postures. Also, you do not have to perform the postures flawlessly in order to benefit from them. You can proceed at your own pace, learning how to gently stretch the body without causing any strain. After doing the postures for an extended period of time, you may notice that you can stretch further than you could when you first started, but your progress is not primarily a matter of how well you can perform the postures at a form level.

    Content is more important than form in the practice of Christian hatha yoga. Consequently, what is happening in your mind takes precedence over how proficient the body is in executing postures. The motivation of your mind, your purpose, is the most important element in your practice of Christian hatha yoga. If you practice Christian hatha yoga with a halfhearted motivation, you will get halfhearted results. One of the very reasons why I emphasize hatha yoga as “Christian hatha yoga” is so you will keep the end always in mind as your motivation while practicing the means. By focusing on your yoga as your means and your union with Christ as your end, your practice of Christian hatha yoga will be as natural and effortless as breathing. Your faith in Christ is the key to your success with Christian hatha yoga.

Click here for "Miracle Raja Yoga"

Memory Walk in the Light: 

My Christian Yoga Life as

"A Course in Miracles"



Read the full introduction to this autobiography 


Donald James Giacobbe



    “The central message of the Course is forgiveness, and the key to yoga is opening to the divine presence. As a teacher of Miracle Yoga based on Course principles, my goal is to live my life as an expression of forgiveness and openness to the experience of Spirit.”


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