Is Yoga ok for Christians?

New Delhi, India - Yoga – is it religion or exercise? And should Christians do it?

That was the question Times Online asked Swami Ramdevji, an Indian yoga guru with a 120-million strong following worldwide on his recent visit to London (see video above). Ramdevji, founder of the Yoga Institute in India, which is billed as the largest yoga centre in the world, believes his brand of Pranayama yoga, based on breathing techniques, can cure serious health ailments and bring followers health, wealth and inner peace. Millions follow his classes on AsiaTV, thousands attend his free outdoor classes held in North India.

For him, yoga is a ‘science’ with health benefits. For the millions for practise Yoga in the West it is simply exercise. But for some Christians yoga is spiritually suspect, a subtle act of pagan worship. They allege that yoga cannot be separated from its roots in the Hindu faith. Last year, two Somerset vicars banned a yoga class for toddlers from their church halls. This year, a leading Roman Catholic exorcist condemned yoga as apparently harmless but as a possible conduit to “the evil spirit.”

In his best-selling pamphlet Exorcism: Understanding exorcism in scripture and practice Fr Jeremy Davies, chief exorcist of the Roman Catholic diocese of Westminster writes: “.. The thin end of the wedge (soft drugs, yoga for relaxation, horoscopes just for fun and so on) is more dangerous than the thick end, because more deceptive – an evil spirit tries to make his entry as unobtrusively as possible.”