I recently read a couple of essays by Christian writers pertaining to the compatibility of yoga with the Christian lifestyle--or rather, a Christian lifestyle according to said writers. One of these women was vehemently opposed to the practice of yoga by Christians, citing the asanas' Sanskrit names as proof of their heretical nature. The other (writing for a Catholic blog) was more like, "Maybe there's some grey area if you don't get too wrapped up in the Hindu philosophy behind the activity." The first writer suggested "PrayerMoves" as an alternative sequence of poses that is basically vinyasa by another (hopelessly corny) name.
Had either of these women has read the Yoga Sutras of Patañjali, they might understand that while yoga sprung from the same Vedic fount as Hinduism and its philosophy does invoke a deity, it has not much do with Hinduism at all, at least from the perspective of a Westerner who practices asanas mostly for the physical benefits. The sutras make it clear that yoga is not an anti-Christian philosophy or pagan religion at all but rather a method by which people can still the mind and strip away worldly distractions. "Enlightenment” is the ultimate goal for purists, but it doesn’t have to be. It could be a method by which a Christian yogi stills the mind in preparation for deeper conversations with God or stills the mind to focus on…whatever she wants. That certainly wouldn't be the worst way that we've adapted yoga to suit our Western habits.
I initially engaged in yoga to get ripped abs and Gwyneth-esque shoulders. When that happened and I began to want more, yoga became my salvation from severe major depression. God, from what I hear and feel during late-night prayer sessions, does not disapprove. On top of that, I think a lot of Christians would benefit from studying the eight limbs of yoga and how they intersect with the Ten Commandments and the teachings of Christ. It’s certainly made me a more pleasant—and contemplative—Christian. Yes, I join in on the Oms and Namastes. Yes, I feel like a goddess when I lie down in goddess pose. But when I leave each class a little closer to doing the splits and a little more clear-headed, I don’t feel any closer to hell. Instead, I feel much closer to God’s grace.