An LDS Yogi

The first thing to explain is what LDS means.  LDS stands for Latter-Day Saint as in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.  If you want to know more about LDS beliefs, a good place to start would be LDS.org and Mormon.org.  Another alternative would be to to email me.  This page is not here to explain LDS doctrine but to explain how, in my view, Yoga fits with LDS doctrine.  A yogin is a male yogi or, in other words, a man who practices Yoga.  I am an LDS yogin.

There is a great deal of distrust among Latter-Day Saints when the topic of discussion has anything to do with spiritual matters and is not directly connected to the Church.  A good example of this came up on a web forum I found while searching for other LDS yogis:

does anyone know the churches veiw on yoga? I am starting to look into it but it talks alot about chants and things.

I don’t know that church has made a stance on yoga.  The church wants each person to ask themselves if anything they do and say is in harmony with the teachings of the church.  I believe yoga is wonderful exercise.  Meditation is another way of listening to the spirit after your personal heartfelt prayer.  The chants and other things, I believe you will have to decide for yourself.  If you’re unsure prayer about it.  The spirit will tell you all things.

For a couple weeks ago, we had in enrichment night a lady from a different ward who taught us yoga.  It was wonderful.  Of course we should not go to the extreme, so leave the chants and thing out.  Have fun.

Too often one sees the timid nature expressed in the first post.  Instead of making their own determination whether something is worthwhile, too many want the Official Church Position on a subject before even thinking about it.  Too many people already believe that Latter-Day Saints are brainwashed or are blind fools who only believe what they are told and such attitudes not only encourage such misconceptions, they run contrary to scriptural doctrines:

26 For behold, it is not meet that I should command in all things; for he that is compelled in all things, the same is a slothful and not a wise servant; wherefore he receiveth no reward.
27 Verily I say, men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness;
Doctrine and Covenants 58:26, 27

13 We believe in being honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous, and in doing good to all men; indeed, we may say that we follow the admonition of Paul – We believe all things, we hope all things, we have endured many things, and hope to be able to endure all things. If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things.
Articles of Faith #13

29 And finally, I cannot tell you all the things whereby ye may commit sin; for there are divers ways and means, even so many that I cannot number them.
Mosiah 4:29

We should not have to be commanded in all things but should do many things of our own free will.  We should seek after things which are virtuous, lovely, of good report or praiseworthy  Finally, just as there are many ways to sin, so many that King Benjamin couldn’t number them; so are there many ways to not sin, so many that they cannot be numbered.  Waiting for an official proclamation before taking action is contrary to all of these concepts and means one will miss out on a very large number of very good things.

When I started practicing Yoga in February 2002, the first thing I did was to begin reading everything available at my local library.  I immediately discovered that there was much more to Yoga than just the asanas.  I continued my practice while studying the other aspects of Yoga and I began a two pronged approach to determine whether Yoga would continue as a part of my life or not.  The first test was whether Yoga and LDS doctrines were at odds with each other.  On the surface, Yoga and LDS doctrine seemed miles apart but as I looked more closely, I saw that there were many more similarities than otherwise.  Belief in distinct spiritual and physical bodies or entities.  The need for the spirit to be superior in the body/mind/spirit relationship.  The concept that we are spiritual beings having a very real, very important physical experience.  The equality of each person’s spirit and our potential for growth.  The need to become unified with the Divine.  The Yamas and Niyamas could have come from a General Conference talk.  I found, however, one very very big disparity:  The asanas.  Yoga has this fantastic way of taming the physical body and LDS doctrine has, what?  Yes, we have the Word of Wisdom but that’s basically it.  This is, in my opinion, an obvious oversight but now that I’ve actually looked at it, I am positive that it’s an intentional one.  God gives us plenty of instruction on how we should interact with each other and with Him but other than basically telling us to not poison ourselves, He’s left our physical care up to us.  Yoga, in my mind, is the perfect means of overcoming our physical bodies and of disciplining our spirits.  Erich Schiffmann has the following to say in his book Yoga The Spirit and Practice of Moving Into Stillness:

Yoga is a way of moving into stillness in order to experience the truth of who you are.  It is also a way of learning to be centered in action so that you always have the clearest perspective on what’s happening and are therefore able to respond most appropriately.  Yoga is not the only way of doing this, of course, but it is an excellent way.  It is an ancient process designed to help you uncover and discover your true nature so you can live daily life with that new awareness.

As Erich said, Yoga is not the only way of doing this, of course, but it is an excellent way.  In my opinion, it is a very excellent way!

The second test was the ye shall know them by their fruits test.  I have yet to find a reason to not practice Yoga.  I feel much more alive physically and mentally.  I am a kinder husband and father when I practice regularly.  I’ve gone from having no desire to home teach to being a dedicated home teacher.  My personal prayers are much more meaningful as I’ve already spent part of the day in meditation.  Yoga passes both tests, what other proof can I want?

On a final note with regards to mantras as mentioned above and mudras.  To say that one should not use them simply because one is LDS is very narrow-minded.  Just like any other thing, see if the mantra or mudra is compatible with the doctrine of the Church.  If it isn’t, then find a different one.  If it is, and from my own experience it likely will be, then see if it provides you any benefits.  If using mantras or mudras gives you the willies, makes your hair turn green or just leaves you feeling uncomfortable then don’t use them.  If, on the other hand, they surround you with a sense of well being and help remind you to rise above the carnal man (my own experiences there) then make them a part of your daily practice.

Yoga teaches balance and harmony.  True, Yoga is not the Iron Rod but it is a good, strong stick that helps me keep my balance.

Last Modified
22:11 12/01/2008
UTC

  • Good for you. Good for you, good for you. I am so glad that you have created this blog. I am a striving yogi, and also LDS, and this is exactly what turns me off about the church members. So much fear, they are timid to accept this, but I feel that in the future, both yoga and alternative medicine/bodywork will be way more accepted in the church and will contribute to their spirits being made free and healing. I am excited for what you are saying, and I hope you feel encouragement from me. I follow the commandments, and also the Yamas and Niyamas. Both paths go toward the same ultimate ideal.
    Way to be a pioneer with the Lord : )

    Molly

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  • Ashley

    Thanks! My mom has issues at times with me being a yoga teacher, and I am going to start a blog and ‘officially’ open as a business soon under my own name. I want to bring yoga more into the LDS community and your blog has given me great information on how to breach the issues.

  • David Low

    Great blog! My understanding is, hatha yoga originated milennia ago when sages, in deep meditation, experienced a benevolent force wanting to move their bodies, and when they allowed those movements to happen, their meditation deepened still more and they were able to process impurities more effectively. Their followers sketched the positions these sages assumed, and they come down to us today.

    I like to think of the physical aspects of yoga as the ‘biomechanics of spirituality. ‘ It’s really great that you’re finding deeper, universal dimensions of spirituality which all the faiths share!

  • HoistDude

    To people everywhere we simply say, ‘You bring with you all the good that you have, and let us add to it. That is the principle on which we work’” (President Gordon B. Hinkley in an interview with Philippines Television, 30 April 1996).

    We are all learning line upon line and precept upon precept, so is the Church. Personally, I practice Yoga daily. For me, it is (not quite) but ALMOST on par with daily scripture study, daily prayer, weekly family home evening, and monthly/weekly temple attendance. Yoga is a great way to let go of your stress, calm your mind, and refocus on your life, spirituality and goals, take care of your body long term and start the day in a positive way. Even if it is only ten minutes, I practice Yoga everyday.

    In essence, Yoga is a good thing. My experience is that it can help add to the practice of your LDS faith, not detract from it.

  • Sara Wallace

    Ditto to so many of the thoughts that have been shared here. I’m a strong, mainstream member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS) and love practicing and sharing many aspects of yoga. Yoga can be a wonderful form of exercise, and the additional focus of practicing mindful, wholesome thinking about life, stresses, your health, and how you see others, is absolutely lovely and can fit just fine into gospel doctrines and vice versa. In fact, I came across this blog because the other day during an outdoor yoga class, I found myself thinking, “This is so great! I wish it was grounded more directly in LDS gospel-teaching tho, cuz that would be even 10x more powerful! I wonder if there are any yogis out there who have done or scripted yoga sessions that have affirmations based on LDS doctrines, cuz I would love that!” And this blog is the first thing that popped up when I searched online later. Thanks guys, you’re inspiring!

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