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Christian Yoga: Something New Under the Sun/Son?

  • Candy Gunther Brown

Between the 1960s and 2010s, yoga became a familiar feature of American culture, including its Christian subcultures. This article examines Christian yoga and public-school yoga as windows onto the fraught relationship between Christianity and culture. Yoga is a flashpoint for divisions among Christians and between them and others. Some evangelicals and pentecostals view yoga as idolatry or an opening to demonic spirits; others fill gaps in Christian practice by using linguistic substitution to Christianize yoga. In 2013, evangelical parents in California sued the Encinitas Union School District (EUSD) for promoting Hinduism through Ashtanga yoga. Sedlock v. Baird's failure to dislodge yoga exposes tensions in Christian anti-yoga and pro-yoga positions that stem from a belief-centered understanding of religion, the dissatisfaction of many Americans with Protestant dominance in cultural institutions, and a broad-based pursuit of moral cultivation through yoga spirituality. I argue that, although many evangelicals feel like an embattled minority, they are complicit in cultural movements that marginalize them. Naïveté about how practices can change beliefs may undercut Christian doctrines, facilitate mandatory yoga and mindfulness meditation in which public-school children and teachers are required to participate, and impede evangelistic goals by implicating Christians in cultural appropriation and cultural imperialism.

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This article was presented as the presidential address to the American Society of Church History on January 6, 2018. It builds on my research for two books: The Healing Gods: Complementary and Alternative Medicine in Christian America (New York: Oxford University Press, 2013); and a forthcoming book, Debating Yoga and Mindfulness in Public Schools: Reforming Secular Education or Reestablishing Religion? (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2019). I wish to thank the following individuals for helpfully commenting on previous drafts: Chris Armstrong, Peggy Bendroth, Josh Brown, Elesha Coffman, Roger Corbin, Heather Curtis, Bruce Hindmarsh, Mark Noll, Randi Walker, and Adrian Weimer. The article title alludes to Ecclesiastes 1:9 (NIV): “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.”

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1 “Yoga at Wheaton?,” Wheaton College, January 2015,

2 Gallup Poll, 1976, quoted in Syman, Stefanie, The Subtle Body: The Story of Yoga in America (New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2010), 256; and Yoga Journal and Yoga Alliance with Ipsos Public Affairs, The 2016 Yoga in America Study Conducted by Yoga Journal and Yoga Alliance, 2016 (hereafter cited as Yoga-2016),, 2, 10. Yoga-2016 cites “spiritual development” as an initial motive for 24 percent and an ongoing motive for 23 percent of respondents. A similar 2012 study reported that “spiritual development” motivates 31.7 percent of Americans to start yoga and keeps 30.4 percent practicing. “Yoga in America—2012,” Yoga Journal with Sports Marketing Surveys USA,

3 Yoga-2016, 54.

4 Ibid., 64; and “Spirit of the Standards – RYS 200,” Yoga Alliance, July 2016,

5 For liberal Protestant adoption of yoga, see Klassen, Pamela, Spirits of Protestantism: Medicine, Healing, and Liberal Christianity (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2011), xxii. For Catholic positions, see notes 28, 29, and 44 below.

6 Sedlock v. Baird, Superior Court of San Diego County, No. 37–2013–00035910-CU-MC-CTL (2013), 235 Cal. App. 4th 874 (2015).

7 Niebuhr, H. Richard, Christ & Culture (New York: Harper & Row, 1951), 1; and John 17: 14–16 (NIV).

8 Brown, Candy Gunther, The Word in the World: Evangelical Writing, Publishing, and Reading in America, 1789-1880 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2004), 17.

9 Andrews, Charles Wesley, Religious Novels: An Argument Against Their Use (New York: A. D. F. Randolph, 1856), 25.

10 “The Need of Pure Literature,” AME Church Review 8 (October 1891): 229–230; and Brown, Word in the World, 96–97.

11 Howard, Jay R. and Streck, John M., “The Splintered Art World of Contemporary Christian Music,” Popular Music 15, no. 1 (January 1996): 39. The English evangelist Rowland Hill (1744–1833) asked this question before Booth: Christopher R. Armstrong, “Tavern Tunes in Church Music and ‘Why Should the Devil Have All the Good Music?,” Grateful to the Dead, updated November 2, 2009,

12 Billy Ray Hearn, quoted in Howard and Streck, “Splintered Art World,” 39.

13 Howard and Streck, “Splintered Art World,” 37.

14 Yoga-2016, 4.

15 South Park, season 7, episode 9, “Christian Rock Hard,” directed and written by Trey Parker, aired October 29, 2003.

16 Griffith, Marie, Born Again Bodies: Flesh and Spirit in American Christianity (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2008), 2, 4, 13.

17 Armstrong, Christopher R., “Sound, Style, Substance: New Directions in Evangelical Spirituality,” in The Future of Evangelicalism in America, ed. Brown, Candy Gunther and Silk, Mark (New York: Columbia University Press, 2016), 61.

18 For an evangelical call to attend to practice, see Smith, James K. A., You Are What You Love: The Spiritual Power of Habit (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Brazos, 2016).

19 Swaminathan Venkataraman, quoting B. K. S. Iyengar, in “Disguised Hinduphobia,” Open Magazine, updated March 7, 2011,

20 Aseem Shukla, “Yoga: Stolen from the Hindus,” Washtington Post, printed in Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, April 25, 2010,

21 Sannyasin Arumugaswami, quoted in “‘Christian Yoga’ Strikes a New Pose,” The Denver Post, May 13, 2006,

22 Park, Crystal L., Riley, Kristen E., Bedesin, Elena, and Stewart, V. Michelle, “Why Practice Yoga? Practitioners’ Motivations for Adopting and Maintaining Yoga Practice,” Journal of Health Psychology 21, no. 6 (June 2016): 887, 891.

23 Penman, Stephen, Cohen, Marc, Stevens, Philip, and Jackson, Sue, “Yoga in Australia: Results of a National Survey,” International Journal of Yoga 5, no. 2 (2012): 91101; and cf. Arndt Büssing, Anemone Hedtstück, Sat Bir S. Khalsa, Thomas Osterman, and Peter Heusser, “Development of Specific Aspects of Spirituality During a 6-Month Intensive Yoga Practice,” Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine (2012): 1–7.

24 Sabine Henrichsen-Schrembs, “Pathways to Yoga—Yoga Pathways: Modern Life Courses and the Search for Meaning in Germany” (PhD diss., University of Bremen, 2008); and Henrichsen-Schrembs, & Versteeg, Peter G. A., “A Typology of Yoga Practitioners: Towards a Model of Involvement in Alternative Spirituality,” Practical Matters 4 (1 March 2011): 12.

25 “Kristin,” quoted in Michael Metroka, “Avoiding the Perils of Isomorphism: A Case Study of a Yoga Studio” (unpublished manuscript, March 5, 2010), Indiana University, appendix.

26 Brown, Debating Yoga and Mindfulness, develops this argument, drawing, for example, on: Coakley, Sarah, ed., Religion and the Body (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997); McDannell, Colleen, Material Christianity: Religion and Popular Culture in America (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1995), 2; Silverstein, Albert, “Unlearning, Spontaneous Recovery, and the Parital-Reinforcement Effect in Paired-Associate Learning,” Journal of Experimental Psychology 73, no. 1 (1967): 1521; Wyschogrod, Edith, “Doing Before Hearing: On the Primacy of Touch,” in Textes pour Emmanuel Levinas, ed. Laruelle, François (Paris: Jean-Michel Place, 1980), 179203; Bell, Catherine, Ritual Theory, Ritual Practice (New York: Oxford University Press, 1992); Paterson, Mark, The Senses of Touch: Haptics, Affects, and Technologies (New York: Berg, 2007); Merleau-Ponty, Maurice, The Phenomenology of Perception, trans. Smith, Colin (New York: Humanities Press, 1962); Sullivan, Lawrence E., Body Works: Knowledge of the Body in the Study of Religion (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1990); Schechner, Richard, Performance Theory (New York: Routledge, 2003); Glucklich, Ariel, Sacred Pain: Hurting the Body for the Sake of the Soul (New York: Oxford University Press, 2001); Classen, Constance, Worlds of Sense: Exploring the Senses in History and across Cultures (New York: Routledge, 1993); Chidester, David, “Haptics of the Heart: The Sense of Touch in American Religion,” Culture and Religion 1, no. 1 (May 2000): 6184; Pallasmaa, Juhani, The Eyes of the Skin: Architecture and the Senses, 3rd ed. (Hoboken, N.J.: Wiley, 2012); Barsalou, Lawrence W., Barbey, Aron K., Simmons, W. Kyle, and Santos, Ava, “Embodiment in Religious Knowledge,” Journal of Cognition and Culture 5, no. 1 (2004): 1458, 14, 43–44; Soliman, Tamer M., Johnson, Kathryn A., and Song, Hyunjin, “It's Not ‘All in Your Head’: Understanding Religion From an Embodied Cognition Perspective,” Perspectives on Psychological Science 10, no. 6 (November 1, 2015): 852864, 853, 857; and Kutz, Ilan, Borysenko, Joan Z., and Benson, Herbert, “Meditation and Psychotherapy: A Rationale for the Integration of Dynamic Psychotherapy, the Relaxation Response, and Mindfulness Meditation,” American Journal of Psychiatry 142, no. 1 (January 1985): 4.

27 Yoga-2016, 41.

28 Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith (Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, later Pope Benedict XVI), Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on Some Aspects of Christian Meditation (Vatican City: United States Catholic Conference, 1989), 28: “Some physical exercises automatically produce a feeling of quiet and relaxation, pleasing sensations, perhaps even phenomena of light and of warmth. . . . To take such feelings for the authentic consolations of the Holy Spirit would be a totally erroneous way of conceiving the spiritual life. Giving them a symbolic significance typical of the mystical experience, when the moral condition of the person concerned does not correspond to such an experience, would represent a kind of mental schizophrenia which could also lead to psychic disturbance and, at times, to moral deviations.” Pontifical Council for Culture and Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, Jesus Christ the Bearer of the Water of Life: A Christian Reflection on the “New Age” (Strathfield: St. Paul's, 2002),, contrasts “Christian faith” with “New Age” practices, such as “yoga, zen, transcendental meditation and tantric exercises [that] lead to an experience of self-fulfilment or enlightenment.”

29 Pope Francis, quoted in Carol Glatz, “Catechism, Yoga, Zen Cannot Open People's Hearts to God, Pope Says,” Catholic News Service, January 9, 2015,

30 Molly Worthen, Apostles of Reason: The Crisis of Authority in American Evangelicalism (New York: Oxford University Press, 2014).

31 Exodus 20:3 (NIV).

32 Deuteronomy 12:31 (NIV).

33 Romans 1:22–23 (NIV).

34 Jois, Sri K. Pattabhi, Surya Namaskara (New York: Ashtanga Yoga New York, 2005), 7, 38, 10, 45, 11, 10.

35 Marcia Montenegro, “Christian Yoga: An Oxymoron?,” Christian Answers for the New Age, updated December 2009,

36 Matt. 12:43–45; and I Cor. 6:19–20.

37 Corinna Craft, “Renunciation,” What's the Matter with Yoga? (blog), WordPress, accessed August 13, 2018,

38 Corinna Craft, “Resources,” What's the Matter with Yoga? (blog), WordPress, accessed August 13, 2018,

39 Corinna Craft, “My Epic Deliverance,” What's the Matter with Yoga? (blog), WordPress, accessed August 13, 2018,

40 Saper, Robert B., Eisenberg, David M., Davis, Roger B., Culpepper, Larry, and Phillips, Russell S., “Prevalence and Patterns of Adult Yoga Use in the United States: Results of a National Survey,” Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine 10, no. 2 (March/April 2004): 44.

41 Sam O'Neal, “Yoga Is a Stretch,” Christianity Today (Spring 2007),

42 Quilty, Mary T., Saper, Robert B., Goldstein, Richard, and Khalsa, Sat Bir S., “Yoga in the Real World: Perceptions, Motivators, Barriers, and Patterns of Use,” Global Advances in Health and Medicine 2, no. 1 (January 2013): 44, 45, 47, 48.

43 Armstrong, Christopher R., Medieval Wisdom for Modern Christians: Finding Authentic Faith in a Forgotten Age with C. S. Lewis (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Brazos, 2016), 45.

44 Ryan, Thomas, Prayer of Heart and Body: Meditation and Yoga as Christian Spiritual Practice (Mahwah, N.J.: Paulist, 2001), n.p.; and Ryan, Thomas, Yoga Prayer: An Embodied Christian Spiritual Practice, dir. Gangi, Barbara M. (Boulder, Co.: Sounds True, 2004), video, 91 minutes.

45 Noll, Mark A., American Evangelical Christianity: An Introduction (Malden, Mass.: Blackwell, 2000), 2.

46 Becky Martin, Christ Centered Yoga, accessed August 13, 2018,

47 Deanna Smothers and Courtney Chalfant, Yahweh Yoga, accessed August 13, 2018,

48 Janine Turner with Mary Cunningham, “Christoga: Christian Yoga,” YouTube (video), posted September 14, 2007,

49 Bordenkircher, Susan, Outstretched in Worship: A Christian Approach to Yoga (n.p.: Medical Media Services, 2002), DVD.

50 Laura Monica, WholyFit, accessed August 13, 2018,

51 Laurette Willis, PraiseMoves, accessed August 13, 2018,; and Bhanu Bhatnagar, “Who Owns Yoga?” Al Jazeera Correspondent, November 27, 2014, See time segment 17:37–20:18.

52 Bebbington, David W., Evangelicalism in Modern Britain: A History from the 1730s to the 1980s (London: Unwin Hyman, 1989), 217.

53 Susan Roesser, “Son Salutation Yoga,” accessed August 13, 2018,

54 Luke Frederick, “Holy Yoga 101 Workshop Outline,” Holy Yoga, updated March 16, 2017,, 9–10.

55 Ibid., 25.

56 Bordenkircher, Susan, Yoga for Christians: A Christ-Centered Approach to Physical and Spiritual Health through Yoga (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2006), 3, 8, 17.

57 Rap, Steven A., Aleph-Bet Yoga: Embodying the Hebrew Letters for Physical and Spiritual Well-Being (Woodstock, Vt.: Jewish Lights, 2002).

58 Prothero, Stephen, Religious Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know—And Doesn't (New York: HarperCollins, 2008).

59 Agnieszka Tennant, “Yes to Yoga: Can a Christian Breathe Air that has been Offered to Idols?,” Christianity Today, May 19, 2005,

61 Kindle Customer, “Great Workout from a Beginner's Point of View,” Amazon (customer review), posted March 27, 2009,

62 Willis, Laurette, PraiseMoves: The Christian Alternative to Yoga (Eugene, Ore.: Harvest House, 2006), DVD.

63 Boon, Brooke, Holy Yoga: Exercise for the Christian Body and Soul (New York: FaithWords, 2007), 38.

64 Holy Yoga, “The Holy Yoga Experience, Saturday, January 6th, 2018,” accessed December 17, 2017,

65 Holy Yoga, Masters Instructor Training, accessed August 13, 2018,, 6, 8.

66 Brooke Boon, “‘To Om or not to Om’: Christian Yoga Daily Meditation with Brooke Boon Founder of Holy Yoga,” YouTube (video), posted June 16, 2012,; and Frederick, “Holy Yoga 101,” 7.

67 Morrin, Maureen, “The Impact of Brand Extensions on Parent Brand Memory Structures and Retrieval Processes,” Journal of Marketing Research 36, no. 4 (November 1999): 517.

68 Albert Mohler, “Yahoo, Yoga, and Yours Truly,” updated October 7, 2010,

69 E-mail, quoted in Mohler, “Yahoo.”

70 Center, Pew Research, “‘Nones’ on the Rise: One-in-Five Adults Have No Religious Affiliation,” The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life (Washington, D.C.: Pew Research Center, 2012),; and Gary Nguyen, “You've Heard of the Religious ‘Nones’: Here are the Religious ‘Dones,’” World Religion News, August 20, 2015,

71 Armstrong, “Sound, Style, Substance,” 77–86; and Molly Hensely-Clancy, “Meet the ‘Young Saints’ of Bethel Who Go to College to Perform Miracles,” BuzzFeedNews, October 12, 2017,

72 Rock, Casey, “Voices from the Mat,” in Reclaiming the Body in Christian Spirituality, ed. Ryan, Thomas (New York: Paulist, 2004), 96.

73 Shurtleff, Nathaniel B., ed., Records of the Governor and Company of Massachusetts Bay, 1628–1686, vol. 2 (Boston: W. White, 1853–1854), 203, 607; and McClellan, B. Edward, Moral Education in America: Schools and the Shaping of Character from Colonial Times to the Present (New York: Teachers College Press, 1999), 5.

74 Green, Steven K., The Bible, the School, and the Constitution: The Clash that Shaped Modern Church-State Doctrine (New York: Oxford University Press, 2012), 2023.

75 Gordon, Sarah Barringer, The Spirit of the Law: Religious Voices and the Constitution in Modern America (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2010), 86.

76 Ibid., 84; Green, The Bible, the School, and the Constitution, 5–7, 255; and Hamburger, Philip, Separation of Church and State (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2004), 446, 479.

77 Butzer, Bethany, Ebert, Marina, Telles, Shirley, and Khalsa, Sat Bir Singh, “School-based Yoga Programs in the United States: A Survey,” Advances in Mind-Body Medicine 29, no. 4 (Fall 2015): 1826.

78 Kabat-Zinn, Jon, “Too Early to Tell: The Potential Impact and Challenges—Ethical and Otherwise—Inherent in the Mainstreaming of Dharma in an Increasingly Dystopian World,” Mindfulness 8, no. 5 (October 2017): 1130; Wylie, Mary Sykes, “The Mindfulness Explosion,” Psychotherapy Networker 39, no. 1 (January/February 2015): 19; Elissa Strauss, “Being Mindful About Mindfulness,” Slate, March 2, 2016,; Mindful Schools, “Home,” accessed August 13, 2018,; The Hawn Foundation, MindUP Curriculum: Grades PreK–2: Brain-Focused Strategies for Learning—and Living (New York: Scholastic, 2011); and David Lynch Foundation, “Quiet Time Changes Lives,” accessed August 13, 2018,

79 Iwamura, Jane Naomi, Virtual Orientalism: Asian Religions and American Popular Culture (New York: Oxford University Press, 2011), 20.

80 Jois, Sri K. Pattabhi, Yoga Mala (New York: North Point Press, 2010), 6, 16.

81 Jois, Sri K. Pattabhi, quoted in Medin, R. Alexander, “3 Gurus, 48 Questions: Matching Interviews with Sri T. K. V. Desikachar, Sri B. K. S. Iyengar & Sri K. Pattabhi Jois,” ed. Summerbell, Deirdre, Namarupa (Fall 2004): 18, italics mine.

82 Williams, David, interview by Donahaye, Guy and Stern, Eddie, Guruji: A Portrait of Sri K. Pattabhi Jois Through the Eyes of His Students (New York: North Point, 2010), 17, 19; Yogananda, Autobiography of a Yogi (New York: Philosophical Library, 1946); and Downtown Encinitas MainStreet Association, 2011 Downtown Encinitas Directory,, 15.

83 Cynthia Gray, “Declaration,” May 9, 2013, 2:11–12, in Sedlock.

84 Jois Yoga, “About Jois,” October 8, 2011,; and K. P. Jois USA Foundation, Inc., Form 990-EZ, Short Form Return of Organization Exempt From Income Tax, 2011,

85 Jois Yoga, “Story,” accessed August 13, 2018,; and Sonima Health and Wellness Foundation, Inc., Form 990 Return of Organization Exempt From Income Tax, 2012,, 2, Schedule I, Rider to Schedule O.

86 Sonima Foundation Form 990 Return of Organization Exempt From Income Tax, 2013,, 2, Rider to Schedule O; Sonima Foundation, Form 990 Return of Organization Exempt From Income Tax, 2014,, Schedule I; “Memorandum of Understanding between Encinitas Union School District and Regur Development Group Solutions,” 2015–2016, removed December 7, 2017–March 23, 2018,; and “Sonima / EUSD Health and Wellness Program Memorandum of Understanding 2015–2016,” removed August 4, 2016–November, 17, 2017, For details on the Foundation's involvement with the EUSD yoga curriculum, see Brown, Debating Yoga and Mindfulness.

87 John S. Meyer, “Statement of Decision,” July 1, 2013 (oral), September 23, 2013 (final), 11:9, 11:15, 11:20–22, in Sedlock.

88 Sheetal Shah, “A Victory for US Schoolchildren through a Faulty Understanding of Yoga,” Firstpost, April 19, 2015,; and Kaivalya, Alanna and van der Kooij, Arjuna, Myths of the Asanas: The Stories at the Heart of the Yoga Tradition (San Rafael, Calif.: Mandala, 2010), 28.

89 Maehle, Gregor, Ashtanga Yoga: Practice & Philosophy (Novato, Calif.: New World Library, 2006), 127; and Banuet-Alvers, Yvonne L., Yoga the College Way: A Textbook for College Yoga (Dubuque: Kendall/Hunt, 1996), 77.

90 Meyer, “Decision,” 11:20–22.

91 Ibid., 9:8–9; Regur Development Group, “EUSD Yoga,” video 3 of 4, March 2013, in Sedlock; and EUSD, On the Mat, May 2013, in Sedlock.

92 K. Pattabhi Jois Ashtanga Yoga Institute, “Traditional Method,” accessed August 13, 2018,; K. Pattabhi Jois, quoted in “Wisdom of the Masters: Fourteen Distinguished Figures in the Yoga World Offer Advice to Those Starting Out on the Yoga Path as well as to Seasoned Practitioners,” Yoga Journal 122 (June 1995): 64; and Kaivalya and Kooij, Myths of the Asanas, 18–22.

93 Sonima Foundation, “In the Community,” accessed August 13, 2018,; and Sonima Foundation, “NY State Legislators Pass Resolution Declaring First Week in May ‘NY Health and Wellness Week,’” May 4, 2015,

94 Informant e-mail to author, February 10, 2014; and Angela Draper, “Remove Mandatory MindUp/Mindfulness from My Classroom,” iPetitions, updated October 16, 2017,

95 Jois, Yoga Mala, 41–42, italics mine.

96 Sonima Foundation, Form 990, 2012, Schedule O, italics mine.

97 Goldie Hawn, quoted in Marianne Schnall, “Goldie Hawn Talks ‘MindUP’ and Her Mission to Bring Children Happiness,” Huffington Post, April 20, 2011,

98 Fiona Jensen, “A Note from Fiona,” Instructor Training Manual: Pre-K through Grade 2/3 (unpublished 2nd draft, Calmer Choice, 2015), 3.

99 Will Carless, “Yoga Class Draws a Religious Protest,” New York Times, December 15, 2012,

100 Downtown Encinitas MainStreet Association, 2011 Downtown Encinitas Directory, 15.

101 Sperling's Best Places, “Encinitas, California: Religion,” accessed August 13, 2018,

103 EUSD, “Health & Wellness Program Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs),” May 25, 2016, updated September 14, 2016,

104 Dean R. Broyles, “National Center for Law & Policy,” accessed August 13, 2018,

105 Alliance Defending Freedom, “Who We Are,” accessed August 13, 2018,

106 Dean R. Broyles, interviewed by author, June 12, 2015.

107 The Pennsylvania Charter Appeal Board rescinded a charter for a yoga-based school in Education for New Generations Charter School v. North Penn School District, CAB No. 2013–10 (2016).

108 Informant e-mail to author, April 21, 2016.

109 Informant e-mail to author, December 1, 2014.

110 Informant e-mails to author, January 17, 2017, and January 30, 2017.

111 Smith, Christian, with Emerson, Michael, Gallagher, Sally, Kennedy, Paul, and Sikkink, David, American Evangelicalism: Embattled and Thriving (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1998), xi, 129, 187, 140.

112 Ibid., 210. Smith insightfully observes that the same tendencies are a source of evangelical “thriving” and relative ineffectiveness in influencing the broader culture.

113 Michael Woodruff, quoted in Gordon, Sarah Barringer, “The New Age and the New Law: Malnak v. Yogi, Transcendental Meditation and the Definition of Religion,” in Law and Religion: Cases in Context, ed. Griffin, L. C. (New York: Wolters Kluwer, 2010), 19 of draft version; and informant e-mail to author, November 24, 2015.

114 Field notes, Monroe County Community School Corporation Board Meeting, December 16, 2014.

115 Jackson Creek Middle School, “Lesson #1—August: What is Stress, Mindfulness,” Stress Management Curriculum, (unpublished lesson manuscript, August 2017).

116 Chancey, Mark A., “A Textbook Example of the Christian Right: The National Council on Bible Curriculum in Public Schools,” Journal of the American Academy of Religion 75, no. 3 (September 2007): 554581.

117 Jain, Andrea R., Selling Yoga: from Counterculture to Pop Culture (New York: Oxford University Press, 2015), 130.

118 Kosmin, Barry A. and Keysar, Ariela, The American Religious Identification Survey (ARIS 2008): Summary Report (Hartford, Conn.: Trinity College, 2009), 16 (e-book), accessed online April 16 2018,; and Pew Research Center, “Educational Attainment of U.S. Religious Groups,” posted November 4, 2016,

119 David Peck, in Sedlock transcript, May 20, 2013, 33:25–34:1; and Meyer, “Decision,” 18:18–24, 19:4–5.

120 Lienesch, Michael, In the Beginning: Fundamentalism, the Scopes Trial, and the Making of the Antievolution Movement (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2007), 52.

121 Eck, Diana, A New Religious America: How a “Christian Country” Has Become the World's Most Religiously Diverse Nation (New York: HarperCollins, 2001), 100, 105.

122 Hindu American Foundation, “Take Back Yoga: Bringing to Light Yoga's Hindu Roots,” accessed August 13, 2018,

123 Susanna Barkataki, “Is My Yoga Cultural Appropriation? What to Do About It,” Huffington Post, February 9, 2016,

124 Subhas Tiwari, “Yoga Renamed Is Still Hindu,” Hinduism Today (January/February/March 2006),

125 Yogi Baba Prem, “There is No Christian Yoga,” Speaking Tree (blog), updated August 20, 2013,

126 Williamson, Lisa Ann, “Yoga in Public Schools,” Teaching Tolerance: A Project of the Southern Poverty Law Center 42 (Fall 2012): 2728.

127 Ericka Mellon, “HISD Hopes Yoga Classes Will Boost Students’ Health,” Houston Chronicle, September 22, 2014,; and Donna Wang and Marshall Hagins, “Perceived Benefits of Yoga among Urban School Students: A Qualitative Analysis,” Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine (January 18, 2016): 2.

128 Mendelson, Tamar, Greenberg, Mark T., Dariotis, Jacinda K., Gould, Laura Feagans, Cooper, Brittany Rhoades, and Leaf, Philip J., “Feasibility and Preliminary Outcomes of a School-Based Mindfulness Intervention for Urban Youth,” Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology 38, no. 7 (October 2010): 985.

129 Iwamura, Virtual Orientalism, 20.

130 Kosmin and Keysar, American Religious Identification Survey, 14.

131 Middleton, Kimberly R., Andrade, Regina, Moonaz, Steffany Haaz, Muhammad, Charlene, and Wallen, Gwenyth R., “Yoga Research and Spirituality: A Case Study Discussion,” International Journal of Yoga Therapy 25, no. 1 (2015): 3335.

This article was presented as the presidential address to the American Society of Church History on January 6, 2018. It builds on my research for two books: The Healing Gods: Complementary and Alternative Medicine in Christian America (New York: Oxford University Press, 2013); and a forthcoming book, Debating Yoga and Mindfulness in Public Schools: Reforming Secular Education or Reestablishing Religion? (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2019). I wish to thank the following individuals for helpfully commenting on previous drafts: Chris Armstrong, Peggy Bendroth, Josh Brown, Elesha Coffman, Roger Corbin, Heather Curtis, Bruce Hindmarsh, Mark Noll, Randi Walker, and Adrian Weimer. The article title alludes to Ecclesiastes 1:9 (NIV): “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.”

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