Scientific studies have measured many physical and psychological benefits of meditation that leads to relaxation through reduced stress. Meditative techniques separated from Christian spirituality also reduce stress when used for physical relief alone. In general, for the Christian, meditation and relaxation practices that come from Hinduism or Buddhism and other Eastern or New Age religions would be not only inappropriate, but also dangerous. Meditative practices like yoga, T’ai chi, and Pilates are very effective relaxation techniques. However, practicing these exercises must be for the physical postures alone and not for any religious or philosophical teachings.
Christians must use spiritual discernment in this area. (Hebrews 5:14; Colossians 2:8). There are Christian alternatives and variations to many of these exercises that are very beneficial to promoting both physical and psychological health related to stress reduction. A Christian alternative to yoga is promoted by Laurette Willis, founder of PraiseMoves (www.praisemoves.com). There are many Christian associations for T’ai chi as well as those for other Chinese martial arts like karate and Tae Kwon Do. Books related to Christian meditation, relaxation techniques and martial arts are available in abundance. It is interesting that research shows that spiritual meditation is actually more effective in reducing stress that secular meditation.
All of these stress-reducing techniques have researched by various institutes, and ongoing research may be found at their Web sites. Check these out:
- The Mind/Body Medical Institute, www.mbmi.org
- National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, National Institutes of Health, http://nccam.nih.gov
- Center for Spirituality, Theology and Health at Duke University, www.dukespiritualityandhealth.org
If you’d like to dig deeper into my journey of discovering God’s plan for health and wellness, check out my book, Made For Paradise: God’s Original Plan for Healthy Eating, Physical Activity, and Rest.