LOUISVILLE, Ky. – A Southern Baptist leader who is calling for Christians to avoid yoga and its spiritual attachments is getting plenty of pushback from enthusiasts who defend the ancient practice.

Southern Baptist Seminary President Albert Mohler says the stretching and meditative discipline derived from Eastern religions is not a Christian pathway to God.

Mohler said he objects to “the idea that the body is a vehicle for reaching consciousness with the divine.” “That’s just not Christianity,” Mohler told The Associated Press.

Mohler said feedback has come through e-mail and comments on blogs and other websites since he wrote an essay to address questions about yoga he has heard for years.

“I’m really surprised by the depth of the commitment to yoga found on the part of many who identify as Christians,” Mohler said.

Yoga fans say their numbers have been growing in the U.S. A 2008 study by the Yoga Journal put the number at 15.8 million, or nearly 7 percent of adults. About 6.7 percent of American adults are Southern Baptists.

Mohler argued in his online essay last month that Christians who practice yoga “must either deny the reality of what yoga represents or fail to see the contradictions between their Christian commitments and their embrace of yoga.”

He said his view is “not an eccentric Christian position.”

Other Christian leaders have said practicing yoga is incompatible with the teachings of Jesus.

Pat Robertson has called the chanting and other spiritual components that go along with yoga “really spooky.”

Muslim clerics have banned Muslims from practicing yoga in Egypt, Malaysia and Indonesia, citing similar concerns.

Yoga proponents say the wide-ranging discipline, which originated in India, offers physical and mental healing through stretching poses and concentration.

Stephanie Dillon, who has injected Christian themes into her studio in Louisville, said yoga brought her closer to her Christian faith, which had faded after college and service in the Army.