Ethics: A Yoga Class Starting at Church

What would you do Wednesday!

Sitting down in the pew on Sunday morning you open the bulletin that you just grabbed on the way in. You look through for anything new going on in your church.

One new byline reads:

New Outreach Opportunity: New Yoga classes starting, twice a week. Sign up at the church office. Invite your friends!

Announcements start as service is about to begin. You then find out that this new Yoga class is going to be lead by your pastor’s wife. It is announced as a “Christian Yoga” class that will be a wonderful opportunity to use as an evangelism tool. Everyone who signs up is encouraged to invite their unbelieving friends. It turns out that the class is free to everyone and that all exercise equipment is being provided by the church.

The excitement about the new class becomes more apparent when it is explained that all participants will experience Christian teaching through Yoga poses like ‘Angel Breath, Reverent Rotation, Holy Roller, Prophet Plank Low, Apostles Pose 1, Pious Pose and Moses Staff’. (You wonder if their using the Christoga program.)

Do you:

  • Sign up and invite friends?
  • Voice concern and graciously explain to the pastor why this is wrong?
  • Consider leaving the church?

What would you do if this happened in your church?

tagged as , in Culture,morality

{ 31 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Chuck October 13, 2010 at 1:37 pm

The concern about Yoga is when the postures (similar to stretching we did for football, track, etc.) are joined to a religious system that introduces heresy… same for advanced martial arts. If the postures are stripped from the false religious message, in a way it’s not Yoga and false advertising. It be more honest to say “If you like Yoga, try this!”

If it’s metaphysical yoga it may be an outreach opportunity, but not for Christianity!

I’d suspect most of the people offering such classes have no clue on these issues and the pastors think they’re getting free help… they assume it is benign but fear questioning or don’t think to question the offer of help.

On another level like most of the things we call “outreach activities” … they just end up serving the church like the “Christian Life Centers” supposedly built for “community outreach” but end up as a self-serving spa for the Christian Ghetto.

If you’re looking for the brief answer – “I’m agin it”.

2 Tim October 13, 2010 at 4:58 pm

Hi Mark,

I would say that this is highly subjective, I think as Al Mohler recently found out. 🙂 That isn’t good when it comes to the Body of Christ but it still needs to be addressed in a cohesive and truthful way.

Truth be told, Yoga, and anything associated, is a syncretism that cannot be reconciled with Objective truth. So it cannot be allowed in the local church because it would harm the believers and cause confusion. I think, as Al Mohler stated, “you cannot separate Yoga from it’s roots in Transendental – Eastern thought.” (my quoting, not exact words)

I was listening to a popular station here in the DFW area and heard the morning show start to spout off about this very thing. Especially Dr. Mohler’s article. Of course one of the guys, who was on the morning team, this was a secular station, was a Southern Baptist and he started going off on Mohler, the SBC convention and ended up with “maybe I should go nondenominational”. This is sad because people who don’t think have broad coverage, only their thoughts are about an inch deep.

I would say kick the pastor and wife out and start a new church. 🙂 No really, lovingly confront the pastor and wife about the inconsistencies of Yoga with the Christian faith. If that did not work then it would be going to the authority, over that local church, sharing your concerns. Of course if the wife is having Yoga classes then most likely you have just gone to the final authority, the pastor, and if he is in disagreement with his wife, you won’t win. Then find a church that doesn’t do Yoga.

Take care,


3 Thomas Twitchell October 14, 2010 at 1:23 am

If you didn’t know it was coming you’re not active in the church. You have let it get this far and now it is too late. Gracefully admit your sin of neglect, repent of your laziness, and get active. Perhaps you can reverse the slide into the morass of relativism, perhaps not. You’ll find out soon enough who were really on the side of Christ and who still are. If you do not have the support to reverse the apostasy, get out while the getting is good and snatch as many out of the fire as possible.

Next church, get active, stay active, and advocate for the ways of Christ at every juncture. At least you will not be regretting being the passive cause of the decline of biblical authority.

“If that did not work then it would be going to the authority, over that local church, sharing your concerns.”

If it is a SBC church, there is no authority over it.

4 Andrew Wencl October 14, 2010 at 8:44 am


Just because (in this hypothetical situation) he didn’t know until he saw it in the bulletin doesn’t mean he’s lazy. Some church leadership is either secretive or doesn’t feel the need to share with the congregation the results of their planning meetings. It is quite possible that nothing would be announced until the week of.

In answer to the question,

In this situation it is a good idea to bring your concerns to the pastor and his wife. Provide a solution and be open to discussion. They might change the name, put it on hold while they look into it, or they might just say it is a question of semantics. And it might just be that.

5 Thomas Twitchell October 14, 2010 at 9:40 am

Well Andrew, I would say in either case, the person did nothing to break up the cabal, and nothing to stop governmental decision from taking place without the perview of the congregation. In types of worship enterprizes, such as Mark describes, first of all should not be being led by a woman, and secondly, where do any of the poses find biblical justification in any form of teaching or worship in the church? This isn\’t a matter of quilted or discount two-ply in the bathrooms, is it? Even in the congregational SBC that I was a member of, a committee could not implement any new programs without a vote of the congregation. As a committee head and member, we could only implement those things voted on by the congregation. In those matters approved we had latitude to carry out the business of the church. Outside that, we didn\’t. An active member was at the business meetings or read the minutes, and kept himself informed. If you\’re a member of a church that makes program decisions, especially those which incorporate some form of defacto worship or education, and you don\’t know about it, or they act the way you describe, you need to bail out.

6 Andrew Wencl October 14, 2010 at 11:39 am


I was certainly not advocating a secretive leadership, but the church leadership doesn’t always disclose what goes on behind closed doors. Sometimes planning requires much prayer and thought and announcing that the church leadership discussed selling the building and moving across town would be really inappropriate if they are still praying and seeking God’s will and haven’t even planned how they would do it.

What you describe sounds like the pastor or church leadership would have no authority to do anything that wasn’t first passed by the congregation. Different churches may run differently, and sometimes pastors and other leaders have permission to exercise their own discretion on certain matters. I’ve never heard of a church vote before a pastor invites a guest speaker or starts a new Sunday School class, for example.

In this case, it could be that the church gives a wide latitude to the pastor and leadership team. And it could be time to leave. But leaving at the first sign of difficulty only causes division and doesn’t allow for understanding and reconciliation.

Totalitarian control on either the congregation’s part or on the pastor’s part is the sign of an unhealthy church.

7 Tim October 14, 2010 at 12:45 pm


“If it is a SBC church, there is no authority over it.”

I’ll be generous and assume that Jesus wasn’t included in your statement. 🙂 Although I would say that most SBC churches do operate in that vein. Church polity is something that isn’t as much a concern for my freedom as it is that we stay biblical and accountable to the Authority, that is Jesus Christ.

8 Mark October 14, 2010 at 6:30 pm

Tim, I too would go to the pastor. And maybe beyond, if necessary, for something like this to make the point heard.

9 Mark October 14, 2010 at 6:50 pm

Thanks for the discussion, guys. To Thomas’ point there probably is some laziness which manifested itself by neglecting his duties as a church member to be involved.

For me trying to settle with semantics would be troubling. It is interesting how this conversation moved toward church government. I understand that even Presbyterian churches have congregational voting on some issues. Even in a non-congregational church the authority has to stop somewhere as one moves up the clerical chain. So the argument that there is no authority in an SBC church, like mine for example, isn’t exactly accurate and can be applied to other ecclesiastical structures.

10 Victoria October 15, 2010 at 2:53 pm

Well I must say brother if it was me I would get my trust 20 gauge and force em all at gunpoint to read Al Mohler and put on sackcloth and ashes and repent.

11 Tim October 15, 2010 at 3:23 pm

right, I guess, like you said it seems to be turning into a church polity issue but anyway you look at it, whether the congregation or elders, someone has to make a judgement.

12 Tim October 15, 2010 at 3:27 pm

already tried but had to spend a couple of days in jail, for some reason Al Mohler wouldn’t even come and bail me out. 🙂

13 AshleyD October 27, 2010 at 2:19 pm

I get really upset when Christians say there is something wrong with yoga! Yoga is a wonderful way to get back in tune with your body- the temple of God! Most of us sit at a desk job all day, if we do exercise, it is a job around the block. never once to we stop to focus on taking deep breaths, appreciating all the ways our bodies can move, stretching in ways that open up breathing even more, clear our minds of all distractions, etc. That is exactly what yoga is – simply learning to be confident in your body, and detaching yourself from all the stressors that go on all day. When I finish yoga, I am more calm and more ready to pray.
Just because something came from another culture does not mean we cannot appreciate it – other cultures and religions have both good and bad things. I prefer to learn the good from other cultures and apply it in my life to make me a better person, and more able to live a Christ-like life. I believe Jesus WANTS us to take good care of our bodies, and would himself go to a yoga class. To me it sounds ignorant and closed minded to dismiss yoga just because it originated in India. I am a Christian, but also my Masters degree is in South Asian studies, my work experience has all been in India, and my husband is Indian. From my travel I have learned to be more open minded and not fear something just because it is different.

14 AshleyD October 27, 2010 at 3:36 pm

Hi again, I did want to add something else lol, b/c I’m thinking there are misconceptions about yoga. Yoga, at least the modern kind taught as exercise and as part of therapy (every counselor & doctor I evern went to for anxiety recommended to go yoga btw) in the US, does NOT require you to pray to a Hindu god or anything of the sort. It is soley about stretching, toning, breathing, and clearing the mind. The pose names are translated mostly, and are named for animals or things they look like – cat pose, warrior pose, downward dog, child’s pose etc. the things that are in Sanskrit, still don’t mean you are worshipping a Hindu deity in any way. This is why I say we can appreciate the valuable practice of yoga without ever practicing hinduism. I am starting to believe yoga is one of the best things for the body b/c those people who practice it stay active, alert, fit beyond their years. As far as it being offered at the church…I don’t see a problem with it, but it did seem silly to change all the pose names – why not just leave them? you can say that God wants us to value and take care of our bodies, and that is why you are offering yoga in the church. After yoga is finished, everyone’s mind will be peaceful and reading for prayer. distractions and selfish thoughts will have flown out of the mind so everyone can really focus sincerely. that’s the beauty of yoga :)!

15 AshleyD October 27, 2010 at 3:39 pm

typo I meant “ready for prayer” not “reading for prayer”

16 Tim L October 27, 2010 at 4:24 pm

hey Ashley,

i think that the last sentence, of your first paragraph, is the problem. you are saying that doing something outside of God is how you get ready to meet God. does that sound weird to you? in the scriptures they will always tell you to “take off the old man” or “put off the old man”, the antithesis to that is “put on the new man”. there is no “emptiness” involved only wholeness and completeness of everything, whether you are stressed or fully comfortable.

i don’t think anyone here, according to the comments, was disparaging another culture or is fearful towards it. i think the question John Mark was asking was, should it be in the church? because our culture accepts it doesn’t mean that it should be automatically accepted in the church. i’m sure many would agree with you but you cannot at the same point deny the roots of what you practice.

17 Jeff October 27, 2010 at 4:58 pm

Isn’t this just exercise when you get down to it? Why all the fuss? Just say stretch like me and get over it. The name of the stretch shouldn’t cause this many issues, now just so you know, I do not do yoga becuase I am not a very flexable person, but I do execise, and if this is a way to get people excited about their health, then ask the wife to not use any names other than stretch 1, stretch 2 etc….

18 AshleyD October 27, 2010 at 5:21 pm

Hello Tim, thanks for answering – well, no I don’t see it as doing something outside of God. If that’s the case it would mean we can’t take aerobics or dance class or go running or do anything secular? I think God likes yoga b/c it teaches us to appreciate the body He gave us AND to learn to be still and quiet so we can receive Him. so in that sense to me it doesn’t seem outside of God at all…
as far as the roots I’m not concerned. If we are concerned with roots of everything, we could not do anything – for instance Christmas’s roots are on a Roman pagan holiday, nothing to do with the real date of Christ’s birth, but that doesn’t mean I don’t celebrate Christmas because today, in our culture we made something meaningful out of it. Same with yoga – today it is a healthy, beneficial practice so if its roots are Hinduism I don’t mind. in fact other religions have some really beautiful traditions and practices that we can also use to become closer to God 🙂 oh, and about it being in the church – well it doesn’t have to be in the church, but if someone wants it in the church, then it’s fine as it could introduce people who usually woudln’t exercise or value their bodies into a very healthy practice.

19 AshleyD October 27, 2010 at 5:36 pm

See the thing is that yoga does not join religion into the poses/exercises at all – it is certainly not heretical. you said the poses have false religious messages, but I do not believe that to be true – they don’t teach anything like that. they are just named for what they look like such as cat pose or child’s pose etc. I’ve taken many yoga classes and certainly never had to do anything related to Hinduism. maybe if you take yoga at a temple in India it is more religion focused – but the yoga taught in gyms and dance studios in the US is not. in fact, as I said below, it goes very well along with Christianity.

20 kateg October 27, 2010 at 6:18 pm

We are not to clear our mind to get ready to pray. We are told to go to God with what is on my mind already, to cast my cares on Him and end up in repentance or hope, or worship, or all three. It is not for us to go to Him with our minds empty. If that we the case, though, we also better hope we get to prayer quickly, because an empty mind will be filled with something. There are lots of other ways to stretch and exercise stewardship over our bodies.

In addition, I, for one, have never gone (back not too far in the day) to a yoga class that did not end with everyone bowing and saying “namaste,” (sp?) but that may be just the fashion here where I am. My .02.

21 AshleyD October 27, 2010 at 6:30 pm

Actually Namaste is just a greeting, the Hindi (and Sanskrit) version of Hello. I speak Bengali and when we greet someone we say the same thing – Nomoskar, which is Namaste in Bengali. so there is nothing wrong at all with that. As far as clearing the mind, oh boy do I find it helpful. You see, I suffer from pretty severe anxiety and panic attacks. it very much helps me to be still and quiet, something I have a very hard time doing. if I try to pray when I am wrapped up in my worries, then I usually am very selfish in my prayer. it is better to pray when I have been able to be more calm, so that I can remember what is truly important and pray for others first. Also meditation has been a part of Christianity since ancient times, but was cast aside in more modern times. I believe meditation is wonderful because instead of us asking God for something all the time, we can instead just focus on Him, let His love wash over us, and maybe hear something from Him that we wouldn’t with a busy busy mind… yes, we are called to cast our worries upon Him in prayer, which I do enough…but sometimes it is nice to be more still and quiet and receiving of Him than being stressed, anxious and asking all the time…but, that’s just me, we all worship in different ways, and maybe it’s not helpful for you.

22 AshleyD October 27, 2010 at 6:32 pm

I think the actual translation of Namaste/Nomoskar (which is used just as hello) is “let the light inside me greet the light inside you” or something similar. and as Christians, we definitely do all have a light to shine so it’s a very beautiful greeting. 🙂

23 AshleyD October 27, 2010 at 6:34 pm

In Indian/South Asian culture, you put your hands together and bow your head when you greet someone, it is nothing to do with prayer by the way. whenever I greet an elder (or anyone really) I place my hands together, dip my head and say Nomoskar. If they are really old, then we do pronam meaning we reach down to touch their feet to show respect.

24 AshleyD October 27, 2010 at 9:40 pm

Ok, this is the last thing I’ll write b/c when I comment on things on blogs, I start getting all worried and anxious about what people will say and can’t think of anything else..which is my point – I have real trouble with anxiety. it impedes everything in my life and results in health problems. Yoga is one of the only things I’ve found that can release my mind from the million worries that it builds up and clings to, so that I have peace for at least a little while..Every doctor and therapist I’ve seen has told me to take up yoga to “take me down a notch” they all say. Anxiety is horrible – my pulse is always racing, I’m always short of breath, stomach feels like knives are in it, and small irrational fears became so large I can’t think of anything else. I am so happy I found yoga, because during that time every muscle in my body relaxes, my mind relaxes. For many years I tried just plain prayer, and it never calmed me down – rattling off my fears and worries, many of them selfish, to God didn’t do anything to calm my rapid breathing knotted stomach. If there was a Christian practice that was the same as yoga, I’d do it, but Christianity doesn’t offer much in the way of mind-body relaxation/breathing exercises etc. Now don’t get me wrong, I do not believe in practicing Hinduism, and if a yoga class I went to did that, I’d find another one. But I would rather take yoga, go to counseling, and learn meditation than have to be drugged up on anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medications as I have been for the past few years, and it is really terrible! I’m trying to beat anxiety now through counseling, getting more involved in church, yoga, exercise, and and upcoming “mindful living stress reduction” meditation class… I’ll try to not answer anything more on this post b/c as I said, getting deeper in discussions I feel people are arguing and that makes me…more anxious which is really bad for me lol!

25 kateg October 28, 2010 at 1:29 pm

I really do understand Ashley. I had been on anti-depressants, etc., and on the cusp of new age before my conversion. Even now only by the grace of God, through His gospel, and reliance on Jesus Christ for each breath am I able to live in some comfort in this world. God wants us to go to Him with our cares. He does not want us to clean up to come to Him. Our clean-ups are offensive to Him. He will do the cleaning up. We are more than spirit. We are physical beings as well. Being a Christian addresses all of us.

Your explanation of namaste, along with your reiteration that is not just physical fitness, shows that yoga is attempting to address way more than physical things and those things are explicit in the Bible, and should be treated biblically.

I pray that the God of all, through Jesus, brings you light and comfort.

26 AshleyD October 28, 2010 at 2:09 pm

Kate, awww, thanks for your very thoughtful comment. I’m breaking my own rule by replying since I said I wouldn’t :-P. I guess I’m just not explaining well – no I see it as a secular activity, like doing breathing exercises with a therapist. So I don’t see it as doing something spiritual, but by doing the stretches, breathing and clearing of mind, it can make me better able to do almost anything- studying as well as praying (doing something spiritual). As Christianity doesn’t offer exercise, breathing, or meditation classes, I have to go the secular route. Oh, and Namaste really is just a greeting – you can say it when starting or closing – if you learn Hindi, you will have to say Namaste to everyone because it is just Hello. there’s nothing religious about Namaste, it’s just their greeting in their language. If you mean it is spiritual since it talks about light..well many languages’ greetings don’t translate exactly into Hello but since they use it as such it’s the same thing. Muslim greetings literally mean something like God’s peace be with you, but they use it as hello, so if you go to that culture that is how you’ll greet people…Sanskrit (which Hindi is based off of) is a very rich poetic language so it’s no wonder their hello is a bit more poetic than our English one lol.

27 JimC October 28, 2010 at 2:18 pm

Folks secular does not equal bad. In fact there is a whole lot of great secular activities and thought out there that can inform and educate the often insular Christian community.

If you think doing Yoga offends God in any way or is anti Christian you no longer are following a religion or his teachings but rather seem more inclined to follow an authoritarian cult.

Seriously folks.

28 Karen Butler October 28, 2010 at 3:12 pm

Ashley, I am so glad you came back to check comments, because I want to echo and amen Kate’s thoughts, and add to them. I too struggled for my entire adult life with the kind of anxiety you describe, until God did a deep work of deliverance–but it was a painstaking process of turning stinking thinking towards the Throne of Grace, of capturing every thought that was oposed to Biblical Truth, and thereby transforming my heart to a place of peace and rest. I don’t mean that I don’t still have battles, but it is by no means the constantlly tense, jaw-clenching disaster of a life that I used to endure and seek to escape.

And most of the root of my anxiety was obsessing about others, and what they thought of me–instead of seeking first that fear of God that enlightens the mind and brings joy to the heart–the wisdom that is found only in Christ. I had to deeply repent of the fear of man that brings a snare. Kind of what you wrote here:
“I start getting all worried and anxious about what people will say and can’t think of anything else..”

I know very well the physical debilitating symptoms you describe, and they are awful, but instead of yoga, I would suggest taking a vigorous walk, and whilst walking worshiping and crying out to God for wisdom as to what has got you totally tied up in knots again. Or jumping jacks–anything physical will dispell the flight or fight hormones, but it is easier to pray and wait on God, and check out His word on a walk.

For me those things causing the knots were most often that I had sinned against God in believing a lie, and until that was cleared up, I had very little peace. Or I was not setting proper boundaries with someone in clearly telling them why they were making me afraid–in wanting to be a pleaser, and just stuffing, instead of walking in the light with that one who had offended me–not lovingly speaking what was true. There were other things.

I would avoid that “mindful living stress reduction” meditation class. Those techniques are nakedly Eastern meditation, not Biblical meditation. As Christians we are never called to empty our minds, but to take thoughts captive, and thereby transform them. Please heed the loving warnings Kate and I offer–there is freedom, but it is found in Christ, and in His loving Family, alone.

29 AshleyD October 28, 2010 at 4:15 pm

I now have 2 people to answer – Jim and Karen. Oh so many things to say, and I am sorry for making anyone read so much!
First of all, Jim I really agree – many secular things are very good and can be used to make us better people and better Christians. Sometimes the teaching at church misses out on some important things – the mind-body relationship being one. The body and mind are connected – when the tense muscles relax and stretch, and when we breathe deeply, our mind can relax. It is very healthy practice and thus why my doctors and counselors (most of whom were Christian) recommended it. I learned how important the mind-body relationship is when I worked for a year with a group that does dance therapy with survivors of human trafficking in India. I knew the power of dance to give self-confidence, but before that experience never realized how emotionally healing dance is. To me, the secular practice of yoga (as it is taught in the US) is very similar to dance therapy.
Karen, thanks for writing! Yes, I do know the power also of casting our burdens on the Lord and of letting Christ take every thought captive – in fact that is one of my favorite verses! However, there is a lot of mention in the Bible about being still and quiet before the Lord, and meditating on his teaching and love – in US churches we tend to forget that. It’s incredibly healing from time to time to be able to just sit in the presence of the Lord and let Him speak to our hearts for once instead of us always chattering away. BOTH forms of prayer are important, one cannot be without the other. Any form of exercise is mentally healthy – you are right, talking a walk is good, but it also doesn’t make us conscious of each muscle, doesn’t relax tense muscles, and doesn’t make us do breathing exercises…so it misses out on some things. I do like walking – I do that too!
Now on the fact that while the yoga may be secular, but has roots in Hinduism….well I’m unlike a lot of you on this blog in that I just don’t think every single thing out of another cultural or religious tradition is bad. My major was international studies, my Masters is South Asian studies, my internships and work experiences have all been abroad (in India and Thailand), many of my friends are from all over the world – I’ve been really blessed by these things. I’ve learned a lot of things from other cultures do have a lot of value that we shouldn’t just dismiss. I don’t really mind if meditation is from an Eastern tradition (as long as it’s not having me pray to an idol)– in fact Christianity and Judaism are Eastern too. If we can harness it and use it for good, and to be closer to God, I see it as a wonderful thing! Are tying Buddhist prayer flags on your porch bad?…I don’t think so because it’s a beautiful thought to send prayers flying every direction! Are wearing Buddhist prayer beads bad ?(my Christian friend does) – again I don’t think so if they remind you to pray! Is praying with a Bahai friend out of her prayer book bad? No…I have a friend and have prayed with her using both my prayers and some of her own (which were very beautiful and sounded exactly like Christian prayers by the way). I just feel Christ transcends these things and looks at our heart, not if the breathing exercise we are doing had a tie to Hinduism, or if we are remembering to pray when we see colorful prayer flags etc – maybe a lot of you won’t agree with me, but I just wanted to share what I have come to believe, after years of prayer and searching (you see, I was brought up in a Southern Baptist church in a small town in Louisiana, so I do understand where y’all are coming from).
Karen, I really appreciate your note and I can tell you are very kind and have a lot of insight. I do know if I am to get over anxiety without medication I must harness prayer more and more, and care more about what God thinks of me than what other people think. I’m working on that – I find it is very hard to believe how much God loves us, and to trust in that throughout the day – He does believe in us and created us with a purpose in mind no matter what others say…each time I have a self-deprecating thought I’m trying to remember to pray about it and let Jesus wash it away. It is very helpful!
As far as the mindful living stress reduction class – I’ll try it out and if it seems iffy – if they are teaching things that are opposed to the Gospel – I’ll drop out…but if it’s beneficial and the only problem with it is the fact that meditation stems from Eastern thought…then I won’t see something wrong with it…let’s see, I haven’t started yet, but the counselor I saw recommended it and said that some of her patients were able to come off anti-anxiety medication after it, so it sounds like it could be great!

30 Mark November 8, 2010 at 11:55 pm


Upon what basis do you think it okay for a Christian to use/participate in those practices you described from other religions? Did Jesus and the Apostles advocate praying with those of others religions because Jesus “transcends” those things and “looks at our heart?”

31 AshleyD November 9, 2010 at 9:42 pm

Hi Mark, my deadline for my Masters degree thesis is friday; so after that is turned in and when I get some time I would love to answer your question!


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