Many Christians believe that yoga is just relaxation and stretching exercises, and scoff when others warn of the spiritual red flags.
Classical yoga does include stretching, controlled breathing and relaxation to increase one’s physical fitness. But that’s just part of yoga. The real intention of yoga is to put the practitioner into an altered state of consciousness.
The word yoga means to yoke or unite. A careful study of God’s Word shows us that people who practice yoga are actually disobeying Scripture.
According to the Bible, mystical practices of any sort are evil. Romans 12:9 instructs Christians to, “Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good.” Sooner or later, those who wade into mystic waters will be pulled into the shark tank. Jesus gave this warning in Matthew 7:13-14, “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” Involvement in Eastern mysticism will lead to destruction.
In Yoga, “practicing the presence” is accomplished through the mystical method of repeating yogic breathing and yogic mantras for the purpose of ushering the devotee into “oneness” with cosmic consciousnesses, the eastern understanding of god or divinity, often referred to as the “divine spark”, believed to be synonymous with all nature. The idea of god/divinity IN all is known as pantheism, that god is IN all that is material, but panentheism says the divine permeates everything including all eternity, concluding that all spirituality and all spirits are divine and acceptable.
The basic premise of yoga theory is the fundamental unity of all existence: God, man, and all of creation are ultimately one divine reality. An editorial in the “Yoga Journal” declares this basic premise:
We are all aware that yoga means “union” and that the practice of yoga unites body, breath, and mind, lower and higher energy centers and, ultimately, self and God, or higher Self. But more broadly, yoga directs our attention to the unity or oneness that underlies our fragmented experiences and equally fragmented word. Family, friends, the Druze guerrilla in Lebanon, the great whale migrating north – all share the same essential [divine] nature (594:4). (Source)
Can Eastern philosophy and yoga be separated? Nope. Former New Ager Marcia Montenegro says that physical yoga and Eastern philosophy are mutually interdependent — you cannot have one without the other:
If one removes the core aspects of Yoga to make it into something acceptable to Christians, then the breathing techniques and asanas need to be removed, which means there is then little or no Yoga at all. Changing the terms does not change Yoga, either. Just as there is no Christian Ouija board and no Christian astrology, so there is no Christian Yoga that is either truly Yoga or truly Christian.
The bottom line is that it is disingenuous and disrespectful to real Yoga practitioners to pretend Yoga is just a physical activity, and it is deceptive to market it that way to anyone else. (Source)
Fast Facts: (adapted from What Is Yoga?)
- There are different types of yoga, but what they all have in common is they are a way to earn salvation.
- There are several practices within yoga. These include but are not limited to meditation, repeating the divine name, breathing exercises, performing acrobatic exercises, trying to put one’s own body in difficult postures.
- Meditation is central to all forms of yoga. Meditation helps its practitioners to be able to find release from the endless cycle of birth, death and rebirth.
- Yoga is a method of spiritual training whose purpose is to integrate or unite the self.
- Yoga is a physical exercise, its goal is nonphysical-uniting with God.
- Yoga teaches that people should attempt to yoke the individual spirit to God, to atman-the individual soul or essence of a person-and to Brahman.”
- Yoga is a $30 billion-a-year business in America.
What the Bible Teaches:
While the word “Yoga” isn’t mentioned in Scripture, the idea of yoking oneself to pagan gods and concepts is forbidden. (Leviticus 19:31 Deuteronomy 18:9 Hebrews 10:26-31, Acts 4:12, and this biggie: Joshua 23:16.)
Our bodies were created to be “a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God which is our spiritual act of worship” (Romans 12:1) and “true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father) seeks.” (John 4: 23).
Jesus says, “I am the truth. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:16) Many Christians believe that to participate in Hinduism’s postures to get into God’s presence, or redefine other manipulations with Christian terminology are corrupt offerings to the LORD and an attempt to arrive by “another way.” This is also where I am as I read the Bible and hear the passionate pleas from those who have studied New Age and mystical practices.
“There shall not be found among you anyone who burns his son or his daughter as an offering, anyone who practices divination or tells fortunes or interprets omens, or a sorcerer or a charmer or a medium or a necromancer or one who inquires of the dead, for whoever does these things is an abomination to the LORD. And because of these abominations the LORD your God is driving them out before you. You shall be blameless before the LORD your God, for these nations, which you are about to dispossess, listen to fortune-tellers and to diviners. But as for you, the LORD your God has not allowed you to do this (Deuteronomy 18:10-14). (emphases added)
Also, Exodus 22:18; Leviticus 19:26; 19:31; 20:6; Isaiah 8:19 and Malachai 3:5.
Phrases and Terms: (Source)
- Om & Namaste — Some classes will be bookended by a unison “om.” This mantra, or sacred chanting syllable, is a considered to be a primordial sound of the universe. Following your last “om” of the class, the teacher may give the common salutation “Namaste.” “Namaste” literally means “I bow to you,” according to yoga teacher Aadil Palkhivala of Yoga Journal.
- Pranayama — Breathing techniques to build prana, or energy, are known as pranayama. This is an important aspect of the yoga tradition and a part of the physical practice. A commonly used pranayama in Western classes is known as ujaii breathing, which mimics the sound of the ocean by constricting the throat. This technique links the breath with movements.
- Asana — The physical practice of yoga is known as Asana and consists of postures or poses. There are hundreds of different yoga postures, and they vary among the different styles and disciplines of Hatha Yoga. Teachers will often give the names of the postures in English, Sanskrit or a mix of the two. In a Vinyasa flow yoga class, the students are led through sun salutations, or Surya Namaskar. The series of postures can be repeated to build prana.
- Find your center
- Root yourself
- Become present
- Listen to your breath
- Set your intention
- My Response to Holy Yoga By Amy Spreeman
- Basic Spirituality of Yoga By Marcia Montenegro NEW!
- A subtle and dangerous shift in Christianity By Marsha West
- Can A Pagan Practice Be “Christianized”? By Marsha West
- Christians get twisted out of shape when they learn the truth about yoga By Marsha West
- Do Yoga Exercises Work With Christianity? By Elliot Miller
- Does Yoga Conflict With Christianity?
- Namaste, Satan By Pam Frost NEW
- On the Origins of Yoga By Mary Eady
- Praise Moves–Christian alternative to traditional Yoga
- Should Christians Practice Yoga? By Jeremy Butler
- The Interface of Medieval Mysticism and Buddhist Mindfulness Meditation By Pam Frost
- WARNING: Kundalini Yoga’s “Highest Mantra Meditation” Amy Spreeman
- What Links Breath Prayer, “Practicing the Presence” and Yoga? Amy Spreeman
- What Eastern gurus say about yoga By John Ankerberg and John Weldon
- Yoga Boom: A Call For Christian Discernment Part 1 By Elliott Miller
- Yoga Teaching in the Church By Elliot Miller
- Yoga, Yokes, Snakes, and Gods By Marcia Montenegro
Other Research Sites:
- Apologetics Index
- Ankerberg Theological Research Institute
- Berean Call
- Caryl Matrisciana Productions
- Christian Research Institute
- Spiritual Research Network
Books & DVDs
- Faith Undone By Roger Oakland
- A Time of Departing By Ray Yungen
- Yoga and The Body of Christ By David Hunt
- Yoga Uncoiled: From east to west (DVD) By Caryl Matrisciana