by Andi Hale
There has been a debate flowing through my friend groups that has got me asking questions. No matter if we are talking about food & drinks, movies, games or activities, some say that it’s “not Christian” to participate. Some of the topics debated are Alcohol, Cannabis, Harry Potter, Pokemon, Crystals & Yoga.
But what about Yoga?
Now I don’t consider myself a new Christian, but I still have room to grow. Don’t we all? Here are some of the questions that have been running through my mind.
What is it about yoga that causes Christians to run the other direction? Isn’t it just peaceful exercise?
Is it the dim lights? It’s ok for the lights to be down at a concert, in church during worship or a romantic dinner for two, so it can’t be that.
Is it the bare feet? No way, that’s just silly! Unless you find bare feet arousing. I find nothing wrong with it, except maybe the scent. LOL!
What about the deep breathing? Is that an issue? I would hope not! I have to breathe deep every time I sing, during physical exercise, and to help me control my temper. Women in childbirth are told to breath through the pain. God gave us our very breath and we should use it as it was intended. What is the purpose of deep breathing in yoga? I think it’s about relaxation, right?
Could it be the music that’s played during yoga sessions? Well, maybe so, depending on the lyrics, but I believe most of the time the music is instrumental. It’s not like music is inherently satanic or anything. The only difference between secular and Christian music is the lyrics, so that shouldn’t be the problem.
Is it about the body positions? That doesn’t make sense, since most of the same poses are used in athletic warm ups and physical therapy sessions. There are benefits to yoga that help many people. Stretching and strength conditioning helps to improve flexibility, improve circulation, relieve stress and help injuries to heal.
Maybe it’s the meditation. I know that we are called to meditate on God’s word, but what exactly are you to meditate on during a yoga class? This may be the crux of the matter.
Christian Meditation is NOT an altered state of consciousness. In Hebrew, “haghah” is “to meditate” = “to murmur; to mutter; to sigh” – when done in the heart, this is considered “musing, or meditation.” Meditation carries with it the unappealing, but descriptive picture of “a cow chewing the cud” – the idea being that we “chew” the Word, “swallow it,” and then bring it back up to chew it some more throughout our day as new truths and revelations are revealed.
Let’s start at the beginning
The main problem with yoga for Christians is the origins!
The first text to teach physical yoga practices [known as hatha yoga] was written by Buddhists in the 11th century and called the Amṛtasiddhi, and, certainly, through these practices they were aiming for some kind of salvation or liberation.Dr. James Mallinson, SOAS, University of London – Live Science
The Hindu god
Did you know that yoga is dedicated to Lord Shiva the Destroyer? He is a Hindu god, known as the god of death. This is why some call yoga the discipline of death. When one believes in reincarnation, as Hindus do, the sooner one dies, the sooner one goes into the next life.
Yoga is motivated by a spirit that inspires self-deification — with a promise of reincarnation. That sounds familiar!!!
And the serpent said unto the woman, ‘You will not surely die. For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.Genesis 3:4-5
The meaning of yoga
The Sanskrit word “yuj” which “yoga” is derived from, means “to join”, “to yoke” or “to unite”. But what are they uniting? Why would Christ followers practice anything yoked to Shiva the Destroyer, the Lord of Yoga?
Would this lead people away from Christ? Would you agree that the root of something can affect its fruit?
We do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.Ephesians 6:12
Poses or postures
Did you know that yoga poses are actually offerings to the 330 million Hindu gods? Who can even keep track of that many gods. Sounds exhausting!
Many Westerners who practice yoga today are unaware that the physical positions assumed in yoga symbolize a spiritual act: worshiping one of the many Hindu gods. To a Hindu, YOGA is the outward physical expression of a deep spiritual belief. You cannot separate one from the other.George P. Alexander, Ph.D., World Religions at Biola University – Praise Moves
Yoga has a spiritual nature that is psychic and metaphysical. This is one reason why experts, such as Professor Subhas Tiwari of the Hindu University of America says, “Yoga is Hinduism.”
Efforts to separate yoga from its spiritual center reveal ignorance of the goal of yoga.Professor Tiwari, Hinduism Today 9/09
Many of the poses include a mudra, which means ‘seal,’ ‘gesture,’ or ‘mark.’ Yoga mudras are symbolic gestures often practiced with the hands and fingers. The yoga mudra (hand gesture or “gateway”) for Namaste (“I bow to the divine in you”), is a Hindu gesture that pre-dates Christianity.
In contrast, the Bible speaks of praying with uplifted hands or “hands spread up toward heaven” (1 Kings 8: 22 and 54; 1 Chronicles 6:13)
Let my prayer be set before You as incense, The lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice.Psalm 145:1
Be aware of the deceptive, seductive nature of yoga and the “self-fulfillment or enlightenment” practices it can lead its practitioners.
Are Yogis Hindu missionaries?
Many Christians have been drawn into New Age spirituality and metaphysics through the “doors” of Yoga and Tai Chi. Both are mystical philosophical and religious systems cleverly disguised as “just exercise.”
For hundreds of years we were on the receiving end of Christian missionaries as part of colonialism. For Yogananda to come as a Hindu missionary to the U.S., to bring the ancient wisdom of India in all of its purity and magnificence, this was a way of saying we also have something to offer.Varun Soni, dean of Religious Life at USC – Detroit News
Isn’t there Christian yoga now?
So-called “Christian yoga” was founded by Hindu leader A.K. Mozumdar — “Christian yoga” IS yoga. We cannot combine religion (Hinduism) with a relationship (knowing Jesus Christ as Lord).
Why did famous yogi Paramhansa Yogananda come to the United States in the 1920s wearing a cross and saying that yoga was completely compatible with the Christian faith?
He said the yoga was the “binding force” to connect ALL religions.
Notice the title of Yogananda’s book, “The Second Coming of Christ: The Resurrection of the Christ within You.” If we see the “resurrection of Christ” within US, there’s no need to acknowledge the actual crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ, no need for His blood sacrifice, and no need to acknowledge one’s desperate need for salvation.
How many gullible people were drawn away from Christ as a result and into Yogananda’s SELF-Realization (SRF) Fellowship? Just read the aims and ideals of SRF.
- To disseminate among the nations a knowledge of definite scientific techniques for attaining a direct personal experience of God.
- To teach that the purpose of life is the evolution, through self-effort, of man’s limited mortal consciousness into God Consciousness…
- To reveal the complete harmony and basic oneness of original Christianity as taught by Jesus Christ and original Yoga as taught by Bhagavan Krishna
That is NOT Christianity. You cannot combine a religion (Yoga, dedicated to Hinduism’s Lord Shiva) with a RELATIONSHIP, which is what born-again Christians have with the Lord Jesus Christ.
It’s all about SELF.
Have you noticed how many times self is referenced in yoga; self-effort, self-realization, self-fulfillment, self-awareness and self-deification? Sounds awfully selfish to me! As Christian’s, we are called to “die to self”.
Dying to self is never portrayed in Scripture as something optional in the Christian life. It is the reality of the new birth; no one can come to Christ unless he is willing to see his old life crucified with Christ and begin to live anew in obedience to Him.
We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin.Romans 6:6
When I originally began writing this article, I intended to focus on the intent of the participant. Our bodies are not inherently evil, neither is breathing, music or yoga mats. But after the deep dive that I took, I can see the reason so many are purposefully avoiding yoga. It’s not about our intent, but the intent of the practice.
We need to remember that we can unknowingly sin and we are called to repentance when we are convicted by the Holy Spirit. Each and every Christian is on a different path and will be confronted with their sins at different stages in their lives. As fellow believers, we should absolutely stand on our convictions, but let’s be understanding to others who just aren’t there yet.