Is 'Holy Yoga' something we could practice as Christ followers?

(Amulya Sharma) #1

As a born Hindu and now Christ follower, I am uncomfortable with the act of ‘Holy Yoga’ being performed at my Church small groups here in the US to glorify God & disregarding chanting ‘Om’ by saying it’s ‘okay’ even though they might not actually do it. Am I being legalistic? Could it really be ‘okay’ after 1 Corinthians 10:14-21?

(Holy Yoga: https://holyyoga.net/about/what-we-believe/)

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(SeanO) #2

@amulyasharma91 You may find it helpful to read both my response and the response by @Lakshmismehta to this question in the following thread. Like meat sacrificed to idols, I think that we should:

  • not do it if it violates our conscience
  • do not condemn others who have the freedom of conscience to do it

Christ grant you wisdom :slight_smile:

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(Lakshmi Mehta) #3

@SeanO, appreciate you linking the previous thread on yoga to allow for both views on yoga. @amulyasharma91, it so wonderful to hear of yet another Hindu coming to an understanding of the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus. Praise God! When I see Christians practice yoga, irrespective of what they confess with their mouths, the postures always remind me not of Christ but of Shiva, Buddha or the Indian yogis who are always shown meditating in the yogic postures. So, I understand the discomfort you feel as I am from a Hindu background myself. After seeing some responses from the last thread, a few different reasons why Christians practice yoga appear to be –

  • Many Christians are unconvinced about the evidence for the spiritual connection between yoga and false gods and view it as being superstitious and so continue to hold the position that yoga is just a physical exercise.
  • A view that pagan practices can be redeemed for Christ.
  • God accepts all worship when the intentions of man’s heart is to worship Christ.
  • Bible verse usually used to support yoga is – 1 Cor 8:8 But food (sacrificed to idols) will not commend us to God; we are neither the worse if we do not eat, nor the better if we do eat.

To give a thorough response to each of these reasons is difficult in one post. Whatever position Christians take on yoga, each one should be individually convinced and base it not on the most popular opinion among Christians but after consideration of facts and direction from the Bible. I think this is an area where more scholarly work could be done and propagated by Christian apologists. I just want to focus on more of the evidence for the spiritual connection between yoga and false gods in this post.

Spiritual possession and spontaneous yoga postures

Dr. John Ankerberg and Dr. John Weldon have done some work on this and published articles and books. I want to share a testimony of a lady named Carole, a friend of coauthor John Weldon who was initiated by a Yogi. She says, “Within one week, after meditating many hours each day and still in constant communication with this spirit, forces began to come upon me and gave me powers to do yoga postures; I was floating through them, the forces giving me added breath even… postures that before would be very painful to do .” https://www.jashow.org/articles/innocent-yoga/ In this article, we see a clear connection between yoga postures and spirit possession in the second example of Carole. I too have personally witnessed such spontaneous complex yogic postures in a trance by a Shiva devotee in my own life in India. Could this have been the inspiration of yoga postures rather than human creativity? Here’s what Connie Fait, a former Tibetan nun, yogi, and head of a Tibetan Buddhist Temple who spent 40 years steeped in the practice and study of the yogic traditions before returning to her native Catholicism says,

“The Yoga asanas are the basis for the theology of Hinduism. In the beginning, the first recluse yogis sat yearning for union with their believed creator Brahman. While sitting in mystical altered states, they began experiencing the spontaneous movements called kriyas, which later became the asanas we know today. While perfecting these asanas, yogis would experience high meditative states during which they experienced gods and deities who appeared to them, moving their bodies into postures/kriyas, and so created the names of some yoga poses as gods or deities”. (Source: https://www.womenofgrace.com/blog/?p=29077)

Kundalini experiences have also been documented with Buddhhist Vipassana meditation. Please check https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0176239

What I have found is that kundalini experiences are very variable. Science that is natural is always reproducible and testable and this is not the case with variable kundalini experiences. The Bible clearly suggests that the spiritual world can impact the natural world. So even if we have scientific explanations for the variable physiological manifestations of the Kundalini experiences, we can’t be sure that there is no spiritual component involved. Here’s another article by Drs. Ankerberg and Weldon that discuss if physical practice is separable from theory. https://www.jashow.org/articles/yoga-theory-and-practice-separable/

I think in the initial stages of yoga we do not see commonly these kind of kundalini manifestations. The deeper meditative state of yoga is something I would strongly advise against as even the eastern gurus have talked about its dangers. United Nations spiritual adviser and spiritist Sri Chinmoy, author of Yoga and the Spiritual Life, admits, “To practice pranayama [breath control] without real guidance is very dangerous. I know of three persons who have died from it…” (Taken from Drs. Ankerberg and Weldon’s article – Yoga: The Occult). One reason is that the breathing exercises are designed to alter states of consciousness where one loses conscious control.

Can yoga be a teaching of Shiva/Krishna/Sun God?

If Christians consider other religious scriptures and practices to have any spiritual credibility beyond mythology, I would like to cite a few verses that to me suggest yoga is a teaching of false gods.

Teaching of Krishna/Sun God?

David Frawley of the American institute of Vedic Studies writes, “While Patanjali’s work is very important and worthy of profound examination, a study of the ancient literature on Yoga reveals that the Yoga tradition is much older. The traditional founder of Yoga Darshana or the ‘Yoga system of philosophy’ – which the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali represents – is usually said to be Hiranyagarbha. ………The Mahabharata (Shanti Parva 349.65), the great ancient text in which the Bhagavad Gita of Sri Krishna occurs, states: “Kapila, the teacher of Samkhya, is said to be the supreme Rishi. Hiranyagarbha is the original knower of Yoga. There is no one else more ancient.” The name Hiranyagarbha, which means “the gold embryo”, first occurs prominently as a Vedic deity, generally a form of the Sun God. There is a special Sukta or hymn to Hiranyagarbha in the Rig VedaX.121, which is commonly chanted by Hindus today. The Mahabharata speaks of Hiranyagarbha as he who is lauded in the Vedic verses and taught in the Yoga Shastra (Shanti Parva 339.69). Krishna states in the Bhagavad Gita (IV.1-3) that he taught the original Yoga to Vivasvan, another name of the Sun God, suggesting Hiranyagarbha.

Teaching of Shiva?

It’s no obscure fact that Patanjali – the compiler of Yoga Sutras, the yogis of Nath tradition, Swami Swatmarama - the author of Hatha Yoga Pradipika, Krishnamacharya – considered father of modern yoga, were all devotes of Lord Shiva. A true yogi is considered to be the one who could see the Divine (whom some call Shiva) in all of creation – trees, rocks, stars etc.

The Shiva Samhita, from about the 15th century, states “there are eighty-four asanas of various kinds which I have taught. Out of these I shall take four and describe them.” (SS 3:96)

The Hatha Pradipika, written by Swami Swatmarama, a disciple of Swami Goraknath, in the 15th century CE says “Eighty-four asanas were taught by Shiva. Out of those I shall now describe the four important ones.” (HP 1:33).

The Gheranda Samhita, from the 17th century states, “All together there are as many asanas as there are species of living beings. Shiva has taught 8,400,000. Of these, eighty-four are preeminent, of which thirty-two are useful in the world of mortals.” (GHS 2:1-2)

The idea of 8,400,000 asanas corresponding to supposed number of different species of living beings is consistent with the Hindu thought that progression of consciousness (Samsara) is manifested by the passage of the individual soul through a cycle of birth and death (Reincarnation) through six broad "classes of life, " namely (1) aquatics, (2) plants, (3) reptiles and insects, (4) birds, (5) animals and (6) humans, including the residents of spiritual planets based on the law of karma (every action has a reaction). Interestingly, avatar of Shiva is Lord Pashupathinath (Lord of all animals) and in the Nath traditions, trees and stones are objects of worship.

Some Bible verses to consider if yoga is a teaching of a false god

Rom 6:16 Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness?

Lev 20:22 ‘You are therefore to keep all My statutes and all My ordinances and do them, so that the land to which I am bringing you to live will not spew you out. 23 Moreover, you shall not follow the customs of the nation which I will drive out before you, for they did all these things, and therefore I have abhorred them.

Deu 12:8 You shall not do at all what we are doing here today, every man doing whatever is right in his own eyes.

1 Cor 10:20 No, but the sacrifices of pagans are offered to demons, not to God, and I do not want you to be participants with demons. 21 You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons too; you cannot have a part in both the Lord’s table and the table of demons.

I am extremely sorry if providing this information offends anyone. I just want Christians to be strong in their faith and make an informed decision. May God guide us all to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus.

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To Yoga...or NOT to Yoga...?
(SeanO) #4

@Lakshmismehta Of course - I am always think it is important that we brothers and sisters in Christ humbly listen to each others perspectives. I think I always learn something.

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(Jacob Stangl) #5

I’ll preface this by saying that my wife is a Holy Yoga certified instructor, and neither she nor any other HY instructor incorporate shakras or Omms into their practice.

I think that a lot of people that comment on the topic of yoga and especially Holy Yoga don’t understand it. Yes, there are forms of yoga that can involve worshipping other gods and would be sinful. But not all yoga is like that. To lump all yoga together because you’ve seen or heard about one class that uses shakras is like saying all Christians are like those people from Westboro Baptist.

I’ve personally been to yoga classes that made me uncomfortable and I would never go back to. But I’ve also been to many that were purely exercise. Is exercise sinful? I also go to the gym and I see plenty of dudes worshipping at the altar or bigger biceps and six pack abs. Yet it’s not sinful for everyone that goes to the gym. Some people are able to worship God through working out.

Many religions use fasting. Should we not fast as Christians because other religions abuse it?

Christians use yoga differently than Buddhists. The same we use fasting differently than Buddhists.

I hope this helps some of you see a different perspective. Some yoga is sinful. Not all yoga is the same. Therefore not all yoga is sinful.

SeanO brings up a great point:
Follow your conscience.

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(Heidi Mitchell) #6

Thanks for your perspective @JCS
I’ve struggled with knowing which side of the fence to be on concerning Yoga. Thanks for clarifying some differences between the two types of yoga.

I also know a great Christian friend who owns her own Christian yoga studio. I’ve been in one of her classes, and it felt completely uplifting and healthy.

I’ve also been to yoga classes that were not Christian…and the music playing and “omms” made me uncomfortable.

In those moments, however, I prayed- and specifically for those in the class searching for a wholeness and peace.

I actually did get a chance to ask one of the instructors to share with me her worldview…Which was such a neat opportunity. One, which I’m not sure I would have had otherwise.

I am not a regular yoga attender, but went several times with a friend, and the experience opened my eyes to so many [people] searching… I decided I’d go there and pray over them while I stretched :slight_smile:

I would caution fellow Believers, however, in joining in at a secular yoga studio…to be on guard, spiritually, and be prepared to pray the truth against anything else being said or music played.

Maybe an opportunity to share your faith with a new friend with arise…or just listen to theirs, and see how the Lord leads.

This is a great topic, and so relevant to today’s culture.

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