Should Christians practice Yoga?

(Jacqueline Page) #1

It’s the biggest trend, but Satan is the Great deceiver. He chose to deceive Eve, the woman and continues to deceive women that are drawn to different forms of Yoga, including goat yoga. It’s interesting that Jesus uses the comparison of the devil and his followers as goats. Although cute, it’s no mistake baby goats are used in yoga as a reference to whom they are representing. The term, “Namaste” also means, “the God in you bows down to the God in me.” If a pronounced Christian hears this, they should pack up their mat and leave because such a statement is blasphemy, very much a Luciferian concept. Deception is everywhere, use God’s discernment in these last days! " Greater is He that is in you,than he that is in the world." I John 4:4

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(Dean Schmucker) #2

I suppose it would be quite a “stretch” to say Yoga would be compatible with the believer’s new life. But I believe such questions about orthopraxis, the correct living out of Faith, require discernment. Perhaps for the strong believer, it would be fine (to eat meat dedicated to idols, Yoga, etc). For others less mature in the faith, maybe the Yoga studio would not be a place to frequent.

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(SeanO) #3

@1ethan4me There is a great discussion on this topic started by @WarnerMiller posted below. One question I would have for you: Paul said it was okay for believers to eat meat sacrificed to idols (false gods) if it did not violate their conscience in 1 Cor 8. Do you see similarities between Christians eating meat sacrificed to idols and Christians participating in yoga to get some exercise? Do you think that all yoga is idol worship - for example, there are some Christians who play Christian music while doing stretches based on yoga?

1 Cor 8:4-13 - So then, about eating food sacrificed to idols: We know that “An idol is nothing at all in the world” and that “There is no God but one.” 5 For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords”), 6 yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live.

7 But not everyone possesses this knowledge. Some people are still so accustomed to idols that when they eat sacrificial food they think of it as having been sacrificed to a god, and since their conscience is weak, it is defiled. 8 But food does not bring us near to God; we are no worse if we do not eat, and no better if we do.

9 Be careful, however, that the exercise of your rights does not become a stumbling block to the weak. 10 For if someone with a weak conscience sees you, with all your knowledge, eating in an idol’s temple, won’t that person be emboldened to eat what is sacrificed to idols? 11 So this weak brother or sister, for whom Christ died, is destroyed by your knowledge. 12 When you sin against them in this way and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ. 13 Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother or sister to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause them to fall.

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(Lakshmi Mehta) #4

If anyone has read my previous contributions on yoga here on Connect, you would know that I think yoga is incompatible with Christianity because I am convinced it has spiritual origins in false gods. While I can view exercise as something God-given just as food is, and so something to be accepted with thanksgiving, yoga to me is different. Yes, yoga is exercise but it is more than that, and it has a deeper spiritual meaning that doesn’t originate in Christianity. Are spiritual origins of a teaching important to take into consideration for a bible believing Christian when trying to discern if a practice is pleasing to God of the bible? If not, why not? And if yes, what kind of evidence can one look at?

@1ethan4me, I appreciate you starting this thread. I am curious what led to your convictions about yoga.

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(Ryan C Melcher) #5

Great question!

My reply is somewhat anecdotal. I studied martial arts for many years. My instructor would often start the class with eastern meditation. I informed him I would not participate in this class activity as it was against my faith in Christ. He was fine with it and I would pray during this time. Outside of that the rest of the class was nothing but physical exercise. My instructor actually allowed me to start a Christian karate class which included a Bible study. Ultimately the testimony of the class, the other believes in the class, and Christians outside of the school were used by God and my instructor and his wife came to know Christ. He has since gone on to be with the Lord. I don’t think that yoga is much different than karate if the eastern mysticism is left out. It is a physical exercise. If there is a spiritual element that is there that is harming a believer’s trust in God it would be wise to leave. If it does not bother them and they can turn it in to an opportunity to serve God then do so. I think the verses cited in the other reply’s to this post would support my testimony here. Thanks for reading this, I hope this was a help.

Cheers and blessings,

Ryan

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(Lakshmi Mehta) #6

@RyanMelcher, thanks for sharing your testimony and I am glad God used your situation to reach many for Christ. However, I think we still need to be careful in generalizing that experience to all forms of martial arts or yoga. In some cases, it is difficult to separate out the spiritual from the physical. I dont know much about martial arts but consider this article from Christian research institute -

The second view argues that as long as the Christian divorces the religious aspects (Eastern mysticism) from the martial arts, he or she may practice them. To evaluate this view, we must briefly examine some of the major branches of the martial arts.

Aikido. Aikido means ‘the way to union with the universal force.” This impersonal force is known as “chi.” The goal of Aikido is to control both self and environment. Ironically, this martial art is the most compati­ble with Christianity in regard to its nonviolent nature, but — on the other hand — it is unal­terably steeped in Eastern mysticism.

Judo and Jujitsu. Judo involves many grabbing and throwing techniques. Jujitsu con­centrates on the human joint locks and con­cerns itself with striking and maneuvering pro­cedures. Both of these forms have a very low spiritual emphasis.

Karate. Karate involves meditation, which usually includes the emptying of one’s mind from all outer distractions. It is at this point that Karate becomes spiritually danger­ous. Nevertheless, since Karate is primarily a physical martial art, the meditation aspect can be divorced from it.

Kung Fu. Kung Fu is very diverse. There are different styles of Kung Fu. The more tra­ditional forms stick close to their Buddhist philosophical roots, while the less traditional forms concentrate more on the physical aspects. Generally, Kung Fu is more mystical than Karate.

Ninjitsu. Ninjitsu is not generally com­patible with Christianity. The Ninjas try to assimilate themselves with nature in order to be more stealthy. The worldview behind Ninjitsu is pantheism (all is God), which con­tradicts the Christian view that God is not the universe but is the Creator of the universe (Gen. 1:1-2).

Tae Kwon Do. Tae Kwon Do is a physi­cal, sport-oriented form of the martial arts. It is one of the most compatible forms of Eastern self-defense with Christianity.

Tai Chi. Tai Chi involves the practice of Taoism. In order to achieve physical well being, the Tai Chi student must be attuned to the universe by concentrating below the navel section of the body — which is said to be the body’s psychic center. Tai Chi cannot be rec­onciled with Christianity.

In view of the above, it is clear that cer­tain martial arts cannot be divorced from their Eastern worldview while others can. Aikido, Ninjitsu, and Tai Chi are the most incompatible with Christianity.

Yoga is a lot like Aikido, Ninjitsu and Tai chi, in that, it’s about union with an impersonal force, is pantheistic, is about depicting the different species of nature. The hand gestures in yoga called mudras from what I have read is a symbolic communication with deities and has many applications. Here’s a book on that. Just a few more thoughts.

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(Ryan C Melcher) #7

@Lakshmismehta thanks for the reply. I think simply saying the physical workout cannot be separated from the spiritual practice is not true. I have, a few times, practiced Tai Chi at a Korean church before Sunday service and it was nothing more than strength and stretching exercises. There was no underlying philosophy taught.

The argument you present seems to me to be a kin to saying a Christian should not get involved with science because science teaches macro and chemical evolution which is not compatible with Creation. Evolutionary theory is only a small part of the entire canon of science. To get rid of everything that is true and good in science just because of evolution just does not make sense. (Note: I am using this as a general example and am not trying to change the subject. :slightly_smiling_face:)

Cheers and blessings,

Ryan

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(Lakshmi Mehta) #8

@RyanMelcher , you have some great thoughts and I see how my position can be seen as a logical fallacy.

I am not too surprised that Tai chi may look like only a physical exercise just as yoga does in its initial stages. I cant really comment much on spiritual origins of Tai Chi but I can comment on what I have read and witnessed about yoga, which suggest very strong connections with false gods.

The problem you bring up is that we should not reject in totality something that has aspects of truth in it. Per your example, we do not reject science (the whole) just because evolution (the part) is false. So, we must not reject yoga (the whole) just because part of it is spiritual. While I would apply that logic for something that has its origins in the natural realm, it concerns me to apply the same logic to something that arises not of man’s imagination but out of worship/inspiration of false gods. The bible verse that comes to my mind is -

Jude 20 But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, 21 keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life. 22 And on some have compassion, making a distinction; 23 but others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire, hating even the garment defiled by the flesh .

So I would think, if we can establish that something has been given through false spirits, we must abstain from it fully. Ravi Zacharias in a Q and A once advised that we must abstain from anything that has even a hint of lie intermingled with truth when talking about reflexology and acupressure. I think we can go along with aspects of truth followed by other systems of thought that are purely natural but yoga doesn’t seem to be one of those. Just as we Christians find it hard to explain about God to a naturalist, I often find it difficult to explain to Christians about the reality of false gods.

Perhaps an experience I had in India in 1998 will be more convincing, which I haven’t shared in detail yet on Connect as it may be something difficult to relate with for many people. I come from a Hindu family and came to a faith in Christ through a Christian friend who shared the gospel with me in India. I would often go to my friend’s house to read the bible and pray together as I had no permission to attend church in India. She had a maid who was a devotee of Shiva, the same god that all of the yogis in yoga scriptures worshipped. One day as we opened the bible and sat to pray, the maid suddenly went into a trance and began manifesting the spirit in her. She manifested this spirit through spontaneous assumption of the most complex yoga postures effortlessly being empowered by a spirit in a trance. She was able to contort her body to extremes of yoga postures that we as humans would find quite difficult. The rhythmic assumption of postures continued for about three hours and she was completely unconscious of what she was doing and unresponsive to us the whole time. From hindu scriptures I know that Shiva is considered as the first yogi. So having experienced that, when I hear from other yogis that yoga postures came out of spiritual inspiration from Shiva or other spirits, I believe that evidence. I have no reason to doubt it. Having witnessed this, it goes against my conscience to worship Jesus using the same moves of the false god or even dabbling in it for other benefits. If yoga was just a man made invention or tradition of a Hindu monk, I would not be so concerned.

Even if one chooses to reject my experience, there is much evidence beyond my experience that connects yoga with spiritual inspiration in false gods, which I have discussed in previous threads. Briefly, several hindu scriptures mention yoga as a means to connect with the hindu concept of God, namely - Yoga sutras, Bhagavad gita, Hatha yoga pradipika. Patanjili, the author of yoga sutras, Gorakhnath - the author of Hatha yoga pradipika and T. Krishnamacharya, who is considered the father of modern yoga, were all devotees of Shiva as well. Yoga currently retains all of the 84 postures from Hatha Yoga Pradhipika and it states those postures were given to the devotees by Shiva. In the biography of T. Krishnamacharya, his son states that T. Krishnamacharya received the secrets of yoga in a trance through meditation. Pattabhi Jois says practicing asanas leads to union with God—whether one wants it or not in an interview stated Dr. Candy G. Brown. Yoga was discovered at a time when there were no modern health problems and out of a search for spirituality.

So, the spiritual origins are very convincing for me. Perhaps with a strong belief in Christ we will not be influenced by the false gods even while doing yoga, but I dont think that’s the best way to assess if something is in God’s will or not. When we look at the bible, we see several examples of God caring for how we worship Him and we are called to even higher standards in the new testament. Why not we as Christians opt for physical exercise which is free of such spiritual connections? It would also help our testimony before Hindus.

In the video below, Balajied Nongrum of RZIM India talks about the difficulty of separating the physical of yoga from its spiritual. He says most hindu gurus maintain that yoga is a whole package of spiritual and physical.

Douglas Groothius and Walter Martin, theologians who have worked extensively on world religions also have a similar understanding about yoga. Doug Groothuis warned readers to “steer clear of yoga” in the book “Unmasking the New Age” third chapter. Please also refer to Pgs. 193-195 of " Kingdom of the Occult”, a book written by Walter Martin.

What concerns me is that not only emptying of mind but according to yogis, even the postures (specifically pranayama and mudras) have ability to draw powers and some people may be more receptive than others.

My persistence on sharing information on yoga is because it’s not just an issue of misinterpretation of Bible passages but it’s foundation in spiritual inspiration that is at odds with Christianity. Appreciate you reading through this lengthy response. May God guide us toward His will!

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(SeanO) #9

@Lakshmismehta I have been enjoying this dialogue - great thoughts all around :slight_smile: As I read the discussion, a question occurred to me that I had not considered during our previous discussions as I sought to understand your perspective. Here is the question…

Do you think that what the yogis teach about the different postures drawing power is reliable? If so, on what evidence?

Look forward to hearing your perspective.

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(Ryan C Melcher) #10

@Lakshmismehta, wow thanks for the response! I really appreciate you time, work, and thoughts. I will need a bit of time to read over everything to make sure I am understanding before responding.

In the mean time, if you don’t mind, I would like to have some clarification on this point:

“Just as we Christians find it hard to explain about God to a naturalist, I often find it difficult to explain to Christians about the reality of false gods.”

Could you go into a little more detail regarding what you mean by “false gods?” My default understanding would be that they are demonic in some form, but I’d rather know than presume.

I’m also interested in you response to @SeanO question as it crossed my mind in my initial reading of you response.

Cheers and blessings,

Ryan

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(Brian Lalor) #11

Lakshmi,

Your post here is one of the best on this topic that I have ever read. I have been involved in a number of the martial arts that you have mentioned and you are spot on. After trying everything from Tai Chi to Muai Thai and constantly finding myself opening myself to the demonic, I settled on boxing. I have noticed a huge difference now, having chosen a combat sport with no other spiritual involvement, if you will.

Two points to consider about Yoga. Firstly, the meaning of the word. I always ask this of practitioners and they rarely know. It means to yolk or to join. So I would ask, what is the joining to? The second is the chakras. Yoga is definitely rooted in a different spirit to the Holy Sprit. I find that you will get away with it for a time but that does not last and there is a price to pay.

Thank you for your post.

Brian

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(Lakshmi Mehta) #12

@brianlalor, thank you so much for sharing your own story and your convictions about yoga being rooted in a different spirit. From what I have read, most of these eastern practices, whether yoga or martial arts, at some level have a philosophy of manipulating a force that goes by different names Qi, chi, prana, ki, vital priniciple - etc. and is credited for healing/spirituality. However, we know that the Holy Spirit cannot be manipulated and must only obeyed and I too cannot reconcile Holy Spirit with the spirit of yoga, which is even described as the “Kundalini/ coiled serpent” in hindu scriptures.

@RyanMelcher, thank you for your kind comments and questions. In all my discussions, I have stuck with ‘god’ with lower case or ‘false god’ to differentiate from the God of the bible out of respect for others with different views and I adhere to the biblical understanding of God and demons. Now to the question that @SeanO raised -

Do you think that what the yogis teach about the different postures drawing power is reliable? If so, on what evidence?

The question you ask is very relevant and I pray that God will lead us in our understanding. I think the difficulty is in wrapping our minds on how something purely physical can be spiritual? I may not be able to give complete answers but I can share some evidence from different angles about spiritual impact of physical yoga practice. Its difficult to say it in a few words :slight_smile: I appreciate your patience with another lengthy response -

1. Do those who practice yoga feel anything spiritual about it?
Pingatore K in “Bodies Bending Boundaries: Religious, Spiritual, and Secular Identities of Modern Postural Yoga in the Ozarks” has tried to address the spiritual, secular and religious identities of modern postural yoga (MPY) by interviewing yoga instructors in the Ozark and found that the three identities were not mutually exclusive. When she asked if something physical or secular could be spiritual, her informants talked about “moving meditation” and described that even if one was practicing yoga for just physical benefits, those benefits would inevitably affect their spirit and they all unanimously agreed it’s a spiritual practice. Her respondents use ‘spiritual’ to refer to an experience of connection to one’s inner self, another being, or God. Here’s what one interviewee said, “In the yoga world they use God as a reference for anything that is higher than you. Everything is all about yourself. Everything spiritual is about getting to that place inside of yourself where you feel that connection to God, essentially. But it’s not a connection to something outside of you, nothing existential. It’s all about inside. So, not only are you . . . God is inside of you I guess, basically. That would be a good way to say that. So you’re trying to find that connection to that inside of you through your meditation, through your asana practice. Through your breath. The combination of all of that together builds a strong vehicle for self-change, self-realization.” One interviewee also says, “practicing yoga in a community exposes one to other pockets of culture including but not limited to using essential oils, vegetarianism, sustainable agriculture, types of energy healing, and environmentalism”, which can also influence one’s spirituality by association. On reading this work, my impression is that the same spiritual practice is being expressed differently depending on what background a person comes from and calling it different things. Magazine of the Bihar school of yoga says how life force energy or “Prana” can be received either through individual efforts such as asanas, mudras, breathing, meditation or through the laying on of hands by a guru “shaktipat”. Gradually this vital force rises through the spine to allow for the awakening when people experience spontaneous movements, mudras, bandhas, pranayamas, generation of a lot of heat, psychic visions, etc.
2. Has anyone measured subtle energy before and after yoga? The problem mainly is finding means of measurement. I am not qualified to assess the methodology used but here are a couple resources.
• Pingatore cites Atler, Yoga in Modern India, Pg. 84 – She writes, “Kuvalyananda’s experiments were aimed at “[revealing] the basic Universal Truth manifest in Yoga by demystifying it through science” using X-ray machines and a malometer pressure gauge to measure the effects of the practice of nauli on the large intestine.“[This] specific methodology of science made it possible for two different kinds of ‘data’ to manifest themselves in the same space at the same time as a consequence of the same kind of action—a kind of empirical harmonic chord created by the simultaneous intonation of science and spirituality. This discovery of “one of the precise points of convergence between gross anatomy and the subtle power manifest in yogic physiology” was mediated by none other than the engagement and observance of the physical body”.
• Electronic photon imaging that supposedly captures subtle energies was significantly altered after a duration of mudra practice compared to controls according to a study in International Journal of Yoga, 2018 May-Aug; 11(2): 152–156.

  1. Is there any scientific evidence for subtle energy of universal life force or “prana” that yogic practice claims to depend upon?
    • Many alternative healing practices such as Therapeutic touch , Qigong, Reiki, distance healing etc. also claim to harness this ‘pranic force’. Here’s a study from Consciousness and Health Initative of UCSD. “Dr. Lorenzo Cohen and his colleagues at MD Anderson Cancer Center, examined whether a biofield healer could shrink tumors in mice and whether the biofield therapy also affected key immune markers associated with inflammation and the tumor microenvironment, in a mouse model of cancer. Results showed that compared to the control condition, mice with Lewis lung carcinoma showed slower tumor growth as well as a 45% reduction in the marker of tumor expression”. When healing practitioners can generate this kind of energy from their hands, we can suspect that the source of the energy is not natural but spiritual.
    • I too personally have witnessed a yogic practitioner being able to release a force at will, which he called as ‘god’. This practitioner was into yoga and pantheistic thought.

  2. Are there any testimonies of those who entered yoga for physical practice but encountered spirits in the process?
    Testimonies of Laurette Willis, Corrina Craft and Jenny Uebbing are examples that started mainly as a physical exercise but led to new age spirituality or spirit possession.

  3. What does Bible say about role of the body in spirituality?
    John 6:63 The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you-they are full of the Spirit and life
    James 2: 23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; 24 for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. 25 But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does.
    Matt 22: 37 Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and great commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”

The Bible says it’s the Holy Spirit that gives us life and the word of God that leads to self-awareness which then allows us to connect with God and others. If spiritual awareness and connectedness with others is being experienced through yoga irrespective of the concept of God they hold, what can we say about yoga? To me it seems yoga is trying to take the place of the Holy Spirit and the Word of God and letting us settle for less than what God wants for us. Its not in our emotional or physical strength but in our weakness we find Christ.

2 Cor 12:9 9 And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.”

This has been great to look into. The biofield work was new one for me! Look forward to thoughts from others.

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(Ryan C Melcher) #13

@brianlalor would you mind elaborating on your experience with martial arts vs. boxing? What practices specifically in martial arts did you find opened you Demonic activity? Why did this not happen in boxing?

Don’t feel obligated, but if so thanks in advance!

Cheers and blessings,

Ryan

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(Brian Lalor) #14

Ryan,

I am very happy to elaborate, thank you for asking. Here are two concrete examples from my experience.

  1. During the Wai Kru which is the dance before Muai Thai bouts fighters warm up by praying to Buddha. Blessed prayer ribbons are wrapped around the arms and head.
  2. @Lakshmismehta hit the nail on the head again when she mentioned the, Qi, chi, prana, ki, vital priniciple" power. I took a principal’s training course in 2016 where we were learning how to deal with stress. The workshop leader was an incredibly experienced school leader. He taught the class something he called centering. It was basically focusing on the area of the stomach where the Qi resides when you are in a stressful situation. He demonstrated this by having two adults lift him by the arms easily. Then he centered himself and asked them to lift him again. He could not be budged. He then had the whole class try and it worked about 95% of the time. I have also seen this done by a very small Tai Chi teacher, back when I practiced it.

I believe that of course there are levels to it but that this basic level is very easy to attain in the demonic. There is always a huge price to pay. I would prefer not to give examples of this, but in the Thailand example and the principal’s training workshop leader the price immediately became evident.

I hope this helps to encourage believers to steer clear of anything that connects to the demonic. If Solomon with all his wisdom was fooled into it, I know I can easily and pray the Lord keeps me in his hands.

As for boxing, there is no spiritual root, I would argue the same for the Dutch style of kickboxing. All you will get from that is a concussion every now and then, not helpful for apologetics:-)

Brian

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(Mary Beth Osborn) #15

Hi Lakshmi,

I have thoroughly enjoyed reading your articulate, well researched and documented posts on yoga.

I was considering trying yoga a while back but decided to study its origins first. After reading about its history and learning about Kundalini yoga, in particular, and the health problems and mental illnesses that resulted in many of its practitioners, it was obvious that this was not the handiwork of our loving God.

You nailed it for me with your comment about worshipping Jesus with the same moves as those of a false god. Well said.

Thank you for the time and contribution you have put into this.

Grace and peace,
Mary Beth

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(Lakshmi Mehta) #16

@MaryBeth1, I just give glory to God that this post helped you in that decision. When my encounter with the trance yogi happened 20 years ago, I never expected that I would have an opportunity to share it in the context of yoga. But here I am! For the longest time, it was just a confirmation for me that the spirit behind Hindu gods are opposed to Jesus and the Bible. My love for Jesus that was born out of the understanding of a personal living God got more secure after that experience. I am glad God has used that incident again for someone else. I was almost not going to share about this. Thank you for letting me know.

(Mary Beth Osborn) #17

Lakshmi,

I have heard stories similar to yours on the subject of spirits from many friends who were born and grew up in different parts of the world. One of the things that I have found striking is when these stories are being relayed it is typically in a nonchalant, matter of fact manner because it is so commonplace and normal.

Only if you have time and inclination, I would be interested to know your thoughts about acupuncture. I am new to Connect so if you have posted previous emails in regards to this subject I will go back and look at those so you don’t have to rewrite it again.

Thank you, again!
Mary Beth

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(Lakshmi Mehta) #18

Hi Mary Beth,

I have done some reading on it but not enough to give you a good response right away. There is an overlap with yogic principles. Perhaps you can start a new topic on it. I dont believe there are previous threads on it. I am interested in looking into it as well because I know someone who is considering it for chronic fatigue syndrome. I would need a few days to respond. Thanks for your note!

(Brian Lalor) #19

@Lakshmismehta I suffered terribly with CFS. I was completely healed by following the advice of Dr. Luc De Schepper in his book Full of Life.

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(Lakshmi Mehta) #20

@brianlalor, I am so glad you were healed, praise God! CFS can be very pervasive affecting so many areas of life. I will look into that book. Thanks for sharing.

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