Should Christians practice Yoga?

(Rowdy) #21

First time responder so I pray that anything I say is not offensive to anyone. I have found many of the comments on this post interesting but I have to admit I have only quickly scanned a lot of the responses. Why? Because I think I choose not to be too educated on this one.
I am 57 years old, 6 feet 5 inches tall, 250 pounds. I have lived an incredibly blessed life but I have come to a point where my body has started to break down. My doctor has told me that at this point in our life we start to lose strength and flexibility at an amazing rate. That must be true because I have seen 2 by 4 wooden boards with more flexibility than I have. My doctor has even suggested that I focus on flexibility over strength.
To that end, my wife had started Yoga as a remedy to some of her own body malfunctions. She had indicated that the stretches had an amazing impact on her body. So I decided to give it a try. Keep in mind, I had no idea about all of the origins and background of yoga. For me, it was a bunch of stretches that would help me with the pain I was experiencing and help me with basic living function(ie. getting up off the floor after playing with the grandkids - believe when I say that I have seen 80 year olds do this better than I do)
In this period of my life, I feel the Lord taking me by the hand an leading me day by day thru this life(even though many times I still dig in my heels fighting His guidance). But because I feel this closeness with the Lord, I attempt to look for him in everything I do. Yoga is no different. So while Yoga may have some origin to mystical gods, for me it is a time to get closer to the one true God. I find my thoughts go to him throughout the entire time on the mat. When I am bowing, I imagine what it would be like bowing before The Creator of all heaven and earth. When I raise my hands, I do it to the Glory and Splender of God. During this time I find myself thinking and meditating on Him and his Word. Talking with him from time to time. Sometimes even crying out to Him, although most times this is due to the excruciating pain I experience during these sessions. I realize how I have failed in caring for His temple but praise Him that one day it will be made perfect again. I do have to admit there would probably be less wailing and gnashing of teeth if I would pray more to God to stay committed to this activity.
I do think, as with a lot of things in this world, they are what you make them. I do realize more and more the shortcomings in my life. I praise God that he chose to keep pursuing me and seeing the good in me thru Jesus Christ. I guess Yoga is something I choose to look past the evil things that can be associated with it and focus more on the time with God and the good things that He can do for my ailing body thru these stretches.
I am thankful for these posts, they have made me more aware of the aspects of yoga that could be perceived as evil by others and be stumbling blocks to their own faith.
Thank You and God Bless You All!

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(Lakshmi Mehta) #22

@Rsmckee62, Thank you for sharing your perspective. No offense taken :slightly_smiling_face: just for having a different point of view. There is a great benefit to exercise. The draw to the spiritual side of yoga according to the interviewees in a research study I cited above and other research is when the focus moves from exercise to moving meditation with prolonged focus on breath/body, with eastern mantras/prayers, the symbolic hand gestures and the spiritual life of the yoga teacher. Thought these few points may be something you want to keep in mind and take to the Lord in prayer as you seek physical fitness through yoga. May God bless your health.

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(Ryan C Melcher) #23

All,

So sorry for taking this long to respond. After looking at the posts and the sources cited, it seems to me a good idea to take a look at them in more detail. There are two points I want to flesh out in the discussion. I also think there is agreement on several points I will mention at the end of this post.

Here are the two points I will to flesh out: 1) All the examples given where yoga has led to demonic attack has been the result of the individual pursuing some sort of spirituality associated with it. These individuals were not Christians, or were involved in yoga before coming to Christ. 2) I still do not see evidence that the physical exercise cannot be separated from the spiritual aspect of yoga—only people saying it can’t be separated because they say it can’t. This is just an argument from authority (a logical fallacy). Let me go into the details on both of these points.

With the first point, it seems all the examples given where yoga has led to demonic attack has been the result of the individual activity pursuing some sort of spirituality associated with it. Additionally, Christians cited in the prior posts did not have a relationship with Jesus when they got into yoga. Demonic activity apparently carried over into their born again life. @Lakshmismehta your experience in 1998 is a perfect example of an individual actively pursuing a false god. Consider this “She had a maid who was a devotee of Shiva , the same god that all of the yogis in yoga scriptures worshipped.” If the maid actively opened her self up to demonic attack via being a devotee of Shiva, then it seems that is the root of the problem, not the physical exercise. Similarly, @brianlalor described a willing openness with his examples “Muai Thai bouts fighters warm up by praying to Buddha.” The same seemed to be true of the principle Brian mentioned.

The example of Corinna Craft further illustrates this first point as she describes deep involvement with the occult before becoming a believer. “Eventually, I became a member of a cult and had a guru. But after I received Jesus, I renounced all these associations, purged my library and got deliverance.”

She goes on to describe that yoga poses are close to, or the same as other active movements in other activities and that some parts are acceptable. “And because many yoga poses are similar or identical to positions in other legitimate, non-religious movement systems like dance, gymnastics and sports, I reasoned that the whole system was acceptable based on the acceptability of some of its parts.”

Jenny Uebbing is an example of someone who was involved in yoga before devotion to Christ. She describes her college experience, when she practiced yoga, as “I blushed, because, well, college. Where to even begin? Sufficient to say no, I was not in a state of grace. Far from it. And that would prove, in my case, to be the danger.

Regarding my second point I still do not see evidence that the physical exercise cannot be separated from the spiritual aspect of yoga—only people saying it can’t be separated because they say it can’t. I think it is completely fair to show that others, including experts in Apologetics, think it is possible to separate spiritual yoga from physical exercise and stretching.

I watched the video of Dr. Nongrum and Ken Samples. There is a very interesting exchange at the end. At about 7:30 Ken asks “ In some ways you wouldn’t even be doing yoga, if you didn’t consider the spiritual side. ” Dr. Nongrum responds “ Exactly. Exactly. I agree with you. ” At first that seemed to me to indicate Dr. Nongrum was agreeing that you can in fact separate the spiritual side of yoga with the physical exercise. However, that did not seem right considering the larger interview. I’ve corresponded with Ken Samples on Facebook a few times in the past and reached out to him for clarification. Here is what he said: “Balajied Nongrum is from India and thinks one cannot separate the spiritual and physical sides of Yoga. I think a person can but they should change the orientation. Adopting a physical set of exercises without spiritual components would be my recommendation . My martial arts teacher was a Christian and infused Christian virtue into our training.” -KS

I also looked up the Q and A by Ravi Zacharias that was cited. This is a link to it:

The citation above was as follows: “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.”

This is true and I think there is a larger context that needs to be addressed. Ravi’s answer is from 2:26 to 6:00 minutes in the mp3. Here are some direct quotes that show a fuller context:

At 2:50 “It is important to differentiate aspects of the system and the totality of the system .”

At 3:30 Ravi says There are aspects of eastern thought that are very good and that are very true . But they are true and good not because they are eastern, they are true and good because they come from God.”

4:14 “So the yoga that is eastern in its presupposition of who you are is dangerous to tamper with.”

This would indicate that the physical exercise divorced from the eastern spirituality of yoga are both good and true. This would be a “western” version.This also supports Ken Samples statement above.

Laurette Willis article was another example of someone just giving her personal opinion from experience.

“From experience I can say that yoga is a dangerous practice for the Christian and leads seekers away from God rather than to Him.” No further information was given to why this is true.

In addition, I looked on the Stand to Reason website and found podcasts addressing this topic. Here are the links with several key quotes and time markers:

STR Ask 6:30-8:54 11/19/2018

https://www.str.org/podcasts/strask-november-19-2018#.XPKbjMopCfA

Question: “Is it not a good practice to do yoga or martial arts as a Christian? Is it mixing world views?”

Answer: Greg Koukl 6:42-6:46 “ Well, I guess it depends on the level they do it.

Greg Koukl 6:57-7:45 “ It is possible to do martial arts and not engage in the spiritual aspect . And in a similar way there are so-called yoga moves that I’ve used in the past… … So you can do stretching along that line and not participate in the spiritual elements of it . But I think if you embrace yoga as a system there are spiritual elements that are tied with the discipline of yoga. And that’s where I think it can get a little bit, more challenging to decide.

Greg Koukl 8:26-8:33 “ Adopting a couple of exercises that are stretching exercises and bringing them into my workout? That is not a problem .

Greg Koukl 8:42-8:50 “ There is a risk, but it’s not across the board. It depends on how you are using it and how you are engaging in it.

STR Ask 6:43-10:33 7-31-17

https://www.str.org/podcasts/strask-july-31-2017#.XPKcL8opCfA

Question: “Is doing yoga ok as a set of stretches rather than the traditional involving chants?”

Answer: Greg Koukl 6:49 - 7:11 “ Well I think so by and large . There may be some exceptions to this.”

“I use to do a stretch a long time for my back… …cobra, yeah maybe that was it. Which generally speaking is a good stretch for your back. I didn’t even know it was incorporated in to yoga until some time later.

Greg Koukl 7:24-7:27 I don’t think there are problems with doing the stretches themselves .

Amy Hall 8:05-8:37 “ I’ve done yoga on and off and there are plenty of apps and plenty of DVD out there that treat it as stretches and routines like aerobics or anything else . There are others where they are guiding you in more. You can just tell. There is more going on where they are getting you to focus and meditate on certain things or whatever. I have barely even touched on those, but there are a couple of those things I have discover where I’ve said ‘ok, I’m not using this one. ’”

In addition, regarding Martial Arts, @brianlalor cited above that “As for boxing, there is no spiritual root, I would argue the same for the Dutch style of kickboxing.” With the martial arts that I have studied a right hook and a side kick are basically the same in any fighting style. Whether a fighter chooses to practice some form of eastern mysticism, or not, does not change the punch or kick. I think the stretching often associated with yoga can be separate as well. In fact, I discovered in the course of this dialog that I have, unknowingly, been practicing a modified version of the yoga stretch known as the cobra (as cited in the STR Podcast above) to reduce lower back pain. I had no idea this was the case, nor did I ever attribute anything spiritual about it. I am simply stretching my back. I think the same can be said of what @Rsmckee62 mentioned in his post.

Lastly, as believers we know the yogis are promoting a false eastern religion. It is a lie. We do not accept what they say about their spiritual practices as truth. If what they are saying about the spiritual is a lie then I see no reason why we should believe them regarding physical. Just because they say you cannot separate the stretching from the spiritually does not make it so. In fact, if you think about it, they have a vested interest in making this claim. If more people practice the the physical stretches with no spiritual aspect then the false religion they propagate is weakened.

In closing the following seems to be true:

  1. The exclusively spiritual practice of yoga (and martial arts where eastern mysticism is directly practiced) leaves one open to demonic attack. This is the root of the issue.

  2. Simply saying that the stretching exercise associated with yoga, or martial arts as a whole, cannot be separated from the eastern spiritual practice is simply not true as many people, including Christians, do so without demonic attack. Simply saying it can’t be separated because it can’t results in the argument from authority fallacy.

Where we can agree

  1. Spiritual devotion to false gods is wrong and sinful. (Exo. 20:3-5)
  1. Such devotion opens a practitioner up to demonic attack and self destructive behavior. (1st Ki 18:26-28)

  2. Exercise is something God-given and does have value as our body is a temple. (1st Tim 4:8)

Thanks for all dialogue in this thread. I did not anticipate getting this involved beyond my initial post. I am thankful that God has given this platform where we can respectfully and prayerfully challenge each other. I pray that this will have us grow to be more Christ-like. To use a martial arts expression “I’m tapping out.”

Cheers and blessings in Christ,

Ryan

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(Brian Lalor) #24

@RyanMelcher I appreciate the time and thought you put into this post. I agree with your prayer that we grow to be more Christ-like. All the best brother, I’ll tap too :wink:

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(Lakshmi Mehta) #25

@RyanMelcher, I appreciate you taking the time and reading the information I shared in the post above. While I want to honor your desire to end this discussion, I feel obligated to clarify misinterpretation of the reasons behind sharing my experience with the Shiva devotee and possibly some other misconceptions.

Firstly, nowhere did I say that her demonic attack was a result of yoga exercise. She was not a student of yoga but a devotee who meditated on Shiva. The point I was making was that the spirit inside the Shiva devotee manifested itself by sending her into a trance and performing yoga postures spontaneously through her body in response to us opening the Bible for prayer. That experience suggests strongly to me that the system of yoga came from Shiva and not God of the Bible just as revealed in Hindu scriptures. I would also like to add that one of the manifestations also included snake-like movements (which I have shared previously in my initial posts on Connect). That again goes along with the Hindu idea of the coiled serpent power or Kundalini, which is described by many yogis as the foundation of yoga. Having had that experience and knowing that God yearns for His Spirit within us, I think it is wrong to think of yoga only in terms of logical fallacies.

James 4:5 Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, “He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”?

Secondly, I agree with you that in the three testimonies I shared above, the relationship with Christ was either not strong or that they were into yoga before coming to Christ. The point I was making was that, what starts out of physical interest can change to spiritual interest or cause unnecessary exposure to sources of spirit possession. In the case of Laurette Willis, she was just a young child of 7 years when introduced to yoga without the ability to question her Mom’s actions. I worry about our future generations especially when apostasy is on the rise. In the case of Corrine Craft, she was a born again Christian from occult background but physical yoga certainly seemed to have opened the door for spirit possession. In the case of Jenny Uebing, her lack of submission to Christ in her walk opened the door for the spirit of her yoga teacher to enter her. All in all, you might agree that if we are not in Christ, we could be in great trouble even when pursuing physical yoga based on those testimonies. However, I think concluding that Christians practicing yoga without demonic attacks have successfully separated the physical from the spiritual would be faulty, as it may be Christ who is protecting the believer not because He approves of yoga but because of His mercy.

Thirdly, I want to address this last comment.

You are right that we do not accept their practices as spiritual truth but that doesn’t make everything they say about their spiritual experiences a lie. We reject their truth because we think they are mistaken about the identity of God but their description of experiences may be true. When yogis say they cant separate the physical from the spiritual, they are probsbly just sharing from their experience. They like others in the testimonies above, found a longing for the spirit of yoga and reached a level of enlightenment through the physical practice of yoga. Yoga with its focus on the breath and body over extended periods of time can lead a person to a meditative state and altered states of consciousness which then opens them up to spiritual forces. The yogis also place a special emphasis on breath control and the hand gestures in communicating with the spirits. They must not be lying about their experiences as they even teach their own family and children these truths to unite with their god. I think the testimony of Rabi Maharaj, a yogi who came to Christ, in his book "Death of a guru ’ may help you see that the yogis are true about their experiences even if they are false about the identity of God. Afterall, yoga is still used for the experience of union with a hindu god.

I am not going to get into the arguments raised by the apologists as I do want to respect your time. All I will say for now is that there are respected apologists and pastors on both sides of the issue. I appreciate your effort into this discussion even though it wasn’t something you were planning. God bless you brother!

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