Good morning from Brooklyn, New York City, USA! Quick question that comes as a follow-up of sorts from my last question about “cremation”. Is it alright for Christians to practice or even occasionally participate in yoga? While I know that there is a spiritual element to “pure, historic yoga”, what if a person elects to participate in the classes or practices, ie the stretching, controlled breathing, etc. without necessarily engaging with the “other stuff”, ie chanting, meditative focuses, etc? Would that be biblically & spiritually acceptable? Given the potential health benefits: better blood flow, limberness, muscle strengthening, focus, stress relief, etc. – why or why not?
So, the problem is the motive behind doing yoga and how others perceive it. If I wear clothes that are not appropriate, then I could be a stumbling block for those who are young to the faith or aren’t at all in the faith. The clothes themselves is not wrong, it’s how it’s perceived that’s wrong. “But take care that this right of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak.
1 Corinthians 8:9 ESV”.
Now if your motivation was to “connect your spirit”, then you are doing wrong as well. Nothing can replace the true spirit inside you.
As long as you are aware of what you get yourself into and the people you influence, then you should be fine.
I think this is definitely a matter of prayer and something that might be different depending on the location, circumstances, etc.
Romans 14:13 comes to mind:
Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother. Romans 14:13 ESV
Yoga might be inextricably associated with idolatry/worshiping other Gods for some people. In that case, I think we should, of course, out of respect for that person, not do yoga/praise it/etc. around them. And absolutely, @Thomas_Jackson makes an essential point – we always should be modest and mindful of the image we’re projecting.
However, in my own life, I had a persistent problem with my back that no doctor seemed to fix and in a last-ditch effort tried yoga on a whim. Within a few weeks, it basically returned to me my quality of life. So, I feel like God actually put yoga across my path to help me. The Holy Spirit never tugged at me to stop, but I also I never ran into the sort of chanting/religious things that would be problematic for a Christian (honestly, I didn’t even know about the other spiritual connotations of yoga when I started).
All the same, yoga to my naive self was only ever a series of stretches (and by stretches I mean brief moments of inspiring flexibility before a far less-inspiring tumble). Now, I realize its associations with other beliefs and try to be discerning with which videos to follow along with. As it is with perhaps everything, listening to and being responsive to the Holy Spirit and what he prompts us is key. What grace that he cares and helps us not to stumble!
@WarnerMiller, this question is something I have been looking into for the last couple years after our church introduced yoga at the end of one of our Bible studies. I have gathered some information which suggests strongly to me that yoga’s physical aspects cannot be separated from its spiritual aspects. Even if I hold a strong opinion about this, I don’t come from a place of judgment on others who do practice yoga but share it out of genuine concern. Its not about legalism either but about trying to find out if yoga lines up with the Bible. The stretches could be helpful but adopting it as a practice is what concerns me. What follows is information I have researched and written down previously with some references for my personal use. I have not yet individually read all of the references but read parts of the books online. I hope this information is useful in evaluating individual choice for or against yoga.
Yoga’s intended purpose was spiritual not physical
While the modern practice of yoga is focused on physical postures and has evolved considerably over the past century due to influences of western gymnastics and human creativity, even in its current form yoga cannot be completely dissociated from its intended spiritual purposes. The postures and process of doing yoga are physical components of a larger spiritual framework, called ‘Ashtanga yoga’, that were aimed not at physical health but on systematically moving attention inward to bring an increasing state of inhibition of all senses of the body and mind, to let go of individual egos and unite (‘Yuj’ -sanskrit word for ‘Yoga’) with universal consciousness, the monistic view of God. In the yogic culture, the Hindu god, ‘Shiva’ is venerated as the first yogi. In fact, to this day certain sects of Shiva worshippers are required to practice yoga for their spiritual progress.
Yoga postures originated out of spiritual inspiration
Historical and archaeological evidence points to yoga’s origins to ‘Yoga sutras’ of ‘Patanjili’ in India around 300 BC but there is evidence which suggests a similar practice was also present in Egypt for spiritual benefits (Ashby, 1997). Yoga Journal states: “You may never have heard of him but Tirumalai Krishnamacharya influenced or perhaps even invented your yoga. Whether you practice the dynamic series of Pattabhi Jois, the refined alignments of B. K. S. Iyengar, the classical postures of Indra Devi, or the customized vinyasa of Viniyoga, your practice stems from one source: a five-foot, two-inch Brahmin born more than one hundred years ago in a small South Indian village.” (Ruiz, 2001). Krishnamacharya spent 7 ½ years studying the Yoga Sūtras, learning āsanas and prāṇāyāma, and studying the therapeutic aspects of yoga in Himalayas. At age sixteen, obeying a strange dream went to a town called ‘Alvar Tirunagari’, where he fell into a trance and found himself being instructed ‘Yoga Rahasya’, (meaning: Yoga secrets) by a sage Nathamuni which he could recall on waking. This information was used to author his book. However, this ancient practice was mingled with modern gymnastics according to Norman E. Sjoman, author of ‘The Yoga Tradition of the Mysore Palace’, which he taught to his students Pattabhi Jois and B.K.S Iyengar. So, it is difficult to isolate the modern and ancient postures.
Yogic postures can be depictions of Hindu deities.
B.K.S. Iyengar in his book “Light of Yoga” confirms that some yogic poses are depictions of Hindu deities such as ‘Natarajasana’ for ‘Shiva’. Subhas Tiwari, professor of yoga philosophy and meditation at Hindu University of America also states that sun salutation is a series of series of ritual appreciations to the sun, being thankful for that source of energy. The practice of sun salutation is explicitly denounced in the Bible in Ezekiel 8:15-16.
Yoga has hurt the Christian testimony
Practicing yoga is vulnerable to charges of cultural appropriation and weakens Christian testimony before unbelievers (1Cor 10:28-29). ‘The Hindu American foundation’ being upset at the minimization of Hindu spiritual aspects in modern yoga initiated the ‘Take back yoga campaign’. Many Hindu yoga enthusiasts with missionary zeal on the other hand are optimistic that the practice of modern yoga will eventually draw the practitioners into the spiritual heart of yoga. Even hindus such as Subhas Tiwari state that yoga renamed is still Hindu and its practice greatly conflicts with Christian teachings.
Yoga that starts physical can draw people toward its spiritual aspects
- Several studies suggest that motivations for doing yoga gradually change from physical to the spiritual with continued involvement (Park, 2014).
- Many Christian yoga practitioners develop syncretistic ideas by infusing Hindu philosophy into Christian doctrine. For example, Boon, founder of Holy Yoga, claims “Yoga can be thought of as a philosophy. It’s the idea that by bringing a union of focus between mind and body, while simultaneously making the mind and body stronger and more flexible, we become more authentic people, able to hear God and experience Him in previously impossible ways”. The Bible in contrast asserts that our bodies count for nothing and we are transformed by the Holy Spirit through obedience to God’s word (John 6:63, John 14:21, 2 Tim 3:16).
- Some psychological openness to eastern philosophy may be the natural result of self- identification with eastern minded communities in the yoga studios (Miller, 2008.).
Yogic postures manipulate universal life force energy
- Asanas or postures are thought to help manipulate and channel “prana”, a cosmic life force energy, into the body through breathing techniques (Pranayama) that prepare the student for more advanced meditative states (Frawley, 1997). Advanced meditative states have been associated with sensory-motor and mental phenomenon with symptoms such as, cranial pressures, energies up the spine, vibrations, light, heat, cold, abnormal heart rate, trance states and spontaneous assumption of yogic postures (Scotton, 1996). Interestingly, the Bible also calls Satan the ‘prince of the air’ (Eph 2:2). Pattabhi Jois says practicing asanas leads to union with God—whether one wants it or not (Candy Gunther Brown).
- In yogic philosophy, it is believed that a dormant serpent energy called ‘Kundalini’ situated at the base of the spine, when aroused can travel upwards along the spinal cord to the brain to stimulate a dormant chamber of the brain (the brahma randhra) leading to the “the Kundalini awakening/Samadhi” which is interpreted in yoga as ‘union with God’. Christians must be careful not to label this energy as the Holy Spirit, as the Bible rejects the pantheistic view of God and does not view the Holy Spirit as something to be manipulated by techniques. Itzhak Bentov, a biomedical engineer who studied the physiological effects of altered states of consciousness, acknowledged that the concept of kundalini involves spiritual forces and effects beyond the physiological symptoms (Greyson, 1993).
Considering the spiritual nature of yoga and having other non-spiritual options for attaining physical fitness, it is important for Christians to use discernment with yoga since the Bible says in Ephesians 5:8-10 – “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth and find out what pleases the Lord. Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them”.
Muata Ashby. Egyptian Yoga: The Philosophy of Enlightenment. Volume 1 of Egyptian Yoga, Publisher
Cruzian Mystic Books, 1997
Ruiz, Fernando Pagés. “Krishnamacharya’s Legacy.” YogaJournal.com and Yoga Journal, May/June 2001
Crystal L Park , Kristen E Riley, Elena Bedesin, V Michelle Stewart. Why practice yoga? Practitioners’ motivations for adopting and maintaining yoga practice. Journal of Health Psychology 21(6), 2014
Brooke Boon, Holy Yoga: Exercise for the Christian Body and Soul (NewYork: Faith Words,2007,117).
Elliot Miller. The yoga boom: A call for Christian discernment. Part Two: Yoga in its contemporary western context. Christian Research Journal, 31 (3), 2008.
David Frawley, Ayurveda and the Mind: The Healing of Consciousness (Lotus Press, Twin Lakes, WI, 1997).
Scotton, Bruce. The phenomenology and treatment of kundalini, in Scotton, Chinen, and Battista (Editors) (1996) Textbook of transpersonal psychiatry and psychology. (New York: Basic Books, 1996, pp261-270).
Candy Gunther Brown, Motion For The Issuance Of An Alternative Writ Of Mandamus; Memorandum Of Points And Authorities; Declarations of Jennifer Sedlock, Candy Gunther Brown, Ph.D., and Dean R. Broyles, Esq.
Bruce Greyson. Near-Death Experiences and the Physio-Kundalini Syndrome. Journal of Religion and Health, Vol. 32, No. 4, Winter 1993
Woah. I had no idea yoga was that involved and always just thought it was mostly stretching. Thanks for the information!
Thank you for sharing these! I didn’t know anything that you just posted about — suddenly realizing I should have looked into this some more before just assuming it was ok because it did help me…! I also just thought it was basically stretching! Thanks so much for posting
@Olivia_Davis, so nice to hear back from you. Glad it is helpful. Thank you! God bless you.
Thank you @rla9316, glad it was helpful. I myself grew up doing yoga and my family still practices it. I left yoga on becoming a Christian having seen it being used for spiritual purposes growing up.
Thanks, so much, for the insightful comments and feedback. Thank you, especially, @Lakshmismehta for contributing what you did. Admittedly, a portion of that information had been told to me years ago by a brother in the Lord who also found issue with yoga. If I may, however, let me submit this:
Suppose a person…let’s just call them a non-Christian…attended a local church fellowship pretty regularly. For whatever their reasons were (perhaps they enjoyed the music or community) they consistently attended. Let’s also say that while maintaining their stance as a non-Christian, they consistently gave alms, were loving towards their neighbor, respected authority, took a day out of the week to rest, didn’t steal, lie and abstained from all alcohol, drugs, pornography and premarital sex. Again, all while maintaining their stance as a non-Jesus follower. Would you consider them a Christian? I’ll just go ahead and assume that your answer would be an emphatic ‘NO’. It isn’t the traditions or the actions you keep that make you a Christian. It is what you believe about the Person of Jesus Christ (and your sin, of course). Similarly, wouldn’t the same logic and rationale be true with regard to yoga? Although someone may be doing the movements and stretches and whatnot, because they’re not participating - or even actively rejecting the spiritual & mental component - then they wouldn’t necessarily be doing anything harmful or in conflict with their Christian values and beliefs. Does that make sense? I’d love to hear what the community thinks about that.
I follow some yoga pages on IG. I regularly incorporate some form of yoga in my stretching routine at the end of my workouts. It’s relaxing; it helps me to become more aware of my body, breathing, and emotional state; as an extension of my overall workout, it helps me to focus and unwind. Even more, my entire workout is actually for God’s glory as corny as it may seem, it’s not about me being selfish or vain. With that said, while yoga was intended for one thing originally, people have adapted the intention to fit their purpose and goal - just like Christians have repurposed Yule and much of what has historically been associated with Yule.
Having spent my life as a ballet/jazz/ modern dancer, I became a certified Yoga instructor only because my gym needed more Yoga instructors. But I was uncomfortable with the music, chanting and everything connected to it so I got certified in Mat Pilates which gives a MUCH stronger core workout and I can use any music I like which brings me back to the secular music question. I use everything from Verdi, Mozart, Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan, Puccini, Christian Rock, Country Gospel and my classes love it!!!
Prashanth Daniel here. I am a native of India myself and while I see several truths to what @Lakshmismehta mentioned, I would generally agree with WarnerMiller that there are aspects to yoga that have simple physiological benefits to our lives. Stretching and deep-breathing have been scientifically known to be good for the body. While there are spiritual practices such as Kundalini and Transcendental Meditation that attempt to tap into ‘cosmic spiritual energies’ or one’s ‘inner chakra’ (these are definitely problematic practices that open one up to the occult), I would not throw all of yoga out with the bathwater.
When I was in middle school, growing up in the Middle East, I signed up for martial art classes and attended several weeks, eventually graduating to red belt. Until then, most of our sessions were simply strength and endurance training, perfecting offensive or defensive postures and so forth. Shortly after that, things got weird. Our ‘master’ insisted that we should open ourselves to the ‘energies of the universe’ and implied we begin by bowing before a certain shrine everyday. He also insisted we chant a certain word as part of our focus training. It was at this point that I felt uncomfortable and so did my parents, which resulted in being pulled out of that class.
As physiological beings, we are capable of participating on both ends of the spectrum between mere physiology and spirituality - I could be doing something as benign as stretching while focusing on energies, vibes, chants and other mesmerizing mind-blanking practices; but I could also kneel down to pray to the living God and allow my mind to wander to everything but Him. To the external observer, both actions would seem rather innocent and harmless. Ultimately what happens in our hearts and what goes through our mind is what matters.
Hope that is helpful to someone.
Heaps of thanks @Lakshmismehta ! May I use what you have written here when the topic comes up with other Christians?
I would add one quote to the “no” side. I digged it up a few years ago for a Christian friend of mine.
"A September 5th, 2005 issue of Time Magazine , featured a quote from Subhas Tiwari, a professor of yoga philosophy and mediation at the Hindu University of America in Orlando, Florida. Mr Tiwari says plainly within that article, " Yoga is Hinduism “.
So if the yoga experts know this to be true, and will profess it to be so, why do so many who profess to be Christians, deny this essential and baseline fact? My friends, Christian yoga, is as ludicrous as saying a Christian Hindu, or a Christian Buddhist. There is no such thing.” Source (as it was almost 2 years ago): https://www.bereanwatchmen.com/index.php/homepage/about-us/8-bwm-articles/21-a-stretch-into-the-occult-a-christian-s-response-to-yoga
Personally, I had a few classes before I got saved, and felt something odd about it, although I happenned to attend the classes of the best yoga teacher of the country at that time (at least that’s what I figured out about him later). The first class felt awesome, with the meditation at the end (I knew nothing about its dangers then), but in the second I couldn’t meditate, and in the meantime my life was falling apart into bits and pieces… Well, it was definitely on my list of repentance after getting to know our Lord Jesus Christ.
I am still pondering on the topic though, together with acupuncture and acupressure. As I can see yoga is the combination of stretches, breathing, and some other stuff. And I have heard that some yoga stretches themselves (without the breathing part) have become widely used in other areas (physios, sports, etc). So it can happen at any time that we do a yoga position for stretching, although we have no clue about it. How to handle that? Our body and muscles need stretching… As I understand,technically, acupuncture is about releasing the muscle by pushing the needle in it, acupressure is similar but without a needle So where is the line? Is there a line?
I have not come to a conclusion yet.
Thank you all for the respectful feedback. It is surely a topic for which quick and clear answers are hard to arrive it. I can offer a few more thoughts though not comprehensive to the responses that have been given.
@Warnermiller, appreciate your thoughts. So, firstly, I would agree with you that it is our faith in Christ’s sacrifice alone that counts toward our righteousness and makes us a Christian not our actions or traditions. So, even if a Christian practices yoga, I don’t believe they will lose salvation, while there is a possibility of losing interest in Christ if the confession was just on lips rather than in the heart. I hear your question as, what harm can be there if one practices yoga just for the physical benefits while rejecting its philosophy? How are we in conflict with Christian values if we are rejecting its philosophy?
I find no problem in using things that God has made in nature that pagans have ascribed spiritual meanings to or that which is a product of just human creativity from pagan cultures. In the case of yoga, the spiritual inspiration behind it and its current use in pagan worship concerns me. Knowing that our body is a temple of the Holy Spirit in Christ, should we then use our bodies the same way a follower of another god does to give glory to their god? That is a source of conflict personally for me.
Deu 18:14 The nations you will dispossess listen to those who practice sorcery or divination. But as for you, the Lord your God has not permitted you to do so. (yoga’s origin seems like divination)
Hebrews 12:28 Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire
Deu 12:4 You shall not worship the Lord in this way (as pagans do).
Will it be pleasing to God if it is not a pattern given in the Bible and will it prevent us from discerning God’s will and bring about deception in our lives? Will it influence people who are still in the process of considering Christianity away from Christ? What about the future younger generations who practice yoga, how will their faith be founded?
Romans 12: 1-2 Therefore, I urge you brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God. This is your true and proper act of worship. Do not be conformed to the pattern of the world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will.
In general, I have seen a big rise in many non-scientific energy-based methods that Christians I know are adopting. I think however sincere we are, we cannot trust our intentions or experiences alone (Jer 17:9). As far as I know, the energy centers/ life force energies cannot be explained scientifically. So, is there a counterfeit spiritual energy behind the spontaneous assumption of yoga postures during spiritual awakening? While the Bible doesn’t clearly speak about yoga, it does tell us to set ourselves apart from anything that is even remotely connected with other spirits.
1 Cor 10:14-20 Therefore my beloved, flee from idolatry …………No, but the sacrifices of pagans are offered to demons, not to God, and I do not want you to be participants with demons.
2 Cor 11:4 For if someone comes and proclaims another Jesus than the one we proclaimed, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or if you accept a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it readily enough.
I don’t mean to dump bible verses but I am just trying to explain how I find a conflict with yoga due to its inspiration. @LaTricia_January, thanks for sharing another perspective on this and I say it with sincerity.
@Carmen, thanks for sharing your experience. I too prefer the non-spiritual exercise programs like Pilates.
@andrea.l thanks for the feedback. Where to draw the line? I don’t know. Breath control is obviously necessary for functioning of the muscle. I see a good scientific reason for co-ordinating breath with muscle movement for oxygenation. In advanced yoga however, rapid forceful breathing (Bhastrika) is encouraged for altered stated of consciousness to experience the life force. This may be more dangerous. This whole field of manipulating universal life force energy is so vast and so prevalent in many forms of alternative holistic medicine. Could this be an unholy spiritual energy that people are experiencing and getting healings? You are welcome to share the information with other Christian friends as long its not another online post. I hope it will be useful. Thanks for your resources as well!
@prashanthdaniel, I really appreciate getting a different perspective especially from someone familiar with a hindu background. I too feel the reasons against yoga are more compelling for its use in christian worship but may be not as compelling for its use in exercise. It depends on what weight one gives to its origins and its possible connection with idolatry. When I practiced yoga for a few years before becoming a Christian, I did not experience anything weird myself. It is definitely more dangerous to practice it for its spiritual purposes until we know what the identity of the life force energy is. With regards to the health benefits, while the number of articles for physiological benefits of yoga are increasing, there is still a scarcity of studies that are reliable and there are mixed findings from randomized controlled studies. Here’s what National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health states, “Although much research has been done on the health effects of yoga, many of the studies have included only small numbers of people and have not been of high quality. Therefore, in most instances, we can only say that yoga has shown promise in helping to manage a particular health condition, not that it has been proven effective. Yoga is generally safe for healthy people when performed properly; individuals with health conditions should discuss their needs with their health care providers and the yoga instructor”. The main conflicts I see for my faith for the initial stages of yoga is its inspiration and symbolism.
@WarnerMiller What an amazing discussion you guys have had! I really appreciate the research @Lakshmismehta did in bringing to the table many legitimate concerns over the nature of yoga and also the perspectives of @Olivia_Davis and @prashanthdaniel, that the movements themselves are neither good nor evil. It is the way the person engages in them that determines their value or lack thereof…
Personally, I have never seen a more obvious application of Paul’s words in 1 Cor 8 about food sacrificed to idols. This food was literally sacrificed to a false god! And yet Paul said it was fine to eat it if it did not defile your conscience - what are these false gods to us? We worship the living God.
However, we should not cause our brothers and sisters to stumble for whom these practices do indeed violate their conscience. Just like meat sacrificed to idols - these practices were birthed out of false religion (at least some of them) - so we should guard the hearts of our fellow Christians who came out of those practices.
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.
Music and Yoga - Similar?
@WarnerMiller gave a great example in the thread on secular music. I think there may be a parallel here - the music itself is not what is necessarily bad - it is the way that we engage in it - our thoughts and the attitudes of our hearts.
I think yoga has I Cor 8 written all over it. Personally, I would never engage in yoga if they were chanting to krishna, but I have no problem doing some yoga to Hillsong
For me I think stretching is beneficial for strengthening and flexibility. For example, the following book is intended for athletes - not for chanting or meditation.
@Lakshmismehta I think if you read I Cor 10 in context we see that Paul is saying there is nothing wrong with eating meat sacrificed to idols, but that we should guard other peoples’ consciences.
Reading the end of the chapter, Paul says this explicitly. If someone is specifically eating it because it was sacrificed to a demon, then for the sake of their conscience we should abstain, but our own conscience should be clear.
That is why I would never do yoga if they were chanting to false gods or something along those lines.
I Cor 10:19-20,25 - Do I mean then that food sacrificed to an idol is anything, or that an idol is anything? 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…Eat anything sold in the meat market without raising questions of conscience
I Cor 10:27-29 - If an unbeliever invites you to a meal and you want to go, eat whatever is put before you without raising questions of conscience. 28 But if someone says to you, “This has been offered in sacrifice,” then do not eat it, both for the sake of the one who told you and for the sake of conscience. 29 I am referring to the other person’s conscience, not yours.
Hi @SeanO, I just want to start with thanking you for how much I have learnt on exchanges on the forums here. So, I have heard this argument from 1 Cor 8 and 10 before in favor of yoga and I am glad you brought it up. My thoughts on this are different. So, let’s consider the first verse:
1 Cor 8: 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.
Here the gentiles have not grasped the freedom in Christ and think that the food offered to idols will bring them closer to god. So, if they do it with that conscience, they are sinning. If a believer ate food sacrificed to the idols in front of gentiles, they would be emboldened to pursue the wrong doctrine. Gentiles also thought abstaining from foods makes one closer to god. So 1 Tim 4:4 explains similarly that people don’t need to stay away from any food that God made because it is consecrated through Word of God and prayer.
1 Cor 10:25-26 Eat anything in the market without raising questions of conscience for the earth is the Lords and everything in it.
Here Paul says, you can certainly eat anything sold in the meat market even if it is offered to a false god because the Lord made it. So, dedication of something to a false god does not corrupt what God has made. But does that make the teaching of offering food to idols a sound practice? Paul answers No! in 1 Cor 10:18 Consider the people of Israel: Do not those who eat the sacrifices participate in the altar? The Israelites believed in the true God but also served the false gods through offerings.
When you compare yoga with food offered to idols, you are saying - just because stretches were used to worship a false god, that does not defile the practice of yoga. But what caused the people to offer stretches to their gods in the first place? It’s the teachings that originated in the false gods. The yogis spontaneously developed these movements in an altered state of consciousness just as people experience it now in spontaneous ‘kriyas’ of ‘Kundalini Yoga’ even without prior asana instruction. If we consider yoga as a teaching of false gods rather than food offered to idols, then the following verse may be more applicable.
Gal 4: 8-9 Formerly, when you did not know God, you were enslaved to those that by nature are not gods. But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and worthless elementary principles of the world, whose slaves you want to be once more?
This instruction in Galatians was in the context of observing special days and months according to teachings of false gods. Paul expresses a concern of being ensnared by them – whether that is oppression or possession is a discussion for another time.
Israelites were also not to worship God as pagans did. JI Packer illustrates this in Chapter 4 of ‘Knowing God’ about Exodus 32.
“Aaron made a golden calf (that is, a bull–image). It was meant as a visible symbol of Jehovah, the mighty God who had brought Israel out of Egypt. No doubt the image was thought to honor him, as being a fitting symbol of his great strength. But it is not hard to see that such a symbol in fact insults him, for what idea of his moral character, his righteousness, goodness and patience could one gather from looking at a statue of him as a bull? Thus Aaron’s image hid Jehovah’s glory”.
The comparison of yoga with music may also not be completely appropriate. Music expresses what God has done in our heart unlike yoga. Dancing may be a more appropriate comparison to music in my mind.
I don’t think there is something inherently wrong in stretching unknowingly and taking on the poses that are prescribed in yoga. But yoga posture sequences and the hand gestures are designed to remove blockages of mystical energy centers called ‘chakras’ for the flow of cosmic /life energy. Whether this will affect a Christain leading to deception depends on each person’s spiritual maturity in Christ. Even when I have tried to follow Christ sincerely, I can’t say that I have not been deceived. I feel I have spent many years being tossed to and fro because of a lack of knowledge of scripture and buying into what people around me said. The Hindu yogis seem to think you can’t separate out the physical with the spiritual, so should we just dismiss that? Besides, if there is a blanket approval to get into the world of yoga, one can be easily be exposed to other yogis with spiritual mindset and non-christian theologies in the classes. I don’t know enough about power yoga but it seems to be the same thing with focus on body rather than breath. If there are other equally good exercise options that are not spiritual, it just seems like a safer route.
Sorry for another long post. As much as possible, I normally tend to avoid disputable matters and usually err on the side of going along! But with yoga, I don’t feel comfortable setting aside all the connections to the false gods. As much as I like someone to accept my point of view , I completely understand another interpretation that one comes to sincerely Thanks Sean!
@Lakshmismehta Thank you for that thorough response I agree that we should not violate our own conscience and should avoid even the appearance of evil. Also, if we know that something would tempt us to sin, then we should avoid it even if it is not a temptation for others.
I think that because of my upbringing and cultural background it is very hard for me to understand concerns surrounding these physical postures. A ‘chakra’ is as real to me as a unicorn or a leprechaun. And I see no connection, nor have experienced one, between physical posture and the spiritual realm, though I agree certain postures may express humility or deference (such as kneeling or bowing). However, I see those postures as a human expression of an inward attitude of the heart toward God rather than as something that manipulates the spiritual realm.
I appreciate your contributions to this topic greatly and value your perspective. It is logical that another culture might imbue certain postures with inherent worth or meaning and that someone from such a culture would then have to search their own conscience in order to decide how to best honor God in how they engage or abstain from yoga. I think one of the most beautiful parts of Christianity is how we each as individuals, with our experiences and cultural background, are on a journey towards the Master.
Blessings on the journey
@SeanO, Thanks for the kind reply. The chakra/meridian system is indeed foreign to most and actually even to a non-religious Hindu. This chakra system and universal life force energy is the basis of much new age medicine too and is gaining popularity. I think it’s worth looking into the truth/relevance of it. I would agree with you on postures that convey reverance to God. Anyway, we have discussed this at length already. Thanks for clarifying your viewpoint. God bless!
@WarnerMiller thanks for raising the question, that I’ve wondered about from time to time. I’m not into yoga but recently became very concerned with something much related. First, thanks to @Lakshmismehta for all that information you provided. You certainly have researched well, and together with your own background and personal experience, I think it’s only wise that all be considered. We do know the enemy operates no way but subtly.
But the related question @WarnerMiller is about the “mindfulness” curriculum, that I understand has actually been adopted in public schools in NYC, besides others, since 2016. With loved ones, perhaps, particularly the younger minds being exposed to this, what should the believers’ response be? Love to hear everyone’s thoughts -