crazy stuff: knowledge and prejudice can be a dangerous combination

Yoga: More than Meets the Eyes??

April 5, 2013 by  | 206 Comments  by Rev. Ed Hird 

You may find this a stretching article in body, mind and spirit.  I have intentionally avoided writing this article for years, because I knew that it might be unavoidably controversial.  To be honest, I have been waiting for someone else to write this article instead of me.  Like most pastors, I want people to like me.   With genuine reluctance, I eventually faced my conflict avoidance, obeyed the Lord and read hundreds of yoga books in our local public libraries.  In preparing this article, I have not read one book which warns against yoga.  All book citations in this article are from yoga advocates and practitioners.

To many people, yoga is just the hottest new exercise fad for younger women.  Twenty million North Americans are now doing yoga, including around four million men.  These twenty million people are currently being trained by over 70,000 yoga practitioners in at least 20,000 North American locations.[1]  Many people confuse yoga with simple stretching.  Stretching and calisthenics are good things which I participate in weekly at the local gym.  Yoga has not cornered the market on healthy stretching and calisthenics.  Physical fitness does not begin and end on a yoga mat.  I am convinced that we do well when we take care of our bodies as part of our Christian stewardship.  God wants us to be healthier in body, mind, and spirit. We all need to get back to the gym on a regular basis, whatever our views of yoga.  Your body will  thank you.

I unknowingly participated in yoga, in the form of martial arts, for twenty years before renouncing it.[2]  After much prayer, I reluctantly gave it up because I didn’t want any gray area in my Christian life.   It is not an easy or light thing for someone to renounce this, even as a Christian.  For many, it is absolutely unthinkable.  To even imagine giving it up may leave some feeling threatened or even angry.  In hindsight, I realized that the ritual motions and postures (asanas or katas) had gotten very deep into my psyche, shaping my very identity.[3]  Somehow over twenty years, they had become ingrained in me and even became part of me.  Without intending it, I was to some degree serving two masters.  This was a hard truth for me to accept.  I have heard of one Christian who is so entrenched in yoga that they have vowed to never give up yoga even if God himself told them to stop.  It makes you wonder sometimes who is in charge of our lives.

Historically yoga was only taught in secret to high-caste male Brahmins.[4]  It was very much a guy thing for the wealthy and powerful.   In recent years, North American yoga has largely stripped itself of its more obvious Eastern trappings: gurus, incense, Sanskrit, and loin cloths.[5]  It has gone through a remarkable image makeover in a relatively short time period.  Yoga classes and paraphernalia have become a ten-billion+ dollar consumer-driven industry, involving designer spandex, yoga mats, and DVDs.[6]  Old-time Yoga purists have called this new development the yoga industrial complex.  In some parts of North America, yoga moms are replacing the demographic of soccer moms.  Yoga has become such a strongly entrenched cultural fad that in some parts of North America it is being taught to children, often using tax-payers’ money, in otherwise strictly secular public school systems.  Spiritually speaking, yoga has replaced the Lord’s Prayer which, you will remember, was bounced from our children’s classrooms for being too religious.

This North American yoga industry has registered thousands of copyrights, patents and trademarks, sometimes resulting in threatening lawsuits.[7]  The Indian Government is so concerned about the yoga copyrighting that they have set up their own taskforce to protect yoga from being pirated by Westerners:

“Yoga piracy is becoming very common, and we are moving to do something about it,” says Vinod Gupta, the head of a recently established Indian government task force on traditional knowledge and intellectual-property theft.

‘We know of at least 150 asanas [yoga positions] that have been pirated in the U.S., the UK, Germany and Japan,’ he says. ‘These were developed in India long ago and no one can claim them as their own.’ In an effort to protect India’s heritage, the task force has begun documenting 1,500 yoga postures drawn from classical yoga texts — including the writings of the Indian sage, Patanjali, the first man to codify the art of yoga.”[8]

BhagavitaThere are seven main kinds of yoga: Hatha Yoga, Bhakti Yoga (devotion), Karma Yoga (action), Jnana Yoga (wisdom), Mantra Yoga, Tantra Yoga, and Raja Yoga (royal).   In the 15th Century AD Hatha Yoga Pradipika, its first three verses teach that the ignorant masses are not yet ready for the lofty Raja Yoga, and so Hatha Yoga has been developed as a “staircase” to lead them to Raja Yoga.  [9]   The most popular yoga offered in one’s local Recreation Center is Hatha Yoga, so-called physical yoga involving numerous yoga techniques called asanas.  These yogic asanas appear to the uninitiated as if they are just stretching exercises.  The more fully initiated realize that yogic asanas are worship postures to Hindu deities.   The yoga insiders all know the real scoop.  They also know that North Americans are not quite ready yet for the full truth about the religious identity of yoga.  My question is this: Is it really honest and respectful to pretend yoga is just a physical activity without any spiritual implications?[10]  More importantly, should people get themselves bent out of shape over Christians doing yoga?

For many Westerners, all that matters is that something seems to be working.  We rarely look under the hood of our cars.   Our practical bent is both a great strength and a greater weakness.  We naively think that we can arrogantly detach anything from its heritage, and snatch its alleged benefits without any downside.   Yoga has been carefully repackaged to appeal for North Americans to our strongly pragmatic side.  The yogic philosophy is initially minimized.  Some yoga advocates claim that  asanas are just poses, and mantras are just words.   Context becomes everything.  To argue that asanas and mantras have no inherent meaning is itself an unquestionably reductionistic statement.  It is meaningless to suggest that yoga is meaningless.  Is it really as easy to secularize yogic Hinduism as we individualistic North Americans may think?

I.K. Taimini, Indian scholar and chemist, wrote that there is no subject like yoga which is so wrapped up in mystery and on which one can write whatever one likes without any risk of being proved wrong.[11]  The religion of Hinduism is more than just cows, karma and curry.  Yoga is the very heart of Hinduism.  Yoga is the Hindu word for salvation.  Nine out of ten Hindus agree that yoga is Hinduism.[12]  Without yoga, there is no Hinduism. Without Hinduism, there is no yoga.

In yoga asanas, one re-enacts the story of a particular Hindu deity, identifying as that specific deity.  According to Sanskritist Dr. N. Sjoman, verses from the 19th century yoga text Maisuru Maisiri  clearly indicate that “the asanas are assumed to have an inner nature that is associated with their specific name.”  The hand postures (mudras) in Hatha Yoga are a replication of the same hand postures in the statues of Hindu gods.  Yoga is spiritual embodiment.   Is it mere coincidence that yogic asanas and mudras re-enact the exact shape and position of Hindu graven images and deities?  The mudras are used to channel psychic energy through the body to alter consciousness.  They facilitate the process of yogic Self-Realization, and are designed to awaken and activate the root yogic chakra (psychic wheel).

Unlike Judaism, Christianity and Islam, one does not have to believe in  or worship something to be impacted by Hinduism.  This systemic religious difference is hard for many westerners to comprehend.  Because all in Hinduism is maya or illusion, belief for yogic Hinduism is nice but not initially necessary.  Nothing is what it appears to be.  The belief or meaning structure is often introduced much later at a deeper level of initiation.  Because Hinduism is technique-based, the performance of the yogic asana is sufficient to open up the chakra energies which produce the psychic interaction.[13]   Similar to the way that psychoactive drugs have mental, emotional and even spiritual impact regardless of what one knows about them, yoga also has a chemical impact regardless of one’s yoga knowledge or belief.  The initial irrelevance of belief and worship is one of the reasons why yoga practitioners often promote yoga to North Americans as either non-religious or religiously neutral.[14]  Transcendental Meditation, a form of Mantra yoga, initiated countless westerners with Sanskrit puja rituals that were never explained to them, but still had a significant impact on their core identity.[15]  Yoga is inescapably religious in a way that most North Americans will not notice.[16]   This is why many well-meaning North American Christians have uncritically or unwittingly opened their spirit to yogic Hindu philosophies that clash with  Christ’s teaching.

The term ‘yoga’ comes from the Sanskrit word ‘yug’, which means to yoke.  Few people in community centre yoga classes ask what they are yoking themselves to.  Yogic practice is designed to yoke or bring psychic union with Brahman, the highest of the Hindu deities.  What looks to us like simple stretches are in fact powerful psychic techniques that have been shown to change the very core of our consciousness.  The purpose of yoga is to produce a mind-altering state that fuses male and female, light and darkness, good and evil, god and humanity.[17]  As the best-selling author Deepak Chopra said in The Seven Spiritual Laws of Yoga:

“Krishna teaches Arjuna (in the Bhagavad Gita) the essence of yoga, telling him that good and evil, pleasure and pain, and loss and gain are two sides of the same coin of life.   The solution that yoga offers is to go beyond the realm of duality and become established in the state of being that is beyond time, space and causality….Krishna tells Arjuna, ‘Go beyond the realm of good and evil where life is dominated by beginnings and endings.   Enter into the domain of yoga where all duality finds its unity…”[18]

nataraja             The term ‘Hatha Yoga’ refers to the union of the sun (ha or male) and moon (tha or female) into one monistic whole.  Some scholars translate Hatha Yoga as ‘violent union’.[19]   The definitive symbol of yoga is the Nataraj asana, known as the dancing Shiva who ‘dances’ destruction upon any distinctions (avidya) between the Creator and creation, good and evil, male and female.[20]  Yoga philosophy believes that all matter and differences are illusion, and that all illusions can be overcome by the performance of yoga rituals.  Yoga  works systemically  to alter biochemical functions, including our hormones and endocrine system.  The so-called physical activity in Hatha Yoga is meant to achieve a changed state of consciousness, eliminating the distinction between subject [self] and object. Yoga is designed to gradually disconnect one’s thoughts and sensory perceptions from one’s sense of self and identity.  The result is a profound loss of personhood and individuality.  Advanced yoga produces the impression that one no longer exists.  This perception can be very convincing.

Yoga is the primary technique used by the yogis in attempting to become gods themselves.    Through mantric yoga chanting and asanas, the mind experiences both sensory deprivation and sensory overloading, causing a shutting down of the mind.  Unlike Christian prayer and meditation on God’s Word, the purpose of Eastern yogic meditational practices is to ‘kill the mind’.   Mantra or breath yoga causes one to enter into a meditational trance state in which the mind is first silenced and then emptied.  The ‘killing of the mind’ produces the experience of differences disappearing and all becoming one. Yoga was crafted and developed to enable an escape from rational thinking and a direct access by nonverbal means to a specific psychic state.  Many would hold that yogic Hinduism produces a trance state through self-induced hypnosis.   Is it fair to wonder if intensive yoga has effects similar to psychological brain-washing techniques?  Is it merely accidental that yoga has the ability to cause a blanking of our minds, an actual cessation of our thought processes?   Will community centre yoga classes in the future be required to alert prospective candidates to  such risks, similar to warnings on cigarette packaging?

While yogic philosophy is polytheistic, it is also monistic, in the sense that it holds that, through yoga, we become the universe and/or god.[21]  Yoga is the primary way that yogis attempt to be liberated from the karmic bondage of endless reincarnation.  While these tenets are rarely taught at community center yoga classes, they are often held by the community center yoga instructor who has gone to a deeper level of yogic initiation.  The further one enters into yoga, the greater the hold that this ‘other master’ has in one’s life.

Yoga promoters realize that most North Americans are not yet ready to hear about the deeper secrets of yoga.  Community Center yoga is largely drip-feeding lower-level yoga practices during this time of cultural shift.  Hatha Yoga is itself derived from the very secretive tantric yoga.  According to William Broad, author of The Science of Yoga, Tantric Yoga developed in India around 600 A.D:

“(Tantric yoga) worships female deities, roots its ceremonies in human sexuality, seeks supernatural powers for material gain, and cloaks its rites in secrecy.”

IndiaIn around 1200 A.D., Gorakhnath, a Hindu ascetic of western India, merged the traditions of Tantra and  body discipline, forming Hatha Yoga.[22]  Broad teaches that the path of enlightenment towards the ecstatic yoga union was known as Tantra.[23]  Hatha Yoga is designed to bring a tantric awakening of Kundalini, the Hindu goddess having a serpent power.[24]  The Sanskrit word kundalini means “she who is coiled”.[25]   The cobra asana is not mere stretching, but is a mind control technique that has been developed over many centuries with proven psychic results.  Few community centre yoga buffs realize that the cobra asana was developed to awaken the kundalini cobra chakra.  The Kundalini snake is said to reside in the lowest chakra at the base of one’s spine:

“When (Kundalini) is aroused by Yoga practice, she uncoils and travels up the spine toward her lover, Shiva. Traveling the spine through psychic centers called chakras, Kundalini reaches the top chakra to merge with Shiva and there receive divine enlightenment through the union with Brahman….”[26]

According to the Bhagavad-Gita Hindu Scripture, Shiva the Hindu god of destruction is the Lord of Yoga (Yogeshwara) and the first Hatha Yoga teacher.  The Bhagavad Gita used the word “Yoga” in chapter six where the deity Krishna declares, “Thus joy supreme comes to the yogi … who is one with Brahman, with God.”[27]  For many generations, the Hindu texts like Hatha Yoga Pradipikia has described yogis as “able to fly, levitate, stop their hearts, suspend their breathing, vanish, walk through walls, project themselves into other bodies, touch the moon, survive live burial, make themselves invisible, and die at will.”[28]  The magical and sexual aspects of Tantric Yoga have both embarrassed middle-class Indian Hindus while intriguing many Western New Agers.[29]  The Tantric aspect of Hatha Yoga has been linked to a number of high-profile New Age yoga scandals.[30]  Dr. Carl Jung, the father of the New Age movement,  remarkably concluded after two decades of study that advanced yoga can loose a flood of suffering of which no sane person ever dream.”  In his advanced yogic awakening, Gopi Krishna said: “It was variable for many years, painful, obsessive…I have passed through almost all the stages of…mediumistic, psychotic, and other types of mind; for some time I was hovering between sanity and insanity.” [31]

SwamiYoga came to North America in 1893 when Swami Vivekananda, a disciple of the famous Guru Ramakrishna, taught about yoga at the Chicago World Fair.  Laurette Willis, an ex-yoga teacher, calls yoga the missionary arm of Hinduism and the New Age movement.  In “An Open Letter to Evangelicals”, Swami Sivasiva Palani wrote:

“A small army of yoga missionaries – hatha, raja, siddha and kundalini – beautifully trained in the last 10 years, is about to set upon the western world. They may not call themselves Hindu, but Hindus know where yoga came from and where it goes.”[32]

As Yoga Guru B.K.S Iyengar notes in his book Light on Yoga, “Some asanas are also called after Gods of the Hindu pantheon and some recall the Avataras, or incarnations of Divine Power.”[33]  Because the Hindu deities rode on animals, many yoga asanas are devoted to these deified animals.[34]  In the Sun Salutation asana, one is yogically paying direct homage to Surya, the Hindu Sun deity.  The Cobra asana is about identification with and worship of the Kundalini snake, yogically awakened in the chakras.  The fish asana (Matsyasana) is the yogic worship and reenactment of the Hindu deity Vishnu who turned himself into a fish to rescue people from a flood.[35] The Half Moon asana involves the yogic identification with and worship of Ganesh, the elephant-headed god who threw part of his tusk at the moon.[36] The Tortoise asana is dedicated to the yogic worship of Kurma the Tortoise incarnation of the god Vishnu.[37]  The Downward Dog asana reenacts the Hindu worship of the dog as happens for five days each November.[38]  The Hanuman asana is dedicated to the yogic worship of the Monkey god, Hanuman.[39]

The Warrior asana is identified with the yogic worship of Lord Virabhadra who is described as having a thousand arms, three burning eyes, and a garland of skulls.[40]  The Corpse asana is the death or extinction of the person when yogic unification with the Hindu deity Brahman wipes out one’s own identity and existence.[41]  The Lotus asana is identified with the yogic worship of the Hindu deity Lakshmi who sat on a lotus.[42]  The Marichi asana is dedicated to the yogic identification with and worship of Marichi, one of the seven Hindu Lords of Creation and the Grandfather of the Sun god Surya.

A number of well-intended Christians have been recently promoting Christianized yoga in North America.  In their classes, they usually do the same hatha yoga asanas as the new-agers, but add scripture quotes and Gospel music.  Subhas R. Tiwari, a Hindu University of America professor who has a master’s degree in yoga philosophy, comments: “Such efforts [to Christianize yoga] point to a concerted, long-term plan to deny yoga its origin. This effort . . . is far from innocent. It is reminiscent of the pattern evident throughout the long history and dynamics of colonizing powers.”[43] Tiwari holds that efforts to Christianize yoga are unjust “encroachment” and thinly veiled Christian proselytism of Hindus.

Some Christians claim that 1 Corinthians 8 and Romans 14 gives them the right to christianize yoga, saying that because Paul ate meat sacrificed to idols, then we can do yoga that has been dedicated to idols.  They claim that because they are strong, Spirit-filled Christians, they can do yoga with no downside.  Paul however never encouraged Christians to participate in idolatrous Greek or Roman temple rituals as a way of proving how protected they are by the Holy Spirit.  In fact, in 1 Corinthians 10: 1-13, Paul stated that Christians needed to flee idolatry and syncretism.  Sometimes the wisest thing to do is to simply say no, and remove ourselves from a compromising situation.  Never did the Bible encourage us to christianize idolatry or to hang around the idolatrous temple to prove how strong we are.  Not everything can be redeemed.  Some things need to be renounced.  It goes without saying that sacrificing animals to the  local temple statue would have been unthinkable for New Testament Christians.

What Paul was encouraging in 1 Corinthians 8 was the practice of saying grace before eating meat at dinner.  He knew that most meat would have been sacrificed to idols at the local temple before making it to the butcher.  Rather than becoming vegetarian, Paul advocated saying grace as a cleansing prayer.  The parallel passage in 1 Timothy 4:3-4 says that saying grace is not just a nice religious thing we do before Sunday dinner, but rather is a significant act of thanksgiving (in the Greek, eucharist), which actually consecrates or sanctifies the meat through prayer and God’s Word.

Saying grace at dinner, however, is radically different than adopting ancient yogic mind-altering techniques.  Because yoga physically embodies the spiritual philosophy of Hinduism, it inhibits the Lord’s command to take every thought captive in obedience to Christ.  It also  disregards Paul’s encouragement in Colossians 2:8 to not be “taken captive by philosophy and empty deception according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ.”  This is not at the same level of whether or not one chooses to have a Christmas tree in one’s living room, or what kind of worship music one prefers.   Yes, there is great freedom on non-essentials for Christians.  But on more essential issues like idolatry or  immorality, the bible is clear that we are to have clear boundaries.  Syncretistically dabbling in things that the bible cautions against leads to great confusion.

JesusUltimately from a biblical perspective, the deities of yoga are no deities at all, and their devotees have no power to proscribe or limit what Christian believers may do with their bodies.  Jesus is Lord of our bodies, which are the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19).  That is why many Christians make use of their bodies in worship, kneeling , arms elevated, or even prostrate.   How we use our bodies is an expression of our identity in Christ.  We need not be afraid that through involvement in stretching and calisthenics, we may accidentally be stretching in a way that might look like yoga.  Even with its 1,500 asana poses, yoga does not own the world of calisthenics and stretching.

With yoga and Hinduism, nothing is what it seems.  This is why it has been described as the embrace that smothers.  Trying to separate the so-called physical from the spiritual in yoga is like attempting to remove arsenic from a bowl of sugar.  Yoga has always been shrouded in illusion and secrecy, and can intentionally look like whatever you want it to in the short term.  Hindus are well aware that yoga is an ancient form of divination.  The bible does not encourage us to see how close to the line we can get before we fall in, but rather to flee idolatry.   In the end, the yogic road leads to idolatry and monism, to serving two masters.   The Lordship of Jesus is what is at stake.

Yoga and Christianity go together like ice cream and beach sand.  Just as there is no Christian Ouija board and no Christian astrology, so there is no Christian Yoga that is either truly Yoga or truly Christian.  I invite you to do the stretching, perhaps unthinkable thing of turning from Yoga towards healthy stretching and calisthenics.  This will not be easy for you, but it will be life-giving.  Please pray about it, like I did.  Prayer is the way forward. You will not regret choosing to serve one master.  Jesus is Lord.  Yoga is not.

p.s. For those who would like to do healthy stretching, I recommend your checking out these two websites:

http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/stretching/SM00043

http://www.sportsinjuryclinic.net/rehabilitation-exercises/stretching-exercises

The Rev. Dr. Ed Hird, Rector, BSW, MDiv, DMin, St. Simon’s Church North Vancouver, Anglican Mission in the Americas (Canada)  http://stsimonschurch.ca

[1] Colleen Titlman, Teach Yourself Visually Yoga (MaranGraphics, Wiley Publishing Inc, New York, NY, 2003), p. 33.; William J. Broad, The Science of Yoga (Simon & Schuster, New York, NY, 2012), p. 2 “twenty million in the USA…more than two hundred and fifty million (yoga practitioners)…”; “Yoga in America Study 2012″, Yoga Journal. http://www.yogajournal.com/press/yoga_in_america  ”82.2 percent are women; 17.8 percent are men.” (Accessed April 28th 2013)
[2] Nathan Johnson, Zen Shaolin Karate, “Ch’an (zen) monks of the Shaolin Temple” (Ch’an comes from an Indian word dhyana meaning meditation.)
[3] Taekwondo and other martial arts can be traced to a 6th century Buddhist monk Bodhidharma who travelled from India to China and established Zen Buddhism at the Shaolin temple of Ko San So Rim.  There he taught them both sitting meditation and the martial arts (moving meditation) to enable his disciples to free themselves from all conscious control in order to attain enlightenment. The karate equivalent to the poomse is the kata patterns.  As the Taekwondo author and instructor Eddie Ferrie puts it, “Many of the patterns of taekwondo are rooted in semi-mystical Taoist philosophy and their deeper meaning is said to be far more important than the mere performance of a gymnastics series of exercises.  This is not immediately obvious, either when performing or watching the poomse being performed…”
[4] Timothy McCall, Yoga as Medicine: a Yoga Journal Book (Bantam Dell, New York NY, 2007), P. 112 “At one point yoga was only taught to the elite of Indian society, male Brahmins, and then only to those who dedicated their life to it. The teachings and practice of yoga were kept secret from the rest of the world.”
[5] John Capouya, Real Men Do Yoga (Health Communications Inc., Deerfield, Florida, 2003), p. xiii “No chanting, no incense, no gurus…”
[6] Cain Carroll and Lori Kimata, Partner Yoga (Rodale Books, Emmaus, Pennsylvania, 2000), p. 21 “Unlike their predecessors, modern yogis now wear spandex and nail polish and practice postures on thin purple mats.”; “Yoga in America Study 2012″, Yoga Journal. http://www.yogajournal.com/press/yoga_in_america ”The previous estimate from the 2008 study was 5.8 billion dollars.” (Accessed April 28th 2013)
[7] Broad, The Science of Yoga, p. 3.
[8] “India makes moves to reclaim heritage from ‘yoga piracy’”, David Orr, Washington Times, September 22nd 2005,http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2005/sep/22/20050922-114821-4035r/
[9] Titlman, Teach Yourself Visually Yoga, p. 7.; Svatmarama, The Hatha Yoga Pradipika, The Sacred Books of the Hindus, ed. Major Basu, I.M.S. (retired) (Bahadurganj, Allahabad: Sudhindranatah Vasu, 1915),http://www.geocities.com/kriyadc/hatha_yoga_pradipika_chapter1.html.
[10] Titlman, Teach Yourself Visually Yoga, p. 11 “…Yoga is not simply a system of physical exercise or a means of releasing psychic stress, as so many in the West have come to believe…”
[11] Broad, The Science of Yoga, p. ix.
[12] Laurette Willis, “Why A Christian Alternative to Yoga?” http://praisemoves.com/about-us/why-a-christian-alternative-to-yoga (Accessed Dec 14th 2012).
[13] www.yogabasics.com  : “More than just stretching, asanas [yoga postures] open the energy channels, chakras and psychic centers of the body. Asanas purify and strengthen the body and control and focus the mind.” (Accessed Dec 12th2012)
[14] Capouya, Real Men Do Yoga, p. xiii “Yoga’s not some weird Eastern religion. In fact it’s not a religion at all.”; Capouya, p.xvii “He’s not looking for a religious experience, and hasn’t found it. You don’t have to sit around and say ‘Om’ to do yoga…It doesn’t have to be all Eastern and mystical.”; Pat Shapiro, Yoga for Women at Midlife & Beyond (Sunstone Press, Santa Fe, 2006), p. 15 (Yoga) “is not connected with any particular religion and does not require a specific belief system.”; Dr. Candy Gunther Brown, Encinitas School Yoga Lawsuit,  p. 5, “Many Americans fail to recognize non-Christian (e.g. Hindu) religious practices as ‘religion’ and fail to understand the inseparability of certain bodily practices from spiritual purposes.”  http://bit.ly/11HChls
[15] “Transcendental Meditation”, http://biblefacts.org/cult/tm2.html
[16] According to the Webster’s New World Dictionary, yoga (coming from an east Indian Sanskrit word which means “union with god” or “to yoke”) is “a mystic and ascetic Hindu discipline for achieving union with the supreme spirit through meditation, prescribed postures, controlled breathing, etc.” Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary defines yoga as “Hindu theistic philosophy teaching the suppression of all activity of body, mind, and will in order that the self may realize its distinction from them and attain liberation.”
[17] Carroll and Kimata, Partner Yoga, p. 227 “In these moments of absorption, it is said that we are ‘yoked’ to the underlying force behind all creation. In this place, there are no questions, no opposites, and no struggle; there is only union. This is the essence of yoga.”
[18] Deepak Chopra and David Simon, The Seven Spiritual Laws of Yoga (John Wiley and Sons Inc., Hoboken, New Jersey, 2004), p.197.
[19] Broad, The Science of Yoga, p. 17 “The Sanskrit root of Hatha is hath – to treat with violence, as in binding someone to a post…” P. 17 …a number of scholars translate Hatha Yoga as ‘violent union.’…
[20] http://www.theyogatutor.com/natarajasana The Yoga Teacher, “The definitive symbol of yoga is the Nataraja, otherwise known as the Dancing Shiva.”; http://bit.ly/TNFTRV Tirusula Yoga, “Nata= Dancer. Raja = King / Lord” (Accessed Dec 23rd 2012)
[21] David Frawley (Vamadeva Shastri) “Hindu View of Nature”, Hindu Voice UK, http://www.vedanet.com/2012/06/hindu-view-of-nature “Ultimately for the Hindu as the Upanishads say, ‘Everything is Brahman’ Sarvam Khalvidam Brahma.” (Accessed April 5th 2013)
[22] Broad, The Science of Yoga, p. xxv.; Broad, p.16 “In truth, Hatha is a branch of Tantra.”
[23] Broad, The Science of Yoga, p. 15.
[24] Titlman, Teach Yourself Visually Yoga, p. 16.
[25] Lee Sannella, The Kundalini Experience (Integral Publishing, Lower Lake, California 1987, 1992), P. 8.; Titlman, Teach Yourself Visually Yoga, P.7 “Two popular forms of Tantra Yoga are Kundalini and Kriya Yoga.”
[26] Titlman, Teach Yourself Visually Yoga, p. 26.; Capouya, Real Men Do Yoga, p.89 “In the yoga tradition…there’s a ‘chakra’, or an energy center, around the solar plexus…”
[27] Laurette Willis http://praisemoves.com/about-us/why-a-christian-alternative-to-yoga “…according to Hatha Yoga Pradipika.”; Titlman, Teach Yourself Visually Yoga, p. 12 (Bhagavad-Gita is) “a classic Hindu text believed written between the Fifth Century B.C. and the Second Century A.D.”
[28] Broad, The Science of Yoga, p. 17.
[29]Capouya, Real Men Do Yoga, P. xv (yoga) “…recharges your sex life.”; p.172” …in the Kundalini tradition, the perineum is where energy supposedly enters the body. The more energy you take in there, it’s believed, the hornier you get…”; Carroll and Kimata, Partner Yoga, p. 27 “…contrary to popular belief, not all Tantric yoga is sexual.”; Broad, The Science of Yoga, p.24 “Middle-class Indians found (yoga’s) its obsession with sex and magic to be an ‘embarrassing heritage,’ according to Geoffrey Samuel, a yoga scholar…”; Broad, p. 26 “Throughout his career, Gune maintained a virtual taboo on the word ‘Tantra’- the parent of Hatha which Hindu nationalists had come to abhor.”;
[30] Broad, The Science of Yoga, p. 164 “…modern yoga throbs with open sexuality ranging from the blatantly erotic and the bizarrely kinky to the deeply spiritual.”; Broad, p. 164 “…the discipline (of yoga) itself began as a sex cult …”; p. 175 “Even Kripalu came under fire. Former devotees at the Berkshires ashram won more than $2.5 million after its long-term guru–a man who gave impassioned talks on the spiritual value of chastity- confessed to multiple affairs.”; McCall, Yoga as Medicine, p. 109 “Kripalu: This system is perhaps the most New Age in feel of the Yoga styles common in the West.”
[31] Broad, Science of Yoga, p. 10; Gopi Krishna, The Awakening of Kundalini (New York: E.P. Dutton, 1975), p. 124
[32] Sivasiva Palani, “An Open Letter to Evangelicals”, Hinduism Today, January 1991, http://bit.ly/10Bzxr1.
[33] http://www.hafsite.org/media/pr/yoga-hindu-origins Hindu American Foundation, “Yoga Beyond Asana: Hindu Thought In Practice”,  “Yet, even when Yoga is practiced solely in the form of an exercise, it cannot be completely delinked from its Hindu roots.” (Accessed Dec 23rd 2012)
[34] “The Significance of Animals in Hinduism” http://www.hinduwebsite.com/hinduism/essays/animals.asp “Hindus revere many divinities in animal form.  Lord Vishnu incarnated upon earth first as a fish, then as a tortoise and then as a boar… In the Hindu pantheon, each god and goddess is associated with an animal as a vehicle.” (Accessed April 5th 2013); “Why Animal Worship in Hinduism?”, http://bit.ly/XZ4mbS  “Almost all the deities in Hinduism have animals as their mode of transport (vehicle) or are associated with animals… Brahma travels on a humongous swan Hamsa, Lord Shiva on the Divine Bull Nandi and Lord Vishnu travels on the Golden-Eagle Garuda”  (Accessed April 5th 2013)
[35]“Fish Pose”, http://www.yogajournal.com/basics/2335 (Accessed Dec 26th 2012)
[36]  History of Yoga Postures,  http://bit.ly/12puYFs (Accessed Dec 29th 2012)
[37] “Sitting like a Tortoise”, http://bit.ly/ZErk2K  (Accessed Dec 29th 2012)
[38] “Animal Worship” http://bit.ly/2ogQaB (Accessed April 5th 2013)
[39] http://www.yogajournal.com/practice/889 Hanumanasana: Pose Dedicated to the Monkey God, Hanuman, By Aadil Palkhivala
[40]   “Viradhadra” http://bit.ly/K1fK0R (Accessed April 5th 2013)
[41] Mike Stokes, “Shavasana the dead pose”, http://www.godrealized.com/Shavasana.html (Accessed April 5th 2013) “Why is it that in nearly every yoga class, no matter what the style, we end with Savasana?… Why practice death pose? …The reason lies in the fact that death brings us face to face with total annihilation of the self… the essence of Savasana and the essence of yoga, namely total annihilation of separateness and unification with the whole.  Annihilation of the self is the access to the experience of yoga.”
[42]“Lakshmi: Goddess of Wealth & Beauty!” http://hinduism.about.com/od/hindugoddesses/p/lakshmi.htm “Lakshmi is the household goddess of most Hindu families.”; “Name: Padmasana”http://babynamesworld.parentsconnect.com/meaning_of_Padmasana.html (Accessed April 5th 2013)
[43] “Pose dedicated to Marichi” http://www.yogajournal.com/poses/939; “Urban Ashtanga Teacher Training”http://bit.ly/XZ2xf3 (Accessed April 5th 2013); Subhas R. Tiwari, “Yoga Renamed is Still Hindu,” Hinduism Today, January-February-March 2006.

I am the Rector of St. Simon’s Church North Vancouver, B.C., having served there since 1987. Ordained in 1980, I have also served at St. Philip’s Vancouver and St. Matthew’s Abbotsford. My wife Janice and I have three sons James, Mark, and Andrew. I am the National Chaplain and Past President for Alpha Canada.

THOUGHTS ON “YOGA: MORE THAN MEETS THE EYES??”   These are excerpted and I have tried to eliminate identifying information.

  1. The Big Lie: Hinduism and Buddhism tells us that one can practice their faith, while still remaining a good Christian. With that kind of back-stroking, no wonder so many Christians are being so easily seduced by Yoga and meditation practices, today. There are two dangerous Christian Yoga “schools” I know of that are infiltrating both orthodox and liberal churches, today: “Holy Yoga” in the USA; and in Vancouver, BC, Canada: “Yoga Chapel”.

    Another one called “PraiseMoves”, is still old Yoga, done up in a “new package”. I also note that Laurette Willis of “PraiseMoves” has expanded her brand of Yoga, into schools, with the non-Christian “PowerMovesKids”, where the mantra changes into “reciting a character-building quote (singular)”. Yoga is popping up everywhere you look. Seems calling Yoga by another “name” is making her a lot of money, nowadays.

    Satan’s seductions are very very subtle. The serpent of yoga is still very much present, no matter whether you call the yoga pose a “downward dog” or “tent pose”; say “om” or “amen”; use “scripture” or “character building” quotes as a mantra — It is the same thing. “Christian” Yoga is still an oxymoron, no matter how one tries to re-package it. Thanks for your article, Ed.

    • Well done, research paper done extensively which educates everyone about Yoga even to the ones that pretend they know it all!. I have always had an awareness of God’s wisdom telling me all the truth about Yoga; therefore, I have always discerned that yoga is not only a physical practice, but also spiritual too and it connects our soul to the spiritual realm which is full of all kinds of spirits which try to disguise themselves as good. Test all the spirits like it says in God’s word in 1 John 4:11 Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.

      Well Ed, you’ve really done your research and I think that you are spot on although I never really got interested in yoga – possibly because I had a couple of of Indian Christian friends in theological college who spoke about the dangerous spiritual influences of yoga. That was a bonus.

      I’m not aware of a yoga influence in the new community – 400 km north of Sydney on the coast – where we moved in January – I’ve probably really “retired” at last. Surfing and walking along 6 km of beach seems to be the favourite activity although I guess some folk have been seduced by yoga.

      This is very interesting Ed and extremely well researched. I have had many people ask me to try Yoga and have never felt right about it and now I know that it was the “still small voice within” of the Lord guiding me. I was concerned about it, not knowing much about it and am happy to have found such and informative article to show me that I had made the right decision. Thank you for doing all this work Ed. I have one questions for you. What is Pilates? Is it just another form of Yoga, or is it simply stretching? I apologize if it’s in your research and I missed it somehow. God bless you for your thorough work.

      Yoga seeks to “empty” the mind. We do not do mantras, nor vain repetition, but meditate upon the Word of the living God (in line with Joshua 1:8).

      Because of this, it is my passion to get the Word of God into more and more people, and we receive many testimonies from people who tell us just that — how the Word of God has become real to them in ways they’d never experienced before–a vital part of their lives, changing the way they think and live their lives — more and more in line with God’s Word. Glory to God! These testimonies coupled with the physical testimonies are most remarkable, and humbling.

      It just proves again that God “chooses the foolish things of this world” — like me — to confound those wise in their own eyes. It must be God because I certainly *ain’t* that smart. I thank Reverend Hird for citing several quotes from this article. It is an eye-opener for many.

      Like Rev. Hird, I too, was involved in martial arts — Kung Fu and Tai Chi — for several years before I became a Christian. Once becoming Christian, I soon became uncomfortable with the philosophy/religion around such practices. Even if we took the Eastern “influence” out of martial arts and tried to Christianize it, with Christian terminology, instead of Eastern, the spirit behind these practices still does not come from God. You need to come to terms with this fact.

      I have been involved in many issues where nothing has changed, but the terminology around it. Usually, turning a wrong into a right, In a world where there are no more absolute truth, there is only relativity. Right and wrong have become blurred. As Christians, we need to be careful we do not fall into this worldly trap. Be in the world, but not of the world.(Romans 12:2)

      What matters is what something is, not what it is called. Yoga is still yoga, wrapped up in new packaging, whether it is called PowerMoves or PraiseMoves, Laurette.

      You cannot worship both God and Mammon [a false god,(Matthew 6:24)] and come out unscathed. Remember who is the “prince of this world.”(1 John 5:19), right now! He is a crafty spirit.

      Do you realize: “In Yoga, The word ashram means ‘a place where one goes to learn about one’s self.’ It is Indian (from India) and hence in the tradition of yoga…” – from Vassar Chronicle, April 16, 1975.

      I agree with you about Martial arts. I do not believe Martial Arts can be “Christianized” because they deal with energy transference and manipulation of life force energy (ki – same as prana in yoga and chi in Tai Chi). These are psychic arena practices to be avoided (see Ephesians 2:2). Besides, calling them “martial arts” or so-called “Christian karate” still opens the door to having children become curious about other forms later – as does so-called “Christian yoga” – see the article Christianity Today asked me to write addressing this subject – the danger of “Yoga in the Schools”

      My prayer is that Ed’s teaching does go viral because Christians need to be aware of the beliefs and history behind the yoga they so openly embrace. Since you profess to be Ashtangis seeking to deepen your practices, you should be able to understand that Ed is merely attempting to educate Christians, The Bible, our guide book, tells us to edify one another. In order to do that, we need to reveal the truth. The truth is that yoga stems from religious beliefs contrary to our Christian beliefs and to be quite blunt worships false gods. According to our Christian beliefs, there is only one true God. I’m sorry if you find this offensive, but I could just as easily find offense of the way in which you addressed Ed’s blog in your article How Yoga Kills the Mind and told people to offer penance, which if you had done your research as Ed diligently did his you would have seen that repentance is only one part of the process. As Christians, we also need to leave behind worldly influences and temptations that will draw us away from God.

      I is not an easy thing to question yoga in this current culture, even among Christians. It seems to be unreflectively entrenched.

      Thank you for this enlightening article. It is important to be aware and informed about anything that may hinder or adversely effect our relationship with God. Anything that draws our minds and hearts away from our Father is never beneficial to our overall being. “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light.” Ephesians 5:8

      My daughter’s occupational therapist has taught my daughter yoga exercises. I think the yoga culture can be a possible threat to the Christian faith, but I don’t think the exercises themselves are necessarily problematic.

      This is very well researched. I use to do Hatha Yoga but frankly became bored with it after I became a Christian. I bought a Christian yoga dvd and found it even more boring! I agree yoga has no part in the Christian faith.

      It’s an interesting article. You have done a lot of research here. Very interesting. I would add, though, that there are many things, from AA and some psychology, to Political ideologies (right and left), that do similar things (ie: deflect us from Christ/Grace). I think we need to be aware that when people talk about ‘higher power’ or the ‘;laws of economics’ they may (not always, I admit) be involved in something religious. Political parties are, by and large, cults. Yoga is just another example.

      This was incredibly insightful, Rev. Ed. I’ve always been interested but have never been able to find time for Yoga. Now, I’m glad I didn’t. Wow!

      I had no idea Yoga was much more than a way to relax and stay in shape. I never bother with it anyway. I have other ways to relax.

      I was taking a lunch break last week on the banks of the Chipola River listening to all creation shouting God’s glory. I was reminded of Mr. Buddha and his “enlightenment” while watching a river flowing by him and while in his broken state after years of debauchery and unfaithfulness to his family. I theorize that he, too, heard the shouting but (not being a chosen one) misinterpreting the revelation of God in creation as only a fallen man can – as self-divinity. How sad that those you quoted in the article are upset over Westerners hijacking Indian idolatry. Do they truly believe we need Hinduism to help us play god. We have so many other ways. I find it frighteningly hilarious that we might see the day when an international court would grant India copyright ownership of the depravity of man.

      Rev. Hird,
      Thank you for the research you’ve done. I haven’t practiced Yoga much myself, except to try some of the stretches on my own. My research has been more in the areas of meditation, alternative medicine and T’ai Chi. I’m curious how yoga is related to martial arts originating in other countries. I understand there’s a connection to spiritual things there as well though.

      Personally I’ve allowed myself to glean some things from Eastern practices, changing them where necessary to remain true to biblical teaching. I hope to use some of the common ground we have to bridge communication with unbelievers. I also believe there are things we can learn from our Eastern friends in maintaining health naturally and clearing our minds of the chaos so that we can focus on God better.

      ….I practice T’ai Chi for exercise, relaxation and circulation. My instructor is not Asian and does not hold to eastern religions-or religion of any kind. It’s a time for me to connect with people who are not like me and be the Light in the world around me.

      I so appreciate your warning here. We as Christians must hold fast to the truth and never let the world’s influence change the Truth we hold to. It can be a slippery slope. Jesus must always be our center, source and goal.

      Most interesting, Ed, and also most informative. From now on, I will try to impress upon any yoga practitioner that instead of mindlessly repeating some pagan, yogic mumbo jumbo, he or she would do far better to meditate on the truths of Christ and Sacred Scripture.

      Mindfulness is certainly better than mindlessness.

      Thanks for articulating this so clearly, Ed. I only know one other Christian who’s researched yoga like this, and she came to the same conclusion. Can you recommend any good resources for stretching? I’m in a non-yoga class that uses the occasional yoga stretch move, and I’d be quite happy to replace those… [although anything in the class that I can turn into a worshipful-to-my-God pose I do.

      Ed,
      Thank you for a well-researched and perceptive evaluation of yoga practices. In this culture of “political correctness,” it is a courageous act to critique any popular concept, especially from a religious perspective. The culture of a quasi-sophisticated and selectively-tolerant secularism seeks to redefine the meanings of ultimate values. It desires to avoid the religious/theological implications of those cultural and linguistic principles that rise above the realm of the ordinary and pragmatic. Thank you for reminding us that the meaning of concepts, language, and practices may have meaning that rises above the mundane redefinitions of the popular moment.

      As i was reading this i was thinking, what’s the big deal to just do the stretches, they promote flexiblity and circulation, just don’t get into the meditation part of it or the religious side of things. But then my thoughts went to the bible of the time of Saul. I don’t remember which city it was that God told Saul to kill everyone and destroy everything, but Saul thought he knew better and kept things for himself. Saul thought he could separate the good from the bad and it proved to be his downfall. Hopefully Christains will educate themselves and let God decide what we can handle. What does the bible say about such things? Whatever it says, whether you agree or not as a Christian, we should obey God, in the end He knows what’s best and His sight sees farther and more clearer than are’s ever will!

      Hi Ed,

      Your desire to seek and share truth is commendable. With that said, I believe you tarnish a precious gift that has been given. Yes Yoga is spiritual, this is without a doubt, after all, the body is merely the embodiment of spirit. All actions are sourced from spirit.

      Jesus says that a kingdom divided unto itself will fall. Yoga is more than stretching. It is understanding the body that God has created and refining it so that it can house the spirit of God. Practicing yoga brings healing, indisputable healing that is scientifically proven. The enemy kills, steals, and destroys… he does not heal, if so, his house would be divided and fall.

      There is one God, indivisible, who’s name can’t even be spoken. ALL of creation flows from that God. It is time we lift our hearts and be in loving communion and give thanks to God for the treasures he gives us.

      May your words be inspired

      Ah, but the Bible tells us that Satan (who is a real being) appears, not like some horrible, frightening monster, but like an angel of light, deceiving many people. Scripture further warns us that some will come along who will even perform miracles, display evidences (“signs”) that they are the Christ and, according to Scripture, demonstrate lying wonders. Because this is so, the Bible tell us to try (test) these to see if they really are approved by God– and the test is NOT whether what they say and do seems good but whether it agrees with what God teaches us in His Word, the Bible.  

      While it is certainly true that, as you have said, all of creation flows from God, Scripture also tells us that the world “lieth in the lap of the wicked one”, creation groans and travails in agony, awaiting its redemption, that even the ground has been cursed by man’s sin, and that some day God will therefore create a new heavens and a new earth. Man can and does disobey God and, in his rebellion against God, sometimes is allied with the forces of evil.  

      I was a United States Marshal and was privileged to train with two of the top people in the country in martial arts. (One was even a judge at the World Karate Championships.) These men had spent many years in perfecting their abilities to reach a pinnacle in that field; it was a major part of their lives.  

      Yet a few years later they got out of it. I asked why. One of them explained to me that there were basically three levels to all of these (yoga, tai chi, the martial arts from Asia such as karate, etc.) The first level is physical, the second is mental, and the third is spiritual. He said that he, as a believer, a follower of Jesus Christ, when he reached that third level he became aware of demonic forces at work and therefore could not continue.  

      I was aware of the dangers in those fields from my theological studies (I taught theology on the college level after I left the Marshals Service) but my knowledge was second hand. My instructor related to me his first-hand experiences. He had come to a point in his life where he realized that, as a follower of Christ, he could not continue.  

      Sorry for the long post– but this is serious stuff.  

      Not sure why, but for some reason my two posts here were deleted. I’ll try again. . . 

      I respectfully disagree with my brother Ed on this particular issue, for two reasons. (1) The Sanskrit term ‘yug’ doesn’t *by itself* have a religious meaning. It simply means “join” or “union”; _what_ is being joined, though, depends on _context_. For example, in an agricultural context it can be used to refer to the yoking of two oxen together.  

      However, if the term “yoga” is problematic because some people who hear you use it may think you’re referring specifically to *Hinduistic* yoga–then drop the term. It’s not worth using it if you run the risk of accidentally coming across as endorsing paganism.  

      (2) Even if we drop the term “yoga” because of unintentional affiliations with paganism–it doesn’t follow that the physical exercises themselves are inherently pagan. There are no grounds in the Christian worldview for thinking that any particular body position or movement is inherently evil or pagan.  

      Therefore there is absolutely *nothing unChristian* about utilizing the *physical-only* aspects of yoga exercises. And here I must applaud the discernment of brother Darin here, for his comparison of this issue to the issue of idol-meat discussed by Paul in 1Cor. 8 and 10; and Rom. 14-15. Paul made it clear that any meat *in and of itself* isn’t evil or pagan–but if in a pagan context there are affiliations to pagan worship, then idol meat should be avoided.  

      But the meat *itself* wasn’t pagan. Same goes for these yoga exercises. The exercises in themselves aren’t pagan; but if in a pagan context you are accidentally sending the signal that you “endorse” Hindu philosophy, then yoga should *in that context* be avoided.  

      Ed makes it sound like an absolute, when in reality it’s about *context*.

      In Christ,

      Andy

      • I respectfully disagree with Andy. With regard to the meat/yoga comparison – meat itself has no pagan or spiritual roots nor symbolism whereas yoga does have spiritual/pagan roots, not only roots but symbolism. Study the yoga poses and you will discover that each yoga pose is symbolic in that it has a worship meaning dedicated to some pagan god, namely hindu.

        ….You’re quite correct about the nature of meat or any given food: it doesn’t *by nature* carry any symbolism. But this ties into my point: *nothing* carries any symbolism unless that symbolism has been attached to the object by a person or culture. A purely physical exercise has no “yogic” symbolism unless a Hindu or pagan-minded person specifically attaches Hindu symbolism to that exercise.

        My point: the exercise _by itself_, as raw physical movement, is *just* an exercise — and thus *cannot* be inherently evil or pagan.

        My point was _not_ that it’s “okay to do yoga.” My point was that Hindus and yoga practitioners don’t “own” stretches and exercises — and therefore we are perfectly free as Christians to use the same stretches and exercises simply because they’re good for the body — but without having any pagan symbolism attached to them.

        I do *not* mean, however, that it’s “okay for Christians to join yoga classes and not think about what they’re doing.”

        ***Context is everything.

        I used the following illustration with Ed in an email: You know the “A-okay” gesture in the West — thumb and index finger touching tips, the other 3 fingers extended? Well, I recall a communications prof of mine years ago telling us that if you made that same gesture in some parts of Italy, you’d be interpreted by locals as giving a crude sexual signal.

        Same goes for exercises. Sure, any pagan could decide to use a specific bodily posture in the context of pagan worship — but why should any Christian believe that posture is necessarily limited to that context? Satanists have been known to clap hands at satanic rock concerts, so does that mean if we clap hands during a church service, we’re honouring Satan? Of course not: different contexts, different meanings.

        Therefore there’s simply *no* biblical basis for suggesting that yoga exercises — as _physical exercises_ — cannot be divorced from paganism. Of course they can, for the simple reason that paganism doesn’t “own” specific movements or exercises. Anyone familiar with biblical history knows that in many instances of pagan worship, sex was involved, because it was viewed as a way of communing with the gods. Does that make sex inherently evil? Of course not: what makes the difference is context. Idol-worshippers don’t own sex — and yogis don’t own stretches.

        God wants us to discern the context in which we find ourselves, so that we are considerate first of all toward Him, then toward others who may be influenced by what we say or do in that context. But if we just slap a rule on something – “I must never do yoga!” – then we don’t have to use discernment; we don’t have to think about it. But God would rather we discern, consider, think.

        It’s the same with, say, drinking alcohol. Nowhere does the Bible prohibit the use of alcohol – but it certainly teaches us to be careful with it. If we just had an absolute rule – “Never drink alcohol!” – then we wouldn’t have to think about what we’re doing, and why. But if I know that context and moderation make the difference, then I’ll be prompted to think about what I’m doing and how it affects my capacity to glorify God and influence others.

        This is a Spirit-led way to live, rather than a *rule*-led way to live.

        My wife read Ed’s article and then showed me some stretches she’s learned from her physiotherapist, and there was nothing remotely “pagan” about them. They were _just stretches_. However, it happens to be the case that those same particular stretches are also used in yoga – so does that mean my wife is being “unChristian” when she uses those stretches? Surely you don’t believe that’s the case, do you . . . ?

        You also said that “each yoga pose is symbolic” – but it’s only symbolic _in a pagan context_. If a given pose or exercise is used in a secular or Christian context, then it has *no* Hindu meaning attached to it. Please understand and accept the truth that words and gestures and various actions only have meanings attached to them in specific contexts, not universally.

        North American is known for trivializing things that are anti-Christian and often we try to give name to everything as if they are harmless to our faith. This is another clear example as the practice of Hinduism is been seen as acceptable in our society especially for Christian who disagree with the religion Hinduism. It is like Halloween, homosexualism, witchcraft etc. Many of these things are seen today as been harmless. Just for fun. Really?? It is unfortunately what Christians especially in the West have chosen to accept things without looking at the origin, the practice and implication. Rev Ed Hird has done an excellent job in bring out this truth. He has chosen to stand out. Call us to think and dissociate ourselves from a practice that does not support our faith. Dear brother , I cannot agree with you better. Yoga is not just mere physical exercise; it is nothing other than the worship of another God which the scripture completely speak against. It is time for believers to speak up and dissociate themselves from this ungodly practice. You may be unpopular if you do so, but the Truth will always prevail. We need to earnestly contend for the faith once delivered to us. Will Jesus do Yoga? I am bold to say NO NO NO NO NO. Bro Ed Hird. Well done!! May the Lord open our eye of understanding in this world to understand this deep truth in Jesus’ name. You said it well “In the end, the road leads to idolatry and monism, to serving two masters. The Lordship of Jesus is what is at stake” Shalom

        Ed, thank you for pointing me to your article. I found it very informative and definitely well researched. I have never accepted that yoga is a “safe” way to exercise because of its pagan connotations. People, specifically Christians in the Western world, need to understand that playing with fire only gets us burned. We cannot compromise (or contaminate) our faith with activities that involve us, however innocently, in worshiping demons. Demonic power is very subtle and very deceiving. Andy’s reply is indicative of the deception the enemy uses to woo us away from the central core of our faith in Christ. Exercise seems innocent. And, when not connected with Eastern or New Age religious practices, is good–to a point. The Apostle Paul said that bodily exercise profits a little. But we can also make a god out of body building. Balance is the key. I am going to reblog this.

        You said: “Andy’s reply is indicative of the deception the enemy uses to woo us away from the central core of our faith in Christ.”

        With respect, please quote back to me anything I said that was “deceptive” or inaccurate.

        You also said: “Exercise seems innocent. And, when not connected with Eastern or New Age religious practices, is good–to a point. The Apostle Paul said that bodily exercise profits a little. But we can also make a god out of body building.”

        Please quote back to me anything I said that turned bodily exercise into an idol. (Have you actually been discerning toward my post…?)

        Thanks and blessings,
        Andy

        I’d like to suggest everyone watch this Mayo Clinic video that shows 5 basic yoga stretches. I’m sure you will recognize these stretches from having seen them done in completely nonreligious contexts. There is simply *no rational way* anyone could ever make a case that these stretches are “pagan” or “evil.”

        I invite any feedback, negative or positive.

        Andy,

        The phrase ‘simply no rational way’ seems a bit strong, Andy. Surely you would want to be open to thinking that people can rationally disagree with you on this one. Thinking people can thoughtfully and respectfully disagree.

        Secondly, you commended the following video and text:”…the poses we demonstrated — standing forward bend, warrior one, neck rolls, seated spinal twist and cobra —”

        Warrior One and Cobra are clearly identified yoga asanas, that I have already critiqued in my paper as following. They are far from neutral, even when clinically described. Lord Virabhadra, of Warrior 1 identity, is hardly a benign nonreligious entity to re-enact and become. Nor is the participation in the awakening of the Kundalini serpent expressed in the intentionally-called Cobra asana.

        Excerpt: “As Yoga Guru B.K.S Iyengar notes in his book Light on Yoga, ‘Some asanas are also called after Gods of the Hindu pantheon and some recall the Avataras, or incarnations of Divine Power.’[33] Because the Hindu deities rode on animals, many yoga asanas are devoted to these deified animals.[34] In the Sun Salutation asana, one is paying direct homage to Surya, the Hindu Sun Deity. The fish asana (Matsyasana) is the worship and reenactment of the Hindu deity Vishnu who turned himself into a fish to rescue people from a flood.[35] The Half Moon asana involves the identification with and worship of Ganesh, the elephant-headed God who threw part of his tusk at the moon.[36] The Tortoise asana is dedicated to the worship of Kurma the Tortoise incarnation of the God Vishnu.[37] The Downward Dog asana reenacts the Hindu worship of the dog as happens for five days each November.[38] The Hanuman asana is dedicated to the worship of the Monkey god, Hanuman.[39]

        The Warrior asana is identified with the worship of Lord Virabhadra who has a thousand arms, three burning eyes, and a garland of skulls.[40] The Corpse asana is the death or extinction of the person when unification with the Hindu deity Brahman wipes out one’s own identity and existence.[41] The Lotus asana is identified with the worship of the Hindu deity Lakshmi who sat on a lotus.[42] The Marichi asana is dedicated to the identification with and worship of Marichi, one of the seven Lords of Creation and the Grandfather of the Sun God Surya.”
        The terms ‘standing forward bend’, ‘neck rolls’, and ‘seated spinal twist’ are much less clear as to which asanas are being referred to and practised. Do you know, Andy. I question whether the neck roll even legitimately qualifies to be called yoga. Are you saying that this is a recognized asana, Andy?

        Wondering,

        Ed Hird+

        Folks, I’ll take one more stab at it and then, if not successful, leave off. There’s no animosity on my part, and hopefully not on yours either. I applaud your evident desire to glorify the Lord and flee from evil.

        Ed, I certainly respect anyone’s right to disagree – but not every disagreement is reason-driven; some are emotion-driven. I believe that you are (rightly) reacting to pagan philosophy but are (wrongly) assuming that pagan philosophy “must” be attached to certain movements or postures.

        Respectfully, you missed my point in linking the video: my point was /not/ to condone Hindu philosophy or labeling. I was referring /only/ to the movements themselves, as physical movements. My point is that there are simply no grounds in the biblical worldview for thinking that the stretches /in and of themselves/ are inherently pagan or evil.

        You said, “Warrior One and Cobra are clearly identified yoga asanas” and “are far from neutral….”

        Again: I wasn’t talking about Hindu philosophy or labeling; I was referring only to the raw physicality of the stretches. I am /not/ encouraging anyone to think or speak “Hinduistically” about the exercises. I’m /only/ asking people to look at the /exercises themselves/, as physical things without labels or definitions.

        Try watching the video with the sound turned off. Just look at the physicality itself. And please answer this simple question: Is there any bodily movement or posture which – strictly as a physical thing – is inherently pagan?

        Or, to put it another way: Why should anyone think that specific bodily movements can /only/ be defined paganly? that they couldn’t possibly be done to the glory of God? Both pagans and Christians clap their hands at various events; does that make hand-clapping pagan or Christian? Who “owns” that gesture?

        Have I ever suggested “reenacting or becoming Lord Virabhadra”? No. Again, I am /only/ talking about the /physicality/ of the exercises. And I’m asking you why you think that any raw physicality /in and of itself/ has to have a pagan meaning.

        Can you not see that once upon a time, pagans /chose to attach/ pagan ideas to certain exercises and postures – but that the raw physicality of those exercises and postures comes from God . . . ? And “everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving” (1Tim. 4:4). “To the pure, all things are pure, but to the defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure; but both their minds and their consciences are defiled.” (Ti. 1:15)

        So if I lie down on my stomach, set my palms down at chest level, and push up so as to arch my back – which is something my wife’s physio advised her to do – you’re telling me that simply by doing that movement I’m “participating in the Kundalini serpent”? Are you /seriously/ making that argument, Ed?

        I’m /not/ referring to any “asana,” because I reject such labels. I’m referring to the raw physicality of a neck roll – without any label other than “neck roll” – and the other stretches shown in the video. Again: are you arguing that just because a pagan uses a neck roll for pagan reasons – that makes a neck roll inherently pagan? that there could be no /legitimate/ reason to use the neck roll? Satan “owns” neck rolls now?

        J commented: “[I]f u are honestly interested in knowing and not only interested in proving the article wrong . . . look up definitions of these poses . . . .”

        …J, I urge you to consider that no physical pose has any /inherent/ definition. Neither physical movements, nor visual symbols, nor verbal languages work that way. As human beings we /assign/ meanings to various gestures, symbols, and sounds. “Unga-bunga” as a verbal sound will mean one thing to one culture, and mean something quite different to another.

        Are you telling me you believe that Satan actually has ownership of particular movements and postures? Really…?

        I used a modern example earlier, which was unfortunately ignored. In the West we have the “A-okay” gesture: thumb tip to the tip of the index finger, the other three fingers extended. Question: Does that gesture /in and of itself/ mean “A-okay”? No; it depends on the context. If you travel to parts of Italy and make that same gesture, locals will think you’re making a crude sexual sign.

        Similarly, if I compose a tune at the piano, I can dedicate it to Satan or to God – but the tune itself has /no inherent/ meaning. It depends on who’s playing it and for what reason. I enjoy some of the music of by the German composer Richard Wagner – who also happened to be a favourite of Hitler’s. Does this mean, then, that if I listen to Wagner, I’m participating in Nazi philosophy? Of course not, for the tunes by themselves – merely as collections of notes – don’t have inherently Nazi or racist meanings. They’re /just notes/.

        So the raw physicality of the gesture (or the sound of … a sound!) has /no inherent/ meaning. Different cultures assign meanings to gestures (and sounds and symbols) in different contexts. And the same thing applies to the exercises and stretches we’ve been discussing. In one context, pagans assign pagan meanings to them – but in another context, the exercises /don’t/ have those meanings.

        Where did anyone get the idea that a particular exercise can /only/ be done in a pagan context with a pagan meaning…?

        Please, somebody, tell me you get what I’m talking about. And if you’re convinced I’m wrong, then don’t just repeat the typical anti-yoga arguments. Show me precisely what statement or point I’ve made that is incorrect, and /why/ it’s incorrect. If you can do that, you will have helped me become a more godly man! But if you cannot, then shouldn’t you admit your position is mistaken…?

        I get you completely. I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. I told my yoga instructor a few months ago, “I’m just trying to stay out of the nursing home,” and we all had a good laugh. I’ve practiced for 8 years, feel incredible and certainly don’t feel the need to damage what God has given me by going out and running miles and miles and miles. I can say without one bit of doubt that I am not worshiping when I am in a pose. BUT, I have worshiped many false gods in my life: my children, Christmas, Santa Claus, money, a preacher, my church, food, to name a few. The ridiculous part is, I’ve actually worshipped them prior to practicing yoga, and I’ve probably worshipped them a few times after. Why? Because I’m human. And for someone to tell me what my relationship with God is like is a sin. God knows my heart. Sometimes he is pleased, sometimes he is not. I CANNOT and DO NOT want to life without the Holy Spirit, and I have experienced his perfect presence in the past 8 years in ways that I never could imagine. Am I saying it has to do with yoga? I have no idea. I have been involved in deep Bible study for 11 years that completely changed my life. Yoga has not diminished this in the least. And for anyone wishing to tell me that I am going down the wrong path? You have NO IDEA the dangerous paths I have been on. But, for those wishing to judge my heart. Go right ahead. I don’t have time to argue. I have many weeds to pull.

        I completely agree with both K and A. As a hindu myself, and a yoga-goer I would have to say even I keep yoga and my religion as two separate entities in my life. Yoga, like most things in life is what you make it. If you choose to practice it as a form of exercise (as I do) then that is all it will be to you. If you want to see it as a form of worship (which I can’t even begin to understand since real Hindu practices of worship are quite different, and religious forms of yoga are very different from the pilates infused versions we see in North America) then that is exactly what it will be to you.

        There is no such conversion to hinduism. Hindu’s are born hindu’s, however people are welcome to practice it. Saying that it was brought here as a form of conversion is blatant ignorance, and close-minded thinking that we as a society are trying to get over. Like Andy has said, THEY ARE STRETCHES! Last time I stretched in a Hindu temple was NEVER. When I go to yoga, I am not thinking of my religion, I’m thinking, “After all this pain, I better be able to fit into those skinny jeans in the back of my closet”. Everything in this world is what you make it, if you choose to see negative in something, that is all it can ever be. Having said that, your choice to give up martial arts, and/or yoga is up to you, but all I have to say it you’re giving up one amazing workout

        @Violet: I don’t “love my yoga.” I don’t practice yoga; never have. I do some stretches after my workouts, and don’t even know offhand whether the stretches I do happen to also be done in yoga. I’ve paid no attention to such a question–because I don’t need to. My stretches are done ultimately for the Lord. Why don’t you be discerning rather than dismissive…?

        @Ed: *Please* answer my question: If I get out of my chair right this moment and lie on my stomach with my palms down at chest level, then push up so as to arch my back — am I participating in Hinduism just by doing that stretch? Yes or no.

        Thank you,
        Andy

        Ed, thanks for sending me the link to this. You need to make this post into an ebook and sell it on Amazon. I am with you 100% and always have been on the side of not mixing Eastern religions with Christianity not matter what you call it. This is a much needed post and it’s unfortunate that it will probably be largely ignored. Thanks for sticking your neck out!

        I really appreciate this. You help me untangle some chords that
        knotted up, due to my many years of yoga practice. I am so glad that this has come forward. I thank Jesus for this deep entry and deep time commitment to a most valuable reality. Way to go. Thanks brother.

        Ed
        Your description of the Hindu understanding of Yoga is well informed and it is good for people to know this. however i do not share your argument following from that to the affect that doing the Yoga poses is an act of Hindu worship regardless of who does them or why. partly i think you have misunderstood the place of Paul’s argument in 1 Corinthians on food sacrificed to idols which is i believe relevant to this question. in that Paul reflects the Jewish approach to ancient pagan religion. the stories of pagan deities are taken over and judaized by YHWH in the OT – this is because all that is true comes from YHWH and not from the pagan pantheon – so the story of Baal creating the world and fighting leviathan is applied to YHWH, the language used for Ashteroth opening the womb fo the barren is applied to YHWH the name El is used as the word ‘God’ applied to YHWH who is depicted as El the ancient of days – but not all that is in the pagan accounts is applied to YHWH other bits are rejected as false or in some cases evil, sacrificing children to Moloch for instance! none of this means it is OK for Jews to worship Baal etc. but Judaism takes on much of the pagan language of worship and applies to YHWH. in the same way Paul says of meat sacrificed to idols that is OK because it actually comes from God and the pagans are wrong to think it has really got any connection to a pagan deity. but the OT also says of idols that they don;t exist, the are simply blocks of wood and so does Paul about the idols that the food is offered to. but as i mentioned earlier some expressions of paganism are described as demonic, the rites of Moloch for instance, and so Paul also warns of this danger. it seems to me your argument rests on Paul’s last point but ignores the previous two. you also then assume that what Hindus teach about Yoga is true, when the fact they believe it to be true doesn’t mean it is true. Paul’s answer to Yoga would i believe be to say – meditation postures can come from God and can indeed be christianized just as the meat can be eaten with a clear conscience, indeed the Hindu gods don’t actually exist, b ut do be careful for two reasons – if a Hindu sees you at a Hindu Yoga class he will see you as worshipping Hindu gods and you don;t want him to think that even if you are using it as Christian mediation. secondly be careful whilst in fact hindu gods don;t exist don’t get caught up in anything evil. so i would not do a hIndu Yoga class not because i think it would harm me but because i would send the wrong message.

        can you Christianze Yoga? i believe you can just as the early church copied the early Jews by Christianising much of European paganism – indeed Paul did this when he used poetry in praise of Zeus in his explanation of Christianity in Athens – he clearly did not think this meant he was worshiping Zeus. i note that your comments against this come from Hindus who see it as porseletysing – i suspect some of Paul’s hearers thought the same about him – i call it good missionary practice to Christianize elements of religion and culture around you – it only become syncretism when the culture absorbs and then alters the faith not whern the faith absorbs the culture. Jesus in a hindu temple would be syncretism Jesus using elements of hindu practice is not.

        Steve, now THAT was a demonstration of biblical discernment. A superb understanding of the Bible’s own context, joined with application to our modern-day context. Way to go, brother.

        (Just can’t restrain myself, apparently…) Hello again, Ed. *Please* answer my question: If I get out of my chair right this moment and lie on my stomach with my palms down at chest level, then push up so as to arch my back — am I participating in Hinduism just by doing that stretch? Yes or no.

        The answer to this question will determine the degree of truthfulness in your article and your follow-up comments.

        Thank you,
        Andy

        Hello again, Andy. You are asking about Bhujangasana, the Cobra asana. Your question reminds me of the gradual initiation of people into the thirty-three degrees of Freemasonry. At what point are they fully initiating? When does a little bit of dabbling become more serious? Yoga does not own any particular posture. To intentionally do yoga is to open oneself up, albeit gradually, to a systemic worldview and identity. It does not usually happen overnight. The deeper a person enters in, the greater the psychic impact.

        What if I asked you the same question in the other direction? At what point would this asana qualify for you as serving two masters? What would need to happen for it to be idolatrous? Would the following qualify? “Let the body, from navel to toes, touch the ground, the palms placed upon the ground, and raise gently the upper part of the body (from navel to head) like a snake. This posture increases the gastric fire; it destroys all diseases and by constant practice leads to the awakening of Kundalini.” – The Gheranda-samhita II.42-43.

        Here is a quote:  “I remembered a teacher in the cobra pose, who was encouraging the class to ask what would it feel like to be a cobra. And she said: “Become the cobra”…!! Looking back at this moment, I recognize the deceptive work of the serpent…!! Here I was in the cobra pose trying to become a cobra….!! What an embarrassing, pathetic episode….!!”

        Dabbling with Kundalini cobra yoga is nothing that I would ever recommend for others. What do you think of the following thoughts about Kundalini cobra yoga?

        Ed, I will answer your question in a moment.

        But first, I’m sorry to have to point out that you are unwilling to discern in this case. You falsely believe Satan has ownership of certain bodily movements — contrary to what Scripture teaches about all of creation in 1Tim. 4:4 (cf. Rom. 14:14; 1Cor. 10:25-26; Ti. 1:15).

        Discernment is about making distinctions; you’re unwilling to make the distinction between (a) an exercise performed for Hindu gods, and (b) the same exercise performed for Christ. You falsely assume that the exercise is inherently evil and cannot be divorced from a Hindu setting or usage. You completely forget that the bodily movement in itself was originally something God created, “and it was good” (Gen. 1) — but it was *illegitimately* commandeered by pagans for their own ends. Instead of taking it back for the glory of Christ, you’d prefer to just acquiesce. Do you then also reject the rainbow because it’s been illegitimately used by homosexuals as a symbol of gay pride?

        Therefore you create a hard-and-fast rule on the issue, rather than use discernment — which is precisely what the Pharisees did.

        Now to answer your question: A Christian slides into paganism when s/he performs *any* act (not just exercises) for ungodly purposes. And while a Christian may not themselves be practicing Hinduism while participating in a yoga class — because the Christian could be doing it for godly purposes — they may still be using poor judgment by inadvertently signalling to the unbelievers who see them in that class, that they’re “endorsing” pagan yoga.

        If, however, a Christian performs the very same physical exercises in a NON-PAGAN CONTEXT, for non-pagan reasons — then they’re *not* practicing paganism!

        This is a great article.
        Do not be deceived. God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. Gal 6:7
        I have not fully contemplated this issue; it is lengthy and complex. My initial thought is that while there is grace, this article makes strong points about the act of worship in relation to the wrong gods. God made our bodies, but why would we knowingly use eastern methods opening us to demonic activity? There is so much about our bodies we do not know. I wonder how much “divine” knowledge has been given in Eastern religions due to their willingness to succumb to their worship practices. We westerners are way out of touch with the spirit world.
        When the Israelites incorporated other religious paraphernalia and worship it was evil in God’s eyes. Kings did not truly please God until they tore down the places of idol worship. Now that our bodies are the temple, should we pose in ways regarded for idols and defile our bodies? Idols cannot talk, but the spirits behind them are real.
        We are not to be legalistic about it, but I agree that this falls into the catgory of serving two masters. Once you know, you are responsible for that knowledge.

        I did one yoga class a few years ago and was unable to participate fully because so many of the poses require you to place a lot of body weight on your hands. This is something I am actually physically incapable of doing for long periods of time, due to tendinitis and pinched nerves in my upper body. So yoga is not something that I am likely to become involved in at any time.

        I do, of course, stretch, both before and after my aquacize class and before and after I go out for a run or a walk. Stretching is vital, as it is how I avoid injuring my body. The stretches I do are ones that I have determined work best for my particular muscles and exercise choices. Some were learned at Curves, some were learned from the internet, and some were learned from my physiotherapist. None of them were learned in the context of yoga.

        And I think that’s what we should really be focusing on here.

        Stretching, as a part of your every day health routines, is important and good. Yoga, when done as yoga, even if it’s supposedly divorced from its Hindu roots, is probably not the best way to get your stretching done. What I think Ed may be trying to get across here is that Christianizing yoga is still doing yoga, and that opens you up to Hinduism given how intertwined the two really are. I suppose some of the stretches I do are yoga poses, but I have no idea if they are, and I’m not doing them in that context and didn’t learn them in that context. They are just stretches, and when I’m doing them my mind is fully occupied by counting out the seconds (I typically do 10s and then deepen the stretch and hold it for another 10s). I rarely think about anything else when I’m stretching, except possibly the temperature of the water (when I’m stretching for aquacize) and the weather (when I’m stretching for a walk or a run).

        If I’m going to attempt to meditate (something my ADHD brain hates with a passion), I’m going to be playing some lovely instrumental Christian music, I’m going to have art materials and a Bible nearby just in case I need them, and I’m going to be doing it in the context of prayer and worship of the Triune God. I don’t need or want to combine meditation with stretching.

        Hello again, Ed. *Please* answer my earlier question: If I get out of my chair right this moment and lie on my stomach with my palms down at chest level, then push up so as to arch my back — am I participating in Hinduism just by doing that stretch? Yes or no.

        This is a very simple question, so I’m unsure as to why you keep ducking it.

        Thank you,
        Andy

  • Hello back again, Andy. You keep saying that you are not coming back. Good to chat with you. As you may be aware, there are many of my questions to you that you have either avoided or not answered. I would be happy to respond to your question. It would be great if you responded to my earlier questions as well.

    I simply wish to affirm the Lordship of Jesus Christ in one’s life. My contention is that if Jesus is my Lord, then yoga is not. I can live without yoga, while still respecting the right of others who wish to practice it. I could not in good conscience commend it to fellow Christians.

    The cobra asana is not mere stretching, but is a mind control technique that has been developed over many centuries with proven psychic results. I would never recommend that a person, particularly a follower of Jesus Christ, participate in the cobra asana which was developed to awaken the kundalini cobra shakra.

    I am sure that you would agree that Jesus is Lord of our bodies, which are the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19). That is why many Christians make use of their bodies in worship, kneeling , arms elevated, or even prostrate. How we use our bodies is an expression of our identity in Christ. We need not be afraid that through involvement in stretching and calisthenics, we may accidentally be stretching in a way that might look like yoga. Even with its 1,500 asana poses, yoga does not own the world of calisthenics and stretching. Accidental similarities do not concern me.

    A Christian is free to do stretching and calisthenics. I do pushups and back stretches virtually every day. Stretching one’s back, if done within one’s medical limits, is a healthy thing. To intentionally imitate the specific moves of a Hindu yogic asana, like the cobra asana, would only lend to confusion. You may have heard of the story of the Camel in the tent. It is important not to think in a Western individualistic way when trying to understand yoga, but rather to understand it systemically and historically. This is why yogic Hinduism is called the embrace that smothers. Hatha Yoga is the ‘marijuana’ entry level for more serious yoga practices. The bible does not encourage us to see how close to the line we can get before we fall in, but rather to flee idolatry. For a Christian to practice yogic Hinduism is to participate knowingly or unknowingly in syncretism and idolatry.

    Andy, you still haven’t answered my question clearly about when practising yoga would qualify as idolatrous. You used the vague word ‘pagan’ regarding idolatrous yoga. What would that actually look like? Many forget that the necessity of belief or intentional worship is unnecessary for yogic initiation, as it is technique-based, not belief-based in its initial forms. The belief or meaning structure is often introduced much later at a deeper level of initiation. Do you believe, Andy, that Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life, that no one comes to the Father except through Jesus? (John 14:6) I hope that you believe that Jesus died on the cross for our sins and rose physically from the dead that by faith in Christ, we might be forgiven and live forever.

    Sincerely,

    Ed Hird+

  • Thanks Ed,

    This is a profoundly interesting post. Recently, I have been contemplating Yoga just to get into shape. Until reading this I had almost convinced myself that it was no biggie. Thanks! Also thank you for the statement of truth that transcends even your subject matter:

    “For many Westerners, all that matters is that something seems to be working. We rarely look under the hood of our cars.”

    Wow! say again and again. It needs to be heard.

  • Perfectly executed. St. Dominic taught his followers the ‘postures of prayer’ that are still practiced today. The mind follows the body, the spirit follows them both. Well done.

  • Certainly well researched and detailed, Ed. Thank you for making me pause and consider what you have offered here in this excellent article. I have never done yoga per se, however occasionally in exercise classes I have attended, instructors have tried to describe a stretch using yoga terminology. I agree that intentional yoga affects the spirit but I think the Christian who is stretching, relaxing, exercising and so forth and ‘accidentally assumes a yoga pose’ is not leaving themselves open to spiritual blackness and invasion. To me it all boils down to the motivation of your heart – which Jesus knows.

  • Thank you for writing this article- with the explanations of the poses and their connection to the spirit world. Since reading Frank Perretti’s books, “This Present Darknes” and “Piercing the Darkness” in my early adult years, I have felt that there was definitely more than meets the eye when it comes to meditation and yoga. I have chronic health challenges, including fibro-myalgia, and I was referred to a 3 day seminar on stress reduction at my local university hospital- but as soon as I heard that 75% of the time would be spent on learning yoga, a BIG red flag went up!! I prayed about it, talked with my spouse, and decided that opening my mind to divination was just not worth the ‘possible’ good effects and I told the registration nurse that I wasn’t interested, thank you. But since then, there has been a niggling question in the back of my mind, whether it would have been worth it to just check out. I am so thankful for this article- that confirmed what my spirit had been saying for years- that it is not ókay’ even under the so-called ‘grace’ philosophy which is prevalent in western-churches. This philosophy says that God created everything- and Satan polluted some of those things with his deception- but as long as we ‘glorify God’ while doing, then we are ‘redeeming’ the action! This philosophy is great justification for a whole lot of actions which would have been identified at the least as ‘vices’ and more probably ‘sin’ by early Christians- who understood the importance of separating oneself to holiness. Personally, I can not allow myself to choose to be in the midst of yogic actions- which are so greatly connected to psychic infiltrations.

    I have been doing some reading on the Roman Catholic religious views on this Yoga issue, and am aghast that they actually condone the practice of Yoga (under certain “caveats”)!
  • An excerpt from an article in the May, 2012 ed. of “Catholic Answers Magazine” — (“one of the best magazines on Catholic apologetics and evangelization”).
    —————————————–
    The Trouble with Yoga:
    A Catholic may practice the physical postures, but with caveats
    http://www.catholic.com/magazine/articles/the-trouble-with-yoga

    “While Some Aspects of Christian Meditation is liberally quoted by some Catholic critics of yoga, they ignore its observation that “genuine practices of meditation which come from the Christian East and from the great non-Christian religions, which prove attractive to the man of today who is divided and disoriented, [can] constitute a suitable means of helping the person who prays to come before God with an interior peace, even in the midst of external pressures” (Aspects, 28; emphasis added).

    **Unfortunately, Catholic critics of yoga often rely on Protestant Fundamentalists to make their case against yoga.** This may be understandable, given the scarcity of informed Catholic critiques on which to draw. **But Protestant approaches to Christianity often differ significantly from mainstream Catholic approaches.** This is especially the case when it comes to Protestant Fundamentalists, such as Dave Hunt, who are hostile not only to yoga but also to Catholicism and yet are quoted without qualification or caveat in Catholic materials (again, in the Women of Grace Study Series).

    Bottom line –

    Should you take up yoga? As a spiritual path, yoga is incompatible with Christian spirituality. But if you can separate the spiritual/meditational aspects of yoga from the body postures and breathing techniques common to yoga, then you might be able to use those postures and techniques beneficially for health. If you’re at all unsure of your ability to do so, you may well be advised to find another form of exercise.

    It is important for Catholics to know that yoga should neither be hallowed nor damned. As a spiritual path for Eastern peoples unfamiliar with Christianity, it may serve to assist them as “they seek freedom from the anguish of our human condition either through ascetical practices or profound meditation or a flight to God with love and trust” (Nostra Aetate 2).

    On the other hand, Christians seek as the goal of their prayer to “flow into the way to the Father, which is how Jesus Christ has described himself. In the search for his own way, each person will, therefore, let himself be led not so much by his personal tastes as by the Holy Spirit, who guides him, through Christ, to the Father” (Aspects, 29).
    ———————————————
    As a former RC, I can now fully understand why so many Catholics are dabbling with New Age and Eastern religions, etc., and still believe that they are good Catholics (or good Christians). I used to think so, myself, dabbling with the occult while searching for something more…

    (By the way, Christian apologist Dave Hunt passed away in April of this year.)

    Thank you, pastor, for not being ashamed of the gospel, which is the power of God unto salvation for those who believe. Thank you for unashamedly proclaiming truth and calling Christian yoga out for what it truly is, Christian Hinduism. 
    Thank you, Ed for posting this…though I didn’t read the whole thing, I believe I read enough to appreciate what you have done in exposing yoga for what it truly is… many years ago (when I was 18 or 19 years old) I experienced “transcendental meditation” which was supposed to be fine for anyone from any religious background… but later learned how a person practicing this is actually making themselves vulnerable to the demonic realm… and whereas I wondered the same thing about yoga, I didn’t have enough information to say one way or the other… until I read this today… so thank you again, very much for taking the time to write it… I pray God’s protection and grace over you and your loved ones, and that there were be no retaliation against you for exposing this.
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    Thank you, Ed. GREAT article, thoroughly researched. I haven’t been swayed either way yet – I agree with Andy’s arguments, yet I am also aware of the lack of discernment in Western Christianity. Let’s just say I’m still processing… However, God did speak to me personally one time about yoga, and I’d like to share that story. Before I do, I’d like to ask a seemingly unrelated question – why do we celebrate Christmas? First, there is no biblical command to celebrate Jesus’ birthday – no festival even closely related. Yet Christians across America war every December to “keep Christ in Christmas!!!” Was he even in that December 25th festival in the first place? Not really. I can see Roman Emperor, Constantine’s, dilemma in 300AD: He’s now a Christian. It’s now wrong to celebrate the December 25th pagan celebration that worships the Sun God, Ra. What to do, what to do??? If he cancels the celebration, all the shop owners and people who make money off of the festival will be TICKED. This will affect our commerce!! Ooo!! I know!! Let’s just change it! Instead of worshipping the SUN GOD, let’s just make it about the SON OF GOD!! And people can still make their money, but let’s make sure they sell stuff about baby Jesus instead, and find ways to make all the symbols Christian!!

    So now what? Here we are, 2000 years later, still participating in the festival that was initiated and dedicated to the Sun God, Ra, but we’ve made it about Jesus. And Jesus never told us to do anything like that (Be baptized, break bread in remembrance of me, and DON’T forget my birthday!!!! Um, no). So, shall we tell everyone to stop celebrating on December 25th? Seriously, do the research – most of the symbols of Christmas have origins in paganism. Is God offended that we have combined a pagan festival with celebrating his birth? Have we opened ourselves to spiritual oppression by integrating this pagan festival with Christianity?

    In regards to Yoga, I was doing some of the Christian yoga dvd’s for a while, and started incorporating worship and prayer into it. One time, while on a personal retreat, I started the exercises on the beach, and in my heart started praising God. Then he spoke – “Those poses don’t worship me. They are dedicated to other gods.” I said, “Hmmm… I guess it’s not very worshipful for me to talk to you with my rear up in the air for downward facing dog, is it?” He said, “not really.” So we sat on the beach and talked for a while, and I told him I was sorry if I offended him in any way. From that experience, I don’t think it’s possible to blend true WORSHIP of God and the spiritual practice of true yoga together. I think there’s another blog out by a Hindu guy that says the same thing.

    So now that brings me to Andy’s argument, are the exercises in themselves offensive to God, if NOT used in any kind of worship? My daughter, Anna, the resident gymnast, does lots of backbends and backflips. As part of warm ups and cool downs, she stretches out her back in what would look like the cobra thing. Is that pose offensive? Is she opening herself up to demonic influences by stretching out her back? I don’t think so. She gave her life to Christ and is owned by him.

    Here’s where discernment and common sense comes in. If the yoga class offered by the local YMCA has a mixture of other stretches combined with Pilates, the focus is physical, not spiritual. It’s not an act of worship, unless you include the narcissism of some of the spandex-wearing folks. However, I think we should be on guard if there’s any meditative or spiritual element involved. Ultimately, it comes down to where you set your heart and mind. Should we as followers of Christ campaign against Yoga? Should we stop celebrating on December 25th because it was once a pagan holiday? Are people turning to yoga because it actually gives them some form spiritual discipline or challenge that we lack in our often warm and fuzzy, watered down form of baby Jesus western Christianity? Are we questioning from a place of fear and judgment, or wisdom and discernment? Lots of things to think and pray about…

    Ed, I’d like to ask, what human spiritual hunger is yoga falsely feeding, that should be met by Jesus and his followers? In your research, have you seen what has made yoga so appealing (other than flexibility and nice muscle tone)? And what is the church doing in response to that spiritual hunger?

    I may be wrong, but I feel like the church has gotten stuck in this place where we always point out things “wrong” and “satanic” and then don’t offer true spiritual food people are looking for as the alternative. What spiritual need drives people to the practice of yoga, and how could Jesus Christ meet that?
    “Take heart! I have overcome the world!”

    Again, great article. Sorry if I offended anyone with my thoughts on Christmas. Peace and love to all.

    Do you think the psychic techniques which lead to sensory deprivation/overload happen if certain poses are done sporadically – like if they are mixed in or around with other non-yoga related exercises, or do they have to be performed in a certain order or rhythm? It seems to me that it would take significant daily practice and a concentrated mindset in order to get to that level of an altered state of consciousness. If that’s the case, where does one draw the line? If one is taking a now popular PiYo class (pilates combined with yoga), are they at risk of self-hypnosis? I’m not asking this as a challenge, but really for more information.  

    Another question I have: Is it possible for someone, especially someone whose mind has been given to Christ, to be negatively affected through those psychic practices mentioned above, if they CHOOSE not to be? And another – what of practices in the marine corps that have a similar end result: techniques, training in sensory deprivation and overload that will enable a soldier to function in a combat setting?  Are those techniques in and of themselves “wrong” if there’s no religious affiliation?  

    I really appreciate your in depth examination of the “spirituality” of yoga. I do a workout program which includes some yoga moves. They are offered without any direction other than how to execute the pose. That being said, I hate yoga. I’ve never done any of the contemplative forms and never will. The reality is that most of the conventional stretching exercises borrow from yoga so I don’t have a gripe about using a particular pose as a means of stretching before or after other exercise.

  • I cannot justify doing “Christian Yoga” While the baptism of pagan elements is not unknown, Yoga as a spiritual discipline carries far too much baggage and attempting to make it “holy” by changing words is syncretism at it’s best.

    I did martial arts for several years and was fortunate that the studio did not even mention the mystic side of the art. It was Tae Kwan Do which is much less focused on “inner strength (chi)”. It was really just a good fitness and self defense program.

    I have a Mixed Martial Arts workout series and at the end of one of the workouts they get into some mild mysticism as part of the stretching. I turn that part of the DVD off and just stretch. I find that I am viscerally affected by that part of martial arts. You could call it discernment, but I am, spiritually, very uncomfortable with it.

    I exercise regularly and truly enjoy it. It is often a spiritual experience filled with prayer. I used to pray the rosary while swimming laps (one Hail Mary per length). Seeking a deeper spirituality through a particular exercise is idolatry in my book.

    Thanks again for your thoughts and work.

  • Thanks Ed,
    I like the way you have put the issue in a scholarly, but open presentation. The enemy of our souls is so good at what he does as he come as an angel of light. Many of the patterns you have brought into the open are parallel to the Masonic deception that insidiously comes into the lives of people and often the fabric of our entire culture.
    Uncovering the Hindu foundations and giving viable references is good. I was wondering if there should be a link to follow up deeper-level presentations that gives equal contrast comparison of Christian contrasts or truths from the Word that would help those with a Christian background fill the voids left with a renouncing of Yoga with the truth or reinforcement of the Word.

    If the Christian Body is so weak or even Biblically illiterate that these subtle entrances can get a stronghold they may need help in regaining their strength.

  • Excellent, extensive, and much needed research. I do not practice yoga but I did, back in my pre-Christian days, practice Transcendental Meditation for a year. That is the very reason I stayed away from yoga. I got into the meditation based on an article saying even Catholic priests were doing it. It was like eating a Hershey bar. Foolish I know, but I was young and foolish at the time.
    So many of my friends, believers and unbelievers alike, are wholly committed to yoga. The soccer mom comparison you make it right on target.
    The actual historical background should be enough to make a person pull back and walk away.

  • Hi ed. I find that I am much more earthy with my spirituality these days. I don’t look at yoga with all the baggage. I am trying not to look at christianity with all its baggage too. If people judged christianity by its institutional and secret baggage, it would be toast. Actually, maybe that is why the church seems to becoming sterile; people cant reconcile it anymore. Anyway, just some of my thoughts. i am finding i dislike the institutional side of many things these days. i am much more spiritual than that institutional feels comfortable with :)

  • Hello Ed,

    Thanks for the opportunity to comment on your article. It was a lengthy read…a little too much to digest while at work. However, I scanned it and perused the responses from your readers.

    Briefly, my thoughts are that Satan always takes what God has designed and created for good and perverts it…food, music, sexual relations, and so on. I don’t know enough about Yoga but have stayed away from it because I was at least aware of its religious roots.

    Are there bodily movements that are blatantly dishonoring to God and fleshly or sensual? Yes. Everyone is familiar with the late Elvis’ hip shake or Michael Jackson’s crotch grab and I suppose there are body movements and/or stretches that are pagan at the core.

    Lastly, I do think we need to be careful about condemning everything that has and is being practiced by pagans. We need to see if the practice is a perversion or distortion of something that God has at one time called “good.”

    I notice how my dog stretches in the morning when she awakes and before she begins her daily dog tasks. I think stretching is good (as you do). If someone has taken the time to identify the various parts of the human anatomy that would benefit from stretching, I’m sure that some of those stretches would intersect with the Yoga positions…I think this is what Andy was trying to communicate.

    Do we condemn a valuable exercise just because it is claimed by those who practice Yoga? I don’t think so. But again, I am speaking from the posture of one who hasn’t researched this thoroughly as you.

  • Dear Ed,
    Thank you for bringing your post to my attention. Congratulations on a well researched, insightful and clearly articulated blog on Yoga. You are on the right track and I agree with your analysis and conclusion. Thank you for taking the time and the trouble to do this piece of work. I am also glad that you made the connections between Yoga and the martial arts.

  • Ed. Many thanks for “fighting the good fight” and defending the faith. I am far from knowledgable about Yoga; however, I know enough to recognize that it is at its root religious and dark in nature. It is by nature and practice deceptive and seductive! In short, IMHO, it is Idolatry. But even more important, Christians must realize that it is also a very deceptive spiritual warfare.

    Thanks for your great research and the “truth” you are proclaiming!

    All for the Glory of Jesus Christ!

    I really enjoyed reading this article, Ed. I don’t practice yoga, honestly, but your article gave me some good insight into it, should I ever think that I might want to practice it. After reading your article, I know for sure that I won’t. You brought out so many good points. I strongly believe that we as Christians should never do anything that is in opposition to God, if we know ahead of time that it consists of evil. I do wish they’d put prayer back in the schools for our children. I honestly believe that there is so much more going on in the world that I’m not aware of;sometimes I think I’m better off not knowing because it really upsets me. My main focus as a Christian is to live my life where others can see Christ living in me. In fact, that is our duty as Christians. I’m convinced that after we’re saved, our main purpose is to live for the Lord and to help as many as we can get into the sheepfold. Thank you for taking the time to research yoga, and for having the courage to write a strong article. ‘May God bless you’ is our prayer.

    Thank you, Ed, for this critically needed information alerting unsuspecting Christians worldwide. The Bible is clear, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. Because you have rejected knowledge, I also will reject you from being My priest” (Hos 4:6). He continues on: “I am the Lord, that is My name; I will not share My glory with another, nor My praise to graven images” (Isa 42:8). Believe me, He won’t. And here’s one of the clearest consequences for possessing, touching, partaking of something God has deemed “banned” for His people, “Israel has sinned, and they have also transgressed My covenant which I commanded them. And they have even taken some of the things under the ban and have both stolen and deceived. Moreover, they have also put them among their own things. Therefore the sons of Israel cannot stand before their enemies; they turn their backs before their enemies, for they have become accursed. I will not be with you anymore unless you destroy the things under the ban from your midst” (Josh 7:11-12).

    The Lord is clear–We are to have NO association whatsoever with what He deems unclean, paganistic, and unholy. This account in Joshua Chapter 7, reveals the seriousness of doing something forbidden in regard to disobedience and embracing another “religion”. Whether knowingly or unknowingly. We must pay attention to the weight of the words: “they have also put them among their own things.” THAT, is perhaps, the most frightening statement made. To commingle the profane with the holy….complete with the personal comfort of doing so without regret or conviction.

    Joshua 7′s battle at Ai was to be one of the Hebrews’ easiest wins. It wasn’t a large assemblage of people to overtake. Even their spies returned stating the entire army needn’t go out to war; just 2,000-3,000 men. What was a given, became their greatest defeat. Why? Because Achan stole and hid items that were forbidden to God’s people. The result? 3,000 Hebrews were slain by Ai’s tiny army. Achan ultimately lost his life, his family’s lives, and everything connected to him for this act of folly. As well as being personally responsible for the deaths of 3,000 innocent and obedient soldiers. His laissez faire attitude created 3,000 widows and fatherless children! God won’t tolerate the worshiping of other gods. Period. “Thou shalt not have any gods besides Me,” is a very clear commandment. This includes yoga’s stretching positions to soothing music on a foam mat with friends.

    As a late teenager, I too, attended yoga classes for “stretching and relaxation”. A couple of years later, I came into God’s Kingdom and covenant. Disentangling myself from yoga was no easy task. Its dark, insidious, spiritual side had woven itself deep into my life–UNKNOWINGLY. And I alone, gave it the authority to do so. I wholly concur with your conclusions, Ed. It IS indeed the “embrace that smothers,” “cloaks its rites in secrecy,” and is the “missionary arm of Hinduism and the New Age movement.” You have sounded the alarm to alert the Bride of the seemingly innocent trap laid not-so-innocently before her. Christians should be running…RUNNING…from this covert thief; which like the python, wraps its coils about the victim until crushed with suffocation and consumed. Our enemy is a master of disguise, even with ability to appear as an angel of light. To believe we can “Christianize” paganism and its battle for our soul, is to invite infestation of things too frightening to envision. Yes, we perish for lack of knowledge…because we have chosen to reject knowledge. Blowing the shofar was reserved for limited use only. One of which, was to alert the innocent that the enemy was at hand. God’s love overflows toward His children—but our refusal to alter our familiar lifestyle, or “justified” activities—earn us the bottom line of those destructive choices. There is more than one way to die while continuing to live; and pushing the Lord aside for the sake of meeting friends at a stretching class steeped in paganism with spiritual consequences, invites separation from God’s holiness.

    I would urge your readers to explore the Word of God and discover for themselves His opinion of their participation in that which He deems profane (anything opposite holiness). Standing before Him and suggesting their actions were simply innocuous (despite the influences brought into their homes and around their children as a result of their participation)—will simply not stand up before His holiness. You certainly can’t plead “ignorance of the law” before an earthy judge. How much more a truly righteous Judge? God’s directives are not to keep us from having a fun or full life—they are in place to give us a life of overflowing and uninterrupted fellowship with Him. Even though it may not appear as such initially, it is all motivated out of His inseparable love for each of us. He will not share His glory with another. If one insists upon interacting with strange gods, they can be confident the Lord will be unwelcome in the environment they have created. His holiness will depart as it cannot be sustained in this manner. Simply stated by another, “The absence of God—is hell.” Remember Lot’s wife. Why would any Believer risk the absence of God’s glorious presence? The absence of His care and concern? The absence of His blessings? The absence of Him meeting our needs? Not everything is negotiable. And this is one of those things.

    Remarkable post! You must believe it, you must speak it. Big thanks Ed!

    In a similar way your voice blends completely with that of the Apostle Paul in 2 Cor.11:3 “But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ.” Thanks for your efforts to direct God’s people to Christ during a season when spiritual confusion is running rampant in North America, even in the Church. God bless and keep you.

    Thanks for writing this blog on Yoga: I have read it several times and has recommended it to several others. In my circle Of friends i had heard it said, more than once , that Christains should notdo ”Yoga” . However no one could ever tell me why? That is why your research, experiences and position together is so important. Thanks for answering the why. You were indeed the person to write on this subject. Thanks, very much.

    Thank you so much for this informative, clear-cut and grace-filled article on such an important topic. Your personal journey and detailed research make a compelling case against yoga being compatible with a Christian’s belief, commitment and love for the one true God, Creator of heaven and earth. I sincerely hope that your article is widely shared and read by millions in coming months…

    Thank you for sharing your heart here. I have always been against the use of yoga for the very reasons that you mention. I did a lot of research as well and just feel it serves two masters. I worship only the one true living God and Jesus Christ.

    Very interesting article Ed. Yoga isn’t that big of a deal down here in the Maritimes, people are quite conservative. Interestingly I just started reading a book called Christianity at the Religious Roundtable by Timothy Tennent which is a series of dialogues between evangelical Christianity and Eastern religions. Yoga, while being part of Hinduism, is a bit sneaky in that it isn’t considered by many as a religion or part of a religion but a health practice, but bundled into it are all sorts of assumptions and ideas that are not Christian. If one understands that going in and one is willing to have their conceptions stretched or changed to accommodate the new ideas who knows where that will lead, they may lose their faith in Christ and yet never truly be able to embrace the other belief system and be left believing anything or everything which is the end result of much of what we see of the New Age movement. There is much to be admired in other traditions but there is also much that is culturally and humanly derived that is in error and the difficulty is knowing how to discern, especially in light of the sanitized and sugar coated versions that we are exposed to in the west. Our discernment comes from the Holy Spirit but we risk losing that connecting link if our thinking is led too far astray. Thank you for reminding me to think about this today!

    Ed – I determined that today is the day I would complete the reading of your blog and comment. The article is well-done, and presents the arguments well. I have not been a consumer of yoga myself, but did participate in Judo many years ago. I appreciate the point regarding serving two masters and the insidious way that non-kingdom things and ways can at times come in through a door we have opened innocently. Thank you for taking time to share this important information. As Kingdom residents, we must be vigilant to keep ourselves and loved ones covered by His blood and to shut those doors and windows immediately through repentance.
    As Kingdom representatives, we are called to be savvy consumers in the marketplace and to ask for discernment regarding practices that may be deceitfully packaged.
    Thank you for the invitation to read and comment.

    As someone who was entrenched in Eastern Religion and yoga many years back before I became a Christian I was very skeptical of yoga, but then since my gym was offering it I gave it a try. After a few months I had to stop. I knew that the positions had other meanings that Americans don’t know about. Your article is an excellent wake-up call.It just shows how Christians are being lulled into the hypnotic state of this present society. I think some people might be able to divorce themselves from some of the ritual meanings of the asanas if they don’t get too involved, but its a slippery slope.

    Practicing yoga or Judaism or Islam is what makes this country great. It was founded on religious, social and economic freedom. That’s my your great grandparents, grandparents, and parents came here; for you to be free to practice what made you feel good. With so many North Americans not being physically fit I think they should be free to do whatever it takes to lead a healthy life style without essays like this making them feel like bad Christians. Maybe a little understanding of other religions
    and cultures could prevent the next 9/11, Boston Bombing or war in the Middle East. Stop being so narrow minded. Travel, go to temple with a Jewish friend, eat some curry, be a better more understanding person and stop being so judgmental about an exercise class.

    I have read your article several times and have struggled with my thoughts on it. The article itself is well written and well researched. My struggle is with how I feel about it. As a former student and teacher of Anahata Chakra Yoga I found your judgements puritanical. Then I thought about why I am a “former” practitioner of Yoga. Yoga led me into Zen Buddhist meditation, and therefore I identified Zazen as the problem and not Yoga. As I became more interested in meditation than exercise my Yoga practice fell off and I became more engaged in Zazen. I continued to practice Zazen for two years. During all of this time I did not renounce Christianity. As a matter of fact when I taught Anahata Chakra Yoga my class performed their asanas before a candle lit picture of The Sacred Heart of Jesus (the anahata chakra is the heart chakra), and when I began practicing Zazen I found a Roman Catholic convent near Baltimore where the Mother Superior and all of the nuns also practiced Zazen. I felt safe, but something wasn’t right. Eventually I realized that as a Christian I could no longer practice Zazen because it requires meditation on emptiness. The entire purpose of Zazen is emptiness. It is not emptying oneself of oneself so that God can fill you, it is just emptiness. In Zazen nothing really exists, everything is illusion, and the universe is empty. So I quit Zazen and did not return to Yoga. I continued my practice of Christianity as an Anglican, which I had never given up.

    However both my Yoga and Zazen practices were instructive to me. My Christian meditation is much stronger as a result of what I learned from both. It should not have been necessary for me to visit foreign religious practices to learn meditation. You can learn stretching exercises from various health sources, but where do you go to learn meditation as a Christian? The only forms readily taught are the Roman Catholic Rosary, and the Eastern Orthodox recitation of the Jesus Prayer. Both of these are forms of mantra practice and their origins are have their origins in the Eastern religions in India in the 3rd century BC. The use of knotted prayer ropes in Christianity goes back to the Desert Fathers in the 3rd and early 4th centuries. So they are not Apostolic or even sub-Apostolic. Although I am not about to attack repetition, its benefits are limited.

    Thank you for your article. I’m including a link to another written by an Orthodox Christian convert from Hinduism which may be of interest to you.

    This is so well written and full of truth and facts. Christians should be hearing this in church.
    Those preaching the word of God need to make sure their flocks are made aware of the deception that is going on around them and that this is being brought into the church as well as the schools.
    Exercise is a necessity for Gods temple to be strong and healthy, but that’s the point… this body is our Father’s temple. We MUST be on our toes spiritually, and mentally when it comes to satans lies and how he sneaks them into our daily routine of life. We must stay in the word of God so we can see these things more clearly that seem harmless, become a silent killer of our souls.
    Jesus has made it all very clear through the words you have written here that yoga is one of those silent killers of the soul. Thank you for bringing this to my attention Ed. I will re post this on all my pages. God bless you brother for speaking the truth and educating us.

    Thank you. I found this article very interesting. I was vaguely thinking about getting into Yoga. I haven’t, so far, because my carpel tunnel makes a lot of the poses painful for me. I’ve been told that I could alter the poses and still do it, but now I’m thinking that I’ll skip it. I was even thinking that Yoga might be beneficial for my hyper 3 yr old. We’ll stick to regular stretching.

    This is the most comprehensive exposure of Yogi I have ever read. You have certainly done your research. As I was reading it, I wondered: Can it get any worse? But it did.

    I am a Indoor Cycling Instructor at local gyms and have always been suspicious of Yogi. I have known some Christians who have got involved in it and regard it harmless as long as they don’t use it as an expression of worship. Your article debunks this myth. They are worshiping these gods whether they realize it or not. From now I will have some substantial information to give those who have been so easily deceived. I especially appreciate the biblical perspective you share at the end for dealing with this deception. Anyone reading this can never say they were not forewarned. Thank you for all your hard work on the article. May God use it to awaken many to the dangers of Yogi.

    Hi Ed, thanks for the article. Very in depth and well researched. Though I don’t actually agree with your conclusions. Most of the salient points were covered by commentators so I won’t rehash here…But years ago I heard a fantastic sermon by Prof Oliver O’Donovan on the difference between idols and idolatry. Though most of it escapes me now, the main point does not. There is no power in idols, but great power in idolatry. Likewise, if a group of people come together to worship pagan gods through yoga, that has power. But the idols (forms) in and of themselves have no power. Thanks for sharing!

    Having done a great deal of research into yoga myself, Ed, I can say your article is spot on. With plenty of alternatives to yoga for exercise, why would any believer feel the need to Christianize yoga? It IS Hinduism. It’s part of the lie and we need to leave it alone. Every Christian ought to read this article. Well done, Ed.

    This is the most I have ever read about Yoga. At least 95% of this is new information for me.

    My experience with Yoga: when I was a kid my dad told me it was some kind of eastern religious nonsense and Christians shouldn’t do it. Then, in college, I had a friend (a preacher student) who did yoga in his form room. I thought it was weird and thought he shouldn’t it, based simply on what my dad had taught me years before. That is about the extent of my knowledge of yoga.

    The depth and breadth of your article is a lot to digest in one reading. I will make a note of this site and come back to it, and refer others to it. Thanks for making me aware of it.

    This just isn’t an area that I have ever pursued. But, I know it is gaining in popularity, but I didn’t know it was as popular as you indicate in this article.

    This was very well written. Thanks for making me aware of it.

  • Hi Ed, thanks for this detailed and well-researched article about the perils of yoga and how it is fundamentally incompatible with the one and only faith that we hold on to – salvation through Jesus Christ.

    I am a believer who is serious about following God and also about investing in my health. Recently, I have picked up Pilates classes. I chose to stay away from Yoga because of what I have read in other articles about its dangers (similar arguments as found your research here). As I engage in pilates, I find that it does much wonder to my physical conditioning and fitness. There is also no “emptying of mind” syndrome or whatsoever that I face. No hand gestures of yoga are involved and we do not practice the “pranayama” breathing. We simply breathe in through our nose and out through our mouths. However, I also realize that some Pilates poses are very similar to Yoga asanas (e.g. the downward dog asana). Hence, by doing these poses, I am worried that I may be subconsciously “opening” myself up to some alteration of my consciousness.

    Could you please advise if Pilates is incompatible with Christianity? Your reply is very much appreciated.

    A more authentic view of the type of society Hindu/Buddhist religions reap can be seen in “The Book That Made Your World” by Vishal Mangalwadi. On the other hand, the work shows how the truths of the Bible has positively influenced India in more recent years, to the benefit of many of the down-trodden. Many Westerners have a naive view of Hindu/Buddhist religions, not understanding the detriment it brings to the lower caste and women. And while their PR here has many here thinking Buddhism is a religion of meditative peace, it has had its share of wars and skirmishes as well.

    Vishal’s books and videos are remarkable and well-worth reading. We have heard him many times at Missionsfest Vancouver. I had the privilege of being a co-speaker with Vishal at QuipThink in San Diego in 2009. Worldviews have real consequences. Fatalistic and mind-killing worldviews produce societies that are less entrepreneurial and creative in arts, science, technology, politics, and education.

    Ed, your research on Yoga is exhaustive, but your understanding of Christianity is lacking and in Johannine terms misses the mark. Actually, it misses the target completely. When Gandhi was asked why he wasn’t a Christian, because his views and philosophy were so Christian, he responded, “Because I have never met one.” Unfortunately, Ed, that would include you and most of those commenting on your article. You rightly quote 1 Corinthians 6:12 that the ‘Great I Am’ is within you (your body), but you fail to realize that it is not the rational mind and ego making that connection. The rational mind and ego, which you value so highly, is the product of original sin. Study chapters 6-8 in John and chapter 8 in Romans, then ask yourself, “Am I just another Pharisee walking away from what Jesus is saying, or am I another Peter hearing the words and understanding nothing.” My I suggest that you read my book, End of Days – A New Curtain Opens

    Excellently done! Bravo! If you don’t mind, I will post a small excerpt of your article on my blog and point my readers t your blog. This is 100% consistent with what I seek to warn people about – deceptive ideals, philosophy and other religions corrupting our Christian faith, rendering it impotent.

    Exceptional article!! Thank you so much for researching this and sharing your findings with the world. I found it was very well written and very well researched. I think this article will change how many people view yoga. God Bless

    Pilates is not yoga. (unless someone mixes it.) Pilates is a form of core exercises…your lower abdomen is your core and it is very useful for folk who have knee injuries etc…Pilates strengthens and stretches the whole body beginning from the center. Ballet dancers often use pilates as well as modern dancers and athletes. But I believe it is good for all of us…

    Thank you Ed for this great article. I have always felt extremely uncomfortable with the meditative and mantra aspects of yoga which are taught in the most basic of classes…Even using Jesus’ name constantly as my mantra and not participating in any hindu mantras etc., I have found myself praying for those present and for myself. A fellow Anglican priest (East Indian) also warned me about yoga not being neutral for the believer in and follower of Jesus…and this was about 13 years ago…
    May we seek to be faithful and healthy in mind, body and spirt.
    thanks again and Christ’s blessings and protection to all…
    Elizabeth+

    This is an excellent and well researched article. I absolutely agree that yoga is a spiritual practice and cannot be simply a practice for the body. I also agree that traditional yoga is addictive and draws believers and unbelievers away from the Lord.

    I was absolutely, definitively called by God to teach Christ Centered Yoga (I know you think this cannot exist). This was prior to me ever taking yoga, for many of the reasons listed in your article. It took three years and a strong act from God to bring me into yoga. From the beginning, my training and instruction was affirmed by God. I teach a scripture focused class and have seen and felt the hand of Good work powerfully through my classes.

    I know most of you will not agree with what I do and some will accuse me of leading others astray. I believe that I have been called into this to speak Truth into the lives of those who are being led away from God and to provide an avenue for strong Christians to worship Christ physically and mentally. I will always be vigilant because yes, yoga can deceive. I will also continue to teach Christ-Centered Yoga in a definitively non-Christian studio until God tells me otherwise.

    …Please check out Holy Yoga which is Christ centered and is a 100% Jesus and 100% yoga. This ministry has brought many people to the Lord and has deepened their relationship with Jesus.

    …This is the struggle for Christian yogi types. The spiritual deception is believing that something can 100 percent of two mutually exclusive things at the same time. Something can’t be 100 percent Christian and 100 percent Hindu at the same time which is what Kathi’s statement implies.

    I really enjoyed this article. Thank you for taking the time to write it. Blessings on you and yours!

    …The stretching exercises suggested in the two links supplied differ in a significant way to many yoga “stretches” that hasn’t been addressed here. These links offer stretches that address specific areas or muscles, where as yoga stretches generally don’t focus on specific areas, rather the body as a whole. Unless using a stretch to address an injury (and even then I would question it), I believe it’s healthier to perform stretching from a whole-body approach. If you will, consider how animals stretch. They have no cultural or intellectual knowledge of how to use their bodies, and yet they stretch with their entire bodies, and generally don’t attempt to isolate any specific area(s). The same for children. I believe they are using their bodies the way God, our Creator, intended us to use them.

    Unless we have physical limitations that might cause harm, I think it’s healthier and we are less prone to injury if we perform stretching more from a whole body approach. However, I’m certainly not suggesting that yoga stretches are the best way to stretch. But I believe they are, at their TRUE roots, healthy stretches that have been modified to model poses of worship to pagan gods.

    I don’t have any documentation. I was mostly trying to make the point that I believe yoga poses are an abomination of how we are to use (stretch) our bodies the way that God intended us to do so. As I mentioned, animals and children have had no external influences (religious, cultural, intellectual) of how to do so. I believe because of this, they probably can be a valuable source of how we should stretch. I honestly have never studied the specifics of yoga and the “proper” way to perform it. But it seems that there are very close similarities to some of the yoga stretches and some of the common stretches of a dog, for example. I think the same can be seen in the way children stretch. What do you think? do agree that if you perform specific yoga stretches, and have a need to do them only as instructed, they are dangerous.

    Fr. Ed This is an excellent and very thoughtful article. Many thanks for taking the time to do all of this research I have posted a link to it on my site yogadangers.com. BTW, I am a Anglican and attend a TEC church here in Minnesota. Do you know Rev. John Newton who originally hails from Nova Scotia?

    This article represents one of the many reasons why I left the church and stopped believing in Christianity. So closed minded and of all the problems in this world, it seems to be a waste of time focusing on the evils of yoga.


    I went to a yoga class without knowing its origin, but the fact that the teacher lit incense “to the gods” in front of us all was warning enough for me. There were (and still are) plenty of other ways to stretch our bodies without doing yoga.

    That was umpteen years ago when Eastern philosophies were just beginning to become integrated into our society. Nowadays I don’t know if many people can tell the difference or even think there is one.

    I want to avoid any appearance of evil, so it’s not just a matter of my opinion about yoga, but also a matter of how it affects other people. I’d rather err on the side of caring about my brother even if it makes me look unenlightened.

    Ed, this information is so valuable, please consider making it into an e-book. It could impact so many more lives if you did.

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