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A Heart For God: The Christian And Yoga

Sunday, February 25, 2007

The Christian And Yoga

“You surely know that your body is a temple where the Holy Spirit lives. The Spirit is in you and is a gift from God. You are no longer your own. God paid a price for you. So use your body to honor God.” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20; CEV)

I want to deal with a subject a little bit off the beaten path today, my friends. (Or maybe it isn’t.) The subject is yoga. Yoga has become an accepted practice of physical exercise across America in recent years. You can find yoga classes offered just about anywhere. From on TV to college campuses to the local gym, sometimes it seems like just about everybody is doing it. But is the practice of yoga really okay for a believer? In an interview article on the Christian Broadcasting Network (Pat Robertson’s) website, Laurette Willis gives us helpful insight. She can’t help but be able to since she’s had firsthand experience in yoga and the New Age movement for more than 20 years. Among other things, Willis comments on yoga’s postures, breathing techniques and practice of emptying your mind. First of all, the body postures are ultimately forms of worship. And why so many of them? Well, it’s because there are 330 million Hindu gods to worship! Willis says, “Yoga postures really are; they are offerings to the [Hindu] gods. If you do these postures and you do this breathing technique and this meditation, then you will be accepted by a god, little ‘G.’” And then there are the breathing exercises of yoga. Of course, they are meant to relax and bring a sense of peace and calm to the individual. Right? Wrong! That’s not to say that there aren’t any benefits to the breathing techniques. (If sin didn’t have some “attractive” qualities, then who would sin?) But there’s more to it than that. Willis talks about how yoga breathing is really an attempt at manipulating life force energy. She continues, since “Satan is the prince of the power of the [air, it’s] not oxygen [that’s being manipulated via the breathing].” Finally, yoga encourages the emptying of one’s mind. Willis is quick to point out that the Bible emphasizes “‘the renewing of our minds, not the emptying.’” Of course, there is much more to say about yoga which my space here won’t allow. But I think this little bit of evidence is reason enough to steer clear of yoga and towards another health regimen. By the way, if you would like to read the entire article that I’ve been quoting, you can view it at:
http://www.cbn.com/health/fitness/bagby_yoga-alternative.aspx. (Laurette Willis herself offers a Christian alternative to yoga. It’s called PraiseMoves™ and it combines Scripture with exercise.)

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31 Comments:

Blogger RumorsOfGlory said...

Mike, I'm a pretty conservative person most of the time, but yoga has so much to offer. I've had people come down HARD on me and my blog for even mentioning it.
First, yoga has allowed me great physical and mental health. I feel strong, relaxed, and well - oxygenated. How could that be against God.
When others bow "namaste" I bow down to the image of God within everyone - believer or not. And I picture my beloved savior.
And last but not least, my yoga class has become such a witnessing ground. Twice a week I have opportunities to talk to people who are not in the world but of the world. I guess if I didn't feel so grounded in my faith I should be scared. It's like people who won't read The Shack just because their pastor told them not to. God is so much bigger than this.....

7:36 PM  
Blogger RumorsOfGlory said...

Mike,

I don't want further contact with you. Please don't email me, okay (I'm not sure how to block people and never thought I'd have to learn).

You blog seems like a trap. You put out a question and when someone answers, genuinely and kindly (because comments on a blog are a good thing you know) - someone took the time, and you slam them. It's like you put out bait and move in for the kill. Not a great way to treat people who visited your blog.

I always treat people with respect even if they disagree.

Lucille

6:23 AM  
Blogger Mike said...

Laurette Willis is way off base...outta sight...off the planet. She may have 20 years experience with yoga or whatever, but I have 61 years of life experience. God gave me common sense with which to exercise my free will. I am an 'evangelical Christian' and I have started practicing yoga. I had reached a point where my lack of strength and flexibility were causing me physical problems. Yoga has made me stronger, more flexible, and I have better balance. And any medical doctor will tell you that deep breathing is the first and easiest way to combat stress, and stress causes all kinds of problems. And any theologian will tell you that before you can pray, you must empty your mind of earthly thoughts. What is prayer anyway, but meditation on God. So, let's all relax, take a deep breathe, empty our mind, and pray that Ms. Willis sees the multiple errors of her ways.

6:50 AM  
Blogger Whitney Child0fGod said...

Thank God for this post. Keep preaching and speaking truth. Yoga is indeed a form of spiritual worship/yolking. Look at the meaning of the word "yoga" --it means "to yolk." It's spiritual bondage. Keep preaching truth and when people come against you, know that it's a tremendous stronghold and they must un-unite themselves with such a master as Yoga before their eyes will be opened and they'll see the truth!!

JESUS IS MESSIAH!!!!
Glory for this word!!!

Whitney
http://howdeeplyineedyou.blogspot.com

9:55 PM  
Blogger Brother Wade said...

Mike, I have always appreciated your evangelistic attitude, and I do admire your passion for the Lord. Your post on Yoga is silly and nearsighted. Yes, Yoga by tradition is a practice of faith to pagan gods. But you and I both know that originally, so was Christmas. Do you want to stop Easter too since it involves the pagan bunny?

Christians need to quit throwing fits every time something better coms along that doesn't fit into their bag of self-righteous behavior. Southern Baptists passed a resolution condemning alcohol - may God have mercy on my when I go the liquor store and buy bourbon for my chicken or drink a wine with my dinner. By all means, lets not practice better health through Yoga because someone like it either.

May I suggest that you go back and read Romans 14:22-23? If you are indeed the more mature Christian, then keep your faith to yourself and let others work out their salvation with a little bit fear and trembling. The last time I checked, a guy named Jesus hung on the cross for our sins, not you and not me.

6:40 AM  
Blogger Cecelia said...

I did Yoga when I was pregnant with my son 10 years ago. Had it not been for those exercises and the Lord, I would never have been able to endure the GRUELING labor of birth WITHOUT having to rely upon pain killer to get me through.
I was able to go natural and not have some junky drugs injected into my body and into my baby that was yet to be born.
Today, my son is brilliant, artistic, creative, intellectual. Thanks to no drugs, my taking care of myself when I was pregnant and the help of being able to do Yoga. :-)

5:07 PM  
Blogger Tami said...

Thank you Mike, continue to shine you light! Here's more info on Christians and yoga from Olive Tree Ministries http://tinyurl.com/m55gxq. or you can subscribe to her podcasts and listen.

5:45 AM  
Blogger nancymkqueen said...

I think that if a Christian is grounded in his or her faith, then the relaxing and "emptying mind" time could be prayer and worship time to our God.
This is the same rational as Christians who don't celebrate Halloween because of the pagan roots. Many churches have costume parties during Halloween as an outreach. Perhaps a Christian yoga instructor could do the same?

8:42 AM  
Blogger C Lo said...

Saying that a Christian practicing yoga is sinning by worshiping false gods is like saying everyone who celebrates Christmas is celebrating the birth of our Lord.

Just as the celebration of the birth of Christ has completely lost it's meaning for many who "celebrate" it, so has yoga lost it's false gods.

And this is what's wrong with uber conservative "pastors" such as yourself...by continuing to narrow just exactly how a Christian is "allowed" to worship, without guidance from the Word, you alienate and cast out more and more brothers and sisters.

Often when I do yoga, I am not thinking anything spiritual at all...I'm thinking about my damaged back. I'm doing whatever I can to heal it. But, when I am listening to the instruction of a yogi and being instructed to focus on spiritual topics, I am praising our God, and worshiping Him and only Him. I know that however I want to focus on God and worship Him, that's what's important.

If I want to pray while working on my "downward dog" pose so my back is strengthened, I am not sinning.

9:01 AM  
Blogger GodsSunflower said...

Mike,

I've gone back and forth on this issue - and have had a lot of problems about yoga. When my oldest daughter was in public school, they practiced it in gym and it really bothered me. It convicted my spirit. Now I understand why. Though I've done stretches not knowing they were considered "yoga stretches" I understand now there's a difference between good exercise for health and "exercise" like yoga that's no good for you spiritually. Thanks for sharing!

9:04 AM  
Blogger Goldmare said...

Some of these comments make me shake my head with sadness.

While I do not agree with you on everything, Mike, on this we do agree. There is no virtue in adopting pagan practices and thinking that baptizing them automatically makes them Christian and acceptable to God.

Jesus Himself taught His disciples NOT to pray as the heathen do. Would not praying using a pagan practice such as yoga count? I should think so.

It is very dangerous to dabble in the occult, and Christians who practice yoga or eastern meditation are seriously underestimating the devil's cunning. The whole point to his traps is to use the most attractive bait possible, so of course there are health benefits to yoga. I would expect nothing less from the one who has been studying human nature for about 6000 years.

I plan on writing a blog post in response to this later. :)

1:33 PM  
Blogger Shannon said...

We live and work in India and have seen yoga redeemed for the purposes of worship of Christ. I think this is a valid use of yoga, but I think there are many people who are ignorant of the spiritual meanings behind yoga.

9:52 AM  
Blogger Ronda said...

Good article. I took a World Religions class in college and in the section that taught on Buddhism, yoga is spiritual meditation towards Buddha. Many Americans don't know this, they think it is away of just streching and exercising, but if they would research it they would find out the truth. Also many Americans go on vacations or home stores and buy a cute Buddha statue and decorate their homes with it, not realizing they have just a foriegn/false God/Idol. We all must be careful in these last day, and protect ourselves from evil. Some of the earthly things we think are right, aren't in God's eyes, and one day we will all have to answer to him.

6:52 PM  
Blogger trainphreak said...

Wow. Just.... Wow.

RumorsOfGlory, we may have been created in God's image, but we most certainly (especially mankind as a whole) do not reflect the image of God anymore. We lost that when Adam sinned.

And when some churches have started "Bible studies" that are going through, not the Bible, but a book like The Shack, written by man and NOT inspired by God, there's something wrong there.



Mike (not @aheartforgod), did you ever consider that maybe yoga helping our bodies is part of Satan's plan to turn us away from Jesus Christ?

And also, prayer and meditation are very different things. Prayer is essentially talking with God, or to yourself, depending on if you worship the One True God or not. Meditation is thinking exclusively about a subject for a period of time.


Whitney ChildOfGod,

AMEN!!!!!


Brother Wade, you are twisting that Scripture so far I can read what the next page says. It says nothing about how we should "let others work out their salvation".


Cecelia, if you were relying on the Lord AND yoga, then how do you know the yoga had *anything* to do with it? Here's the logic: If you change two conditions, and something different happens, how do you know it was change #1 that forced that change?


C Lo, if we are not constantly vigilant, we become complacent. It is happening in the world, it is happening in our country, and it is happening in the church. Your view on this is exactly why those "Bible studies" of The Shack that I mentioned are happening. The world says that people get less impressionable once they get out of their late-teens/early-twenties. They don't; they just get more stubborn.

9:25 PM  
Blogger Fr. Scott Kingsbury and Amy S. Brubaker said...

My dear fellow-pastor and Christian brother...

If I might be as presumptuous as you seem to be - - your attack on Christians who practice yoga is quite off-base. Your judgmental attitude about "who is a Christian and who is not" is at the height of arrogance - -and flies in the fact of what Our Lord said about "judge not, lest ye be judged". Pastor - you don't know my heart. You don't know me. And I an certain that you don't know the hundreds of Christians whom you offended by your accusations.

The fat is, Pasto, that YOU don't have any idea "who is a Christian and who is not" - and you never will until we all meet Our Lord at the final judgment (see the Creed of Nicaea, which I *hope* we can agree upon!) - because being a "Christian" - a member of the Body of which Jesus Christ is the Head and all baptized persons are the members" - - is something that God does "to us and for us" in the Sacrament of Holy Baptism. "Being a Christian" is not anything that we can earn - - not by any act of ours can the "title" of "Christian" be earned - Ephesians 2:8-9 - Titus 3:5 - not even with all of the faith we can muster - - it's all grace and it's all God the Holy Spirit acting on *our* spirit. We can add nothing to the process of salvation. There is a difference between "salvation" (L. "Salus" = health) and "sanctification" (L. - "sanctus" = "holy") The name "Christian" is not for you to define nor to challenge. That's God's job, my brother - and you ain't Him. As Isaiah the Prophet says: "(But) we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away." So - first-off - - in all charity, kindly lose the holier-than-thou attitude regarding who or who is not a Christian. It is most unbecoming a pastor of God.

Regarding yoga in particular - again - I am a practitioner - - and you don't know my heart. You don't know my preparatory prayers. You don't know my prayer life at all. The person below who can't even spell "yoke" ("yolk" - I love that - he has egg all over his face!) is far off base. I am as "yoked" to yoga and any Hindu gods as I am to the planet Neptune. And even if I was (I happen to live amongst Hindus in India - - I live under the same roof with a Hindu father, mother and two beautiful Hindu children. I'd put the genuine "Christian" spirit of servant hood in these sweet souls as I would any 1,000 Benny Hinn-watching Christian who represents what I call more "modern day American Protestantism" than anything that resembles the Faith once delivered unto the saints..."

If we are to win souls for Christ, we need to understand the devotion of the Hindu and what they do know about God... and love them first, as Christ first loved us, and gave Himself for us...

For us to tell them first-off that "(they) are worshipping demons" and whack them upside the head with our leather-bound, Red-Letter Edition King James Bible with the matching satin ribbons (just like the one Saint Paul carried in 57 A.D. - of course I am being sarcastic...) - we are already behind in the quest.

Please familiarize yourself with the works of Fr. Bede Griffiths - a walking saint here in India (RIP) and someone who Cardinal Basil Hume once said "(Fr. Bede) is one of the greatest mystics of our time" - and Brother Azariah (also of South India). Mother Teresa I hope you already know. If these great Christians began with "Oh...you do yoga?? You're going to hell!!" instead of giving them a "cup of cold water" as Jesus commanded...they would not have been so useful to the building of God's Church and His Kingdom.

In His Love,

Scott+

PS Brother Azariah Memorial Video: http://vimeo.com/12685665

3:46 AM  
Blogger Fr. Scott Kingsbury and Amy S. Brubaker said...

My dear fellow-pastor and Christian brother...

If I might be as presumptuous as you seem to be - - your attack on Christians who practice yoga is quite off-base. Your judgmental attitude about "who is a Christian and who is not" is at the height of arrogance - -and flies in the fact of what Our Lord said about "judge not, lest ye be judged". Pastor - you don't know my heart. You don't know me. And I an certain that you don't know the hundreds of Christians whom you offended by your accusations.

The fat is, Pasto, that YOU don't have any idea "who is a Christian and who is not" - and you never will until we all meet Our Lord at the final judgment (see the Creed of Nicaea, which I *hope* we can agree upon!) - because being a "Christian" - a member of the Body of which Jesus Christ is the Head and all baptized persons are the members" - - is something that God does "to us and for us" in the Sacrament of Holy Baptism. "Being a Christian" is not anything that we can earn - - not by any act of ours can the "title" of "Christian" be earned - Ephesians 2:8-9 - Titus 3:5 - not even with all of the faith we can muster - - it's all grace and it's all God the Holy Spirit acting on *our* spirit. We can add nothing to the process of salvation. There is a difference between "salvation" (L. "Salus" = health) and "sanctification" (L. - "sanctus" = "holy") The name "Christian" is not for you to define nor to challenge. That's God's job, my brother - and you ain't Him. As Isaiah the Prophet says: "(But) we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away." So - first-off - - in all charity, kindly lose the holier-than-thou attitude regarding who or who is not a Christian. It is most unbecoming a pastor of God.

Regarding yoga in particular - again - I am a practitioner - - and you don't know my heart. You don't know my preparatory prayers. You don't know my prayer life at all. The person below who can't even spell "yoke" ("yolk" - I love that - he has egg all over his face!) is far off base. I am as "yoked" to yoga and any Hindu gods as I am to the planet Neptune. And even if I was (I happen to live amongst Hindus in India - - I live under the same roof with a Hindu father, mother and two beautiful Hindu children. I'd put the genuine "Christian" spirit of servant hood in these sweet souls as I would any 1,000 Benny Hinn-watching Christian who represents what I call more "modern day American Protestantism" than anything that resembles the Faith once delivered unto the saints..." (Continued)

3:53 AM  
Blogger Whitney said...

to yolk, to yoke, you're still in bondage.

10:03 PM  
Blogger Whitney said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

10:04 PM  
Anonymous Christine Smith said...

Here the definition of yoga per Wiki:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yoga

Yoga (Sanskrit, Pāli: योग yóga) refers to traditional physical and mental disciplines that originated in India.[1] The word is associated with meditative practices in Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism.[2][3][4] Within Hinduism, it refers to one of the six orthodox (āstika) schools of Hindu philosophy, and to the goal towards which that school directs its practices.[5][6] In Jainism, yoga is the sum total of all activities — mental, verbal and physical...According to the authoritative Indian philosopher Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, yoga, based on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, comprises one of the six main Hindu schools of philosophy (darshanas)

What would Jesus do? Filter your heart through the Holy Spirit and make a faith decision, not a flesh decision, regarding yoga.

3:13 PM  
Anonymous Kathy H said...

Yoga involves more then just moving the body, there is breathing and emptying of the mind as well. God never told us in the bible to empty our minds, but to keep alert as satan is a prowling lion seeking those whom he will destroy.

Being formally involved in the pagan belief, I have seen what can happen when you empty your mind of things. And this sort of thing encourages just this action. If you need to seek healing, first trust God for it, and then common movements without all the fancy classes and chants work the same way.

Christians need to be so careful what we place before our eyes, as I have seen fellow believers invoke karma, mediate like a Buddhist, and follow other belief practices. Thinking if they put a Christian spin on it then it will be OK before God.

This is placing before God "strange fires". This might not take your salvation away but it can and most likely will harm your testimony. Please be careful, as satan can make things look good when actually they are not.

3:30 PM  
Anonymous Chris said...

Christians should stop all pagan worship practices, starting with the day of the Sun, then Christmas and Easter. All pagan, just like Hinduism.

6:55 PM  
Anonymous Chris said...

Wow, just noticed that there is a honkey pagan Jesus image with a Mithra nimbus about his head at the bottom of this page. Wow, talk about pointing out specs in other people's eyes.

7:03 PM  
Blogger Carol said...

Love Brother Wade's comments. Yes, indeed, Christmas was once a pagan celebration.

My favorite book of scripture is Colossians. It basically says quit telling other people how to live, what to drink, what to eat, etc. The thoughts and intents of your heart are key. If yoga only means "exercise" to you, that's all it will ever be.

5:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Does anyone here actually have theological education? So many people twisting the Scripture. Mike do you have theological education? Are you ordained? If not please don't allow people to call you Pastor it's not right

8:28 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is funny .....

6:36 AM  
Anonymous Scott said...

Excellent article! I too have written about and preached the truth about yoga. And it still amazes me the great lengths to which Christians will go to rationalize and justify their participation in that which scripture so clearly and plainly condems. There is no possible way to reconcile yoga with Jesus. Therefore I choose Jesus!

12:14 AM  
Blogger Gentry Parker said...

Grow up! The Shack is simply a book of fiction and EVERYONE knows that. But it is a great story! Far better than most smut out there today. If it generates Christian discussion then all the better. Personally, I would love for him to put a note in my box! Do I depend on that - No! But you better believe I know he can.

3:38 AM  
Blogger Chris Grissom said...

For those bashing yoga, do you celebrate Christmas and Easter? Both holidays can easily be traced back to pagan beginnings. It's like a vegan who wears leather shoes. Christmas and Easter are planks in millions of Christians eyes. If you want to call out yoga, then Christmas and Easter must be next in line.

8:39 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow! What a debate! I am condidering going back to my Christian faith, but it doesn't seem like anything has changed. I wandered away from it because of all of the judgement and self righteousness and it's still going strong. I wonder what Joel Osteen would say about this debate.

6:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lol you guys. I believe every believer has the Holy Spirit (the Teacher) residing and functional inside of you.
And if you read/hear a message (that is from God), The Spirit bears witness with it.
So i don't understand the argument. This isn't about your justification for doing yoga or not. Question is: What is The Holy Spirit saying to you concerning this?

1:25 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

@ Anonymous that left the Christian faith. The way you are talking is as if you believe you were doing people a favour by being a Christian. No Sir/Ma. When you give your life to Christ, You start a PERSONAL(1 right choice after the other, working out ur salvation, walking in the spirit) journey with Jesus. yeah you have pastors, mentor, brethren but still the journery stays PERSONAL. so biko(please), stop thinking religion, its a personal relationship with God.
Afy

1:33 AM  

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