In 2008, the periodical “Yoga in America” conducted a study and determined that 16 million adults in the U.S.A. practice yoga. Another 18 million Americans in the study said they do not practice yoga, but are very interested in it. With numbers that large, there are probably many Christians included in those groups. These facts bring up the questions, “Is yoga just good exercise?” and “Should Christians join a yoga class?”
Most Americans are involved with yoga undoubtedly because there are legitimate physical and emotional benefits associated with it. It has been documented that yoga can help people with general fitness, chronic pain, stress, insomnia, depression, and fatigue. There are also studies showing that people very skilled in yoga exercises and breathing techniques can alter their heart rate and brain waves.
The practice of yoga is very ancient. Archaeologists have found objects in India dating back to the Bronze Age that show deities in various poses resembling yoga positions.
The word yoga means “union”. It is an ancient Hindu practice from India designed to achieve spiritual growth and enlightenment. Its ultimate goal is for man to become one with “Brahman”, the Hindu god of the universe. This is achieved, in part, by various postures, exercises, breathing techniques, meditation, and chants. If a person can become “one” with Brahman, he can get off the spiritual merry-go-round of reincarnation, and defeat death.
At the very core of Hinduism is pantheism. This is the belief that god is not a personal being. Pantheism says that everything is god, including mankind. Everything is god, and god is everything.
So, the challenge for Christians, as I see it, is can they use yoga for only its health benefits, and successfully ignore and resist its philosophical, religious, and spiritual deceptions.
The following information about yoga and Hinduism might be of assistance to any Christian considering taking up or continuing yoga classes:
On the streets of India , people can be seen stopping in front of various statues of Hindu deities, and assuming a yoga position, as an offering to the god.
Yoga’s focus is on self, instead of God . A person hopes to improve his spiritual life through yoga practices, not through prayer and the Bible.
Reincarnation is an important aspect of yoga. Death and divine judgment are avoided in this belief system. Surveys indicate that today 23% of all Americans believe in reincarnation. For example, reincarnation is alive and well in Hollywood. Shirley MacLaine is sure she was a prostitute who was beheaded, in a former life. Sylvester Stallone believes that he might have previously been a monkey in Guatemala.
In yoga, Kundalini is energy or coiled power residing at the base of the spine. It is envisioned as a sleeping snake that can be made to move by pulling one’s tongue from side to side via a wrapped cloth. There are various yoga practices which allow the snake to move up one’s spine to the brain. Swami Vivekananda, a noted 19th century Indian Hindu monk, said that awakening the sleeping snake within us is the only way to attain Divine Wisdom. All types of yoga embrace kundalini power, which enables one to be like god, and not die.
To me, this sounds an awful lot like Genesis 3:4:
“You will not surely die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (NIV)
In my opinion, yoga is good exercise, but not just good exercise. It is part of a Hindu religion that denies the Lord Jesus Christ. I don’t think it is anything with which to mess around. Why take those kinds of chances?
Should Christians join a yoga class? Surely there are other great forms of exercise for Christians.
Two bible verses seem appropriate to conclude this blog:
“Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8 NIV)
“So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” (1 Corin. 10:31 NIV)