Aatmik Sandesh Blogs

Should or can Christians practice YOGA?

What is Yoga?

Yoga is the rave at the gym for GenX and symphony at the concert for aged, with some men and women, ignorantly and innocently signing up to practice yoga, day-dreaming of the perfect figure they saw in the advertisement where a supermodel was posing in Yoga posture seeming convincing of perfect health (who I am sure did not attain such figure by Yoga). One may allude to its popularity to another lifestyle to help you lose weight or balance your life, but do they actually know the origins of yoga? I would not want to push you to take my decision for you; however, before making a conclusion on whether to do yoga or not, I recommend you to take a deep look at the facts given below.

Yoga is a spiritual science of self-realization. It comes from India and goes back over five thousand of years. The Indian sage Pantajali, in his Yoga sutras defines yoga as the control of the activities of the mind. Yoga methods encompass the entire field of our existence, from the physical, emotional and mental to the spiritual. Its methods include ethical disciplines, physical postures, breath control, as well as meditation.

Kundalini which is an integral part of Yoga, literally means “coiled”. In Indian yoga, a “corporeal energy” – an unconscious, instinctive or libidinal force or Shakti, envisioned either as a goddess or else as a sleeping serpent coiled at the base of the spine, hence a number of English renderings of the term such as ‘serpent power’. Kundalini is considered a part of the subtle body along with chakras (energy centres) and nadis (channels). Each chakra is said to contain special characteristics.

Hello!! Wake up! Are you getting it?

Yoga and Tantra propose that this energy may be “awakened” by such means as austerities, breath and other physical exercises, visualization and chanting. It may then rise up a subtle channel at the spine (called Sushumna) to the head, bringing psychological illumination.

Ancient Yogis had a belief that in order for man to be in harmony with himself and his environment (or god), he has to integrate the body, the mind, and the spirit. For these three to be integrated, emotion, action, and intelligence must be in balance. The Yogis formulated a way to achieve and maintain this balance and it is done through exercise, breathing, and Meditation – the three main Yoga structures.

Postures have names such as Savasana (the Corpse Pose) and Bhujangasana (the Cobra or Snake Pose). References are made to chakras or “power centers” in the body, such as the “third eye.” The relaxation and visualization session at the end of yoga classes is skillfully designed to “empty the mind” and can open one up to harmful spiritual influences.

What Christians must know?

As Christians, you are instructed to “be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:2), not the emptying of your mind. Many believe that transformation process occurs as we meditate and feed on the Word of God – renewing our minds by filling them with God’s thoughts, not emptying them or filling them with the prideful thoughts of man.

It seems the enemy has a counterfeit for almost everything the Lord offers. While mind-numbing tranquility may feel good for a time, it’s a poor substitute for the “peace which surpasses all understanding” (Philippians 4:7).

According to Wikipedia, The Sanskrit word yoga has many meanings, and is derived from the Sanskrit root yuj, meaning “to control”, “to yoke” or “to unite”. Translations include “joining”, “uniting”, “union”, “conjunction”, and “means”. According to this definition, selecting yoga itself is a choice in which we are primarily agreeing to unite or yoke yourself with certain powers which we are not supposed to. Bible exhorts us not to yoke ourselves (2 Corinthians 6:14) with unbelievers (or practices of unbelief) and also not to be conformed to the patterns of the world (Romans 12:2a).

Laurette Willis, an American exercise instructor, taught and practiced yoga for 22 years before her conversion to evangelical Christianity. “I don’t think it is possible to subtract the spiritual element from yoga,” she says. “Webster’s Dictionary defines yoga as ‘an ascetic Hindu discipline’ and yoga postures derive from gestures of offering traditionally made to Hindu gods, while the pranayama breathing techniques used involve a manipulation of energy that, according to Ephesians 2:2, Christians are not supposed to do.”

We get inclined towards yoga with an intention of having our body (and mind) strengthened, while Bible says that joy of the Lord is our strength (Nehemiah 8:10) and we can do all things through him who strengthens us (Philippians 4:13). I feel we are compromising on our belief in Jesus Christ when we are looking for external sources (except Christ alone) for our peace, healing, health or whatever is your objective behind practicing yoga.

By this, in no way, I am trying to undervalue the importance of exercise in our physical life. We MUST exercise and can include various body forms of slower exercise which look similar to yoga poses as well may choose to do high energy aerobics (joggin/walking etc) and anerobics (weight-lifting etc) exercise in our daily routines for high metabolism and a healthy body. Our concern is only about the spiritual aspect where unspiritual gets an entry through our deliberate surrender to a spiritual matters.

On the plains of Moab, Moses shared God’s decrees and laws that the Israelites were to follow before they could enter the Promised land in Deutronomy 12:1-4 saying that they must CAREFULLY observe them (the Word of God for us) in the new land (our new faith). After setting theses rules, God guided His people (born again believers today) on how they must worship him and be led by Him. The warning was primarily to avoid being ensnared in the practices of the pagans.

Israelites victory lied in once secret – following the law of the Lord, without deviation to left or right (that is – no compromise). However, later, after Moses’ death, when Joshua started leading God’s people, God gave commandment (Joshua 6:17-19) to not collect cursed things after winning the battle, yet one of the Israelites brought some accursed thing (Joshua 7:20-25) from the ruins of the Jericho (Joshua 7:11-12) and thus brought defeat and death in war (Joshua 7:5) to the Israelites.

We need to examine ourselves if we are carrying something accursed in our lives. Are we compromising on the ways God wants us to live our life (by faith and not by sight)? One who does not consider the Word of God as perfect nor does he follow it, falls in the bondage and failures (Psalm 107:10-12) and looses his blessings which comes from God.

Conclusion

Yoga may appear harmless (though spiritually speaking – it is not) or even physically beneficial, but primarily it is a pagan practice and it is encouraging people to think that there is a way to wholeness of body and mind through human techniques – whereas the only true way to wholeness is by faith in God through Jesus Christ. I understand yoga as ‘the missionary arm of Hinduism and the New Age movement.’ We don’t often think of other religions having missionaries, but the philosophy and practice of yoga have been primary tools of Hindu “missionaries” since ages and subtly they have captured millions of westerners already who have the book of God in their hands but the practice of pagans in their hearts.

As far as peace of mind and curing of illness is concerned, Jesus is the only way. He healed the sick and offered his own peace which cannot be earned or obtained by attaining any kind of physical assets, namely health and wealth. If a good and healthy lifestyle is a concern, whichever intensity exercise you include your routine will boost your metabolism and keep you healthy, in addition to other valuable changes in your eating habits and sleeping patters that you must bring in.

Give thanks in everything (1 Thessalonians 5:18). Can you thank God for yoga? Can you embrace it after knowing it all?

You decide for yourself. Pray that God may lead you and go ahead. God bless.