SHOULD A CHRISTIAN PRACTICE YOGA?

Greetings,

You might ask why and how on earth I came up with this topic? Well, here’s why. In the month of December 2019 on our monthly Eastland Bible Study (EBS) that happens on every 3rd Wednesday of the month, we tackled a topic “Mental Health” which turned to be a very heated topic, and I can say we really had a very long and interesting conversation around it, we literally had to stop the conversation due to the time factor, (considering we were using a commercial hall as it was given for a specific time). So there were questions raised later on our EBS whatsapp group from that topic and one of them was “Is it okay for a Christian to practice YOGA? To answer this question I have prepared the following.

I think the best place to start is defining yoga. What is yoga? According to Webster’s New World Dictionary, yoga is “a mystic and ascetic Hindu discipline for achieving union with the supreme spirit through intense concentration, deep meditation, and practices involving prescribed postures, controlled breathing, etc.” Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary defines yoga as a “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.

Paramhansa Yogananda, an Indian monk, a yogi and a guru came to America in the 1920s wearing a cross, with the Hindu religious text, the Bhagavad Gita (a sacred book for Hindus), in one hand and the Bible in the other. He said that “yoga was the binding force that could connect all religions”.  Subhas R. Tiwari a Professor of Hindu University of America in answering a question asked by a journalist about his view on whether ‘christian yoga’ is still ‘yoga’ had this to say, “The simple, immutable fact is that yoga originated from the Vedic or Hindu culture. Its techniques were not adopted by Hinduism, but originated from it. These facts need to be unequivocally stated in light of some of the things being written to the contrary by yoga teachers. The effort to separate yoga from Hinduism must be challenged because it runs counter to the fundamental principles upon which yoga itself is premised, the yamas (restraints) and niyamas (observances). These ethical tenets and religious practices are the first two limbs of the eight-limbed ashtanga yoga system which also includes asana (postures), pranayama (breath control), pratyahara (sense withdrawal), dharana (concentration), dhyana (meditation) and samadhi (contemplation/Self Realization). Efforts to separate yoga from its spiritual center reveal ignorance of the goal of yoga.” (Tiwari, 2006)  If you want to view his whole response you can do that here (https://www.hinduismtoday.com/modules/smartsection/item.php?itemid=1456)

A question I’d pose to us today is, should a Christian feel free to engage in yoga, a pagan spiritual practices? And what does the Bible says about it?

Albert Mohler an American historical theologian and the 9th president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky pointed out that “Christians in the early 20th century would have been shocked that any Christian would even consider attempting to adopt a Hindu spiritual exercise. Today, however, many of us have adopted it to such an extent that we now defend it with the same ferocity that we defend our faith itself. There are some who seem defend it with even more ferocity.” (Andros, 2018) Deuteronomy 12:31 warns us against involving ourselves with any pagan practices for it is an abomination to the LORD. To run away from this fact, some Christians have tried to Christianize yoga practice. Is it really possible to do that? Professor Tiwari as seen in his response above thinks you cannot, he says even if yoga is baptized with a Christian name before it, still it will remains Hindu. But some would that we can combine the postures , breathing and other inherent spirituality with Christianity, in other words borrowing the practice only but at the same time be loyal to Christ! But let me ask, Can we separate the Hindu spirituality with its practices and exercises? I don’t think so. Trying to Christianize yoga is like trying to Christianize Hindu religion! You can’t take the practice and leave the teaching, rather that will be mixing both the religions which makes it Syncretism. This is very dangerous for Christians to do because God has already set the standards on how to worship i.e ‘in spirit’ and ‘in truth’ (John 4:23) and yoga isn’t anything like ‘in spirit and in truth’. Practicing yoga is trying to worship the one true God, Jehovah through an idolatrous worship that emerged from a lie that nature is god! Depart from such practices!

Dr Laurette Willies, the founder and Director of PraiseMoves Fitness Ministry, and also a former yoga enthusiast and yoga instructor in her interview with Julie Roys gave her testimony on she managed to come out of the deception of yoga. She said that she joined yoga at the age of 7 years with her mother and did it for 22 years. Both of them later became instructors of yoga and they did it passionately. She proceeded to say that her time in yoga although they were both still going to church it did not solidify their relationship with Jesus Christ but only moved them far away from Him. She insisted that yoga only created more confusion to her and in turn introduced her to the new age community. The sad thing is, her mother who was a yoga instructor committed suicide and that became her turning point. We thank God for her because she has been used by God to enlighten us more about yoga that is not possibly taught in classes. One thing that former yoga instructors have agreed is the fact that the positions, the breathing and the philosophy that imbues yoga are deeply religious. They are not just mere physical exercises for the muscles.

Hinduism where yoga originated from is classified as a pantheistic religion that teaches that god is in everything and everything is god. The Bible teaches that God the creator of everything in heaven and on earth, seen and unseen things, including spiritual powers, lords, rulers, and authorities is transcendent and distinct from His creation, He is not creation and creation is not Him. Pantheistic worldview if I may call it so is not only unbiblical but anti-Bible. On a normal class of yoga they use Sanskrit (consecrated or sanctified) words and an example of two Sanskrits are; ’Namaste’ meaning ‘the god in me honors the god in you’. Some have argued that the Holy Spirit dwells in all believers, and that’s true our bodies (believers’) are the temples of the Holy Spirit, there is no doubt about it, but the Holy Spirit cannot bow down to Himself in the other believers, He only honors the Father and the Son. The second Sanskrit is ‘yoga’ meaning ‘union with god’ or ‘to yoke’. Dr Laurette explained in her interview that postures and the techniques of yoga were designed to be offerings to the millions of Hindu gods but ultimately yoga was intended to yoke a person to the so called the ‘lord of yoga’ by the name Shiva is known as ‘The Destroyer’ or the ’god of death’ within the Trimurti, the Hindu trinity that includes Brahma (creator) and Vishnu (preserver). Shiva is also known as Adiyogi Shiva, regarded as the patron god of yoga, meditation and arts.

Yoga is one of the primary entry points into the new age thoughts and culture. New Age is a combination of several religions and has its foundation on pantheism. A Christian counselor has tied yoga with chaos and confusion when he said, “I’ve noticed a consistent pattern in my clients who are Christians and are involved in yoga, whether it is regular yoga or Christian yoga… their lives are marked with chaos and confusion.” Celeste Davis, the wellness workshop. By now you’ve noticed that I don’t support Christians to be involved in yoga at any time or for any reasons. The Bible tells us to do all things for the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31) and by all things, that includes exercises that we do. If you must meditate let it be upon the word of God. Paul urges us to present our bodies a living sacrifices, holy and acceptable unto God, which is our reasonable service. He also warns us to not be conformed to this world and its standards, but be constantly transformed by renewing our minds that we may prove that which is good, acceptable, and perfect will of God (Romans 12:1-2). Fortunately for those who love physical exercises, there are lots of resources and materials in the internet that can help you stretch your body and find flexibility. In your own time you can consider checking out praisemoves.com, they help you become a fit witness for Christ in spirit, soul and body by using the scriptures. Remember ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s. 1 Corinthians 6:20.

 

By John Mbuya N.

Published by Jonny

A Gospel Minister, Founder & Director Vim Africa Ltd, Trainer & Team Building Coach with a heart to see people transformed.

6 thoughts on “SHOULD A CHRISTIAN PRACTICE YOGA?

  1. What a factual article..i have heard arguments both for and against but never with facts. U have given me something to research further to be able to present this to my friends, thanks coz am now convinced that this is an unbiblical anti-christian practice.

    Like

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