“Christian Yoga”? No, Yoga and Christianity Do Not Mix
by Dr. Laurette Willis, Founder of PraiseMoves Fitness Ministry
As a child growing up on Long Island, I was quick to entertain–I was also quick to follow my mother into the practice of yoga (we'd not heard of so-called “Christian yoga” yet). We both thought yoga was “only exercise.”
Yoga is not “just exercise.” You may even be familiar with so-called “Christian yoga” which is VERY different from PraiseMoves, the Christian ALTERNATIVE to yoga.
Yoga seems to be everywhere. In ads for everything from IT to ice cream, meditative supermodels sit cross-legged in the Hindu Lotus position, contemplating “nirvana.”
There are yoga videos for pregnant mothers, senior citizens, toddlers, and babies – even yoga with your dog, goat, or snake! There's “RAGE Yoga” where people scream obscenities and drink beer while doing yoga exercises. No, I'm not making that up.
People are so hungry for a spiritual experience there is even Yoga in the GRAVEYARD?!!! Yes, believe-it-or-not, there is a practice called “Yoga Mortis” – yes, like rigor mortis.
You can work out with yoga straps, blocks, bolsters, and balls. The well-dressed yoga practitioner can wear her loose-fitting yoga togs, carry her yoga mat in her matching yoga tote and dress her daughter in stylish yoga pants (featuring her favorite cartoon character).
Yoga in the Mainstream
Over the last several decades, yoga has been embraced by the mainstream of society – and even the church.
We find yoga classes offered at YWCAs, church fellowship halls, and even elementary schools. There are close to 40 million people practicing yoga in the U.S., over 52,000 Yoga teachers and over 18,000 yoga schools registered with the Yoga Alliance (Yoga Journal and Yoga Alliance 2016).
Yoga is the Missionary Arm of Hinduism and New Age Spirituality
As a child growing up on Long Island, I became involved with yoga at the age of seven when my mother and I began watching a daily yoga exercise program on television.
My mother, an attorney (and the first woman to become an Assistant District Attorney on Long Island), enjoyed yoga so much that she became a yoga instructor and gave free classes to small classes of college students in our home. I was the little “demonstration model” and loved the attention!
For the next 22 years, I was heavily involved with yoga, metaphysics and New Age spirituality until I came to the end of myself and surrendered my life to Jesus Christ.
I call yoga “the missionary arm of Hinduism and the New Age movement” — and I'm not the only one.
Swami Sivasiva Palani in his January 1991 “Open Letter to Evangelicals” in Hinduism Today, yoga instructors are “Yoga Missionaries.”
“A small army of yoga missionaries – Hatha yoga (the form of yoga taught in most fitness centers and churches), Raja, Siddha, and Kundalini (other forms of yoga) – beautifully trained in the last 10 years, is about to set upon the western world,” wrote Swami Palani.
“They may not call themselves Hindu, but Hindus know where yoga came from and where it goes,” Swami Palani said.
These concerns have caused many to wonder what they can do as a yoga alternative–stretching exercises? Or are there some kind of “Christian moves” that could serve as an alternative to yoga?
IS there such as thing as yoga for Christians? No. And here's why…
Yogis are Surrendered “Fully unto me” (said Hindu god Krishna)
In the West, the term “yogi” is used to refer to anyone who practices yoga. However, in the Bhagavad-Gita, the god Krishna says that the true yogi is one who has surrendered himself “fully unto me.”
Besides these historical pieces of evidence, I can clearly state from my own experiences and those of many I knew while in the New Age movement, yoga class was the door that led us into the New Age Movement.
What is New Age Spirituality?
New Age is a combination of a number of religions and has as its foundation pantheism (the doctrine that all forces, manifestations, etc. of the universe are God; also, the worship of all gods) and astrology (the belief that the positions of the sun, moon, stars, and planets guide or affect human affairs, and can foretell the future).
According to Swami Vishnudevananda, one of yoga’s most influential leaders, hatha yoga “prescribes physical methods to begin … so that the student can manipulate the mind more easily as he advances, attaining communication with one’s higher self.”
Yoga Poses are “Offerings to the 330 million Hindu gods”
How can that be?
“Yoga is Hinduism,” said Subhas Tiwari, Professor of Yoga Philosophy and Meditation. “Efforts to separate yoga from its spiritual center reveal ignorance of the goal of yoga.” –Subhas Tiwari, Professor of Yoga Philosophy and Meditation at the Hindu University of America in Orlando, FL (Hinduism Today – Sept. 2009).
So, How is PraiseMoves Different from Yoga?
Certified PraiseMoves Instructors offer PraiseMoves, the Christian ALTERNATIVE to Yoga at churches, fitness centers, retreats and conferences, schools, retirement centers and elsewhere in their communities.
If you'd like to know how you can become a Certified PraiseMoves Instructor yourself, here you can enjoy Dr. Laurette's Fitness Ministry webinar replay.
If You Wonder “Do Yoga and Christianity Mix?”
Yoga's Beginnings in America
We don’t often think of other religions having missionaries, but the philosophy and practice of yoga have been primary tools of Hindu “missionaries” to America since “Indian priest and mystic” Swami Vivekananda introduced yoga to the West at the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago.
Interestingly, Swami Vivekananda is attributed with the idea of combining the theory of “evolution of the soul” with his teachings of Hinduism.
Instead of working out one’s “karma” by becoming a grasshopper, ant or human in progressive lives, he taught an “evolution of the soul” whereby the individual continues in an evolutionary process to “manifest the god within.”
Apparently, he understood that Americans wouldn’t buy into the traditional Hindu belief in reincarnation. Not many westerners could imagine they would ever come back as a lower form of life. A higher form of life perhaps, but certainly not a lower one. 🙄
Have you noticed how many people – even Christians – believe in reincarnation? One can just keep coming back until they get it right.
Sadly, this false teaching leads people away from the necessity for a Savior. And if we progressively get better with each life, why aren’t we all living in Blissville now?
Some consider this Hindu belief a theory to be embraced. Interestingly, definitions of “theory” in Webster’s include, “a speculative plan, conjecture or guess.” Do you remember when evolution used to be called the “theory of evolution?” It’s seldom called a “theory” any longer outside of Christian circles.
Yoga Connects Christianity and Hinduism?
Another Hindu missionary welcomed into elite circles was Paramhansa Yogananda who started the Self-Realization Fellowship in Los Angeles.
Yogananda cleverly chose to demonstrate that yoga was completely compatible with Christianity. Wearing a cross, he came to America in the 1920s with the Hindu religious text, the Bhagavad Gita, in one hand and the Bible in the other.
He reasoned that yoga was the binding force that could connect all religions.
From experience, I can say that yoga is a dangerous practice for Christians and leads seekers away from God rather than to Him. You may say, “Well, I’m not doing any of the meditation stuff. I’m just following the exercises.”
I know because I taught and practiced hatha yoga for years. Hatha yoga is the most popular yoga style available on store-bought videos and in most gyms. For an eye-opening account of the background and meaning of “hatha yoga,” please see my notes at the bottom of this page.
Perhaps you have sensed uneasiness while doing yoga (what some call a “check in your spirit”), but you ignored that quiet nudge. I urge you to pay attention to it. Jesus Himself said, “…the sheep follow Him, for they know His voice” (John 10:4).
The Namaste' Gateway?
|The yoga mudra (hand gesture or “gateway”) for Namaste (“I bow to the divine in you”), is a Hindu gesture that pre-dates Christianity. The Bible speaks of praying with uplifted hands or “hands spread up toward heaven” (1 Kings 8: 22 and 54; 1 Chronicles 6:13) “Let my prayer be set before You as incense, The lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice” Psalm 145:1|
Your yoga teacher may bow to her class saying, “Namaste” (“I bow to the divine in you.”).
This gesture done with the palms of the hands together is called a “mudra.”
According to the Yoga Journal:
“Mudra means ‘seal,' ‘gesture,' or ‘mark.' Yoga mudras are symbolic gestures often practiced with the hands and fingers. They facilitate the flow of energy in the subtle body and enhance one's journey within.”
The gesture done with palms together is known as the Prayer Mudra, or Anjali Mudra in Sanskrit. It is known as the heart seal.
I'd rather be sealed by the Holy Spirit of God. “Now He who establishes us with you in Christ and has anointed us is God, 22 who also has sealed us and given us the Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee” (2 Corinthians 1:21).
Another common mudra is called the Gyan Mudra — the placement of index fingertips to thumbs — used in many meditation practices. Practitioners teach mudras are a “gateway” to spiritual enlightenment–or demonic influence (which I call “endarkenment“).
Jesus said, “But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is that darkness!” (Matt. 6:23).
Poses and Chakras and gods–oh my!
According to Dr. George Alexander, former Professor of World Religions at Biola University, Yoga Poses are “Offerings to the 330 Million Hindu gods.”
Do you see a “twisting” of Romans 12:1 where we are encouraged to “Present your body a living sacrifice…”?
“Abstain from things offered to idols” we're told in Acts 15:29. Would you say yoga poses are “things”? And are Hindu gods “idols”?
Even some so-called “Christian yoga” practices keep these poses in their classes (with Christian music in the background, which apparently makes them okay?).
In PraiseMoves, we are very careful to let people know we are not yoga or so-called “Christian yoga” (an oxymoron, like a “Christian Buddhist” — no such thing!).
PraiseMoves is the Christian ALTERNATIVE to yoga. Check out my debate on Moody Radio about the difference between PraiseMoves and so-called “Christian yoga” here.
When I Taught Yoga Classes as a New Ager
Before I came to Christ I taught yoga classes and attended numerous yoga classes at ashrams, fitness centers, yoga studios, gyms, New Age communities — even churches! References were made to chakras or “power centers” in the body, such as the “third eye.” Raising the kundalini (serpent energy) was promoted and sought.
The breathing done in yoga, pranayama, involves what some call the “manipulation of prana (life force energy).” Yoga instructors invite their students to “inhale, drawing in the positive energy of the universe through the top of your head–now exhale and send any negative thoughts and energy out through the soles of your feet…”
This is not an innocent physical practice. It involves dabbling in the spiritual realm — and most practitioners don't even realize that is what they are doing!
Prana's counterpart in other mystical and martial arts traditions is “chi” (Tai Chi), “ki” (karate) and “mana” (Hawaiian Huna religion). Could there be other dangers involved in yoga and Tai Chi?
These practices open one up to spiritual influences even if they say they are not doing “all that chanting and meditation stuff…”
Remember Paul the apostle, under the influence of the Holy Spirit, called Satan “the prince of the power of the air” in Ephesians 2:2 — and he wasn't speaking about oxygen or the physical atmosphere.
For more information about the dangers of yoga, hear from a former yogi, a student of “The Maharishi, and Transcendental Meditation devotee HERE
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.
When I was a Yoga Instructor (before I came to Christ, during my 22 years in yoga, ages 7 to 29), the relaxation period at the end of yoga practice was when I shared my skewed beliefs. When students were relaxed, after an hour of being told “empty your mind,” they were defenseless targets for the enemy's New Age religion which I spouted.
As Christians, we are instructed to “be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:2), not the emptying of your mind.
Many believe that the 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.
For an enlightening article and brief video on what the Bible says meditation REALLY is — and the dangers inherent within “creative visualization,” “contemplative prayer” and even what some are calling “Christian meditation” see Christian Meditation: What Is It?
CAUSING A BROTHER OR SISTER TO “STUMBLE”?
We are an example to others. There are young believers and unbelievers watching you.
Keep in mind that yoga postures are “offerings to the 330 million Hindu gods,” according to Dr. George Alexander, and Acts 15:29 admonishes us to “abstain from things offered to idols.”
Quoting from 1 Corinthians 8:1, 9-13 – be forewarned this is hard to read:
“Now concerning things offered to idols: We know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge puffs up (makes arrogant), but love edifies (builds up). But beware lest somehow this liberty of yours become a stumbling block to those who are weak. For if anyone sees you who have knowledge eating in an idol’s temple, will not the conscience of him who is weak be emboldened to eat those things offered to idols? And because of your knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died? But when you thus sin against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ. Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never again eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble.”
Are we our sister and brother's keeper (Genesis 4:9)?
“Yoga…It’s just exercise…right?” Or is it?
For more, please see “Yoga is Religion” by L. G. Marshall, a former yogi.