January 25, 2008
just a way of reducing stress or is there more to it than that? I
mean, everyone's doing it so it has to be a good thing…right? The
short answer is that there's more to yoga than meets the eye. So bear
with me as I explain the reasons practicing yoga "stretches
traditional Christian boundaries" and why Christians should avoid yoga
and seek other alternatives.
Yoga has gotten its
eight limbed arms into the "Christian West" and, amazingly, a large
number of Christians are participating in what has now been termed
"Christian yoga" (CY). Before you bend to the temptation to join a
class, ask yourself this question: Are Christians who practice yoga
going against the Bible?
Many won't like the
answer, but here it is anyway: The Bible says, "Have nothing to do
with the fruitless deeds but rather expose them." Exposing evil keeps
Christians from being "polluted by the world." And yes, yoga is evil.
Now, before you get your kickers in a knot and dash off an angry
email, allow me to enlighten you.
Yoga is being marketed
to mainline churches with the assurance of creating stress reduction,
developing self-confidence, and improving concentration. It is also
marketed to business and industry, athletes, senior citizens,
students, teens and adolescents. Because of our fast pace life-style,
who wouldn't want to reduce stress? Which is why yoga classes have
become so popular.
New here's the main
reason Christians should avoid yoga. Christian apologists John
Ankerberg and John Weldon maintain that, "The basic premise of yoga
theory is the fundamental unity of all existence: God, man, and all of
creation are ultimately one divine reality." To explain the basic
premise, the authors quote from an editorial in the Yoga Journal:
"We are all aware that yoga means
'union' and that the practice of yoga unites body, breath, and mind,
lower and higher energy centers and, ultimately self and God, or
higher Self. But more broadly, yoga directs our attention to the
unity or oneness that underlies our fragmented experiences and
equally fragmented world. Family, friends, the Druze guerrilla in
Lebanon, the great whale migrating north—all share the same
essential [divine] nature."
Reportedly there are
upward of 15 million yoga practitioners in the US so it would seem the
yoga craze is here to stay.
But Pope Benedict XVI is
not at all happy about the large number of Christians practicing yoga.
Recently he gave this warning: "Yoga can degenerate into the cult of
S. Michael Houdmann
thinks yoga is blatantly anti-Christian philosophy. "It teaches one to
focus on oneself instead of on the one true God. It encourages its
participants to seek the answers to life's difficult questions within
their own conscience instead of in the Word of God. It also leaves one
open to deception from God's enemy, who searches for victims that he
can turn away from God (1 Peter 5:8)."
And the purists aren't
happy either. They believe that yoga without spirituality isn't yoga
at all. Some Hindus complain that yoga with its Christian message just
doesn't work. "If you take a tree and chop it's roots off then you
don't have a tree." (Watch the video "Christian yoga sweeps the US" By
Believe it or not, there
are CY practitioners who advise their students that practicing yoga
can help draw the individual closer to God, improve spirituality,
create self-awareness and, blasphemy of all blasphemies, help devotees
find divinity within oneself. Take Parkwood Baptist Church in
Annandale, Va. For example. The following occurred during a yoga
"Marylyn Mandeville sits
crossed-legged on a mat in front of 11 of her students. Her hands
are folded as if in prayer, framed by the slogan on her T-shirt:
'Know Yoga, Know Peace.' A gold cross rests on the Om symbol
emblazoned on her shirt. 'Namaste,' she says to the class, bowing
deeply while offering the Sanskrit salutation 'I bow to the God
Incredibly, her pastor
had no problem with what she was teaching. In fact, he participated in
must know precisely what he or she is teaching the sheep entrusted to
him or her. Clearly, CY practitioners like Marilyn haven't done their
homework on Hinduism. Why is that, since Hinduism is the religion yoga
is rooted in?
Listen to occult and
cult expert, Caryl Matrisciana, who gives the reason God forbids His
people to partake in pagan practices. She says, "While the word 'Yoga'
isn't mentioned in the Bible, the idea of 'yoking' oneself to pagan
gods and concepts is forbidden as is adulating self's desire above
Christians will argue
that they only do the stretching and relaxation exercises. And since
they don't embrace all that "divinity within" stuff Hindu's believe
in, what's all the fuss about? They simply cannot wrap their minds
around the idea that yoga cannot be separated from its Hindu roots.
Matrisciana warns that
yoga postures, "are designed to form one's body into the likeness of
man, animals, birds, insects, snakes, fish, and many more--all of
which are revered as gods in Hinduism."
Hollywood is responsible
for many of today's trends and has gotten into the act. Actress Janine
Turner, a professing Christian, is hyping an exercise program that
combines yoga moves with Christian meditation.
"As a dancer, Janine Turner loved
the physical benefits of yoga. As a Christian, she didn't connect
with yoga's roots in Eastern spirituality. Now she's found a middle
The middle way Turner
discovered is "Christoga." (Watch
the "Christoga" trailer)
Mary Cunningham, a Hatha
yoga instructor, wanted to do CY and approached Turner with the idea.
She bought into it hook line and sinker. In an interview with Mary
Jacobs of UM News, Turner was asked if yoga conflicts with
Christianity. She replied that she wouldn't be afraid to go to a yoga
class but admitted that "there are a lot of Christians that are, and
there are churches that are. Yoga was inspired by Eastern religions.
What's wonderful is that it works the body and the soul. I think that
if Christians are going to do yoga, and if it is going to be
spiritual, they'd like to be secure in knowing that it's a
spirituality that they endorse."
Essentially what Turner
is saying is that if Christians are going to do yoga anyway, then it
should be made more palatable for those who are afraid of it. So she
and Mary Cunningham put their heads together and came up with the
catchy name "Christoga."
In my article "Christian
Yoga? C'mon!" I made the comment that,
"Many Christians have been duped
into thinking that yoga is just relaxation and exercise. Nothing
could be further from the truth. Classical yoga is intended to put
one into an altered state of consciousness. Believers who think
they're 'just exercising' are being swept into a counterfeit
One can only hope Janine
Turner will wise up.
And the same goes for
Shelley Pagitt. Shelley is the wife of controversial Emerging Church
"guru" Doug Pagitt. Shelley will be leading a CY class at Zondervan's
2008 National Pastors Convention. On the website we discover that
attendees are welcome to join Shelley "for a time of prayer,
stretching, and meditative reflection as you begin your day at the
CY is being offered to
Church leaders and no one has a problem with it?
In a September 2007 CNN
Primetime News interview  (Must watch!) Doug
Pagitt and John MacArthur were asked "Should Christians practice
yoga?" As space is limited, I'll summarize the interview. Doug Pagitt
pastors a church that offers CY. During the exchange, he stated that
in his view those who practice yoga are looking for a whole, complete
and healed life. "Yoga can be a positive thing in our lives," he
asserts. And of all the people he knows who practice yoga, none of
them ever found themselves opened up to something negative or demonic
or evil. (But Pagitt's dead wrong! A number of people have been
negatively affected by yoga. More on this later.) The host asked
Pagitt what Jesus would think about yoga. He replied that even though
yoga predates Christ by a few thousand years, He never spoke against
it. (What Padgitt seems to forget is that Jesus didn't speak against a
number of things He certainly would have disapproved of.) We also
learn from Pagitt that he believes Christianity and yoga are not in
competition with each other and are not enemies of one another.
I mean really. This is
unbelievable. Is Pastor Pagitt unfamiliar with what the Apostle Paul
said in Eph. 6:10-13? He warned of demonic interference in the lives
of believers – and he was not kidding around, nnbsp; Putting on the
full Armor of God is imperative for God's people! "Finally, be strong
in the Lord and in his mighty power," Paul admonished. "Put on the
full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's
schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against
the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark
world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.
Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil
comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done
everything, to stand."
Authentic Christians are
to stand against evil, not engage in it!
As for John MacArthur,
he wondered why Christians would want to "borrow a term that is part
of a false religion" (that clashes with historic orthodox
Christianity). MacArthur contends that Christians shouldn't put
themselves in weird physical positions, empty their minds, focus on
him or herself, and try to find the "god within" as a way to relieve
stress. "This is practicing a false religion," he said rather
pointedly. Then he boldly shared the gospel. He said in order to have
a whole and complete life Christians must go to the Word of God, to
the Gospel of Jesus Christ. "The idea of Christianity is to fill your
mind with biblical truth and focus on the God which is above you."
With all due respect, I
found Pastor Pagitt's remarks disturbing -- especially the unkind
remarks he made about John MacArthur to the CNN camera operator
following the interview. (Watch the video to the end.) However, his
comments on yoga aren't all that surprising as Pagitt is a
"Progressive Christian." Most progressives (liberals) disagree with
those who hold that the Bible is the literal inerrant Word of God.
Thus, they are free to bend it and twist it and shape it into their
Another troubling aspect
of yoga is that it can lead to involvement in meditation. "What harm
is there in achieving a higher state of consciousness through
meditation?" queries Douglas Groothuis in his article "Dangerous
Meditations." His answer should give those who practice CY cause for
"Eastern mystics claim that divine
realities are utterly beyond words, thought, and personality. In
order to find 'enlightenment,' one must extinguish one's critical
capacities -- something the Bible never calls us to do (Rom.
12:1-2). In fact, suspending our critical capacities through
meditation opens the soul to deception and even to spiritual
"The biblical worldview is
completely at odds with the pantheistic concepts driving Eastern
meditation. We are not one with an impersonal absolute being that is
called 'God.' Rather, we are estranged from the true personal God
because of our 'true moral guilt,' as Francis Schaeffer says.
"No amount of chanting, breathing,
visualizing, or physical contortions will melt away the sin that
separates us from the Lord of the cosmos—however 'peaceful' these
practices may feel. Moreover, Paul warns that 'Satan himself
masquerades as an angel of light' (2 Cor. 11:14). 'Pleasant'
experiences may be portals to peril. Even yoga teachers warn that
yoga may open one up to spiritual and physical maladies."
Mantra meditation is
unbiblical. Moreover, it matters not what Doug Pagitt has observed,
yoga meditation can be dangerous.
Groothuis goes on to
"The biblical concept of prayer
assumes that rational and meaningful communication between God and
humans is possible. There is no summons to suspend rational judgment
even when prayer through the Holy Spirit is 'with groans that words
cannot express' (Rom. 8:26)."
I've got a couple of
questions for CY practitioners. Do you really know what you're talking
about? (1 Tim. 1:7) Are you teaching yoga to build up the Body of
Christ (Ephesians 4:10-12)?
Consider what James 3:1
says, "Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers,
because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly"
For those who desire to
keep in shape join a stretch class! Or take a long walk and while
walking, pray! And remember, "Friendship with the world is hatred
toward God." Jesus tells us, "If the world hates you, keep in mind
that it hated me first."
Give us Your Thoughts on this Article
Yoga Theory and Practice: Separable? -- Part 1 by Dr. John
Ankerberg, Dr. John Weldon
Christian Yoga Sweeps the US—BBC News
Stretches Traditional Christian Boundaries By Alexandra Alter
Christian meditation, yoga unite on DVD By Mary Jacobs
trailer – Westlake Entertainment
Yoga? C'mon!" By Marsha West
7, No Yoga for Christians?
Prime News interview with John MacArthur & Doug Pagitt
Dangerous Meditations By Douglas Groothuis