Yoga & Christianity

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It was a normal YouTube day, I mean the days you feel bored, you have fast internet, tons of suggestions that wouldn’t cease to appear on the right sidebar and a struggling mind thinking of what to watch. I realized that one of my core resolutions in 2016 was to be a very early riser. I started my search. I typed the words ‘Reduce Sleep’ on the YouTube search tab and the top video on the list was from Sadh Guru, A renowned Guru known for starting the Isha Foundation. I start watching the video.

The Guru, with a soft spoken voice explains why our bodies do not need sleep, he says that we only need rest. He continues to say that even when seated in the correct posture we can get rest. His convincing voice moves me when he says that all we need for our bodies is for them to be at ease. He advocates for meditation and the practice of Yoga in his video. I get excited and rush to click a suggestion on my right on Beginner Yoga Practices.

After the illustration of the asana, physical and pranayana, breathing exercises, I suddenly feel wrong about it. I go back to the search tab and type, ‘yoga christianity’ A video from Purvigiggle channel  is the first in the list., ‘Think you can be Christian and do Yoga? PLS LISTEN TO THIS!’I start watching the 1hr 51mins video and what ends up from that is this post.

I decided to do some research. I went and dug more into the controversies and deception of this practice from. From the Old Yoga practices to the New Age Yoga and the ‘Christian’ Yoga.

History of Yoga

The Wikipedia defines yoga as;

Yoga (/ˈjɡə/; Sanskrit, Listen) is a physical, mental, and spiritual practice or discipline which originated in India. There is a broad variety of schools, practices, and goals in Hinduism, Buddhism (particularly Vajrayana Buddhism), and Jainism. The most well-known types of yoga are Hatha yoga and Rāja yoga.

The Relevant Magazine says Yoga is Hinduism.

The term “yoga” (from the Sanskrit word yuj, which means “yoke” or “to unite,” as in uniting the body, mind and spirit) was first used in Hindu texts in the fifth century BC. Yoga originated in Hinduism, and remains a large part of some Hindu practices today.

Snippets from the Wikipedia say that Yoga in Indian traditions, however, is more than physical exercise, it has a meditative and spiritual core.

Goals of Yoga

According to David Gordon White, from the 5th century CE onward, the core principles of “yoga” were more or less in place, and variations of these principles developed in various forms over time:

  1. Yoga as an analysis of perception and cognition; illustration of this principle is found in Hindu texts such as the Bhagavad Gita and Yogasutras, as well as a number of Buddhist Mahāyāna works;
  2. Yoga as the rising and expansion of consciousness; these are discussed in sources such as Hinduism Epic Mahābhārata, Jainism Praśamaratiprakarana;
  3. Yoga as a path to omniscience; examples are found in Hinduism Nyaya and Vaisesika school texts as well as Buddhism Mādhyamaka texts, but in different ways;
  4. Yoga as a technique for entering into other bodies, generating multiple bodies, and the attainment of other supernatural accomplishments; these are described in Tantric literature of Hinduism and Buddhism, as well as the Buddhist Sāmaññaphalasutta;

I was intrigued by the word omniscience I found it defined as;

Omniscience /ɒmˈnɪʃəns/, mainly in religion, is the capacity to know everything that there is to know. In particular, Hinduism and the Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) believe that there is a divine being who is omniscient.

According to David Gordon White the 3rd goal defines Yoga as a path to omniscience which may also be defined as infinite knowledge. This relates Yoga’s main goal as one being a deity or a god.

The two main commonly practices of yoga are Hatha Yoga for the beginner and Kundalini Yoga for the spiritual seeker.

Hatha Yoga is defined in Wikipedia as;

Hatha yoga (Sanskrit haṭhayoga, also called Haṭhavidyā , is a branch of yoga. The word haṭha (lit. “force”) denotes a system of physical techniques supplementary to a broad conception of yoga. Hindu tradition believes that the deity Shiva himself is the founder of hatha yoga.

Kundalini Yoga in turn is defined as;

Kundalini Yoga (Sanskrit kuṇḍalinī-yoga), also known as laya yoga, is a school of yoga that is influenced by Shaktism and Tantra. It derives its name through a focus on awakening kundalini energy through regular practice of meditation, pranayama, chanting mantra and yoga asana. Called by practitioners “the yoga of awareness”, it aims “to cultivate the creative spiritual potential of a human to uphold values, speak truth, and focus on the compassion and consciousness needed to serve and heal others.”

Shaktism, is defined as;

Shaktism or Shaktidharma (Sanskrit: Śāktaṃ, शाक्तं; lit., “doctrine of power” or “doctrine of the Goddess”) is a denomination of Hinduism that focuses worship upon Shakti or Devi – the Hindu Divine Mother – as the absolute, ultimate Godhead.

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Tantra means;

Tantra, also called Tantrism and Tantric religion, is an ancient Hindu tradition of beliefs and meditation and ritual practices that seeks to channel the divine energy of the macrocosm or godhead into the human microcosm.

With all these definitions, you now clearly understand what Yoga is. You now deeply understand its goal.

The Controversy

Sources from the internet say that practicing Yoga’s physical exercises without chantings and invocations is safe. There are tons of information about Yoga’s medical benefits and how it saves lives. An example is an excerpt from the Breaking Point site.

Roots don’t determine everything

But do yoga’s undeniable origins in Eastern philosophy mean that Christians shouldn’t participate in yoga?

Let’s answer this question with another one: How many followers of Jesus Christ put up Christmas trees to celebrate the birth of Christ? According to the Encyclopedia Britannica and other sources, the origins of the Christmas tree are closely tied to pagan winter rites and even tree worship among pre-Christian Europeans. What did Christians do? They took something that had been used in pagan rituals (the tree) and re-interpreted it, giving it new meaning as a symbol of the Christian faith. There is even a story that Saint Boniface cut down an oak tree that German pagans were worshipping and replaced it with an evergreen tree, showing how its triangular shape reminded one of the Trinity and how it pointed to heaven.

Some of the most famous hymns of the Christian church have similarly dubious origins. Hymn composers such as Fannie Crosby and William Booth, founder of the Salvation Army, often turned to popular songs of the day as tunes for their hymns, simply changing the lyrics and hoping, in Booth’s case, to attract those on the street with familiar music. Some say Booth famously retorted to criticism of this practice with, “Why should the devil have all the best tunes?”

A comment on the same post adds strength to this

CommentWhile another expresses a different notion

Comment 1

Laurette Willis on the Praise Moves

Laurette Willis is an actress, singer, public speaker, personality trainer and author. She has in the past delved into deep spiritual Kundalini Yoga and no longer advocates for it. She testifies that since she stopped the practice and got saved, she has broken free of alcoholism and addiction.

According to an article in the CBN website, she had this to say on the Yoga postures;

“These are postures that are offered to the 330 million Hindu gods. Yoga postures really are; they are offerings to the gods. If you do these postures and you do this breathing technique and this meditation, then you will be accepted by a god, little “G.” That’s the real danger.”

“Romans 12:1-2 says we are to offer our bodies as a living sacrifice to God,” added Laurette. “Here they are doing something very similar with these postures to their 330 million gods, and it is scary. So we abstain from things offered to idols—Acts 15:29.”

Laurette is convinced that yoga and Hinduism are inextricably linked, and beyond that, there can be no such thing as Christian yoga.
“Christian yoga is an oxymoron,” said Laurette. “It is like saying someone is a Christian Buddhist or a Christian Hindu. What some people are doing is that they are trying to make yoga Christian. Even Hindus are saying that you cannot do that.”
Laurette then went ahead and invented the Praise Moves in which she wrote a book about, BASIC Steps to Godly Fitness (Harvest House, 2005) and on her DVD PraiseMoves (Harvest House, 2006).

PraiseMoves: The Christian Alternative to Yoga

Laurette remembers keenly the day God brought her the idea for PraiseMoves™. She says it was February 25, 2001 at 10:35 a.m., and she had just finished working out to a Denise Austin video. Laurette was contemplating in prayer an idea for a form of exercise besides aerobics that wouldn’t be yoga but that would be gentler on her 40-something body. “I thought that something would involve stretching and praising and moving and Scripture, and suddenly the idea of PraiseMoves™ came.”

Purvi (through her YouTube Video) claims that you cannot use the aspects of hatha Yoga, replace the chantings and invocations with Christian verses and call that Christian Yoga. She clearly states that you cannot also use the same physical exercises and fuse it with Christian aspects and you say you are not doing Yoga.

Purvi’s Story

Purvi narrates her story in her video talking of how she was deeply rooted in Yoga and meditation and ironically, she was a follower Sadh Guru. She talks of how enticing it was at first. She explains of the euphoria, the ecstatic felling that she felt when she started. She talks of how deep she went into the practice and how dedicated she was in the foundation that made her move from the United States to India. She practiced for 15 hours each day she got more deep into it. She awakened her Kundalini, (the serpent believed to be at the base of the spine) and she started falling ill. Read more on the effects of Kundalini awakening.

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She narrates the ill health that was creeping into her body. She got depressed, had weird body reactions and got bed-ridden. She talks of the weird ‘demonic auras’ she had and upon consulting her guru, she was told that it was because of her karma was high. She ended up neglected and had to come back home for treatment. She talks of all the diagnosis and treatment done on her weird ailment to no avail.

She had difficulty in eating and becomes reminiscent of a moment when she blurted to her mum in a voice that was not hers that she hates her and she will go down with her. She became suicidal with thoughts of death becoming the solace of her tragedy. She remembers of a time when she wanted to commit suicide by the railroad until a thought of researching about her condition online struck her.

She went to Google, the engine made for women. Ironically, all the answers she got pertained to Christianity. She hated Christianity since she was Indian. She neglected the output of her research at first but later she found herself implementing what she read. She then decided to buy a Bible, something her parents condemned her for. She read about Jesus and His sacrifice for man. She perfectly recalls the day she confessed and shouted the name ‘Jesus Christ.’ She says that she fell down trembling because of the power in the name. She says that the demons in her made her tremble and fall down.

Her spiritual journey went from just being a reader of the word to a doer. The God of the impossible made her well. She slowly started recovering from her ailment. She made a YouTube video about her testimony that went viral and she has grown in faith ever since speaking in forums about her experience.

In the video she says that you may be putting sheep’s clothing on a wolf. You may be covering the act with Bible verses but it doesn’t change the fact that you are covering a wolf. She says as Yoga means yoke, whom are you yoking to? She quotes Matthew 11:29 that says;

The term “yoga” (from the Sanskrit word yuj, which means “yoke” or “to unite,” as in uniting the body, mind and spirit) was first used in Hindu texts in the fifth century BC.

Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.

She continues and says that taking hatha’s asana (physical exercises) and ignoring the chanting and invocations does not mean you are not practicing Yoga. She defines invocations as;

An invocation (from the Latin verb invocare “to call on, invoke, to give”) may take the form of:

 Invocation by Gustave Doré.
  • Supplication, prayer or spell.
  • A form of possession.
  • Command or conjuration.
  • Self-identification with certain spirits.

Another video on the Vigilant Christian, a reformed Yoga teacher talks of how his Kundalini awakening made him experience something very good that you couldn’t convince him that that was not God. It is with this that there is also the Fake Jesus in Yoga. He talks of the false practices that teaches one to receive Christ through Yoga.These false teachings are even in books merchandised at Amazon and other book selling sites

imagePhoto Credit: Amazon

The book talks of an Angel masquerading as Jesus, it talks all about ascension, reincarnation and untrue Biblical Christianity. An argument towards this is raised, that Jesus practiced Yoga and there are even sources in the Bible to quote so.

Jesus tells us that when we pray, we should pray in solitude and with few words (Matthew 6:5-8). During His ministry, Christ often withdrew from His disciples for hours to be alone with God (Luke 5:16). He was gone for hours, but praying with few words—He was meditating.

Meditation is referenced throughout Scripture—Jesus did it, David did it and the Lord exhorted Joshua to do it (Joshua 1:8). Meditation is as integral to Christianity as it is to Hinduism, but because of cultural influences Christians have been convinced that the only way to meditate is by sitting still and coaxing yourself into a trance. It’s not! You can meditate on the Word, creation or even gratitude.

Christian meditation is defined as;

Christian meditation is a form of prayer in which a structured attempt is made to become aware of and reflect upon the revelations of God. The word meditation comes from the Latin wordmeditārī, which has a range of meanings including to reflect on, to study and to practice. Christian meditation is the process of deliberately focusing on specific thoughts (such as a bible passage) and reflecting on their meaning in the context of the love of God.

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Unlike Hindu meditation, the end goal of Christian meditation is to get rooted in Christ and have deep knowledge of the word. It is not about creating an emptiness in your soul, it is about filling your soul with what is noble and right.

The Christianity Today website endorses for Yoga. An excerpt from its article explains what one feels when one is in the process of meditation

“In-out-in-out-in-out.

In-out.

In. Out.

Inhale.

Exhale.

Inn … Outt …

Innn …

It’s 7:45 p.m. on a weekday and for the first time today, I consciously slow down my breathing. I send the air deep down into my belly, letting it rise and fall like a wave. Inn … Outt …

Along with a group of 30 people in a darkened exercise studio at a Lifetime Fitness gym near Chicago, I use the unhurried cadences of the air filling and leaving my lungs to lull my muscles and joints into daring postures. My body becomes a mountain. An eagle. A warrior. A pigeon. A downward dog. A cobra. Finally—my favorite pose that comes at the end of each workout—a corpse, during which I lay down and relax every muscle.”

Note the words, an eagle, a warrior, a pigeon, a downward dog, a cobra and finally a corpse. What in Christianity would make someone feel like the creatures God Himself said we will have dominion on? A dog, a pigeon, a serpent and a corpse?

Can a Christian practice yoga without getting caught up in the religious aspects of it?

The problem is that yoga is religious in nature. The point of the practice of yoga is to unite oneself with God. Take this quote from the Yoga Journal: “Connecting the mind, body, and breath helps us to direct our attention inward. Through this process of inward attention, we learn to recognize our habitual thought patterns without labeling them, judging them, or trying to change them. We become more aware of our experiences from moment to moment. The awareness that we cultivate is what makes yoga a practice, rather than a task or a goal to be completed. Your body will most likely become much more flexible by doing yoga, and so will your mind.” As one can see, yoga is more than just a physical exercise. We, as Christians, do not want to make our mind more flexible. We do not want to leave our mind open to false teaching.

In Conclusion

Yoga is about looking inward, when Christians should be looking outward to Jesus.

As Christians, we agree that nobody can come to the Father but by Christ (John 14:6).

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

Jesus gave us His Holy Spirit to dwell within us and speak to us—and others—on His behalf (1 Corinthians 3:16

Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst?

1 Corinthians 6:19

Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own;

Romans 5:5

And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

Romans 8:9

You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ.

Acts 2:38

Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Acts 5:32

We are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.

The question I always ask my friends is, What would Christ do if He were living today? Would he be awakening His Kundalini? Would He be delving to change rules to suit Him or would He stand for the truth? And aren’t we not followers of Christ?

Again #WWCD? What Would Christ Do?

Cover Photo: Pixabay CC0

Sources:

http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2005/mayweb-only/42.0b.html

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http://www1.cbn.com/700club/should-christians-do-yoga
https://www.breakpoint.org/component/blog/entry/12/27109
http://www.relevantmagazine.com/life/whole-life/features/23243-is-it-okay-for-christians-to-do-yoga
https://carm.org/should-christians-practice-yoga

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Siloma Stephen

Siloma Stephen

I describe myself as simple yet complex, difficult to fathom and a hard nut to crack. I am made of unfailing love, one that sails my boat and oversees my flaws, one that binds me not on any law but nourishes my soul. I write from my soul, generally anything I feel I need to get off my chest most of which is based on my own life experiences, talents, and passions.

Follow me on Twitter

About Author

Siloma Stephen

Siloma Stephen

I describe myself as simple yet complex, difficult to fathom and a hard nut to crack. I am made of unfailing love, one that sails my boat and oversees my flaws, one that binds me not on any law but nourishes my soul. I write from my soul, generally anything I feel I need to get off my chest most of which is based on my own life experiences, talents, and passions.

Follow me on Twitter

About Author

Siloma Stephen

Siloma Stephen

I describe myself as simple yet complex, difficult to fathom and a hard nut to crack. I am made of unfailing love, one that sails my boat and oversees my flaws, one that binds me not on any law but nourishes my soul. I write from my soul, generally anything I feel I need to get off my chest most of which is based on my own life experiences, talents, and passions.

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