Yoga: Christian or Not?

From Ed Hird, an Anglican minister in Vancouver, who thinks Christian and yoga do not belong together. What say you?

You may find this a stretching article in body, mind and spirit.  I have intentionally avoided writing this article for years, because I knew that it would be unavoidably controversial.  With genuine reluctance, I faced my conflict avoidance, obeyed the Lord and read hundreds of yoga books in our local public libraries.  In preparing this article, I have not read one book which warns against yoga.  All book citations in this article are from yoga advocates and practitioners.

To many people, yoga is just the hottest new exercise fad for younger women.  Twenty million North Americans are now doing yoga, including around four million men.  These twenty million people are currently being trained by over 70,000 yoga practitioners in at least 20,000 North American locations. Many people confuse yoga with simple stretching.  Stretching and calisthenics are good things which I participate in weekly at the local gym.  Yoga has not cornered the market on healthy stretching and calisthenics.  I am convinced that we do well when we take care of our bodies as part of our Christian stewardship.

I unknowingly participated in yoga, in the form of martial arts, for twenty years before renouncing it. It is not an easy or light thing for someone to renounce this, even as a Christian.  In hindsight, I realized that the ritual motions and postures (asanas or katas) had gotten very deep into my psyche, shaping my very identity. Without intending it, I was to some degree serving two masters….

Sadly a number of well-meaning Christians have been recently promoting Christianized yoga in North America.  Subhas R. Tiwari, a Hindu University of America professor who has a master’s degree in yoga philosophy, comments: “Such efforts [to Christianize yoga] point to a concerted, long-term plan to deny yoga its origin. This effort . . . is far from innocent. It is reminiscent of the pattern evident throughout the long history and dynamics of colonizing powers.”[43] Tiwari holds that efforts to Christianize yoga are unjust “encroachment” and thinly veiled Christian proselytism of Hindus.

With yoga and Hinduism, nothing is what it seems.  This is why it has been described as the embrace that smothers.  Yoga has always been shrouded in illusion and secrecy, and can intentionally look like whatever you want it to in the short term.  In the end, the road leads to idolatry and monism, to serving two masters.   The Lordship of Jesus is what is at stake.  Just as there is no Christian Ouija board and no Christian astrology, so there is no Christian Yoga that is either truly Yoga or truly Christian.  I invite you to do the stretching, perhaps unthinkable thing of turning from Yoga towards healthy stretching and calisthenics.

About Scot McKnight

Scot McKnight is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. McKnight, author of more than fifty books, is the Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL.

  • http://jmsmith.org/blog JM Smith

    As a martial artist and Bible teacher I’ve had to ‘grapple’ with this issue as well. I believe it is a “demon meat” issue among Christians… http://jmsmith.org/blog/driscoll-yoga-and-demon-meat/

  • Mark

    Isn’t this kind of like saying that certain drum beats have origins in pagan ritual, and therefore we should avoid playing the drums?

  • Jay W

    I would follow Paul’s teaching in 1 Cor 8 on this issue. What matters here more than body motions (or eating meat sacrificed to idols) is the heart and mind of the person performing the action. That said, if one’s doing Yoga becomes a stumbling block, then out of love the Christian should abstain.

  • http://glennshores.com Charles Fines

    “Krishna tells Arjuna, ‘Go beyond the realm of good and evil where life is dominated by beginnings and endings. Enter into the domain of yoga where all duality finds its unity…” : from the article above.

    “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they may also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me, I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one.” : some of the last words of Jesus before his bodily death as quoted by his good friend and apostle John in the 17th chapter of his Gospel.

    Of course Jesus may have been talking about gathering at Denny’s after church for breakfast and fellowship.

  • Adam

    Can’t really agree with this guy, especially when he says it’s “serving two masters”.

    He’s implying that christianity is solely in the mind and the only way to “serve” our master is in our mind, but I never see Jesus saying the way to serve Him is to think about Him. To serve Jesus is to do as Jesus commands and His commands always seemed to be about serving and loving the people around us.

    It seems to me this is another “slippery slope” argument. Next is the slippery slope argument as was just recently reduxed.

  • Jennifer

    Thanks for the article. I think this is a really important topic right now for Christians, particularly newer Christians. But I was hoping to see more backing as to why yoga is dangerous to our faith. I, too, believe that it is a subtle but effective attack from the enemy to infiltrate through what appears to be a beneficial, feel good activity along with its positive mantras. I think it would be worthwhile to have more information to understand how yoga influences the mind even those who say they practice just for the exercise benefits.

  • gingoro

    There is no meat in this article! Suggest rewriting it and detailing why Yoga is dangerous. I agree that the philosophy behind Yoga can be dangerous but I accept other activities where I treat the theory or philosophy as bogus but which have beneficial results. On many of these things I tend to be a pragmatist and see if the activity or practice is beneficial or not. Not that I have tried Yoga although I do know a Yoga teacher who is a cousin of mine.
    DaveW

  • http://tagraves.com Tommy

    This is something I’ve been thinking about quite a bit recently. I think the issue comes down to this: how much does doing something shape our identity? On this matter I agree with Hird. Even if you have positive intentions, an evil practice will become an essential part of your identity. A key insight of some postmodern thought, I think, is that modernism went wrong in thinking that a person could reason prior to and apart from practice, and then move that reason into practice. Rather, in line with the often-ignored piece of Pascal’s “Wager”, it is what we do that shapes our mind. I am terrified of Yoga in this sense because it is, at Hird points out, mysterious. What does it do to our minds?

  • Phil Miller

    It seems to me that it’s only a matter of serving two masters if the person doing the Yoga is actually serving Yoga (or the spirits behind it). I don’t know if the comparison to astrology or Ouija boards is all that helpful. It seems that the thing with Yoga is that the way Yoga is approached in the US, it is actually separated from the Hindu religion. I realize that there are Hindus who say that it can’t be done, but it seems most people don’t believe that. Personally, I have a hard time believe that certain body positions and breathing exercises are ontologically demonic.

  • Aaron

    I guess Sauna’s should be rejected as well by Christians – I mean the native americans used to have sweat lodges to call upon the spirits.

    Seriously how far are we going to go with this? Yoga in most local Gyms are simply stretching, and exercise, is it not?

  • Steve Sherwood

    As a 50 year old Christian college prof, former youth pastor, former marathoner with the beaten up hips from both those previous activities to prove it, I find the yoga I do a few times a week to be a gift from God, literally, to help me navigate life with less pain. I have no problem stretching in a thoughtful, relaxing way.

  • ktb

    Thanks for the link to this excellent, well-sourced article. I think the analogy to the Ouija board is an apt one insofar as the practice (praxis, if you will) itself seems to invite trouble, independent of the intent of the practitioner. I was a little skeptical when I first read an article on this issue in Christianity Today a couple of years ago, but this article is the best one I have read in terms of citations to pro-yoga literature to support the author’s anti-yoga thesis.

  • LMoon

    Just because pro- and anti- yoga people agree on a characterization of yoga doesn’t mean that characterization matches what really happens in typical gyms across the U.S. It reminds me of naturalistic evolutionists and young earth creationists agreeing that evolution and the Bible are incompatible. Just because those taking opposite extreme positions agree on a premise doesn’t make the premise valid.

  • http://plantedseed.wordpress.com Cameron M

    As a former regular practitioner of Yoga and orthodox Christian, I’d like to make a few comments based on my own experience. Before I became a Christian (4 years ago), I got into Eastern spirituality (on a surface level) as a meditative practice. Also, I have extreme scoliosis, and opted out of surgery; I found stretching to be very beneficial to my back. Hence, I started practicing Yoga. First, on my own with books, then in a studio for over a year. The practice helped relieve back pain and kept me in shape. I loved it. Then I became a follower of Jesus.

    I remember the first time I went back to a Yoga class. I was very uncomfortable – spiritually. I remember the teacher at one point encouraging us to “surrender to the unknown” or something along those lines. I felt deeply convicted and somewhat fearful. I knew that Yoga meant “to be yoked” and the philosophy behind it pointed towards union with Brahman (the unchanging reality, sometimes perceived as a personal entity), so I stopped going. A few months later I joined a few friends for a class at a different studio where the teacher claims to be an orthodox Christian (!) and still passionate about her Yoga practice/teaching. The physical part of the course was alright, but near the end of the class, when we began to meditate, I became EXTREMELY anxious, to the point of almost feeling a dark presence surrounding me. I told myself it was just my imagination, but I could not shake it no matter how hard I fought and prayed. That presence seemed to have a lot of power in that particular context. I nearly got up and left the room, and I felt awful the rest of the night. I have never returned to a class ever since. (I might also mention that I am not the kind of Christian who assumes there are demons behind every little thing, waiting to attack us and possess us. I am actually quite skeptical when it comes to discussions about the “demonic” and what kind of power they have.)

    However, I still maintain a regular practice almost every morning at home. It is physical and prayerful for me. It keeps my back pain at bay. I commit that part of my morning to Jesus, and stretching (all of which I learned form yoga classes) is part of it.

    The traditional practice of Yoga is aimed at self-realization (apart from Christ) and union with a vague Hindu spiritual force. Neither of those things are suitable for a follower of Christ, in my opinion. I can understand the author’s feeling about serving two masters. These kinds of practices teach you that there is some ethereal thing out there to connect to, and the physical element is a means to that end. It is easy to become so involved with the ethos behind the physical practice that one can begin to “submit” to something beyond the physical, even subconsciously. I advise fellow Christians to be very prayerful about practicing Yoga in a traditional classroom context.

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    If yoga is a problem, then so should those Odin’s day prayer meetings. And the youth meetings on Freyja’s Day, or worse, on Saturnalia!

  • Percival

    Next up, acupuncture, reflexology, and (Palmer-type) chiropractic medicine. There are numerous health practices with bogus and occultic origins. Can useful practices be extracted from their spiritual underpinnings? Not if you believe the expert practitioners.

    My sister took her cat to a pet chiropractor who told her that the cat’s aura was messed up. The cat responded well to the treatment and my sister was satisfied. I said nothing but have avoided that cat ever since; I don’t like the way it looks at me. ; )

  • Ajit

    I wish the article had more substance. For someone who has read so much, I’m a bit disappointed with the case presented even though I agree with the writer’s overall view. Being an Indian and having grown up surrounded by Hindu culture, I would definitely want more meat on the topic!

  • Kyle

    I was just talking about this with my wife last week. We live I’m Asia and I was having back pain. I asked a yoga instructor at the gym what to do about it, and he said, “You shouldn’t do yoga since you are a Christian, but you should try these stretches.” I’ve also found that the idea of Christians continuing to do yoga after becoming Christian from Hindu backgrounds is very serious here. They see yoga and its practices as intimately tied into the idolatry from which it comes.

  • T.S.Gay

    It’s obvious with just a little searching that yoga is a way of salvation. I think it is best to read Rene Guenon on the subject of eastern nondualism and its use in the western world. He was very clear on the dangers of spiritual systems that have risen in the west supposedly based on eastern nondualism.

  • GaryLyn

    Eastern nondualism? Is there a Western nondualism? And what is wrong with nondualism?

  • KB

    If you want more details on why practicing yoga is dangerous, read this article “Kundalini Energy: Yoga’s Power, Influence, and Occult Phenomena in the Church” http://www.spiritual-research-network.com/f/KundaliniEnergy_YogasOccultPhenomenaintheChurch.pdf

    Known as “serpent power,” Kundalini energy is the goal of all yoga, whether your yoga teacher tells you this or not. We’re being deceived if we think it’s harmless.

  • Daniel O

    The author lost me when he equalled yoga as martial arts. If he made this basic mistake, how am I to take his opinion serious? I am not saying that christians should take up yoga, to each their own. In acts, some ate meat, some didn’t eat meat, it wasn’t counted against them. Anther verse is “all things are permitted but not all things are beneficiary” So it is down to each Christians conciousness what they do.

  • Phil Miller

    This debate was raging five or six years ago, and it seems the many of the same things people said back then, they’re still saying. The one thing that always got me was that many of the people who were the most outspoken against it were cessationalists in the first place. They seem to be coming from the place that all experiences with the spiritual realm are suspect.

    In many ways these arguments remind me of people talking about Dungeons and Dragons or heavy metal music when I was growing up. The thing I always go back to is that the empirical evidence simply doesn’t fit the rhetoric. I simply don’t see thousands of Christians becoming Satanists or channeling demons because of their involvement in these things.

  • http://alexhuggett.me Alex

    Wow, sounds like a few people trying to justify themselves in this thread. Some really ridiculous defenses. I have an Indian Pastor friend who was astounded and dismayed to see so many yoga venues in my city. No doubt about it in his mind. Different but related, I wanted to start Karate and tried a ‘secular’ dojo. The conviction of God was so strong I thought he was going to kill me if I went back.

    I agree each has to follow their own conscience before God, but don’t let your Western worldview deny the spiritual reality behind many of these things.

    That said, why can’t someone invent a system of stretching that isn’t yoga.

  • http://chroniclesofachristianheretic.blogspot.com Sandra

    I think the concern about whether yoga is a religion or whether practicing yoga will take one away from God is ridiculous. I grew up the daughter of an Evangelical preacher–we thought yoga was totally of the devil. After I reached adulthood, I married and left the church altogether. Some years later, I developed a chronic illness–largely because of the abuses, spiritual and otherwise, that I experienced in childhood–that I still struggle with.

    If it weren’t for yoga, for the God who met me in savasana, for the ability to calm body mind and soul, I can guarantee you I wouldn’t be a Christian today. I probably wouldn’t even be alive today. The Peace I found through the practice of yoga was the elusive peace I’d been promised for decades in Evangelical Christianity. The experience of love and acceptance I found in the yoga studio and in my own heart there on the mat was what church had insisted I could find in the pew or at the altar but I never could. If not for having experienced that peace and love, the Grace that turned my determined atheism on its heels, I would never have returned to Christianity.

    God is not limited to Christianity or Christian doctrine and practice. Grace is more than a sinner’s prayer or a single dead heretic on a cross. Grace happens every day, everywhere. Even on yoga mats and in aching-hearted, forsaken yogis.

  • Phil Miller

    Wow, sounds like a few people trying to justify themselves in this thread. Some really ridiculous defenses.

    I haven’t read anything that I’d call ridiculous. As far as justifying myself, I’ve actually never done Yoga, nor do I plan to start anytime soon.

    All I’m saying is that I see a commonality between this issue and others things I grew up hearing about. And I grew up around some crazy stuff. I’ve seen many people live in literal fear of Satan and demonic activity. It’s not that I don’t believe in demonic activity, but I don’t believe it’s something as Christians we need to fear.

    Certainly idolatry is something that’s a possibility. But that can be said for all sorts of things in life. I do think the whole meat issue in 1 Corinthians is relevant. Certainly if someone converted from paganism and was involved in the ceremonies they would view the stuff of those ceremonies differently than others. So I think that’s why people who were once involved in Eastern religions and are now Christians see the issue of Yoga in a different light.

  • Steven Walker

    I agree with Sandra. Her story speaks to me and is similar to mine. I grew up in the Evangelical church and from childhood until mid-20′s was in a very dark, dare I say demonic, place. I found Eastern religion to be one of the most liberating and freeing experiences and have found God in a genuine and unique way through both Buddhist and Hindu teachings and practices. I find myself extremely disappointed and frustrated at some of the posts on here. Basically, from what I am reading, you are all telling someone like me that I am “possessed” and “demonic” simply because my experience of God does not coincide with yours. I found God in Eastern religion and felt the darkest presence in Evangelicalism. So who is right? Me or you? I firmly believe that to say something you know nothing about and have had a few “anxious” feelings about demonic is EXTREMELY dangerous. You are in a subtle way causing major forms of psychological oppression towards other people and cultures you are more or less ignorant of. Very disappointing indeed.

  • Steven Walker

    “It is reminiscent of the pattern evident throughout the long history and dynamics of colonizing powers.”

    That point by the Harvard professor is excellent and right on. And how I see the dynamics of colonization presently taking place is through fear-mongering and demonizing of other religions and other forms of spirituality that may make one uncomfortable. Evangelicalism makes me uncomfortable. I feel “anxious” and a “dark presence” when I am around a lot of Christians. So does that mean they are demonic? NO! Rationalizing fears and insecurities is one thing. Demonizing cultural practices because it does not fit your form of what is true and right is oppressive and I challenge all of you to think on that seriously.

  • Steven Walker

    Oops, I meant Hindu University of America professor. Not sure why I typed Harvard…?

  • KB

    If you found God in the Eastern Religions, it’s very possible that it’s not the God of the Bible. Jesus is the only Way to God. Sorry if that makes you mad, but it’s the truth.

  • Tom F.

    I think a good part of this discussion is whether practices have intrinsic meaning or whether they are shaped by the narrative/worldview we bring to them. A strong believer in the intrinsic meaning of practices would find yoga unacceptable, as the meaning of yoga is originally Hindu, and therefore non-Christian. A strong believe in narrative/worldview as being able to make new meanings out of practices would be able to give a qualified yes, or perhaps even an imperative to “baptize” yoga into a Christian worldview.

    I think I am moving towards the middle: paraphrasing Kant, I would suggest that practices without narratives are blind, and narratives without practices are feeble. The social psychology/sociology seems clear to me- practices are what form us. You can have all the right Christian thoughts and doctrines and still not love your neighbor. However, I don’t think you can take practices out of their narrative context and expect them to have the same effects. By “blind”, I mean that a practice (such as yoga) does not know what it intends , or what it aims for. Yoga may have an intrinsic meaning, but it more likely may have a variety of possible intrinsic meanings. The net effect in a person’s life of undertaking a random bunch of practices is likely to be an internal Babel, or more simply, self-fragmentation. The narratives/worldview give coherence to our persons, so that we can be relied upon in relationships with others, or love and be loved.

    I think the key question with any practice (yoga, reading your Bible, exercise at a gym, writing on a blog) is whether the intrinsic meaning(s) of a practice are aiming for the right things, namely, loving others and loving God. The author gives examples like astrology. In this case, the variety of meanings are all negative; mechanistic universe, impersonal universe, diminished responsibility for personal actions, a capriciousness in your fate, ect. But with yoga, it seems more like a mixed bag; care for one’s body, relaxing the body and mind, diminished focus on self, along with the traditionally (and problematic) Hindu meanings of the practice. The “mindfulness” component to Yoga is quite popular in psychology right now, and it seems that a new study showing health and wellness of mindfulness shows up every few months. So yoga seems much less clear to me than astrology. But I do see what he’s saying.

    Alternatively, one can flip this in an interesting way: many Hindus worship Jesus amongst many other gods. What would it mean if they took communion in this sort of context? Would they necessarily be “colonizing” Christianity?

  • Steven Walker

    Or maybe your God is the wrong one? I have never seen the practice of meditation or chakra balancing behind acts such as the Salem Witch Trials, KKK, Crusades, etc. Sorry if that makes you mad, but that is the truth.

    I think one of the top reasons Christianity is losing members is due to the fact that they arrogantly claim “truth” on topics they no little or nothing about. Have you read the Upanishads? The Sutras? The Vedas? The Tibetan Book of the Dead?

    Most of the time the areas Christians criticize are areas they are simply uncomfortable with. Christians have been historically wrong over and over and over again. From Galileo, to Newton, to Darwin. Wrong, wrong, wrong. And now it is other religious practices? This is getting ridiculous.

    Most Hindu and Buddhist practices are being used in psychotherapy and have brought great amounts of healing to thousands of people. There are numerous empirical studies that show the positive impacts of Hindu and Buddhist practices. There are ZERO that show that it is the wrong God. Just because it does not work with how you want the world to work does not make it untrue.

    You are afraid. I get it. But to arrogantly claim that I am not worshiping the right God is just wrong. It is oppressive. God is bigger than one religion. Non-duality is not evil. Just because you don’t understand something doesn’t make it wrong or evil or demonic.

  • Steven Walker

    Have you seen the film The Crucible with Daniel Day-Lewis? This conversation reminded me of that film.

    “Once visited upon the human world, fear acquires its own momentum and developmental logic and needs little attention and hardly any investment to grow and spread – unstoppably. It is not the fear of danger that is most critical, but rather what the fear can expand into and what it can become.” Zygmunt Bauman

    If you can point me to some cases where Hindu practices ended up harming the individual, please show them to me.

  • ktb

    In response to Steven Walker:

    Simply Google “Buddhist riots” and/or “Hindu riots” and you will hopefully be disabused of the notion that adherents of these religions have no blood on their hands. It’s quite a logical leap to connect modern Christianity to the Salem Witch Trials, the KKK, and the Crusades.

  • Steven Walker

    There are actually quite a few present day Christian KKK members where I am from. And most of them believe that every other religion is wrong and demonic. And sometimes I think it is only the secular culture that keeps most fear-mongering Christians from conducting acts similar to those at the Salem Witch Trials. If they could get away with it presently, I am confident they would. Thank God a portion of the world has evolved and they can no longer get away with it.

    It is fear. Plain and simple. Fear of the unknown. Fear of thinking outside the box one has grown up in. I know. I went through it. I used to be a fundamentalist. After years of research I realized it was wrong. It wasn’t easy.

    Now I just get frustrated that it continues to go on in the tradition I grew up in. I think Christians would be much better off if they kept to what they knew (love of God and how that love became manifest in Christ) rather than demonize ideologies they are unfamiliar with. The world is round, we aren’t the center of the universe, evolution is true, you are born a homosexual, the globe is warming, and people can find truth in other religions. I don’t know why these are such big problems that some Christian’s feel they need to go off what they truly know (God’s unconditional love) in order to psychologically oppress other people over something they know nothing about. Lust for power I suppose. A lot of people get off on it. In my experience, Christians the most.

  • Steven Walker

    And my point is that I have never seen an empirical study that suggested that meditation or chakra balancing or yoga led to violence. Whereas there have been dozens to the contrary. And several studies that suggest belief in the Christian God can actually lead to higher anxiety and depression and mental disorders (in fact I think one of them was posted on this blog earlier this week). Add to that the extreme violence conducted historically in the name of the Christian God. I find it laughable that someone suggest that because I found a closer relationship to God through another religion that could empirically be considered much less violent in terms of its practices both offensive and oppressive. And I am challenging you all to consider that.

  • Steven Walker

    **I find it laughable that someone suggest that because I found a closer relationship to God through another religion that could empirically be considered much less violent in terms of its practices that I am worshiping the wrong one both offensive and oppressive**

  • KB

    Perhaps an analogy would be helpful:
    Imagine that you and I are walking in the woods. I’m bitten by a poisonous snake. I take 2 aspirin and say “I’m fine.” Because you care about me, you say “No–we need to take you to the ER for some antivenom.” Would I then accuse you of oppressing me? Of course not, because I would understand that your motive is to help me. Perhaps we as Christians are not always clear about our motives. Really, we’ve all been bitten by a poisonous snake, and, because we truly believe that there is only one Cure, it wouldn’t be loving to not talk about that. Most people disagree, but that doesn’t make it untrue. What if we’re right?

  • GaryLyn

    “The “mindfulness” component to Yoga is quite popular in psychology right now, and it seems that a new study showing health and wellness of mindfulness shows up every few months. So yoga seems much less clear to me than astrology. But I do see what he’s saying.” Tom F. #31

    I would point out that mindfulness and awareness have also been a part of Christian spiritual practices since very early in the practice of Christianity. Going all the way back to the Desert Mothers and Fathers, the practice of Centering Prayer, meditation…it’s been around for a long time. I make this point because it seems that on one side of the argument are those who experience meaning in these practices. On the other side are those who question these practices from the perspective of historical doctrine of Christianity. Mindfulness and awareness, for me, are essential parts of the Christian practice and are not incorporated from Eastern traditions.
    I would also add that many people arguing against the practice are doing so from the perspective of Western Christianity. But some of the essence of Christianity easily embraces some of the emphases of yoga and other practices of Eastern religion. The Christian religion originated in a part of the world we call the Middle EAST! The Jewish origins of Christianity, some of which have been lost in Westernization of Christianity, can be seen as compatible with some aspects of Eastern religions.

  • Steven Walker

    KB

    The difference is there is empirical support that snake bites are lethal. There is zero proof that practicing yoga causes demons to enter you. There is also zero proof that Brahman and Yahweh are not the same God. God is not a Christian. Christians do not have a monopoly on God. To say so is not only arrogant, but ignorant. Also, I know a great deal about snake bites, so I would be speaking from an area I am familiar with, unlike most Christians and their understanding of Eastern religion. I simply do not understand this idea that if it does not have the word Christian in front of it, or if it does not feel comfortable in the context of Western Christian framework then it must be from Satan. Does no one else on here see how silly this is? Or am I the only one?

    Just because you assume something does not make it true. And as far as you perhaps being right, if heaven is anything like the dark experience of Evangelicalism I grew up in, I gladly choose hell.

  • Steven Walker

    And GaryLyn

    I like what you are saying but I feel like you are trying too hard to rationalize something that is by itself harmless and healthy into a Christian framework so we can all feel better about it. This is ridiculous to me. Why is it so hard to admit that it is fine. If you really want to get serious about all this you need to stop celebrating Christmas (originally a pagan holiday), stop worshiping on Sundays (original worship of the Sun God) and never use saunas (Native American spirit worship) and many, many other things that are originally pagan. Basically, become a Jehovah’s Witness. Otherwise you are committing intellectual hypocrisy.

    God is much bigger than all this. He is not conformed to one religion, the religion the you grew up in, or the religion that makes you feel secure. This is really silly.

    Yoga is fine. It is healthy. Most of the assumptions Hird comes to in his article I have never heard of with regards to eastern religion other than from other Christian’s opinions of it, which should tell you something.

  • KB

    According to Gopi Krishna, an expert on yoga, it can be very dangerous, specifically Hatha yoga. He says, “In Hatha yoga the breathing exercises are more strenuous, attended by some abnormal positions of the chin, the diaphragm, the tongue, and other parts of the body to prevent expulsion or inhalation of air into the lungs in order to induce a state of suspended breathing. This can have drastic effects on the nervous system and the brain, and it is obvious that such a discipline can be very dangerous. Even in India, only those prepared to face death dare to uderg the extreme discipline of Hatha yoga.”

  • KB

    More info on yoga and the “Serpent Power” from the book “Serpent Power: The Secrets of Tantric and Shaktic Yoga” by Arthur Avalon: “Kundalini-Sakti, or Supreme Power in the human body by the arousing of which the Yoga is achieved…by the agency of the Kundalini-Sakti, which, in order to give it an English name, I have here called Serpent Power. Kundala means coiled. The power of the Goddess (Devi) Kundalini, or that which is coiled; for Her form is that of a coiled and sleeping serpent in the lowest bodily centre, at the base of the spinal column, until by the means described She is aroused in that Yoga which is named after Her.”

  • KB

    And one more–to add to the above info about the goddess Kundalini (which is also known as the “yogic life force” that supposedly moves through the chakra’s (energy channels) in the body to bring enlightenment during yoga, “Traditionally she is known as Durga the creatrix, Chandi the fierce and bloodthirsty, and Kali the destroyer. She is also Bhajangi the serpent. As Chandi or Kali, she has a garland of skulls around her neck and drinks human blood (Gopi Krishna).” Yogis say that this life force not only surrounds the physical body, but can infuse the body. In addition, Hans Ulrich Rieker, a well known authority on yoga and meditation says that “Kundalini is the mainstay of all yoga practices.” That’s enough for me to want to steer clear of yoga.

  • GaryLyn

    Steven,
    Just to be clear, I think yoga is fine. I’m not attempting to rationalize to make acceptance of the practice more palatable to those who might think otherwise. I was offering a critique of those who are critical of the practice by pointing out that many of the goals–like awareness and mindfulness–are part of the practice of Christian spirituality.

  • Steven Walker

    Read The Psychology of Kundalini Yoga by Carl Jung. And if you don’t like Jung, then you better not use a Myers Briggs Test, because that test is based off his work.

    What you posted makes total sense to me in the context of the subconscious and the psyche. Have you read that entire book that you are quoting from or just taking out bits and pieces that scare you? If you have read it, good, then read it with Jung’s book I mentioned above.

    Like I said, if you don’t like it and it scares you, fine. Then don’t do it. And don’t celebrate Christmas, and worship on Sundays, and use a sauna, etc. But please don’t demonize something you know very little about just because it scares you. Maybe you need to see a therapist for anxiety disorders before you throw a cultural practice out as demonic.

    If Christianity is more or less extinct in 30 years, which I strongly believe it will be, it will be ridiculous arguments and fear-mongering claims as seen on this post that will be the culprit.

    Have there ever been any practices within Hinduism that have been used for evil? Maybe. Not in my experience, but I am sure there could have been at some point in time.

    Have there been practices done within Christianity that could be considered dark and evil? YES! And I have experienced them! But that does not mean the entire religion is demonic and I would never make the arrogant claim that someone is worshiping the wrong God because I feel uncomfortable or have had a few bad experiences within the context of the religious practices.

  • Steven Walker

    Communion is more or less imagining you are drinking a zombies blood. At least that is how it is seen by people outside the cultural practice. Sounds just as creepy and disgusting to me if I didn’t know the true context. Just sayin.

  • Steven Walker

    And I would argue that a more accurate analogy for this discussion would be this:

    You get bitten by a snake and, having more knowledge of the snake and knowing it is only a garden snake and having grown up around snakes your whole life, take two aspirin. I am already biased because I grew up in a family terrified of snakes and am terrified of them myself so I plead with you to go to the hospital immediately. I cannot identify the snake that bit you. I tell you I know a few people who were bitten once and got hurt and every time I see a snake I feel anxious and therefore this snake too is bad and you are going to die. And on top of all that all I read are anti-snake books.

    Obviously I would care for you. But that does not make me right. And I would say, “Well, what if I am right?” And you would look at me and think… what? Please know that that is how a large number of people who have a deeper understanding of issues like this see Christians. This is how they view the evolution issue, the homosexuality issue, the global warming issue, and silly issues like this.

    Part of me wants to just leave this alone and say who really care what everyone on here thinks. But the other part of me feels like a voice like mine is not one that ever comes up on this forum. And it is a voice that represents alot of people.

    I have been following this blog for two years now and never felt compelled to post. I have strongly disagreed with many things on here in the past but this is one that I just couldn’t hold back on.

    I do believe that these issues are a form of a social disorder where there is this Taboo against calling BS like this out. It has to stop. I think there are alot of people out there that are sick of being told they are worshiping the wrong God by Christians when they have suffered major and dark oppression under the religion.

  • KB

    That’s so funny that you think I should see a therapist for anxiety–I’m actually married to one! :)

    Seriously, Steven, I’m not trying to attack you personally, I’m just concerned. Since Jesus said that He is the only way to God, anytime I hear someone claim to have found God through another “path” it immediately raises a red-flag with me.
    As for your church experiences–the words “darkness” and “evil” should never characterize Christians, and I feel awful that your experience in the church has been so negative. Of course, I don’t know the details of your experience, but from what you’re describing–those people may not have been genuine Christians. A lot of people claim a lot of things, but if their lives aren’t showing Christ, then that’s a little suspect.
    I’m going to stop posting now–I can see that we’re not really getting anywhere–I guess we’ll just have to agree to disagree. Thanks for your perspective–it’s been very helpful for me to hear where you’re coming from, even if I don’t agree with your conclusions.

  • Steven Walker

    Great, so being married to a therapist you must know that a great deal of Western psychology and psychoanalysis lends itself to Eastern thought. Almost all respected psychologists argue that Eastern thought, such as yoga and zen Buddhism and many others, were major driving forces behind the development of what we now call modern psychology. And these practices are now modernized and used in therapy in a number of ways.

    I would watch out for your therapist partner. While they may not know it, there may be some demons behind their work! :) They could have deceived you to follow the wrong God! (gasp!)

  • http://www.battleforthesoulofcanada.blogspot.com edhird

    The article has been revised and strengthened, Ajit. I am open to your suggestions.

  • http://www.battleforthesoulofcanada.blogspot.com edhird

    The term ‘demonic’ was never used in my article. I am not convinced that yoga has been or even can be separated from its Hindu identity.

  • http://www.battleforthesoulofcanada.blogspot.com edhird

    Practice radically shaped our worldview and life experience in incremental ways that we do not often notice.

  • http://www.battleforthesoulofcanada.blogspot.com edhird

    We must love Jesus with not only our minds, but also our souls, strength, and heart. The mind does matter.


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