Yoga seems to have become a normal part of everyday life for many that live in the western world. It is promoted today by health experts to supplement physical therapy and reduce stress. Fitness trainers also recommend Yoga to help physically condition the body and assist in gaining greater flexibility. Yoga is not a recent practice, either. Even in the 70's and 80's, Yoga was encouraged by many spiritualists for health and mental peace. Believe it or not, The Beatles band were said to be one of the biggest reasons for the Yoga movement in America during the 1960's. But Yoga still has much further roots leading back to it's origins for thousands of years. Exactly where and when did Yoga come into being? What was it meant for originally? Has Yoga changed over the years as modern western society became exposed to it? Is Yoga thought of and practiced with the same intentions all over the world? Should Christians be practicing Yoga? The spiritual aspects and history of Yoga get pretty complex VERY FAST, but in this article I will do my best to shine some light on these questions in a way that is simple and easy to understand. (NOTE: I would like to point out, that for those of you currently practicing Yoga, the information in this article is in no way meant to mock or shame. The only intention this article has is to "inform". Everyone is perfectly free to determine their own conclusions in love without judgement.)
"There is no subject which is so much wrapped up in mystery and on which one can write whatever one likes without any risk of it being proved wrong."
- I.K. Taimni, Indian scholar and chemist, on the obscurity of yoga
The birth of Yoga indisputably comes from the religious discipline of Hinduism. So to understand Yoga properly, you need to first get a small, but firm, grasp on the origins and practices of the Hindu faith.
Hinduism began between 1800-1000 B.C. in India, and breaks down into 3 different types; Vaishnavism, Shaivism, and Shaktism. The oldest of this religion's writings are said to be from around 1000 B.C., called the Vedas. Other writings include the Upanishads, and the Bhagavad-Gita. The ultimate god that Hinduism worships is literally just "the absolute", they call Brahman. Brahman physically manifests itself into many different gods and goddesses. Most notably are the three gods of Hinduism's "holy triad"; Brahma the creator, Vishnu the protector, and Shiva the destroyer. Other gods and goddesses include Ganesha, Krishna, Rama, Hanuman, Lakshmi, Durga, Kali, Saraswati, and many more.
In the Hinduism belief system, Jesus Christ was an incarnation of Vishnu, who is a son of god, as are many others. Christ is viewed as a teacher, however His death did not reconcile our sins, nor did He raise from the dead. Salvation in the Hindu faith says that you need to be released from the cycles of reincarnation, achieved through Yoga and meditation which can take several lifetimes. Once salvation is reached, you are then absorbed into "the absolute"; Brahman.
So what are Yoga's connections to Hinduism? Isn't Yoga just a bunch of stretches and breathing techniques? Yoga is actually one of the primary ways Hindus developed to connect with Brahman (the absolute) or with your "higher self". The problem is many people want to ignore the spiritual aspect, for which Yoga was intended, and focus only on the physical postures and breathing exercised; which are not without spiritual aspects as well. One of the most influential gurus of our time, Pattabhi Jois, states
"But using it [yoga] for physical practice is no good, of no use; just a lot of sweating, pushing, and heavy breathing for nothing. The spiritual aspect, which is beyond the physical is the purpose of yoga. When the nervous system is purified, when your mind rests in the atman [the self], then you can experience the true greatness of yoga."
- Pattabhi Jois, Guru
If Yoga is a Hindu spiritual practice used to attain a connection with the higher self, or the absolute, what is the purpose of all the yoga schools around the world?
"We cannot expect that millions are practicing real yoga just because millions of people claim to be doing yoga all over the globe. What has spread all over the world is not yoga. It is not even non-yoga; it is un-yoga."
- Prashant Lyengar, Interview - Namarupa magazine, 2005
"Yoga means bringing together mind, body, and spirit, but in Western Yoga, we've distilled it down to body. That's not even yoga anymore. If the goal is to look like Madonna, you're better off running or spinning."
- Shana Meyerson, Los Angeles Yoga instructor
I suppose the question here would be can we truly separate the physical aspects of Yoga from the spiritual aspects? Honestly, I have a hard time with this question because this is where the rubber really meets the road. This is where many will stumble you, claiming that you very easily can separate the two. However, for me, I feel like this would be equivalent to attempting to separate the taste of an apple from the apple itself. It simply makes no practical or logical sense, given its origins and intended use within Hinduism.
"As the Vedas are the prime scriptures or source books of Hinduism, Yoga is also the practice of Hindu Dharma. Yoga permeates every aspect of the Hindu way of life. Hindu rituals and temple worship are Karma Yoga and Bhakti Yoga. Hindu prayers, chants and songs are Mantra Yoga and Bhakti Yoga. Hindu scriptures like the Bhagavad Gita are Yoga Shastras. ... There is NO YOGA TRADITION APART FROM HINDUISM or Sanatana Dharma, from which it arises as way of spiritual practice."
- Dr. David Frawley, American Institute of Vedic Studies
"Yoga, a practice synonymous with Hindu philosophy, means 'to yoke.' Its goal is to unite man with Brahman, the Hindu concept of god, or rather a consciousness called 'god state' ... And this union is another important ingredient of New Age thinking."
- Caryl Matrisciana, Born and raised in India and former avid New Age practitioner of Yoga
Many Christians attempt to separate the these two aspects, but really do not understand that even the movements and poses in Yoga were developed for a spiritual application.
"The idea that the body is a vehicle for reaching consciousness with the divine is fundamentally at odds with Christian teaching."
- Albert Mohler, President of the Southern Baptist Seminary
But let's explore, what is Yoga WITHOUT the spiritual aspects? So far, I have honestly found nothing beneficial in spite of all the claims from mainstream therapists and fitness instructors. In fact, I am finding more and more to the contrary.
"... up 136% since 2000, orthopedic surgeons, physical therapists and chiropractors across the country are dealing with the increasing fallout from yoga gone awry. Over the past three years, 13,000 Americans were treated in an emergency room or a doctor's office for yoga-related injuries, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission. ... The truth is, yoga, regardless of the form, doesn't offer a comprehensive way to get fit. According to a study by the American Council on Exercise, a national nonprofit organization that certifies fitness instructors and promotes physical fitness, dedicated yoga practitioners show no improvement in cardiovascular health. It's not the best way to lose weight either. A typical 50 min class of Hatha Yoga, one of the most popular styles of yoga in the U.S., burns off fewer calories than are in three Oreos; about the same as a slow 50 min walk. Even power yoga burns fewer calories than a comparable session of calisthenics."
- Pamela Paul, Time Magazine, Oct 4, 2007
The spiritual aspects of Yoga are often ignored, but the truth is, even if you are unaware of what you are involving yourself in, you will still bring about its spiritual effects. What many do not realize is that the poses, movements, breathing, and meditation are, in Hinduism, meant to empty your mind and body and open you up to Brahman. From a Christian perspective, this is actually worshiping, summoning, and opening yourself up to possession by this "higher power". But what exactly is this "higher power"? The answer to this question should be obvious to most. If it's not, keep reading and it may become clear.
While in meditation, you are to focus on 7 main spiritual energy centers in your body called the chakras; which means "wheels of energy". These chakras are said to be doorways for life force energy, and exist at specific points running from the base of your spine to the top of your head.
Each chakra is said to have a specific power, color, sound, and physical health aspect associated to it. At the base of the spine you are to believe there is a "serpent", or serpent-like power, called Kundalini, coiled three and a half times around the base chakra. As you meditate, you are to awaken this serpent Kundalini, and as it uncoils it travels upward, opening each chakra one by one, bringing you closer to spiritual enlightenment. To a Christian, this should undoubtedly be a major red flag. Why a serpent? Could this represent a form of demonic energy that is taking residence within us while we are opening ourselves up to "the universe"?
The study of these energy centers does not actually stop at Yoga. It's actually an extremely complicated study that spans throughout many different New Age practices. If you were to study how to attain psychic abilities, astral projection (out of body experiences), or even martial arts, they too use the chakra system to open the universal energy flow throughout the "ethereal" body in meditation.
In martial arts, you are taught to channel an energy call "chi" for mental and physical power. Chi, also called "Prana" or "Ch'i", is the name for the life force that is said to flow through these spiritual energy doorways from the universe.
In astral projection, you would meditate, visualizing the opening of each chakra so that you can exit your body and interact with an ethereal realm and spirit beings.
In developing psychic abilities, you focus your meditation on a specific chakra to open it's spiritual powers to you; such as the "third eye" (forehead chakra) for remote viewing and visions.
It's even interesting that the modern medical systems universally use a version of the displayed symbol for "healing", but rarely understand it's spiritual roots or meaning. I'm sure you recognize it.
You can get deeply lost in the study of chakras, which is why I'm only giving the vary basics of it's application in Yoga. The point I want to make though is this system of meditation is very dangerous. June Rogers, a freelance journalist in Toronto, Canada, specializing in women’s health and mental health issues, records this account from a woman named, Victoria.
"... Things went from bad to worse when she signed up for a weekend meditation retreat. For 48 hours, she sat utterly still on a hard floor, repeating a silent mantra that could be expressed as 'Who am I?' By Sunday night, Victoria felt she was experiencing a mystical and spiritual awakening that was later to be diagnosed as a psychotic break and the beginnings of her bipolar disorder. 'I had auditory hallucinations, like 1930s warplanes were rumbling overhead,' she said. At this point, Victoria’s parents had her admitted into a psychiatric ward for six weeks, ... "
- June Rogers, Victoria’s Story: A Bumpy Road to Happiness
But it's not just the meditation that is dangerous. The poses done in Yoga are also meant to stimulate and open the chakras, energy centers, as well.
This same concept is used with specific hand gestures called Mudras. Mudras are used to connect specific energy pathways in your body, through your hands, to stimulate desired chakras and their power. It is frequently described as doing magic with your hands. There are many mudras, besides the main seven shown below, used for opening additional minor energy pathways, allowing yourself to empty yourself even further. The deception is that you are actually promoting health, physically and mentally, by encouraging the flow of this life force energy, but in reality you are actively surrendering your conciseness to Brahman, the Hindu god.
Even if you are a practitioner, and do not understand the spiritual implications of what you are doing, this does not mean the meditation, poses, and mudras will have no effect. In fact, their effects do not diminish in the slightest, and many will still describe feelings of intense "vibrating" or "lightning" surging through their bodies if they are done frequently and properly. I can confirm this to be absolutely TRUE from my own experiences in heavy practices of chakra stimulation and astral projection as a younger man before I was saved through faith in Jesus Christ. I have had an experience that felt as though I was plugged into a million watt light socket! It was not pleasant. This is nothing to be taken lightly. Although the visualizations of these "energy centers" and the current of "energy flow" are completely fictitious, the application through these practices invoke very real results when done properly! Be warned!
With all this in mind, consider this; basically everything you do in Yoga is centered around using your entire body for the purpose of emptying yourself of your own consciousness to be replaced with a foreign energy that promises to give you health, power, and a god-like awareness of the universe.
You may also be surprised to know that some of the poses and mudras are also part of a Hindu dance for the god, Shiva the destroyer, to bring destruction to the earth so that it can be reborn again. You may have heard the phrase, "order from chaos", or the depiction of a phoenix rising from ashes. These concepts are universal in much of the occult world. As you can imagine, this all snowballs fairly quickly into a complex web of spiritual obscurity, well rooted in Hinduism, the New Age movement, and the occult. One might even stem a lot of these concepts as far back as Baal worship in Christian scriptures. It's interesting to note that even the infamous Satanist, Aleister Crowley, published a book titled, "Eight Lectures on Yoga" explaining how to use Yoga for the purpose of magic and opening yourself up to higher powers! Coincidence?
To put it mildly, when practicing any part of Yoga, you are essentially calling down an unseen force to enter your body, through poses or meditation, for the purpose of awakening a spiritual serpent within you, which systematically primes your body and spirit for the draining of your own consciousness, allowing for the entering of "self realization", at which you then become god yourself! Sound familiar? In the practice of Yoga, at some point you will undoubtedly compromise your Christian faith. There really is no way around it.
Written by: Joshua Berry
Article: "The Hindu Roots of Yoga", https://www.hinduamerican.org/projects/hindu-roots-of-yoga
Article: "When Yoga Hurts" - Pamula Paul, Time Magazine Oct, 4th 2007, https://top-form-fitness.com/articles/When-Yoga-Hurts.pdf
Article: "Victoria's Story: A Bumpy Road to Happiness" - June Rogers, https://www.bphope.com/my-story-victoria-maxwells-bumpy-road-to-happiness/
Article: "Yoga: The Dangers of Spiritual Deception" - Heath Henning, http://truthwatchers.com/yoga-dangers-spiritual-deception/
Article: "Fight emerges over yoga's religious roots" - Wes Little, https://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2011/01/25/fight-emerges-over-yogas-religious-roots/
Book: "The Science of Yoga: The Risks and the Rewards" - William J. Broad