We have a question from our sister Salpy about yoga. She said:
My question is about yoga. Can a Christian follow the yoga postures and exercises but deleting the yoga teaching and spiritual beliefs?
Your question is very interesting.
First, keep in mind the following very important fact: There is nothing called yoga without the philosophy or the spiritual beliefs that are behind yoga. You don’t practice yoga exercises as simple physical exercises that are good for your physical health. You specifically call those exercises “yoga” and not any “sport”. The one who does yoga is convinced in himself that the philosophy of yoga is right and that it will help.
And what is the philosophy or the spiritual belief system that is behind yoga? Well, yoga is based on the belief that man and “god” are one. Of course, “god” is the Hindu infinite impersonal Brahman who is not the Personal Creator who revealed Himself to us in His Word. Yoga originated in the belief system of pantheism (Greek pan=all, theos=god) which says that everything is an impersonal god. In other terms, pantheism believes that the universe or the nature is a synonym of god. So pantheism is paganism; it believes in a false concept of God.
Here you should notice that in the system of pantheism things are not like in biblical theism. When a Christian thinks about having communication with God, he thinks about a Personal God who is distinct from himself and from the whole creation. The Christian does not look for God in his self or flesh; he looks for God outside of himself, in the revelation that God has made of Himself. While in pantheism things are different. The pantheist thinks he doesn’t need to go anywhere else than to himself when he wants to meet “god” or the impersonal Being; he thinks he is a god, a part of this impersonal being. So when the pantheist thinks about having a communication with this Being, he actually thinks about understanding himself and discovering his deep subconscious reality. This is another way to say that the answers to all human questions are in yourself, i.e. this is a self-worship. When you think that you have the answers in yourself and you consider yourself independent of God who created you, then you prefer to live in rebellion against the Will of God. And in fact, this is the rebellion of our first parents, Adam and Eve: they were deceived by Satan and wanted to be gods, able to choose between good and evil, i.e. able to have full control over their destiny and to be independent of God.
And yoga, which is born in this pantheistic womb, follows this philosophy. In other terms, the person who practices yoga consciously or unconsciously believes that he can change things in his spiritual and physical health by discovering his inner self, because he believes that all the answers are in himself. This is self-worship and a false philosophy that says that the whole nature is God. Indeed, the word “yoga” is a Sanskrit word that derived from the Sanskrit root yuj meaning “to control”, “to yoke” or “to unite”. In order to have control, the pantheist believes he should reach his inner hidden self, and thus be united to the infinite Being or the impersonal Brahman, as he believes that his self is a part of that impersonal god. The yogi (i.e. the person who practices yoga) does not seek the control of the Personal Creator God over his life, but he seeks to have himself a fuller control over his own life. While the goal of the biblical sanctification is to make us day after day more dependent of God’s control over our lives, the pantheistic self-discipline (including yoga) seeks to be more independent from any control of God over our life and to have a more self-control over our life. This is indeed what the sinful flesh seeks since the Fall: it refuses God. “For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures.” (Romans 1:21-23) So yoga teaches you to focus on yourself instead of on the true God. And as this fleshly philosophy pleases the sinful man, so the New Age movement today seeks to follow it and to replace the biblical truth with these vain human philosophies. The New Age movement seeks to convince you that yoga and such eastern philosophies can be accepted in the system of your religion or Faith (whatever your religion is), but that’s a deception. This deception seeks to replace the truth with lies without facing any opposition from your side, as it stops your immunity by making you think that those false philosophies are one with what you already believe.
Let’s take some practical examples from yoga. For instance, let’s take the breathing exercise. According to yoga teachers (you can consult a source here), “The breath is one of the most important aspects of Yoga. Breathing regulates your state of mind, your emotions, your concentration, as well as a variety of other things.” Notice with me the superstitious nature of these words. It is true that breathing well will help you physically, but it is very wrong to equate this physical superficial fleshly “peace” with true Peace. Yoga will make you forget about your problem of sin that separates you from God and makes you lack real Peace, and it will make you be convinced that this fleshly peace is all what is there and is all what matters. Indeed, if this were not the goal of yoga, then they would let you know that any physical exercise (sport) helps you breathe well and thus have a good physical health. Indeed, this second choice (sport) will not enslave your thought in the system of the pantheistic philosophy, and it will give you the freedom to choose to think biblically. I mean, with simple physical exercises, you don’t limit your attention to the physical “peace” promised by yoga, but you know the limits of what sport can do, just as God says:
“for bodily discipline is only of little profit, but godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.” (1 Timothy 4:8)
If you concentrate on the physical side, bodily discipline is indeed of GREAT profit. And indeed yoga teachers will surely tell you that yoga is of GREAT profit; they will even tell you that yoga is profitable for everything! But God teaches us to concentrate on the spiritual truth and to know that everything in the life of the true Christian is spiritual. So the Christian knows that in this biblical reality, bodily discipline is only of LITTLE profit compared to godliness. Indeed, the physical exercises will really help you only when you do them prayerfully, relying on God alone, and not on any energy in you. This is indeed how we should do everything in our life, if indeed we have experienced the Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ: “Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31) Without this full reliance on God, even simple sport is a sin, as it takes the place of God.
This also leads us to think of another example from yoga: meditation. In fact, in this meditation part yoga reveals its real identity: It is the worship of demons in the form of the false god Brahman that is believed to be the self. In fact, yoga’s meditation is the pagan counterfeit of biblical prayer, and so it is a prayer to the self instead of to God. The yogi’s meditation goes into himself, to the impersonal deity, while the Christian’s prayer goes outside of himself to the Personal God. On one of the sites that explain yoga we read: “Yoga helps open our Heart Center, let go of duality to experience oneness with Being, and to experience our own divinity.” This is the true identity of yoga. Once again, the question is: Why does yoga focus on the self and the flesh to find what its meditation seeks, and it does not focus on the Personal God? And if a person says that he will do the exercises, but he will replace meditation with Christian prayer, then he’s not doing yoga anymore, but only prayerful sport, as we saw above.
So it is a fact that when you do yoga, you surely follow its pagan philosophy that denies the true God and makes you worship demons represented by your sinful flesh and its false ideas about God and about what life really is. God says:
“For they that are according to flesh mind the things of the flesh; and they that are according to Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For the mind of the flesh [is] death; but the mind of the Spirit life and peace. Because the mind of the flesh is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God; for neither indeed can it be: and they that are in flesh cannot please God.” (Romans 8: 5-8)
By nature, the sinful self (the flesh) cannot be subject to God’s Law. It prefers lies and deceptions.
And the Word of God continues:
“But ye are not in flesh but in Spirit, if indeed God’s Spirit dwell in you; but if any one has not [the] Spirit of Christ he is not of him” (Romans 8:9)
So if indeed you are born of God and you have His Spirit dwelling in you, you will be led by the Spirit to deny yourself and to follow Christ. Yoga teaches you to encourage your sinful self more and more and to improve your reliance on your sinful self, while Jesus told you to deny yourself. So those who have the Spirit of Christ will hate those pagan practices and demon worships, and they will follow godliness in the Spirit, knowing that in this true godliness the body has its special place as the temple of the Holy Spirit. Therefore the child of God will take care of his body prayerfully and decently. He will “put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts.” (Romans 13:14) He will not encourage the fleshly way of thinking. In brief, the child of God will not allow the devil to deceive him with such pagan practices like yoga, and he will avoid not only evil but even every form of evil:
“But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good; abstain from every form of evil.” (1 Thessalonians 5:21-22)
Examine yoga carefully, see the spiritual deception that is behind it, and abstain from every form of evil. Everything you do in life and the way you think show who is your master. If you think in the pantheistic and New Age way that yoga follows, you prove to be the slave of your rebellious self and of sin. If you think spiritually according to the Word of God, then you prove to be a child of the true God, a new creature who thinks and acts in consistence with God’s Will by His Grace.
Grace be with you!
Disciple of Jesus Christ