Should a Believer practice Yoga?



     An issue many Christians disagree about is whether or not it is ok for Christ’s believers to practice yoga.  As a result, the purpose of this study is to analyze what yoga is, and to examine what the scriptures reveal about the subject.  In an effort to explore the topic fully, it seems clear that we should first understand what yoga is by considering where it originated and what it was designed to do.  Afterward, we will look at whether it is possible to separate the religious nature of yoga from its physical practice, in an effort to determine whether God approves His people to engage in the discipline, and what types of spiritual bondage may result by participating in yoga.   

     I hope you will agree after reading my research that yoga is not a practice for Christians to engage in, and that denying the truth is a dishonesty to ones self, as well as to God. 

  Where Yoga originated 

       YOGA means “to yoke” — to yoke with Brahman (i.e., the “Infinite,” the “Universal Spirit,” the impersonal force that the Hindus call “God”) via the realization of an altered state of consciousness, thereby theoretically releasing oneself from the bondage of endless reincarnation.  YOGA comes out of the Hindu Vedas.  It can be traced back to Patanjali, who was a religious leader.  Siva, one of Hinduism’s three most powerful gods, was known as “The Destroyer” — he’s called Yogi Swara or the “Lord of Yoga.”  The basic premise of yoga theory is the fundamental unity of all existence:  God, man, and all of creation are ultimately one divine reality.  YOGA also 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.  One of the leading contemporary authorities on kundalini YOGA is Gopi Krishna.  In his article “The True Aim of Yoga,” he says:  “The aim of yoga, then is to achieve the state of unity or oneness with God, Brahman, [and] spiritual beings…” Yoga authorities Feuerstein and Miller comment that the postures (asana) of YOGA and its breathing techniques (pranayama) are much more than just physical exercises:  The goal is to control the “vital energy” (prana) by way of breathing, like also asana, is not merely a physical exercise, but is accompanied by certain psycho mental phenomena.  In other words, all techniques falling under the heading of asana and pranayama as, for example, the mudras and bandhas [physical] positions are symbolic bodily gestures utilizing pranayama and concentration for physical or spiritual purposes of Hathayoga, are psycho somatic exercises.  This point is little understood by Western practitioners.  Actually, yoga practice is intended to validate occult YOGA theory.  As noted, yoga theory teaches that everything is, in its true inner nature, divine – not only divine but ultimately equal to everything else- everything from God and the devil to the athlete and the AIDS virus.  YOGA theory also teaches that in their outer nature, everything is “maya,” or illusion.  For example, only in this inner spirit is man divine; his “outer nature,” of body and personality, are ultimately a delusion that separates him from awareness of his real inner divinity.  Thus, another purpose of yoga must be to slowly dismantle the outer personality – man’s illusory part – so the supposed impersonal divinity can progressively emerge from within this hidden divine consciousness. 

  Note:  This is why people who practice YOGA only for physical or mental health reasons are ultimately the victims of a confidence game.  They are promised better health; little do they suspect the end goal of yoga is to destroy them as individuals. (ie. “dismantle the outer personality…” If you missed that one go back and read it again!) 

       One of the most authoritative texts on YOGA theory within the Hindu perspective is Pantajali’s text on raja YOGA titled YOGA Sutras.  In this text he puts forth the traditional eight “limbs,” or parts, of YOGA.  These are defined within the context of a basic Hindu worldview (reincarnation, karma, and moksha, or liberation) and intended to support and reinforce Hindu beliefs.  Each “limb” has a spiritual goal and together they form a unit.  The eight limbs are: Yama (self control, restraints, devotion to the gods [eg. Krishna] of the final impersonal god [eg. Brahman]), Niyama (religious duties, prohibitions, observances), Asana (proper postures for YOGA pratices, these represent the first stage in the isolation of conciousness and are vital components for “transcending the human condition”), Pranayama (the control and directing of the breath and the alleged divine energy within the human body [prana] to promote health and spiritual [occult] consciousness and evolution), Prayahara (sensory control or deprivation, i.e. withdrawal of the senses from attachment to external objects), Dharana (deeper concentration, or mind control), Dhyana (deep contemplation from occult meditation), Samadhi (occult enlightenment of “God [Brahman] realization” i.e., “union” of the “individual” with God).   

  Note:  Because the eight steps are interdependent, the steps of “postures” and “breathing” cannot logically be separated from the others.  Thus, the interdependence of all eight steps reveals why the physical exercises of yoga are designed to prepare the body for the spiritual changes that will allegedly help one to realize godhood status. 

  The concept of prana “breath” is a key to the process.  Pranayama refers to the knowledge and control of prana, or mystical energy, not merely to the control of one’s physical breath.  Prana is believed to be universal divine energy residing behind the material world (akasa).  Prana is said to have five forms, and all energy is throughly to be a manifestation of it.  Swami Nikhilananada describes it in his Vivekananda – The YOGAs and other Works as “The infinite, omnipresent manifestating power of this universe.”  Perfect control of the prana makes on God.  One can have “infinite knowledge, infinate power, right now.”   

     You may now be wondering what power on earth this would be? What power on earth would not be his?   Well, the belief is he would be able to move the sun and the stars out of their places, to control everything in the universe from the atoms to the biggest sons.  This is the end aim of pranayama.  When the yogi becomes perfect there will be nothing in nature not under his control.  If he orders the gods or the soul of the departed to come, they will come at his bidding.  All the forces of nature will obey him as slaves…. He who has controlled prana has controlled his own mind in all minds… all the bodies that exist…(Rammurti S. Mishra, Yoga Sutras: The Textbook of Yoga Psychology, Garden City, NY: Anchor Books, 1973. Back 979:592. Swami Nikhilananda, Vinvekananda, the Yogas and Other Works, New York: Ramakrishna and Vinekananda Centre, 1953. Back 979:592)  

      The aim of pranayama is also to arouse the coiled up poser in the muladhara chakra called kundalini:  The whole nature will begin to change and the door of [psychic] knowledge will open.  No more will you need to go to books for knowledge; your own mind will have become your own book, containing infinite knowledge.  So, in other words, prana, god, and occult energy are all one and the same.  The one who practices yogic breathing (pranayama) is by definition attempting to manipulate occult “divine” energy.   

  Now we have defined exactly what YOGA is and its purpose, our next question is what does the bible say about this stuff, and what should we as Christians do? 

Christian Perspective 

Who God is Biblically? 

Deut6:4, Isaiah 44:6God is one and only one (not multiple)
Numbers 23:19, Hosea 11:9, Malachi 3:6God is not a man, he does not change
Isaiah 48:12Alpha and Omega, beginning and end
Isaiah 45:23Lord
Isaiah 43:11Savior
Isaiah 43:15King
Genesis 18:25Judge
Psalm 27:1Light
Deuteronomy 32:3-4Rock
Isaiah 48:17Redeemer
Isaiah 45:24Our Righteousness
Isaiah 44:24Husband
Psalm 139:7-12Omnipresent
1 Kings 8:39Omniscient
Isaiah 40:10-31Omnipotent
Genesis 1:1Preexistent
Psalm 102:26-27Eternal
Malachi 3:6Immutable
Exodus 34:14Receiver of Worship
John 4:24God is Spirit

God rejects false religions.   

4For they will turn away thy son from following me, that they may serve other gods: so will the anger of the LORD be kindled against you, and destroy thee suddenly. 5But thus shall ye deal with them; ye shall destroy their altars, and break down their images, and cut down their groves, and burn their graven images with fire.  6For thou art an holy people unto the LORD thy God: the LORD thy God hath chosen thee to be a special people unto himself, above all people that are upon the face of the earth. 7The LORD did not set his love upon you, nor choose you, because ye were more in number than any people; for ye were the fewest of all people: 8But because the LORD loved you, and because he would keep the oath which he had sworn unto your fathers, hath the LORD brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you out of the house of bondmen, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt. 9Know therefore that the LORD thy God, he is God, the faithful God, which keepeth covenant and mercy with them that love him and keep his commandments to a thousand generations; Deuteronomy 7:4-9 

     God’s chosen people were warned that their sons could possibly be turned away to follow other gods if they are not careful.  To prevent this from happening, God told his children to utterly destroy those things that have to do with the false religions their altars, images, groves, graven images, etc.  Also that the other nations will try to turn them away from the Lord God, he despises the false religions and false ways.  Why is it then that Christians today choose to walk in disobedience by practicing the Yoga movements which are the very thing God despises?   

19And it shall be, if thou do at all forget the LORD thy God, and walk after other gods, and serve them, and worship them, I testify against you this day that ye shall surely perish. 20As the nations which the LORD destroyeth before your face, so shall ye perish; because ye would not be obedient unto the voice of the LORD your God.  Deuteronomy 8:19-20 

     To practice Yoga is to “walk in the way of religious practice according to Yoga.”  As stated in the description of Yoga, one can not separate the physical movements of Yoga and use them out of innocence.  Just doesn’t work that way!  Leviticus 5:17 also states that we are guilty of our iniquity (sin) even if we do so out of ignorance, so one can never claim ignorance of occult activity before God. 

4Speak not thou in thine heart, after that the LORD thy God hath cast them out from before thee, saying, For my righteousness the LORD hath brought me in to possess this land: but for the wickedness of these nations the LORD doth drive them out from before thee. 5Not for thy righteousness, or for the uprightness of thine heart, dost thou go to possess their land: but for the wickedness of these nations the LORD thy God doth drive them out from before thee, and that he may perform the word which the LORD sware unto thy fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  Deuteronomy 9:4-5 

1These are the statutes and judgments, which ye shall observe to do in the land, which the LORD God of thy fathers giveth thee to possess it, all the days that ye live upon the earth. 2Ye shall utterly destroy all the places, wherein the nations which ye shall possess served their gods, upon the high mountains, and upon the hills, and under every green tree:  3And ye shall overthrow their altars, and break their pillars, and burn their groves with fire; and ye shall hew down the graven images of their gods, and destroy the names of them out of that place.  4Ye shall not do so unto the LORD your God. Deuteronomy 12:1-4 

     God drove out the nations because of their wickedness; this wickedness is the worship of these false gods and false ways.  God has provided one way for mankind to reestablish his relationship with him.  If man tries to approach God in any other way besides what he has provided then there is no faith and trust in God and his provision.  Remember it is written that it is impossible to please God without faith (Hebrews 11:6).  Jesus talked about a man who tries to enter heaven by another way, it is like a man coming to a wedding feast without the proper clothing.  (12“And he saith unto him, Friend, how camest thou in hither not having a wedding garment? And he was speechless. ” 13“Then said the king to the servants, Bind him hand and foot, and take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. ” Matthew 22:12-13)  This is the very thing the nations that were driven from before Israel did, they attempted to reach heaven by their own ways, and not by God’s way.   

30Take heed to thyself that thou be not snared by following them, after that they be destroyed from before thee; and that thou enquire not after their gods, saying, How did these nations serve their gods? even so will I do likewise  Deuteronomy 12:30 

     God now warns not to even enquire after the nations false gods, and not to enquire after how they served their gods.  Yoga movements were developed for the body to achieve the state of unity or oneness with Brahman, this is the very thing that God has commanded his children should have no part (ways of false religions).  It is quite obvious how alluring Yoga can be because people are using the movements for physical improvement; however the deception is that the movements are forbidden by God, this is how Christians are snared into disobedience by a lack of knowledge (Hosea 4:6) and limiting God’s blessing, or worse yet, causing God to turn away and allow the evil one to operate. 

9When thou art come into the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee, thou shalt not learn to do after the abominations of those nations. 10There shall not be found among you any one that maketh his son or his daughter to pass through the fire, or that useth divination, or  an observer of times, or an enchanter, or a witch, 11Or a charmer, or a consulter with familiar spirits, or a wizard, or a necromancer. 12For all that do these things are an abomination unto the LORD: and because of these abominations the LORD thy God doth drive them out from before thee. 13Thou shalt be perfect with the LORD thy God.  Deuteronomy 18:9-13 

     Why do Christians believe this is any different with Hinduism and Yoga?  Do Christians today believe that we are exempt from the law in Jesus Christ that we can live in disobedience and get away with it?  The thing is we do not get away with living in disobedience, we simply tie God’s hands and his blessing that he has for us.  Do you think it is possible for a Christian who is filled with the Holy Spirit to be deceived?  Yes, certainly it is possible for a Spirit filled Christian to be deceived.  We as Christians need to listen to the calling of the Holy Spirit in all areas of our lives and especially in spiritual matters.  God is a gentleman in that he will not force his will upon any Christian who doesn’t ask for the Lord to work in their lives.  In fact, we have to ask God into our heart and into our lives that he would forgive us, save us from our sins, bless us and to become his Children (John1:12).  Satan on the other hand doesn’t have to be asked; he will take advantage of any disobedience and use it as a foothold in our lives for the purpose of limiting God’s blessing and limit our witness and serving the Lord God.  Satan will use this foothold to work on the Christian, causing them to be tempted in sin, and when that happens, the Christian begins to focus more upon the sin that they commit, rather than the work they could be doing for the Lord.  We then begin thinking we are not ready, or not in the right relationship with the Lord to be used by him. 

16But of the cities of these people, which the LORD thy God doth give thee for an inheritance, thou shalt save alive nothing that breatheth: 17But thou shalt utterly destroy them; namely , the Hittites, and the Amorites, the Canaanites, and the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites; as the LORD thy God hath commanded thee: 18That they teach you not to do after all their abominations, which they have done unto their gods; so should ye sin against the LORD your God. Deuteronomy 20:16-18 

Why should we stay away from other religions and why stay away from Yoga?  

     It is clear that the false ways of the nation’s religions are not to be practiced by God’s children.  It all has to do with living for the Lord God Almighty!  If we want God’s blessing on our lives, and in every way that he has for us, we need to live in obedience to him.   God wants the best for his children and so I believe it can best be summed up by the following verses from Deuteronomy 28:1-14. 

1And it shall come to pass, if thou shalt hearken diligently unto the voice of the LORD thy God, to observe and to do all his commandments which I command thee this day, that the LORD thy God will set thee on high above all nations of the earth: 2And all these blessings shall come on thee, and overtake thee, if thou shalt hearken unto the voice of the LORD thy God. 3Blessed shalt thou be in the city, and blessed shalt thou be in the field. 4Blessed shall be the fruit of thy body, and the fruit of thy ground, and the fruit of thy cattle, the increase of thy kine, and the flocks of thy sheep. 5Blessed shall be thy basket and thy store.  6Blessed shalt thou be when thou comest in, and blessed shalt thou be when thou goest out. 7The LORD shall cause thine enemies that rise up against thee to be smitten before thy face: they shall come out against thee one way, and flee before thee seven ways. 8The LORD shall command the blessing upon thee in thy storehouses, and in all that thou settest thine hand unto; and he shall bless thee in the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee.  9The LORD shall establish thee an holy people unto himself, as he hath sworn unto thee, if thou shalt keep the commandments of the LORD thy God, and walk in his ways. 10And all people of the earth shall see that thou art called by the name of the LORD; and they shall be afraid of thee. 11And the LORD shall make thee plenteous in goods, in the fruit of thy body, and in the fruit of thy cattle, and in the fruit of thy ground, in the land which the LORD sware unto thy fathers to give thee.   12The LORD shall open unto thee his good treasure, the heaven to give the rain unto thy land in his season, and to bless all the work of thine hand: and thou shalt lend unto many nations, and thou shalt not borrow. 13And the LORD shall make thee the head, and not the tail; and thou shalt be above only, and thou shalt not be beneath; if that thou hearken unto the commandments of the LORD thy God, which I command thee this day, to observe and to do them : 14And thou shalt not go aside from any of the words which I command thee this day, to the right hand, or to the left, to go after other gods to serve them. Deuteronomy 28:1-14 

     Do you think this is only for the Israelites for that time in history?  Well, think again, we are also God’s chosen people through faith in Jesus Christ the Lord.  It is through Jesus Christ’s atoning sacrifice that we have our sins forgiven (Col. 1:14).  Stop limiting God and his plan for your life, and start living for him, today.  Forsake the false way of Yoga today and start living obediently.