“Yoga purists are bent out of shape”. This was the headline of a recent article in the Minneapolis Star Tribune newspaper. The article explained that traditional Yoga “experts contend that Hindu religious elements are being profaned by fad versions of the ancient practice.”
So, what are these “fad versions” of yoga that are upsetting the Hindu yogis? The article cites as an example the “millions of Americans… practicing yoga to improve flexibility, strengthen muscles and relieve stress.” These 16.5 million American yoga enthusiasts “spend nearly $3 billion annually on classes and products”.
The problem with this, according to the Hindu yogis quoted in the article, is that yoga was never designed to be an exercise, yet alone an exercise “fad”. Rather, yoga is an ancient Hindu religious practice, intended to unite a person’s soul with the impersonal, universal force Hindus call “god”. The Hindu Sanskrit word “yoga” literally means to be yoked or joined in union. And the goal of every Hindu yogi is to use the religious practice of yoga to lose their personality and individuality and to become one with the monistic-pantheistic spiritual force of Hinduism. This is done through Hatha Yoga (the physical disciplines), where one seeks to call up what Hindus say is the Kundalini or spiritual force described as a “coiled white serpent of light” to aid them in their transcendence to impersonal spiritual monism. There should be no doubt about it; yoga is a 2,000 year old Hindu religious practice designed for very specific spiritual and occult purposes.
This Star Tribune article should be a wake-up call to the thousands, if not millions, of Christians who are regularly practicing yoga. And it should be a wake-up call to the hundreds, if not thousands, of Christian churches that have embraced yoga as a regular part of their weekly worship. Too many Christians have erroneously strayed into participating in various forms of this Hindu religious practice. The common claim is that they’re only doing yoga “for its exercise benefits”; or for those aware of its Hindu religious origins, that their yoga meditation is “directed towards Jesus Christ and not the gods of Hinduism”. The fact of the matter is this, God strictly forbids his people from dabbling in the false religious activities of the world.
As you read through Scripture, you will not find one example of God tolerating His people’s participation in pagan religious activities. Rather, over and over again God explicitly condemns this. So, why should we think that just because yoga has some exercise benefits, that God’s standards have now changed? Why should we think that a pagan religious practice, even one that may work, is suddenly acceptable in God’s eyes? Think about it, there are a lot of pagan religious practices that work (witchcraft, sorcery, spiritism, ouija boards, etc.), but we don’t recommend that our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ participate in them. So, why should yoga be any different?
Christians who have mistakenly gotten involved in the practice of yoga need to stop now; there is no excuse for staying involved in a pagan religious activity. And Christian churches that have embraced yoga as a regular part of their worship need to put an end to this and repent; God will not tolerate His people’s participation in pagan religious practices. God calls His people to be set-apart, to be salt and light to the world. How are we being faithful to this calling if we are participating in the rituals of pagan religions?
Minneapolis Star Tribune “Faith & Values” July 30, 2005, p. B5
by Jason Carlson and Ron Carlson