A GREAT Compromise
Moses was specifically instructed on how Israel was to worship God. They (Israel) were told to have no other God’s before him. They were strictly told not to worship as the other nations worship their gods all through the Old Testament.
Deut. 12:2-4 speaks of the nations that worshipped other gods, their altars, images were to be destroyed “You shall not worship the LORD your God with such things.”
Deut. 18:9 ‘“When you come into the land which the LORD your God is giving you, you shall not learn to follow the abominations of those nations.”
Yet we find in II Kings 17:10-12 Israel continued things to provoke the LORD to anger, for they served idols, of which the LORD had said to them, “You shall not do this thing.”
Jeremiah the prophet (10:1) “The Lord says, ‘Do not learn the way of the nations...”
This principle continues in the New Testament- Jesus tells us to enter the narrow way that leads to life, not the wide road that leads to destruction-unfortunately, some who have started on this narrow way want to widen it, accepting other religions practices.
Agape Press reports – “An award-winning medical journalist and Christian author is expressing concern that some American schools are introducing students to yoga, a practice that he maintains has spiritual as well as physical implications.
Three Pittsburgh area schools are taking part in a 16-week pilot program called “Yoga in Schools,” designed to calm elementary and middle school students and improve their physical and mental health. But Dr. Walt Larimore, author of such books as Super Sized Kids and Alternative Medicine: A Christian Handbook, says people of any spiritual tradition need to be aware of yoga's religious background.
“Yoga has spiritual roots,” Larimore points out, noting its integral connection to Hindu religion and its popularity among many proponents of New Age spirituality. “Adherents of yoga claim that it leads to spiritual enlightenment and union with the divine,” he explains. “In fact, the pinnacle of that is called Kundalini arousal; and I've got some real concerns about the spiritual roots -- especially when yoga is being sold to people and those roots are hidden.”... (AGAPE PRESS - By Jim Brown - September 6, 2005 -http://headlines.agapepress.org/archive/9/62005e.asp) posted by Be Alert newsletter)
It is one thing to see Yoga adopted in the secular schools, but it is a totally different thing to see churches adopt it as part of their own curriculum for physical health and spiritual well being. Yoga is being incorporated into churches through teachers who know very little (some may know more) on what its real intent is. They believe it is complimentary to Christ’s teachings and they are worshipping God in both body posture and prayer.
I have been told by those who have lived in India that if you offer Jesus to Hindu’s they have no problem adding him to other gods they have, but this does not justify a Christian who has only one God to add other religions ways of devotion and worship to improve our spirituality.
We are being told how neutral the spiritual exercise of yoga is, that people of all faiths can benefit by practicing yoga without compromising their religious beliefs.
“…K.L. Seshagiri Rao, a professor of Hinduism at the University of Virginia and the editor of the Encyclopedia of Hinduism, said yoga complements all religions, adding that he has seen many Christians whose faith has been strengthened by their yoga practice.” “Yoga means joining together. It's the joining of the individual spirit with the Universal spirit,” Rao said. “No matter what religion you practice, you become a better person if you follow the principals of yoga.” (http://www.beliefnet.com/story/129/story_12947_1.html)
We are hearing that Yoga is spiritual- not a religion. “Yoga is a spiritual practice and is not dependent on a religion. There are religions such as Hindu that were born from Yoga. It is, however, incorporated into some religions such a Jainism and Buddhism. Most yoga practitioners do believe in a divine being or deities. Yoga is about self-awareness and discovering the divine within, creating a strong sense of self and of human kind.”(http://www.yogafamily.com/QA/index.shtm#religion)
Sri Swami Chidananda states: “Yoga is a Religious Science, which means that it goes beyond religion, and assumes a universal characteristic.” “Yoga restores, makes it alive, makes it green, brings it forth into life. Yoga can be applied to Christianity and to any other religion.” (YOGA AND CHRISTIANITY By Sri Swami Chidananda (emphasis mine) http://www.dlshq.org/religions/yogachristian.htm)
If yoga is a spiritual practice that can be applied to any belief system then we must ask some pertinent questions as Christians who follow Jesus. If it helps one discover God, or connect with God within- then how did God give this practice to man? What man did He reveal this to? What religion was this man? How can it be conducive to all religions if certain religions are bound by their own set of rules to live and practice? How can a practice that has you discover God within transverse all religions that have different ways to God? These questions will be answered throughout this article by quotes from Yoga teachers and what the Bible teaches on man and his relationship to God.
We can get lost in semantics of assigning this practice as non- religious, calling it a spiritual practice. The bottom line is that it claims to bring one to know God and is attributed to be very ancient- 5,000 years old.
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....”. (Gopi Krishna, “The True Aim of Yoga,” Psychic, Jan.- Feb., 1973, p. 14.) [emphasis mine]
“Drawing upon the Vedic teaching that fire is both a sacred element and a personal Deity, Dr. Frawley asserts that through worship and yogic penetration of fire, it is possible to discover the essence of life itself. “Yoga is about an inner transformation at the deepest core of the mind and heart, “ writes Frawley, “which depends upon fire not as a material force but as a spiritual being and an inner guide.” (July/August/September, 2005 The Power of Fire, Hinduism Today [emphasis mine]
There is a active principle in the New Testament- 1 Corinthians 10:11-12: “Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, on whom the ends of the ages have come. Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.” Paul goes on to say in v.14 “ Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry.” Is adopting other religions spiritual practices disobedience to the God who gave us the Bible? This is crux of the whole matter. What Paul is saying is- look back at Israel’s failures, the influences that came from the nations that surrounded them. They began to worship God with these nations practices, and they were punished.
The web site DoYoga.com advertises the book, “The Heart of the Yogi that lays out philosophical and spiritual context of hatha yoga from the Vedas to the Tantra.” It is described as a “personally relevant exploration of the whole of the philosophical tradition as a quest to connect with the Divine in and through our life and practice.”(emphasis mine).
On Yoga Research today (I recommend you read this site as they give a good and honest explanation) “Yoga (from Sanskrit yuj, meaning yoke) is an ancient family of spiritual practices that originated in India. Yoga practices share a common goal: Samadhi, the complete integration of the Self with God. Yoga as a means to enlightenment is central to Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism, and Jainism, but yoga has also influenced religious and spiritual practices throughout the world.” http://yoga.researchtoday.net/about-yoga.htm
And those promoting this practice inside the church are telling us that we can separate yoga from the religion of Hinduism? Anyone who really understands the spiritual mechanism knows this is not true. I do, I had practiced it for nearly 15 years before I became a Christian. There is more to Yoga than just the asanas (bodily positions) Yoga is often accompanied with breathing exercises, and mantra chants and meditation.
The Christian Yoga Dilemma - East Meets West or the West Marries the East
We in the west need to define yoga as the masters of yoga in India define it. You cannot take another religions practice and conform it to be sacred and spiritual for Jesus Christ. Jesus never mentioned it and he taught against works like these that would help us in our spiritual growth or relationship. In fact, the whole argument for not doing Yoga is very simple- “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17). If the Bible does not teach it, or allow it, then why should a Christian who is to be dependent upon the Scripture for his sustenance do it?
The postures are oftentimes presented as non-spiritual in nature, having no relationship to a religion. By emphasizing the exercise program of Yoga to help ones physical health and downplaying the spiritual and religious importance of yoga they are able to pass its use on to those naïve or ignorant of Christian doctrine and principles.
Paul's caution to the believers applies here: “All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful; all things are lawful for me, but not all things edify.” In other words Jesus gave us freedom, but we are not to use this freedom to bring ourselves into bondage. Paul writes to the Galatian church- Gal. 5:1: “Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage.”
How did we receive this liberty? When we first believed- we were given the Spirit, not by the law, not by doing any work but by faith in the Gospel. And this gospel is what we are to stand in for our righteousness (1Cor.15:1-4).
Exodus 23:24-25: “You shall not bow down to their gods, nor serve them, nor do according to their works…” Is not yoga a work that is connected to Hinduism and other gods?
Incredibly, some quote Bible verses about the body to justify Yoga practices. “We are the temple of the Living God. Glorify God in your body” (2 Corinthians 6:16, 1 Corinthians 6:20). The problem is the misapplication. It means that we are not to do anything with your body that would bring you into sin. Now I ask you, does borrowing another religions practice Glorify God in your body? Of course not- in fact it means the very opposite. It should be obvious that practicing yoga is not what God meant by this statement.
We are not to mix other religious practices that would affect the Holy Spirits training to walk with Jesus Christ by faith and His word.
Before you jump on the newest trend of self- improvement, and participate in American churches trend to synthesize spirituality you need to ask some important questions- for example: what do these religions believe about Jesus or God? We find that yoga teachers present Jesus Christ as a great master/teachers, one like Buddha, Krishna, and Mohammed, and that he discovered his Christ consciousness. Which would be another name for being illuminated through the Kundalini.
What is Kundalini-Yoga? It is the name of a style of Hatha-Yoga originated by the Sikh master Yogi Bhajan who was a disciple of Sant Hazara Singh, Swami Dev Murti, and Dhirendra Brahmachari. Its purpose is to awaken the serpent power (kundalini) by using postures, breath control, chanting, and meditation.
Integral Yoga was developed by Swami Satchidananda, a disciple of Swami Sivananda of Rishikesh, India. He was able to integrate the various aspects of the body-mind through a combination of postures, breathing techniques, deep relaxation, and meditation. All yoga practices have the ability to awaken the “kundalini.” Kundalini is awakened through the practice of these spiritual disciplines (asanas and others). The Kundalini rises up the spinal column, through the various (chakra) spiritual centres, and reaches the brain, where the yogi experiences samadhi, being absorbed in the Godhead.
When you practice yoga it is not just a physical exercise for the body, it is a spiritual exercise. The goal of Yoga is self-realization. YOGA means: yoke, Yoga's goal is to yoke oneself with an impersonal God, to become enlightened - to find one's true self- that they are God. How can this be compatible with the teachings of Christ who told us not to seek self, but to deny self. Hatha Yoga is actually to help one neutralize their karma and find a way off the cycle of rebirth (reincarnation). How can this spiritual exercise that is so ingrained and practiced in Hinduism for thousands of years be sanitized for a Christian’s use today?
“If you are used to thinking in terms of one world, one life, one god, then to think of there beings many worlds, many lives, or many gods, will seem unreasonable, but man’s real identity is far more extensive than his reason can comprehend.” (Quote from the http://www.hathayogalesson.com/ web page is under reincarnation).
And what is this reality? From the book Death of a Guru, by Rabindranath Maharaj - on “Yoga”: “Yoga is Hinduistic. It is a religious philosophy whose goal is self-realization that is, God-realization. It is religious, and has nothing to do with gymnastics or good physiques.”
“Practicing Hatha Yoga can help you recognize that a divine light shines within you” (History of Yoga - A Complete Overview of the Yoga History, http://www.abc-of-yoga.com/beginnersguide/yogahistory.asp)
Christians Who Have Widen the Way
There is always the danger of adopting practices and ideas from other religions that appear to help ones spiritually. This often occurs from a misunderstanding of who we already are “in Christ” and what grace is, along with the Holy Spirit’s work inside the believer.
Christian (church) websites promoting this new synthesis of spirituality are surfacing everywhere. We find that that this movement is empowered mostly from women and those who do not esteem the word of God as they should.
For example- the ELCA (Evangelical Lutheran Church in America) Café - stirring the spirit within.
Christian Yoga online- http://www.womenoftheelca.org/cafe/issue002/internet_cafe.html
Their acronym Café stands for women who want to build Community, participate in Advocacy, strengthen Faith, and strive toward Enlightenment (CAFE!)
Indeed they are striving- enlightenment defined by yoga is not part of the Christian way but a mystical one. Eph.1:18 tells us about our being enlightened to what is in Jesus Christ through the Spirit, not through yoga.
Their recommended reading are books by those claiming Christianity and non Christians on the subject Yoga and Zen etc.
Example: An Invitation to Christian Yoga by Nancy Roth & Susan Mangam; A Taste of Water: Christianity Through Taoist-Buddhist Eyes; AUM: A Scriptural Rosary of Renewal and the Essential Doctrines of Dharma and Christian Shamanism ; Benedict’s Dharma: Buddhists reflect on the Rule of Saint Benedict; Going Home: Jesus and Buddha As Brothers by Thich Nhat Hanh; The Ground We Share: Everyday Practice, Buddhist and Christian; Life and the Way: the Christian Yoga Metaphysics; Prayer of Heart and Body: Meditation and Yoga As Christian Spiritual Practice by Thomas Ryan (Catholic); Yoga and God: An Invitation to Christian Yoga; Centering Prayer: Renewing an Ancient Christian Prayer Form by M. Basil Pennington (Catholic).
Numerous books on Zen are also promoted- The Silent Dialogue: Zen Letters to a Trappist Abbot by David J. Hackett; Christian Zen by William Johnston; Zen and the Bible by Kakichi Kadowaki, et al ; Zen and the Birds of Appetite by Thomas Merton; The Mirror Mind: Zen-Christian Dialogue; Zen Spirit, Christian Spirit: The Place of Zen in Christian Life.
They also have a link to Find a Retreat-you can search their database for a spiritual/yoga/Christian retreat center in your state.http://www.expandretreats.com/FindRetreats.html
This was of special interest to me after I found where I live: RETREATS for ENLIGHTENMENT The Big Island of Hawai'i has given me the privilege of being the student of Kupuna, elders of the old Hawaiian knowledge and traditions. A Journey for Goddesses To the Magical Isle of Women
On this site they offer these different yoga’s Hatha, Kripalu, Kundalini, Anusara, Iyengar, Jiva Mukti, Astanga, Integral.
So we can see that this one practice certainly does open up the door to many other yoga practices. There is much more incorporated with Yoga practices than just physical exercise.
This is what happens when people in the church abandon the Word for its spiritual growth and allows other religious influences to take its place.
“The practice of yoga by Christians has been receiving a good bit of
media coverage recently. An article in the September 5 issue of Time entitled
“Stretching for Jesus” says that, “a slew of books and videos
[about ‘Christian yoga’] are about to hit the market.”
“The September 9 issue of the National Catholic Reporter
presents a more sympathetic and positive framing of what Father Ryan and
others are doing. Combining yoga positions with prayer, he says, is a way of
highlighting the incarnational character of Christianity. “Our Christian
theology is very clear in asserting that this body may be biodegradable but it
is not disposable. God wants the whole you, and your body is not going to be
sent away like a banana peel or a recyclable bottle.”
The article is linked to a site that has numerous occult practices.
Those who are involved in this synthesis of religious practices believe one can do Yoga (and other religious practices not found in the Bible) and conform it around Christ, no longer be connected to an eastern origin of spirituality. This is not possible.
Yoga for Your Pregnancy is offered by Christianbook .com also Mindful Moments for Stressful Days Along with exploring how nutrition affects your state of mind. Aromatherapy, Feng Shui, and yoga postures. Thomas Nelson Advertises the book- Yoga for Christians A Christ-Centered Approach to Physical and Spiritual Health through Yoga, Tells the story of Susan Bordenkircher and the vision for her yoga-based Christian ministry, Outstretched in Worship. (http://www.thomasnelson.com/consumer/product_detail.asp?sku=0849912709)
There are numerous bookstores offering her book, even bereanChristianbookstore.com (seems to me they need to reevaluate their name if this is what they are going to do).
The poses (asanas) - what one is actually doing are bowing in a worshipful pose to other gods. Our God says: “You shall have no other Gods before me . . . .You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God.” According to the Bible Yoga is an idolatrous practice that leads one away from the one true God and into the spiritual realm of false gods, and there are consequences?
“Others say it's impossible to extract the physical benefits of yoga from its spiritual roots. Laurette Willis of Tulsa, Okla., a yoga veteran of 22 years and a born-again Christian, said the feeling of euphoria she got from yoga left her vulnerable to “psychic influences” she believed to be demonic. “Yoga led me down a false rosy path,” Willis said. “ It opened the door to 20 years of involvement in the New Age movement.” (Emphasis mine)
Willis developed “PraiseMoves, Fitness for His Witness,” Yet “Willis says many yoga postures are based on ancient Hindu worship of the sun and moon as deities, and rejects the notion that they can be redeemed by putting a Christian spin on them. “Christian yoga is an oxymoron,” she said. “It's like the fellow who says, `I'm a Christian Buddhist.” In the introduction to her book, which details the Praisemoves postures and the corrsponding scritpural passages, Willis argues that yoga's emphasis on cultivating divine energy within oneself conflicts with Christianity's goal of finding salvation through Christ.” (Source: http://www.beliefnet.com/story/129/story_12947_1.html) [Emphasis mine]
Excerpts from the article Yoga Stretches Traditional Christian Boundaries- “Marylyn Mandeville sits crossed-legged on a mat in front of 11 of her students. Her hands are folded as if in prayer, framed by the slogan on her T-shirt: “Know Yoga, Know Peace.” A gold cross rests on the Om symbol emblazoned on her shirt. “Namaste,” she says to the class, bowing deeply while offering the Sanskrit salutation “I bow to the God within you.” http://www.beliefnet.com/story/129/story_12947_1.html
The God that is within you (in all people) is not the God of the Bible; we do not worship nor bow to the God within. What is more disturbing is that we read in the article- “No one in the Parkwood Baptist Church, not even the pastor, reacts to Mandeville's T-shirt, gesture….”
Namaste is the belief that there is a divine spark within each of us (located in the heart chakra). Namaste literally means, “I bow to you,” acknowledging their soul in one by the soul in another. It is done by placing the hands together at the third eye, bowing the head, and then bringing the hands down to the heart. That is why you will see people with their hands clasped like a prayer pose.
The Bible says there is no spark but there is sin, the fallen nature (spirit of man). How can one find god within?
Marylyn Mandeville -”Where the spirit of the Lord is, there is light,” she continues. “Jesus said, you will know the truth and the truth will set you free. Yoga will free your body, let God free your life.” (Yoga Stretches Traditional Christian Boundaries By Alexandra Alter Religion News Service http://www.beliefnet.com/story/129/story_12947_1.html)
This is NOT what Jesus meant by knowing the truth and this is an intentional distortion of what He said. All one has to do is read it in context-- Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. “And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”(John 8:31-32) It is by learning and applying His word one is set free, because His word is the truth, this is the very opposite of what yoga introduces. Jesus said to know the truth by pointing to Himself. He said, “He whom the SON sets free is free indeed.” How can any Christian reinterpret this to mean Yoga sets one free? Jesus did not say get in your yoga posture to be set free!
“While some argue that taking up a yoga practice might lead Christians down the dangerous path of New Age mysticism, Mandeville says she considers it part of her ministry to teach other Christians how to look after their bodies. “There's an important Scripture that says we are God's temple and we're supposed to take care of that temple, but we don't do that,” she said. (Yoga Stretches Traditional Christian Boundaries By Alexandra AlterReligion News Service)
How does ministry involve promoting another religions practice of Yoga? There are many others involved in promoting yoga and mediation. Richard Foster, in his book Celebration of Discipline, the Path to Spiritual Growth recommends Christians using Yoga-like techniques (chapter 2, the Discipline of Meditation) and other sordid eastern ideas to practice for ones spirituality.
Several board members of Lead like Jesus (Ken Blanchard’s ministry) promote these other religious practices. Barbara Glanz- (promotes New Age practices)”Many companies are offering classes in Yoga, and some of these exercises to relieve stress can be done at your desk.”
Ken Blanchard also endorses other religions belief systems. Blanchard wrote the foreword to Jim Ballard's book, Mind Like Water: “I signed up for the yoga meditation lessons...founded by Paramahansa Yogananda...I had evidently reached a level of consciousness beyond the usual...I continue to consider meditation far and away the most important thing I do.” (pp. 77, 78.)
He and his wife both encourage the practice of yoga and meditation. “Practice stress management techniques, (deep relaxation, mediation, yoga)” (Dr. Marjorie Blanchard, Life Balance for Both Individual Well Being and organizational Retention, p.11, astd. 2003, The Ken Blanchard companies) For further information see Blanchard’s involvement with the new age movement.
For what reason would yoga be useful? Stretching? One can use other stretch poses outside yoga to make their blood flow. Hindus who practice yoga are not doing it for stretching, to be more flexible, it is part of their spiritual practice to relieve them of the their Karma and unite with the divine. Dave Hunt explains Yoga is, “a Sanskrit word meaning to “yoke,” and its aim is to yoke with the Hindu concept of God” (Occult Invasion, p.220)
In answering the question What is Yoga? Swami Nirmalananda Giri states: "Yoga" is a Sanskrit word that comes from the root-word yuj that means "to join." Yoga, then, is both union and the means to union. What do we join through yoga? Two eternal beings: God, the Infinite Being, and the individual spirit that is finite being. In essence they are one, and according to yogic philosophy all spirits originally dwelt in consciousnes (sic) of that oneness.” (http://www.atmajyoti.org/med_what_is_yoga.asp)
Yoga is offered as an asset to cope with daily stress, to relax. Yet the Bible says many things related to stress and tells us a different solution than doing physical exercises. We are to “cast our burden upon the Lord,” “be anxious for nothing.” There is nothing about yoga postures that will help in this. The Bible teaches God will “keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You” (Isaiah 26:3). Jesus says I give you peace- you don’t have to stretch in these postures or become absolutely still to commune with God. In fact, if you do He may very well become silent because of your lack of faith on His word.
Yoga is ancient, but it is not the pathway the God of the Bible gave us to find Him. Incense was used as an act of worship; the similarity is that we are being told yoga can be an act of worship, using the body. What we hear is that there is no conflict between yoga and Christianity because the practice honors God by honoring one’s body. Israel becomes our example: Jeremiah asks (18:14-15): “Will the refreshing pure flowing waters be forsaken for strange waters? “Because My people have forgotten Me, they have burned incense to worthless idols. And they have caused themselves to stumble in their ways, from the ancient paths, to walk in pathways and not on a highway.”
Herein lies the problem; these Christians have abandoned the living water from Jesus Christ and have gone to broken cisterns, the world, and other religions to to find refreshment. Never consulting the word of whom Jesus said: “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls (Matt 11:29). Jesus also said, “Now everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand” (Matt 7:26). The main reason anyone, even a Christian will search elsewhere, is because they are not building their life on God’s word, they have walked away from it. Once one does this they become open to other religions influences and philosophies that are contrary to Jesus Christ.
part 2- Yoga is for Christians too