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 pt.2 Yoga is for Christian's too!

The book- “Yoga for Christians A Christ-Centered Approach to Physical and Spiritual Health through Yoga” Is the story of Susan Bordenkircher and her yoga-based Christian ministry. It has become one of the main books for promoting this synthesis.

We read, Susan fell in love with yoga after attending a national yoga workshop.” And “began teaching power yoga in 2000.  The following year, she developed a unique class that combined the disciplines of yoga with her own Christian faith; the class is entitled Outstretched in Worship.…” Combining a routine of hatha yoga stretches and poses with Christian meditations. 

“ Susan made the decision to develop a Christian yoga video series, also entitled Outstretched in Worship, in the spring of 2002.  The series is receiving a tremendous response nationally. It uniquely taps in to the physical and psychological healing benefits of yoga while instructing students to “quiet the mind” and ““come to God with no baggage.”

She “has gotten requests for her yoga video “ Outstretched in Worship” from Christians in Indonesia and Singapore and missionaries in Chad. She said that although some concepts in yoga may be at odds with Christianity, there is much to be gained from the practice”.

The question we need to ask is if God is honoring this practice even though our mouths utter the correct words or pray to God. Since it is the gurus who gave us Yoga, men who think they are god, using it as a spiritual exercise to unite with god and relieve them of their karma so they will not be reincarnated on earth as many times. Despite a christianizing of this practice,  Yoga was never designed for physical fitness, it was always a religious exercise for Hinduism. Westerners like to revision it and make it suitable for modern consumption.

“Purists claim that real yoga is Raja or Ashtanga yoga, an eight-limbed system of ethics and meditation created millennia ago by the ancient sage Patanjali. Hatha yoga is just one of the eight limbs.” (Yoga and its genius 10/09/2005 http://www.denverpost.com/search/ci_3087074) (emphasis mine)

“There is some of the history of yoga that involves worshipping different gods that is contradictory to Christian concepts,” she said. But rejecting the yoga practice altogether would be a mistake, Bordenkircher warned. “It's kind of throwing the baby out with the bath water, because the postures themselves are so good,” she said. In her video and classes, Bordenkircher injects yoga postures with a Christian flavor by teaching “moving mantras,” during which students silently recite scriptural passages such as “You are my strength, Oh God,” as they stretch. A United Methodist, Bordenkircher said yoga practice has taught her how to pray Scripture in a visceral way” (emphasis mine) (http://www.beliefnet.com/story/129/story_12947_1.html)

On her webpage http://www.christianyoga.us/home.htm, her links recommend books by Thomas Ryan such as Prayer of Heart and Body.” Father Ryan heads the Paulist Office for Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations is one of the sources of this new trend of synthesis. On the Paulist website of father Ryan there is a picture of a tree with all the religions of the world’s symbols hanging from the branches. http://www.paulist.org/mission/relations.html

It says on his site: “Interreligious Relations opens us to our unique spiritual kinship with the Jewish people and to the movement of the Holy Spirit in Islam and in other World Religions.” Which sounds nearly identical to what is held in the world council of Churches, and interfaith movement.

Fr. Tom Ryan's book: Disciplines for Christian Living: Interfaith Perspectives has the Foreword written by Henri Nouwen. Nouwen said he was uncomfortable with those who said Jesus was the only way. Nouwen mystically perceived the divine in everyone. In his book- Sabbatical Journey Nouwen stated: “… Today I see it as my call to help every person claim his or her own way to God” (p.51). “The God who dwells in our inner sanctuary is the same as the one who dwells in the inner sanctuary of each human being” (Here and Now by Henri Nouwen p. 22)

This what happens when the Christian church is willing to unite with Catholics, especially those who are liberal and deeply involved in interfaith. They accept other religious practices that are not part of the Christian worldview or worship.

Fr. Thomas Ryan, CSP explains in the article How to Pray: Pray with your Body http://www.bustedhalo.com/faith_guides/yoga.htm 
Yoga means “to yoke, to harmonize, to unite.” Hatha means “sun and moon,” symbolizing the different polarities within the human person. Hatha yoga refers to a series of stretching and breathing exercises that are used to harmonize body and spirit and orient the whole person towards an experience of communion with the Divine. These exercises— yoga— were originally designed to help people meditate better. Most people in the Western world have never gotten that message about yoga.”

What he is not explaining is that the word Hatha represents opposing energies: hot and cold, male and female, positive and negative, that the serpent power at the base of the spine intertwines up through the spine, through the 7 chakras (occult energy centers) finally reaching the crown of the head to bring enlightenment to the adherent. It is shaktipat - to awaken the spiritual energy or kundalini. The Guru’s awaken seekers to their own potential for enlightenment by bestowing shaktipat through their grace- by touching them on the forehead.

John Weldon and John Ankerberg: cite a leading guru, Swami Muktananda, as confessing that he was violently shaken by a spirit during kundalini arousal: “A great deity in the form of my guru has spread all through me as chiti [energy] and was shaking me....when I sat for meditation, my whole body shook violently, just as if I were possessed by a god or a bad spirit" (610). Weldon and Ankerberg conclude with this observation: “Because all yoga has the ability to arouse ‘kundalini’ all yoga should be avoided" (610). (source: Ankerberg website)

Like the others Ryan states, “Can Christians do yoga? Sure, and they can even bring their Christian faith to it and make it part of their practice in the spiritual life. The exercises themselves are like the “hardware”. By itself, it's neutral and can receive many different kinds of software and be used in different ways.”
“Christian faith has the highest theology of the body amongst all world religions, but it also has one of the lowest levels of actual physical practice. So when Christian theology meets a finely developed physical practice like yoga or tai chi, it's a natural fit.”

How can another religions spiritual practice that was not used by Israel or taught by the apostles be neutral or useful to our faiths practice? Why is it considered natural- because he wants it to be. How can Christianity be molded to a worldview that is completely in opposition to it? If we begin to open up to spiritual practices like these then the lines of distinction will certainly become blurred. In time one will be open to just about anything as they travel down this wide open highway.

On wikipedia.com the Encyclopedia says- Hatha yoga, pronounced___ is also known as Hatha vidya. It is a particular system of Yoga propagated by Swami Swatmarama, a yogic sage of the 15th century in India. It is part of the Hindu traditions of Yoga and Tantra, and is a path of spiritual realization leading to the ultimate goal of Raja Yoga, or contemplation of the One Reality. (Answers.com)

An editorial in the Yoga Journal explains the basic premise: We are all aware that yoga 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. But more broadly, yoga directs our attention to the unity or oneness that underlies our fragmented experiences and equally fragmented world. Family, friends, the Druze guerrilla in Lebanon, the great whale migrating north-all share the same essential [divine] nature (Editorial, Yoga Journal, May/June 1984, p. 4).

Near the end of Thomas Ryan’s article- it tells us how to get more information on how to relate your Christian faith to yoga and meditation. Ryan recommends, his book or A New Christian Yoga (Cowley Publications, 1991) by Nancy Roth.

Who is Nancy Roth? She is an Episcopal priest and writer with an ecumenical ministry. She writes of hatha yoga in her book New Christian Yoga- practiced in a Christian context as a way of deepening a connection with God....She also offers instructions in breathing, relaxation, and meditation.” She says yoga is a “unique way to worship God through the ancient practices and disciplines of body prayer. (Emphasis mine)

This book is published by Cowley Publications, is a ministry of the brothers of the Society of Saint John the Evangelist, a monastic order in the Episcopal Church. They state they want to “encourage people to think and pray in new ways about spirituality, reconciliation, and the future.”

Indeed these are “new ways” of spirituality-- this body prayer is originating from Hinduism, not Christianity. Neither Jesus nor his disciples tell people of a certain body posture to uphold in prayer. In fact, these positions are not prayers at all but worship positions, postures for the energy of Hindusim’s god to flow.

Ryan who is clearly promoting interfaith, says “The reason I have been leading yoga and meditation retreats for Christians is to help them make points of connection between these practices and their faith, executing adjustments of theological understanding in the process, so that the practice is within the Christian understanding of how we come to union with God ... not through our efforts alone, but with the assistance of God’s grace. That is a critical point, and one that a spiritual director or guide in meditation practices or yoga or Zen methods needs to make with great care and conscientiousness.” (http://www.natcath.com/NCR_Online/archives/022103/022103j.htm) (Emphasis mine)

How can yoga explain God this if the Bible does not teach this and actually teaches a completely different way?

Swami Vishnudevananda, well known authority of Yoga in The Complete Illustrated Book of Yoga: “The aim of all yoga practice is to achieve truth wherein the individual soul identifies itself with the supreme soul of God.”

Can we mix other religious practices after we are saved by Jesus Christ? Paul stated in Gal. 3:3: “Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh.” Paul did not even want the church to mix the law of Moses from their own Jewish heritage with their new found freedom in Christ. What would he think about these other religious practices that deal with the body? He would certainly reject them.

Christian Yoga or "New Age" Christianity?

“To dispel the stereotype at hand, let me witness that yoga has never had any negative influence on me, and it doesn't trigger any harmful religious impulses. Just the opposite is true. The three hours a week I spend doing yoga not only make me more flexible, tone my muscles, and relax me. They also draw me closer to Christ. They are my bodily-kinetic prayer (Agnieszka Tennant, Yes to Yoga, Christianity Today, May 2005).

There are all kinds postures in prayers in the Bible but none are Yoga postures. We pray with words not by the position of our body; the body has absolutely nothing to do with our mind being on God. People pray when they are comfortable and at peace and when they are uncomfortable and in pain. Our prayer does not become more powerful or heard by our bodies position.

In the Emergent church movement this practice along with other religious practices are being accepted, integrated into a church meeting. In an article posted- The Emergent Gathering”- A gathering of those pursuing advanced conversations and deepening relationships in the emerging ministry world.

It reads “Fair warning: I'm about to reveal some of the secret wisdom of the Eastern art of yoga.

Some are reexamining what Jesus said and adapting their stance toward culture and the church accordingly. Others are recalibrating their faith so it is centered in their bodies rather than their brains.

All this came to a head for me as I prayed through the Lord’s prayer, moving from Lotus through Upward Dog and finally to Rag Doll—or something like that.

There’s something to be said for sweaty, breathless praying, though. Talking to God can seem to be such an abstraction, really the most unusual thing about believing in God altogether. Embodying my prayer that day was, in a word, stretching.

I've since imagined yoga routines for the Doxology and Psalm 23, and I'm gearing up for St. Francis’s Canticle of the Sun. And I’ll do all these things just as soon as I finish my cappuccino. And once I get myself some proper yoga pants.”

This is quite revealing to see how people are thinking from the new paradigm they have accepted. This is promoted as a new openness to our youth. 

In the article-Faith, healing and ... yoga 'I wanted a deeper purpose to my life.' Sitting crossed-legged on a yoga mat, Susan Mason drew her palms together at her chest and folded her torso over a Bible on the floor. Unfolding her body she said, “Relaxation is a form of prayer.”

“As yoga teacher at Jackson's First Baptist Church, Mason integrates Christian spirituality into a physical art with Hindu roots. And though some Christians shun yoga because of its Eastern origins, Mason embraces the practice that helped heal her body and spirit after debilitating cancer treatments.

The practice of breathing, holding postures and meditation is an ancient art form that originated in India nearly 5,000 years ago.”
She started the first Christian yoga class at her church, First Baptist Church in Jackson, three years ago. Mason sees no conflict between yoga and Christianity because the practice helps her honor God by honoring her body.
There's a lot of correlation between yoga philosophy and Christian philosophy,” she said. “A lot has to do with man's search for spirituality.” Still, she's tweaked her class to give it a decidedly Christian flavor.
In place of Sanskrit chants, Mason inserts words from Scripture. She calls the sun salutation posture — a sequence of poses that begins and ends with hands drawn together in prayer — the “son” salutation.
“I practice my faith and I use yoga to enhance my faith,” she said.
Sherry Gentry says, Yoga is a practice for getting in touch with your inner being,” she said. “How much more in touch with God can you be if you're in touch with yourself inside?” (February 12, 2005 By Jean Gordon)

Christianity does not teach being in touch with self is to be in touch with God, but instead tells us to deny self, our self is not God.

The Tribune carried an articleYoga practice blends exercise, spirituality”Two rolled-up rubber mats formed a purple cross, leaning against the dance studio wall. Above it hung a tapestry of Jesus the Good Shepherd and the words “Lost No More.” Prayerful contemporary music radiated through the darkened room, ringed with lighted novena candles.

Yahweh Yoga, a Christ-centered workout designed to worship through prayer, breath and movement. Some wore T-shirts proclaiming, “Jesus is My Guru.”

Instructor Elena Porter cooed softly over the music for everyone to put their hands by their sides, palms up “ready to receive God's blessing.” They were encouraged to let their shoulders melt into their mats and take deep breaths, release the tension in their jaws, direct energy out their toes.”

With each inhale,” she said, “know the Holy Spirit did create the breath of life. Breathe in all he has to offer.” Yoga is not a religion, said DeAnna Smothers, who co-founded Yahweh Yoga in April with her daughter,Courtney Kutta. “Yoga is a system of wellness that is so effective, it has doctors, stars, athletes and those who wish to reach and maintain their health, fitness and wellness practicing yoga,” she said.

“She is part of a four teacher team certified in both yoga and Christian Yoga through Our Lady of Lourdes Institute of Wholistic Studies in Collingswood, N.J., the only U.S. school certified in Christian Yoga. Yahweh Yoga is Arizona's only certified studio. “It is amazing what it does for you,” said Ahwatukee Foothills real estate agent Tracy Lenz, noting that her focus is on breathing right. “God is the breath of life. . . . It really does incorporate the spiritual side with your breathing,” she said.”
(Yoga practice blends exercise, spirituality By Lawn Griffiths, Tribune, October 22, 2005)

To say Jesus is ones Guru is really an ignorant statement to make publicly. A guru is a Hindu religious teacher, their sacred conduit to self-realization. “You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain” does not just mean using God’s name in an expletive manner but attributing his name to something He has not commanded us (Exodus 20:7). In my opinion, to call it Yahweh yoga is to take God's name in vain.

This influence is coming into the church by telling them you breathe in the Holy Spirit, just like the prana of Hinduism (which promotes a pantheistic worldview). This energy is essential to yoga and Hindu philosophy. Yoga is a spiritual practice, as admitted and it promotes a non- Christian worldview that is antithetical to the Bible. 

“The discipline of yoga is, as a general rule, firmly grounded within a pantheistic worldview. Pantheism teaches that everything which exists is part of a unitary, all-encompassing divine reality. In short, pantheism teaches that all is "God." But in pantheism, "God" is not a personal being distinct from the world; rather "God" IS the world and the world IS "God." (Is It OK for a Christian to Practice Yoga?
By Michael Gleghorn: http://www.pastornet.net.au/response/articles/104.htm)

There is a connection of what we practice to what we believe, something is wrong when people gravitate toward other religious practices while they claim to follow Christ. They are making their own spirituality, ignoring the way Jesus said to follow Him.

When you take the worlds ways to practice your spirituality you are doing what John tells us not to-I Jn 2:15: “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” When we use other practices from the world to enhance or  practice our spirituality are we worshipping God? 

To hear how distorted this has become, listen to a few points in this article: Yoga: a new Christian practice by Megan Jones, a pastor she asks

“Why is yoga, which has been around for over 5,000 years, gaining such popularity now? My answer is this: The time is right. There is a spiritual restlessness in our country, along with an openness to exploration, a willingness to learn, and a deep desire to connect to God through meaningful rituals and relevant experience.

She readily admits “Yoga is indeed an ancient practice, an oral tradition passed down from yogi (or guru) to disciple for generations”

it is a physical experience that acknowledges our very beings as potential vessels for the divine.

Yoga is just one of a variety of ways to open oneself up to our greatest potential through God http://www.womenoftheelca.org/cafe/issue002/hot_topic.html 

Sounds so admirable, she even claims a need for this without any scriptural verification to accept it.  If Yoga is just one of  many ways to open oneself up to our greatest potential through God, we must consider what else is there?

Yet was is being overlooked is that yoga was introduced by Lord Krishna in the Baghavad Gita. It is passed down from Guru's.  The fact that Yoga is supposedly 5,000 years old and was practiced in India when Jesus did His ministry seems to be contrary to all the arguments they come up with. Jesus never mentioned it, never practiced it and actually by His teachings was against it. He told us to believe, repent and follow Him- ONLY.

Lets think this through. We are being told it is just one of many ways to find our potential or union with God. If Hindus have practiced this for 5,000 years and have contacted the divine, then who needs Jesus Christ!

What God have they been in touch with? We know that they believe in pantheism, the universal spirit (prana) some call it energy. Whatever you want to call it, it cannot be connected to the God of the Scripture. We are living in the time period when those within the church demote Christianity to another world religion- they are allowing it to be diversified through acceptance of other religions practices.

The majority of Gurus will tell us that Jesus went to India and studied there and became a realized Yogi. There is NO evidence that Jesus ever went to or studied in India. What would Jesus say to a guru? Would He approve of his way or say I am the ONLY way- through the cross.

Jesus never cited the Hindu Vedas but always the Jewish Old Testament which proclaimed the monotheistic God separate from his creation. Jesus’ teaching about God was NOT pantheistic (all is God), both Old and New Testament revelation distinguishes the creation from the Creator, Eastern religions (Hindu) pantheism do not, these are two opposing worldviews that cannot be reconciled.

The True Yoga of the Hinduism

One only needs to ask those who practiced yoga from India or elsewhere if they continued to do so after they became a Christian? The majority of those who become grounded in God’s word would say NO.

Not all are so happy what is being done in America--
The Indian government is furious that yoga practices dating back thousands of years are being “stolen” by gurus and fitness instructors in Europe and the United States.
    Foreign practitioners are already said to have claimed hundreds of patents and copyrights on poses and techniques lifted straight from classical Indian yoga treatises.
    “Yoga piracy is becoming very common, and we are moving to do something about it,” says Vinod Gupta, the head of a recently established Indian government task force on traditional knowledge and intellectual-property theft.
    “We know of at least 150 asanas [yoga positions] that have been pirated in the U.S., the UK, Germany and Japan,” he says. “These were developed in India long ago and no one can claim them as their own.”
    In an effort to protect India's heritage, the task force has begun documenting 1,500 yoga postures drawn from classical yoga texts -- including the writings of the Indian sage, Patanjali, the first man to codify the art of yoga. The data is being stored in a digital library whose computerized contents will soon be made available to patent offices worldwide.
    “This is a very good idea,” says B.K.S. Iyengar, the 86-year old yoga guru credited with having introduced yoga to the West in the 1970s. “Yoga is an essential part of our heritage, and India has to protect it.”
(‘India makes moves to reclaim heritage from 'yoga piracy' (By David Orr NEW DELHI http://washtimes.com/functions/print.php?StoryID=20050922-114821-4035r)

We have an obvious conflict; not only with what the Bible teaches but these so called Christian yoga teachers are telling their pupils of the art but omit what the Yoga teachers themselves say.

In the January/February/March, 2006 Hinduism Today

IN MY OPINION  written by Subhas r. Tiwari who is a professor at the Hindu University of America. He is a graduate of the famed Bihar Yoga Bharati University with a master's degree in yoga philosophy.

He makes it clear that “Yoga Renamed Is Still Hindu.  Subhas challenges attempts to snatch yoga from its roots… Efforts to separate yoga from its spiritual center reveal ignorance of the goal of yoga.

 Some of the statements he writes shows how uninformed Christians and others are on this issue.“This effort to extricate yoga from its Hindu mold and cast it under another name is far from innocent....newly minted "Christian Yoga " is really yoga.

"The simple, immutable fact is that yoga originated from the Vedic or Hindu culture. Its techniques were not adopted by Hinduism, but originated from it." I challenge attempts to snatch yoga from its roots.” He concludes that one “cannot deny that its roots are located in a specific place -Hinduism.” (http://www.hinduismtoday.com/archives/2006/1-3/09_opinion.shtml).

Consider Sri Swami Chidananda who went to Loyola College- He learned “The glorious ideals of Lord Jesus, the Apostles and the other Christian saints had found in his heart a synthesis of all that is best and noble in the Hindu culture. To him, study of the Bible was no mere routine; it was the living word of God, just as living and real as the words of the Vedas, the Upanishads and the Bhagavad-Gita. His innate breadth of vision enabled him to see Jesus in Krishna, not Jesus instead of Krishna. He was as much an adorer of Jesus Christ as he was of Lord Vishnu.”(emphasis mine)

This is what he has to say on yoga: “First and foremost, it has to be known that Yoga has arisen from a background or basis of the Hindu religion. It has its origin in India and it is part of the Hindu religion. But it is not Hindu. It is a universal science that has arisen out of the Hindu religious ground-a science that has risen above religion. It is a universal technique. Because in Yoga, as it is given in the Yoga-Darsana of Patanjali, one of the six systems of philosophy, no particular dogma is laid down and no particular God is pointed out for your worship. Yoga doesn't say that you must worship Rama or Siva or meditate upon Krishna, or you must worship Kaali or Durga, or Hanuman; Yoga has nothing to say upon all these things. Yoga doesn't say that you must repeat any particular Name of God. …You may repeat the Divine Name, you may say the prayer of Jesus, you may say Allah, you may say Rama, you may say the name of Siva, or you may say some other Name if you are in some other religion, but it does not specify that Name and also whom to worship. The All-perfect Divine Being, who is ever-free, ever-perfect, free from all the imperfections, ever-free beyond Maya, the Supreme Purusha, means the Supreme Being, Almighty Father in Heaven, Allah, Jehovah, you can call it by any name, it does not matter, the ever-free Being is not bound by Maya, and who is free from affliction, who is of the nature of Bliss-Absolute, Consciousness-Absolute; that is the object of meditation to be attained, that is the goal of Yoga. So, it does not give for you a goal other than the goal of Yoga; it does not give for you a goal other than the goal of your religion. It does not point out a God different from the one pointed by your own religion—Christianity, Islam, etc.—and it does not give a special name of that God so that you will have to change Gods. It does not give any special name to the one God. Emerging from the ground of Hinduism, it goes beyond religion”

“In what way does it differ? … It differs in its refusing to accept the doctrine of 'original sin'. It does not call man a sinner. It may call man a fool but it doesn't call him a sinner. Man is God playing the fool, or, man is God who has lost his way home, wandered away, stumbling and running about in circles.”

Create in yourself divine qualities and awaken the divine within you, and move towards God.' That is the central message of Yoga (emphasis mine) (Yoga and Christianity By Sri Swami Chidananda http://www.dlshq.org/religions/yogachristian.htm)

While each Yoga teacher can hold to some differences but there are commonalities with them all. Notice the denials that are most important- sin. This is the basis for why Jesus came, so by this belief it was not necessary for Jesus to die for mankind to be reconciled to God. Also, that the divine is in you and yoga brings it out (awakens it). God can be any name because it’s all the same. According to some, yoga is amoral and has nothing to do with any one religion but is a spiritual practice through Hinduism.

 pt.3 Christian Yoga, a long Stretch toward God


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