Have you ever wondered about the term "Christian Yoga"? Is there really such a thing? Isn't that an oxymoron? Yes it is, and my "guest" today explains why, she also offers an alternative to this deeply deceptive practice. If you are a Christian and are even remotely interested in yoga, you NEED TO KNOW this.
I'd like to introduce my guest, Laurette Willis:
Christian Fitness Expert and Harvest House Author Laurette Willis is the Director of PraiseMoves Fitness Ministry, offering fitness programs, DVD's, books and training for those interested in a Christian alternative to yoga, and fitness for spirit, soul and body. See "PraiseMoves Kids" TV Show every Thursday @ 3:30 p.m. EST on TBN's Smile of a Child Network and LIVE @ smileofachildtv.org.
~ GIVEAWAY!!! ~
Laurette has been kind enough to offer a DVD for me to giveaway to one lucky winner. The winner will recieve the PraiseMoves For Kids DVD. Designed for children ages 3-9, it is the ideal way to help children memorize scripture, make fun fitness a lifestyle and praise the Lord! Details on how to enter are at the bottom of this post.The following is taken directly for Laurettes website (with her permission). To read the entire article, for more information about Laurette, health and fitness for the whole body (inside and out), or to order products, please visit her site right HERE.
"Yoga. It’s everywhere. In ads for everything from IT to ice cream, meditative supermodels sit cross-legged in the Hindu Lotus position, contemplating “nirvana.” There are yoga videos for pregnant mothers, senior citizens, toddlers and babies – even yoga for you and your dog! You can work out with yoga straps, blocks, bolsters and balls. Since yoga is everywhere, it must be okay. Or is it?
Those who think yoga is little more than a series of stress-relieving stretching exercises may be surprised to learn about the true foundation of the multi-billion dollar yoga craze in North America.
There are an estimated 15-20 million people practicing yoga in the U.S., and estimates of 50,000 to 100,000 yoga instructors offering classes at 20,000+ locations.
According to Webster’s New World Dictionary, yoga (coming from an east Indian Sanskrit word which means “union with god” or “to yoke”) is “a mystic and ascetic Hindu discipline for achieving union with the supreme spirit through meditation, prescribed postures, controlled breathing, etc.”
Yoga in the Mainstream
Over the last several decades yoga has been embraced by the mainstream of society – and even the church. We find yoga classes offered at YWCAs, church fellowship halls, and even elementary schools.
As a child growing up on Long Island, I became involved with yoga at the age of seven when my mother and I began watching a daily yoga exercise program on television. For the next 22 years I was heavily involved with yoga, metaphysics and the New Age movement until I came to the end of myself and surrendered my life to Jesus Christ in 1987.
I call yoga “the missionary arm of Hinduism and the New Age movement.” We don’t often think of other religions having missionaries, but the philosophy and practice of yoga have been primary tools of Hindu “missionaries” to America since “Indian priest and mystic” Swami Vivekananda introduced yoga to the West at the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago. Called “Hinduism’s greatest modern missionary” by Swami Palani in Hinduism Today.
Interestingly, Swami Vivekananda is attributed with the idea of combining the theory of “evolution of the soul” with his teachings of Hinduism. Instead of working out one’s “karma” by becoming a grasshopper, ant or human in progressive lives, he taught an “evolution of the soul” whereby the individual continues in an evolutionary process to “manifest the god within.”
Apparently he understood that Americans wouldn’t buy into the traditional Hindu belief in reincarnation. Not many westerners could imagine they would ever come back as a lower form of life. A higher form of life perhaps, but certainly not a lower one. Have you noticed how many people – even Christians – believe in reincarnation? One can just keep coming back until they get it right. Sadly, this false teaching leads people away from the necessity for a Savior. And if we progressively get better with each life, why aren’t we all living in Blissville now?
Some consider this Hindu belief a theory to be embraced. Interestingly, definitions of “theory” in Webster’s include, “a speculative plan, conjecture or guess.” Do you remember when evolution used to be called the “theory of evolution?” It’s seldom called a “theory” any longer outside of Christian circles. Promote a theory long enough and it becomes the truth? “Not hardly,” as my country cousins would say. But I digress…
Another Hindu missionary welcomed into elite circles was Paramhansa Yogananda who started the Self-Realization Fellowship in Los Angeles. He cleverly chose to demonstrate that yoga was completely compatible with Christianity. Wearing a cross, he came to America in the 1920s with the Hindu religious text, the Bhagavad Gita, in one hand and the Bible in the other. He reasoned that yoga was the binding force that could connect all religions.
From experience I can say that yoga is a dangerous practice for the Christian and leads seekers away from God rather than to Him. You may say, “Well, I’m not doing any of the meditation stuff. I’m just following the exercises.” It is impossible, however, to separate the subtleties of yoga the technique from yoga the religion. I know because I taught and practiced hatha yoga for years. Hatha yoga is the most popular yoga style available on store-bought videos and in most gyms. For an eye-opening account of the background and meaning of “hatha yoga,” please see my notes at the bottom of this page (click HERE for that specific page on her website).
Perhaps you have sensed uneasiness while doing yoga (what some call a “check in your spirit”), but you ignored that quiet nudge. I urge you to pay attention to it. Jesus Himself said, “…the sheep follow Him, for they know His voice” (John 10:4).
The yoga mudra (hand gesture or “gateway”) for Namaste (“I bow to the divine in you”), is a Hindu gesture that pre-dates Christianity. The Bible speaks of praying with uplifted hands or “hands spread up toward heaven” (1 Kings 8: 22 and 54; 1 Chronicles 6:13)
“Let my prayer be set before You as incense, The lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice” Psalm 145:1
Your yoga teacher may bow to her class saying, “Namaste” (“I bow to the divine in you.”). Postures have names such as Savasana (the Corpse Pose) and Bhujangasana (the Cobra or Snake Pose). References are made to chakras or “power centers” in the body, such as the “third eye.” The relaxation and visualization session at the end of yoga classes is skillfully designed to “empty the mind” and can open one up to harmful spiritual influences.
As Christians, you are instructed to “be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:2), not the emptying of your mind. Many believe that transformation process occurs as we meditate and feed on the Word of God – renewing our minds by filling them with God’s thoughts, not emptying them or filling them with the prideful thoughts of man.
It seems the enemy has a counterfeit for almost everything the Lord offers. While mind-numbing tranquility may feel good for a time, it’s a poor substitute for the “peace which surpasses all understanding” (Philippians 4:7) and “the joy of the Lord (which) is your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10).
Yoga’s breathing techniques (pranayama) may seem stress-relieving, yet they can be an open door to the psychic realm – inhaling and exhaling certain “energies” for the purpose of relaxation and cleansing (Paul refers to satan as “the prince of the power of the air” in Ephesians 2:2, and I doubt the air to which he is referring is oxygen, but rather the psychic arena some call “the second heaven” which is certainly not a playground). Whenever you see the words prana, ki or chi, these refer to “life force” energies (see the notes on hatha yoga at the end of this article). (Please click HERE for her page with notes)
Both chanting and the customary relaxation period at the end of a yoga session also have an agenda that may surprise the weekend yogi. Before becoming a Christian, I remember numerous instances of “traveling outside my body” during yoga relaxation periods. I wonder who – or what – checked in when I checked out? Whether you believe such phenomena can happen or not, some medical professionals claim such experiences have led to psychosis. (Note: While Christians cannot be “possessed” since the Holy Spirit resides in your re-created human spirit, one may be “oppressed” by demonic influences.)
Nine out of Ten Hindus agree: “Yoga is Hinduism”
Again and again we hear or read, “Yoga is science. It is not religion.” But what do Hindus and true yogis say?
TIME magazine featured a quote from Subhas Tiwari, a professor of yoga philosophy and meditation at the Hindu University of America in Orlando, Fla.: “Yoga is Hinduism.” You may read the full article from the Sept. 5, 2005 issue at: HERE which included a quote from yours truly that “Christian yoga” is an oxymoron (contradiction in terms – like a “Christian Buddhist” – no such thing!).
Yoga postures are actually offerings to the 330 million Hindu gods.
“Abstain from things offered to idols” Acts 15:29.
A staff member of an east coast Classical Yoga Academy wrote to me, “Yes, all of yoga is Hinduism. Everyone should be aware of this fact.” This staff member went on to say she didn’t appreciate my “running down of the great Hindu/Yogic religion.
Did you know that yoga postures are offerings to the 330 million Hindu gods? Can you see a twisting of Romans 12:1 here (“present your bodies a living sacrifice”)?
One of our PraiseMoves Instructors spent three months on a missionary trip to India several years ago. She said her group often saw people performing yoga postures in front of statues of the gods in the streets! Some brought offerings of flowers, some fruit, some themselves…
Acts 15:29 tells us to “abstain from things offered to idols.”
Where Yoga Leads
In an article dated May 14, 2006, Darryl E. Owens of the Orlando Sentinel quoted Sannyasin Arumugaswami, managing editor of Hinduism Today. Arumugaswami said Hinduism is the soul of Yoga “based as it is on Hindu Scripture and developed by Hindu sages. Yoga opens up new and more refined states of mind, and to understand them one needs to believe in and understand the Hindu way of looking at God. … A Christian trying to adapt these practices will likely disrupt their own Christian beliefs.”
In an article entitled “An Open Letter to Evangelicals” from the January 1991 issue of Hinduism Today, Swami Sivasiva Palani writes:
A small army of yoga missionaries – hatha, raja, siddha and kundalini – beautifully trained in the last 10 years, is about to set upon the western world. They may not call themselves Hindu, but Hindus know where yoga came from and where it goes. Swami Palani goes on to write:
We hope this proves useful to you. I close with a quote from Swami Vivekananda, Hinduism’s greatest modern missionary, spoken in January of 1895, ‘What I now want is a band of fiery missionaries.’ It’s a hundred years late. But it appears he’s going to get his wish.
In the West, the term “yogi” is used to refer to anyone who practices yoga. However, in the Bhagavad-Gita, the god Krishna says that the true yogi is one who has surrendered himself “fully unto me.”
Besides these historical evidences, I can clearly state from my own experiences and those of many I knew while in the New Age movement, yoga class was the door that led us into the New Age Movement.
Maharishi Mahesh Yogi taught that through meditation, not salvation through Jesus Christ, “a sinner comes out of the field of sin and becomes a virtuous man.” This is an example of the erroneous philosophy of “salvation by works.”
It seems the student is being manipulated as well. Yoga’s “least religious” form, hatha yoga, influences one’s spiritual life as unmistakably as any one of the dozens of other yoga techniques. Hatha yoga is actually seen as the stepping stone to raja yoga (the form said to involve “psycho-physical meditation techniques to attain an experience of the truth and ultimate liberation from the cycles of death and rebirth, or moksha”). Anyone want to join me in a collective, “Yikes!”?
You may study or teach yoga (or so-called “Christian yoga”) and believe it is completely compatible with your Christian faith. Perhaps you feel your relationship with the Lord is unshakable, but I ask you to consider for a moment the young Christians and non-believers in your life. We all have people we influence by how we live our lives.
In light of the facts – the religious philosophy and history of yoga – take a look at Paul’s warning to believers in the Corinthian church about meat offered to idols, “All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful; all things are lawful for me, but not all things edify. Let no one seek his own, but each one the other’s well-being… If anyone says to you, ‘This was offered to idols,’ do not eat it for the sake of the one who told you, and for conscience’ sake…not your own, but that of the other… not seeking my own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved” (1 Corinthians 10:23-24; 28-29, 33).
To strong Christians (strong in their relationship with the Lord as well as the strong-willed, strong-minded ones) I say – certainly, you may not be adversely affected by the subtle seeds of doubt and New Age thought planted in yoga classes. You may even be going to a yoga class that is devoid of much of the New Age lingo and Hindu phraseology. And if not, perhaps you are able to see there is nothing inherently right or wrong with the “meat” or postures offered to idols (1 Corinthians 8: 4-8). You are oblivious to the visualizations and suggestions during the “meditation and relaxation” at the end of yoga class, the talk of chakras, auras, breathing in prana (the “life force” connecting us to the “Universal Life Force”) and getting in touch with our higher self to unite with “Universal Mind” (remember, I was a student and teacher of this stuff for 22 years).
Consider the Example You Set
However, would you agree there are people in your life you influence? Do you think there may be some unbelievers and new believers watching you?
Might someone young in the faith be watching you and saying to herself, “You know, she’s a strong Christian and loves Jesus. She does yoga and says there’s nothing wrong with it. I think I’ll take that yoga class being offered down the street.” This young follower may not have your discernment. She may be like my mother and I were – weak and unskilled in the Word of God and open to the deceptions of the enemy. Do you think she could perhaps wind up in the New Age movement as I did?
Are we responsible for living our lives in such a way as to be a help or a hindrance to the cause of Christ? That’s a pretty tall order, isn’t it?
Many parents have written to me with their concerns about the various yoga curricula being offered around the U.S. and Canada. I’m sure parents in Europe, Australia and elsewhere are encountering similar challenges. When something is so widely accepted in mainstream society, those of us who sound the clarion call are seen as “fearful” and “extremists.”
From personal experience, I know where the study of yoga can lead for children as well as adults.
If your children are at a Christian school (yes, believe-it-or-not, some Christian schools are teaching yoga) or home school, know that PraiseMoves for Children is also available (DVD, not curriculum–yet).
But ANY good stretching program is a better choice than yoga. Look around, there are several good DVDs available on just good, healthy stretches for children, athletes and adults.
Making a Choice Concerning Yoga
Concerning Things offered to Idols…
Quoting from 1 Corinthians 8:1, 9-13 – be forewarned this is hard to read:
“Now concerning things offered to idols: We know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge puffs up (makes arrogant), but love edifies (builds up). But beware lest somehow this liberty of yours become a stumbling block to those who are weak. For if anyone sees you who have knowledge eating in an idol’s temple, will not the conscience of him who is weak be emboldened to eat those things offered to idols? And because of your knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died? But when you thus sin against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ. Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never again eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble.”
So it is not out of a spirit of fear we avoid yoga, but could it be out of wisdom and love for others – perhaps those who are not as spiritually mature as we are? Can we do such things out of love for others? That’s too hard, isn’t it? What if I LIKE IT???!!!
Again, looking at the “ouch” from 1 Corinthians 10: 28-29 and 33 – “But if anyone says to you, ‘This was offered to idols,’ do not eat it for the sake of the one who told you, and for conscience’ sake…’Conscience,’ I say, not your own, but that of the other… not seeking my own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved.”
So – it’s not all about ME after all. I win when I make the decision to come in third place: 1st – “Love the Lord your God with your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” 2nd – “and love your neighbor” 3rd – “as you love yourself” (Matthew 22: 37-39).
While practicing yoga may not seem to have an adverse effect on your Christian walk, it may be effecting your Christian witness. Of course not everyone who knows and trusts you will jump into yoga and find themselves engulfed in a New Age lifestyle for 22 years as I was, but some weak ones might – and be hopelessly lost as others have been. Would you agree that we are responsible for planting seeds of faith or doubt that can lead people to Christ or away from Him?
PraiseMoves certainly isn’t for everyone, but stretching exercises are! Find a good book on stretching and flexibility. Look for videos that are purely about stretching the body – not the mind and spirit.
The believer’s walk is one of renewing the mind (Romans 12:2), not emptying it – a practice common in yogic meditation.
(Jars of Clay)
No, you don’t have to do PraiseMoves – but why not consider a stretching and flexibility class instead of yoga? If still unsure, please pray and ask the Lord about it. “Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence toward God” 1 John 3:21."
A little about PraiseMoves:
NOW, about that Giveaway! :)
Laurette is blessing me with a DVD to give away to one of you...PraiseMoves for Children...Mom's you can join your kids in doing this stretching workout that strengthens both your body and spirit!
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