Believers are called to meditate upon the Word of God — an external Word that comes to us by divine revelation — not to meditate by means of incomprehensible syllables.”
“All forms of yoga involve occult assumptions, even hatha yoga, which is often presented as a merely physical discipline.”
– Douglas Groothuis
Albert Mohler, President of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, got into deep weeds with devotees of “Christian yoga” over his recent article, The Subtle Body—Should Christians Practice Yoga? Things got worse following his podcast The Meaning of Yoga: A Conversation with Stefanie Syman and Doug Groothuis.
In the interview Douglas Groothuis, who serves as Professor of Philosophy at Denver Seminary, stated categorically that yoga should not be practiced by those who profess Christ and Dr. Mohler agreed. For this he was called insane, incompetent, stupid, vile, fundamentalist, and perverted. Other names are “best left unrepeated.”
So much for Christian love.
When it comes to practicing yoga Dr. Mohler believes there are contradictions between Christian’s commitments and their embrace of yoga. He wrote:
“The contradictions are not few, nor are they peripheral. The bare fact is that yoga is a spiritual discipline by which the adherent is trained to use the body as a vehicle for achieving consciousness of the divine.”
Many professing Christians choose to ignore the bare facts about yoga. They are not interested in looking to Christ “for all that we need and to obey Christ through obeying his Word” as Mohler suggested, rather they are inclined to participate in Eastern mystical practices such as meditation. Mohler drew attention to what many Christians forget: “We are not called to escape the consciousness of this world by achieving an elevated state of consciousness, but to follow Christ in the way of faithfulness.”
Not surprisingly there were Christians who disagreed with him. When word got out he received a rash of emails from those who call themselves Christians, 90% of whom were women, telling him in no uncertain terms to put a sock in it. In his response he made the point that, “almost every protest email makes my point better than I ever could myself. I have heard endless claims that there is no incompatibility between yoga and Christianity because it makes people feel better, it helps spirituality, it is a better way to know God, etc. There is no embarrassment on the part of these hundreds of email writers that they are replacing biblical Christianity with a religion of their own invention.”
Here are a few of the arguments Dr. Mohler received:
“From a “devoted Southern Baptist church member who resents your ignorance”: I get much more out of yoga and meditation than I ever get out of a sermon in church. From “a Christian who goes to church every service”: My favorite image I use in yoga is that of Jesus assuming a perfect yoga position in the garden of Gethsemane as he prays. And, to cap it all off: How do we know that the apostles and early Christian guys did not use yoga to commune with Jesus after he left?”
These people need to buy a Bible – and read it.
The professing Christian who practices yoga as a way to keep fit should heed the words of Mohler and Groothuis who both agree that yoga, even if it’s labeled Christian, is diametrically opposed to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Many Christians practice yoga for “relaxation and exercise” without realizing that classical yoga is intended to put you into an altered state of consciousness. Yoga is not “just exercising.” Participants are being swept into a counterfeit religion. According to God’s Word, pagan religions, such as Hinduism and Buddhism, are evil. The Bible clearly says that God’s people are to have nothing to do with wicked customs. (Deuteronomy 18:9-14) Believers are instructed to, “Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.” (Romans 12:90) Ever noticed how professing Christians are no longer uncomfortable in the face of evil? The reason is that we have been desensitized!
Sadly, Christians have become worldly. Instead of being beacons of light in a dark world we have become world-minded. In fact, we have blended into the dishonest, destructive and debase culture so thoroughly that it’s near impossible to tell the difference between Christians and heathens!
The medical profession and the health and wellness industry encourage yoga as a workout for the body and mind. Even though yoga is a religious practice, public schools offer it to students. And now many Christians flock to “Christian Yoga” classes offered by evangelical churches!
Those who participate in yoga rationalize that because some Christian leaders/writers/entertainers promote Eastern religious practices such as yoga, contemplative/centering prayer and Spiritual Formation, taking a yoga class is fine and dandy. But Groothuis believes otherwise. In his conversation with Al Mohler he warned:
We have some emerging church leaders such as Doug Padgett and others saying that it is simply a physical discipline, you don’t have to incorporate the element of Hinduism and in fact it can actually bring you closer to God, the God of the Bible, the God of the universe, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ and I do not believe that is the case for many reasons but the word yoga itself means to be yoked or to be in union and it comes out of this ancient non-Christian religion called Hinduism and it’s one of the essential planks of Hinduism.
There are potential problems with electing to get on board with Christian personalities. Some well-known ministers/evangelists/speakers/writers and such are false teachers. Unbeknownst to the flock they are what the Bible refers to as wolves in sheep’s clothing. For example, leaders in the New Apostolic Reformation, a heretical movement that sprang from the Pentecostal and Charismatic movements, claim that they hear directly from God, Jesus and angels. They even encourage their followers to contact angels despite the fact that Scripture expressly forbids contacting the spirit world because Satan and his demons can appear as an “angel of light” to deceive people. (2 Cor 11:14) Like the apostles who established the early church, these “restored apostles and prophets” believe they are called by God to lay the foundation and government for the new earthly Kingdom. Moreover, they believe that soon they will take dominion over government and dominate the world politically and spiritually.
Seems absurd doesn’t it? Well so is “Christian yoga!” Yet many women meet in churches for yoga classes and see nothing wrong with doing the goddess pose posture.
In my 2006 article “Christian Yoga? C’mon!” I explained why this is wrong thinking:
“Professor Tiwari is an authority on classical yoga. He believes that yoga cannot be separated from its spiritual center. “The simple, immutable fact,” he says, “is that yoga originated from the Vedic or Hindu culture. Its techniques were not adopted by Hinduism, but originated from it.” These facts need to be unequivocally stated in light of some of the things being written to the contrary by yoga teachers. The effort to separate yoga from Hinduism must be challenged because it runs counter to the fundamental principles upon which yoga itself is premised, the yamas (restraints) and niyamas (observances). These ethical tenets and religious practices are the first two limbs of the eight-limbed ashtanga yoga system which also includes asana (postures), pranayama (breath control), pratyahara (sense withdrawal), dharana (concentration), dhyana (meditation) and samadhi (contemplation/Self Realization). Efforts to separate yoga from its spiritual center reveal ignorance of the goal of yoga.” (Emphasis added)
If the above doesn’t convince you, perhaps this will:
“What is Yoga?” asked “Integral Yoga” pioneer Sri Chinmoy, “Yoga is the language of God. If we wish to speak to God, we have to learn His language. What is Yoga? Yoga is that which discloses God’s secret. If we wish to know God’s secret, we have to launch into the path of Yoga.
What is Yoga? Yoga is the Breath of God. If we wish to see through God’s Eye and feel through His Heart, if we wish to live in God’s Dream and know God’s Reality, if we wish to possess the Breath of God, and finally if we wish to become God Himself, Yoga will beckon us.
For the Christian, salvation is found by reaching out, trusting someone outside ourselves, we do not look within to find God, nor do we become God Himself as the Hindu’s believe. Christians are to look to the cross of Christ and the empty tomb.
Going back to all the mud-slinging that went on over the column Dr. Mohler wrote on yoga, fair-minded people have got to admit that much of what was said to him was way over the top and the accusations unwarranted. Al Mohler and Doug Groothuis, both godly men, were simply trying to communicate to Christians who are participating in an occult activity that what they’re doing is spiritually damaging! That God hates pagan practices, like yoga, should give the serious Christian pause.
Those who are still on the fence about yoga, I invite you to do your own research. You’ll find plenty of links on my “Christian Yoga?” page to help you discover the truth. (http://www.emailbrigade.com/304.html)
I’ll close with a quote from Mike Ratliff:
“Christians are in “this present darkness” because they are in the darkness of ignorance and alienation from God because they reject the real Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ and insist on their own way to a god of their own choosing.”
Copyright by Marsha West, 2010. All rights reserved.
“Christian Yoga”?—On Solid Rock Resources