“Can You Take The Hinduism Out of Yoga?”

My personal study, Genelle Pepple, September 2013

The 2012 “Yoga in America” survey found that 20.4 million Americans, or 8.7% of U.S. adults practice yoga. Over 82% are women, and the majority of practitioners are between the ages of 18-44. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/06/american-yoga_n_2251360.html

That’s a lot of Americans! Why are so many riding this train? I thought yoga was Hindu. I thought it was a spiritual practice. What does everyone else think?

“Yoga: Is It A Spiritual Practice?”

Well, this intriguing question was posted to the public in July 2012 on the “Huffington Post’s Religion’s Facebook page”. The conversations that ensued presented very conflicting views and readily illustrated the lack of understanding as to what yoga really is. I’ve included most of the article below. Here’s the website it was taken from: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/13/isyoga-a-spiritual-pract_n_1632532.html

The picture was an image from Mind Over Madness Yoga, a Summer Solstice event featuring thousands of New Yorkers convening in Times Square for a free session. The conversation that followed included conflicting views. (Below)

So, how did people respond to the question: “Yoga: Is It A Spiritual Practice?”


Some commenters said yoga was a great way of connecting with their Creator regardless of one’s faith. Another said that for them, yoga is more spiritual than church.

Others expressed the notion that the practice is solely a fitness activity that is positive yet isn’t up for spiritual discourse. For instance, one commenter said, “Anything that causes people to relax and get in shape has got to be good thing.”

On the flip side, another person said “Yoga was never an exercise. It is a part of a meditation. It helps you get here and now.”

However, other commenters were leery of the sometimes loose classifications of the spiritual elements of yoga. For example, one person said, “The people are hungry and they will spiritually eat whatever they are fed now.”

Another said, “I think the spirituality within yoga pertains to Hinduism. Take the Hinduism out of it, and you’ve just got exercise, which isn’t spiritual at all.”

I like that. It begs the question: “CAN you take the Hinduism out of yoga?”

With this in mind, let’s explore what Yoga is and it’s roots. Let’s look at what Hinduism is, and whether yoga is a “spiritual discipline” or just exercise and stretching. Let’s address the tough question of whether doing yoga can influence your spiritual walk. What are Asana’s, the vocal meditative syllable “Om or Aum”, and mantras? Let’s explore whether there can be such a thing as “Christian Yoga” or is this a s-t-r-e-t-c-h? And finally, let’s look at what God says in His Word.

Definition of Yoga and its Purpose

First, let’s define yoga and it’s purpose. According to Elliot Miller, noted New Age expert and editor of the Christian Research Journal:

Yoga is derived from the Sanskrit word yug, which means “to yoke.” This is a term [most Christians are] familiar with from the Bible. A yoke is a crossbar that joins two draft animals at the neck so they can work together; the term, therefore, is applied metaphorically to people being joined together or united in a cause. In Hinduism, as in many religions, union is desired with nothing less than God or the Absolute, and yoga is the system that Hindus have developed to achieve that end.

The historic purpose behind yoga, therefore, is to achieve union with the Hindu concept of God. This is the purpose behind virtually all of the Eastern varieties of yoga, including those we encounter in the West. This does not mean it is the purpose of every practitioner of yoga, for many people clearly are not practicing it for spiritual reasons but merely to enhance their physical appearance, ability, or health.

However…it’s nearly impossible to practice yoga and divorce it from its spiritual elements. http://pastormark.tv/2011/11/02/christian-yoga-its-a-stretch

So, is the Hindu concept of “God” the same as the Christian concept of “God”? Definitely not, according to this description of what they believe:

“The Hindu concept refers to being yoked with the universal mind (not a personal God, but an impersonal force or energy). The ultimate result is to realize one’s own inner divinity. The Hindu idea is that our physical bodies hold our spirits in bondage. The goal of Yoga, then, is to release this inner divine spirit so that it may yoke with or unite with the universal mind.”


What does a Hindu yoga practitioner and scholar have to say about the purpose of yoga? Rajiv Malhotra, Founder, Infinity Foundation states in his article, “A Hindu View of Christian Yoga”:

“While yoga is not a ‘religion’ in the sense that the Abrahamic religions are, it is a wellestablished spiritual path…it’s spiritual benefits are ndoubtedly available to anyone.” He goes on to explain that he agrees with Southern Baptist Seminary President, Albert Mohler, who speaks of the incompatibility between Christianity and yoga. “The idea that the body is a vehicle for reaching consciousness with the divine is fundamentally at odds with Christian teaching.” In other words, Christian yoga is an oxymoron. But the incompatibility runs much deeper, says Rajiv. “Yoga’s metaphysics center around the quest to obtain liberation from past karma…and the baggage from prior lives (reincarnation).” “Westerners…have seldom worked out the contradictions with core Biblical doctrines.”


Rajiiv clearly states what I found in many other sources. Hinduism teaches a yoking between the atman (true “self”, spirit or soul) and the Brahman (supreme soul) that is in everything and that permeates everything.

“The roots of modern yoga come from Vedic Yoga, which is the authority of Hinduism.” http://www.huffingtonpost.com/rajiv-malhotra/hindu-view-of-christian-yoga_b_778501.html

“Yoga is a Hindu religious practice aimed at attaining enlightenment. There is not a focus on looking out to Jesus Christ for salvation, but rather in to self for enlightenment and peace.” http://pastormark.tv/2011/11/02/christian-yoga-its-a-stretch

So, in my humble opinion, considering what we just learned, you can’t take the Hinduism out of yoga because every facet of it is a spiritual discipline. This will become abundantly clear as you continue in this study. One may be ignorant that yoga is a spiritual discipline, but that doesn’t make it of no effect. If you are trying to reach a destination and unknowingly go the wrong way, you’re still on the wrong path. Conversely, you can choose to ignore all the signs along the way that point you in the right direction, but in so-doing, you are still heading in a wrong direction.

What does the Bible teach? John 14:6 says: “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” There is only ONE WAY to salvation and that is through Jesus Christ. Hinduism is in direct opposition to this biblical teaching.


What do Hindu’s believe?

According to Wikipedia,

“Hinduism…is an umbrella term comprising the plurality of religious phenomena originating in, and based on, the Vedic traditions.” (Pluralism) “Unlike other religions in the World, the Hindu religion does not claim any one Prophet, it does not worship any one God, it does not believe in any one philosophic concept, it does not follow any one act of religious rites or performances; in fact, it does not satisfy the traditional features of a religion or creed. It is a way of life and nothing more”. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hinduism

This is in direct conflict with the text we just read above in John 14:6. Christians believes that there is only one God and only one way to salvation, which is through Jesus Christ.

Danda, A Yoga instructor associated with the Classical Hindu Yoga Academy, said: “Is Yoga a religion that denies Jesus Christ? Yes. Just as Christianity denies the Hindu Maha Devas (deities) such as Siva, Vishnu, Durga, and Krishna, to name a few, Hinduism and its many Yogas have nothing to do with God and Jesus.” http://www.discernment-ministries.org/Newsletters/NL2013MayJun.pdf

This is because Hinduism believes in the worship of many (thousands & millions) of gods, demigods, avatars, and idols. Many Christians like to believe that “we are all talking about the same God”, but Hindus clearly understand the difference. They reject the Judeo-Christian God of the Bible and His Son, Jesus Christ. They believe in an impersonal, pantheistic God, as do most who have an Eastern or New Age philosophy of life.

(Information about Hindu deities is found at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hindu_deities )

Let’s explore their beliefs a little more because the Hindu concept of the “soul” and “Brahman” (the Absolute One/God Almighty) IS confusing to many Christians. Here is the distinction: Hinduism believes our soul is immortal and constantly on a path toward becoming divine.

“One’s true self (Ātman) is identical with the transcendent self Brahman”. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/%C4%80tman_%28Hinduism%29

Hinduism teaches the body is just a vehicle for reaching consciousness with the divine, man is NOT a mortal being created in God’s own image. God Almighty is a Divine Consciousness that permeates everything, NOT a personal God who thinks, feels, creates, and who is “worthy to receive glory, honor, and power”. (Rev. 4:11 and 5:12)

So, the quest in life for the Hindu is spiritual union of his immortal soul with the Divine Consciousness, which is called self-realization, enlightenment, liberation, moksha, samadhi, nirvana, illumination, or connecting with the universal consciousness. In other words, the goal is to realize your own divinity. This certainly is not the Christian’s goal. “There is none righteous, no, not one.” (Romans 3:9-11)

Biblical teaching is very clear that we are not inherently divine and never will be. This is an Eastern/New Age teaching and traces clear back to the original lie from Satan in the Garden of Eden when he told Eve: “For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.” (Genesis 3:4) In essence: “eat the fruit and you’ll become like God”. He never dropped this argument. Ever since Eden, he’s been trying to convince mankind they can be like God, and a lot of people still “bite the apple”!

To a Hindu, yoga is all about realizing one’s own inner divinity. Just because this may not be your personal goal and you reject the concept of becoming divine, does that make you impervious to the practice of yoga? After reading this through, hopefully you can answer this question without hesitation.

Salvation In Hinduism

Salvation in Hinduism is very different from the Christian understanding of salvation.

“Salvation in Hinduism means to be free from rebirths and to have Union with God Almighty.” “Hinduism believes that if you do not accomplish this, but have lived as good human beings, you will be reborn as gods or humans in prominent positions (reincarnation). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hinduism

Hindu’s believe “that all humans come equipped to recover their own innate divinity without recourse to any historical person’s suffering on their behalf.” (A direct rejection of Christ.) http://www.huffingtonpost.com/rajiv-malhotra/hindu-view-of-christian-yoga_b_778501.html

Hinduism, therefore, does not teach repentance of sin and the need of a Saviour, but rather that one can find the power of redemption within himself.

Christian Confusion

Have you ever heard these sayings, or ones that are similar?

  • “There are many ways to God.”
  • “All roads lead to God.”
  • “Aren’t we all worshipping the same God, but just by a different name?”
  • “Other religions have good things to offer, too.”
  • “I take what’s good and leave the bad.”
  • “Isn’t God’s spirit in all of us? (Implying the Eastern concept is similar to Christians.)
  • “Meditation isn’t harmful, it just helps you relax.”
  • “Prana is similar to the Holy Spirit.”
  • “Yoga is just stretching.”
  • “I don’t do the ‘spiritual part’ of yoga.”

The statements above reflect the confusion that now exists within Christianity. There has been a “shift” in our thinking. What used to be black and white is now blurred because Eastern philosophies and practices have found their way into Christianity. If this were not true, the statements above could not have been made. Isn’t it true that our culture today doesn’t want things to be black and white? That’s considered being rigid, judgmental, or non-inclusive. “Yikes, who wants to be like that?”

So, how have eastern philosophies and practices found their way into Christianity? I believe it is due to many things, but for now, I would like to focus on just one aspect of how the shift has occurred and that is “terminology”. Christians hear friends use terminology which they think they understand and agree with. Because we want to get along with those around us it’s easy to suppose we’re talking about the same thing. But we need to be very careful, here.

When we talk with someone from a New Age or eastern mindset, terms like soul, spirit, God, divinity/divine, God within you, God Almighty, life force, energy, meditation, and spiritual exercises/disciplines have drastically different definitions, depending on your core beliefs. At least they should because Christians are supposed to base their beliefs on the Bible and the Bible alone, “Sola Scriptura”! The two philosophies are not the same.

See the illustrations below for a clear distinction of how the Christian versus Eastern / New Age understanding of terms ARE indeed VERY different. (Wikipedia & the Bible were used for most explanations given below; you can look them up individually if you’d like.)

Term / Word Christian Understanding Eastern Philosophy or
New Age Understanding
Holy Spirit3
  • 1 & 2The “breath of life”; what
    was breathed into Adam by
    God on the 6th day of creation.
    “And man became a living
    soul”: body + breath. (Gen.
  • & 2A living soul is the
    combination of the breath of
    life plus man’s physical body.
    The “spirit” (breath), returns to
    God at death. A man does not
    HAVE a soul, a person IS a
    living soul when their body &
    breath are together. (Ecc.12:7)
  • & 2 The Bible teaches man is
    mortal, his “spirit or
    soul” (breath + body) is
    mortal. God ONLY has
    immortality. (I Tim. 6:15-16)
  • When man sinned, he became
    mortal and subject to death
    because the wages of sin is
    death. He would never be
    immortal again until he is
    restored at the 2nd coming of
    Christ. (Gen. 3:1-6, 22-23;
    Rom. 6:23 ; John 11:25; Ezek.
  • 1 & 2The “spirit” does not have
    any life, wisdom, or feeling
    after a person dies. It is the
    breath of life, and nothing
    more. (James 2:26 says: “The
    body without the spirit is
  • 1 & 2Psalm 115:17 says: “The
    dead praise not the Lord.” After
    death, your spirit ceases to
    exist; like how electricity
    ceases to exist in the bulb when
    the light is turned off. Man’s
    spirit is not in heaven praising
    God. (Psalm 146:4; Psalm 6:5;
    Ecc. 9:5-6,10)
  • Death is called “sleep”. Job.
    14:10-12, 14)
  • Mortal man will not receive
    immortality until the 2nd
    coming of Christ, when we
    receive our reward. If we
    become immortal when we die,
    we are receiving our reward at
    that time. Death is a “sleep”. (I
    Cor. 15:51-53; I Thess.
  • Spiritual Force: the universal life
    force running within and between
    all; equated with the “soul”.
  • Vital force inherent in all things,
    also equated with the “soul”,
    which is immortal in Eastern
  • Chi, Qi, Ki: these are also equated
    with your soul. It is a metaphysical
    attribute of your self, which cannot
    be detected by physical means.
  • Soul/Spirit: The immortal essence
    of a person, living thing, or object.
  • Your “higher self”
  • Soul/Spirit: The force of life
    having a spiritual energy of
  • Soul/Spirit: An essence that
    manifests itself as mind/soul
    through pantheistic or
    panentheistic hierarchy.
  • The atman, (inner-self, soul, or
    essence, or living entity.)
  • Soul/Spirit: The body as the
    mediating vehicle between the
    individual, human world, and
    absolute, cosmic reality.
  • Spirit: A holy, sacred, divine, or
    supernatural being.

Eastern thought teaches that man has a
part of him, which is immortal and
conscious after death. Many Christians
believe that the personality survives
after death. But, the Bible is clear that
when we die, we return to the same state
of consciousness that we had before we
were born: NONE. Death is like
“sleep”– you don’t know anything. All
the philosophies above originate with
Satan’s original lie “that you will not
surely die”. (Gen. 3:4,5) That lie
continues to deceive people, even today.

  • 2A demonic entity, or “familiar
    spirit” (one who claims to
    contact the dead)
  • 2A supernatural being, such as
    an angel of light or of darkness.
Hindus believe there is evil in the world,
but no single devil-like entity. There is a
concept of an evil spirit, but it does not
remain evil forever & can evolve to
goodness. http://www.beliefnet.com/
Holy Spirit3
  • 3Can be blasphemed against
    (Lk. 12:8-10) *So is not an
    all-pervasive, invisible,
  • 3A personal being. He “speaks
    & directs us”. (Acts 13:2-4)
  • 3He helps us & testifies of
    God. (Jn. 15:26)
  • 3He can be “grieved”. (Isa.
    63:10 & Eph. 4:30)
  • 3He “reveals things to us and
    knows the things of
    God.” (I Cor.12:11)
  • 3He guides us into all truth.
  • 3He makes intercession for us
    & searches hearts. (Rom.
  • 3He descended from heaven,
    in the form of a dove, at
    Christ’s baptism. (Matt.
  • 3He is referred to as a unique
    being. We are to baptize in
    His name. (Matt. 28:19)
  • He is not a cosmic force,
    essence, or impersonal power.
    He has attributes of a distinct,
    intelligent, individual being.
    “Prana” cannot be blasphemed
    and does not share any of the
    above attributes of the Holy
  • Prana: a subtle, invisible force; the
    life-force that pervades the body.
  • Prana is also defined as energy,
    vitality, power, the foundation and
    essence of all life. It flows in
    everything that exists. It regulates
    all physical functions of the
    human body. It can be controlled
    and regulated within the body.
  • Pranayama releases energy
  • Udana Prana accompanies the
    awakening of the Kundalini Shakti
    & can allow the astral body to
    separate from the physical body. It
    connects the chakras.
  • Prana can be like our “vibration”
    or “aura” that is perceptible to
  • The practice of meditation and
    Mantra maintains pure Prana and
    the practice of Pranayama
    increases our capacity to store
    Prana. https://www.yogaindailylife.org

With the description above, how can
some Christians equate prana with being
like the Holy Spirit and/or the breath of
life? Hindu’s certainly do not entertain
this idea.

Holy Spirit: A concept & being rejected
by Hindu, Eastern, & New Age thought.

  • The God of the Bible; a
    personal God – separated from
    His creation and sovereign over
  • The Creator God (Gen. 1:1)
  • The “One God”; no others are
    like Him. (I Cor. 8:6; Exodus
    20:2-6, Isa 46:9,10)
  • A personal God: “I am the Lord
    thy God, which brought thee
    out of the land of
    Egypt…” (Deut. 5:6)
  • The God who gave His only
    begotten Son that whosoever
    believes in Him should not
    perish… (John 3:16)
  • A loving God who is
    approachable and personally
    interested in each one of us.
    (I John 4:8,16)
  • A God who made man in His
    own image. (Gen. 1:26)
  • The one, alone, who hath
    immortality. (I Tim. 6:15-16)
  • A supreme, universal Spirit that is
    the origin and support of the
    universe and who does not have
    any specific form. God is
    Almighty, but is intermixed in
    everything as well. (Hindu)
  • One Being of ultimate oneness
    (Brahman) through infinite
    representations of gods and
    goddesses. (Hindu)
  • The natural divinity that is in
    everything and permeates
    everything. (Buddhism, Hindu,
    New Age, etc.)
  • An impersonal spiritual substance
    that is one with nature and the
    cosmos. (Pantheism – the belief
    that everything is God and that
    reality consists only of the
    universe and nature.)
  • A non-personal God, a higher
    consciousness that is within
    yourself. (Many Eastern religions,
    New Age)
  • An all-powerful, but unknowable
    God. (Muslim)
  • Meditate on the Word of God.
    Psalm1:2 & Joshua 1:8, Psalm
  • Objective thought and deep
    reflection on God’s Word &
  • Focusing on the Bible to gain a
    deeper understanding of the
    Word of God.
  • Filling the mind with thoughts
    related to biblical passages.
  • Reading and understanding
    scripture with a fully alert
  • Allowing God’s Word to
    change our hearts.
  • Often refers to mantras, a sound,
    syllable, word, or group of words
    (such as Aum, Om) that are
    considered capable of “creating
    (spiritual) transformation.”
  • Focusing on the breath, or a
    repetitive sound, word, phrase, or
  • Is an essential part of the pathway
    to salvation, union with the
    Divine, and/or a higher state of
  • Emptying the mind of external
    thoughts in order to bring about an
    altered state of consciousness, for
    the purpose of merging human
    consciousness with divine
  • A mystical practice used for the
    purpose of uncovering hidden
    wisdom, and union with the
(A word
used in
healing arts,
  • Strength and vitality required
    for sustained physical or mental
  • Power derived from the
    utilization of physical or
    chemical resources.
  • Chi, qi, ki, prana: the active
    principle, vital force, life force, or
    energy flow inherent in all living
    things. The inner power that you
    can control.
  • Vitalism
  • Spiritual Force: the universal life
    force running within and between
  • Chakras / Meridians: the pathways
    through which the life force
    energy flows.
  • The “force” referred to in Star
  • Reading the Bible
  • Memorizing Scripture
  • Praying
  • Fasting
  • Surrendering to God
  • Yoga
  • Entering the “Stillness” or the
    “Thin Place”; stilling the mind in a
    mystical way for a higher state of
  • Meditation: For the purpose of
    bringing about an altered state of
    consciousness & heightened state
    of perception.
  • Use of mantras, a sound, syllable,
    words, or phrases capable of
    creating spiritual transformation.
  • Breath-control and relaxation
    techniques and practices.
  • The mystical practice of
    “Contemplation” (clearing one’s
    mind & being “still” to listen for
    guidance from God. An esoteric,
    mystical meditation.)
  • Centering Prayer (repeating a
    word over and over for the same
    purpose as stated above.)
  • “Centering yourself / Grounding
    yourself” in yoga. (The meditative
    practice of shifting your
    consciousness to achieve greater
  • Soaking Prayer (seeking to obtain
    a spiritual experience by seeking
    out the presence of God through
    mystical exercises)
  • Visualization to discover inner
    power and guidance.
  • Visualization techniques to focus
  • All practices that strive toward
    oneness with the universe, or
    finding the divine within.

The chart above demonstrates how common terms can mean different things to different people and how important it is to really know what you believe.

What happens when you place yourself on ground where you regularly hear eastern concepts and verbiage? I would submit that you will become “leavened”. Your framework of understanding slowly changes and you adopt a modified meaning of those terms and concepts without even knowing it.

This is broader than just yoga. The things we watch, the books we read, the music we listen to, the activities we participate in, the company we keep, the way in which we spend our time – all mold who we are. We are either being pulled toward God, or away.

By beholding we become changed.

Many of us have been taught: “by beholding we become changed”. This can either be for good (becoming more like Christ) or for evil (becoming more like the world). The daily choices we make all have an effect on which direction we’re going. God wants to be there in all we do.

We are influenced by those around us; slowly, imperceptively. Can repeatedly hearing certain words and phrases actually change our thinking? A resounding “yes!” This is what advertising and propaganda are all about! Can the circle of friends you associate with and the belief system they espouse have an effect on your own view? “Yes!” We’ve all heard the old adage: “Choose your friends wisely”. There is truth in this saying or why else would parents be concerned about whom their kids associate with?

Consider this. If you practice yoga, was there ever a time when you first said “Om” and it felt strange? Or, you chanted something and felt uncomfortable with it? Or, you sat in the lotus position with your thumb and middle finger touching and it seemed awkward, in a spiritual sense? If you answered “yes”, but have changed your response to where you could now answer: “No, those things are not at all strange or uncomfortable for me”, then you’ve been “leavened”. What initially popped into your mind as a flag or caution has diminished and no longer concerns you.

Going to a yoga class regularly and associating with others in the class builds friendships. You are part of a group. We all know groups affect people. Groups change people. That’s how trends are set. Popular culture defines our reality. Scott Ritsema, in his DVD series “Media On The Brain”, made an interesting statement: “By beholding we become captured.” Could this concept apply to yoga as well? Hearing yoga verbiage and buzz words is not innocuous to your thinking and values. It will change you. That’s the nature of how it works.

Have you heard these commonly used words or phrases during a yoga class?

  • Ground yourself , Center yourself (pause, breathe and connect with the ground beneath you.)
  • Let go and be present in the moment
    • (A state of being where you are totally engaged and focused on the person or activity you are involved in at that moment. The idea of connecting with yourself; increasing self-awareness, for the purpose of obtaining the goal of yoga – enlightenment. )
  • Chakras (The 7 main energy centers in the body through which vital energy flows.)
  • Chant – (A repetition of sacred words and sounds that vibrate within and around the energy centers).
  • Mudra – (Symbolic hand gestures or posture to control prana.)
  • Chin Mudra – (A hand mudra, linking the thumb and index finger.)
  • Mantra – A sacred syllable, word or phrase used in meditation.
  • Namaste (“I bow to the Divine [light or universal Christ] within you.”)
  • Namaste (Also translated as: “I honor that place in you where the whole Universe resides. And when I am in that place in me and you are in that place in you, there is only one of us.” http://beta.active.com/fitness/Articles/Common-Yoga-Terms-Defined
  • Om – (Om is regarded as the original sound of creation. When you repeat it, you are in effect aligning yourself with the spirit of creation. — from a pantheistic viewpoint)
  • Oneness (Pertains to the oneness of consciousness; being one with the universe.)
  • Pranayama
    • (Control of the breath. Breathing technique used to build prana/vital energy and still the mind.)
  • Spiritual – Pertaining to the spirit or the soul — from an eastern, mystical perspective.
  • Ujaii breathing (A breath technique intended to activate the 7 chakras.)

*Most definitions above are taken from either Wikipedia or the websites below. http://ezinearticles.com/?Yoga-For-Beginners—Glossary-of-Keywords-Used-in-Yoga&id=1699781

Honestly, what place do any of these words have in the Christian’s life? They all pertain to eastern mystical beliefs.

In America, yoga is used to relax, tone, strengthen, and reduce stress. But it was never intended for this!

It is a Hindu, spiritual exercise aimed at bringing the mind into an open, empty state where the inner divine spirit is released, so that it may join with the universal mind and enlightenment may occur. http://www.discernment-ministries.org/Newsletters/NL2013MayJun.pdf

The practices, postures, and all parts of it have inherent meaning.

“Yoga is a combination of both physical and spiritual exercises. It is the practice of preparing oneself to yoke, unite, or experience the Divine within. (i.e. the individual self with the Cosmic Self). It is about attaining moksha, or liberation from the worldly suffering and the cycle of birth and rebirth. Yoga is a holistic and spiritual system of living that is essential to the understanding and practice of Hinduism. What yoga is not is asana alone.” http://www.huffingtonpost.com/suhag-a-shukla-esq/yoga-wont-wreck-yourbody_b_1195754.html

In other words, yoga is not “physical exercise and stretching” alone. It was never intended for simple stress-reduction and Western fitness clubs.

Asanas (Yoga Poses or Postures)

What are asanas?

Asanas are the various postures used in yoga. They are based on postures that honor Hindu deities who manifest themselves in forms such as the sun, the tiger, the tree, the snake, etc. Asanas were designed to aid in meditation and to strengthen the body… toward obtaining the realization of the true divine self, and eventually (samadhi, moksha, or nirvana) which is union with the divine. http://www.discernment-ministries.org/Newsletters/NL2013MayJun.pdf

Did you catch that?

“Many participants merely presume that the exercises are neutral and harmless, if not practiced with any spiritual intent. But in fact, the poses they so diligently practice are named after Hindu Gods.” http://www.letusreason.org/NAM1.htm

If you are a yoga practitioner, have you ever been to a Vinyasa Flow yoga class? If so, you’ve done the sequence of asanas called the “Surya Namaskara”, which is usually performed (in India) at sunrise. This is the “Salute to the Sun” asanas as shown below in positions #1-6 below, looking left-to-right.

There are 8 different asanas in the sequence of 12 asana changes of the Surya Namaskara. The Vedas praised the Sun for the purpose of good health and prosperity. Physical prostration to the Sun, showing complete surrender of oneself to God, is the main aspect of these postures. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Surya_Namaskar_Origins http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Surya_Namaskara

In regards to Saluting the Sun, Ezekiel 8:15-18 addressed this issue in his own day when the priests of Israel were themselves bowing down to the sun in the East. They were turning their backs to the temple and worshiping the sun, just like the idolatrous people they were supposed to be different from. God called it an “abomination”.

Or, have you ever done the “Kundalini” postures to clear the chakras and awaken the Kundalini serpent within? The teachings of Hatha (physical) yoga teach that at the base of the spines lies coiled a great serpent power called Kundalini. A former yoga teacher for ten years, and former vice-principal of a large yoga school, now a Christian, states:

“Every posture is designed to stimulate this power to uncoil itself and rise up through the nerve centers in the spine, which are closely related to the endocrine glands, until it finally reaches the pituitary gland–the thousand petal lotus–and when this occurs after long and disciplined practice, perfect enlightenment is achieved.” http://mmoutreachinc.com/cult_groups/yoga.html

A Christian need not be instructed on the significance of the original serpent, Satan the Devil! (See Revelation 12:9) Don’t you find it ironic the Kundalini postures are named after the serpent power, who is going to help you become like God (divine)? Where have we heard that before?

Below are the Kundalini set of asanas. Keep in mind there are other poses, which are also designed to “open the chakras”; these are not the only ones.

Awakening the 1st (Root Chakra) in the Crow Poses

Awakening the 2nd (Sacral Chakra) in the Frog Poses

Awakening the 3rd Chakra
(Solar Plexus) Stretch Pose

Awakening the 4th Chakra
(Heart Chakra) Camel Pose

Awakening the 5th Chakra
(Throat Chakra) Cobra Pose

Awakening the 6th Chakra
(The Third Eye) Guru Pranam Pose

Awakening the 7th Chakra
The Crown Chakra) Sat Kriya Pose

Whether you have done these specific sequences of asanas or not, please recognize that you are not safe from unknowingly participating in yoga poses that honor Hindu gods. Everything in yoga has meaning and purpose. Whether you are aware of it or not, you may be doing postures that are blatantly offensive to God and detrimental to your own spiritual well being. Even though you may not realize the pose is worshiping another deity, God knows! How do you think He feels when he sees His people going through the motions of Hindu idol worship?

One of the early pioneers of Hatha Yoga, Richard Hittleman, stated:

“As yoga students practiced the physical positions, they would eventually be ready to investigate the spiritual component which is the entire essence of the subject”. (Yoga Journal, May/June 1993, Pg 68) http://www.letusreason.org/NAM1.htm

Can you see how the moment you walk into a yoga studio you’ve submitted yourself and stepped on dangerous ground? As you stretch your body into yoga poses, and practice the breathing and meditation techniques, you open yourself up for spiritual forces to move into your body. As you progress into a relaxed state, or get “centered”, you achieve an altered state of consciousness where your brain is in the alpha state. This is a light-hypnotic state where your mind is now openly receptive to input and suggestion. From which spirit are you obtaining suggestion? Is God’s spirit actually going to manifest Himself to you through a pagan practice?

The physical levels of advancement are interconnected with spiritual levels of advancement. Yoga’s stretching, breathing, and meditation practices all work together as disciplines to bring about a spiritual awakening. One door opens another, each of which is leading down a path that takes one away from the true God of the Bible and faith in the sacrifice and salvation of Jesus Christ, alone. When one is practicing yoga exercises, whether they are aware of it or not, they are practicing essential (spiritual) elements of Hinduism and are methodically moving in the direction of mysticism.

Mysticism is defined on Wikipedia as:

“The pursuit of communion with, identity with, or conscious awareness of an ultimate reality, divinity, spiritual truth, or God through direct experience, intuition, instinct or insight.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mysticism

Remember, yoga’s purpose is to preparing oneself to yoke, unite, or experience the Divine within. This is mysticism. It is a spiritualistic practice.

There are numerous ways to de-stress, and many exercise programs that incorporate stretching and physical strengthening that in no way relate to yoga…if one wants to choose them. Yoga IS INDEED a spiritual practice and Hinduism is at its core. The eight limbs of yoga are used as pathways for achieving this ultimate goal of self-realization.

I could stop here and end this study. Enough has already been said which should give the reader a clear understanding of why Yoga is not harmless to the Christian. But for the sake of those who still are not convinced or who are really wrestling with this because it has been such a positive experience in their life, here is more food-for-thought.

Aum-Om and Mantras

The use of “Ohm or Om” in Yoga is for meditation purposes.

It is thought to be the unifying vibration/syllable of the universe; “the primordial sound that resonated at the creation of our universe and which continues to resonate in each of us and all of existence.” http://www.huffingtonpost.com/suhag-a-shukla-esq/yoga-wont-wreckyour-body_b_1195754.html

It is the “mystical sound of Hindu origin, sacred in Hinduism, Buddism, and Jainism. It is a sacred incantation to be intoned at the beginning and end of a mantra or an invocation to a Hindu deity (god) being sacrificed. Om is an invitation to and for that God to partake of the sacrifice.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Om

“Om is considered capable of creating spiritual transformation. Mantras, which are used in Yoga, are used to liberate the mind, consciousness, soul, atma from repeated birth and death.” The authors of the Hindu scriptures of the Upanishad…postulate that the vocal sounds of the mantra have inherent meaning independent of the understanding of the person uttering them.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mantra

Did you catch that? Whether you know what you’re saying, or not, a mantra may still have its effect. Also taken from the website above, “Mantras, the Sanskrit syllables inscribed on yantras, are essentially ‘thought forms’ representing divinities or cosmic powers, which exert their influence by means of sound-vibrations.”

Did you know that a “Mantrik” is someone who specializes in practicing mantra? In India the word mantrik & similar names are synonymous with magician in different languages.

A Mantrik is one who chants to please a god or evil spirit for his benefit. Mantras are sacred chantings containing magical and mystical words. A Mantrik is known for his use of sorcery and magic and can be called upon for the casting of spells and magic, divination, astrology and all aspects of sorcery ” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mantrik

For the Christian, this revelation should provide a whole new level of understanding about the practice of yoga, Om, and the use of mantras. So, I ask the question: “Is Yoga harmless?” And I would answer:

  • Is sorcery harmless?
  • Is magic harmless?
  • Is mysticism harmless?
  • Is entering an altered state of consciousness harmless?
  • Are engaging in spiritual exercises directed at realizing your own inner divinity harmless?
  • Is believing you have an inner divinity harmless?
  • Is assuming asana postures that honor someone else’s (idolatrous) God irrelevant because that person’s God doesn’t happen to be your own?
  • Is voicing a sacred incantation to a Hindu deity pleasing in God’s eyes?

Let’s think long and hard about what we are actually doing when Christians engage in the practice of yoga. What kind of spiritual awakening, or should I say “spiritual sleep” may be taking place? Is it possible that instead of realizing “nirvana”, which of course is not most Christian’s goal in doing yoga, they are instead, being lulled into a state of spiritual apathy and lack of discernment? Is it possible they don’t even realize that they have adopted pagan practices, eastern meditation techniques, and become involved with mysticism, sorcery and magic?

Let’s let Christ rule our lives, not Karma. Let’s fill ourselves with the Holy Spirit instead of seeking to empty ourselves – and thereby allowing other spirits inside. Let’s turn to the God of the Bible for enlightenment, not to ourselves. Let us be reconciled to God through Jesus Christ instead of seeking to become one with the universe. Let us honor and worship the Creator God of the Bible and avoid pagan and idolatrous rituals, practices, and exercises that honor nonbiblical god(s). Let us be “sober and vigilant” not emptied and “open” (to another spirit); because our adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. (I Peter 5:8).

Let’s take Joshua 24:15 to heart and apply it in our own lives:
“Choose you this day whom you will serve…as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”

With all of this said, I now want to include an article by Suhag A. Shukla, Co-Founder/Executive Director of the Hindu American Foundation who gives a clear understanding of the Hindu position on yoga and validates much of what has been set forth in this study. On March 15, 2012, The Huffington Post’s Religion section posted an opinion poll titled: “Change My Mind: Yoga Is A Hindu Practice”. People either voted they agreed with this statement, or disagreed. Suhag Shukla posted her side of the debate stating her position that “Yes, Yoga is a Hindu Practice”. I would like to include her full article since it is so concise and clear about the topic at hand. Here it is.

Change My Mind: Yoga Is A Hindu Practice

By Suhag A. Shukla, Esq. Co-Founder/Executive Director, Hindu American Foundation

“We are of the view that yoga, which originates from Hinduism, combines physical exercise, religious elements, chanting and worshipping for the purpose of achieving inner peace and ultimately to be one with god.”

“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.”

As a Hindu advocate and one of the several brains behind the Hindu American Foundation’s Take Back Yoga Project, these statements could easily be mine or those of my colleagues’ in our quest to bring to light yoga’s Hindu roots. But they are not. These acknowledgements of yoga being a spiritual and Hindu discipline are actually from the most ironic of bedfellows — Abdul Shukor Husin, chairman of Malaysia’s top Islamic body, and Dr. Albert Mohler, the President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Granted, Husin and Mohler do not represent or speak for all Muslims and Christians, respectively, but their conclusions are worth considering.

As a Hindu, the answer to “Is yoga a Hindu practice?” is obvious, and demands a more important question: Why are we even having this debate? I offer three reasons: 1) The $6 billion yoga industry’s cater-to-the-masses, bottom-line delinking of yoga from Hinduism has significantly secularized, plagiarized or mutated yoga, almost beyond recognition; 2) many of the Hindu yoga gurus who have traveled to America, over-emphasized the “universal” and deemphasized the “Hindu,” in their hopes of sharing, and perhaps making more palatable for Westerners, their own profound experiences of Self-realization and the systems by which anyone could strive for the same; and 3) our American tendency to “reduce, reuse, recycle” combined with cafeteria-style spirituality and an unhealthy serving of religious illiteracy has played its part as well in muddying the waters unnecessarily. With that out of the way, onto my offering to this debate’s question.

Yoga is a Hindu practice and how one arrives at this conclusion depends a great deal on how one defines yoga. I’ve said here before, yoga is the practice of preparing oneself to yoke, unite or experience the Divine within (i.e. Consciousness). Yoga is about attaining chitta-vritti-nirodha (cessation of mental fluctuations), and ultimately, moksha, or liberation from worldly suffering and the cycle of birth and rebirth. Yoga is a combination of both physical and spiritual discipline, the key word being “combination,” with an emphasis on the spiritual. The popular understanding of yoga, however, too often begins and ends with asana (physical posture). The truth is that asana accounts for only a small sliver of yoga. Nonetheless, asanas, named as they are after the many avatars of the Hindu pantheon and with their tremendous psycho-physiological and psycho-spiritual effects, have proven to be the gateway for millions into the heart of yoga, which is a seeker-lifestyle defined by a specific philosophy and purpose.

The inter-connected, metaphysical principles that form the core of yoga are the core of Hinduism. While these principles have informed other Dharma traditions, they are quite different from the central principles of the Abrahamic traditions. First, karma, a universal law of cause and effect, is the mechanism by which we create karmic debits and credits through our actions (thoughts, words, deeds). Some may argue, “Well, every tradition has this ‘do unto others’ type Golden Rule.” One of the key difference for the law of karma is that one’s karmic balance sheet is zeroed out over many lifetimes.

Integral to the belief and understanding of karma then is the second principle of samsara, or reincarnation. Hindus believe that the immortal soul or Consciousness evolves by experiencing varied lives through a process wherein the soul takes on different physical bodies through cycles of birth and death. Any notions of eternal hells, heavens or salvation do not fit in this transcendental equation.

These two related concepts feed into a third metaphysical principle which is that Consciousness is present in all living things. What does that really mean? It means no promised land, no chosen people, no requirement to accept any one prophet, no my way or the highway — it’s just each and every one of us, regardless of how we identify our outer-selves, owning our potential to realize or experience the Divine within on a spiritual path to which we are inclined.

Christianizing, Judeo-fying or secularizing the Sanskrit terminology, or even cutting out the Oms and Namastes isn’t enough of a twist to cleanse yoga of its guiding principles. Yes, the beauty of yoga is that it can be both flexible and fluid, but without its metaphysical, Hindu bones, yoga falls flat on its face.

Relevant Bible Texts

We are not divine; salvation is only through Jesus Christ.

Romans 3:9-11
…As it is written, “There is none righteous, no, not one…”

John 14:6
Jesus said to him, I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.

John 3:16
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

Jesus Himself will come again, literally, to take us to heaven. We must have faith in Him and His promises.

John 14:1-3
…”In My Father’s house are many mansions…I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.”

Acts 1:9-11
…”this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.”

I Thessalonians. 4:16-17
“For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first. Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.”

The Bible denies an impersonal “life force” of creation, (Chi, Qi, Prana) that permeates everything. Jesus is the creator and is separate from AND sovereign over His creation.

Genesis 1:1
In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.

John 1:1,3,14
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made…And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us…

Isaiah 46: 9-10
Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me.

I Corinthians 8:6
But to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him.

Colossians 1:13-17
He has delivered us from the power of darkness and translated us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins. He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible, and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist.

We are not to worship or bow to any other Gods. There is only one God whom we should serve.

Matthew 4:10
Then Jesus said to him, Away with you, Satan! For it is written, You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve.

Deuteronomy 10:17
For the Lord your God is God of gods, and Lord of lords, a great God…

Exodus 20: 2-6
I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before Me. You shall not make for yourself any carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.

Many desire salvation, but in spite of being Christians (who do good works in God’s name) He will tell them “I never knew you.” We must surrender “self” and follow Christ in all we do.

Matthew 7:21-23
Not everyone that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father, which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in they name? And in thy name have cast out devils? And in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.

Matthew 16:24
Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.

James 1:8
A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.

Hinduism and Eastern Religions teach the immortality of the soul, which is the age-old lie Satan told in the Garden of Eden. Ancient pagan religions all taught the soul is immortal.

I Timothy 6:15-16
…which He will manifest in His own time, He who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, dwelling in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see, to whom be honor and everlasting power.

Job 4:17
Shall mortal man be more just than God? Shall a man be more pure than his maker?

I Corinthians 15:51-53
We shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye,…and the dead shall be raised incorruptible…for this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. (At the second coming of Christ)

I Timothy 4:1
Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils.

Revelation 16:14
For they are the spirits of devils, working miracles, which go forth unto the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty.

A Final Thought

The immortality of the soul was Satan’s original lie. Surely, one of the “doctrines of devils” mentioned above is this very one that came from the serpent’s mouth in Eden! Man is NOT immortal and NEVER will be like God!

So I ask, why would we want to partake of Hindu religious practice (yoga), enter their camp, soto-speak, and practice their ways? Are we trying to get closer to the world’s way, or the way of Jesus Christ?