Ayurveda the Ancient Healing
Tradition of India – Part II
Forty years in the past yoga was an activity that most Americans considered as Hinduism and associated with pagan idol worship. The Christian community tended to consider its practice as a denial of faith. In the intervening years many Americans have been conditioned to accept it as a healthy part of Christianity. The term “Christian Yoga” is often heard or read. Its practice has spread through clubs, sports, schools, television, businesses, churches, youth groups, medicine, entertainment industry, and for many individuals simply a practice at home. It has even been especially prepared and presented to the very young and promoted as a “family activity.” Yoga has moved into wellness programs primarily through yoga exercises which have become popular in many churches, especially with young women.
Has the Christian community carefully analyzed yoga and found it to be an appropriate adjunct to the Judeo-Christian doctrines? Has there been any concern that it might be a “wolf in sheep’s clothing?” Some pastors give warnings about its practice, while some others are encouraging its practice? We need to look carefully at the origin of yoga and its place and purpose in the Hindu worship for the past 3500 years. Then we need to answer the question, is its use safe for the Christian? Read carefully this chapter and learn more about this controversial subject.
Yoga is an intrinsic part of Hinduism. Laurette Willis, who was led into New Age occultism through yoga and was then delivered through faith in Christ, and obedience to God’s Word, explains:
The goal of all yoga is to obtain oneness with the universe. That’s also known as the process of enlightenment, or union with Brahman (Hinduism’s highest god). The word “yoga” means “union” or “to yoke”…Yoga wants to get students to the point of complete numbness in their minds (to open them to this force). God on the other hand, wants you to be transformed by the renewing of your mind through his Word.
We read an opposing viewpoint:
Yoga is a science as well as a method of achieving spiritual harmony through the control of mind and body. The asanas (yogic postures) and pranayama (breath control) are practices that not only help us to acquire perfect health, but also develop the inner force that enables a believer to withstand stressful situations with a calm and serene mind.
B.K.S. Iyengar, the founder of Hatha Yoga (used in the U.S.), makes the following statement regarding the goal of yoga,
…the means by which the human soul may be completely united with the Supreme Spirit pervading the universe and thus attain liberation (escape reincarnation)… Yoga Journal, May/June 1993, p. 69.
Yoga is an ancient physical practice of postures and movements established to join the mind, body, and spirit. Yoga means to hook up, to join, to unite. The primary purpose of posture and movement of yoga is to facilitate the flow of energy through the body and chakras, especially kundalini energy. As stated previously yoga is associated with meditation like a glove is with the hand. Dr. Khalsa tells us in Meditation as Medicine that he combines yoga with meditation to obtain a more powerful response in healing.
Swiss psychiatrist C.G. Jung, a spiritist and anti-Christian, brought yoga to the West nearly ninety years ago and was a devotee of it. He strongly emphasized that the spiritual cannot be taken out it, see quote below.
The numerous purely physical procedures of yoga (unite) the parts of the body… with the whole of the mind and spirit, as… in the pranayama exercises, where prana is both the breath and the universal dynamics of the cosmos…the elation of the body becomes one with the elation of the spirit…. Yoga practice is unthinkable, and would also be ineffectual, without the ideas on which it is based. It works the physical and the spiritual into one another in an extraordinarily complete way.
Later, Yogi Paramahansa Yogananda popularized yoga in this country in the latter part of the twentieth century by introducing it as science in the guise of health enhancement. Yoga was presented as a purely physical practice non-related to religion. Hatha yoga, often considered only as physical yoga, has for its center of instruction the “Temple of Kriya Yoga” in Chicago. Yogananda initiated approximately 100,000 people into Kriya Yoga (or Hatha Yoga) for the purpose of “self-realization” (to realize one’s oneness with God). The leaders in this movement have been “Yogi’s,” or holy men.
These techniques were all precisely developed over centuries to induce subtle changes in states of consciousness leading to “self-realization.” They were not developed for physical benefits.
Medical newspapers and journals frequently print articles reporting, yet another medical condition that improves with the use of yoga and/or meditation. A government survey of 31,000 adults revealed that eight percent of Americans use yoga as an alternative medical therapy. As of 2004, Wal-Mart web site listed 990, and Target’s, 4235 yoga products for sale.
Richard Hittleman a leader in the “physical yoga” movement in the USA makes the following comment:
…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 is sweeping the West. Multiple millions practice yoga not intending to embrace Hinduism, yet using the fundamental tools of Hinduism and placing their minds under its influence. They do not contemplate on God while in yoga meditation. Instead, they try to empty their minds of all thought, or concentrate on a single thought so as to achieve mental rest or “passivity of mind”. The end result, however, allows opportunity for Satan to control one’s mind. We are to contemplate on God through prayer and study scriptures of the Bible, while inviting the Holy Spirit to direct our thoughts.
Yoga is also a commercial business. Consider the financial impact of this movement:
Nationally, Yoga is a 22.5 billion dollar industry. Advertisements for yoga books, videos, clothes, wellness retreats and even yoga business training classes can be found in the back of magazines such as Yoga Journal, and the phenomenon in now reaching into the mainstream…35 million Americans who will try yoga for the first time this year. Once confined to New Agers with an interest in Eastern spirituality, yoga is catching on among young men, fitness fanatics, aging baby boomers and other unlikely enthusiasts who claim the mind body practice does everything from healing illness to tighten abs.
Contrast yoga meditation with Christian meditation which really is best called study, or contemplation. The Christian attitude is that of allowing God to direct his thoughts and life. He does not look inward in an attempt to raise his divinity to godhood, but outward and upward to the Creator God as the source of power and redemption. This is directly opposite to Ayurvedic principles. Can one take a fundamental act and practice, physical and mental, from a pagan religion (Satan’s ground) and make it Christian? The Christian Yoga term is an oxymoron. As the Hindu Holy men tell us we cannot take yoga out of Hinduism nor can you take Hinduism out of Yoga.
Reflecting upon the subject of meditation and yoga in the 1950’s, I cannot remember that the subject was ever thought of or considered by people with whom I associated. In the 1960’s a change was observed occurring on college campuses, such as style of dress, long hair on men etc. Standards were changing, and to one not involved in the culture change of the youth it was not well understood. Many influences were creating the outward changes we were seeing and most of us did not understand what was happening. One of the greatest influences for change came from the influence of psychedelic drugs and the popular music of the period. Timothy Leary is a name that comes to mind when this subject of psychedelic drug use is mentioned. He championed the use of LSD; other substances such as peyote, marijuana, amphetamine were easily available. The mind trips experienced with these substances blew away old norms and created a desire for ever expanding “consciousness.” Drug using musicians; Presley, the Beatles, Rolling Stones, and many other music groups came on the scene captivating the youth and opening up the drug use as nothing else could do. This was a stepping stone to even more exhilarating practice of yoga and the “trips” that could be taken in this manner without purchasing drugs.