Is there such a thing as Christian Yoga?
By Sherif Michael
Yoga is pervasive. Yoga is in the east and the west. Yoga classes are offered in Central Africa, in Russia, in Australia. Flyers for yoga are on university bulletin boards, in health food stores, in the elevators of high rise apartment buildings in downtown Los Angeles, and even as part of some YMCA physical education programs. Is yoga merely a physical exercise?
Regarding the yoga asanas or physical postures Swami Vivekananda writes in his book Raja Yoga: “A series of exercises, physical and mental, is to be gone through every day until certain higher states are reached. Nerve currents will have to be dispatched and given a new channel. New sorts of vibrations will begin: the whole constitution will be remodeled, as it were.”
In Yoga: The Method of Re-Intergation Alain Danielou, a French scholar on yoga, writes that the real import of yoga is as “a process of control of the gross body which aims at freeing the subtle body.” The subtle body is regarded as extremely complex and consisting of 72,000 invisible psychic channels called nadis corresponding to the physical or gross body. The subtle body and the physical body are connected at seven primary points or chakras ranging from the top of the head to the base of the spine.
The chakras are believed to control the consciousness of an individual. Manipulating the spine through various yoga postures is believed to increase the energy flow from the subtle body altering the consciousness of the individual. Kundalini yoga and hatha yoga directly manipulate the chakras through their various postures and breathing exercises.
In a mind over body relationship mantra yoga also seeks to alter consciousness of an individual by the repetition of mantras, which Guru Dev, the guru of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, considered the “favorite names of the gods”. Mantras are repeated silently or audibly up to several hours and produce altered states of consciousness.
What Yoga is and is not
Yoga is bound up in Eastern religious metaphysics and is not an innocent form of relaxing the body and the mind. The goal of yoga is the same as that of Hinduism, which is realizing that one is Brahman, the underlying impersonal God of the Universe in Hinduism. According to Psychic Forces and Occult Shock (Wilson and Weldon): “The physical exercises of yoga are designed to prepare the body for the psychospiritual change vital to inculcating this idea (the realization that one is Brahman) into the consciousness and being of the person. Hence talk of separating yoga practice from theory is meaningless. From a Christian perspective, whether the two can safely be divided is doubtful. ‘I do yoga, but Hinduism isn’t involved,’ is an incorrect statement.“
A Spiritual Counterfeits Project (Berkeley, California) publication on “Yoga” states: “For while it may suit the secular fancy to espouse only that selected aspect (the physical) of yoga which fits the bourgeois notion of what yoga is supposed to do (i.e. make a beautiful body), the fact still remains that even physical yoga is inextricably bound up in the whole of Eastern religious metaphysics. In fact, it is quite accurate to say that physical yoga and Indian metaphysics are mutually interdependent; you really can’t have one without the other.”
In the Shankara tradition, which pervades most of contemporary Hinduism, the raindrop is pictured as the symbol of the individual self and the ocean is the symbol of the universal soul (J.Isamu Yamamoto, SCP Newsletter). “The absorption of the raindrop into the ocean is symbolic of the absorption of the person into the impersonal universe. After people attain enlightenment, they lose their identities and become one with the all. Absorption is the goal of the monist Hindu” (J.Isamu Yamamoto, SCP Newsletter , March-April 1983).
“The candle flame is a Buddhist image of the individual; it is the light of life that flickers in the darkness of sorrow. The quest of each ardent Buddhist is to extinguish their own flame. They seek not merely a physical death but a death that will deliver them from both the physical and spiritual life. Extinction is the goal of the traditional Buddhist” (J. Isamu Yamamoto, SCP Newsletter , op.cit.).
From Personal Experience
For this author more persuasive than any authority is the author’s personal experience in mantra yoga, hatha yoga, and kundalini yoga. Definite altered states of consciousness are produced by yoga. However, these states of consciousness while initially anesthetic became with constant yoga practice progressively more oppressive resulting in a disassociation from the external world. Sensory input was accentuated and produced an overreaction to external stimuli resulting in anxiety. On intensive asana-meditation courses the author experienced several blackouts during mantra meditation sessions which lasted up to an hour and a half. No consciousness of elapsed time and no memory of what had transpired during the blackout existed after such an experience.
Coping with these altered states of consciousness produced in the author mounting tension making him easily upset by trifles (slamming of a door, the screeching of a jet fighter plane, traffic). In many ways the meditation/yoga experience is the classic experience of anxiety disorder so well documented by the Australian doctor Claire Weekes in her classic book Hope and Help For Your Nerves, which also offers the best non clinical approach for curing anxiety disorder of which panic attacks are common symptoms.
Meditation and yoga in many instances cause anxiety disorder. This author’s experience is that the techniques result in feelings of unreality, feelings of personality disintegration, and depression. It is the author’s belief that many of the so-called “advanced states of consciousness” are no more than the result of extreme sensitization, a state in which our nerves react in an exaggerated way to stress induced by the yoga/meditation techniques, producing an overshadowing sensory unreality similar to those induced by consciousness altering drugs.
Warnings about Yoga
Yoga is marketed in the guise of an innocent, healthful technique, but it is far from it. H.Rieker warns: “Yoga is not a trifling jest if we consider that any misunderstanding in the practice of yoga can mean death or insanity,” and that if the breath is “prematurely exhausted, there is immediate danger of death for the yogi” (Rieker, The Yoga of Light (Los Angeles: Dawn House) 1974, p. 135). Blackouts, strange trance states, or insanity are listed from even “the slightest mistake…” of practicing yoga. Swami Prabhavananda’s Yoga and Mysticism lists brain injury, incurable disease, and insanity as potential hazards of wrong yoga practice.
If one is experiencing stress and needs to relax, there are many ways to do this such as going for a walk, a picture show, playing sports, going out for dinner, taking a vacation than pursuing yoga. To strengthen one’s body, you can lift weights, run, swim etc… rather than doing yoga postures.
In Psychic Forces and Occult Shock Wilson and Weldon state, “Yoga is really pure occultism, as any number of yoga and occult texts prove (R.S Mishra’s Yoga Sutras and Fundamentals of Yoga , J. Brennan’s Astral Doorways and H. Chaudhuri’s Philosophy of Meditation are footnoted). Occult abilities are very common from yoga practice, and the numerous dangers of occultism are evident from many studies (K. Koch’s Christian Counseling and Occultism is footnoted). The yoga scholar and Sanskrit authority, Mishra, states: ‘In conclusion, it may be said that behind every psychic investigation, behind mysticism, occultism, etc., knowingly or unknowingly, the yoga system is present. (Mishra, op.cit.)'” Kurt Koch in his various excellent books correlates delving with the occult with subsequent experiences of anxiety and depression sometimes resulting in suicide.
What the Bible Says
The Bible informs us that God created Adam of the dust of the earth and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life (Genesis 2:7). Man is a created, separate being. Man can have a relationship with the Living God by accepting His Son, God’s physical incarnation, Jesus Christ. The Bible does not teach that through yoga man can attain progressive higher levels of consciousness so that man will realize he is one with God and merge with Brahman as Hinduism teaches or that man’s personality can be extinguished as a flame is extinguished as Buddhism teaches. The Bible does not mention or recognize yoga or any system where man can become one with God.
God is so far above man that man cannot work his way up to God through his own actions. Because of the original sin of Adam and Eve man is fatally flawed. He is born in sin. But God so loved man that he provided a plan of redemption. God Himself became man (John 1:14) to provide the perfect sacrifice to atone for man’s sin. The perfect sacrifice had to be God Himself as only God is without sin. Accepting God’s provision for sin, his Son, gives man an eternal life in God’s presence. The earthly body is shed and replaced with an eternal body at death. Man does not become nor does he merge with God. Salvation is a free gift given by grace, and not something which has to be worked for.
Both Hinduism and Buddhism believe in reincarnation, the transmigration of souls from one body to the next over time. One reincarnates to overcome one’s karma or one’s attachment to the material world and the recurring patterns which bind one to the material world. Only by elevating one’s consciousness through yoga and piercing the “veil of illusion,” which is the material world, can one transcend and merge with Brahman or snuff out one’s flame and attain Nirvana.
The Bible teaches that man lives once and then comes judgment (Hebrews 9:27). For those who have accepted Christ there is no judgment as the decision has been made to spend eternity with the source of all goodness, joy, and purity, the personal God of the Universe. For those who never knew Christ God will judge with absolute fairness, but for those who have rejected Christ eternity will be spent in a horrible place where God does not exist, a place to which Jesus referred to more than anyone else in the Bible, a place of eternal agony … hell (Mark 9:48).
Yoga is not a panacea, it is a system where man tries to work his way to God. Yoga is not necessary and all of man’s works are nothing but dirty rags before the righteousness of God. Why spend one’s life in bondage chasing a mirage, spending countless hours doing yoga exercises and meditating, hoping to pull oneself off samsara, the wheel of reincarnation. Man can never become God. Because of the sin of Adam man dies. What mortal man can compare to even an angel of God? Daniel saw the angel Gabriel and here is his awesome description:
I looked up and suddenly there before me stood a person robed in linen garments, with a belt of purest gold around his waist, and glowing lustrous skin! From his face came blinding flashes like lightning, and his eyes were pools of fire; his arms and feet shone like polished brass, and his voice was like the roaring of a vast multitude of people. I, Daniel, alone saw this great vision; the men with me saw nothing, but they were suddenly filled with unreasoning terror and ran to hide and I was left alone. When I saw this frightening vision my strength left me, and I grew pale and weak with fright. Daniel 10: 5-8 (Living Bible)
Man doesn’t have to become God. God stretches forth His hand (Revelation 3:20) and all you have to do is take it by making a conscious decision to accept Jesus Christ. Ask him humbly to take charge of your life in simple words. Then the Holy Spirit will indwell you and you will have peace, joy, and certainty. Only then will you shed your old cocoon and experience God’s metamorphosis.
Sherif Michael practiced mantra yoga (meditated silently on a supposedly “meaningless” sound which was really the vehicle that drew him into a “Hindu” deity or really a demon from our Christian perspective). He was in bondage to this, in combination with hatha yoga for six years. According to his testimony this was a horrible experience for him. Yoga involvement is really an exercise in a demonic activity which is portrayed as “fun” and “healthy” that can lead to demonic possession. He experienced different states of sensory consciousness which were dark and sterile until Jesus set him free. You may read other articles that deal with witchcraft and New Age bondage at his website: www.earthharvest.org
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Topic: What the Bible Says about Christian Yoga
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