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Is Yoga Demonic?

Think Christianly: Is Yoga Demonic?

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Is Yoga Demonic?

Now that I have your attention, Should Christians practice yoga? Is there such a thing as 'Christian yoga'? Are Christians overreacting? Seattle Pastor Mark Driscoll has researched and written a provocative article on this very topic--and wherever you land on this issue--it's worth a read. Christians should not just mindlessly accept what everyone else has baptized as normal. We need to exercise theologically informed discernment and wisdom. Here are a few excerpts:
"There is nothing wrong with stretching, exercising, or regulating one’s stress through breathing. But when the tenets of yoga are included, it’s by definition a worship act to spirit beings other than the God of the Bible. By way of analogy, there is nothing inherently wrong with intimacy, sex, and pleasure. But when the tenets of adultery are included, it’s a sinfully idolatrous worship act. A faithful Christian can no more say they are practicing yoga for Jesus than they can say they are committing adultery for Jesus.

A little over a year ago, I said yoga was demonic. My stance hasn’t changed since then, but I thought I’d take this opportunity to provide a much fuller and comprehensive teaching on what yoga is and why it is in fact demonic. By demonic I mean it’s a spiritual act to a being other than the God of the Bible. And, for those unfamiliar with me, I’m no raging Christian fundamentalist. My most vocal critics tend to be from the fundamentalist tribe as I do drink alcohol, have been known to use strong language, and talk very frankly about the joys of married s*x. I’m no prude, but I am a pastor.

Giving sound teaching on yoga is important because there is increasing adoption of yoga by our culture, with over 15.8 million people practicing yoga and nearly every store you go into selling all kinds of yoga products. It’s gone mainstream. As such, Christians are also adopting it as a healthy aspect of exercise and lifestyle—complete with things like “Holy Yoga,” which is an oxymoron. Saying yoga can be Christian because you do it for Jesus is a bit like going into a mosque, going through the worship practices, and then saying you’re not a Muslim because you’re doing it for Jesus. They don’t mix.

When looking at the acceptance of yoga in the Christian church, I find that there are two issues at hand: (1) People simply don’t understand what yoga is, its roots, and its tenants; or (2) People think that they can engage in yoga because it’s just stretching, while ignoring the religious aspects of the practice of yoga.

As one woman who identified herself as a mainline Protestant said in an article about my comments a year ago, “Here we go again with fear-based, black-and-white thinking. . . . It's not fair to say yoga is demonic. In fact, I find it insulting. There are many ways to grow spiritually." To this I would reply, “No. There are not many ways to grow spiritually. There is one way, which is through the power of the Holy Spirit provided through Jesus’ death and resurrection on the cross, as part of God the Father’s plan for salvation.” Comments like this woman’s are the exact reason why it’s important to explore what yoga really is and what it teaches, and to understand that the spiritual elements of yoga make their way into our life and culture in ways we don’t necessarily see overtly.

In this lengthy post, I’ll define what yoga is, give a history of yoga, talk about the various forms of yoga, and take a look at yoga through the “receive, reject, or redeem” matrix that I commonly use.

What Is Yoga? There are many different types of yoga...." (read the rest here)

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