Yoga snake asana

Yoga snake asana (pose) is one of many common animal poses in yoga.

 

 Texas Christian University teaches yoga, and Loyola Marymount University offers certificates in yoga studies.

A 2015 survey found that 940 schools across the nation were teaching yoga.[1]  A 2016 survey found the number of yoga practitioners grew 50% in just four years from 20.4 million in 2012 to 36 million in 2016. They also found that three out of four Americans believe yoga is good for you.[2]

Federal funds and grants from Hindu foundations are bringing yoga curricula and teachers into public education more than ever.

Some of these enlightened beings are sure to land on your Christian campus, forming yoga clubs, passing on their yoga insights in Bible class, and meditating on your lawns.

Are you prepared to respond? Do you know the reality behind yoga practices? Or do you believe that Christian yoga is good for your students as long as they focus on Jesus?

Is Christian yoga even possible?

This article will help you to understand the spiritual source and goals of yoga in contrast to the teachings of the God of Israel. It will reveal truths that are being omitted in the secular media, studies, and journals that push yoga as a health science with proven health benefits.

With truth in hand, you can make informed and spiritually discerned decisions when faced with requests to offer, condone, or encourage yoga on your Christian campus.

We will begin with the spiritual source of yoga.

Adiyogi Statue Adiyogi bust located at the Isha Yoga Center in India. It is 112 feet tall, representing 112 ways to attain moksha (liberation/salvation), according to yogic philosophy.

In the Beginning Was Adiyogi

Hinduism has a creation story, and it involves a yogi (someone who does yoga). His name is AdiYogi, which literally means, “first yogi.”

Adiyogi: The Source of Yoga, published by the India division of HarperCollins in 2017 was authored by the internationally renowned guru: Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev (SJV). He has spoken at Oxford, Harvard, Stanford, MIT, the United Nations, the World Economic Forum, and TED, to name a few. He is well-qualified to speak on this topic. In his book, he reveals much about yoga that you won’t find advertised in any yoga brochure.

Adiyogi is also called “Lord Shiva.” He is described by SJV as “symbol and myth, historic figure and living presence, creator and destroyer, outlaw and ascetic, cosmic dancer and passionate lover, all at once.” He has achieved knowledge of the universe and all truth; as such, he is the ideal yogi to emulate.

In one Hindu creation lore, Adiyogi’s mother is Mother Earth—”the source of all life.” Through self-regeneration, she had three sons—Braham, Vishnu, and Shiva. She believed that to perpetuate the human race, she had to conceive a son through natural means, so she had a sexual encounter with her son Shiva and produced Adiyogi.

“And that is how life in the world began,” says SJV.

However, in another creation lore, Adiyogi is a self-created alien from the planet Kailasa. From this perspective, yoga is fundamentally “a process of self-creation where the nature of your body, your emotion, your mind, your energy is consciously created by you,” says SJV.

As a self-created being, Adiyogi could morph into various forms and was nine feet tall. His friends that surrounded him were known as Gana. They were not fully human in form; rather, they created their own amorphous bodies.

Hindu lore also presents Adiyogi as a “linga,” which literally means “form,” but has come to represent an erect phallus.

In yet another lore, Adiyogi talked his wife out of her desire to have children. Instead, he made her one with him. From this perspective, he is often depicted as being half man and half woman. (Interestingly, Native American LGBT communities will at times refer to themselves as “two-spirit” to honor their own heritage of individual spirits who are believed to be both male and female.)

Questions:

What does the Bible teach about self-creation, incest, giants, creatures that morph into other creatures, blending of genders, and having (or not having) children?

 

This statue of Adiyogi (Lord Shiva) at the Murudeshwar Temple in Karnataka rises 123 feet. He is wearing the traditional serpent and garland of skulls around his neck. The man at the base is presenting a linga to a young boy.

The Symbolism Surrounding Adiyogi 

The first known icon of Adiyogi is from 4500 BC in which he wears a garland of skulls, and a snake around his neck. as depicted in the statue above.

Serpents are immensely significant in yoga practice. SJV says the are “gifted with exceptionally heightened perceptual powers” and represent “an advanced stage of existential development.” Snakes are also a “metaphor for the coiled energy at the base of the spine, which yoga consciously harnesses for spiritual development.”

As one yoga practitioner explains it:

 “[Hatha yoga] exercises have been created to ​open up chakras.’ These seven chakras are spiritual energy centres in the body. Through these, the kundalini – the latent ​serpent power’ coiled at the base of the spine — passes through a person as they move toward greater enlightenment. Each chakra is also linked with a certain Hindu deity.”[3]

Warning: Brown University has an entire department dedicated to studying and helping others overcome the psychosis and physical trauma that sometimes lasts for years as a result of awakening or releasing this serpent energy (also known as kundalini energy) through Eastern meditative techniques.[4]

Questions:

According to Scripture, how many spirits do we possess and how many deities exist?

For example, Paul writes, “There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all” (Ephesians 4:4–6).

What role does the serpent play in Scripture?

 

Yoga Meditation: The Quest for Ultimate Knowledge

So many educated and holy men of God believe that the meditation which the God of Israel teaches and the meditation that a yogi teaches are the same. But, in fact, they are diametrically opposed.

The ultimate goal of a true yogi is to experience emptiness so that one can truly experience aliveness. Adiyogi is said to be the only one who fully reached this aliveness, which is 100% knowing and 100% experiential. SJV describes yogic knowing this way:

“If you pass by a flowering plant and know the chemistry, that is one dimension of knowledge. If you know the experience and ecstasy of that fragrance, that is another dimension of knowledge. But if you become the fragrance, that is knowing. That is alivenesss.”

Christians understand that the desire to attain transcendent knowledge is how the crafty serpent succeeded in seducing Eve, saying to her: “For God knows that in the day you eat of it, your eyes will be opened and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (Gen. 3:5).

And Yahweh made clear that none can be like Him:

I have made you, and I will carry you; I will sustain you and deliver you. To whom will you liken Me or count Me equal? To whom will you compare Me, that we should be alike? I declare the end from the beginning, and ancient times from what is still to come. I say, ‘My purpose will stand, and all My good pleasure I will accomplish.”  (Isaiah 46:4-5, 10)

Christians also understand that trying to become like God is the ultimate kind of pride, the very kind Lucifer got thrown out of heaven for: “I will make myself like the Most High,” he said in Isaiah 14:14.

This desire to attain the full knowledge of God found a welcoming home in Hinduism. Experiencing oneness with existence is the ultimate “aliveness” and “knowing” in which “even the divine has no choice but to serve you. You have now enslaved Shiva!” says SJV.

Imagine that!

Biblical mediation on the other hand fills the mind with the Word of God so it can be used for reflection, exhortation, teaching, comfort, and nurturing a personal relationship with our Creator, the only one who is all-knowing.

 

Yoga meditation and contemplation (left) seeks to look within while biblical meditation and contemplation (right) seeks a direct connection with the God of Israel.

Yoga Meditation: The Door for Channeling Spirits

Beyond relief from anxiety and depression, yoga exercise is not the end but the means. It prepares the mind to empty itself during the meditation and mindfulness experience.

Primordial emptiness is another description for Adiyogi. Attaining this emptiness is how SJV channels Adiyogi. In fact, he calls Adiyogi his “silent partner.”

Former yoga teacher and medium Jessica Smith explains on her site “Truth Behind Yoga”:

When practicing focused meditation, it is difficult to discern where the harmless relaxing begins and when the spiritual realm becomes involved.

The deeper one settles into these practices, the line begins to fade between relaxation, feelings of peace and love, esoteric experiences, and visions, powers, etc. It is a slippery slope. The problem is, the spirits causing these effects from these “Mindfulness” practices are not on the side of the Lord, no matter how good or peaceful or full of love or light or warm-fuzzies one may feel. It is deception. . . .

It is an ancient pagan practice aimed to open and invite in spirits of darkness and bondage—That whole Satan masquerades as angels of light thing (2 Corinthians 11:14) happens to not be figurative language.[5]

This kind of meditation is also the key to the esoteric practice of active imagination.

Yoga: The Path to Salvation?

You might be tempted to believe yoga teachers and media who promote yoga as a health science that has been far detached from its spiritual roots. But, that is what some call “stealth Hinduism.”

The spirit realm is real and it has memory.

The word yoga is itself a reminder of the true intention of yoga. It derives from the Sanskrit verbal root yuj and is a cognate of the English “yoke.”

“The Upaniṣads (c. 800–400 BCE) and Bhagavad Gītā (c. 200 BC–200 CE) describe yoga as meditative disciplines for withdrawing one’s senses from the world to yoke with the Divine, or Brahman—the all-pervading divine existence or reality behind everything in the universe.”[6]

This divine existence is not Yahweh, the personal God of Israel and omnipotent Creator of the Universe. Brahman is truth-consciousness, a cosmic principle.

The ultimate goal of all of this emptying and yoking with Brahman is liberation from the cycles of life and death (reincarnation). It was Adiyogi who created reincarnation. This is why he is also known as Father Time.

Question?

What is salvation according to biblical Scripture and how do we attain it?

Adiyogi had seven disciples whom he taught the ways of salvation and the seven core types of yoga. What does the symbolism and ideas in this video mean from a biblical perspective? 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 Yoga: The Slippery Slope

As mentioned, the beneficial stretching and breathing of yoga cannot be separated from its spiritual roots or ultimate goals of Hindu salvation because the entire purpose of the stretching and breathing is to prepare the mind to enter the meditative state of emptiness. This yoga teacher honestly explains:

“Just because a yoga teacher does not discuss yoga philosophy in their classes does not mean they don’t believe in it. I will use myself as an example. I am heavy into spirituality and yogic philosophy, but 99% of what I teach is asana [yoga poses]. Why? Because the students came for the asana and it is the most effective way to open their minds to the spiritual world,”[8] writes Shanna Small.

Many Christians are not aware that the asanas themselves are forms of worship, such as the sun salutation, which is one of the first asanas taught to beginning yogis.

Further, the book Yoga Anatomy reveals that “all of asana practice can be viewed as a methodical way of freeing up the spine, limbs, and breathing so that the yogi can spend extended periods of time in a seated position.” [9] 

The beautiful feelings of relaxation and even euphoria are real. This is what causes unaware Christians to seek out more, which leads to learning Hindu philosophies and practicing advanced forms of meditation, all of which lead them farther away from the way, the truth and the life that is only found in Messiah Jesus.

A 2014 study reveals this slippery slope. It surveyed 156 yoga teachers and 386 yoga students. As indicated in Tables 1 and 2 below, the majority of those surveyed began yoga for the physical and relaxation benefits with a very small number doing so for spiritual reasons.

Over time, the reasons for continuing to practice yoga changed dramatically to being spiritual—60% increase for teachers and 30% for students.

In fact, spirituality is the #1 “current reason” that yoga teachers and students in this study continued to practice yoga.[7]

Table 1:  Yoga Students: Reasons for Starting and Continuing Yoga (indicated in %)

Original Reason Additional Original Reason New Primary Reason to Continue Practice Additional New Primary Reason to Continue Practice Current Reason
Relaxation 6.9 53.9 10.9 62.9 8.9
Stress Relief 14.4 52.5 15.8 62 15.8
Pain Relief 3.3 17.5 1.4 26.2 2.5
Weight Control 4.4 27.2 0.5 33.9
Flexibility 16.7 58.1 6.8 63.3 13.1
Spirituality 5 24.2 23.5 48 16.4
Depression/Anxiety Relief 8.1 21.9 9 33.9 7
Deal with physical health issues 8.1 18.9 3.6 28.5 6.1
Get into shape 32 44.2 6.8 46.2 5.9
Get exercise 31 47.8 5 55.2 8.6
Other 29 17.5 16.7

29.4

 

11.2

 

Table 2: Yoga Teachers: Reasons for Starting and Continuing Yoga (indicated in %)

Original Reason

Additional

Reason

New Primary Reason to Continue Practice Additional New Primary Reason to Continue Practice Current Reason
Relaxation 32 41 60.2 3.1
Stress Relief 19.9 40 12.8 57.9 13.6
Pain Relief 15.4 2.3 30.8 1.9
Weight Control 2.6 16.0 36.8
Flexibility 6.4 41.7 1.5 61.7
Spirituality 7.1 32.1 50.4 49.6 44.4
Depression/Anxiety Relief 9.6 27.6 7.5 42.1 7.4
Deal with physical health issues 6.4 21.8 33.8
Get into shape 5.8 28.8 1.5 36.8 2.5
Get exercise 21.2 35.3 0.8 47.4 23.4
Other 16 25 20.3 30.1

Before encouraging or sanctioning yoga for your faculty or students, pray for wisdom and guidance about how yoga conforms or does not conform to the way God has commanded us to worship Him, as written in Deuteronomy 12:3-4 and elsewhere:

You shall not worship the LORD your God in this way.”

As noted in the references below, an excellent book to further your academic study on this topic is Candy Gunther Brown’s Debating Yoga and Mindfulness in Public Schools: Reforming Secular Education or Reestablishing Religion?

_______________________

Annotated References

[1] Butzer B, Ebert M, Telles S, Khalsa SB. “School-based Yoga Programs in the United States: A Survey.” Adv Mind Body Med. 2015 Fall;29(4):18-26. PMID: 26535474; PMCID: PMC4831047.

[2]New survey reveals the rapid rise of yoga — and why some people still haven’t tried it” – Harvard Health

[3] “Should Christians do yoga?” at the Evangelical Alliance

[4] Brown University’s Clinical and Affective Neuroscience Labratory has a wealth of studies, videos, and other resources documenting the real risks of Eastern contemplative practice. They also have a group of counselors dedicated to helping persons negatively effected by these practices.

One such study describes the energy practitioners experience during medtitative retreats and how it effected them:  “Like a Vibration Cascading through the Body”: Energy-Like Somatic Experiences Reported by Western Buddhist Meditators” Religions 12, no. 12: 1042. https://doi.org/10.3390/rel12121042

[5]What Is Meditation?” at Truth Behind Yoga is a resource for Christians by former yoga and reiki teacher, Jessica Smith. She also has informative interviews on YouTube here and here.

[6] Brown, Candy Gunther. Debating Yoga and Mindfulness in Public Schools (pp. 53-54). The University of North Carolina Press. Kindle Edition. This is an excellent academic work by Dr. Brown who is a scholar and expert witness at trials where yoga in the public school is challenged by concerned parents.

[7] Park CL, Riley KE, Bedesin E, Stewart VM. “Why practice yoga? Practitioners’ motivations for adopting and maintaining yoga” practice. J Health Psychol. 2016 Jun;21(6):887-96. doi: 10.1177/1359105314541314. Epub 2014 Jul 16. PMID: 25030795.

[8]Was Pattabhi Jois a Proponent of Seated Meditation & Should You Let Go of Asana For Meditation?” at shannasmallyoga.com

(9) Kaminoff, Leslie; Matthews, Amy (2012) [2007]. Yoga Anatomy (2nd ed.). The Breath Trust

 

Author

  • Eva Goldstone

    Eva Goldstone is a Christian editor and ghostwriter, revealing the Kingdom to the world one book, one chapter, one article at a time.

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