Yoga in philosophy and practice is incompatible with Christianity
James Manjackal MSFS

As a Catholic Christian born in a traditional Catholic family in Kerala, India, but lived amidst the Hindus; and now as a catholic religious priest and charismatic preacher in 60 countries in all continents, I have something to say about the bad effects of Yoga on Christian spirituality and life. I know there is a growing interest on Yoga all over the world, even among Christians- and this interest is extended to other esoteric and new age practices like Reiki, reincarnation, acupressure, acupuncture, pranic healing, reflexology, etc. which are methods against which the Vatican has cautioned and warned in her document “Jesus Christ bearer of the water of life”.

For some, Yoga is a means of relaxation and easing of tension and for others is a form of exercise promoting fitness and health and for a few is a means of healing of sicknesses. There is much confusion in the mind of the average Catholic- lay and cleric- because Yoga as promoted among Catholics is neither entirely a health discipline nor entirely a spiritual discipline, but sometimes one, sometimes the other, and often a mixture of both.  But in fact, Yoga is primarily a spiritual discipline and I know even priests and nuns in the seminaries and novitiates promote Yoga as help to meditation and prayer. It is sad that now a days, many Catholics are loosing trust in the great spiritualities and mysticisms for prayer and discipline handed over to them by great saints like Ignatius of Loyola, Francis of Assisi, Francis of Sales, St. Theresa of Avila, etc. and are now going after the Eastern spiritualities and mysticisms coming from Hinduism and Buddhism. It is in this regard that a sincere Christian should inquire into Yoga’s compatibility with the Christian spirituality and the wisdom of incorporating its techniques into Christian prayer and meditation.

What is Yoga? The word Yoga means “union”, the goal of Yoga is to unite one’s transitory (temporary) self, “JIVA” with the infinite “BRAHMAN”, the Hindu concept of God.. This God is not a personal God, but it is an impersonal spiritual substance which is one with nature and cosmos. Brahman is an impersonal divine substance that “pervades, envelopes and underlies everything”. Yoga has its roots in the Hindu Upanishads, which is as old as 1.000 BC, and it tells about Yoga thus, “unite the light within you with the light of Brahman”. “The absolute is within one self” says the Chandogya Upanishads, “TAT TUAM ASI” or “THOU ART THAT”. The Divine dwells within each one of us through His microcosmic representative, the individual self called Jiva. In the Bhagavad Gita, the lord Krishna describes the Jiva as “my own eternal portion”, and “the joy of Yoga comes to yogi who is one with Brahman”. In A.D. 150, the yogi Patanjali explained the eight ways that leads the Yoga practices from ignorance to enlightenment – the eight ways are like a staircase – They are self-control (yama), religious observance (niyama), postures (asana), breathing exercises (pranayama), sense control (pratyahara), concentration (dharana), deep contemplation (dhyana), enlightenment (samadhi). It is interesting to note, here, that postures and breathing- exercises, often considered to be the whole of Yoga in the West, are steps 3 and 4 towards union with Brahman! Yoga is not only an elaborate system of physical exercises, it is a spiritual discipline, purporting to lead the soul to samadhi, total union with the divine being. Samadhi is the state in which the natural and the divine become one, man and God become one without any difference (Brad Scott: Exercise or religious practice? Yoga: What the teacher never taught you in that Hatha Yoga class” in the Watchman Expositor Vol. 18, No. 2, 2001).

Such a view is radically contrary to Christianity which clearly distinguishes between Creator and creature, God and man. In Christianity, God is the “Other” and never the self. It is sad that some promoters of Yoga, Reiki and other disciplines and meditations, had misquoted some isolated Bible quotations to substantiate their arguments such as, “you are the temple of God”, “the living water flows from you”, “you will be in me and I will be in you”, “it is no longer I that lives but Christ lives in me”, etc. without understanding the context and the meaning of those words in the Bible. There are even people who portray Jesus as a yogi as we can see now a days such pictures of Jesus in convent-chapels and presbyteries - Jesus presented in yogi postures of meditation!

To call Jesus “a yogi” is to deny His intrinsic divinity, holiness and perfection and suggest that He had a fallen nature subject to ignorance and illusion (Maya), that He needed to be liberated from the human condition through the exercise and discipline of Yoga. Yoga is incompatible with the Christian Spirituality because it is pantheistic (God is everything and everything is God), and holds that there is only one Reality and all else is illusion or Maya. If there is only one absolute reality and all else is illusory, there can be no relationship and no love. The Centre of Christian faith is faith in the Holy Trinity, Father, Son and the Holy Spirit, three persons in one God-Head, the perfect model of loving relationship. Christianity is all about relationships, with God and among men, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it, you shall love your neighbour as yourself” (Mt 22: 37-39).

In Hinduism, good and evil, like pain and pleasure are illusory (Maya) and therefore unreal. Vivekananda, the most respected icons of modern Hinduism, said “good and evil are one and the same” (Vivekananda. “The yogas and other works” published, Ramakrishna Vivekananda Centre NY 1953). In Christianity the vexing problem of sin as an offence against the Holiness of God is inseparable from our faith, because sin is the reason why we need a Saviour. The Incarnation, the Life, the Passion, the Death and the Resurrection of Jesus are for us means for salvation, that is to set us free from sin and its consequences. We can not ignore this fundamental difference in order to absorb Yoga and other Eastern meditation techniques into Christian Spirituality. The practice of Yoga is pagan at best, and occult at worst. This is the religion of antichrist and for the first time in history it is being wildly practised throughout the Western world and America. It is ridiculous that even yogi masters wearing a Cross or a Christian symbol deceive people saying that Yoga has nothing to do with Hinduism and say that it is only accepting the other cultures. Some have masked Yoga with Christian gestures and call it “Christian Yoga”. Here it is not a question of accepting the culture of other people, it is a question of accepting another religion which is irrelevant to our religion and religious concepts.

It is a pity that Yoga has been wildly spread all over from kindergarten to all form of educational institutions in medicine, psychology, etc. calling itself as a science while it is not a science at all; and they are sold under the label ‘relaxation therapy’, ‘self-hypnosis’, ‘creative visualisation’, ‘centering’, etc. Hatha Yoga, one which is wide spread in Europe and America for relaxation and non-strenous exercises, is one of the six recognized systems of orthodox Hinduism, and it is at its roots religious and mystical, which is the most dangerous forms of Yoga (Dave Hunt, “the seduction of Christianity” page 110)  Remember the words of St. Paul, “No wonder, for even Satan masquerades as an angel of light” (II Cor 11: 14). It is true that many people are healed by Yoga and other Eastern ways of meditation and prayers. Here the Christian should ask themselves whether they need healing and material benefits or their God Jesus Christ in Whom they believe, Who is the source of all healings and good health.

The desire to become God is the first and second sin in the history of creation as chronologically recorded in the Bible, “You said in your heart, I will scale the heavens, above the stars of God I will set up my throne; I will take my sit on the mount of Assembly, in the recesses of the north. I will ascend above the tops of the clouds, I will be like the Most High” (Is 14: 13-14). The serpent said to the woman, “You will not die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God who knows what is good and what is bad” (Gen 3: 4-5). The philosophy and practice of Yoga are based on the belief that man and God are one. It teaches one to focus on oneself instead on the One True God. It encourages its participants to seek the answers to life’s problems and questions within their own mind and conscience instead of finding solutions in the Word of God through the Holy Spirit as it is in Christianity. It definitely leaves one open to deception from God’s enemy, who searches for victims whom he can take away from God and the Church (IPet  5: 8)

For last eight years, I am preaching the Word of God mainly in European countries, which once were the cradles of Christianity, producing evangelisers and missionaries, martyrs and saints. Now can we call Europe Christian? Is it not true that Europe has erased all its Christian concepts and values from lives? Why Europe is ashamed to say that it has Christian roots? Where are the moral values and ethics practised by Europeans from down the centuries and handed over to other countries and cultures by the bold proclamation of the Gospel of Christ? From the fruits we shall know the tree!. I believe that these doubts and confusions, apostasy and infidelism, religious coldness and indifference came to Europe ever since the Eastern mysticisms and meditations, esoteric and New Age practices were introduced in the West. In my charismatic retreats, the majority of the participants come with various moral, spiritual, mental and physical problems in order to be liberated and healed and to have a new life through the power of the Holy Spirit. With all sincerity of heart I will say, 80 to 90 % of the participants had been to Yoga, Reiki, reincarnation, etc of the Eastern religious practices where they lost faith in Jesus Christ and the Church. In Croatia, Bosnia, Germany, Austria and Italy I had clear instances where individuals who were possessed with the powers of darkness cried out “I am Reiki”, “I am Mr. Yoga”, identifying themselves to these concepts as persons while I was conducting prayers of healing for them. Later, I had to pray over them by the prayer of deliverance to liberate them from the evil possessions.

There are some people who say, “there is nothing wrong in having the practices of these, it is enough not to believe the philosophies behind”. The promoters of Yoga, Reiki, etc, themselves very clearly state, that the philosophy and practice are inseparable. So a Christian can not, in any way, accept the philosophy and practice of Yoga because Christianity and Yoga are mutually exclusive view points. Christianity sees man’s primary problem as sin, a failure to conform to both, the character and standards of a morally perfect God. Man is alienated from God and he is in need of reconciliation. The solution is Jesus Christ “The lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world”. Through Jesus’ death on the Cross, God reconciled the world to Himself. He, now calls man to freely receive all the benefits of his salvation through faith in Christ alone. Unlike Yoga, Christianity views Salvation as a free gift, it can only be received and never be earned or attained by one’s own effort or works. Today what is needed in Europe or elsewhere is the powerful preaching of the message of Christ coming from the Bible and interpreted by the Church in order to remove the doubts and confusions wildly spread among the Christian in the West and to bring them to the Way, the Truth and Life : Jesus Christ. Only Truth can set us free.

Syro-Malabar Church says yoga is incompatible with Christianity

04/07/2018, 05.10INDIA
The Church’s Doctrinal Commission released a report on ‘Yoga and Catholic beliefs’. The practice is mandatory in schools. Hindu nationalists "try to exploit yoga to achieve their political and sectarian goals." The Church warns against equating “physical experiences stemming from yoga with the workings of the Holy Spirit.”

Mananthavady (AsiaNews/Agencies) – The practice of yoga is incompatible with Christian doctrine, this according to a report issued by the Syro-Malabar Church, one of the three rites of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of India (CBCI).

Published in the latest bulletin of the eparchy of Mananthavady, the paper by the Syro-Malabar Doctrinal Commission is titled ‘Yoga and Catholic beliefs’ (Yogayum Katholika Vishvasavum).

It notes that yoga and Christianity cannot go together and that Hindu nationalist groups (Sangh Parivar) "try to exploit yoga to achieve their political and sectarian goals." It calls for a “re-reading of yoga” since the “government has moved towards making yoga compulsory in schools and present it as an inseparable part of Indian culture.”  This is not the first time that Syro-Malabar Bishops have spoken out on this matter. Last year they stated that "yoga is not a means to reach contact with the divine, although it may contribute to physical and mental health."

Yoga is a set of physical, mental, and spiritual practices that originated in India and spread around the world. It combines physical and breathing exercises. In Hinduism, it is also a spiritual journey to experience contact with the divine.

In Indian schools, yoga is compulsory and every year, on International Day Yoga (21 June), schools focus on activities and events dedicated to yoga.

Indian activists and intellectuals have long said that the obligation to observe the event, forcing students to sing sacred Hindu sonnets and mantras, limits the freedom of religion of minorities and represents a lack of "sensitivity" towards Christian and Muslim students.

“In yoga there is no place for God, the creator and sustainer even when considering the spiritual experiences of human beings,” the Commission chaired by Mgr Joseph Kallarangatt noted.  “Although yoga may have originated and grown out of India’s secular traditions, it later spread under the influence of the Hindu religion under Brahmanical dominance.”

For this reason, the Commission warns “of the danger of physical gestures and exercises becoming idolatrous in themselves.“ Too easily, one can equate “physical experiences stemming from yoga with the workings of the Holy Spirit.”

Is the practice of yoga compatible with being a Christian?
A warning of its dangers after 12 years of experience in it
By Carmen Castiella Sánchez-Ortiz

Article dated 4th July 2016

Can a Christian practice yoga? Is yoga compatible with Christianity? Does yoga have a religious foundation or is it only a relaxation technique? Carmen Castiella Sánchez-Ortiz, from Navarre (Spain), mother of a large family, (present profession)  and a student of Religious Sciences, speaks to us in this impacting testimony of her twelve-year experience of practicing yoga.

Yoga: my experience

This article is only a reflection, fruit of my experience. I am fully aware of the limitations my writing may involve. For this reason I make no pretense of judging nor pontificating (preaching), but neither do I wish to silence the voice that during the course of these years has been growing within me regarding this practice so much in fashion, always presented as harmless from a religious perspective.

On Tuesday, 21st June, coinciding with the summer solstice, the International Day of Yoga was celebrated, the date fixed by a resolution of the General Assembly of the U.N. on December 11, 2014. Ban Ki-Moon himself, by means of a message published in the U.N. website, affirmed that “yoga offers a simple and inclusive means of promoting health and physical and spiritual well-being,” after having taken part in a commemorative act in Times Square in which hundreds of persons gathered with their mats.

Six Yoga Courses in 12 Years

I did my first yoga course 12 years ago. Keeping a count, I have done six courses in four different schools, some of various months’ duration; yoga for expectant mothers, which is now called prenatal yoga and hatha yoga. When I began, few courses were being offered but now yoga centres have proliferated  exponentially, at least in my city.

Entering into yoga for relaxation…

In yoga I was seeking relaxation and simple physical exercises, besides increasing flexibility and improving my breathing. I have a minor lesion in my back, which along with the frenetic rhythm of the life we live, made me think that it was an adequate discipline for me. I never sought anything further than relaxation and gymnastics. But yoga is much more than that.

Christianising Yoga

I have always been a person of faith and upon perceiving the undoubtable spiritual slant of yoga, I naively decided to “christianise” it. I took advantage of the meditation at the end of each class to pray, substituting the mantras with praise or ejaculations.  All in all, I thought for many years that it was possible to separate its physical from its spiritual slant.

Benefits in breathing and relaxation, but…..

Yoga yielded undoubtable benefits at the physical level: improved and controlled breathing, deep relaxation, flexibility and muscular strength, and so I recommended it to a number of friends, who began attending sessions with me, some of whom, to my regret, are still hooked to it.

 …. But it is incompatible with faith in Christ

It is not an easy topic and it is easy to interpret the no to yoga as being fanatical, fundamentalist and irrational. There have been expositions in various Catholic media of very restrictive stance towards this practice which could be misinterpreted if not dealt with at a deeper level. I will try to explain how I have come to the conclusion that yoga is incompatible with faith in Christ. As I have already mentioned, with the continuous practice of yoga I experienced undoubtable benefits at the physical level and I believe in the therapeutic potential in some of its exercises, but at what price?

Twelve “salutations to the sun” asanas

I begin with a visual example: in the attached sketch you can observe each of the 12 “greetings to the sun”, the sequence with which classes are usually begun as  warming up exercises

 One need not be very observant to realise that the majority of the basic poses are reverential. More than a greeting, it is adoration. Then you may ask, how is it possible that you delayed so long in realizing that yoga promotes idolatry, when the postures speak for themselves? In this example the sun is adored as god, very present in Hinduism, but there is an infinity of different asanas, each one with its benefits at the physical level and its deities.

The answer is simple: I made a mistake

I continued the practice of yoga for many years because I believed I could separate the physical from the spiritual part. I intended to ‘christianize’ yoga. Continuing with the example of greeting to the sun, I was attempting to praise and reverence God, conscious that the postures implied adoration and intended to change its significance. When the professor explained his Buddhist-Hindu-pantheist pseudo-philosophy, the possibility of attaining illumination, opening the chakras, merging with the divinity or encouraged us to experiment and explore our own divine nature, I would disconnect and on occasion briefly refute his words aloud because I found in that philosophy evident aspects incompatible with the Christian faith, while reminding him that I was only there only for the physical aspect of yoga, and that he should respect our beliefs without imposing his on us.

Seeking a yoga without a Buddhist-Hindu-pantheist essence

These teachings vary from school to school. In some there is practically no pseudo-spiritual discourse but in others it is very much present during the class. This is what made me change from one school to another, searching for the most ‘neutral’; a neutrality that does not exist, because although the professor-guru  may not be especially given to rhetoric, pantheism and self realisation invades everything.

Lack of information in the Catholic Church

Now there is more information available on yoga and a clearer stance on the part of believers, but 12 years back yoga was unknown and new. My spiritual director, a man of God who has been learning with me, encouraged me to practice it, explaining to me that it was possible, and almost a must, that pagan realities be christianised; that it is irrational that mere physical exercises without the intervention of free will could have spiritual consequences.

Mantras or the invocation to Hindu gods

Until now I have been speaking only about asanas (postures), but not about mantras, which are invocations to Hindu gods, and not insignificant phrases as is explained to us by the teachers. The best know is ‘Om’, a word having various esoteric interpretations, but in the yoga class many more are used. For example, during the greeting to the sun some are repeated whose translation into Spanish would be more or less this: “Earth, space and skies, the adorable Sun god, in his god light I meditate, Meditation in him, we are filled with enthusiasm.”  Personally, I never repeated a single mantra because I did not find much sense in saying something that has no significance, but being in a class, surrounded by people repeating Sanskrit phrases given to them like robots appeared to me more and more uncomfortable and ridiculous.

Yoga is impregnated with pantheism and worship of Hindu gods

With God’s grace and time, I gradually became aware that yoga is fully impregnated with pantheism, adoration of pagan deities and an obsessive search for personal self-awareness and elimination of pain. I saw my class companions (mostly female) becoming increasingly more lost in thought and self-centred. Besides,  I have also seen dramatic consequences due to continued practice in some persons and their families, consequences I will not describe here because I want to limit myself to giving my personal testimony.

Yoga leads to narcissism

A very recurrent theme in yoga classes I have not seen reflected in the Catholic media cautioning about its danger is the enormous narcissism it brings about. The yogi’s discourse always praises personal effort and the possibility of attaining your dreams, attempting to convert man into a species of a demigod by means of concentration, eliminating pain and all that is toxic in life (including members of the family who make one suffer). Self-forgetfulness, egocentrism and self-domination leaves no place for the action of God and his grace.

A Christian cannot impregnate his faith into yoga

I believe that a sincere believer cannot christianise this discipline no matter how hard he tries because in itself it implies a cult and a form of religiosity, that is, it is a clear case of what has always been called idolatry. But I respect the time of each person and the time of God; just as I needed my time and God has had enormous patience with me, respecting my freedom in an exquisite manner. “I was stupid and did not understand…Yet I was always in your presence; you were holding me by my right hand. You will guide me by your counsel and so you will lead me to glory.” (Ps 73)

Publicity of a yoga centre in Pamplona

By way of attachment, I copy/pasted the advertisement of the last school I attended. It is a very successful centre which does not stop doubling its courses and hours, offering groups for children, pregnant women, senior citizens, etc. When I began attending it was being promoted as gymnastic and breathing exercises. I can now verify that they are now much more explicit, which appears good to me because it is easier to see the ‘ears of the wolf’. (wolf in sheep’s clothing)

“Description of our classes: We create new sequences each week which will help you connect with the rhythms of nature, the seasons, the lunar phases, ayurvedic principles, the philosophy and mythology of yoga (…) In my classes I like to guide my students to explore and experience their divine nature.”  In continuation they include brief self-introductions by some of the teachers.  (I have omitted names out of respect)

1. I came to my mat seeking balance, peace and connection and in a short time the frequent practice of yoga gave me this and much more. Beginning with the sensation of deep breathing in order to connect my body, mind and soul. Only when finishing the class in savasana did I realise how much I was in need of it. From that moment I placed all my focus on my practice and began exploring the infinite and magic world of yoga. I have experience and formation in styles such as Hatha, Vinyasa, Ashtanga, Power and Pre-natal. I am licensed in Hatha Vinyasa yoga. I believe definitevely in the extraordinary and curative power of this ancient practice. I know what it has done in me, how much it has helped to heal and fortify not only my physical body but also my mental, emotional and spiritual self. It is this that gives me happiness and gives me a passion to teach, share, learn and enjoy with others
2. I was born into a family of yogis and therefore grew up surrounded by photos of saints, wrapped in tunics and in meditative poses… photos of deities of Hinduism, so that gods with four arms or more became my daily companions from infancy. I am a reporter by profession, writer and expert in Hindu mythology and philosophy. I made seven trips to India during which I lived with great masters and enlightened beings. I have been trained as Teacher of Yoga in New Yok, with Shri Dharma Mittra, (Teacher of Teachers)

What is Yoga? A Catholic Perspective (Part I)

January 29, 2014 by
Father Ezra is a Dominican Friar of the Province of St. Joseph.
Yoga Yogin_with_six_chakras,_India,_Punjab_Hills,_Kangra,_late_18th_century
Yoga is hands-down -toes-up- one of the most popular forms of exercise in the world, including the United States. It is also controversial, eliciting strong reactions from enthusiasts and denouncers alike. Among Christians, perhaps the most commonly-heard question is, "Can I practice yoga?" or, said with a different emphasis, "I can practice yoga, right?" With a nod to modern practicality, in order to do justice to the question as well as to the questioner, we ought to consider a number of different issues.

This series is meant to address these issues head on, beginning with the nature of yoga and ending with a discussion of how Christians can exercise their souls and pray with their bodies. St. John tells us that we should not believe every spirit, but to test them to see if they are from God (1 John 4:1). It's going to be an enlightening experience, so set your intention and come join us as we explore yoga from a Catholic perspective.

I - What is Yoga?
There is something funny about yoga. It is one of those things that can prompt double-speak, as I have found over and over again. Here is a typical conversation:


"So, Father, what do you think about yoga?" Someone will ask.

"Well, I have some misgivings about it," I'll say.

"But what's wrong with yoga," they will press. "It's just exercise."

"Then why not try Pilates?" I reply.

"I wanted something more holistic, something that focuses on body and soul. I like yoga because it's spiritual too."

"Then it's more than physical exercise."


To get beyond this impasse in the Tibetan peaks and valleys of conversation, let's begin by analyzing a portrait of the typical yoga practitioner.[1] A 2012 Yoga in America study shows that 20.4 million Americans practice yoga. This was an increase of 29% since 2008. In addition, 44.4 percent of Americans could identify as "aspirational yogis"-folks interested in trying yoga. Among these millions, the most common yoga enthusiast is a youngish, upper-middle class woman.[2] Yoga is a thriving industry: practitioners spend ten to twenty billion dollars a year on yoga classes and products, including equipment, clothing, vacations, and media.

In and around the popularity of yoga stretches and twists, a vocal portion of the population nevertheless regards yoga as a way to become spiritually bent out of shape. Questions and misgivings arise, and people begin to wonder: what is this thing that some of my friends practice and so many celebrities preach - what is this thing called yoga?

At first glance, yoga is simply a great form of exercise. The top five reasons for starting yoga are: to improve flexibility, to aid general conditioning, to further stress relief, to improve overall health, and to promote physical fitness.[3] Doctors and practitioners both agree that, when practiced moderately, yoga can strengthen a person, help her lose weight, and give her more energy. It is also often associated with positive emotional well-being: because yoga calms the body, it often soothes the feelings. Adding on to the individual benefits, there are often attractive cultural aspects of yoga: it helps people meet beautiful people, so that they can become more beautiful themselves; it is often convenient; at a base level, it doesn't hurt the wallet.

Yoga, however, is more than a physical exercise with social benefits.

One indication of yoga's spiritual nature is the way it affects practitioners over time. The International Journal of Yoga published the results of a national survey in Australia.[4] Physical postures (asana) comprised about 60% of the yoga they practiced; 40% was relaxation (savasana), breathing techniques (pranayama), meditation, and instruction. The survey showed very significant results: although most respondents commonly began yoga for reasons of physical health, they usually continued it for reasons of spirituality. In addition, the more people practiced yoga, the more likely they were to decrease their adherence to Christianity and the more likely they were to adhere to non-religious spirituality and Buddhism.

In other words, whatever their intentions may have been, many people experience yoga as a gateway to a spirituality disconnected from Christ.

Doing justice to the complete nature of yoga, therefore, requires a more well-rounded definition: "A comprehensive system of human culture, physical, moral, and [psychological], and acting as a doorway on to the gently sloping paths that gradually lead up to yoga proper," that is, the spirituality of yoga founded in Hinduism.

Its aim is to control the body and the various forms of vital energy, with a view of overcoming physical impediments standing in the way of other, spiritual, forms of Yoga. Its object is to ensure a perfect balance between the organic functions. Its ultimate goal and true end is to prepare man for the acquisition of that repose of spirit necessary for the realization of the "Supreme", or for "experiencing the Divine."[5]

Yoga's religious and spiritual end is often forgotten or denied in a Western context; most people see it simply as a physical form of exercise. Such a simplification is unwarranted and dangerous. As we will see, reducing yoga to a mere beautifying technique frequently creates ugly effects.

[1]For the following statistics, see And
[2] The majority of today's yoga practitioners (62.8 percent) fall within the age range of 18-44. Women compose 82.2 % of the cohort. 68% of all yoga practitioners make more than $75,000 a year.
[4] Penman, Cohen, Stivens, and Jackson, "Yoga in Australia: Results of a National Survey." Int J Yoga. 2012 Jul-Dec; 5(2): 92-101. The typical Australian yoga practitioner of yoga is comparable to the American parallel: typically a 41 years old, tertiary educated, employed, health-conscious female (85% female).
[5] J.-M. DÊchanet, Christian Yoga (New York: Harper, 1960), 31.

Art:  Yogin with Six Chakras, India, Punjab Hills, Kangra, late 1700s, National Museau, PD-US, PD-India, PD-Art; Bhyragai [Vairagya] andâ€?1. Pooruck Pranaiyam [Puraka pranayama]. 2. Kumbuck [Kumbhaka]. 3. Raichuck [Recaka]â€? (Mirror Image), both Day & Son Lithographer, 1851, PD-US; all Wikimedia Commons.

What is Yoga? A Catholic Perspective (Part II): gods of Yoga

February 19, 2014 by
In the first post on Yoga, we explored studies that showed a couple of important facts:
  •  Consistent practice of Yoga is correlated with a diminishment of Christian belief.
  • Practitioners typically begin Yoga for physical reasons but stick with it for spiritual reasons.
We concluded with a basic definition of Yoga: Yoga is both a comprehensive system of human culture-physical, moral, and psychological-and it acts as a doorway on to the gently sloping paths that gradually lead up to Yoga proper, that is, the spirituality of Yoga rooted in Hinduism.

In this post we will take a look at the Hindu foundations of Yoga in light of the gods found therein. St. John tells us that we should not believe every spirit, but test them to see if they are from God (cf 1 John 4:1). It's going to be an enlightening experience, so set your intention and come join us as we explore Yoga from a Catholic perspective.


Part II - The gods of Yoga

I'm not much of an exercise person. The practice of pumping iron or toning my body with a machine has never excited me: it seemed meaningless at best and slightly narcissistic at worst. This is one of the reasons why Yoga appealed to me. It seemed to be exercise with a real meaning. What I didn't expect was what that meaning actually is.

The word "yoga" comes from the Sanskrit yuj, which indicates "to yoke together," "union," "to join, to bind."[1] Someone who practices Yoga as a way of life is called a yogin or a yogi. Because Yoga indicates binding, we must ask: what does Yoga bind us to?

My jaw almost hit the floor when I found the answer.

To learn about Yoga, at first I avoided classes and went to a local bookstore. I wasn't ready to squeeze into Yoga pants. The first paperback I purchased, chosen almost at random, was full of helpful photos of postures along with explanations and commentary. It explained what Yoga "yokes" or "binds" us to: Hindu divinity or divinities. "Awaken the goddess within," it suggested. Frightening for me as a Christian and as a male. It also invited me to consider Ganesh, the "loveable" elephant-headed god, along with his friends who populate India's pantheon. That sounds pagan, I thought. So I set the book aside and looked elsewhere. To my dismay, I discovered in a local Yoga studio something that confirmed the book's approach: a little bronze statue of a Hindu god, presiding over the people within. It was too much even for this California boy.

Was my experience typical?

Clearly not every book on yoga promotes Hindu gods, and not every Yoga class has pagan statuary. But many do. The classical Yoga tradition argues that all Yoga should associate with the gods of India. In order to understand why this is the case, we must uncover the Hindu roots of Yoga.

For Westerners who like everything, including religion, neat and tidy, boxed up and labeled, sitting on a shelf ready for inspection from a discerning customer, Hinduism poses difficulties. "What we think of as one religion," one writer notes, "is a multifarious collection of sects, traditions, beliefs, and practices that evolved from the Vedas, the world's oldest sacred texts, and took shape across the vast Indian subcontinent over the course of many centuries."[2] There is real difficulty in pinning down a precise doctrine of universal Hindu belief because "Hinduism has no central authority, no founding figure, no historical starting point, no single creed or canonical doctrine, and many holy books rather than one." Because of this, Hinduism has been called "the world's largest disorganized religion."[3] Nevertheless, Hindus have generally recognized six principle schools that represent authentic developments of the Vedic scriptures. Yoga is one of them.[4]

Yoga, along with the religious beliefs and practices sheltered under the large umbrella called "Hindu," honors many gods. "Hinduism is a perfect polytheism," says a highly-respected scholar. In a real sense, this can also apply to Yoga.[5] The gods are the ultimate gurus of Yoga.

Shiva has prominence among the gods of Yoga. He is the "patron" of all Yoga practitioners: "He is the deity of yogins par excellence and is often depicted as a yogin."[6] Around his neck is a serpent, symbolizing his power over death; on his forehead is a third eye, through which he gains mystical vision and knowledge. His drumbeat is said to create the OM which reverberates in the heart and throughout the universe. In some depictions Shiva assumes the lotus posture in deep meditation. In other cases Shiva juggles fire while he dances with one foot in the air, indicating release from "earthly bondage."

Some traditions include Shiva in a Hindu triad or trinity of gods, with Brahman as the "creator", Vishnu as the "sustainer" or "preserver." Shiva is said to be "the destroyer," the one who annihilates the illusions of the ego and therefore gains liberation into ultimate reality:

While of course many hindu deities are associated with different paths of yoga and meditation, in Shiva the art of meditation takes its most absolute form. In meditation, not only mind is stopped, everything is dropped.[7]

Vishnu is another important god for Yoga; he is said to preserve and maintain the cosmic order dharma. Like Shiva, he is depicted with blue skin and four arms and is accompanied by serpents. It is said that Vishnu was incarnate nine times, the last two being the most significant: as Krishna and Buddha. Here I will focus on Krishna.

The Bhagavad-Gita, part of an ancient Hindu religious epic, portrays Krishna as the perfect Yoga guru to his disciple, the human hero Arjuna. Chapter 6 of the Gita contains material that would be familiar to many modern Yoga practitioners. Krishna defines Yoga negatively as "renunciation" of illusion and positively as "yoking oneself to the Supreme Consciousness" (6:2). For him, a yogin is one "established in self-realization" (6:8). Through elevating himself through his own mind (6:5), a Yoga practitioner attains the abode of Krishna, perfect happiness, "by cessation of material existence" (6:15). The means to acquire this is by practicing control of the body, mind, and activity with specific postures and meditation techniques (6:11-18).

The Yoga goddesses should not be neglected in our account. Here we can turn to the chief goddess, Shakti or Durga, known under different aspects. Shakti is seen as the divine force that destroys evil and restores balance: she "represents the cosmic energy of destruction of the ego, which stands in the way of spiritual growth and ultimate liberation."[8] In some instances, Shakti assumes the role of Parvati, the energy and consort of Shiva; in other instances, the role of Lakshmi, the energy and consort of Vishnu. The most fearsome role Shakti plays is as Kali, the "Dark Mother" goddess, who, standing naked, wears a garland of skulls around her neck and a belt of heads around her waist, wielding a bloody sword and clutching a severed head. It is not uncommon for Yoga teachers to recommend tapping into this feminine-divine source of empowerment. Here is one account:

Ellen is a medical student, and thinks of herself as a rational person who doesn’t go in for mystical experiences. But one day as she closed her eyes and relaxed in Savasana, Ellen felt a powerful maternal energy around her and "saw" the Hindu goddess Durga, whose picture graced the yoga studio’s back wall. For a moment, the many-armed goddess’s face lingered in front of her, looking alive and full of compassionate love. Then the image disappeared-though the sweet, strong energy stayed with Ellen for hours.[9]

Later Ellen asked Sally what the experience might mean. Sally replied: "Just sit in meditation and ask the Durga energy to be with you. Then notice how you feel." This is what Sally calls "deity yoga," which she claims "isn't specific to the Hindu tradition." She says it could be practiced by anyone interested in Yoga, even Christians.

Is Sally right?

What are we to make of the pantheon of Yoga gods?

It seems to me that there are four basic positions:

1. The gods and goddesses do not actually exist. They are only metaphors, imaginative fables meant to inspire the Yoga practitioner. Some people may believe this, but I think it is insufficient and reductive; it does not adequately explain the cultural and experiential data available.

2. They do exist and are benevolent: they may be invoked in order to obtain energy, power, good fortune, etc. This is the position of a number of simple Hindu believers.

3. They do exist but are evil, and should not be invoked. This is the position of traditional Christianity (and perhaps Islam and Judaism). "I am the Lord your God, you shall have no other gods before Me. You shall not make for yourself a graven image; you shall not bow down to them or serve them" (Exodus 20:2-5).

4. They do exist, but not in the way one might imagine. They are all manifestations of the one supreme being, the all-encompassing reality, which one could call "God." This is the position of the more developed understanding of Hinduism, an understanding that has been adopted by Yoga.

In our next post we will explore the last position: that the gods exist, not in themselves, but as manifestations, personifications, or realizations of the divinity.


[1] Mircea Eliade, Yoga: Immortality and Freedom, trans. Willard R. Trask (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1969), 4.

[2] Philip Goldberg, American Veda (New York: Three Rivers Press, 2010), 3.

[3] Ibid.

[4] See Georg Feuerstein, The Yoga Tradition: Its History, Literature, Philosophy and Practice, 3rd Ed. (Chino Valley, AZ: Hohm Press, 2008), 72-78.

[5] Jean Varenne, Yoga and the Hindu Tradition, trans. Derek Coltman (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1976), 26.

[6] Feuerstein, The Yoga Tradition, 84.

[7] For a retelling of the Shiva legend, see Sadhguru, "Yoga Originated from Shiva," The Times of India 19 March, 2009.

[8] Feuerstein, The Yoga Tradition, 87.

[9] Sally Kempton, "Oh My Goddess," Yoga Journal Online. See also "Goddess, Where Art Thou?"

Art: Ganesh Idol from Belgaum, Karnataka, 10 September 2013, Kirti Krishna Badkundri, CC, Wikimedia Commons; Shiva (A Gopuram in Karnataka), 23 May 2012, Foliate08, CC; “Vishnu in his form as Pandharinatha or Vithoba worshipped at Pandharpur (Maharashtra). He stands facing to the front, blue-skinned, naked to the waist, wearing a jewelled yellow skirt, royal jewellery and a conical crown. He also wears a garland of tulsi flowers. He is four armed - two hands rest on his hips, whilst the other two hold a disc and a conch (the symbols of Vishnu)�, 1820-1825, author unknown, PD copyright expired; Krishna [Rasamanjar-Manuskript des Bhâdatta (Erotische Abhandlung), Szene: Liebhaber], ca 1690, PD-Worldwide; idol of goddess Lakshmi Devi, in the temple at Hebbal(N) near Mouje Nandgad, District Belgaum, Karnataka, India, 2 January 2008, own work, Rajivhk; Kali (Shyama at a Sarbojanin Kali Puja pandal at Shakespeare Sarani), Kolkata, 2010, own work, Jonoikobangali, CC; Sculpture of goddess Durga at Durga temple, Burdwan, 3 October 2011, own work, Joydeep, CC; all Wikimedia Commons.

What is Yoga? A Catholic Perspective (Part III)

May 7, 2014 by Fr. Sullivan

In the first post we discussed "What is Yoga?" In the second post, we learned about the Hindu roots of Yoga. We found that there are certain Hindu gods that have been understood to play a role in teaching and promoting Yoga. We looked at Shiva, Vishnu, and Shakti, and said hello to Ganesh. The post concluded by noting four different positions on how to understand the gods of Yoga:
  1. The gods don't exist; they are mere fables.
  2. The gods do exist; they are good and can be helpful to us.
  3. The gods do exist; they are evil and can harm us.
  4. The gods do exist, but only as personifications or manifestations of the divine, Supreme Reality.
Here we will discuss claim number 4, since this is the understanding adopted by the general Yoga tradition that continues even in our day. St. John tells us that we should not believe every spirit, but test them to see if they are from God (cf. 1 John 4:1). It's going to be an enlightening experience, so set your intention and come join us as we explore yoga from a Catholic perspective.


The ancient philosopher Aristotle famously said that the human is a being who desires to know. Wonder is not merely a Western attitude, he asserted: it is a human impulse. It is natural to us. In this light, it is perfectly reasonable to ask about the nature of Yoga. The thing is, when I talk with practitioners about it and try to figure out its deeper meaning, I often receive messages like this one:

The most important thing is to practice Yoga. We can discuss the theory for hours and hours. But it's best to practice and then decide. Change your clothes, open your mind, and fix your attention while performing the postures and pranayama.
The more I investigate Yoga, the more I realize that this advice is not simply saying, "Try it and see if you like it." It reveals the essence of the Yoga. It is saying that experience is more important than understanding, practice is more important than prudence. In other words, the mind of Yoga is: "Never mind." Let's see what this means and why it matters.

One of the central problems of  an essential philosophy common in India concerns the relation between illusion, temporality, and human suffering.[1] The goal of all Indian philosophies and techniques, especially Yoga, is liberation from these. Liberation entails, not merely relief from physical suffering such as a sore back, but emancipation from the suffering that comes from existing in this world. You can transcend the suffering that comes from karma, the law of universal causality, which condemns man to transmigrate through the cosmos. Through Yoga, it is said, you can enter absolute reality, beyond the cosmic illusion, mirage, or unreality known as maya. No longer will you be imprisoned in becoming. You would be united with pure being, the Absolute, known under different names: Brahman (the unconditioned, immortal, transcendent); atman (ultimate self); nirvana.

Recall that Yoga means "union" or "to bind together." In a previous post, I asked, what does Yoga bind us to? A preliminary answer was supplied: to the Hindu gods, who teach Yoga techniques. Another answer, however, is as follows. Yoga is meant to bind a person to ultimate reality. The system of Yoga teaches the individual how to be yoked or indissolubly united to that Universal Absolute (Brahman) and to become undifferentiated from it.

Isn't this a contradiction? Does Yoga unite us to Hindu gods or to the Absolute?

Here we should distinguish between two forms of Hinduism, namely:

  1. A popular level of Hinduism and
  2. A higher level of philosophical and religious Hinduism.
According to the popular level, believed in by the masses for the most part, the world is populated by tens of thousands (or is it millions?) of gods and goddesses, myriads of genies, demons, and evil spirits. Those spiritual beings are propitiated and can be manipulated with sacrifices along with Yoga practices and disciplines. In this respect, Hinduism bears features that are common in most other pagan religions, including those of Greece and Rome. If it accepts Jesus, it is because it sees him as one god among many.

According to the higher level, the spirit beings are illusions. Instead of renouncing the gods, this philosophy redefines them. They are considered different aspects of the one supreme Absolute, which some Hindus refer to as "God." This Brahman or God - it must be emphasized - is not God in the Judeo-Christian sense. It has no personality. It is not the One Creator, distinct from the universe, who created humans in order to have a personal relationship with them. It is not the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. It is not Jesus Christ, God Incarnate. Or rather, according to this point of view, it is Jesus and it isn't - at the same time. It is as much Jesus as it is Vishnu, because both are representations or instantiations of the supreme reality, the impersonal Absolute existence, of which each human is a part, that permeates everything.

From the perspective of the higher, more subtle Hindu thought, Yoga's role is to help the practitioner to be dissolved into this "higher reality." B.K.S. Iyengar, the renowned Yoga practitioner and theorist, explains it this way: "Dualities like gain and loss, victory and defeat, fame and shame, body and mind, mind and soul vanish through mastery of the asanas [Yoga postures]."[2] This is the doctrine of monism. It claims that there are no distinctions among things, that all is one and every difference is a harmful illusion, holding a person back from perfection. Once a person masters Yoga, "He is then free from birth and death, from pain and sorrow and becomes immortal. He has no self-identity as he lives experiencing the fullness of the Universal Soul."[3] This is supreme ego-centrism under the guise of self-realization. "I am Brahman!" the Yoga practitioner can exult; "I am GOD; I am ALL!" But they should equally declare, "I am NO ONE. I am ILLUSION."

People often claim they’ve "found themselves" through Yoga. What an irony. If they looked deeper, Yoga would tell them that they’ve found nothing.

In my next post, I will explore how Hatha Yoga, the physical postures and breathing techniques, is meant to help a person achieve union with the Absolute - and what that means for the soul.

[1] See Mircea Eliade, Yoga: Immortality and Freedom, trans. Willard R. Trask (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1969), xvi-xx.
[2] B.K.S. Iyengar, Light on Yoga (London: George Allen & Unwin Ltd, 1966), 42.
[3] Iyengar, 48.

Art: Yoga Meditation Position, Cornelius383, own work, 25 April 2012, CC; Brahma Preaches to Sages, Ramanarayanadatta astri, PD-US copyright expired; both Wikimedia Commons.

The Yoga Trajectory: From the Body to the Infinite (Part IV)

October 28, 2014 by
In today's post, I would like to show three things:
  1. There are many traditions of Yoga.
  2. Practically all types of Yoga practiced by Westerners are in the tradition of Hatha Yoga.
  3. Hatha Yoga is the first step to the other traditions of Yoga.
In other words, the Yoga that the West knows best is only the first step on a spiritually dangerous and morally unacceptable path.

St. Paul advises us: "Do not quench the Spirit " but test everything; hold fast what is good, abstain from every form of evil" (1 Th 5:19, 21-22). Let us turn our minds to the truth, ask the Lord to bend our hearts according to His will, and explore Yoga from a Catholic perspective.

To the newly-initiated, the varieties of Yoga may be overwhelming. At first a person might think that Yoga is Yoga wherever you go. But she soon discovers that the Yoga offered at the local gym may not be the same as the Yoga offered in a boutique studio. She might even meet connoisseurs who claim to practice "real" or "traditional" Yoga. Perhaps she comes across aficionados and their flow-charts to help a person make their way through this jungle. Perhaps she reads an internet article with the leading question, "Which Type of Yoga is Right for you?"  The implication is that everyone can find at least one of the dozens of options that fits her lifestyle. But there is another possibility, namely, that no type of Yoga is right for anyone.

Since the goal of this post is not to sell Yoga but to explain it, it may be useful to distinguish between traditions of Yoga and styles of Yoga.[1] A Yoga tradition is like a branch on a tree; a style is like a leaf on the branch. The major classic traditions of Yoga are these:

  • Raja Yoga, The Yoga of Mind Control: the "original" Yoga, focused on disciplining the mind in pursuit of union with the Absolute.
  • Karma Yoga, The Yoga of Action: liberation from the law of karma and reincarnation through good works performed with complete detachment.
  • Bahkti Yoga, The Yoga of Devotion: offers nine means of maintaining a connection with the divine; often practitioners worship a guru as an embodiment of the divine.
  • Jnana Yoga, The Yoga of Hidden Knowledge: a discipleship period with a guru prepares a person to engage Hindu-Yoga literature directly.
  • Tantra Yoga, The Yoga of Dynamism: instead of classic Yoga's insistence on self-denial, the dominant form suggests salvation through the practice of sexual Yoga.
  • Kundalini Yoga, The Yoga of Awareness: aims to unlock the "goddess energy" of the root chakra, seen as a serpent coiled around the base of the spine. It is called the "master", the "mother", and the "bestower" of Yoga.
  • Mantra Yoga, The Yoga of Sound: uses sounds and songs, especially "OM", in order to help the mind find union with universal divine. It is typically combined with other kinds of Yoga.
  • Hatha Yoga, The Yoga of Opposing Forces: focuses on physical postures and breathing techniques.
It is important to note that these varieties generally are not opposed to each other. In fact, many people employ more than one form of Yoga at the same time. Nevertheless, one tradition of Yoga has gained dominance in the West and, subsequently, wherever the West has had cultural influence. It is the tradition of Hatha Yoga.

There is a smorgasbord of styles that shape the basic techniques of Hatha Yoga. In this realm one finds ancient-sounding names, such as Vinyasa and Kriya Yoga. Then there are styles named after famous founders including Bikram or Iyengar. "Gentle" Yoga caters to the elderly and injured, "Hot", "Rocket", and "Power" Yogas appeal to business types, and Laughter Yoga is touted as a cure for sad sacks.

SuryaNamaskarPosition5What is the essence of Hatha Yoga? What do all the various styles have in common? The etymology of the word gives us a clue. In Sanskrit, ha – tha means "sun – moon", such that hatha yoga denotes the union of two opposite forces, something accomplished only by personal effort. The union of opposing forces occurs on different levels: on one level, physical postures unite with conscious breath; on another level, one's body unites with one's mind; on an even deeper level, the mind unites with the Absolute. These levels of union are intelligible in light of the fact that Hatha Yoga aims at "self-realization" by building on the Raja structure, often uniting it with Mantra and other types of Yoga.[2]

Experts tells us that Hatha Yoga is the "foundation" for the other traditions of Yoga, the first step along the path of the truest Yoga.[3] What is the first step of Hatha Yoga? The asanas, the physical postures.[4] How do physical postures do this? By means of bodily postures and breathing techniques, the body is tensed and relaxed, the mind is emptied, and then follows meditations with pantheistic or polytheistic content: "Melt into the ground," "Become one with the universe," "Awaken the goddess within," etc. A disciple of the Yoga master Patanjali explains the meaning of the asanas:

Posture becomes perfect when the effort to attain it disappears, so that there are no more movements in the body. In the same way, its perfection is achieved when the mind is transformed into infinity.[5]
In other words, through Yoga postures a person begins by being hyper-conscious about her body as she tries to perfect her positioning. But if she perfects her posture, she gains control over her limbs, her breathing, her organs, her entire body as a complete whole. Then she is able to suppress all natural efforts of the body and to lose all conscious awareness of the body. This exercise is meant to facilitate, even make real, a union, a bond, a yoking with the infinite consciousness. The deeper union is supposed to take place during the feeling of expansion that occurs in deep relaxation. Because Yoga postures calm the emotions, they help to empty the mind. The practitioner is easily led to assume that her physical experience also involves a spiritual experience.
A summary evaluation of the effects of Hatha Yoga is as follows. Yoga postures often have physically beneficial effects, but we should not be fooled: feelings of quiet and relaxation, pleasant sensations, perhaps even phenomena of light and warmth, and even deeper insights into reality are not the same as deep union with God, nor are they signs of spiritual progress. If a person calls upon gods during the practice of Yoga, as in performing postures in the presence of Hindu statues or in chanting mantras to a god or goddess, then she has practiced idolatry and her spiritual condition is worse than when she began. If a person accepts a philosophy that denies the distinctions between body and mind, gain and loss, good and evil, God and the self, then she has embraced falsehood and her spiritual condition is worse than when she began. If she believes that Yoga is not dangerous or thinks that it is simply exercise, then her misunderstanding indicates that there is room for improvement. Probably her heart longs for deep spirituality. The saints teach us the path to true holiness. From them we learn that the evidence of a deep spiritual life necessarily includes the love of God and neighbor, a regular prayer life, fidelity to the commandments, a real and abiding faith in the saving power of Christ, and obedience to the voice of God speaking through the Church. Without these, union with God is little more than a passing breath of hot air.


[1] For a helpful and accurate summary of the interconnecting branches of Yoga, see:

[2] See David Gordon White, "Yoga, Brief History of an Idea," Introduction to Yoga in Practice (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2012), 16. "Without a doubt, hatha yoga both synthesizes and internalizes many of the elements of the earlier yoga systems."

[3] The classic text Hatha Yoga Pradipika by Swami Svatmarama begins with this dedication: "Reverence to Shiva, the Lord of Yoga, who taught Prvati hatha wisdom as the first step to the pinnacle of raja yoga." Following this tradition, see B.K.S. Iyengar, Light on Yoga (London: George Allen & Unwin Ltd, 1966), 23.

[4] Swami Svatmarama, Hatha Yoga Pradipika, verse 17: "Asanas are spoken of first, being the first stage of hatha yoga."

[5] Quoted in Mircea Eliade, Yoga: Immortality and Freedom, trans. Willard R. Trask (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1969), 53.


Art:  Mirror of Neopagan meditation in Rocca di Cerere (Enna) [Sicily], Dedda71, own work, undated, CC; A view of Surya namaskar position 5, Thamizhpparithi Maari, 22 December 2011, own work, CC-SA; Mirror of St. Dominic in Prayer, El Greco, between 1586-1590, PD-US; all Wikimedia Commons.

Yoga and Religion (Part V)

November 12, 2014 by

In this post, I will address the claim that Yoga is not a religion and that it is compatible with any religion. After considering claims to the contrary, we will find that we can meaningfully assert that Yoga is religious — especially because of important parallels it has with Catholicism. St. Paul advises us: “test everything; hold fast what is good, abstain from every form of evil” (1 Th 5:19, 21-22). Let us turn our minds to the truth, ask the Lord to bend our hearts according to His will, and explore Yoga from a Catholic perspective.


“It’s not a religion, dude. It’s a way of life.”

We hear this claim about Yoga all the time.[1] It is meant to distance Yoga from the negative connotations bound up with religion. If you get too caught up in religion, people commonly think, you will become narrow, doctrinaire, and maybe even violent.[2] This is why many people like to say, “I am spiritual but not religious.” Within this context Yoga is seen as an attractive alternative to formal religion while offering some kind of spiritual benefit. There are, however, compelling reasons to hold that Yoga is religious though it may not be a religion.

Before explaining why Yoga may be considered religious, it would be helpful to discuss why it is often thought not to be a religion. A basic definition of religion is this: religion consists in a belief about (a) a higher power or powers upon which we are dependent, and (b) that it is possible to enter into a sort of relationship with the power or powers. The relationship involves (c) an association of people, with (d) ritual acts that are specific to the group and (e) a way of regulating one’s life in order to maintain good relations with the higher power or powers.[3] A child of ten could see that some of these elements do not apply to Yoga. Most importantly, Yoga does not embrace any belief that the individual is dependent upon some higher power. From the perspective of Yoga, as we have seen in previous posts, gods and goddesses and a separate divinity are only illusions. There is no Krishna or Shiva; there isn’t even Jesus. Those persons may or may not be historical figures, but at most, they are only manifestations of a Supreme Reality that is above and beyond them. Yoga does not inculcate love of Jesus or obedience to God. Yoga does not lead practitioners to act morally upright so that they might get along with Krishna, Shiva, or Jesus. Instead, Yoga aims at what one scholar calls “self-deification”: the postures and breath control are a means toward enlightenment, “the expansion of the self to the point that one’s body or self becomes coextensive with the entire universe.”[4]

So Yoga is non-religious, right? It is compatible with every religion or no religion at all, isn’t it? Sure, the historical root of Yoga is Hinduism, and Yoga remains a powerful symbol for the culture of India, but in itself Yoga is free from dogmatism, moralism, superstition, and all that religious jazz, wouldn’t you say?

Not so fast.

To compare the concepts of Yoga and religion at a fundamental level, it will be useful to compare the meaning of the two words. The word “yoga” comes from the Sanskrit yuj, which means, “to yoke together,” “union,” “to join, to bind.”[5] What is the essence of religion? St. Thomas Aquinas explains the concept of religion by discussing the origin of the word: “religion may be derived from religare [to bind together], wherefore Augustine says: ‘May religion bind us to the one Almighty God.’”[6] This analysis by one of the Catholic Church’s greatest theologians leads to an astonishing result. The essence of Yoga and the essence of religion are exactly the same. Yoga and religion both aim at joining the individual to divinity.

One can hardly deny that Yoga has significant religious elements. A number of Yoga communities, whether in studios and ashrams, are dedicated to connecting with a higher power. They do so through prescribed rituals led by a person who has a closer connection with the divine, that is, a guru or Yoga instructor. Yoga rituals include not only the physical postures and breathing techniques. They also include words and gestures that echo words and gestures found in religion. In the beginning and the end of Holy Mass, a priest says, “The Lord be with you.” The congregation responds, “And also with you.” Then the priest blesses the congregation with the sign of the Cross. Paralleling this structure, at the end of a typical Yoga session class (and sometimes at the beginning), the Yoga instructor says, “namaste.” And the students, “hands together at the heart charka, close the eyes, and bow the head,” responding, “namaste.”[7] The Sanskrit word literally ElGrecoStDominicInPrayer[Mirror] means, “I bow to you.” In the context of Yoga, it signifies “I bow to the divine in you” or, more accurately, “the divine in me greets the divine in you.”[8] The purpose, we are told, is “to increase the flow of Divine love.”[9] A significant difference between the Catholic ritual and the Yoga ritual is the understanding of the meaning of a blessing. For Catholics, a blessing comes from Christ who works through the priest. For yoginis, a Yoga blessing is not imparted by the teacher; rather, it is initiated by the teacher and shared among all participants. The other is only a mirror of one’s own divinity that deserves honor.

Another religious element integral to Yoga is the importance of sound and song. In the Christian religion, singing is an act of worship, as indicated ElGrecoStDominicInPrayer[Mirror] the adage attributed to St. Augustine, “To sing is to pray twice.”[10] Pope Benedict XVI revealed the cosmological profundity of singing with his observation: “the culture of singing is also the culture of being … it is about vigilantly recognizing with the ‘ears of the heart’ the inner laws of the music of creation, the archetypes of music that the Creator ElGrecoStDominicInPrayer[Mirror] built into his world and into men.”[11] Yoga parallels these religious impulses by suggesting that the divine can be reached through sound and song, but it also diverges from them for it lacks a divine person to sing about, one who could listen to the song of worshippers. Here we recall that Mantra Yoga is often combined with Hatha and other types of Yoga.[12] Yoga practitioners chant “OM,” which is to help awaken them to higher reality. OM is not a word so much as a prayer, a mantra that, when intoned correctly, sounds throughout the body to the depth of the soul. In this way, the mantras of Yoga honor the divine and make it more fully realized in the life of the yogini. When a person chants “OM,” she attunes herself to the cosmic vibration and she can enter the state of trance, in which her individuality is transcended and merged with the Infinite Divine Self.[13]

Yogic ritual and chant point to the deepest intention of Yoga: to honor and to find union with the divine. Thus far, Yoga may be considered a sort of religion. What makes Yoga distinct from other religions is how divinity is understood. Within most religions, the divine is a power or person or persons distinct from the self. Within Yoga, however, the divine is not a being or a person outside of the self. The divine is identical with the self. Rebirth through Brahman is not through a personal God; rather, it a rebirth of one’s mind so that you realize that you are divine, and the divine is everything. Through the Yoga disciplines, the person is supposed to discover an ontological identity with everything. With this achieved, she loses her individuality and is dissolved into the divinity that she always was. Thus, Yoga is far from being a stranger to the religious realm, for it inculcates a tendency toward self-worship.

Admittedly, there is an important way in which Yoga is not a religion. Worship, as noted above, indicates a relationship between persons and/or powers. As long as a yogini is imperfect and has not mastered Yoga, she may still experience herself as a being distinct from others. In this case, she is capable of worshipping herself. But this does not hold in perfect Yoga mastery. To help the practitioner obtain perfection, Yoga instructor calmly suggests, “Some might get in touch with Ganesh or Krishna or Shiva; others might call upon Jesus. Wherever your spirit leads is where you should go.” In other words, it doesn’t matter what you are praying or to whom you are praying, so long as you are doing Yoga. The practice of Yoga is primary and all relationships disappear. Even the self disappears. All that is left is the Supreme Reality, in which all is One. Thus, the perfect practice of Yoga does not bring about the fullness of worship, for it is the absence of all relationships. This is why one of the classic studies of Yoga insisted: “The method [of Yoga] comprises a number of different techniques (physiological, mental, mystical), but they all have one characteristic in common—they are antisocial, or, indeed, antihuman.”[14]

In light of our study, we can make some observations. The fool says that there is no God, but the devil wants to be equal to God.[15] Pantheistic Yoga unites both of these trends, saying both (a) that there is no distinct personhood in God and (b) that the self is equal to the non-personal “divine” that encompasses the universe. If Yoga is a religion, its rituals incline practitioners to worship the self, which is both divine and created, both nothing and everything. This is the epitome of Satanic pride. But when Yoga moves beyond worship, it ends in the annihilation of the self. This is the epitome of nihilistic despair.

Many Yoga practitioners evidently do not believe this. A number simply reject pantheism. Others reject theism. Still others do not think about God at all or do not realize the deepest meaning of Yoga. From these various perspectives, people argue that Yoga is not about honoring the divine anywhere. Its real purpose, they say, is self-improvement through the self-discipline of physical exercise. I will consider this claim in my next post.


[1] For a more scholarly version of the assertion, see Theos Bernard, quoted in Paul G. Hackett, “Theos Beranard and the Early Days of Tantric Yoga in America,” Yoga in Practice, ed. David Gordon White (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2012), 355.
 [2] Bl. John Henry Newman elaborates on this modern mindset: “Is not religion associated in your minds with gloom, melancholy, and weariness? … It is so; you cannot deny it. The very terms ‘religion,’ ‘devotion,’ ‘piety,’ ‘conscientiousness,’ ‘mortification,’ and the like, you find to be inexpressibly dull and cheerless.” John Henry Newman, Parochial and Plain Sermons vol. VII, no. 2: 17.
 [3] See Morris Jastrow, The Study of Religion (New York, 1901), 170.
 [4] David Gordon White, “Yoga, Brief History of an Idea,” Introduction to Yoga in Practice (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2012), 12, 8.
 [5] I noted this in my second post. The quotation is from Mircea Eliade, Yoga: Immortality and Freedom, trans. Willard R. Trask (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1969), 4.
 [6] Summa Theologiae II-II, q. 81, a. 1.
 [8] See
 [10] The actual quote from St. Augustine is the following: “For he that sings praises, not only praises, but praises with gladness: he that sings praise, not only sings, but also loves him of whom he sings. In praise, there is the speaking forth of one confessing; in singing, the affection also of one loving” (Commentary on Psalm 73, 1).
 [11] Benedict XVI, Address in Paris at the Collège des Bernardins, 12 September 2008.
 [12] See post number four.
 [13] See Mircea Eliade, Yoga: Immortality and Freedom, trans. Willard R. Trask (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1969), 126.
 [14] Eliade, Yoga: Immortality and Freedom, 95.
 [15] Ps 14:1, “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God.’”; Is 14:12-15, “I will ascend into heaven … I will be like the Most High.” For an analysis of Satan’s pride, see St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae I, q. 63, a. 3.


Art:  Detail from God the Father, Guercino, ca 1635-1640, PD-US; Prônam Mudrá, Marcocarvalho, 2005 own work, CC; Church of St. Brendan The Navigator, Bantry, County Cork, Ireland, Detail of the left part of the second north window with stained glass depicting Psalm 66:2: Sing Forth the Honour of His Name, Andreas F. Borchert, 5 September 2009, self-photographed, CC; OM, PD-Worldwide; all Wikimedia Commons.

Reiki and Yoga are contrary to Christianism

By Marie Anne Jacques

Former Hindu guru Rabi Maharaj, "No part of Yoga can be separated from the philosophy behind it."

If you listen to the gurus and yogis; the practices of yoga, Reiki, centering prayer, transcendental meditation and all similar methods lead to experiences of self-fulfilment or enlightenment.

Unfortunately, many people today think yoga and Reiki are something that is compatible with Christian doctrine. Nothing could be further from the truth. Even though in many communities, "Christian" yoga and Reiki may be used, it is contrary to what the First Commandment teaches us. They instruct us to go down to the level of human realizations that are man-made and not from God. This is very dangerous.

The Catechism teaches us that "all practices of magic or sorcery, by which one attempts to tame occult powers, so as to place them at one’s service and have a supernatural power over others – even if this were for the sake of restoring their health – are gravely contrary to the virtue of religion." No. 2117

Also, the Church cites idolatry as being against the First Commandment, saying: "Idolatry consists in divinizing what is not God. Man commits idolatry whenever he honors and reveres a creature in place of God, whether this be gods or demons." The New Age ideology promotes self-divinization in many forms.

An explanation of centering prayer

Here’s a quote from Rev. Dreher describing the ideology of "centering prayer" which follows the same principles as yoga…

"Centering prayer (or yoga), differs from Christian prayer in that the intent of the technique is to bring the practitioner to the center of his own being. There he is, supposedly, to experience the presence of the God who indwells him. Christian prayer, on the contrary, centers upon God in a relational way, as someone apart from oneself. The Christian knows a God who is personal, yet who, as Creator, infinitely transcends his creature. God is wholly other than man. It is also crucial to Christian prayer that God engages man’s whole being in response, not just his interior life. In the view of centering prayer, the immanence of God somehow makes the transcendence of God available to human techniques and experience.

"Centering prayer is essentially a form of self-hypnosis. It makes use of a "mantra," a word repeated over and over to focus the mind while striving by ones will to go deep within oneself. The effects are a hypnotic-like state: concentration upon one thing, disengagement from other stimuli, a high degree of openness to suggestion, a psychological and physiological condition that externally resembles sleep but in which consciousness is interiorized and the mind subject to suggestion."

This type of "prayer" or meditation is a form of hypnosis; this has been proven by various studies by professional psychologists. They did tests to confirm that people under the hypnotic state of meditation used in yoga experienced a drop in blood pressure, respiratory rate, lactic acid level in the blood, and the galvanic conductivity of the skin.

The difference between Christianity and Eastern ideologies

Since we want to find what the difference is between meditation used in Yoga and Christian meditation, why don’t we look at the differences between the Christian and Eastern spiritualities first?

According to what the Catholic faith teaches, all men are creatures who are called out of nothing, to serve and know God. A Christian is someone who knows his life is linked with Christ; that without Him, he cannot survive. The Christian’s whole life has been reconstructed in Christ because essentially, he lives in Christ if he is in the state of grace. (i.e. not in the state of mortal sin). Of course, this has to be his choice, since God always respects the free will of the human person.

Eastern religions, on the other hand, look for God as if He was a part of the universe, instead of having created it. They believe all reality is one, so God is just a part of a reality, just as man is. They believe they have to go beyond the "real" world in order to get to the spiritual world that is under it. They believe that God is only a state of being, a "state of mind" if you will.

For Christians, however, God is indeed REAL and all of creation only exists to serve Him, because He willed it so. In Christian thinking, it (the world and all that is in it) need not even exist but for the benevolence of God’s love, of His Fatherly love for us.

So in the East, human means are "necessary" in order to go towards God, with the goal of achieving an altered state of consciousness, whereas a Christian seeks to speak and interact with God. In this interaction with God, a Christian aspires to attain a certain "participation in the divine nature" (2 Peter 4:4). The Eastern religions on the other hand, seek to find God within and find an escape from the realities and distractions of the outer world. This is always attempted by different psychological and/or physiological techniques rather than by an encounter with the Divine Personhood of God.

The Eastern religions confuse technique with encounter. They do not believe in God as supreme Person, but as a part of themselves and of the universe. We are not identical with Him, as He is Creator of the universe. We cannot manipulate this fact with techniques of any sort. We can use the way that children speak with their parents as an example, because in reality we speak to God in the same way, through the power of the Holy Spirit.

When a Catholic speaks about sanctifying grace for example, he means the grace of union with God. By the means of this grace, we are given a share of the holiness of God Himself, it is His way of giving Himself to man. By applying this grace in our daily lives, we travel on the journey of conversion, which is complete union with Him. Our goal as Catholic Christians is not only the inner peace so much sought after by the Eastern religions, but the sanctification of body, mind and heart, not only personally, but including the entire world. The Eastern world instead claims inner peace for oneself, without taking into account the "otherness" of God, and even other realities of ones’ life.

Archimandrite Sophrony of Mount Athos, who is an authority in Orthodox spirituality, speaks from his own personal story. He was involved in Eastern religions for years, before he returned to the Orthodox faith of his youth. We quote him at length, for he speaks with clarity on these subjects:

"In advising against being carried away by artificial practices such as Transcendental Meditation I am but repeating the age-old message of the Church... The way of the Fathers requires firm faith and long patience, whereas our contemporaries want to seize every spiritual gift, including even direct contemplation of the Absolute God, by force and speedily, and will often draw a parallel between prayer in the Name of Jesus and yoga or Transcendental Meditation and the like. I must stress the danger of such errors...

"He is deluded who endeavours to divest himself mentally of all that is transitory and relative in order to cross some invisible threshold, to realize his eternal origin, his identity with the Source of all that exists, in order to return and merge with him, the nameless transpersonal Absolute. Such exercises have enabled many to rise to supra-rational contemplation of being, to experience a certain mystical trepidation, to know the state of silence of mind, when mind goes beyond the boundaries of time and space. In such like states man may feel the peacefulness of being withdrawn from the continually changing phenomena of the visible world, may even have a certain experience of eternity. But the God of Truth, the Living God, is not in all this.

"It is man’s own beauty, created in the image of God, that is contemplated and seen as divinity, whereas he himself still continues within the confines of his creatureliness. This is a vastly important concern. The tragedy of the matter lies in the fact that man sees a mirage which, in his longing for eternal life, he mistakes for a genuine oasis. This impersonal form of ascetics leads finally to an assertion of the divine principle in the very nature of man. Man is then drawn to the idea of self-deification, the cause of the original Fall. The man who is blinded by the imaginary majesty of what he contemplates has in fact set his foot on the path to self-destruction. He has discarded the revelation of a personal God... The movement into the depths of his own being is nothing else but attraction towards the non-being from which we were called by the will of the Creator." (His Life is Mine, 115-116)

To put it simply, authentic prayer goes to God from our soul, and not in the soul itself. Our souls are brought closer to God Himself, and not brought into some distant space in our mind, as what happens in Transcendental Meditation, Yoga, etc. Incidentally, these practices not only distance us from God, but also give us the idea that we can escape from our lives and reality. Christian teaching is just the opposite, because it teaches us to first put our faith in God, and then allow Him to help us to carry our cross.

Yoga and gurus

The yogi instructors speak freely about the techniques they use, and why they use them. Kundalini Yoga Master Gurmukh admits in a video that yoga evokes energy through the postures, breathing techniques, chanting, and meditation. She says that it is necessary to: "Clear and empty the mind, awake the snake within you and go into a larger world."

People think they can separate the exercises that Yoga uses, from their spiritual roots, but this cannot be done. Ignoring something does not make it cease to exist. Occultism expert and ex-New Age practitioner Caryl Matrisciana says: "Most people have no idea what they’re doing when they practice the rituals of Yoga and think that they’re only basic physical exercises. They have no clue that all the ‘asanas’ (postures) are designed to prepare the Hindu practitioner for his belief in the ‘cycle of death’ known as reincarnation."

Any Hindu will tell you that yoga is not purely physical – it was not designed for physical fitness, but to realign the serpent force within the body to achieve Godhood, which is yoga. Anyone doing exercise for fitness ought to look for exercises designed for that.

Reiki – A history

A Reiki website describes it in a very interesting way. "Reiki transcends the man-made divisions of religion, economics, location, gender, and race."

In Reiki, they call the teachers "master." Master also means that the student has come far enough along in his or her development that troublesome lifestyle habits and limiting belief systems (such as Catholicism) are taking less and less time and energy away from living a "fully conscious life."

A German Reiki channeler makes this comment: "It frequently happens that patients will come into contact with new ideas after a few Reiki treatments. Some will start doing yoga or autogenous training or start to meditate or practise [sic] some other kind of spiritual method... Fundamental changes will set in and new things will start to develop. You will find it easier to cast off old, outlived structures and you will notice that you are being led and guided more and more..."

William Lee Rand, a New Age advocate for Reiki states: "Reiki can be defined as a non-physical healing energy made up of life force energy that is guided by the Higher Intelligence, or spiritually guided life force energy. We believe this "Higher intelligence" reached during Reiki sessions is not a source of good universal energy as is stated by Reiki masters but rather is of a demonic nature.

Unfortunately, entire religious communities are giving precedence to the ideologies of the Hindu religion. These practices were introduced by such men as Thomas Merton (who was influenced heavily by the Hindu ideologies), and who have done enormous harm to the Church because of the ignorance of the people on the danger of these practices. Many people do not realize that it was gurus and other experts in Hinduism who were consulted for these particular meditation techniques.

Reiki is incompatible with Catholicism because it does not acknowledge Jesus as a divine Person and Saviour of mankind. Pantheism is a belief system that really resembles what the followers of Reiki are talking about. They believe in a universal energy – that has nothing to do with Jesus – something that gives life to human beings, and also rules the entire Reiki practice. The users of Reiki believe that they can use this energy to heal, but in reality they are practicing divination and a form of magic when they utilize these powers. (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, nos. 2111, 2116-17).

Reiki then, uses forces that are not Christian at all, because they rely on these "powers" or spiritual agents. The Catholic Church says that all living creatures were created through Jesus and that every human being has a soul, making him a "living, human body." Reiki says that while the principle of man’s life should be spiritual, they do not agree that each man has a soul. They put all their emphasis on what they call energy or "Ki."

"Any energy used as part of the body’s operations – such as the electricity in our nervous systems – is material in nature, not spiritual," counters This Rock Magazine in their October-December 2001 issue, confirming the Catholic Church’s teaching on the subject. "The various forms of Hinduism and Buddhism that posit the existence of a life energy (ki or kundalini) interpret that energy as spiritual," the magazine continues. "Since this is contrary to Christian theology, it is inappropriate for Christians to participate in activities based on this belief."

The difference between Reiki’s "spiritual consciousness" and Christianity is that Jesus is indeed a divine Person. Also, we have to understand that a Catholic may not call upon God besides in the name of the Father, the Son, or the Holy Spirit (in other words, the Holy Trinity). Interceding to other entities can call evil spirits, especially when the person is calling upon an impersonal "God Consciousness" which of course, is not the Holy Trinity!

A Claretian priest named Fr. John Hampsch, who has been a spiritual director for many years, states that there are many spiritual dangers with Rieki. In fact, during an interview he stated that a woman he knew once said that she heard a Reiki master calling spiritual "beings" by name during a Reiki treatment. Apparently, this Reiki master thought he was helping this woman become healed, but instead he was exposing her to the threat of "spirits" of whom he knows really nothing about.

Fr. Hampsch states that Reiki, "Is dangerous stuff, it is very subtle but there is undoubted danger, as with other occult practices, because one opens up to the influence of evil spirits. He affirms that there are always "devil’s compensation" in occult use and practice. In other words, you may experience an improvement in your health for a time, but the ultimate "payment" will always be much more dangerous and harmful. It may include addictions, morbidity, uncontrolled anger, or even thoughts of suicide. He concluded that he has talked to many people who have experienced troubles after being "treated" by a Reiki master.

In Vatican II’s Ad Gentes, the Decree on the Church’s Missionary Activity, Catholics are told to look "attentively on how Christian religious life may be able to assimilate the ascetic and contemplative traditions whose seeds were sometimes already planted by God in ancient cultures prior to the preaching of the Gospel" (no. 18).

Notice that this Church document relates that we are to "assimilate" and not "accommodate." We are not, in other words, to entertain practices that allow us to receive ideas that may encourage us to religious relativism. Any retreat center that wants or is promoting Reiki needs to really study this point, if they wish to remain Catholic.

New Age spirituality is not even medically plausible, and can never be linked to Christianity because of the dangers involved for the people who become tangled up in it. Only Jesus Christ is the divine Healer, he is the "Way, the Truth, and the Life" (Jn. 14:6), only in Him is there salvation.

Jesus Christ, Bearer of the Water of Life

In a document written by the Pontifical Council for Culture entitled: "Jesus Christ, the Bearer of the Water of Life," the Catholic Church gives a reflection on the "New Age" ideologies.

"It should be recognized that the attraction that New Age religiosity has for some Christians may be due in part to the lack of serious attention in their own communities for themes which are actually part of the Catholic synthesis such as the importance of man’s spiritual dimension and its integration with the whole of life, the search for life’s meaning, the link between human beings and the rest of creation, the desire for personal and social transformation, and the rejection of a rationalistic and materialistic view of humanity.

"When one examines many New Age traditions, it soon becomes clear that there is, in fact, little in the New Age that is new. The name seems to have gained currency through Rosicrucianism and Freemasonry, at the time of the French and American Revolutions, but the reality it denotes is a contemporary variant of Western esotericism.

"It has involved a progressive rejection of a personal God and a focus on other entities which would often figure as intermediaries between God and humanity in traditional Christianity, with more and more original adaptations of these or additional ones. A powerful trend in modern Western culture which has given space to New Age ideas is the general acceptance of Darwinist evolutionary theory; this, alongside a focus on hidden spiritual powers or forces in nature, has been the backbone of much of what is now recognised as New Age theory.

"Even if it can be admitted that New Age religiosity in some way responds to the legitimate spiritual longing of human nature, it must be acknowledged that its attempts to do so run counter to Christian revelation. In Western culture in particular, the appeal of "alternative" approaches to spirituality is very strong. On the one hand, new forms of psychological affirmation of the individual have become very popular among Catholics, even in retreat-houses, seminaries and institutes of formation for religious.

"John Paul II warns with regard to the ‘return of ancient gnostic ideas under the guise of the so-called New Age: We cannot delude ourselves that this will lead toward a renewal of religion. It is only a new way of practising gnosticism – that attitude of the spirit that, in the name of a profound knowledge of God, results in distorting His Word and replacing it with purely human words. Gnosticism never completely abandoned the realm of Christianity. Instead, it has always existed side by side with Christianity, sometimes taking the shape of a philosophical movement, but more often assuming the characteristics of a religion or a para-religion in distinct, if not declared, conflict with all that is essentially Christian.’ "

Marie Anne Jacques

Yoga is ‘incompatible’ with Christian faith, Greek Orthodox Church says

June 17, 2015

The Holy Synod of the Greek Orthodox Church reacted to the UN’s decision to designate June 21 as International Day of Yoga in 2014. The Holy Synod’s statement says that the practice of yoga has “no place in the lives of Christians” since it is a fundamental aspect of Hinduism and as such is not considered a “form of exercise” but of worship!

Though praised for its calming effect and wellness, Christians are urged to seek the same comfort in God – not hindu practises. After all, the postures of yoga were created as adulation to 330 million Hindu gods. The postures are viewed in the Hindu faith as offerings to gods that in Christianity are considered to be idols.

Furthermore, a third of yoga is concerned with emptying the mind – a contradiction to what Christianity teaches. In the Christian faith, there is free choice and transformation through renewal. Furthermore, astral travel that yoga guides people into is a practise that the church continues to frown upon.

“For this reason, yoga is totally incompatible with our Christian Orthodox faith and it has no place in the life of Christians,” the statement said, even though it added that the the Church respects religious freedom.

My spiritual path to realize that yoga is not compatible with the Catholic Church

by Losana Boyd  February 2011

In the early 1990s I was living a high-stress lifestyle: running a successful international business and raising three children. I had no particular religious practice to speak of, having given up Catholicism during my college years. At the same time, medical treatments for a debilitating injury had proven ineffective. One day, on my way home from physical therapy, I saw a sign advertising yoga classes. I called the number on the sign and found a teacher with whom I studied for four years.

 Over months and years of yoga practice, my health improved, my body became stronger and more flexible, my injury healed, and my stress level decreased. These positive effects encouraged me to go further: I adopted vegetarianism, began to meditate regularly, visited ashrams and yoga centers, and became certified as an instructor.

 I already had studied something of the world’s major religions. When I took up yoga I was curious about Eastern mysticism and embraced it eagerly as an exotic spirituality far different from anything in the Western religious tradition. Yoga, which claims to embrace all religions, seemed to promise the highest joy: a state of being beyond dogma and a direct experience of the realization of the Self (as it is termed in yoga) at the center of consciousness. In this state, it is said, one can remain in the world and yet be detached and undisturbed by it, enjoying peace, serenity, and freedom.

 Was this really possible? I was diligent in my practice, and, over time, something began to shift. But the shift was not the one I expected. The deeper I got into meditation, the more it became clear to me that at the center of the silence was a longing for something”or, rather, Someone”beyond yoga. Ultimately, it was not an experience of myself, or even Self, I was seeking; I wanted to be connected again to Christ.

 Theologian George Lindbeck has said that “your religion of origin has such a bone-deep hold on you that, as with a native language, it’s your only hope for true religious fluency.” Maybe my reversion was as simple as that. But the desire and longing for communion with Christ took me to a deeper spiritual place than I knew with yoga, and within a few years I was a Catholic again.

 I picked up this Zen koan when I was serious about yoga: “You cannot find it by seeking, but only seekers find it.” I came to understand this to mean that we must be prepared for grace, but grace comes in God’s own good time. As I see it now, while yoga offers health benefits, there is a problem with it as a spiritual path for Christians. I did come across some discussion of Christ consciousness in yoga, but the descriptions were not specifically and uniquely of the second Person of the Holy Trinity. Christ consciousness in yoga is a more generalized sense of personal enlightenment, not worship of the all-powerful creator of the universe in the perpetual relationship of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

 To greatly oversimplify, yoga is meant to take us from the inhabiting of our coarse outer body to the experience of unembodied enlightenment. Through a series of postures (  asanas  ) and breathing practices (  pranayamas  ), we learn to let go of our attachment to bodily reality; we then can progress to deeper states of awareness, meditation, and, ultimately, union with the transcendent divine (the word  yoga  in Sanskrit means “union”).

Yoga teaches that we can release our attachment to the physical world and make spiritual progress by first fully inhabiting the body through stretching and strengthening exercises (and here, the health benefits are many). The postures, some of them exceedingly difficult, help us cultivate the stillness we need. Other practices, such as  kriyas  (cleansing and purification rituals) and  pratyahara  (sensory withdrawal), further encourage detachment from the world.

 At one time this attracted me. When I had no religious commitments to support me, the peace and tranquility promised by detachment seemed the answer to the pressures of my high-stress life. But slowly I began to return to the Judeo-Christian view of the body: It is not an inherent obstacle to spiritual enlightenment but, rather, has dignity and value simply because God created it. Christians are meant to keep themselves healthy for the sake of others, moderating diet, exercise, and rest to better serve the needs of the greater community.

 The deeper one gets into yoga, the tradition teaches, the less one is bothered by the distractions of the outside world. One of the purposes of this detachment from transitory things is self-mastery, and that also attracted me. In yoga self-mastery involves work on the self. In Christianity it is a prelude to self-giving; developing one’s unique talents is for the express purpose of giving them away”of making a gift of self. To me, yoga engaged in for the purpose of withdrawing from others, even for such a seeming good as being undisturbed by the acts of others, began to seem less and less Christ centered.

 I have heard teachers describe the yoga mat as sacred space. We come onto the mat to offer ourselves up to the experience of whatever will unfold in that particular class. At all times we are the ones in charge of the experience. We may choose to participate or not in the various postures and  pranayamas  suggested by the teacher. Ultimately, it is up to us, and the sacred space of the mat is our own awareness.

 And then there is the Mass”the re-presentation of Calvary, the Holy Sacrifice of Christ that redeems and restores. In that sacred space I receive the consecrated body and blood of our saving Lord and participate in that great prayer. Increasingly, as I turned back to the Church, the idea of a yoga mat as sacred began to sound spiritually dangerous.

 Other aspects, however, of yogic practice seemed to remind me of something Christians once had understood: that what, how, and how much we eat has spiritual implications, and that disciplining our eating can bring spiritual benefits. In yoga fresh, wholesome vegetarian nourishment is considered  satvic  , or life-giving. Meat, tobacco, alcohol, and caffeine are considered  tamasic  , or toxic, and will interfere with the yogi’s attempt to meditate successfully.

 Christ declared all foods clean: Diet itself does not make us virtuous. The body in and of itself is something holy and good, regardless of whether or not it sports six-pack abs. The body is not a distraction from reality. It is reality. And yet, from the beginning, the Christian tradition has understood the benefits of fasting and restraint.

 Before Vatican II Catholics were required to abstain from meat on Fridays and fast for three hours before receiving Holy Communion. After these restrictions were lifted, the nature of the Friday fast was left to the discretion of the individual, and the time frame required for fasting before Communion was reduced to one hour. Today, these requirements seem to have all but been forgotten. Lent, formerly a serious season of penance and prayer, has been reduced to “giving something up.” When we wonder why people increasingly are drawn to Eastern disciplines such as yoga, we might begin by wondering what happened to the discipline that used to be a part of Christian life.

 Similarly, although Christian meditation is an ancient tradition, well understood and practiced in the early Church, over the years it became remote and estranged from the manner in which most Christians lived out their faith. In the 1960s and 1970s, young people were leaving the Church in droves, impressed by the direct spiritual experience promised by Eastern mystics and practices such as Transcendental Meditation. No one in the Church talked about meditation. Catholics were encouraged to pray, to attend Mass, and to receive the sacraments. That was it. I wonder, now, whether I would have discovered the richness of the Christian meditation tradition without the practice of meditation I learned through yoga.

 While the techniques can be similar (learning to sit quietly, turning down the volume on the mental chatter, emptying the accumulated impressions of the day), Christian meditation involves a focus on Christ. For me this became much more fulfilling than yoga. All the emptying gained from yoga practice now seemed to necessitate a filling up with something or, rather, Someone, who is Christ.

 As Christians we believe we are born into a fallen world and require redemption. In yoga we save ourselves (I’m stretching a definition to call the yoga perspective salvation) through our own efforts. Yoga teaches the concept of Karma, the unresolved matter from previous lives that must be worked through before we can advance on the spiritual path.

 According to Christianity we also are endowed with free will to choose or reject the path to salvation, which is Christ himself. The Church teaches that there is no such thing as a past life, nor is there karmic debt. Each of us is unique and unrepeatable, called by God from all eternity to inhabit this body at this particular time. Suffering can be redemptive. Jesus Christ suffered a death he did not deserve. Sacrifice and suffering align our lives with Christ’s for the gain of spiritual graces.

 Where yoga specifically works on the self, Christianity is relational. As believers we do not focus solely on our own salvation. We are intimately connected with each other, and the prayers of the community strengthen each of the members. The Church encourages us to pray for particular intentions and to call on the saints”those holy women and men who came before us, uniting the faithful in prayer, intercession, and fellowship across the centuries. In yoga there is, instead, the idea that each individual doing the work on him- or herself will, by virtue of that effort, strengthen the community.

 There are no sacraments in yoga because there is no redemption. Each of us is on his or her karmic journey. There is no heaven, and there is no hell; there is the karmic wheel of continuous life, death, and rebirth until such time as complete purification has occurred. And then we’re off to some nebulous state of union with the cosmic divine.

 When I first got involved in yoga, I heard a lot about reincarnation. It was all rather exotic: People talked about their past lives; some even went for “past life regression” therapy. While I wasn’t a professed Christian at the time, I couldn’t make sense of it. I just went about my own experience of yoga and didn’t entertain too many thoughts about reincarnation.

 Nevertheless, I began to realize that a belief in the cycle of life and rebirth makes clear the goal of yoga practice: renunciation. According to the Buddha, detachment is the answer to suffering. When we eliminate desire, we eliminate suffering. Nirvana, described as a drop of water returning to the ocean, is the equivalent of yogic bliss. After one has completed all “unfinished business” and removed all particularizing  samskaras  (accumulated impressions) through a series of lives and reincarnations, particularities are erased in the oneness of ultimate being.

 The Christian view of the Resurrection began to seem much more hopeful: This is no drop of water returning to the ocean, but the possession of a unique and glorified body, a glimpse of which was offered to the apostles in the person of the resurrected Christ. In this glorified state, believers will experience the beatific vision, that perpetual state of adoration of God in which the faithful will be reunited with loved ones and join with the choirs of angels in hymns of eternal praise.

 I continued teaching yoga for a few years after my return to the Church. But yoga’s philosophy became increasingly difficult to reconcile with my Christian faith. Ultimately, I could not go on with yoga teaching. I appreciate its health benefits and the techniques I learned for quieting the mind. Yoga does not, however, answer the deepest longing that I found at the core of all this work on myself: the worship of Christ.

 Losana Boyd, a New York poet, is writing a book on healing and holiness.

Yoga, New Age Doorways

By Rebecca Brown

Many of the health food stores are actually fronts for Hindu gurus. Much of the New Age Hindu teachings are presented  as "scientific." Diet is a large part of this movement  - especially vegetarianism. I have seen a number of people trapped in demonic  bondage through  fre­quenting   various  "herbalists" and  health  food  stores  and maintaining  a rigid vegetarían  diet as prescribed  in various magazines and books containing New Age teachings.

Yoga is an  often  overlooked   doorway.  The purpose of yoga is to "link" or "yoke" with the Hindu god Brahman. Yoga is not  just physical exercise. It is impossible to separate yoga from the Hindu religion because yoga is religion. It is never taught without simultaneous teaching on meditation, mental health, etc. The purpose of kundalini yoga, for example,  is to arouse and control the kundalini  force.  Kundalini  literally  means  "coiled" and  is the name of a Hindu goddess symbolized  by a serpent  with 31h coils, sleeping with its tail in its mouth. This serpent supposedly resides in the body of the human  near  the base of the  spine.  When   aroused   with  proper  control   it  brings strength, power  and  wisdom,  also  many  psychic abilities, even  abilities  to miraculously  heal. This  kundalini  force  is none other than a demon.

Kundalini  yoga is widely taught  in physical therapy departments for the reduction of blood pressure and a wide variety of other  medical abnormalities. This is a demonic healing. Tantra yoga has become very popular in Europe and the Scandanavian  countries, both  in the medical field and with top  corporate executives.   Tantra   yoga  is  pure  Satanism right down  to human  sacrifice. Tantra  yoga teachers  talk a lot about  various  powers,  vibrations and  energies,  but all of these are, in reality, demons.

Some  yoga teachers  are  themselves deceived  and  do  not realize  that  they are  actually  teaching  the  Hindu  religion. But all are without  excuse. So are  the students. We  must always search out all things and be sure we know the exact meaning of all terms used in any area of endeavor.

Meditation  is an area  that is greatly  misunderstood. There are so many forms of meditation being taught  that it is im­ possible to list them all. However, there are some basic principies which can be easily recognized.  All of the Eastern forms  of  meditation   are  for  the  purpose  of "self-realization"  and  the  attainment of  a ''higher consciousness." "Self-realization" is actually the  process whereby  a person learns   to  control   his  spirit.   "Higher   consciousness"  is achieved  as a person  begins to communicate with the various  demon  spirits. Often,  people  have a particular demon whom they call their "guide," or "counselor."

There    are   a   number    of   references    in   scripture    to meditation, but there is a big difference between Godly meditation and satanic meditation. One of the major scripture references to meditation is found in Joshua:

"This  book of the taw shatl not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to atl that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success." Joshua 1:8

I wish to emphasize that the meditation referred to in this scripture involves the active reading, learning and memorizing  of God's  law given to the lsraelites. Joshua was to learn the law so well that it would become a part of him. David followed the same principie - he wrote about it in Psalm 119:

"Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse bis way? By taking heed  thereto according to thy word. With my whole heart bave 1 sought thee: O let me not wander from  thy commandments. Thy  word bave 1 bid in mine heart, that 1 might not sin against thee." Psalms 119:9-11

Here again, David was actively doing something  - that is, learning and memorizing God's law so that he would not depart from it. At no time in scripture is meditation something  passive. Satanic meditation  is passive. Satan  wants men to blank out their minds, by attempting to clear their minds of all thoughts. This directly opens a door for demonic entrance  and influence,  because the simple fact is that God commands,us to control our every thought, not blank out  our  minds! If  you, don't  control  your  mind,  Satan will!

"For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the  flesh: For  the  weapons of our  warfare are  not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong  holds;  casting  down.  imaginations,   and every high thing [thoughts, in other translations] that exalteth  itself against  the  knowledge of  God,  and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ."  Corinthians 10:3-5.  "Thou  wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind  is stayed on thee ... " lsaiah 26:3

This scripture clearly demonstrates that we are commanded to control  our  minds,  not  blank  thern  out.  Any  teaching about  meditation  that tells you to blank out your rnind and clear it of all thoughts,  or to repeat certain phrases over and over  again  to  enable  you  to  "clear  your  mind," is from Satan.

"[Jesus   speaking]  But  when  ye  pray,  use  not  vain repetitions, as the heathen do ... "  Matthew 6:7 "But shun  profane and vain babblings: for they will increase unto more ungodliness."  11 Timothy 2:16

Silva Mind Control,  hypnosis, and many forrns of self­ hypnosis  are also frequently  used  in the  New  Age Movement, throughout our educational system, by the rnedical field, and  now are  being widely taught  in all the large corporations. All of these include meditation  to clear the  mind,  thus  opening  up  the  person  to  the  inflow  of demons.   In  many cases,  such  as in Silva  Mind  Control, people are introduced  to spirit guides called "counselors," or  by  sorne  other   name.  People  are   taught   that  these "counselors" actually  exist  deep  within  their  own  minds and  personalities,  "unconscious" parts of the  rnind which are available only through special techniques. All of this is a lie. Such techniques  actually put the people practicing thern into direct contact with dernons.

Nearly  every   grocery   store   across   the   U.S.   carries "subliminal" tapes on a wide variety of topics, such things as weight control,  relaxation,  stress reduction,  positive self­ image,  ad  infinitum.   All  of  these  tapes  have  repetitive sounds  which help  the  listener  to  blank  out  their  minds. The  blanking  of the  rnind  makes  the  person  open  to any hidden messages on the tapes which are really demonic suggestions which open them up for direct demonic control.

I  talked  with a Christian  woman  the  other  day  who  had tried listening to these "subliminal" tapes. She and her husband and  teenage daughter  had all listened  to the tapes on stress control and improvement of self-image. Within afew days of using the tapes their family life started  falling apart. They  were  in  the  habit  of spending  some  time  together every day as a family, reading  the Bible and  praying. This was the first activity to be stopped.  A month  later, none of them  were  reading  their  Bibles or even  going  to church. They could not understand  the cause for the sudden change in their lives. The cause was the subliminal tapes.

Once they asked God's forgiveness for using these occultic devices  and  commanded   the  demons  to  leave  them  and cleaned  out  their  house  of all such  materials,  they  could again enjoy prayer and Bible study. I am thankful  that they discovered the source of their problem so quickly. Many Christians completely lose their relationship with the Lord through such subliminal materials.

Acupuncture  is a form of demonic  healing. The  purpose of acupuncture  is specifically to arouse  the kundalini  force to bring about the healing of the person.

Biofeedback is extremely  popular in the many  pain clinics and   is  also  used  for  control   of  headaches   and   blood pressure. Biofeedback produces the same state of altered consciousness (that is, contact with the spirit world) as vari­ ous  forms  of  meditation   and  self-hypnosis.  It trains  the person  to control  their spirit  body, which in turn  controls their physical body. Again, this a demonic healing.

Self-hypnosis  is  making  vast  inroads  into  various  public school systems. I know of a group of Christian  parents who have gone to court  to try to get these techniques  removed from  the  public schools.  They  have  conclusively  proven that   the   various   methods    being   taught   are  essentially Hinduism  rather  than science,  but they have not been successful in changing the school  curriculum. Parents  need to carefully question  their children frequently about the things they are learning in school. The practice of yoga is very common  from the first grade on up because it facilitates classroom control of the children.

Visualization  is also  a common technique  in  the  various New Age mind-control courses. I believe that visualization is the key stepping stone  used to establish contact with the spirit  world. It is used  extensively  in such  things as Silva Mind Control  and  various  forros  of meditation, especially in psychic healings. AH of these  things open  doorways for the entrance of demons.

Archibishop of Manila: An exorcist Warns Against Yoga - ‘You’re Opening Yourself To Possession’

Philippine Daily Inquirer. Saturday, November 1st, 2014

Tina G. Santos

Church warns yoga, feng shui practitioners

Practicing yoga and believing in feng shui, horoscopes and lucky charms can make one vulnerable to demonic possession, warned an exorcist of the Archdiocese of Manila.

“When you practice yoga, you are told to ‘empty your mind’ while saying [the mantra] ‘om,’ so you can feel relaxed. But when you empty yourself, you’re opening yourself to possession. You have to be careful because demons might take advantage of (this) empty [vessel of your soul] and possess it,” Msgr. Jay Bandojo said during a recent talk at the Arzobispado de Manila in Intramuros.
The belief in occult practices, feng shui, lucky charms, amulets, fortune-telling, astrology, horoscope, transcendental meditation and similar practices also allow demons to have a claim over a person, said Bandojo, who has special permission to perform exorcisms.

‘Spirit of the Glass’

Playing ‘Spirit of the Glass’ (the local version of the Ouija board), even as an observer, can be risky, he added. “The mere fact that you took a peek [means] you’re already contaminated. It means there could be a [demon] attached to you because of your curiosity.”
Instead of asking people to empty their minds, Catholic teaching tells the faithful to “center on Christ, on the angels, on saints and on Mama Mary,” when they “pray, meditate or contemplate,” said Bandojo.Bad spirits also attach to people who engage or have interest, in hidden knowledge “usually (found) in masonry, illuminati (groups), scientology (and) fraternities … spirits attach to you when you engage in those,” the monsignor said.
People may also be vulnerable to demonic possession through “the sin of omission and sin of commission,” he added.
“You sin because you are doing what is not good, and you sin because you did not do what is good,” he explained. “Every sin has a demon involved.
Do not think that it’s just a small sin or (that) nobody knows about it because you already allowed a spirit to enter you, to be attached to you,” Bandojo said.

Don’t curse

Cursing and being cursed also open one to demonic possession, this exorcist said. “So even at the height of your anger, don’t curse other people. Parents, don’t curse your children because the demons will take advantage, they will ride on your curse. And you (would have) put problems in your children’s future,” Bandojo said.
He added that being in a state of shock or trauma also makes one vulnerable to possession.“Because it’s like your mind is empty and demons will take advantage (of it). That’s why some trauma patients attempt suicide. They hear voices (telling them) ‘kill yourself,’ ‘kill your friend,’ ‘jump off a building,’” Bandojo said, adding that demonic possession can result in the destruction of one’s personality, relationships, health and wealth.
But being possessed by evil can also be avoided, he said.
“All you need to do is live the sacraments… live a good Catholic life, away from (bad) influences,” Bandojo said, adding that apart from basic sacramentals like holy water and exorcised oil and salt usually used by exorcists to ward off demonic possessions, religious items such as rosaries, scapulars, crucifixes and prayer books can also protect us from evil.

“But don’t use them like amulets,” Bandojo cautioned. “If you are influenced, if you are open [to influences], these things become ineffective. They only become effective if you are in (a state of) sanctifying grace.”

Is yoga harmless?

By Judy White

Christians should beware the counterfeit of the Holy Spirit found in yoga and the Kundalini spirit. When most people hear the word “yoga,” they understand it to be an exercise. They envision a person on a mat striking poses and practicing stretches to develop the body and relax the mind. But there is more to it than meets the eye. These poses and stretches embody more than physical exercise. Yoga has power to unleash the Kundalini spirit.

What is the Kundalini spirit, and how does it function? How would we know the Kundalini spirit? The Body of Christ is called to be aware and to discern spirits. Our Lord instructs us to obtain godly wisdom.

“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God…” (James 1:5)

“And you shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free.” (John 8:32)

 First of all, exactly what is the definition of yoga? The Encarta World English Dictionary’s primary definition of yoga exposes its connection to religion. Yoga: Hindu discipline; any of a group of related Hindu disciplines that promote the unity of the individual with a supreme being through a system of postures and rituals. The word “yoga” means “to yoke.” Yoga is the act of yoking the practitioner to a Hindu god. This god is called Brahman the “Divine” who is said to enlighten the human soul by uniting with the human body. This "union" is accomplished through intense concentration, controlled breathing techniques, and prescribed yoga postures. Brahman and yoga practitioners are united as one.

 To assist the yogi in achieving this “Divine” enlightenment, a mediator between the practitioner and Brahman is invoked. The ancients describe this mediator as the Kundalini spirit. “Kundalini” means “serpent power.” When a person engages in yoga, a chain reaction occurs within the body. The Kundalini spirit is spontaneously activated and spiritual enlightenment is imparted by the “Universal World Soul” also known as Brahman. Yoga authorities say that all yoga is ultimately Kundalini yoga, and yoga is meaningless without it (Encyclopedia of New Age Beliefs, p 606).

 Who created yoga, and why was it created? The Bhagavad-Gita, part of the Hindu scriptures called the Vedas, is the essence of India’s Vedic wisdom and claims yoga came into our world passed from ancient generations through a series of Hindu gods. Religious rituals implanted within yoga practice are dedicated to seeking union with these Hindu gods.

 Unfortunately, most Christians do not understand that by its own definition yoga is an occult religious ritual. It is practiced through postures, mudras (occult hand signals), and mantras (chanted words) which are themselves ancient magical incantations. These ancient magical incantations operate spontaneously on a vibratory and subliminal frequency. Each practitioner upon his or her yoga mat unleashes sonic vibrations throughout a network of energy centers within the body called chakras.

 There are seven chakras.  They begin at the tailbone and move upward in “a straight line toward the crown of the head.” The chakra trajectory is located along the spinal cord in the physical body and is the very path taken by the serpent Kundalini as it uncoils from the base of the spine. This Kundalini serpent is activated through yoga postures and brings different levels of enlightenment as it passes each chakra (Total Yoga, pg. 23).

 Each chakra is associated with one or more of the Hindu deities. When the chakras are activated by the snake-like motion of the Kundalini, the deities are summoned, and each deity transfers a specific occult power to the yoga practitioner.

 How do the yogi masters define yoga? Yogi masters, devout yoga practitioners, claim that Kundalini serpent power makes them born again and baptizes them into new life. Credit is given to the Kundalini serpent for connecting them to the all-pervading power of “Divine” love.

Christians know that all-pervading Divine love comes from Jesus Christ and only from Jesus Christ. So who is this Kundalini spirit who claims Christ’s power? The Kundalini serpent is a spirit of anti-Christ, not the Lord Jesus Christ.

 Through the anti-Christ spirit of the serpent “Kundalini,” Satan positions himself as mediator between heaven and earth. In this position, he fulfills his desire to be worshiped as God. Satan is always attempting to usurp the position of Jesus Christ. Christ is indeed the only mediator between heaven and earth:

“For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself a ransom for all." (I Timothy 2:5-6)

“And for this reason He is the Mediator of the new covenant, by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions under the first covenant, that those who are called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance.” (Hebrews 9:15)

 Eternal inheritance is union with God in heaven and comes by receiving salvation through the blood of Jesus Christ. But according to New Age swamis, a spontaneous transformation of mankind in union with the “Universal World Soul” will come by way of Kundalini through yoga! Many yoga gurus openly admit they become glorified by awakening the serpent power.

 These yogis further prophesy that the New World Order and One World Religion will be led by one unparalleled yoga master who is incarnate. This yogi would be a master of the Kundalini and would teach all people the ancient secrets of self-transformation.

 Throughout Scripture we are told to be aware of those “religious” persons, called false prophets, who come as “wolves in sheep’s clothing” claiming to be Christ (Matthew 7:15). Lucifer, that serpent of old, the original wolf in sheep’s clothing, is the one who initiated yoga. His powerful scheme is to counterfeit the Christian’s worship of God. He accomplishes his goal through yoga, which incorporates a worshipful practice of sign language gestures, prayer positions, and bowing, all performed in a religious and reverent manner.

 Devotional bowing postures are part of yoga’s choreographed religious routines. These devotional bows deceive many into believing they are worshiping Christ through yoga, but they are instead worshiping idols. In the book of Corinthians, Paul explains that behind acts of idol worship lurks a receptive demon:

“What am I trying to say? Am I saying that the idols to whom the pagans bring sacrifices are real gods and that these sacrifices are of some value? No, not at all. What I am saying is that these sacrifices are offered to demons, not to God. And I don’t want any of you to be partners with demons.” (I Corinthians 10:19-20, New Living Bible)

 Paul was explaining when Christians practice ancient postures rooted in pagan religious rituals they open the door to demons lurking in and behind these ceremonies. Demons receive the practitioners’ sacrifice of worship and consume them for their own egocentric appetites. They accept the offering of worship as if the purpose is to honor them through yoga. Therefore, the yoga practitioner has become a living sacrifice offered to demons rather than to God.

 As Christians, despite our hearts' and minds’ desires to worship only God through Jesus Christ, we are in danger of committing spiritual adultery. We cannot sacrifice ourselves to idols with body language that invokes the Kundalini spirit at the same time that we offer ourselves to God as a holy, set a part, and dedicated sacrifice to Him. Scripture says "You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons; you cannot partake of the Lord ’s Table and of the table of demons" (I Corinthians 10:21).

Judy White's personal deliverance out of the New Age movement was the catalyst to her book, The Heart of Yoga Revelaed.


 Yoga: Theory and Practice: Separable?
by John Ankerberg and John Weldon

The basic premise of yoga theory is the fundamental unity of all existence: God, man, and all of creation are ultimately one divine reality. An editorial in the "Yoga Journal" declares this basic premise:

We are all aware that yoga means "union"and that the practice of yoga unites body, breath, and mind, lower and higher energy centers and, ultimately, self and God, or higher Self. But more broadly, yoga directs our attention to the unity or oneness that underlies our fragmented experiences and equally fragmented world. Family, friends, the Druze guerrilla in Lebanon, the great whale migrating north - all share the same essential [divine] nature  (594:4) . 

This is why physical yoga and Eastern philosophy are mutually interdependent; ultimately, you cannot have one without the other. David Fetcho, a researcher with an extensive background in yoga theory and practice, states:

 Physical yoga, according to its classical definitions, is inheritably and functionally incapable of being separated from Eastern religious metaphysics. The Western practitioner who attempts to do so is operating in ignorance and danger, from the yogi's viewpoint, as well as from the Christian's  (725:2) .

One of the leading contemporary authorities on kundalini yoga is Gopi Krishna. In his article "The True Aim of Yoga," he says: "The aim of yoga, then, is to achieve the state of unity or oneness with God, Brahman, [and] spiritual beings..."  (592:14) .

Yoga authorities Feuerstein and Miller comment that the postures (asana) of yoga and its breathing techniques (pranayama) are much more than just physical exercises:

 Again, we see that the control of the vital energy (prana) by way of breathing, like also asana, is not merely a physical exercise, but is accompanied by certain psychomental phenomena. In other words, all techniques falling under the heading of asana and pranayama as, for example, the mudras and bandhas [physical positions or symbolic bodily gestures utilizing pranayama and concentration for physical or spiritual purposes] of Hathayoga, are psychosomatic exercises. This point, unfortunately, is little understood by Western practitioners...  (593:27-28) 

Actually, yoga practice is intended to validate occult yoga theory. And as noted, yoga theory teaches that everything is, in its true inner nature, divine - not only divine but ultimately equal to everything else - everything from God and the devil to the athlete and the AIDS virus.

Yoga theory also teaches that in their outer nature, everything is maya, or illusion. For example, only in his inner spirit is man divine; his "outer nature," of body and personality, are ultimately a delusion that separates him from awareness of his real inner divinity. Thus, another purpose of yoga must be to slowly dismantle the outer personality - man's illusory part - so the supposed impersonal divinity can progressively "emerge" from within his hidden divine consciousness (...)

This is why people who practice yoga only for physical or mental health reasons are ultimately the victims of a confidence game. They are promised better health; little do they suspect the end goal of yoga is to destroy them as individuals. As yoga authorities Feuerstein and Miller comment, yoga results in "a progressive dismantling of human personality ending in a complete abolition. With every step (anga) of Yoga, what we call 'man' is demolished a little more"  (593:8) .

In "Yoga as Methods of Liberation," Moti Lal Pandit observes that (as in Buddhism) "the aim of yoga is to realize liberation from the human condition. To achieve this liberation, various psychological, physical, mental, and mystical methods have been devised. All those methods are antisocial (sometimes even antihuman) in that yoga prescribes a way of life which says: this mortal life is not worth living."  (595:41) .

Yoga is, after all, a religious practice seeking to produce "union" with an impersonal ultimate reality, such as Brahman or Nirvana. If ultimate reality is impersonal, of what value is one's own personality? For a person to achieve true "union" with Brahman, his "false" self must be destroyed and replaced with awareness of his true divine nature. That is the specific goal of yoga (...) If we examine yoga theory in more detail, it is easier to understand why yoga practice has such specific occult goals.

One of the most authoritative texts on yoga theory within the Hindu perspective is Pantajali's text on raja Yoga titled Yoga Sutras (e.g.,  596 ). In this text he puts forth the traditional eight "limbs," or parts, of yoga. These are defined within the context of a basic Hindu worldview (reincarnation, karma, and moksha, or liberation) and intended to support and reinforce Hindu beliefs. Each "limb" has a spiritual goal and together they form a unit. These eight limbs are:

Yama (self-control, restraints, devotion to the gods [e.g. Krishna] or the final impersonal God [e.g., Brahman]
Niyama (religious duties, prohibitions, observances)
Asana (proper postures for yoga practices; these represent the first stage in the isolation of consciousness and are vital components for "transcending the human condition" 601:54)
Pranayama (the control and directing of the breath and the alleged divine energy within the human body [prana] to promote health and spiritual [occult] consciousness and evolution)
Prayahara (sensory control or deprivation, i.e., withdrawal of the senses from attachment to external objects)
Dharana (deeper concentration, or mind control)
Dhyana (deep contemplation from occult meditation)
Samadhi (occult enlightenment or "God [Brahman] realization" i.e., "union" of the "individual" with God).

Because the eight steps are interdependent, the steps of "postures" and "breathing" cannot logically be separated from the others. Thus, the interdependence of all eight steps reveals why the physical exercises of yoga are designed to prepare the body for the spiritual (occult) changes that will allegedly help one realize godhood status.

The concept of prana ("breath") is a key to the process. Pranayama refers to the knowledge and control of prana, or mystical energy, not merely to the control of one's physical breath  (979:592) . Prana is believed to be universal divine energy residing behind the material world (akasa). Prana is said to have five forms, and all energy is thoughy to be a manifestation of it. Swami Nikhilananada describes it in his Vivekananda - The Yogas and Other Works as "the infinite, omnipresent manifesting power of this universe"  (979:592) . Perfect control of prana makes one God. One can have "infinite knowledge, infinite power, now":"

 What power on earth would not be his? He would be able to move the sun and stars out of their places, to control everything in the universe from the atoms to the biggest suns. This is the end and aim of pranayama. When the yogi becomes perfect there will be nothing in nature not under his control. If he orders the gods or the soul of the departed to come, they will come at his bidding. All the forces of nature will obey him as slaves.... He who has controlled prana has controlled his own mind all the minds... and all the bodies that exist...  (979:592-93) 

The aim of pranayama is also to arouse the coiled-up power in the muladhara chakra called kundalini:

 Then the whole of nature will begin to change and the door of [psychic] knowledge will open. No more will you need to go to books for knowledge; your own mind will have become your book, containing infinite knowledge  (979:605) 

According to Vivekananda, all occult manifestations are accomplished through yogic control of prana:

 We see in every country sects that attempted to control of prana. In this country there are mind healers, spiritualists, Christian Scientists, hypnotists, and so on. If we examine these different sects, we shall find at the back of each is the control of prana, whether they know it or not. If you boil all the theories down, the residuum will be that. It is one and the same force they are manipulating. .. Thus we see that pranayama includes all that is true even of spiritualism. Similarly, you will find that wherever any sect or body of people is trying to discover anything occult, mysterious, or hidden, they are really practicing some sort of yoga to control their prana. You will find that wherever there is any extraordinary display of power, it is the manipulation of prana  (979:593,599) 

In other words, prana, God, and occult energy are all one and the same. The one who practices yogic breathing (pranayama) is by definition attempting to manipulate occult ("divine") energy.

This information is a portion of one section under the topic of "Yoga" in the Encyclopedia of New Age Beliefs, by John Ankerberg and John Weldon (Harvest House Publishers, Eugene, Oregon. 1996. pp 600-602)  The book covers a wide range of topics, includes an extensive index, and is copiously documented to facilitate further research.

The authors write:
In providing the reader with a basic critical assessment, we had three goals in mind. One was to document and critique the collective impact of the "new spirituality" in our culture. Another was to document the fundamentally spiritistic nature or potential of these practices and teachings. Finally, we wanted to describe and assess the overall validity or invalidity of the topics from different perspectives, such as scientific, ethical, medical, and biblical.

- Footnotes -
Bibliography numbered as in the book. First number refers to the reference; second number to the page number(s).
593:4. Editorial, Yoga Journal, May/June 1984. Back
725:2. Dave Fetcho, "Yoga," Berkeley, CA:Spiritual Counterfeits Project, 1978. Back
592:14. Gopi Krishna, "The True Aim of Yoga," Psychic, January-February, 1973. Back
593:27-28. George Feuerstein, Jeanine Miller, Yoga and Beyond: Essays in Indian Philosophy, New York: ScSchocken1972. Back
593:8. George Feuerstein, Jeanine Miller, Yoga and Beyond: Essays in Indian Philosophy, New York:Schockenn, 1972. Back
595:41. Moti Lal Pandit, "Yoga as Methods of Liberation," Update: A Quarterly Journal on New Religious Movements, Aarhus, Denmark: The Dialogue Center, vol. 9, no. 4, December 1985. Back
596. Rammurti S. Mishra, Yoga Sutras: The Textbook of Yoga Psychology, Garden City, NY: Anchor Books, 1973. Back
979:592. Swami Nikhilananda, Vinvekananda, the Yogas and Other Works, New York: Ramakrishna and Vinekananda Centre, 1953. Back
979:592. Swami Nikhilananda, Vinvekananda, the Yogas and Other Works, New York: Ramakrishna and Vinekananda Centre, 1953. Back
979:592. Swami Nikhilananda, Vinvekananda, the Yogas and Other Works, New York: Ramakrishna and Vinekananda Centre, 1953. Back
979:605. Swami Nikhilananda, Vinvekananda, the Yogas and Other Works, New York: Ramakrishna and Vinekananda Centre, 1953. Back
979:593,599. Swami Nikhilananda, Vinvekananda, the Yogas and Other Works, New York: Ramakrishna and Vinekananda Centre, 1953. Back


Former instructor warns of yoga’s spiritual implications
Jim Brown - Journal Chrétien, France. Feb 2, 2007

An ex-yoga teacher turned Christian evangelist says he is disturbed by the growing popularity of yoga programs in schools. He feels adding Hindu-influenced yoga regimens to public school curriculums is not only dangerous but also violates the Constitution’s Establishment Clause.

More than 100 public and private schools across the U.S. are reportedly teaching yoga to young people using a secular curriculum developed by a California woman named Tara Guber. The program she developed for school kids uses terms like "bunny breathing" for yogic panting and "time-in" for meditation. But innocuous as the program may sound, one former yoga instructor says Guber’s curriculum and others like it are a bad idea.

Mike Shreve was a teacher of yoga and meditation at four universities before he was "saved" out of Eastern religions and went on to found a Christian ministry called The True Light Project. He sees some definite dangers in introducing such programs to young people in U.S. schools.

"First of all I believe it is a violation of the commitment this nation has made to the separation of church and state," Shreve says. And secondly, he notes, "I’m surprised that so many schools have started using this in their curriculum - apparently without it being challenged by those who understand the religious roots of yoga."

Yoga has Hindu roots and retains that religious system’s influences, the former instructor contends. Even teachers of Hindu themselves have acknowledged that there is no way yoga can be separated from its religious base, he asserts.
"Maybe it is being reduced to just an exercise regimen", Shreve says. But for those who are not taught the differences and those who are not exposed to the spiritual roots of yoga", he warns, "that can be the first step - in a very wrong direction - that will lead them into the meditative aspects of yoga and the false religious overtones that are involved in the practice of yoga."

The head of the True Light Project was himself once a student of an Indian guru and also formerly operated a yoga ashram with a number of people who had dedicated themselves to full-time study of the practice. He says the whole purpose of practicing yoga in any of its aspects is to bring a person to an altered state of consciousness.

Yoga programs do not belong in schools, Shreve insists, both for legal and spiritual reasons. He says he is disturbed by the prevalence of yoga programs in public and private schools, where they introduce children to Eastern religion under the guise of a secular curriculum.


YOGA: Can We Separate the Exercise From the Philosophy?
Johanna Michaelsen.
From the book "Like Lambs to the Slaughter" (pp. 93-95)

"There is a common misconception in the West that hatha-yoga, one of about ten forms of Yoga that supposedly leads to self-realization, is merely a neutral form of exercise, a soothing and effective alternative for those who abhor jogging and calisthenics ...

"[However], Hatha-yoga is 'one of the six recognized systems of orthodox Hinduism' and is at its roots religious and mystical. It is also one of the most difficult and potentially dangerous [spiritually] forms of Yoga. "The term hatha is derived from the verb hath, which means 'to oppress.'... What the practice of hatha-yoga is designed to do is suppress the flow of psychic energies through these channels ["symbolic, or psychic, passages on either side of the spinal column"], thereby forcing the 'serpent power' or the kundalini force to rise through the central psychic channel in the spine (the sushumna) and up through the chakras, the supposed psychic centers of human personality and power. Westerners mistakenly believe that one can practice hatha-yoga apart from the philosophical and religious beliefs that undergrid it. This is an absolutely false belief. ...

"You cannot separate the exercises from the philosophy. ... 'The movements themselves become a form of meditation.' The continued practice of the exercises will, whether you ... intend it or not, eventually influence you toward an Eastern/mystical perspective. That is what it is meant to do! ... There is, by definition, no such thing as 'neutral' Yoga"


Innocent Yoga?
by Dr. John Ankerberg and Dr. John Weldon

When Westerners employ yoga techniques as a means to improve their health, they should understand that they can also be producing subtle changes within themselves which will have dramatic spiritual consequences that will not be for the better. Regardless of the school or spiritual tradition, yoga practice tends to alter a person’s consciousness in an occult direction.
Even when yoga is practiced innocently, it can eventually produce dramatic occult transformation. "Personality changes can be brought about in Hatha Yoga by changing the body so that it influences the mind." 1 Consider the experience of Christina Grof, who, prior to her experience with yoga, was an average housewife with normal plans for her life. She took up yoga entirely without suspicion as a practice that would help her physically during her pregnancy. After all, there are widespread claims that "during pregnancy, yoga exercises are extremely beneficial and will keep you supple and relaxed." 2

What Christian Grof got was far more. She found herself transformed from a "conservative suburban housewife" into a New Age leader by means of hatha yoga. All she had to do was "join a hatha yoga class for exercise" and the logical progression ensued:

During the birth of my first child, for which I had prepared with the Lamaze method of breathing (very much like yogic pranayama), this enormous spiritual force was released in me. Of course, I didn’t understand it and was given morphine to stop it as soon as the baby was born.... Then the same thing happened when my second child was born. This all led to more and more experiences. I threw myself into yoga, although still not acknowledging it as a spiritual tool. My meeting with Swami Muktananda really blew the lid off everything. He served as a catalyst to awaken what I had been resisting, which was kundalini (the universal life force). 3

Thus, an innocently practiced yoga-for-exercise routine led to numerous psychic experiences that had the cumulative impact of dramatically changing her life. She became a disciple of the Hindu guru Muktananda and then, as we will see, a leader in the New Age Movement with a specific mission: to assist people who were having "spiritual emergencies" from their occult practices and help them to "properly interpret" and successfully integrate these "divine" experiences into their lives. 4

Initially, however, as the standard kundalini yoga symptoms emerged in her life, the prognosis was not good. Grof herself was in the midst of a spiritual emergency and increasingly convinced of her own insanity. "I was convinced I was headed for a life of psychopathology. I was afraid I was going crazy." 5 Nevertheless, counseling through occult philosophy put matters in their "proper" perspective. Her marriage ended, "which it was destined to do anyway." And the late popular mythologist Joseph Campbell helped her recognize, "The schizophrenic is drowning in the same waters in which the mystic is swimming with delight." He also referred her to LSD and consciousness researcher Stan Grof for more counseling.

The rest is history. The couple were eventually married and today coordinate some 50 SEN (Spiritual Emergency Network) regional information centers around the globe. 6 They also publish a significant amount of literature in the field of occult metaphysics. Their reinterpretation of the pathological phenomena induced by occult practice—as a positive transforming spirituality (a spiritual "emergence")—not only helps undergird and legitimize the occult, but it also effectively inhibits discernment of the true issues involved.

For example, in the case of kundalini yoga, symptoms of mental illness and demonization are gratuitously redefined as emerging manifestations of "higher" or divine consciousness. Thus, we are not to question or fear the kundalini process but to surrender to it and trust it implicitly, for it is indeed part of that ageless wisdom of evolutionary transformation which is far wiser than ourselves. A chapter in a recent book edited by Stan and Christina Grof, Spiritual Emergency, reveals a basic approach of SEN counseling. The title is "When Insanity Is a Blessing." 7

Thus, a slow but sure yoga-induced occult transformation catapulted Christina Grof headlong into the world of occultism. In the long run, her innocent flirtation with yoga altered her entire life and resulted in her becoming a leader in the New Age Movement, with influence over hundreds of thousands of people.

Consider one more example of the potential consequences of innocent yoga practice. While Christina Grof used yoga for help in her pregnancy, Carole, a friend of coauthor John Weldon, used yoga for medical and health reasons. We published her story in The Coming Darkness: Confronting Occult Deception. 8 We first met Carole as a result of exchanging information on the famous Indian guru and yogi Swami Rama. The following information is taken from material sent to us.

Carole was very sick and doctors were unable to find the cause of her illness. When she went to a physician-nutritionist recommended by a friend, she found some literature in his office about the Himalayan Institute, of which the doctor was a staff member. The institute was founded by Indian Swami Rama, one of the most scientifically studied of the gurus, beginning with famous biofeedback researcher and spiritist Dr. Elmer Green. Carole decided to attend the institute, where she began lessons in hatha yoga. Eventually, she was initiated and received her mantra, or word of occult power, from Swami Rama. As he laid his hands upon her head, the typical transfer of "occult energy" began (termed shaktipat diksha). Carole was in heaven:

Currents of electrical energy began to permeate my head and went down into my body.... It was as if a spell had come over me, the bliss that I felt was as if I had been touched by God. The power that had come from his hand, and simply being in his presence, drew me to him irresistibly.

The night after receiving her mantra, Carole was visited by a spirit being who claimed to be the spirit of Swami Rama himself. Although no one had ever mentioned the spirit world in her church (they did not believe in such things), Carole felt that this was the means of directly communing with God. She experienced wonderful powerful forces and energies, while thoughts entered her mind with a magnetic-like force:

Electrical currents were pulsating around my body and then moved into my hand, the currents were shaking my hand and strong, almost entrancing thoughts were impressed into my mind, "Meditate, meditate. I want to speak with you." It was a miracle. I was communicating with the spirit world. I had found God. Sitting in the darkness of my living room I began to repeat my mantra. A presence seemed to fill the room. I began to see visions of being one with the universe and the magnetic thoughts were now leaving and I was hearing a voice, which identified itself as Swami Rama, saying he was communicating with me through astral travel.

Within one week, after meditating many hours each day and still in constant communication with this spirit, forces began to come upon me and gave me powers to do yoga postures; I was floating through them, the forces giving me added breath even… postures that before would be very painful to do.

However, after two weeks of daily yoga meditation, Carole became engulfed in a nightmare of utter dread and terror. Voices that once claimed they were angelic turned threatening, even demonic. She was brutally assaulted, both physically and spiritually by spirits. During meditation, in the midst of being violently shaken, she could sense that the same energy received at initiation, energy which was now felt to be personal, was attempting to remove her life-essence from her physical body—in her words, "to literally pull the life from my shell of a body." She sensed an overwhelming and implacable hatred directed toward her from this "energy," as if "monstrosities of another world were trying to take my very soul from me, inflicting pain beyond endurance, ripping and tearing into the very depths of my being."

The intermittent suffocation and torment seemed interminable; her fears increased as she realized there was no one to help her. Finally, the attack subsided. But it was merely the first of many.

It seems that nothing could stop the assaults. Her agonized pleas to the spirits were ignored; her husband was powerless. Her father wanted her to see a psychiatrist; others also doubted her sanity. In desperation, her mother contacted psychic friends from a local church of the Unity School of Christianity. They laid hands on Carole and commanded that "the divinity within" deliver her, but to no avail.

Dr. C. Norman Shealy, M.D., Ph.D., entered the picture. He is a noted neurosurgeon, a former professor at Harvard University, past president of the American Holistic Medical Association, and the author of Occult Medicine Can Save Your Life. Dr. Shealy also works in conjunction with psychics and spiritists such as Caroline Myss. When Dr. Shealy was unable to help, he referred Carole to Dr. Robert Leichtman, M.D., a spiritist who is coauthor of several dozen books received by revelation from the spirits.

Leichtman admitted that Carole’s situation was not uncommon among followers of Eastern gurus. He even told her some have died as a result of similar psychic attacks. But he, too, was unable to help. His instructions, such as visualizing herself in the white "Christ light" of protection, were useless. By this time, Carole was near the end.

I had to endure the torture, unable to free myself. To those around me I was insane. No one believed me and no one could free me. The hopelessness I felt was unbearable. No one believed me except the psychics... and they could do nothing.
I was defenseless against these never-ending attacks... hundreds of presences filling my room, which itself would be filled with thick, ice cold air, my body drenched with perspiration as my whole being fought against them.
After spending several weeks at my parents’ we decided perhaps I could try returning home. But that night the spirits started to exert their full power.
First, against my skull. I felt as if they were trying to crack it open, like the air was being cut off to my brain. Incredible pressure was exerted upon my back and chest, pulling with a wrench-like grip. It felt like they were trying to pull my shoulder from its socket, pressing on my eyes trying to blind me, pushing on my throat trying to choke me. Filled with fear and exhaustion, on the brink of death I screamed to my husband, "I’m dying; I can’t take it anymore. Get me to the hospital."
I was taken to the hospital where I laid like a scared dog cowering on a cart. I could hardly speak but at least the spirits were gone—temporarily.... The doctor on duty recommended a psychiatrist who saw me the next morning. He told me I was covering up some deep problems with this "talk of evil spirits." "There is no such thing as the devil," he said coldly.

Carole admitted herself to the hospital, but once more no one could help. The attacks finally subsided and she was released. Upon returning home, the attacks began again. More unimaginable torment. Although she was terrified of dying, death was now her desire. Wishing to take her life but too fearful of dying, she readmitted herself to the hospital. Once again, she was placed in locked ward. She felt that here she would die, alone and in torment

But today, Carole is alive and well. Even her psychiatrist is amazed at the miraculous transformation. She is now in perfect health, both mentally and physically.

How did Carole get free? No one had been able to help her. Today, Carole attributes both her health and her life to a living Jesus Christ who delivered her from a desperate plight. Reflecting back on her predicament, she is awed that such terrible destruction could be purchased at the price of a simple, supposedly harmless form of yoga meditation.

Events like these reveal that there is more to yoga than meets the eye. Whether yoga can trigger some unknown psychospiritual, physiological response, or whether changes are produced spiritistically, or both, few can deny yoga is a powerful spiritual discipline that has been used for millennia to secure occult, pagan goals. As we proceed, we will better understand the reasons for this.


1. Ann Hill, ed., A Visual Encyclopedia of Unconventional Medicine, New York: Crown Publishers, 1979, p. 223.
2. Brian Inglis, Ruth West, The Alternative Health Guide, New York, NY: Alfred A. Knopf, 1983, p. 143.
3. Stan and Christina Grof, "Spiritual Emergencies," Yoga Journal, July-August 1984, p. 40.
4. Stanislav Grof, Christina Grof (eds), Spiritual Emergency, Los Angeles, CA: J. P. Tarcher, 1989.
5. Grof, Yoga Journal, p. 41.
6. cf. Grof, Spiritual Emergency, p. 227.
7. Ibid., pp. 77-97.
8. John Ankerberg, John Weldon, The Coming Darkness: Confronting Occult Deception, Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers, 1993.


Yoga  -  Health or Stealth?
 by Clare McGrath Merkle

Growing numbers of westerners have become devotees of various forms of yoga. Christian critiques of yoga often contain warnings against yoga without in-depth analyses of yoga's underlying theology, philosophy, practices and their effects. Those in pastoral ministry are finding Catholics in crisis as a result of their involvement in yoga without the knowledge, discernment or reliable resources to effectively minister to them. In order to address this growing problem, it is crucial that there be a greater awareness of the problem and a commitment to minister and educate on the part of Christian leaders.

The Encyclopedia Britannica on the world-wide web describes the Sanskrit word yoga (meaning union or yoking) as one of six orthodox systems of Indian philosophy. The practitioner of yoga seeks to yoke himself to God through a complex, ancient science of self-purification and development. Yoga's basic text is the Yoga-sutras by Patanjali (c. 2nd century B.C.), a sublime treatise on the science of yoga and the ascent of the soul. Through the practice of yoga, one attempts to free oneself from the bondage of karma, or the law of cause and effect which burdens the soul with the effects of sin and keeps it tied to a cycle of rebirth. The purpose of liberation is to return to a once-possessed state of original purity, consciousness and identification with the Supreme Self or, as others believe, to union with the Transcendent God.

The eight stages of yoga include five external preparations and three internal aids to this ascent of the soul, as we would understand it. The two ethical preparatory stages of yoga involve detailed practices of renunciation, restraint from evil and religious observance. The next two steps, the most popularized and emphasized in the West, are physical postures and breath control techniques designed to open, cleanse and fortify variously described physical, emotional, and spiritual aspects of the human person. These aspects are referred to as bodies accessed via the seven chakras (wheels) or psycho-spiritual energy centers located throughout the body. The fifth stage is withdrawal of the senses. The next three stages involve deep concentration, deep meditation and lastly the state of samadhi or self-collectedness, in which the mediator and the object of meditation become one. This is the final stage before union with God or with the Self (as others believe) and the final
 release from the cycle of rebirth.

At the core of the philosophy of yoga are the beliefs in the law of karma, reincarnation, the potential for self-realization or enlightenment without external aid, and a practiced and finally ultimate withdrawal from the world which is deemed to be an illusion or projection.
The core beliefs of this ancient discipline are, at best, incompatible with Christian doctrine, having been negated by the radical entrance of Christ into human history. Through the Paschal Mystery of His death and resurrection, we and the physical world were redeemed from sin and we were enabled to enter heaven.
While, doctrinally, yoga is an ancient outdated attempt to attain divine union, practically, this fact means little to a lukewarm laity that is hungry for access to spiritual experiences that they believe (erroneously) their own tradition denies them. Our goal must not only be to point out the hazards of yogic philosophy and practice, but to replace any false concepts and influences by offering seekers the true Living Water that is the gospel and love of Jesus Christ.

Unfortunately, many Christians have experienced some of the beneficial effects of yogic postures, breathing and meditation including extraordinary healing, spiritual renewal and various bliss states. Many have become involved in one of the larger yoga societies or ashrams. Adding to the general confusion about the legitimacy of yoga is the guidance Christians receive from the now significant body of Catholic clergy, teachers and spiritual counselors who practice, write about and advocate eastern practices, especially yoga, often mixing them with Catholic mysticism. One Catholic rehabilitation center for religious I know of teaches yoga to those having already had nervous breakdowns.

In terms of ministry, each yoga practitioner will be heir to differing problems, depending on the kind of yoga he or she practiced and the combination of other eastern or esoteric practices he or she also pursued. Following is a brief overview of a variety of yoga schools or methods with their differing aims and emphases. Each practice stresses different paths of liberation. Each description is my interpretation based on my own experience as an advanced Kriya yoga practitioner and anecdotal observations made during my years in the society of practitioners.

Bhakti Yoga, the most popular yogic practice in India, stresses the first two stages previously mentioned and is devotional in character. Bhakti practices of fasting, right living, prayer and ritual parallel Christian practices and so offer little particular appeal to the average westerner. These first stages, however unglamourous, are essential to the relatively safe practice of more advanced techniques in that they purify the personality of many of its more subtle and unconscious emotional and spiritual weaknesses that will be exacerbated and harmful at later stages of yogic practice. Bhakti Yoga is mixed with other yogic traditions in the case of Amrit Desai, a popular yogi and spiritual leader in America. Recently, numerous female students stepped forward to confirm they had all had sexual relations with him. Westerners, over-impressed with lectures on universal love, are prone to falling into the trap of guru worship, transferring their own dependencies to him.

 Ministering to someone who has placed all their trust and identity into a person or group is very difficult. The feelings of betrayal and abandonment are overwhelming upon leaving the group or leader, making it very difficult to re-establish trust in God and community again. Psychological boundaries are destroyed or weakened. Deep emotional healing is needed. Some therapists in attempting to aid these victims make the mistake of pursuing regression therapy or "deep memory" therapy - both of which are risky when psychological boundaries are so weak.

Hatha Yoga, a popular form in the U.S., aims for the conscious control of the physical and etheric (subtle energy) bodies. This emphasis on "energy", another characteristic of yoga, changes the perception of the world as the arena of divine grace into the perception of the world as a domain defined by science, technique and control. Yogic control of body and mind is particularly popular now as we in the west develop a renewed fascination with the human potential movement initiated by Hegel, latched onto by Hitler and now hailed as the precursor of a soon-to-occur evolution in consciousness known as the New Age. The use (or misuse) of Hatha and other yogas at the blatant service of immature personalities brings with it a host of problems. An example is at my own workplace where Power Yoga is offered at lunchtime for a quick pick-me-up. The yoga instructor recently had the class perform an exercise designed to stimulate the pituitary gland - and one of my co-workers did not

 sleep the entire following night. The dangers of any kind of yoga can include abuse of power, unconscious motivations of teachers and students, as well as the ignorance of the physiological and psychological effects of yoga.
It is important to note that historically, in the east, advanced yoga practice was only permitted within narrowly defined parameters. Students practiced under the strict guidance of a yogi in controlled, slowly advancing stages in stress-free settings. Higher levels involving breath work and energy work were always reserved for those initiates successfully completing years of the purification which decreased the likelihood of problems.
Now, even in all but the most rigorous ashrams in the west, advanced yogic practices are imparted at weekend or week-long getaways and some yoga teachers receive certifications after only months of study. In addition, yoga techniques are taught by psychologists and intermingled with avant-guard psychological release work methods such as rolfing or rebirthing which are intended to break through unresolved issues and remove deep emotional blocks through either the expression of strong emotions or rough physical massage - a recipe for disaster.
Several months ago, one enthusiast completed certification as a yoga instructor after only a year's study. She traveled for a weekend workshop on holotropic breathing - a way of accessing childhood trauma through heavy yoga-like breathing techniques designed to induce altered states of mind. For some time afterward, she was in total bliss and believed it was the divine will she leave her family. These kinds of therapy weekends have innumerable casualties. Treatment centers/retreats for those suffering these kinds of psychotic breaks and nervous exhaustion are much needed.
True advanced yogic practitioners are the first to warn about the dangers inherent in yoga, a science designed to remove unconscious blocks, incite untapped psychological wells of emotions, and enervate the nervous system. Unfortunately, the most commonly heard remark after a yogic practitioner experiences a psychotic break due to his yogic practices is that "he went too fast" or "she has bad karma to work out". Hatha Yoga, then, while hailed as merely a physical self-improvement technique, goes much farther in practical terms.
Two other yogas of immense popularity are Tantric and Kundalini Yogas. Tantra Yoga is a product of Shaktiism, the worship of the Hindu supreme goddess, Shakti (Power). Shakti is worshiped as both the divine will and the divine mother who calls for absolute surrender. In her fierce destructive aspect she is depicted as Kali. Shakti is also the power that lies dormant in the base of the spine, coiled like a serpent (kundalini). Kundalini energy is aroused and guided up the spine to open chakras and attain spiritual liberation. It is the rising of this serpent power that marks the removal of karma and the push toward enlightenment.
Tantric practices are found in Hindu, Buddhist and Jain sects and are classified as secret esoteric practices involving purification, control of psychological processes as well as spells, rituals, symbols, black magic and necromancy. Tantraism utilizes sexual energy (whether through ritualized overt sex acts or subtle psycho-spiritual stimulation) to achieve bliss states. Secret tantric texts are also the basis of the "healing" technique known as Reiki - most popular now in Catholic circles and promoted at many hospital healing centers. Reiki has as its base the use of secret tantric practices which are most deadly and damaging spiritually.

A number of other yoga paths or combinations thereof exist in the US. Numerous teachers or experts mix and match yogic traditions, increasing the likelihood of malpractice, abuse and ill effects. The excitation of the kundalini (serpent power), this mysterious form of psychic or physiological energy is, in fact, the result of all forms of yoga. The effects, both bad and good, are the subjects of not a few texts.
Many of the progressively stronger manifestations of supernormal powers and phenomena accompanying serious yogic practice are well documented both in the east and west. There can be no doubt that these events occur, which are the effects of practice. For example, kundalini episodes, where the student experiences marked physiological phenomena, can include the spontaneous assumption of strange and difficult yoga postures. One such posture - standing on one's head alone - has been observed, for example, in one Catholic saint, during a flight of ecstasy. Sweet aromas, the hearing of celestial choirs and musical instruments, bilocation, healing powers and ecstasies are all well documented experiences of yoga masters and adepts. Western students, in reading of or visiting these adepts, become convinced of the philosophy's veracity and benefit.

The case histories of yoga masters with paranormal powers do not necessarily affirm the worth of these practices or of yoga philosophy in general. Extraordinary powers are no guarantee of goodness or character. These powers can be the results of spiritual virtue, but can just as likely be variously the results of magical art, demonic influence, psychosis or drugs.

To most western devotees, these powers are merely the harnessing of energies and physical laws not yet understood in the west. The majority of holistic energy work practices touted as healing science are all built on a science of energy manipulation based on the eastern chakra system. What we in the west do not fully realize, is that any manipulation of energy is tantamount to the practice of magic - using power at the service of the will. Utilizing or even simply channeling these energies sent supposedly by God, angels, extra-terrestrials or the universe opens the yoga practitioner and also the many healers and body workers in the New Age to forces they cannot perceive, understand or control. Surrender to otherworldly guides, gurus or yogis adds additional oppressive influences in the dangerous game of kundalini arousal. The arousal may not only cause long-term psychological burn-out and exacerbation of latent weaknesses but also demonic oppression and possession as Pandora's box is literally opened to the spiritual world. Using the Garden of Eden as an analogy, our spines are like the tree of life which hold within them the potential for good or evil. The serpent power allures us to seek the hidden knowledge and power of these forbidden fruits. True spiritual development, ecstasies and gifts, however, descend from above and are not the result of conscious control. As Our Lord warned, those who try to enter heaven without Him are thieves.

The general belief that the universe is benign and that practitioners of goodwill are protected by invoking Christ and his angels usually keeps yoga practitioners pushing the limits of endurance and safety in their power-driven lust for the kundalini arousal and enlightenment. Why?

Yoga appeals to modern America because it is a pseudo-science. It is technique-driven and codified. It is also addictive as one becomes more and more used to the pleasure of altered states (which can lead to habitual dissociation). Americans desire for self-improvement, endless youth and ultimate knowledge and power have fed the yoga craze. The concepts of sacrifice, suffering and guilt of mainline Christianity are replaced by a philosophy of endless progress, bliss and control over one 's own destiny. How can we combat this very seductive way of looking at the world and ourselves? How can we not seem to be backward, naive and just plain narrow-minded?
We must know how to dissect not only the philosophy of yoga but the flawed logic behind its practices. We must also realize that the greatest lies have the most truth in them. There is much truth in yoga. The Nazi SS were trained to lie as closely to the truth as possible to establish the bond of trust with their victims.
We must be willing to hold those who seek out counsel gently but strongly in the truth of Jesus Christ.

What are yoga 's biggest errors?

Firstly, yoga would make us all christs - without need of a savior. While there is ample documented evidence of the presence of great saints in the east who led and lead lives of renunciation and sacrifice to atone for others ' sins, only Our Lord Jesus Himself opened the gates of heaven. One clear announcement of the liberating action of acceptance of Jesus as Our Lord is the story of the good thief. Whilst on the cross, Our Lord promised the good thief he would be with him in paradise that very day. Under karmic law, a thief of his ilk would have necessitated hundreds of life times to remove his own karma. Our Lord carries this burden for each of us. If reincarnation were a reality, perhaps some might like to spend hundreds of lifetimes on this very sad world to attain heaven - but why would they?

Secondly, yogic philosophy maintains we live in a world of illusion - one to be escaped. As Christians we believe that our world, while fallen, has now become the beginnings of the kingdom of God. Our calling is not to escape the world but surrender to it fully with compassion and mercy. As importantly, by our embrace of the cross and its ever present redemptive action through the Sacrament of Reconciliation and the living sacrifice of the Mass, we are no longer bound to the slavery of sin and have become heirs to the mysteries of sanctifying grace and Heaven. Why try to find the one in a million yoga master who can take on one 's karma when every day Our Lord makes himself available daily to take away our sins?

These two errors alone set the spiritual adventurer up for disaster. Once we accept the premise that the world is an illusion and we are christs, we are opened to increasing ego inflation and dissociation as reality becomes more and more subjective and we become more self-referenced. A dear friend of mine, dying of cancer, was told by her "guardian angel" and her New Age state licensed psychological therapist that she was cancer-free. She died not long after she had the opportunity to have surgery for this very correctable form of cancer.

Why, then, have so many religious, teachers and seekers either embraced the yogic philosophy in place of Christian beliefs or, on the other hand, sought to Christianize the practice and legitimate it as a spiritual aid in their walk with Jesus? The question most Christian devotees of yoga pose when questioned about their practice is Why not? This is the question we must all be able to answer to shield our family and friends from great spiritual injury. For, in fact, the dangers involved in yogic practice are as great as or greater than any occult pursuit, despite its hallowed origins in history.

We cannot simply warn against error and argue doctrine. We must also become the rivers of living water Our Lord told us we would be if we only drink from the well of living water ourselves. In all the time I spent attempting to witness to those in the New Age, no argument could change anyone 's mind. Programming, mental and physical conditioning, behavioral addictions and spiritual influences all weave a tight web of deception around those in yoga practice and in the New Age in general. It was only through my sister 's prayers that the veil of deception was lifted for me to see into what I had become involved.
At its best, yoga is a very beautiful and intricate system devised thousands of years ago to mimic the states and powers of saints in order to attain their virtue. At its worst, it is a tool of hidden and dangerous power that destroys minds and lives. At its heart, it is nothing more than a flawed shadow of the truth in comparison to the power of the Paschal Mystery and the sacraments. In any light, it is now incontrovertibly incompatible with and antithetical to the Christian walk.

In closing, yoga and all New Age practices have filled the void that exists because we abandoned the greatest source of bliss and comfort, the Eucharist. A return to the Eucharist and a renewed program of instruction on contemplative prayer will bring many Catholics back from these deceptively beautiful practices and philosophies.
About the author: Clare McGrath Merkle is the editor of The Cross and Veil website and was once involved in the New Age as a "healer" and advanced Kriya yoga practitioner. The site is the fruit of ten years of personal renewal and five years of efforts at evangelization.

This article is reproduced from Clare McGrath's website -


NEW AGE: Catholic Faith and Yoga - Incompatible
by Catherine Marie Rhodes

Experts on cults and Catholic spirituality agree that yoga cannot be divided from its own spirituality. Ft Myers bishop bans classes at parish, Voice of the Faithful objects.

Part I – An Inspirational Story:
As a Catholic contributor, I never write for human respect. If that were my purpose, I would have already curtailed writing. Because my intent is to speak the truth, I never expect a pat on the back. But I maintain it pleases me to learn that my work does not always fall on deaf ears. Like most Christian writers I have encountered admirers and detractors. The positive feedback has been rewarding, but one specific incident is prominent amid the others.

One morning while checking my message machine, I heard a female voice announce, “I’m searching for the woman who writes for Catholic websites.” From her amiable tone, I sensed she was not a detractor and I returned her call.

When I phoned her, she introduced herself and will be referred to herein as “Mary.”  She indicated she had read some of my articles and wanted to ask a question about the “New Age” dilemmas prevalent in her hometown. Though Mary and I had just met, it was soon apparent our passions were considerably alike!

Next, Mary shared a very inspirational story with me. She had discovered that a nearby Catholic parish in Fort Myers, Florida, was offering Yoga classes in the Chapel that surrounded the main altar. Mary and a few friends including a relations manager from Relevant Radio, arrived at Pope John XXIII parish on the morning of February 5, 2007.

After arriving, Mary proceeded into the church and lightly sprinkled holy water and blessed salt in the church before the Yoga classes commenced. Then she entered the parking lot to distribute leaflets about Yoga, to approximately 25 women as they arrived for the classes. Mary reasoned the women probably did not understand the dangers inherent in Yoga and she wanted to offer guidance. While distributing the literature Mary was confronted by the Yoga teacher (the Deacon’s wife). The Yoga teacher told Mary, “I wish that you would leave Church property.” Mary in turn professed the same wish to the instructor.
A few minutes after the guru re-entered the church, Mary recited the Blessed St. Michael’s prayer and re-entered the church as well. She slowly opened the door to the Chapel and was horrified by what she witnessed. The Chapel was dark with the exception of a few dimly lit recessed lights. Mary thought, “I’ve never seen an aerobics class like this before near a consecrated altar.”

Mary noticed the women were dressed in leotards and slouched on their Yoga mats in a half circle, or crescent moon position. The teacher/guru was advising the participants to visualize “love and light.” Writers Note: The meditative phase of Yoga begins with fixing the mind on one object which may be anything whatsoever. Mary viewed signs that advertised Yoga products and Yoga classes and noticed a table adorned with a basket for donations.

Mary also observed that much of the Yoga material was embellished with the Om Brahman symbols. As Mary began taking photos, the women seemed to snap out of their trances and became irate. After a few minutes of insults hurled at Mary, she closed the chapel door and left.

As Mary headed to the church parking lot to depart, she learned that the guru and her followers had summoned the police. After Mary and her friends spoke to the substitute priest (the Pastor was not available), he communicated to the police that there was not a problem, and the police retreated.

According to a short article by the Yoga instructor, the regular Pastor/Administrato r is a Yoga practitioner himself.  Upon his return, he continued to support the Yoga classes and had blinds installed for those who found the classes offensive. Hopefully, most of us understand that window blinds would not have prevented our Lord from seeing the sinfulness that transpired near His altar.

Though horribly distressing that these women had desecrated our Lord’s house with their occult practices, the story does have a wonderful conclusion.

Shortly after the incident, Mary gave Bishop Frank Dewane various articles and photos regarding the offensive Yoga classes. Though he has not explained his decision, he ordered the classes discontinued. The bishop and Mary deserve credit and praise for their courageous actions.

Mary’s account might remind you of a similar one.  I think most of us can recall how our Lord angrily threw the moneychangers out of His Father’s house. When necessary, our Lord acted with righteousness and did not hesitate to call unrepentant sinners –“hypocrites,” “sons of hell” and “broods of vipers.”

New Age practices and beliefs have become rife and deeply embedded in Catholicism. The New Age Movement is really not new at all. Its evil is recorded in Genesis. The challenge for Catholics is to discern authentic spirituality and be willing to confront the New Age serpent-speak when we witness it. After all, speaking out really can make a difference!

Part II - Why Yoga is Incompatible with Christianity:

What is Yoga? The word Yoga means union. The goal of Yoga is to unite one’s temporary self with the infinite Brahman. Brahman is not a personal God but a spiritual substance which is one with the cosmos and nature.

Fr. James Manjackal, a Catholic priest who was raised in a traditional Catholic family in India, states: “Yoga is not an elaborate system of physical exercises, it is a spiritual discipline purporting to lead the soul to Samadhi, the state in which the natural and divine become one. It is interesting to note that postures and breathing exercises often considered to be the whole of Yoga in the West are steps three and four towards union with Brahman.”

In a recent phone conversation with Fr. Paul E. Demarais, he stated that “there is no safe level of Yoga practice.” Fr. Demarais is Diocesan Director of the Cult and Occult Awareness Network in Providence, Rhode Island.

The late Fr. John Hardon SJ also affirmed that Yoga is not compatible with Catholicism. “Inner Hinduism or Yoga professes pantheism which denies that there is only one Infinite Being who created the world out of nothing. This pantheistic Hinduism says that followers will have brief tastes of heaven between successive rebirths on Earth.”

Dr. John Ankerberg states in his article Innocent Yoga? “Regardless of the school or spiritual tradition, Yoga practice tends to alter a person’s consciousness in an occult direction. Even when Yoga is practiced innocently, it can eventually produce occult transformation.”

There are those who claim there is nothing wrong with practicing Yoga for exercise purposes only, but even the teachers of Hindu have stated that the philosophy and the practice of Yoga are inseparable. From Johanna Michaelsen’s book “Like Lambs to the Slaughter” (pp 93-95) she states, “You cannot separate the exercises from the philosophy… The movements themselves become a form of meditation.”

Denial about the New Age is a common obstacle. (2 Tim. 4:3) “For the time will come when people will not tolerate sound doctrine, but will follow their own desires and insatiable curiosity.”

As Christians, we cannot straddle the fence. Sadly, many ask themselves, “How close can I get to the fire without getting burned?” The answer: There is no such thing as Christian Yoga.

About the Author:Catherine Marie Rhodes is the pseudonym of a member of the Catholic Media Coalition and a contributor to Spero News.

This article is reproduced from the website - Spero News


Yoga & Christianity, ARE THEY COMPATIBLE?
February 2006 By Joel S. Peters

Joel S. Peters teaches theology at a Catholic high school in Montvale, New Jersey.

It is not at all uncommon these days to see Yoga advertised and promoted. Books on Yoga abound, websites dealing with its philosophy and practice are numerous, and instructional seminars are routinely offered in gyms, health clubs, and even some Catholic institutions. It has so successfully permeated our culture that most people don't even raise an eyebrow at the mention of it. In fact, some Christians have integrated Yoga into their lives and may thus admire their own "inclusive" attitude. Or they see nothing wrong with practicing Yoga and would be quite surprised to learn that it represents any spiritual threat whatsoever.

It is precisely because of this ignorance about Yoga -- on the part of professed Christians -- that I have chosen to write this article. I don't doubt that the vast majority of believers who practice Yoga are blissfully unaware of its true nature and purpose, and they probably view it as "simply exercise." But herein lies its greatest danger. When Yoga is written off as a mere physical discipline with little or no regard for its spiritual underpinnings, we run the risk of being misled about something that could have a significant bearing on our own spiritual well-being.

What Is Yoga?
The origins of Yoga date back as far as 5,000 years, and for a long time the principles of Yoga were passed on as oral tradition. This tradition was eventually committed to writing, and Yoga thus made its appearance in the four ancient Hindu writings known as the Vedas, the oldest of which dates to about 1500 B.C. An individual named Patañjali later compiled and codified the sum total knowledge about Yoga. Sources vary on when this occurred, with dates ranging anywhere from the fourth century B.C. to the second century A.D. His work, called the Yoga Sutra, is the authoritative text on Yoga and is recognized by all of its schools.

The word "Yoga" comes from the Sanskrit root word yuj, meaning "union" or "to yoke." Sanskrit is the ancient language of Hinduism, and so it should be no surprise to learn that Yoga is inextricably linked to this religion. In fact, "Yoga" is very similar in meaning to the Latin word religio, from which we get our word "religion" -- meaning "to fasten" or "to bind." In the case of both words, the clear implication is that a person is being "yoked" or "fastened" to something spiritual. More significant, though, is the reason for Yoga's development.

In Hinduism there are three paths to salvation: works (rituals, duties, and ceremonies that add to one's merit), knowledge (understanding that not sin, but ignorance about the true nature of our existence, is the cause of evil and misery), and devotion (the worship of Hindu gods and goddesses). The path of knowledge is used most often by the Brahmin or priestly caste (highest stratum) in Hindu society. Within this path there are three schools of philosophy: Vedanta, Sankhya, and Yoga. So, plainly put, Yoga is a system of Hindu philosophy designed to lead the practitioner to spiritual enlightenment or salvation. The specific mechanism involved in the process is the use of physical postures (asanas) coupled with breathing exercises that are specifically designed to enhance meditation and alter one's state of consciousness so the practitioner may attain oneness with a "higher reality."

While it is beyond the scope of this article to deal with the numerous styles of Yoga, it is relevant to note that although components within the branches of Yoga may vary, the ultimate goal is the same, namely, the altering of one's consciousness to attain a spiritual state.

But Don't Resource Materials on Yoga Disavow any Religious Connection?
You will certainly find plenty of denials of any connections between Yoga and religion from some authors and instructors. Consider the following examples: "Yoga is not a religion, therefore it can be practiced in partnership with any religious belief" (Rammurti S. Mishra, Fundamentals of Yoga). "Yoga is a complete system of how to live our lives. It leads us to a whole new way of living. It is not a religion, yet it can be combined with a religion to increase the richness of any tradition" (Mischala Joy Devi, The Healing Path of Yoga). "Some people think that yoga is calisthenics, epitomized by the headstand, the lotus posture, or another pretzel-like pose. Others think it is a system of meditation. Yet others regard it, perhaps fearfully, as a religion. All these stereotypes are misleading" (Georg Feuerstein and Stephan Bodian, eds., Living Yoga). "So what is Yoga, anyway? Yoga is not just stretching, just breathing, or just meditation. It is not just crossing your legs, closing your eyes, putting your thumbs and forefingers together and chanting 'Om....' And it is certainly not a cult or religion" (Larry Payne and Richard Usatine, Yoga Rx).

All are recognized Yoga masters, and yet one cannot help but pause at the incongruity between their denials about religious connections to Yoga and the material they set forth in their books that clearly shows how the practice of Yoga is a formalized means to a spiritual end within the context of a distinctly Hindu worldview. And if Yoga is truly not a religion, then how do we explain the fact that Yoga plays a very prominent role in the Vedas, the Bhagavad-Gita, and the Upanishads, which are Hinduism's scriptures? So such denials are at best ignorance on the part of these authors (which is untenable in light of their status as Yoga masters) and at worst a deliberate misrepresentation of what Yoga actually is. Both explanations present some problems.

So Why Is the Practice of Yoga A Problem for a Christian?
At the heart of Hinduism is a monistic worldview -- one which maintains that all reality is ultimately one and that it shares a common divine "essence." In other words, my own true self or identity is really the same identity as all other beings. While the labels for this essence vary (e.g., universal mind, cosmic consciousness, a higher reality, eternal self), they all convey the same basic concept, namely, that the universe is comprised of an eternal, divine spiritual energy, and all entities in existence -- including humans -- are extensions of this energy. Yoga is the vehicle that unites the practitioner (male = Yogi, female = Yogini) with this cosmic energy. The task of the Yogi, then, is two-fold: (1) to discard the "erroneous" notion that each person is a unique being distinct from the rest of creation, and (2) to "become one" with this cosmic energy or so-called higher reality.

Professed Christians should already be noting that the aforementioned worldview is foreign to -- even diametrically opposed to -- their own. So the very defining context of Yoga is a radical departure from the Christian perception of reality, whereby the believer in Christ must rightfully acknowledge that (a) he is, in fact, a unique creation of God, (b) neither man nor the created universe is divine, and (c) the goal of this life is to grow in one's relationship with a personal, loving, divine Creator who, though eternally distinct from what He has created, calls us into fellowship with Him. The discrepancy between these two worldviews cannot be overstated.

But Can't I Just Gain the Physical Benefits From Yoga Without the Religious Aspects?
I submit that this question is misleading and betrays some ignorance on the part of the person asking it. It's misleading because it presupposes that a dichotomy can be made between the physical postures of Yoga and its underlying spirituality; it betrays ignorance because the Christian practitioner who asks it, in all likelihood, has not done research on Yoga before undertaking it. If he had, he would have realized that Yoga is by its very nature a Hindu religious practice.

To suggest that one can derive solely physical benefits from Yoga without being affected -- in some way -- by its inherently spiritual foundation is to miss the mark. Yoga is not primarily about limbering up the body; it is about using physical means to achieve a spiritual end. So the question of separating the physical from the spiritual in Yoga is really a contradiction in terms. In fact, if one consults the massive amount of Yoga material available, it becomes patently clear that any physical benefits are secondary considerations. Yoga is consistently presented as being primarily about actualizing one's spiritual potential, attaining "freedom," transcending the ego, and the like.

Perhaps by analogy a Catholic may ask if it's possible to receive the Eucharist and not be participating in something religious. Or think of it another way. If an atheist takes and consumes a consecrated Host, could we validly maintain that has he not received the Body of Christ because he doesn't believe that that's what it is? Could we assert that he has merely "gone through the physical motions" of receiving but has not engaged in a spiritual activity? Technically speaking, the Eucharist has a spiritual reality independent of the receiver's beliefs, and I propose that the same is true for Yoga. Just as the Real Presence is contained within a consecrated Host whether or not someone believes it, so also does Yoga have a spiritual component that is real, whether or not it is the specific pursuit of the practitioner.

"But hold on," you say. "I've been practicing Yoga for some time now, and as a result I've become more peaceful and it has had a positive effect on my physical well-being. And it certainly hasn't turned me away from my Catholic faith." Well again, I cannot deny that people do experience physical consequences from Yoga, but I suspect that Yoga's spiritual effects may be more subtle and therefore more elusive to identify. Keep in mind that humans are embodied spirits, so when we engage in a spiritual activity it naturally ought to produce some kind of result.

The issue then becomes a matter of what type of spiritual impact Yoga may have on Christians who practice it and whether or not beneficial bodily results mean that one is still spiritually "okay." Increased bodily flexibility or heightened mental peacefulness really says nothing about the objective state of one's soul, so the ultimate barometer of any spiritual practice from a Christian point of view is: Is this endeavor leading me to a deeper union with Christ? Considering Yoga's express purpose, it is extremely difficult to answer this question in the affirmative.

Does the Catholic Church Formally Have Anything to Say About Yoga?
Yes. In a 1989 Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on Some Aspects of Christian Meditation (hereafter Aspects), the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith focused on various Eastern spiritual practices and the legitimacy of their inclusion into the spiritual lives of Christians. In a footnote contained in Number 2, Aspects specifically states that "The expression 'eastern methods' is used to refer to methods which are inspired by Hinduism and Buddhism, such as Zen, Transcendental Meditation or Yoga." So the Magisterium clearly has Yoga in mind when addressing the issue of Christians using Eastern spiritual practices.

While this document does not expressly condemn Yoga, it repeatedly advises caution about using spiritual, meditative, or mystical practices that are devoid of a distinctly Christian context. For example, Number 12 states: "proposals to harmonize Christian meditation with eastern techniques need to have their contents and methods ever subjected to a thorough-going examination so as to avoid the danger of falling into syncretism." It also affirms that bodily considerations (such as Yoga's postures, for instance) can indeed impact us spiritually: "Human experience shows that the 'position and demeanor of the body' also have their influence on the recollection and dispositions of the spirit. This is a fact to which some eastern and western Christian spiritual writers have directed their attention" (#26).

Most noteworthy of all the document's observations is the rather stark one that mental and physical euphoria -- such as that which might result from practicing Yoga -- are not always what they seem to be: "Some physical exercises automatically produce a feeling of quiet and relaxation, pleasing sensations, perhaps even phenomena of light and of warmth, which resemble spiritual well-being. To take such feelings for the authentic consolations of the Holy Spirit would be a totally erroneous way of conceiving the spiritual life. Giving them a symbolic significance typical of the mystical experience, when the moral condition of the person concerned does not correspond to such an experience, would represent a kind of mental schizophrenia which could also lead to psychic disturbance and, at times, to moral deviations" (#28). More will be said about this "psychic disturbance" later.

In 2003 the Catholic Church's Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue released a document entitled Jesus Christ: The Bearer of the Water of Life (hereafter Bearer). While the focus of this document is the New Age movement, we again find the subject of Yoga included: "Some of the traditions which flow into New Age are: ancient Egyptian occult practices, Cabbalism, early Christian Gnosticism, Sufism, the lore of the Druids, Celtic Christianity, mediaeval alchemy, Renaissance hermeticism, Zen Buddhism, Yoga and so on" (#2.1).

Like Aspects that preceded it, Bearer advises definite caution about the use of non-Christian practices, but it goes one step further by calling into doubt the very context from which something like Yoga precedes: "It would be unwise and untrue to say that everything connected with the New Age movement is good, or that everything about it is bad. Nevertheless, given the underlying vision of New Age religiosity, it is on the whole difficult to reconcile it with Christian doctrine and spirituality" (#2).

This "underlying vision" bears a striking resemblance to the Hindu worldview, and many terms and concepts employed within the New Age movement convey essentially the same reality as the goal of Yoga: an altered state of consciousness that is a means to a transcendent, spiritual experience. The problem is that such a context is wholly foreign to a Christian understanding of the nature and purpose of prayer, meditation, and mystical experience. Moreover, the very notion of humans merging with a divine cosmic consciousness contradicts what the Church says about a bona fide Christian mystical experience: "In order to draw near to that mystery of union with God, which the Greek Fathers called the 'divinization' of man, and to grasp accurately the manner in which this is realized, it is necessary in the first place to bear in mind that man is essentially a creature, and remains such for eternity, so that an absorbing of the human self into the divine self is never possible, not even in the highest sta tes of grace" (Aspects #14; emphasis added).

For those Christians who wish, perhaps, to use Yoga's meditative techniques as a preparation for or an aid to prayer, we ought to be mindful of the true nature of all spiritual activity: "Christian prayer is always determined by the structure of the Christian faith, in which the very truth of God and creature shines forth. For this reason, it is defined, properly speaking, as a personal, intimate and profound dialogue between man and God. It expresses therefore the communion of redeemed creatures with the intimate life of the Persons of the Trinity" (Aspects, #3; emphasis added). We also must be mindful of the fundamental difference between Christian and Hindu or Eastern mystical experiences: "For Christians, the spiritual life is a relationship with God which gradually through his grace becomes deeper, and in the process also sheds light on our relationship with our fellow men and women, and with the universe. Spirituality in New Age terms means experiencing states of consciousness dominated by a sense of harmony and fusion with the Whole. [Such] 'mysticism' refers not to meeting the transcendent God in the fullness of love, but to the experience engendered by turning in on oneself, an exhilarating sense of being at one with the universe, a sense of letting one's individuality sink into the great ocean of Being" (Bearer, #3.4).

Are there any other dangers associated with Yoga?
Yes. Recall that Aspects stated “psychic disturbances” could result from a discrepancy between a mystical experience and the state of the person’s soul. In other words, a person who is experiencing actual mystical phenomena but who is not deeply grounded in Christ may find himself dealing with some serious spiritual anomalies. It should not surprise us, then, to discover that psychic phenomena are part and parcel of Yoga’s “benefits.” For example, Rammurti S. Mishra (cited above) claims that through Yoga a person can “. . . acquire the power of seeing and knowing without the help of other senses. . .”, “. . . know past events and future incidents . . . ”, “. . . open the third eye in you, which is called . . . [the] ‘divine eye’”, expect to experience auras and astral bodies which “ . . . are coming to serve him [the Yogi]”, and obtain the powers of clairaudience and clairvoyance. One only has to browse the pages of the Old Testament to see that such abilities are really occult powers and are condemned by God in the most unequivocal and forceful terms (cf. Lev. 19:26, 31; Deut. 18:9-14; 2 Kgs. 17:13-15, 17-18; 2 Chr. 33:1-2, 6).

Of the four authors cited above, Mishra is certainly not alone in claiming that Yoga can either develop a person’s psychic abilities or subject him to psychic phenomena. Devi recounts the story of a woman recovering from cancer who used some Yoga techniques she learned from the author as part of her therapy: “‘I do my imagery every day like you told me to. It is usually nice, but last night when I was doing it, something happened. Instead of me just imagining the picture of the Lord Jesus [as a focus for meditation], he really appeared and then turned into pure white light. I could feel the light enter my body right there.’ (She pointed to the third eye center, between her eyebrows.)” (p. 47, italics and parentheses in original).

Feuerstein and Bodian note that experiences made possible through Yoga include “. . . lucid dreaming, out-of-body states, clairvoyance, and other psychic abilities, as well as ecstasies, mystical states and, at the apex of them all, enlightenment.” They go on to assert that “Yoga is at home with all these mental states and mind-transcending realizations” (pp. 4-5).

Silva, Mira and Shyam Mehta, in Yoga: The Iyengar Way (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1997) tell us: “The heightened states of consciousness [in Yoga] . . . result in spiritual wisdom.  They also bring various supernormal attainments (siddhis), according to the object of meditation. Some are within the range of human experience,such as clairvoyance, clairaudience, and the ability to read minds” (p. 170).

Given these candid admissions by Yoga masters that the development of psychic abilities is a virtually unavoidable result of practicing Yoga — in fact, it is the very goal — the believing Christian is left with a serious moral and spiritual dilemma:  should he pursue an activity whose ultimate goal is to cultivate “powers” that God expressly condemns?  There’s no avoiding the fact that Yoga can and does foster these abilities, and there’s no avoiding the fact that God tells us they are spiritually harmful to His children.

Yoga is inextricably grounded in a philosophy and a religious worldview that are substantially contrary to the Christian faith. Its express purpose is the achievement of altered states of consciousness that lead to spiritual "enlightenment." Perhaps the latent danger in Christians using Yoga is best summed up in an honest admission by Feuerstein and Bodian: "Admittedly, many aspects of yoga have a Hindu flavor, such as the Sanskrit mantras (sacred sounds) that practitioners may recite aloud or repeat mentally, or the ideas of moral retribution (karma) and reincarnation.... People of any religious or spiritual persuasion, as well as open-minded agnostics, can practice yoga with great benefit. Ultimately, however, they tend to have the kinds of yogic experiences that cause them at least to entertain, if not adopt, the theories offered by the yoga tradition" (emphasis added). Oh? And I thought Yoga was merely about physical exercise.


YOGA - Not a Catholic Meditation Technique

Written by Marta 2003 in Leap of Faith

This Catholic apologetic paper has been written in answer to the following email message:
Peace be with you! I am a high school youth minister at a Catholic church. Recently a debate has arisen among members of our parish staff about Yoga. The basic debate is thus: is it possible to separate the movements and positions of yoga from the spirituality? Several members of our staff do yoga at the church once a week and they claim that it's just exercise -- totally separate from any sort of religious ties.

I'd be interested in reading your treatise and hearing the results of your research in this area. Thanks! In Christ, Janet 1

The question is complex and not easy to answer. There are many components to the question: What is yoga? Why is it so popular in today's society? Why is it finding disciples among our Catholic faithful? Is it Catholic? Is it just an exercise? Is it right for the Catholic faithful to practice yoga?

The concept of alternative health treatments and the freedom of relating to people of other religions, have led some Catholic faithful into areas of individual exploration. Yoga is popular today, among Catholics and the general population. I have a Catholic friend, Ana 2, who years ago started practicing yoga, and today believes that God is energy, that we are all part of God, that there is no devil, that there is no hell, and that there is reincarnation. I wonder, if what happened to Ana could happen to Janet?

What are we doing when we do yoga? The urgency of answering Janet is compounded by the responsibility I feel as a Christian not to be prejudiced and to look at situations and people through the eyes of Christ. I do not want to sound judgmental or closed minded. I recall Romans 1:25, "They exchanged the truth of God for a lie and revered and worshiped the creature rather than the creator..."

Yoga originated as one of the systems of orthodox Hindu philosophy. In Samskrit it means "union" and it seeks the union of the individual with the divine by means of exercise, breathing, posture, diet and meditation. The effects of yoga are similar to hypnosis. Have you ever seen a magician hypnotize someone and make them act out at their command without the person being conscious of their action? In being hypnotized by the magician, the individual is giving up his or her free will and conscious control. When the individual goes into a trance brought about by yoga, who or what is in control? The person is giving away its mind to something. If a person was compared to an airplane, it has just given away the controls of the plane to another person or entity. What is that something to which the free will of the individual is surrendered? It is not God as we Christians know it. The person may never know. One is dealing with the occult powers of the mind. Our mind is the "pilot" at the "control" of our will. When we let go, who is doing the "piloting"?

What are we doing? We are experimenting with an unknown. Hypnosis is an area not completely understood. When we empty ourselves of every human desire and search into the "depth" of our souls.., what are we looking for? I fear the loss of a soul to pagan practices, because Colossians says, "See to it that no one captivate you with an empty, seductive philosophy according to human tradition, according to the elemental powers of the world and not according to Christ." 3

Yoga in our American culture is marketed as a way to exercise the body and mind by relaxing and toning the muscles. It is fashionable. It is up to the individual to make it happen. You do not need community. It is offered in churches, in Country Clubs, at work, sometimes it is even covered by insurance as an alternative medical treatment. In the Church's bazaar in my parish, gifts certificate to yoga classes in the Dharma Institute 4 were auctioned. We are practicing techniques devoid of Christianity thinking that we are "just" exercising. How did it happen? Western Christianity has brought humanity to the point of development that it is today. Yoga and Eastern philosophy sinks the human soul into hopelessness, neglecting the world we live in and sinking the human mind into unknown territories. The product of the Eastern culture can be seen in the countries where it has been practiced for centuries. The picture is one of poverty and sorrow. Eastern yoga places the responsibility of salvation on the individual disregarding Jesus sacrifices for us.

We have been misled by yoga exercises to believe that the physiological feelings brought about by our own actions are of a spiritual nature. In "Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on Some Aspects of Christian Meditation," is stated:

Some physical exercises automatically produce a feeling of quiet and relaxation, pleasing sensations, perhaps even phenomena of light and of warmth, which resemble spiritual well-being. To take such feelings for the authentic consolations of the Holy Spirit would be a totally erroneous way of conceiving the spiritual life. Giving them a symbolic significance typical of the mystical experience, when the moral condition of the person concerned does not correspond to such an experience, would represent a kind of mental schizophrenia which could also lead to psychic disturbance and, at times, to moral deviations. 5
The Christians who want to justify yoga as compatible with Christianity may quote Saint Paul, "In him we live and move and have our being."6 They also may quote Jesus saying, "The Father and I are one."7 They proceed to say that Jesus was a Yogi, an enlightened one, a person in union with God. In yoga the ultimate goal is to be one with god, but the god they define is not the God we know. Yoga is a pseudoscience, defining God as an energy that permeates everything, and we are all part of that energy. The way it attracts Americans to its ritual and exercises is talking in terms attractive to our culture. It promises physical health and mental health, muscle tone, spiritual enrichment but the methodology is one of the Hindu religion.

Yoga is not a Christian practice and can lead individuals away from the Catholic Church first and then away from Christ. In today's society there is no generic religion, but yoga could be said to be one. It describes itself like a way to be in harmony with one's own body. Its marketing techniques convey the idea that it is a way of reducing stress and improving the mental well being of an individual. Where is the error? Yoga is a religious practice that will lead Christians astray. It yokes the individual to self-search into the psychic powers of the mind.

It is a practice without the divine revelation of Christ trying to make sense of the world and what it is all about. We are in need of a Savior. Without Christ we cannot work our own salvation. Through Christ alone there is salvation. "The theory of the limited, incomplete, or imperfect character of the revelation of Jesus Christ, which would be complementary to that found in other religions, is contrary to the Church's faith." 8

The "God" that yoga talks about is an energy. If you are able to tap into that "energy" you will be like "God." You will be enlightened which is what the Hindus believe Christ to be. The God we worship as Christians is a personable9 God, a Triune God. We are the creature, He is the Creator.

How can a Catholic be lead into yoga thinking it is a spiritual rich method? By thinking of the inner "God" which yoga is trying to approach as the Holy Spirit. That is not what yoga is talking about. The misunderstanding of what yoga is, promotes the practice of yoga among the Catholic population. Well meaning Catholics are introduced to elements of Gnosticism which the Early Fathers fought to erradicate. In this case "ignorance is hazardous to the faith." The solution to the problem is to learn what Christ's message of salvation is all about. God is the creator. We are His creation redeemed by Jesus Christ.

There is a need to remember that "Man's nature calls him to seek the truth while ignorance keeps him in a condition of servitude."10 "Indeed, the whole Church, as the 'salt of the earth' and 'the light of the world' (cf. Mt 5:13 f.), must bear witness to the truth of Christ which sets us free."11

My friend Ana wandered away from Christianity practicing yoga. I realized that, when she told me that she believed in Jesus like a prophet, but like any other prophet; and in her home, next to the picture of Jesus, I saw the picture of Paramhansa Yogananda.12 To her the yogi and Jesus were at the same level as persons in union with God. But, "What was God to her?" I asked, and Ana told me that we are all god. How can a Catholic like her, wander away from the faith and be so deceived? The concept of yoga practiced by Ana was an exercise that searched union with the Infinite. In words from the Autobiography of a Yogi: 13

Kriya Yoga is a simple, psychophysiological method by which the human blood is decarbonated and recharged with oxygen. The atoms of this extra oxygen are transmuted into life current to rejuvenate the brain and spinal centers. By stopping the accumulation of venous blood, the yogi is able to lessen or prevent the decay of tissues. The advanced yogi transmutes his cells into pure energy. Elijah, Jesus, Kabir, and other prophets were past masters in the use of Kriya or a similar technique, by which they caused their bodies to dematerialize at will. 14
The above quote from the book by Paramhansa Yogananda,15 equates our Lord Jesus Christ to the prophet Elijah, and echoes what Ana said about who Christ was. The statement sounds scientific without scientific basis. What is wrong with the picture?

The Hindu religion from which Yoga originates is a pluralistic religion and it believes in many deities. To them, any religion is okay. Religion is viewed as a way to God.

The Catholic Faith is not a pluralistic religion. In Dominus Jesus 16 we read, "The Church's constant missionary proclamation is endangered today by relativistic theories which seek to justify religious pluralism, not only de facto but also de iure (or in principle)." The secular expression, "I'm okay. You're okay," is not a Christian concept. Our God is a jealous God as Exodus 34:14 says, "You shall not worship any other god, for the LORD is 'the Jealous One'; a jealous God is he."

The American culture sometimes judges religion only as a social function. The standard idea in the American society is that as long as you believe in something you are okay. Any religion is fine as long as it believes in God. You have to be open minded enough to keep religion to yourself, "after all it is a private matter - You and God and that is it!" That sounds like the Greco-Roman culture. Have we forgotten why the Christians were persecuted by the Romans? They were persecuted because they would not worship other gods and condemned the worship of other gods. The Greco-Roman culture condoned pluralism in their religious fervor. Christians did not and do not. Catholics have fought and died to preserve the Christian faith for two thousand years. Are we diluting the truth with unwanted pollution? Was the blood of the early martyrs shed in vain?

Ecumenism has been interpreted at times as the freedom to experience any faith and culture. After all, some Catholics may say, the Second Vatican Council encouraged dialogue among different religions. That is true as we read in the "Declaration on the Relation of the Church to Non-Christian Religions":17

"The Catholic Church rejects nothing that is true and holy in these religions. She regards with sincere reverence those ways of conduct and of life, those precepts and teachings which, though differing in many aspects from the ones she holds and sets forth, nonetheless often reflect a ray of that Truth which enlightens all men." 18
The above quote taken out of context seems to reaffirm that any religion outside of Christ has some part of the truth. What the statement really says is that these religions may have an incomplete part of the truth. This is clarified if we read the statements that follow: "Indeed, she proclaims and ever must proclaim Christ 'the way, the truth and the life' (Jn 14:6), in whom men may find the fullness of religious life, in whom God has reconciled all things to himself (cf. 2 Cor 5:18-19)." 19

The Catholic Church encourages us to establish dialogue with other religions, and to foster peaceful coexistence among all, but it does not say that the Catholic Church is equal to other religions. The Declaration Dominus Jesus 20 reaffirms that the Church is necessary for salvation. In life we are not in the market for the truth. We already found it. The truth of Christ is revealed in His Church: The Catholic Church.

As we study the history of the Western civilization, we learn that Christianity has brought humanity to the point of development that it is today. Yoga and Eastern philosophy sink the human soul into hopelessness, neglecting the world around and dismiss it as an "illusion." The product of the Eastern culture can be seen in the countries where it has been practiced for centuries. The picture is one of poverty and sorrow. Eastern philosophy practiced in yoga places the responsibility of salvation on the individual disregarding Jesus sacrifices for us.

The marketing technique used to promote yoga may sound scientific, but there is no basis in science for what is stated. Yoga is not a science, but a pseudo-science. 21 In today's society, the danger of yoga is that it can mislead innocent Christians to believe that it is an alternative way to getting healthier and obtaining relaxation in this busy world. The reality is that yoga is the initiation of an Eastern religion that does not believe in Christ as the savior of the world. A religion based on man's way of trying to explain God through human understanding alone. It makes the sacrifice of Christ worthless. It ignores the reality of Jesus Christ when He says: "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me."22

In today's health issues, we can see how hypnosis can use the mind to manipulate body rhythms and lead people in ways that are not usually possible. In 1957, Pius XII describes hypnosis, "Here a lowering of conciousness is intended to be brought about that the higher faculties might thereby be dulled in such a way as to paralyze the psychic control mechanism which men constantly use for self-mastery and self direction..." 23

Yoga exercises are geared toward detaching the mind from "reality." We do it to ourselves. We need to protect our ways and practices. The mind can be disturbed by tampering with it. In yoga, we are dealing with the mind. Our body and soul are so closely knitted that it is hard to separate them. Our human body is made-up like one of body, mind and spirit. The body is similar to my computer hardware; the mind is the program that runs it; and the spirit or soul is the hand that guides it. When you tamper with the body you affect the way the mind may see things and impair the spirit to guide it. Can we separate yoga exercises from the spiritual make up of yoga? Can we alienate the action from what is intended to do? Let us look at it from a Catholic point of view.

When talking to someone in the Hindu religion, who practices yoga, it is easy to conclude that they are trying to obtain salvation by their own efforts outside of Christ. They see Christ as a good person, an enlighten one, even a good prophet but that is it. The Hindu belief from which Yoga originated believes in reincarnation and predestination. It lessens the value of life. To put it simply, it makes life a recyclable commodity. In reincarnation, if your life doesn't work this time, there will be another chance in another life. There is no sin. There is no devil. According to yoga, God is an energy. It interpretes humanity without the divine revelation of Christ.

I heard Bishop Vasquez of the Diocese of Galveston-Houston describing a Catholic and saying that being Catholic is being in community. We are in community when we remain in the Church. Even monks and mystics, who yogis like to compare themselves to, lived in communities. St. Theresa of Avila 24 in her life time rejected "certain methods" which did not take into consideration the humanity of Jesus and were tempting her to submerse into the abyss of the divinity. We are to worship God with our free will, not giving up our free will. We align our will to God's will, but we never lose our identity. If we were to seek unity with God, like a yogi aspires to do, we would be looking for equality with God, something that not even Jesus looked for on this earth.25 Our attitude in our every day lives should be as Philipians 2:5-8 describes it:

"Have among yourselves the same attitude that is also yours in Christ Jesus,  Who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross.
If you search for "yoga" in the Vatican site 26 nothing turns up. Yoga is so foreign to the Catholic faith that there are no specific documents to address the issue. In reference to Hinduism, the Catholic Church has adopted a spirit of reconciliation with it  and with different religions through out the world. Annually, it gathers leaders of different religions from around the world to pray for world peace. In the Declaration on the Relation of the Church to Non-Christian Religions, in 1965 27, it acknowledges that Hinduism leads men to contemplate the divine mystery "through an inexhaustible abundance of myths and through searching philosophical inquiry." They do that searching for freedom from the human condition through ascetical practices or profound meditation. Nostra Aetate 28 also affirms the knowledge that:
"The Catholic Church rejects nothing that is true and holy in these religions. She regards with sincere reverence those ways of conduct and of life, those precepts and teachings which, though differing in many aspects from the ones she holds and sets forth, nonetheless often reflect a ray of that Truth which enlightens all men. Indeed, she proclaims, and ever must proclaim Christ "the way, the truth, and the life" (John 14:6), in whom men may find the fullness of religious life, in whom God has reconciled all things to Himself." 29
Without the horizon of God, searching within by the use of yoga, a human being can get lost. With limited mental resources searching for the divine outside of Christ is dementia. It is a sin, because it is sinful to disregard the wondrous sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross to try to reach salvation, health and redemption outside of Christ. With Christ's word ever present, we will know the truth, and the truth will set us free.30

Yoga is the taste of the "tree of knowledge."31 It promises health and peace to the troubled soul and the only thing that it asks in return is total abandonment of one's free will to something or someone that is quoted as universal energy. Yoga is non-Christian practice.

We need to be aware of the danger of yoking ourselves with pagan practices. As Paul says in 2 Cor 6:14: "Do not be yoked with those who are different, with unbelievers. For what partnership do righteousness and lawlessness have? Or what fellowship does light have with darkness?"

Humans are hungry for a closer relationship with God, but we have to remember that a relationship has to be nurtured and is not a "drive-through lane service" on which we decided what to get and when to get it. In the department of mystical experiences, God is in control, time and the place at His own choosing. "It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name he may give you."32

To grow in our spirituality we cannot trust every experience as from God. We need to remember 1 John 4:1-3:

"Beloved, do not trust every spirit but test the spirits to see whether they belong to God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. This is how you can know the Spirit of God: every spirit that acknowledges Jesus Christ come in the flesh be longs to God, and every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus does not belong to God. This is the spirit of the antichrist that, as you heard, is to come, but in fact is already in the world."33
As the baby-boomers begin to age, they search for new ways to health and inner peace. Ponce de Leon embarqued in the same search when he came to Florida in 1513 searching for the Fountain of Youth. He did not find it, as the people who are looking for a "new way" in yoga will not find it either. When we wander away from our Catholic faith and begin experimenting with other religions searching for false promises, we are acting against the law of God as St. Augustine said "Love of self to the point of contempt for God."34 Good and evil, good and sin are no longer discernable because everything goes.

It is not possible to separate the movements and positions of yoga from its spirituality. We cannot separate the yoga exercise from the yoga beliefs. They go hand in hand. Just ask a yoga instructor where does it all lead to. They will tell you that yoga is just the beginning of a journey to "revitalizes and nourishes the mind, body, and spirit." 35

You can defend yourself against temptation if you know it is a temptation. You can stop yourself from sinning if you know that it is a sin. The danger of yoga it is that it seems harmless and it is not. It seems different, mysterious in many ways. It reminds me that the occult has always existed and the realm of the kingdom of the evil one is real on this earth. My experience is that once in yoga the self-sufficiency of the individual kicks in, and the individual creates its own way of finding "God" and ends up walking away from the Church and the sacraments. We need to know what we are getting into and it is not from the Triune God.

On a television program the other night, I heard a reporter say that "what made the attack on Pearl Harbor a total Japanese success was that the Japanese managed to keep it a total secret." What is making yoga a success in the American culture, it is that it has kept the secret that is a religion and leads its followers to believe that it is alternative health practice. It is attacking the Christian beliefs and the Christian churches do not even know it.

I will say about those who are introducing yoga to the Catholic faithful the same that Paul said about the prophets in the region of Achaia: "For such people are false apostles, deceitful workers, who masquerade as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for even Satan masquerades as an angel of light."36

The reality of God's love for us is such that we never loose our own identity. God wants us to love Him but He respects our identity and in heaven we will have our identity. When we die, we will not blend into the essence of God. We will not become God. We will remain as individuals to worship God eternally and we will experience a joy that no human feeling can compare to. If we are able to give over to God all that we are and all that we have, our physical and spiritual well being will improve. The secret of happiness and peace is to say like Mother Theresa of Calcutta: "I am nothing but a pencil in God's hand" and leave everything to the Lord.

What can take the place of yoga? I think there are many alternatives. The one I would place at the top of the list is to go to daily Mass and to pray, talking to God as a friend. Walk for fifteen minutes each day while praying the rosary and then sit quietly thinking of the mysteries of our faith, giving thanks to God for every one of them. Instead of turning off your inner light of faith, shine the light of Christ to others. Make your life one of helping others, of showing genuine interest for the lives of your family members, of your friends, of your community. Make your life one of service. Begin by relating better to your loved ones. Call your husband and your children once a day and pray with them. Live each day as it was your last in love and service of Christ.

Mystical experiences are a gift from God which God initiates. In the Bible the vertical experiences with God gave great spiritual fruit for the community, for example Abraham and Moses. The encounter of Abraham and God which God initiated made possible a covenant between God and His people. 37 The encounter of Moses with God in the burning bush with God initiated compelled Moses to lead the Jews out of slavery in Egypt. God gave Moses the Ten Commandments 38 A true experience of God in Christ Jesus is shown by its fruit. If the Spirit is poured upon a soul the fruits of the Spirit will show through the actions of the individual.

In the Eastern religions and exercises, the body is the instrument by which we escape from the distractions of the outer world, seeking God within ourselves. Can we by technique or exercise achieve mystical experiences? No. God cannot be commanded to act. Your body can be commanded to act but only God or your free will can command your soul.

We are part of a greater picture. We can share our gifts. We are part of a reality not an illusion. In that reality of life, Christ has given us the Church and the sacraments but we cannot command the Lord to act upon our command. To desire or try to be like God is a sin against the first commandment. We, Catholics, believe that there is One Truth, Jesus Christ, and the best document to clarify that statement was written by the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith: "Declaration 'Dominus Iesus' on the Unicity and Salvific Universality of Jesus Christ and the Church." 39 Its content stands in defense of Jesus Christ which yoga is in direct oppossition to.

In summary, answering Janet's question: When we talk about separating the exercise of yoga from its spirituality, one thing comes to mind, can we separate the intent and the instrument of an action? For example, the gun from the person who pulled the trigger? The exercises of yoga are designed to detach the mind from the concentration of its surroundings. If you give away your alliance to Christ for the sake of your body is it worth it? I do not think so.

"May the God of peace himself make you perfectly holy and may you entirely, spirit, soul, and body, be preserved blameless forthe coming of our Lord Jesus Christ."40


Carrera, Archbishop Norberto Rivera. "A Call to Vigilance -Pastoral Instruction on New Age" Mexico City, Mexico. January 7, 1996. in the August/September 1996 Issue of Catholic International.
Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, "Declaration 'Dominus Iesus' on the Unicity and Salvific Universality of Jesus Christ and the Church." The Vatican Sept. 2000.
Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, "Instruction on the Ecclesial Vocation of the Theologian." The Vatican . May 24, 1990
Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, "Letter for the Bishops of the Catholic Church on Some Aspects of Christian Meditation" The Vatican October 15, 1989.
Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, "Notification Concerning the Writings of Fr. Anthony DeMello, S.J." Vatican Information Service, August 22, 1998.
Dreher, Rev. John D. "The Danger of Centering Prayer."
Gessy, Rev. Lawrence J. "The Basic Conflicts between Mahrishi and Christianity." Today's Destructive Cults and Movements, Our Sunday Visitor:Huntington, IN.
Gormley, William J., C.M., S.T.L. Medical Hypnosis, Historical Introduction to Its Morality in the Light of Papal, Theological and Medical Teaching - A Dissertation. The Catholic University of America Press:Washington, D.C. (1961)
Hardon, Fr. John A. S.J. "Why is Yoga incompatible with Catholicism? - Ask Father Hardon" The Catholic Faith 4, no. 2. Ignatius Press: San Francisco, CA. (March/April 1998) Notra Aetate - Vatican II's Declaration on the Relation of the Church to Non-Christian Religions The Vatican (1965). St. Augustine, De Civitate Dei The New American Bible at Tweed, Thomas A. and Prothero, Stephen A. Asian Religions in America: A Documentary
History, Oxford University Press, 1999.

1 Janet is not her real name.
2 Ana is not her real name.
3 Col 2:8
4 THE DHARMA CENTER, 13817 Southwest Freeway, Sugar Land, TX 77478 - It offers yoga, t'ai chi, pilates, massage therapy, healing touch, aromatherapy, etc.
5 'Letter for the Bishops of the Catholic Church on Some Aspects of Christian Meditation' by the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith. October 15, 1989.
6 Acts 17:28
7 John 10:30
8 "Declaration 'Dominus Iesus' on the Unicity and Salvific Universality of Jesus Christ and the Church." Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Vatican. September 2000. #6 9 Cf. Dreher, Rev. John D. 'The Danger of Centering Prayer.' From
10 Instruction on the Ecclesial Vocation of the Theologian.' Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Vatican. May 24, 1990.
11 Ibid.
12 Yogananda, Paramhansa. Autobiography of a Yogi. Paramhansa Yogananda. First Edition 1946.
13 Ibid.
14 Ibid.
15 Ibid.
16 The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith made public the "Declaration 'Dominus Iesus' on the Unicity and Salvific Universality of Jesus Christ and the Church" on September 2000. It is available at the Vatican site -
17 Notra Aetate - Vatican II's Declaration on the Relation of the Church to Non-Christian Religions (1965), #2.
18 From Notra Aetate: "Religions... that are bound up with an advanced culture have struggled to answer the same questions by means of more refined concepts and a more developed language. Thus, in Hinduism men contemplate the divine mystery and express it through an inexhaustible abundance of myths and through searching philosophical inquiry. They seek freedom from the anguish of our human condition either through ascetical practices or profound meditation or a flight to God with love and trust. Again, Buddhism in its various forms realizes the radical insufficiency of this changeable world; it teaches a way by which men in a devout and confident spirit may be able either to acquire the state of perfect liberation, or attain by their own efforts or through higher help, supreme illumination. Likewise, other religions found everywhere try to counter the restlessness of the human heart, each in its own manner, by proposing "ways," comprising teachings, rules of life and sacred rites.' "The Catholic Church rejects nothing that is true and holy in these religions. She regards with sincere reverence those ways of conduct and of life, those precepts and teachings which, though differing in many aspects from the ones she holds and sets forth, nonetheless often reflect a ray of that Truth which enlightens all men. Indeed, she proclaims and ever must proclaim Christ "the way, the truth, and the life" (Jn 14:6), in whom men may find the fullness of religious life, in whom God has reconciled all things to himself (cf. 2 Cor 5:18-19).'
19 Notra Aetate - Vatican II's Declaration on the Relation of the Church to Non-Christian Religions (1965), #2.
20 Refer to footnote #17.
21 False science.
22 John 14:6
23 Gormley, William J., C.M., S.T.L. Medical Hypnosis, Historical Introduction to Its Morality in the Light of Papal, Theological and Medical Teaching - A Dissertation. The Catholic University of America Press, Washington, D.C. (1961) pp 126.
24 From the Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church 'On Some Aspects of Christian Meditation' by the Congregation of Faith - October 15, 1989. Footnote #12. Pope John Paul II has pointed out to the whole Church the example and the doctrine of St. Teresa of Avila who in her life had to reject the temptation of certain methods which proposed a leaving aside of the humanity of Christ in favor of a vague self-immersion in the abyss of the divinity. In a homily given on November 1, 1982, he said that the call of Teresa of Jesus advocating a prayer completely centered on Christ "is valid, even in our day, against some methods of prayer which are not inspired by the Gospel and which in practice tend to set Christ aside in preference for a mental void which makes no sense in Christianity. Any method of prayer is valid insofar as it is inspired by Christ and leads to Christ who is the Way, the Truth and the Life (cf. Jn 14:6)." See: "Homilia Abulae habita in honorem Sanctae Teresiae:" AAS 75 (1983), 256-257.
25 Phil 2:5-8
27 The Declaration on the Relation of the Church to Non-Christian Religions Nostra Aetate, by Pope Paul VI on October 28, 1965.
28 Ibid.
29 Ibid.
30 Cf. John 8:32
31 Cf. Gen 2:9,17.
32 John 15:16
33 1 John 4:1-3
34 St. Augustine, De Civitate Dei, XIV, 28: CCL 48, p. 541.
36 2 Cor 11:13-14
37 [Gen 17:8] I will give to you and to your descendants after you the land in which you are now staying, the whole land of Canaan, as a permanent possession; and I will be their God." [Gen 17:9] God also said to Abraham: "On your part, you and your descendants after you must keep my covenant throughout the ages.
38 [Exo 34:27] Then the LORD said to Moses, "Write down these words, for in accordance with them I have made a covenant with you and with Israel."
[Exo 34:28] So Moses stayed there with the LORD for forty days and forty nights, without eating any food or drinking any water, and he wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant, the ten commandments.
39 Refer to footnote #17.
40 1 Thessalonians 5:23


My Testimony on Yoga and the New Age in General
Name witheld with permission of the author to maintain confidentiality
Argentina, March, 2005

I will tell you quickly the downward journey I took toward the loss of God.

Not being a practising Catholic, and attempting to better myself on the mistaken path, I did everything, always under the appearance of good. Encouraged by my friends I went to a woman who read cards, only out of curiosity. Later I began to read self-help books, a little of metaphysics, New Age writings, etc.

A lover of sports, and tired of the routine, I began, also encouraged by a friend, to do yoga at a well known fraternity. A few months later I left it because they were manipulating the will of the women. I moved to another "more serious"  yoga group. Newly arrived Italian rishis, with masters and all.  There I learnt another type of austere life. I read much on Buddhism, Taoism, other masters, yoga techniques and New Age in general; all appeared to me very stimulating and new.

I met different people and they all seemed to be very pleasant. For more than five years I learned and performed diverse meditations, asanas, vegeterianism, seminars conducted and paid by the guru, fasts, tai-chi... all very interesting for the one who is searching and does not know Jesus. I distanced myself from my family and from the world.

The result. One fine day I woke up levitating above my bed... with a spiritual creature, like an octopus, grabbing my head. With a play of words, I had surrendered my soul. In an attempt to remove that which consumed all my energy, I did what should not be done. I looked for other women who cured or delivered. All of these persons had imges of the Virgin or went to Church, so it was difficult to mistrust them or doubt. They did reiki, bioenerby, cosmic energy and whatever the spiritual market offered as "alternative". If there was a slight improvement it was only momentary. Pollution and more spiritual pollution.  As one cannot see.....

Finally, thanks be to God, I entered the Church. Salvation came firstly in the Legion of Mary and then the Charismatic Prayer Group. I survived the first year thanks to the charismatic retreats in Padre Hurtado, Chile, from month to month. My life has been very difficult since then... but always accompanied and comforted by Jesus and Mary.

I want to share what I saw is behind yoga and by whom it is being used. It produces a great confusion of values, robs the energy and causes total loss of freedom. Christian yoga is a contradiction. Parishes should not conduct practices utilised by the New Age and which lead to arrogance and spiritual pride.

"Asanas" are spiritual exercises invoking other gods... that is idolatry. The mind cannot be made blank during meditation and exercises because it is dangerous. There is a spiritual world we cannot see and that the Bible mentions (Eph. 6:12)

Finally, it is more than 5 years since I am looking for healing, with persecutions, mental and spiritual attacks. I have received a lot of help from priests and a Catholic psychiatrist. There has been a lot of deliverance and much personal and shared prayer. Confessions, prayer of renunciation of all past practices, prayer of renunciation at confession, renouncing the devil and all previous practices, prayer for forgiveness for myself and for all those who harmed me for so long as well. Hours before the Blessed Sacrament, Holy Mass and the Eucharist daily, prayer groups and several rosaries daily.

I want you to know that the devil exists, as well as demonic spirits and people who work for them. Not everything that shines is gold. Jesus in the only one who heals, saves and sets free. He makes all things new. I believe. Jesus, who is God, came and for love of us gave up his life.


Yoga and horoscopes can lead to possession by Devil, claims Cardinal's exorcist
By Simon Caldwell
Catholic News Service

LONDON – Atheism is becoming a key cause of demonic influence in the world, a British exorcist has warned.

Father Jeremy Davies, exorcist of the Archdiocese of Westminster, which covers most of London, said that the “spirits inspiring atheism” were those who “hate God.”
In a new 56-page book called “Exorcism: Understanding Exorcism in Scripture and Practice,” Father Davies wrote that Satan had blinded secular humanists from seeing the “dehumanizing effects of contraception and abortion and IVF (in vitro fertilization), of homosexual ‘marriages,’ of human cloning and the vivisection of human embryos in scientific research.”
The result, he said, was that Europe was drifting into a dangerous state of apostasy whereby “only (through) a genuine personal decision for Christ and the church can someone separate himself from it.”

In the book published by the London-based Catholic Truth Society, he said that sin was the primary reason why people lost their freedom to the power of the devil.
Father Davies also said atheism was largely to blame for entrapping people in states of “perversion.”
The book raised concerns about “some very unpleasant things” that endanger young people especially, and the priest said, “We must do what we can to protect and warn them.”
He called occult practices such as magic, fortunetelling and contacting the spirits of the dead “direct invitations to the devil which he readily accepts.” He said such practices involve the abandonment of self-control, making them as corrupting an influence as hard drugs, demonic music and pornography.
At the same time, Father Davies said the “thin end of the wedge,” such as soft drugs, yoga for relaxation and horoscopes for fun, were just as dangerous.
“Beware of any claim to mediate beneficial energies (e.g. reiki), any courses that promise the peace ... Christ promises (e.g. enneagrams), any alternative therapy with its roots in Eastern religion (e.g. acupuncture),” he added.
“They are not harmless,” said Father Davies, a former medical doctor who was ordained in 1974 and has been an exorcist since 1986. “Sanity depends on our relationship to reality.”
Father Davies also said it was not uncommon for people who later turned away from sinful lifestyles to undergo periods of supernatural oppression as the devil fought them for their souls.

The priest, who is based in the town of Luton, north of London, said that key among the transgressions that have a “special affinity” with Satan was “rebellion against God” – which included the sins of blasphemy, atheism and attacks on Christ and the church – as well as sins against the light, when people resisted God’s grace.

He also warned Catholics to be wary of what he called the “idolatrous demonic side” of Hinduism, Buddhism, Shintoism and the druidism that had its origins in ancient Britain.

The exorcist denounced “new revelations” and criticized Mohammed, founder of Islam; Joseph Smith, founder of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and the Rev. Sun Myung Moon, founder of the Unification Church, now called the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification. He called them “heretical prophets and false messiahs” who led their followers to a “demonic bondage of conscience.”

Father Davies’ strongest condemnation, however, was reserved for the pride of modern atheistic scientists.
“Pride is the specific trait of Satan,” he said. “There are two kinds of Satanism: ‘occultic,’ in which Satan is worshiped as a person; and what is said to be even more terrible and certainly is even more deceived, ‘rationalist,’ in which Satan is regarded as an impersonal force or symbol and the glory belongs to the Satanists.
“How close to rationalist Satanism, without realizing it, is atheistic scientism – the hubris of science going beyond its proper sphere and moral boundaries – the tree of knowledge presently spreading its branches throughout our Western culture, which is rapidly becoming that of the whole world,” he said.
He also said that “a contagious demonic factor” is among the causes of homosexuality.
“Even heterosexual promiscuity is a perversion; and intercourse, which belongs in the sanctuary of married love, can become a pathway not only for disease but also for evil spirits,” he said.

His book also spells out the degrees of demonic influence a person may experience, ranging from temptation and sin to obsession, then possession, with perfect possession being the gravest and rarest form that usually entails a deliberate commitment to evil on the part of the person involved.
The book includes sections on the rites and means of exorcism and deliverance, including those of buildings and places as well as people.

Father Davies told the reader that if a person is in desperate need of help and feels stranded, he or she should go straight to the local bishop.
May 25, 2008



Committee on Doctrine
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

1. From time to time questions have been raised about various alternative therapies that are often  available  in  the  United  States. Bishops  are  sometimes  asked,  "What  is  the  Church's position on such therapies?"  The USCCB Committee on Doctrine has prepared this resource in order to assist bishops in their responses.


2. The Church recognizes two kinds of healing:   healing by divine grace and healing that utilizes  the  powers  of  nature. As  for  the  first,  we  can  point  to  the  ministry  of  Christ,  who performed many physical healings and who commissioned his disciples to carry on that work.  In fidelity to this commission, from the time of the Apostles the Church has interceded on behalf of
the sick through the invocation of the name  of the Lord Jesus, asking for healing through the power  of  the  Holy  Spirit,  whether  in  the  form  of  the  sacramental  laying  on  of  hands  and anointing with oil or of simple prayers for healing, which often include an appeal to the saints for their aid. As for the second, the Church has never considered a plea for divine healing, which comes as a gift from God, to exclude recourse to natural means of healing through the practice of
medicine.1   Alongside her sacrament of healing and various prayers for healing, the Church has a
long history of caring for the sick through the use of natural means.   The most obvious sign of this is the great number of Catholic hospitals that are found throughout our country.

3. The two kinds of healing are not mutually exclusive.  Because it is possible to be healed by divine power does not mean that we should not use natural means at our disposal.   It is not our decision whether or not God will heal someone by supernatural means.  As the Catechism of the  Catholic  Church  points  out,  the  Holy  Spirit  sometimes  gives  to  certain  human  beings  "a special charism of healing so as to make manifest the power of the grace of the risen Lord."2
This power of healing is not at human disposal, however, for "even the most intense prayers do not always obtain the healing of all illnesses."3    Recourse to natural means of healing therefore remains entirely appropriate, as these are at human disposal.  In fact, Christian charity demands that we not neglect natural means of healing people who are ill.


A)  The Origins and Basic Characteristics of Reiki

4. Reiki  is  a  technique  of healing  that  was  invented  in  Japan  in  the  late  1800s  by  Mikao Usui, who was studying Buddhist texts.  According to Reiki teaching, illness is caused by some kind of disruption or imbalance in one's "life energy."   A Reiki practitioner effects healing by placing his or her hands in certain positions on the patient's body in order to facilitate the flow of Reiki, the "universal life energy," from the Reiki practitioner to the patient.  There are numerous designated  hand  positions  for  addressing  different  problems.   Reiki  proponents  assert  that  the practitioner is not the source of the healing energy, but merely a channel for it.   To become a Reiki practitioner, one must receive an "initiation" or "attunement" from a Reiki Master.   This ceremony  makes  one  "attuned"  to  the  "universal  life  energy"  and  enables  one  to  serve  as  a conduit for it.  There are said to be three different levels of attunement (some teach that there are four). At  the  higher  levels,  one  can  allegedly  channel  Reiki  energy  and  effect  healings  at  a distance, without physical contact.

B) Reiki as a Natural Means of Healing

5. Although Reiki proponents seem to agree that Reiki does not represent a religion of its own, but a technique that may be utilized by people from many religious traditions, it does have several  aspects  of  a  religion.   Reiki  is  frequently described  as  a  "spiritual"  kind  of  healing  as opposed  to  the  common  medical  procedures  of  healing  using  physical  means. Much  of  the literature on Reiki is filled with references to God, the Goddess, the "divine healing power," and the  "divine  mind."   The  life  force  energy  is  described  as  being  directed  by  God,  the  "Higher Intelligence,"  or  the  "divine  consciousness." Likewise,  the  various  "attunements"  which  the Reiki practitioner receives from a Reiki Master are accomplished through "sacred ceremonies" that  involve  the  manifestation  and  contemplation  of  certain  "sacred  symbols"  (which  have traditionally been kept secret by Reiki Masters).  Furthermore, Reiki is frequently described as a "way of living," with a list of five "Reiki Precepts" stipulating proper ethical conduct.

6. Nevertheless,  there  are  some  Reiki  practitioners,  primarily  nurses,  who  attempt  to approach  Reiki  simply  as  a  natural  means  of  healing. Viewed  as  natural  means  of  healing, however, Reiki becomes subject to the standards of natural science.  It is true that there may be means of natural healing that have not yet been understood or recognized by science.  The basic criteria for judging whether or not one should entrust oneself to any particular natural means of healing, however, remain those of science.

7. Judged  according  to  these  standards,  Reiki  lacks  scientific  credibility.   It  has  not  been accepted by the scientific and medical communities as an effective therapy.  Reputable scientific studies attesting to the efficacy of Reiki are lacking, as is a plausible scientific explanation as to how it could possibly be efficacious.   The explanation of the efficacy of Reiki depends entirely on  a  particular  view  of  the  world  as  permeated  by  this  "universal  life  energy"  (Reiki)  that  is subject to manipulation by human thought and will.  Reiki practitioners claim that their training allows one to channel the "universal life energy" that is present in all things.  This "universal life energy," however, is unknown to natural science.   As the presence of such energy has not been observed by means of natural science, the justification for these therapies necessarily must come from something other than science.

C) Reiki and the Healing Power of Christ

8. Some  people  have  attempted  to  identify  Reiki  with  the  divine  healing  known  to Christians.6    They are mistaken.  The radical difference can be immediately seen in the fact that for the Reiki practitioner the healing power is at human disposal.   Some teachers want to avoid this implication and argue that it is not the Reiki practitioner personally who effects the healing, but the Reiki energy directed by the divine consciousness.  Nevertheless, the fact remains that for Christians  the  access  to  divine  healing  is  by  prayer  to  Christ  as  Lord  and  Savior,  while  the essence of Reiki is not a prayer but a technique that is passed down from the "Reiki Master" to the pupil, a technique that once mastered will reliably produce the anticipated results.    Some practitioners attempt to Christianize Reiki by adding a prayer to Christ, but this does not affect the essential nature of Reiki.   For these reasons, Reiki and other similar therapeutic techniques cannot be identified with what Christians call healing by divine grace.

9. The difference between what Christians recognize as healing by divine grace and Reiki therapy is also evident in the basic terms used by Reiki proponents to describe what happens in Reiki  therapy,  particularly  that  of  "universal  life  energy." Neither  the  Scriptures  nor  the Christian tradition as a whole speak of the natural world as based on "universal life energy" that is subject to manipulation by the natural human power of thought and will.   In fact, this world- view has its origins in eastern religions and has a certain monist and pantheistic character, in that distinctions  among  self,  world,  and  God  tend  to  fall  away.8     We  have  already  seen that  Reiki practitioners are unable to differentiate clearly between divine healing power and power that is at human disposal.


10. Reiki  therapy  finds  no  support  either  in  the  findings  of  natural  science  or  in  Christian belief.  For a Catholic to believe in Reiki therapy presents insoluble problems.  In terms of caring for  one's  physical  health  or  the  physical  health  of  others,  to  employ  a  technique  that  has  no scientific support (or even plausibility) is generally not prudent.

11. In terms of caring for one's spiritual health, there are important dangers.   To use Reiki one  would  have  to  accept  at  least  in  an  implicit  way  central  elements  of  the  worldview  that undergirds Reiki theory, elements that belong neither  to Christian faith nor to natural science. Without justification either from Christian faith or natural science, however, a Catholic who puts his or her trust in Reiki would be operating in the realm of superstition, the no-man's-land that is neither faith nor science.   Superstition corrupts one's worship of God by turning one's religious feeling and practice in a false direction.10   While sometimes people fall into superstition through ignorance, it is the responsibility of all who teach in the name of the Church to eliminate such ignorance as much as possible.

12. Since  Reiki  therapy  is  not  compatible  with  either  Christian  teaching  or  scientific evidence,  it  would  be  inappropriate  for  Catholic  institutions,  such  as  Catholic  health  care facilities and retreat centers, or persons representing the Church, such as Catholic chaplains, to promote or to provide support for Reiki therapy.

Most Rev. William E. Lori (Chairman) Most Rev. John C. Nienstedt
Bishop of Bridgeport Archbishop of St. Paul and Minneapolis

Most Rev. Leonard P. Blair Most Rev. Arthur J. Serratelli
Bishop of Toledo Bishop of Paterson

Most Rev. José H. Gomez Most Rev. Allen H. Vigneron
Archbishop of San Antonio Bishop of Oakland

Most Rev. Robert J. McManus Most Rev. Donald W. Wuerl
Bishop of Worcester Archbishop of Washington

1  See Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Instruction on Prayers for Healing (14 September 2000), I, 3: "Obviously, recourse to prayer does not exclude, but rather encourages the use of effective natural means for preserving and restoring health, as well as leading the Church's sons and daughters to care for the sick, to assist them in body and spirit, and to seek to cure disease."
2  Catechism, no. 1508.
3  Catechism, no. 1508.
4  It has also been claimed that he merely rediscovered an ancient Tibetan technique, but evidence for this claim is lacking.
5  As we shall see below, however, distinctions between self, world, and God tend to collapse in Reiki thought.
Some Reiki teachers explain that one eventually reaches the realization that the self and the "universal life energy" are one, "that we are universal life force and that everything is energy, including ourselves" (Libby Barnett and Maggie Chambers with Susan Davidson, Reiki Energy Medicine:  Bringing Healing Touch into Home, Hospital, and Hospice [Rochester, Vt.:  Healing Arts Press, 1996], p. 48; see also p. 102).
6  For example, see "Reiki and Christianity" at and "Christian Reiki" at and the website
7  Reiki Masters offer courses of training with various levels of advancement, services for which the teachers require significant financial remuneration.  The pupil has the expectation and the Reiki Master gives the assurance that one's investment of time and money will allow one to master a technique that will predictably produce results.
8  While this seems implicit in Reiki teaching, some proponents state explicitly that there is ultimately no distinction between and the self and Reiki.  "Alignment with your Self and being Reiki is an ongoing process.  Willingness to continuously engage in this process furthers your evolution and can lead to the sustained recognition and ultimate experience that you are universal life force" (The Reiki Healing Connection [Libby Barnett, M.S.W.],, accessed 2/6/2008 [emphasis in original]).  Diane Stein summarizes the meaning of some of the "sacred symbols" used in Reiki attunements as:  "The Goddess in me salutes the Goddess in you"; "Man and God becoming one" (Essential Reiki Teaching Manual:  A Companion Guide for Reiki Healers [Berkeley, Cal.: Crossing Press, 2007], pp. 129-31).  Anne Charlish and Angela Robertshaw explain that the highest Reiki attunement "marks a shift from the ego and self to a feeling of oneness with the universal life-force energy" (Secrets of Reiki [New York, N.Y.:  DK Publishing, 2001], p. 84).
9  Some forms of Reiki teach of a need to appeal for the assistance of angelic beings or "Reiki spirit guides."  This introduces the further danger of exposure to malevolent forces or powers.
10  See Catechism, no. 2111; St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa theologiae II-II, q. 92, a. 1.

The Truth about Yoga...

Yoga Roots Article In New York Times


Published: February 27, 2012

New York:  The wholesome image of yoga took a hit in the past few weeks as a rising star of the discipline came tumbling back to earth.

After accusations of sexual impropriety with female students, John Friend, the founder of Anusara, one of the world's fastest-growing styles, told followers that he was stepping down for an indefinite period of "self-reflection, therapy and personal retreat."

 Mr. Friend preached a gospel of gentle poses mixed with openness aimed at fostering love and happiness. But Elena Brower, a former confidante, has said that insiders knew of his
 "penchant for women" and his love of "partying and fun."

Few had any idea about his sexual indiscretions, she added. The apparent hypocrisy has upset many followers.

"Those folks are devastated," Ms. Brower wrote in The Huffington Post.

"They're understandably disappointed to hear that he cheated on his girlfriends repeatedly" and "lied to so many."

But this is hardly the first time that yoga's enlightened facade has been cracked by sexual scandal.

Why does yoga produce so
many philanderers?

 And why do the resulting uproars leave so many people shocked and distraught?

One factor is ignorance.

 Yoga teachers and how-to books seldom mention that the discipline began as a sex cult - an omission that leaves many practitioners open to libidinal surprise.

Hatha yoga

 The parent of the styles now practiced around the globe - began as a branch of Tantra.

 In medieval India, Tantra devotees sought to fuse the male and female aspects of the cosmos into a blissful state of consciousness.

The rites of Tantric cults, while often steeped in symbolism, could also include group and individual sex. One text advised devotees to revere the female sex organ and enjoy vigorous intercourse. Candidates for worship included actresses and prostitutes, as well as the sisters of practitioners.

Hatha originated as a way to speed the Tantric agenda.

 It used poses, deep breathing and stimulating acts - including intercourse - to hasten rapturous bliss. In time, Tantra and Hatha developed bad reputations.

The main charge was that practitioners indulged in sexual debauchery under the pretext of spirituality.

Early in the 20th century, the founders of modern yoga worked hard to remove the Tantric stain. They devised a sanitized discipline that played down the old eroticism for a new emphasis on health and fitness.

 B K S Iyengar, the author of "Light on Yoga," published in 1965, exemplified the change. His book made no mention of Hatha's Tantric roots and praised the discipline as a panacea that could cure nearly 100 ailments and diseases.

And so modern practitioners have embraced a whitewashed simulacrum of Hatha.

But over the decades, many have discovered from personal experience that the practice can fan the sexual flames. Pelvic regions can feel more sensitive and orgasms more intense. Science has begun to clarify the inner mechanisms.

 In Russia and India, scientists have measured sharp rises in testosterone - a main hormone of sexual arousal in both men and women.

Czech scientists working with electroencephalographs have shown how poses can result in bursts of brainwaves indistinguishable from those of lovers. More recently, scientists at the University of British Columbia have documented how fast breathing - done in many yoga classes - can increase blood flow through the genitals. The effect was found to be strong enough to promote sexual arousal not only in healthy individuals but among those with diminished libidos.

In India, recent clinical studies have shown that men and women who take up yoga report wide improvements in their sex lives, including enhanced feelings of pleasure and satisfaction as well as emotional closeness with partners.

At Rutgers University, scientists are investigating how yoga and related practices can foster autoerotic bliss. It turns out that some individuals can think themselves into states of sexual ecstasy - a phenomenon known clinically as spontaneous orgasm and popularly as "thinking off."

The Rutgers scientists use brain scanners to measure the levels of excitement in women and compare their responses with readings from manual stimulation of the genitals. The results demonstrate that both practices light up the brain in characteristic ways and produce significant rises in blood pressure, heart rate and tolerance for pain - what turns out to be a signature of orgasm.

Since the baby boomers discovered yoga, the arousal, sweating, heavy breathing and states of undress that characterize yoga classes have led to predictable results.

  In 1995, sex between students and teachers became so prevalent that the California Yoga Teachers Association deplored it as immoral and called for high standards.

"We wrote the code," Judith Lasater, the group's president, told a reporter, "because there were so many violations going on."

If yoga can arouse everyday practitioners, it apparently has similar, if not greater, effects on gurus - often charming extroverts in excellent physical condition, some enthusiastic for veneration.

The misanthropes among them offer a bittersweet tribute to yoga's revitalizing powers.

A surprising number, it turns out, were in their 60s and 70s.

Swami Muktananda (1908-82) was an Indian man of great charisma who favoured dark glasses and gaudy robes.

At the height of his fame, around 1980, he attracted many thousands of devotees - including movie stars and political celebrities - and succeeded in setting up a network of hundreds of ashrams and meditation centers around the globe. He kept his main shrines in California and New York.

In late 1981, when a senior aide charged that the venerated yogi was in fact a serial philanderer and sexual hypocrite who used threats of violence to hide his duplicity, Mr. Muktananda defended himself as a persecuted saint, and soon died of heart failure.

Joan Bridges was one of his lovers. At the time, she was 26 and he was 73. Like many other devotees, Ms. Bridges had a difficult time finding fault with a man she regarded as a virtual god beyond law and morality.

"I was both thrilled and confused," she said of their first intimacy in a Web posting. "He told us to be celibate, so how could this be sexual? I had no answers."

To denounce the philanderers would be to admit years of empty study and devotion.

 So many women ended up blaming themselves. Sorting out the realities took years and sometimes decades of pain and reflection, counselling and psychotherapy. In time, the victims began to fight back.

Swami Satchidananda (1914-2002) was a superstar of yoga who gave the invocation at Woodstock. In 1991, protesters waving placards ("Stop the Abuse," "End the Cover Up") marched outside a Virginia hotel where he was addressing a symposium.

"How can you call yourself a spiritual instructor," a former devotee shouted from the audience, "when you have molested me and other women?"

Another case involved Swami Rama (1925-96), a tall man with a strikingly handsome face. In 1994, one of his victims filed a lawsuit charging that he had initiated abuse at his Pennsylvania ashram when she was 19. In 1997, shortly after his death, a jury awarded the woman nearly $2 million in compensatory and punitive damages.

So, too, former devotees at Kripalu, a Berkshires ashram, won more than $2.5 million after its long-time guru - a man who gave impassioned talks on the spiritual value of chastity -
 confessed to multiple affairs.

The drama with Mr. Friend is still unfolding.

So far, at least 50 Anusara teachers have resigned, and the fate of his enterprise remains unclear. In his letter to followers, he promised to make "a full public statement that will transparently address the entirety of this situation."

The angst of former Anusara teachers is palpable.

 "I can no longer support a teacher whose actions have caused irreparable damage to our beloved community," Sarah Faircloth, a North Carolina instructor, wrote on her Web site.

But perhaps - if students and teachers knew more about what Hatha can do, and what it was designed to do - they would find themselves less prone to surprise and unyogalike distress.

 * William J. Broad is the author of “The Science of Yoga: The Risks and the Rewards,” published in February 2012 by Simon & Schuster.

The Anusara Yoga Scandal: Can a $6 Billion Industry Salvage Its Image?

By Stewart J. Lawrence

Founder and managing director, Puentes & Associates, Inc.; journalist and public policy analyst

Yoga and "scandal" seem to walk hand-in-hand these days. It's a "union of opposites" that's growing more comfortable with time.

First, there was the controversy three months ago over the posh yoga apparel company, Lululemon. That seemed to lay bare the rapacious greed of its founder Chip Wilson, the boorish ex-snowboarder who's made a mint convincing affluent white suburban women that if they just wear his pricey workout clothes, they'd soon be in Nirvana. Some American yogis, it seemed, were content to serve as marketing props -- if not flat-out apologists -- for a firm whose bizarre organizational culture and lack of basic business ethics had possibly engendered everything from sweat-shops to murder.

And Wilson seemed to have found the perfect way into the yoga consumer market. His employees, many of them fitness junkies, owned 20% of the firm's lucrative stock, giving them a strong incentive to sell, and neighborhood yoga start-ups could piggy-back on the store's customer base to obtain a ready-made clientele for their studios. And with his store customers also getting a discount to attend those yoga classes, the circle of complicity was complete.

Of course, despite its obvious success, many in the yoga world have never really taken Lululemon seriously. Wilson largely admits that he knows next to nothing about real yoga, often comparing its meditative bliss to an endorphin high. And many of his customers and staff, while trained to extol yoga's virtues, don't actually practice it all that much. Lulu's strategy is known in the trade as "conceptual" or "lifestyle" marketing. Consumers purchase a product and get to soak up the positive vibes and aura associated it but they don't actually have to get off their sofa or stop eating bon-bons. The association works, of course, as long as the lifestyle activity retains its clean and popular image.

And it's here that the yoga industry -- and the grassroots movement associated with it -- may soon be facing a backlash of sorts. That's because a new book, The Science of Yoga, by New York Times science reporter William Broad, is about to hit the sales counters. The book calls into question whether yoga is actually the karma-free, healing balm its proponents claim. An excerpt, "How Yoga Can Wreck Your Body," has already appeared in the pages of the Sunday New York Times Magazine -- and the news is disconcerting. The excerpt sent shock waves through the yoga world, leading many long-time yogis to wonder whether their $6 billion industry could suffer a collapse worse than the US stock market crash of 2008, and if so, whether it's time to cash out.

Broad, who's actually reviewed what little scientific and medical evidence is available on the subject, suggests that yoga can often be beneficial for consumers, validating, in part, the thousands of yoga "infomercials" currently floating around the Internet, extolling the virtues of this or that yoga pose. But most of his article, and a good part of his book, details the many ways that yoga, especially the more "powered up" and calisthenic varieties so popular today, isn't good for consumers, and can seriously hurt students and teachers alike, in fact, without them even knowing it.

Broad's not just talking about slight sprains or muscle pulls or minor ligament damage, though these injuries are far more common than people realize. He's referring to permanent and debilitating injuries, including strokes, and chronic hip, knee and spinal cord damage, injuries that can cripple yoga practitioners for life and that may not show up in their body for years, when it's too late to take remedial action.

Many leading yogis have already developed their talking points to defuse any potential fall-out or controversy from Broad's book. Their basic argument: It's not yoga's fault if students get hurt, it's the fault of the students themselves. They're too aggressive and demanding and often push their yoga poses too far, too fast. What's a dedicated yoga teacher to do? Well, Broad, suggests, it's not just students; some of the ones doing the pushing are the teachers. They're young, and poorly-trained -- especially in the intricacies of anatomy -- and they don't know how to tend to their flock, which usually isn't as bendy or body-worshiping, as they are. And many of the more advanced poses -- including headstands and handstands -- aren't really that therapeutic anyway, no matter what your age, Broad argues. If you know your yoga history, these poses aren't even deeply rooted in the yogic tradition. They emerged at the turn of the century when countries like India were developing "fitness" cultures as an emblem of national pride. In short, much of what passes for yoga these days isn't really yoga.

But it's not just Broad's book that's likely to give the yoga industry -- and yoga teachers -- a huge black eye. In the past week, much of the yoga world has been engulfed in turmoil over revelations that John Friend, founder of the yoga brand known as "Anusara," may not be the saintly guru that his publicists have promoted so successfully over the years. It turns out, that he's allegedly a shameless adulterer, sex fiend, marijuana dealer, and small-time corporate thug who probably broke the law by freezing his company's pension fund, in the process betraying the trust and marriages of dozens -- and possibly hundreds -- of his loyal followers.

Rumors about Friend have been circulating for months, as first one, then another, then still another of his long-time female "disciples" -- and business partners -- publicly separated herself from him, citing "professional differences." But the reasons for the splits were left vague, until the online magazine Yoga Dork published an anonymous but highly detailed memorandum in which Friend's wide-ranging transgressions were spelled out in gory detail, with emails and letters describing his fondness for yoga witchcraft, marijuana peddling, and ritualistic sex with just about anyone who might find the pudgy 52-year-old an appealing bed mate -- including, it appears, hundreds of his "followers," as well as dozens of trusted associates over a period of many years.

The memo also recounted details of Friend's attempt to, in effect, steal his yoga company's pension fund, until the Department of Labor was tipped off and threatened to prosecute him, forcing him to release control.

Predictably, the initial reaction from the Anusara world was akin to devout Catholics facing revelations of transgressions by their priests: shock, fear, denial and anger -- not at Friend, but at his accusers, suggesting that they were out to destroy such a beautiful man -- and their beloved yoga "brand" -- out of sheer jealousy, and that the online magazine should be ashamed for publishing what amounted to anonymous and unsubstantiated "gossip and rumor."

A number of Anusara "communities," most notably, the Willow Street Yoga Center in Takoma Park, MD, began desperately circling the wagons, calling on Anusara yogis everywhere to "affirm" Friend and his "pioneering" yoga "system." Naomi Gottlieb-Miller, one of the many spunky and sloganeering Sarah Palin-types to emerge from the ranks of Anusara's "teacher training" programs in recent years, went so far as to compare Friend's critics - many of them veteran yogis twice her age -- to high school "Mean Girls," suggesting that they lacked compassion and should hold their tongues.

But, of course, where there's this much smoke -- and this many names, dates, and salacious details -- there's usually a bonfire raging nearby. How much more about Friend's activities is likely to emerge and the days and weeks ahead is still unclear. However, Friend, sensing that his Wall of Denial -- and Loyal Deniers -- won't hold up, quickly moved to head off the gathering lynch mob by issuing a terse but glib "confession" -- the classic, "controlled disclosure" -- to a long-time yoga associate at Elephant Journal. But in response, a group of Friend's long-time admirers, including Willow Street Yoga founder Suzie Hurley, have decided to stage what amounts to a semi-public "intervention," desperate to salvage not only the man and his reputation, but also the future of Anusara yoga, once described as the "fastest growing yoga brand in America."

Friend, it appears, has agreed to step down, in what amounts to a "preemptive coup," and for the time being, an informal "committee" -- none dare call it a "junta" -- will rule the Anusara organization in his place, until the entire mess that Friend's created can be sorted out, and the company overhauled and its leadership formally restructured.

For many in the yoga world, this latest turn of events is as bewildering as it is disheartening. But the fact is, guru charlatans with bizarre power agendas have ruled the yoga world for generations. Some of the best-known modern yogis, everyone from Sri Ramakrishna to Swami Vivekenanda, the man who first introduced yoga to the West, were known to have a fondness for young boys or to be serial adulterers, according to published accounts. Amrit Desai, the head of the highly respected Kriplalu Yoga Center, who extolled the virtues of traditional marriage, resigned in 1994, after his extra-marital sexual escapades came to light.

And Friend's attempt to build what amounts to an American yoga "cult" has numerous precedents, too, most recently in the case of Dahn Yoga, a South Korea-based organization that bilked thousands of gullible American college students and their families out of their personal fortunes, and whose founder, Ilchee Lee, has fled the country after being charged with raping one of his students. Several lawsuits against Dahn, first filed in 2006, are still pending, but the group -- through an intensive damage-control effort similar to the one underway now at Anusara -- has managed to keep most of its studio doors open.

Again, is any of this really all that surprising? Generations ago, some of India's oldest and wisest sages warned of the consequences of trying to transplant sacred Hindu spiritual practices to American soil. They weren't worried that Americans would reject these practices, but that they would embrace them too wholeheartedly. Yoga and meditation would become engulfed by American materialism, they feared, and its practitioners, ruled by status competition and consumed with an endless quest for personal "fulfillment" through glamor beauty, and sex would no longer be avatars of enlightenment but agents of psychic domination. Little did they know how quickly that painful karmic cycle could begin or how often it might repeat itself.

As the increasingly ugly Anusara scandal unfolds, yoga and yogis in America seem to be approaching yet another defining moment. Do the movement's most sincere and thoughtful leaders have the strength -- and above all, the humility -- to push their industry to reform its ways? To abandon their long-standing opposition to professionalizing their teacher corps, perhaps, and to set up more modern and democratic, and less charismatic, guru-based governing structures?

Time, it seems, may be running out. Market research data suggest that despite an increase in gross revenues, the number of people interested in trying yoga is rapidly shrinking. In fact, slightly fewer are practicing yoga now (about 14 million) than they were in 2005 (about 16 million), before the latest scandals and turmoil began. Apparently, many American consumers have already "caught on" to yoga with some homespun wisdom of their own. Which means that if the industry hopes to survive, it may want to try to recapture -- and re-inspire -- them -- with something more than Manduka's "John Friend-inspired" yoga mats, that is -- before they're gone for good.

Yoga and Christianity: Are They Compatible?
Written by Michael Gleghorn

What is Yoga?

What is yoga? For many in the West, yoga is simply a system of physical exercise, a means of strengthening the body, improving flexibility, and even healing or preventing a variety of bodily ailments. But if we inquire into the history and philosophy of yoga we discover that "much more than a system of physical exercise for health, Yoga is . . . [an] ancient path to spiritual growth." It is a path enshrined in much of the sacred literature of India.{1} Thus, if we truly want a better understanding of yoga, we must dig beneath the surface and examine the historical roots of the subject.

Before we begin digging, however, we must first understand what the term "yoga" actually means. "According to tradition, 'yoga' means 'union,' the union...of the finite 'jiva' (transitory self) with the infinite'...Brahman' (eternal Self)."{2} "Brahman" is a term often used for the Hindu concept of "God," or Ultimate Reality. It is an impersonal, divine substance that "pervades, envelops, and underlies everything."{3} With this in mind, let's briefly look at three key texts that will help us chart the origin and development of yoga within India.

It appears that one can trace both the practice and goal of yoga all the way back to the Upanishads, probably written between 1000-500 B.C.{4} One Upanishad tells us: "Unite the light within you with the light of Brahman."{5} Clearly, then, the goal of yoga (i.e. union with Brahman) is at least as old as the Upanishads.

In addition, the word "yoga" often appears in the Bhagavad Gita, a classic Hindu text possibly written as early as the fifth century B.C.{6} In chapter 6, Krishna declares: "Thus joy supreme comes to the Yogi . . . who is one with Brahman, with God."{7}

Finally, in about A.D. 150, the yogi Patanjali systematized yoga into eight distinct "limbs" in his Yoga Sutras. These eight limbs are like a staircase, supposedly leading the yogi from ignorance to enlightenment. In order, the eight limbs are: yama (self-control), niyama (religious observances), asana (postures), pranayama (breathing exercises), pratyahara (sense control), dharana (concentration), dhyana (deep contemplation), and samadhi (enlightenment).{8} It's interesting to note that postures and breathing exercises, often considered to be the whole of yoga in the West, are steps three and four along Patanjali's "royal" road to union with Brahman.

We see that yoga is an ancient spiritual discipline deeply rooted in the religion of Hinduism. This being so, we may honestly wonder whether it's really wise for a Christian to be involved in yoga practice. Next, we'll continue our discussion by examining some of the important doctrinal differences between yoga and Christianity. 

Yoga and Christianity: What are the Differences?

Many people today (including some Christians) are taking up yoga practice. We'll later consider whether yoga philosophy can truly be separated from yoga practice, but we must first establish that there are crucial doctrinal differences between yoga and Christianity. Let's briefly look at just a few of these.

First, yoga and Christianity have very different concepts of God. As previously stated, the goal of yoga is to experience union with "God." But what do yogis mean when they speak of "God," or Brahman? Exactly what are we being encouraged to "unite" with? Most yogis conceive of "God" as an impersonal, spiritual substance, coextensive with all of reality. This doctrine is called pantheism, the view that everything is "God." It differs markedly from the theism of biblical Christianity. In the Bible, God reveals Himself as the personal Creator of the universe. God is the Creator; the universe, His creation. The Bible maintains a careful distinction between the two.{9}

A second difference between yoga and Christianity concerns their views of man. Since yoga philosophy teaches that everything is "God," it necessarily follows that man, too, is "God." Christianity, however, makes a clear distinction between God and man. God is the Creator; man is one of His creatures. Of course man is certainly unique, for unlike the animals he was created in the image of God.{10} Nevertheless, Christianity clearly differs from yoga in its unqualified insistence that God and man are distinct.

Finally, let's briefly consider how yoga and Christianity differently conceive man's fundamental problem, as well as its solution. Yoga conceives man's problem primarily in terms of ignorance; man simply doesn't realize that he is "God." The solution is enlightenment, an experience of union with "God." This solution (which is the goal of yoga) can only be reached through much personal striving and effort. Christianity, however, sees man's primary problem as sin, a failure to conform to both the character and standards of a morally perfect God. Man is thus alienated from God and in need of reconciliation. The solution is Jesus Christ, "the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world."{11} Through Jesus' death on the cross, God reconciled the world to Himself.{12} He now calls men to freely receive all the benefits of His salvation through faith in Christ alone. Unlike yoga, Christianity views salvation as a free gift. It can only be received; it can never be earned.

Clearly, Christianity and yoga are mutually exclusive viewpoints. But is every kind of yoga the same? Isn't there at least one that's exclusively concerned with physical health and exercise? Next, we'll take a closer look at hatha yoga, the one most often believed to be purely physical in nature. 

What Is Hatha Yoga?

Here we've learned that yoga is an ancient spiritual discipline rooted in a belief system that is utterly incompatible with Christianity. But is this true of all yoga? Isn't hatha yoga simply concerned with physical development and good health?

Hatha yoga is primarily concerned with two things: asana (physical postures) and pranayama (breathing exercises). But it's important to realize that both asana and pranayama also play a significant role in Patanjali's raja (or "royal") yoga. In the traditional eight "limbs" of Patanjali's system, asana and pranayama are limbs three and four. What then is the relationship of hatha to raja yoga?

Former yoga practitioner Dave Fetcho states that yoga postures "evolved as an integral part of Raja . . . Yoga."{13} He points out that the author of the famous handbook, the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, "presents Hatha . . . solely and exclusively for the attainment of Raja Yoga."{14} He also cites a French yoga scholar who claims, "the sole purpose of . . . Hatha Yoga is to suppress physical obstacles on the . . . Royal path of Raja Yoga and Hatha Yoga is therefore called 'the ladder to Raja Yoga.'"{15} Fetcho concurs, noting that the physical postures are "specifically designed to manipulate consciousness...into Raja Yoga's consummate experience of samadhi: undifferentiated union with the primal essence of consciousness."{16} These statements should make it quite clear that hatha, or physical, yoga has historically been viewed simply as a means of aiding the yogi in attaining enlightenment, the final limb of raja yoga.

This is further confirmed by looking at Iyengar yoga, possibly the most popular form of hatha yoga in the U.S. The Web site for the Iyengar Yoga Institute of San Francisco states: "BKS Iyengar studies and teaches yoga as unfolded in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjaili [sic] and the Hatha Yoga Pradipika among other classical texts. Thus Asana, or postures, are taught as one of the eight limbs . . . of yoga defined by Patanjali."{17} In fact, the ultimate goal of Iyengar hatha yoga is precisely the same as that of Patanjali's raja yoga.{18} Both aim to experience union with "God," Brahman, or universal consciousness.

If all these things are so, it seems increasingly apparent that hatha yoga may ultimately involve its practitioners in much more than physical exercise. Although it may not be obvious at first, the ultimate goal of hatha is the same as every other form of yoga: union of the self with an impersonal, universal consciousness. We must remember that the Bible never exhorts Christians to seek such an experience. If anything, it warns us of the potential dangers in doing so. Next, we'll consider whether yoga practice might, in fact, be dangerous--and why. 

Can Yoga be Harmful?

Despite its touted health benefits, there are numerous warnings in authoritative yoga literature which caution that yoga can be physically, mentally, and spiritually harmful if not practiced correctly.

For instance, Swami Prabhavananda warns of the potentially dangerous physical effects that might result from yoga breathing exercises: "Unless properly done, there is a good chance of injuring the brain. And those who practice such breathing without proper supervision can suffer a disease which no known science or doctor can cure."{19}

In addition, many yogis warn that yoga practice can endanger one's sanity. In describing the awakening of "kundalini" (coiled serpent power) Gopi Krishna records his own experience as follows: "It was variable for many years, painful, obsessive...I have passed through almost all the stages of...mediumistic, psychotic, and other types of mind; for some time I was hovering between sanity and insanity."{20}

Finally, however, from a Christian perspective it seems that yoga could also be spiritually harmful. To understand why, let's return to the experience of "kundalini." Yoga scholar Hans Rieker declares, "Kundalini [is] the mainstay of all yoga practices."{21} But what exactly is kundalini and why is it so central to yoga practice?

Swami Vivekananda summarizes the kundalini experience as follows: "When awakened through the practice of spiritual disciplines, it rises through the spinal column, passes through the various centres, and at last reaches the brain, whereupon the yogi experiences samadhi, or total absorption in the Godhead."{22} And researcher John White takes the importance of this experience even further declaring: "Although the word kundalini comes from the yogic tradition, nearly all the world's major religions, spiritual paths, and genuine occult traditions see something akin to the kundalini experience as having significance in "divinizing" a person. The word itself may not appear...but the concept is a key to attaining godlike stature."{23}

Reading such descriptions of the kundalini, or coiled serpent power, the Christian can almost hear the hiss of that "serpent of old...who deceives the whole world."{24}In Eden, he flattered our first parents by telling them: "You will be like God."{25}And though Christianity and yoga have very different conceptions of God, isn't this essentially what yoga promises?

Swami Ajaya once said, "The main teaching of Yoga is that man's true nature is divine."{26} Obviously this is not the Christian view of man. But if the goal of yoga is to realize one's essential divinity through union with "God," then shouldn't the Christian view the practice that leads to this realization as potentially spiritually harmful? Next, we'll conclude our discussion by asking whether it's really possible to separate yoga philosophy from yoga practice. 

Can Philosophy and Practice be Separated?

We've seen that yoga is an ancient spiritual discipline whose central doctrines are utterly incompatible with those of Christianity. Even hatha yoga, often considered to be exclusively concerned with physical development, is best understood as merely a means of helping the yogi reach the goal of samadhi, or union with "God." Furthermore, we've seen that all yoga, including hatha, has the potential to be physically, mentally, and spiritually harmful.

In light of such evidence, it may appear that this question--"Can yoga philosophy be separated from yoga practice?"--has already been answered in the negative. And this is certainly the view of many yoga scholars. Dave Fetcho, formerly of the Ananda Marga Yoga Society, has written, "Physical yoga, according to its classical definitions, is inheritably and functionally incapable of being separated from Eastern religious metaphysics."{27} What's more, yoga authorities Feuerstein and Miller, in discussing yoga postures (asana) and breathing exercises (pranayama), indicate that such practices are more than just another form of physical exercise; indeed, they "are psychosomatic exercises."{28} Does this mean that separating theory from practice is simply impossible with yoga?

If one carefully looks through an introductory text on hatha yoga,{29} one will see many different postures illustrated. A number of these may be similar, if not identical, to exercises and stretches one is already doing. Indeed, if one is engaged in a regular stretching program, this is quite probable. This raises an important question: Suppose that such beginning level yoga postures are done in a context completely free of yogic philosophy. In such a case as this, doesn't honesty compel us to acknowledge at least the possibility of separating theory from practice?

While I hate to disagree with scholars who know far more about the subject than I do, this distinction does seem valid to me. However, let me quickly add that I see this distinction as legitimate only at the very beginning of such practices, and only with regard to the postures. The breathing exercises, for various reasons, remain problematic.{30} But this distinction raises yet another question, for how many people begin an exercise program intending never to move beyond the most basic level? And since by the very nature of yoga practice, such a distinction could only be valid at the very earliest of stages, why would a Christian ever want to begin this process? It seems to me that if someone wants an exercise program with physical benefits similar to yoga, but without all the negative spiritual baggage, they should consider low-impact or water aerobics, water ballet, or simple stretching.{31} These programs can be just as beneficial for the body, without potentially endangering the soul. In my opinion, then, Christians would be better off to never begin yoga practice.

[Note from the webmistress: Also see Why a Christian Alternative to Yoga? on the website for an excellent treatment of this subject from a former yoga instructor who explains why the two are incompatible.]


1. Raphael, Essence and Purpose of Yoga: The Initiatory Pathways to the Transcendent (Massachusetts: Element Books, Inc., 1996), back cover. 
2. Brad Scott, "Exercise or Religious Practice? Yoga: What the Teacher Never Taught You in That Hatha Yoga Class" in The Watchman Expositor (Vol. 18, No. 2, 2001): 5. 
3. Ibid. 
4. Ibid., 6. 
5. Ibid., cited in Swami Prabhavananda and Frederick Manchester, The Upanishads: Breath of the Eternal (New York: New American Library, 1957), 120ff. 
6. Bhagavad Gita, trans. Juan Mascaro (New York: Penguin Books, 1962), back cover. 
7. Ibid., 71. 
8. John Ankerberg and John Weldon, Encyclopedia of New Age Beliefs (Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 1996), 601. 
9. See Romans 1:18-25. 
10. See Genesis 1:26. 
11. John 1:29. 
12. See 2 Corinthians 5:19. 
13. Dave Fetcho, "Yoga," (Berkeley, CA: Spiritual Counterfeits Project, 1978), cited in Ankerberg and Weldon, Encyclopedia of New Age Beliefs, 602. 
14. Ibid., 603. 
15. Ibid. 
16. Ibid., 602. 
17. See "Source and Context: Patanjali and Ashtanga Yoga" at This quotation was obtained from the site on March 1, 2002. 
18. Ibid. 
19. Swami Prabhavananda, Yoga and Mysticism (Hollywood, CA: Vedanta Press, 1972), 18, cited in Ankerberg and Weldon, Encyclopedia of New Age Beliefs, 604. 
20. Gopi Krishna, The Awakening of Kundalini (New York: E.P. Dutton, 1975), 124, cited in Ankerberg and Weldon, Encyclopedia of New Age Beliefs, 608. 
21. Hans Ulrich Rieker, The Yoga of Light: Hatha Yoga Pradipika (New York: Seabury Press, 1971), 101, cited in Ankerberg and Weldon, Encyclopedia of New Age Beliefs, 606. 
22. Swami Vivekananda, Raja Yoga (New York: Ramakrishna-Vivekananda Center, 1970), 16, cited in Scott, "Exercise or Religious Practice? Yoga: What the Teacher Never Taught You in That Hatha Yoga Class," 5. 
23. John White, ed., Kundalini Evolution and Enlightenment (Garden City, NY: Anchor, 1979), 17, cited in Ankerberg and Weldon, Encyclopedia of New Age Beliefs, 606. 
24. See Revelation 12:9. 
25. See Genesis 3:5. 
26. Swami Rama, Lectures on Yoga: Practical Lessons on Yoga (Glenview, IL: Himalayan International Institute of Yoga, Science and Philosophy, 1976, rev.), vi, cited in Ankerberg and Weldon, Encyclopedia of New Age Beliefs, 596. 
27. Dave Fetcho, "Yoga," 2, cited in Ankerberg and Weldon, Encyclopedia of New Age Beliefs, 600. 
28. George Feuerstein and Jeanine Miller, Yoga and Beyond: Essays in Indian Philosophy (New York: Schocken, 1972), 27-28, cited in Ankerberg and Weldon, Encyclopedia of New Age Beliefs, 600. 
29. For example, Richard Hittleman, Introduction to Yoga (New York: Bantam Books, 1969) 
30. For instance, the breathing exercises can by physically dangerous. Sri Chinmoy wrote, "To practice pranayama without real guidance is very dangerous. I know of three persons who have died from it..." See Great Masters and the Cosmic Gods (Jamaica, NY: Agni Press, 1977), 8, cited in Ankerberg and Weldon, Encyclopedia of New Age Beliefs, 604. In addition, however, from a Christian perspective such exercises may also be mentally and spiritually dangerous (at least potentially) because they can induce altered states of consciousness that may make one more vulnerable to demonic deception. Indeed, psychologist Ernest L. Rossi has written of pranayama: "The manual manipulation of the nasal cycle during meditation (dhyana) is the most thoroughly documented of techniques for altering consciousness." See Benjamin B. Wolman and Montague Ullman, eds., Handbook of States of Consciousness (New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1986), 113, cited in Ankerberg and Weldon, Encyclopedia of New Age Beliefs, 595. 
31. Of course such programs will need to be tailored to each individual's needs and goals. It's always a good idea to talk to your doctor before beginning any new exercise program.

There is no Christian Yoga

by Yogi Baba Prem, Vedavisharada, CYI, C.ay,

Even as the debate rages on… a reader, Alexander says according to classical Yoga, the driving force in Yoga is the Kundalini. It is claimed that the Kundalini is coiled at the end of your backbone and through Yoga it can unfold. He points out it could be the serpent of 2 Cor. 11:3 and forwards the following article, being published without comment.

The following article is written by Yogi Baba Prem, who is a Hindu Yogi, a Vedavisharada trained in the traditional gurukural system. We hope that Thomas Nelson, who publishes Yoga for Christians, American Family Association, who sells Holy Yoga, and emerging leader, Doug Pagitt, who offers it at his church, will all read this article by Yogi Baba Prem.


It was quite astonishing to see on the flyer “Christian Yoga! This Thursday night….”  I could feel the wheels spinning in my brain.  “Christian Yoga”, I thought.  Now while Christians can practice yoga, I am not aware of any Christian teachings about yoga.  Yoga is not a Judeo/Christian word!  It is not a part of the Roman Catholic teachings and certainly not a part of protestant teachings.  It is not found within the King James Version of the bible.  It is a Hindu word, or more correctly a Sanskrit word from the Vedic civilization.  So how did we get “Christian Yoga”?

From this I could conclude that “Christian Yoga” could only indicate one of two possibilities:

1) Christianity is threatened by yoga and is attempting to take over this system that “invaded their turf” pertaining to spiritual  teachings and techniques.
2) Christianity is subconsciously attempting to return to the spiritual roots of civilization—the Vedic civilization.

I thought to myself, “why would they want to take over yoga?”  Could it be due to the decline of members within the Christian church within the last 60 years?  Is this an extensive marketing plan cooked up in some New York marketing guru’s head?  Is it an attempt to water down the teachings of yoga and import their own teachings into the system?  Or is it that they cannot stand not to own everything spiritual?

I think the best reason might be that yoga, and eastern spirituality, offered answers to the spiritual questions that the spiritually hungry masses had.  It offered a practical, rational, logical, and truthful approach to spirituality.  It did not contain any form of self-righteous condemnation, but offered love and acceptance to all.   It did not prey upon victims with terms such as “Sin” and “eternal damnation”.  But most importantly, it had answers!  It offered a practical approach to cultivating a relationship with divinity.  It offered a systematic approach and an abstract approach to meet the varying temperaments of the spirituality hungry.

The second possibility was that Christianity was itself looking for answers.  A small book filled with judgment, inflexibility, and condemnation was no longer fulfilling the needs of the masses or the leaders of the church.  Offering yoga classes allowed the Christian to secretly practice Hinduism without having to renounce their Christian tradition.

Possibly by embracing the technology of yoga and meditation, the Christian church could finally return to the idea of love and acceptance that it believed it was founded upon.  It is ironic that one religion would need to look to another religion to teach them about love, peace, harmony, and forgiveness. If successful, it could embrace these ancient teachings and save itself from the fate it planted over the last few thousand years.

But possibly in their wisdom, the current fathers of the church realized that their time was coming to a close.  So within America they must absorb yoga before they are absorbed by it.  This is a common religious view that has appeared numerous times within world history.  Then they would immediately move their resources to India.  Taking over the country would allow them to own all the spirituality, and then ‘pick and chose’ which tasty spiritual treats they would share.  After all they have 2000 years practice with this.

Indian being a loving, peaceful people, openly embraced their brothers from the west.  They looked the other way as their temples were torn down.  They accepted it as karma as their families were torn apart over differing religious beliefs.  The Indians thought it was thoughtful of the missionaries to dress up just like swami’s, to be “just like them” and to share in their kindred spirit.

Of course we are in a great deal of debt to the missionaries as they have single handedly undone the highly discriminatory caste system within India.  Well they tried to, …kinda.  Even though dalits are not allowed into churches with other castes at times.  But putting that aside, they put an end to poverty in India, well…they did purchase a lot of things, such as influence in the media, government, and elections.  And of course, Christian militant groups continue to be a tremendous asset to India.  They are ready to kill anyone invading their turf, except the Muslims who apparently will kill them back.

Modern day scholars from India frequently present the attitude of “let them have yoga, I am interested in protecting Hinduism.”  I have heard this sentiment on numerous occasions, but the reality is that yoga is a part of Hinduism.  Allowing one part to be taken from Hinduism opens a door for the distortion of the teachings.  We must remember that the roots to modern day yoga comes from Vedic Yoga.  The same Vedic Yoga that is the authority of Hinduism.   Allowing one branch to be severed from the tree of knowledge will not necessarily kill that tree, but it can produce strain and have an unbalancing effect upon the tree.

Hinduism should reclaim its full heritage and not allow other groups to rename its sacred teachings under their banner, especially when they have no history of those teaching within their own system.  If they wish to ‘borrow’ and say this comes from our brothers and sisters in Hinduism, then that is another thing.  But frequently groups attempt to privatize the information and present themselves as the original authority.  Hinduism should guard against its sacred traditions becoming distorted and taken away.

Scholars at universities should take the stand that yoga is part of Hinduism, though one is one required to be a Hindu to practice yoga. It is important to acknowledge the roots of the tradition; after all we are expected to give credit to the original sources within books and research papers, but yet Hindu scholars have ignored this fundamental western view when it comes to their own heritage.

Forwarder by Alexander Seibel

Christians and Yoga?

M. Basilea Schlink 1999

Yoga is an object of growing interest in our Western society today. It is hailed by many as the solution for the human mind and spirit in the barren wastes caused by rationalism, materialism and atheism. However, yoga originated in India and is rooted in Hinduism. It is not a single uniform concept; rather its manifestations make up a colourful palette of methods, exercises and disciplines; it also includes psycho-religious objectives. Those who practise yoga form an equally diverse group. In the West today it consists of people of all ages and strata of society prompted by very different motives. In West Germany alone 100,000 people are at present estimated to be practising yoga.

One specialized technique among the yoga schools is transcendental meditation, also known as the science of creative intelligence. Originally an offshoot of the magic mantra yoga, this movement received its particular features as it spread among western people. In the year 1974 the movement was calculated to have altogether half a million adherents in the West. The founder and leader, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, who has been travelling throughout the U S, Great Britain and West Germany since the early sixties, began to proclaim a world plan in 1972. Through 3,600 centres - one for each million of the world's population - transcendental meditation and the science of creative intelligence are to be spread by means of a snowball system (that is, everyone who is initiated into transcendental meditation is obliged to tell others about it).

Yoga in its different forms is literally on its way to conquer Europe, making headway even in many Christian circles. It is remarkable, however, that it plays only a subordinate role in India today, as Indian friends have informed us. In many cases the people there have realized that yoga cannot give them what they desire in their plight. Consequently, Indian Christians emphatically reject a combination of yoga and Christianity. The fact, however, that the teaching of yoga is gaining such a foothold here in the "Christian" nations of the West, where apostasy and rebellion against Jesus Christ is widespread, clearly shows how anti-Christian the teaching is.

What is yoga?

Yoga, as Hinduism sees it, is a collection of methods designed to release the human soul from all that is earthly with the aid of asceticism, physical exercises, breathing techniques and meditations. This aspired liberation has a twofold significance, involving more than the present life of the individual who practises yoga. The main emphasis is placed on the cycle of rebirth, also called the transmigration of the soul. According to ancient Hindu doctrine the unpurified soul of man is forced by its past actions (karma) to enter a mother's womb ever anew and be re-born. Only when it succeeds in purifying itself by its own efforts, does it attain release and thus liberation from any further reincarnation. At the same time this release implies the realization that the individual soul, the real self of man (atman), is ultimately identical with the universal spirit (Brahman). Accordingly, Indian yoga is based on the theory that each soul in its nature and substance is essentially one with the divine. Herein lies the subtle allurement of yoga - it teaches the deification of man. According to yoga, man is not a fallen being, a distortion of the image of God, but rather God Himself.

The various schools of yoga differ from each other mainly in their choice of practices. Hatha yoga, for instance, attaches great importance to physical techniques, such as the purification of the intestines, to certain postures (asanas) and to breathing control (pranayama). In the last item mentioned the main objective is that the breathing be deliberately slowed down. This is known to lead to a slow-down in the thought process and a self-induced emptying of the mind.
Other schools placed greater emphasis on meditative techniques, for example, mantra yoga with its loud, soft or silent repetition of mantras. These mantras are magic formulae, which often have no linguistic or grammatical meaning, for instance, the mantra OM. They are supposed to represent divine or cosmic forces such as the gods Vishnu and Shiva or the universal spirit, Brahman. Hindus believe that through the continual repetition of such formulae they can identify themselves with the powers these formulae represent. Thus man no longer approaches his Maker in humility; instead by means of mantras he attempts to realize his hidden identity with God - or rather with a heathen deity.

Most of the yoga schools in the West today are influenced by hatha yoga. The exercises taught are above all intended to invigorate the body, keep the limbs supple, remove waste products and impurities from the organs, and calm the nerves thus helping the individual to lead a harmonious life, so that he will be better equipped to stand the modern-day struggle for existence. In many instances, even children are introduced to such yoga courses. In these western schools of yoga there is little mention of the liberation of the soul from the cycle of reincarnation. The main emphasis is placed on success in this life.

As a result of this new interpretation in the West yoga is erroneously considered to be a sort of sport or gymnastics. Sometimes the beginner does experience certain beneficial effects at first, feeling more at ease and better able to cope with situations of extreme stress. These initial, but only seemingly positive experiences with western yoga lure many to become more involved with yoga and to derive into this teaching at greater depth. Many are being enticed in this way and are falling into the trap.

These physical excises, however, cannot be separated from a mental process. The human mind is inevitable involved. The actual initiators of the yoga courses are the yogis, who are trained in the yoga of Indian Hinduism and whose ultimate goal is to lead the students on to Indian yoga. Therefore, it necessarily follows that the external physical, breathing and relaxation exercises will lead to further exercises to attain self-knowledge and the technique of controlling mind and soul. This self-realization and control are acquired through a type of asceticism and ethical discipline, which ultimately end in the heathen religion of Hinduism.
With that the often-posed question is answered: yoga cannot be separated from Hinduism. That which is practised here in the Western nations is not merely a health-promoting exercise, and whoever thinks of it as such is greatly deceived. Contrary to the claims of many, yoga exercises, in the final analysis, cannot be separated from the special philosophy of Hinduism and from the occult concepts behind it. Even advocates of yoga openly acknowledge this.

Together with its physical exercises taught during gymnastic courses the seemingly harmless and non-religious hatha yoga, which concentrates purely on heightening the awareness of physical powers, is actually preparation for the "royal road", raja yoga. Certain aspects of the Hindu way of thinking also have to be accepted in hatha yoga. What seems to be gymnastic exercises has been arranged with ulterior motives and has effects on the mind. This is obvious from names such as, "the perfect posture", "the hero posture" and "the lotus posture". Moreover, not only are certain parts of the body and certain limbs activated, but internal organs and glands as well as certain nerve centres are affected.

What are the goals of yoga?

The different yoga schools have their specific teachings, but the primary concern of "classical yoga" is to discover one's self, to rediscover one's pure and divine nature, in other words, the god in man. It is maintained, according to the basic teaching of yoga, that nature - especially human nature - is essentially good and worthy. All yogis believe in themselves as a god or as a part of the deity. The "gurus" the leaders who pass on this teaching, are considered to be personified deities and they make use of this authority. This accounts for their uncanny influence, which is also evident in the western world today, where people even prostrate themselves before a seventeen-year-old boy.

How do people think that through yoga they can find the god in themselves and liberate their true self, the divine in man, which is, so to speak, only imprisoned? The way is to empty oneself entirely in order to admit the forces of the universe, the physical exercises also serving to this end. Man will then be able to unite with the all-pervading life-force of the universe - present, for instance, in the air, in water and in food. In this way man is to become God, that is, he is to rise to his original, perfect, guiltless state - to become a superhuman person. With that he attains, so it is claimed, the aspired goal - bliss, complete harmony and supreme consciousness, a state of "God-consciousness".

Thus yoga in its very nature is self-redemption! But in attempting to liberate the individual soul from a supposed imprisonment and to care for it as if it were something good, yoga actually pampers the sinful ego and thus fosters egoism. As a result, the yoga student is constantly preoccupied with himself. He revolves round his ego and becomes increasingly unsociable. Thus this alleged self-redemption is a misconception. If the inflowing forces of the universes are supposed to accomplish this self-redemption, one point is important to remember: There are no neutral forces. Behind every inflowing power is a supernatural being, a deity. But the question is - which one? Jesus declares that He, the Son of God, came from above, but there is also an adversary of God, a powerful anti-God, who is from below (John 8:23). The latter also can imbue a person with his powers and grant him special abilities.

Where do the powers come from that flow into a yoga student? With whom does the student unite when he attains the objective of the yoga exercises and becomes and demigod, a superhuman person? As already stated, the powers received in yoga ultimately come from the Hindu universal spirit, Brahman. This is inevitable, for the yogis live in the Hindu tradition. On the one hand, they believe in themselves as gods; but on the other hand, they usually also have personal deities such as Krishna and Shiva. Since the yoga student is to contact these gods, it logically follows that he must accept them. However, this means that contact is established with the demonic world, just as the Apostle Paul said in reference to idolatrous sacrifice, "Those (the heathen) who offer food to these idols are united together in sacrificing to demons, certain not to God" (1 Corinthians 10:20).

Because the background of yoga is occult, those who practise it intensely will without fail come more and more under the influence of Satan, though often imperceptibly. Through the inflow of cosmic forces (which are nothing but the powers of heathen gods) a person exposes himself to the danger of coming under the influence of the powers from below, even if he thinks he is practising "Christian yoga". And eventually the yoga student makes a change over from the kingdom of Jesus, the kingdom of light, to the kingdom of darkness, though usually he does not realize this until it is too late. Yet this disastrous transfer from the kingdom of Jesus to the realm of demons, the consequences of which will be felt in eternity, will necessarily follow as a result of the supernatural sources of yoga.

The fact that yoga really is bound up with magical powers is evident from the above mentioned mantra practice. It is especially the widespread transcendental meditation of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi that works mainly with such mantras. To be sure, the Maharishi tells his students that his mantras are of Hindu origin, but he does not tell them about the powers, namely, the Hindu deities, they represent. In literature written by his followers it is repeatedly maintained that the mantras merely involve "physical vibrations". However, these are explanations that are intended to veil the true facts. In this way a magic-religious technique of heathen origin is given a new interpretation as a science of creative intelligence. The beginner does not realize that joining this movement entails a religious act, an acceptance of Hindu tradition. In September 1974 Ernst Gogier of Absle, Switzerland, a specialist in Indian culture and language, made the following statements about mantras in an article for Kirchenabothen, Basel, "The fact that mantras are kept secret from the public in general and that the powers behind them are kept secret from the beginner confirms that the mantras are not to be compared with a prayer or meditation in the Biblical sense. Mantras are magic words or formulae. They can most readily be compared with the gnostic Abraxas or the Stor-arepo-disgram, which is even included in the ‘Sixth and Seventh book of Moses' (medieval books on witchcraft whose seemingly Biblical titles are misleading)."

That yoga practices have been connected with occult powers and magic since their origin in ancient India is evident from the traditional yoga textbooks, which promise the student supernatural powers (siddhis) as an accompanying feature when they progress on this path. Mircea Eliade, a well-know authority on yoga, writes, "In India a yogi was always regarded as a mahasiddha, one who possessed occult powers, a sorcerer." Among these abilities are the "power to reach any given object at whatever distance, an irresistible will, power over the elements and the fulfilment of wishes" (cf. Ellade, Yoga, page 97). With these abilities the yogi is also able to perform so-called miracles. For example, in September 1974 newspapers reported that in Cologne a yogi and his followers ran barefoot across burning hot coals at 1,000 degrees C and afterwards no burns could be found on their feet. The yogi also brought his heart to a complete standstill for eight seconds.

But it is ultimately powers of darkness that the yoga student opens himself to, these can never bring release, Satan is the destroyer of all happiness, all joy and harmony, and of all that is good. It is he who is behind all idols and gods as well as behind the mystic Hindu teachings. By these means he seeks to keep men in their sin and bring them under his power in order to destroy them. Thus believing Christians have but one choice - to battle with Jesus against the occult and the demonic, which also threaten us in the teaching of yoga. Jesus Christ has come to destroy the workers of the devil and the powers of darkness (1 John 3:8). He is the lord and Prince of Victory over Satan and all demons, over all spiritual powers and principalities under heaven.

Thus it is clear and obvious from the nature of the matter that there can be no "Christian" form. For example, they replace the mantras with Christian words and prayers such as the Lord's Prayer. Yes, even theologians recommend these exercises and Christian groups invite others, saying that this is the way to refresh one's stagnant prayer life. Yoga, they claim, is a neutral technique that can be used for Christian objectives. However, it is obvious that the origin, method and goal of yoga and those of the Christian faith are mutually exclusive. Moreover, the living Christ with His call to a life of discipleship and the entire Word of God stand in opposition to the teachings, practices and objectives of this ultimately occult yoga.

Although the main danger arises from its demonic source, the teaching of self-redemption as such is in complete contradiction to our Christian faith. As sinful beings we never have the power to redeem ourselves through physical and mental exercises, by which we think we can raise ourselves higher and higher in order to become a God-man. Everyone who is of the truth knows that he does not have a good "real self" imprisoned in him, but rather that he is by nature a prisoner of his sin, and thus of Satan, and that he must be delivered from this imprisonment. He will never want to discover his "divine self" in order to attain redemption, for he has already recognized his own self in truth and discovered it to be evil (Genesis 8:21). He knows the reality of sin and guilt and his need of a Saviour - and he has a Saviour in Jesus Christ.
Indeed, Jesus became man and died on the cross for our sake to redeem us from our real self, the fallen ego, which is the seat of all evil, pride, selfishness and all sinful inclinations. Through His outpoured blood and through His act of redemption when He cried, "It is finished" sin and Satan were defeated. Whoever believes in His redemption and delivers up his old man to be crucified with Christ will rise as a new man, as a "redeemed self". Only Jesus, the Son of God, has the power to accomplish this in us. A true Christian revolves round Jesus and finds his deepest fulfilment in Him. Jesus is everything to him. He lives with Jesus and follows Him; his one goal is to be with Him for ever in His kingdom.

Whoever truly loves Jesus, the Lamb of God, as his Saviour and has a personal relationship with Him cannot take part in exercises behind which are mystic teachings and magic formulae. He will never turn to unknown elemental forces of the universe and foreign gods through yoga exercises in order to learn the art of emptying his mind. His mind is already set on Jesus Christ and in his quiet times his thoughts are taken up with Jesus and the Word of God. He does not need to practise suspending all the functions of the soul, for his soul wants to be alive and to love - Jesus and through always giving Jesus first priority.

But whoever thinks that he must liberate the "divine self" imprisoned in him by letting powers flow into him, which are ultimately from below, will become a prisoner of sin all the more. Therefore, a Christian who does so only has himself to blame when he comes under the influence of such powers. With regard to yoga, a Christian today can only choose between Christ and Belial , for the possibility of combining yoga with the Christian faith does not exist. (The same applies to Zen, the corresponding Japanese teaching, which stems from Buddhism, and is likewise spreading in the West.) Holy Scripture shows us in numerous instances that God's Old Testament People incurred His wrath and His most severe punishment when they sought to serve both the living God and idols, that is, demons of other religions. Such combinations are syncretism. This was usually Israel's sin - not the sin of sheer idol worship.

It is said that a just God cannot exclude a Buddhist, Hindu or believing member of another religion from eternal salvation when he honestly seeks salvation. But on no account can this argument, which is often used in favour of yoga, be put forward as an excuse for us to take this path. The fallacy of the argument is that although the grace of God is unlimited on His part, there is a great difference between those who have once received the revelation of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and those who have not heard the truth. "There is salvation in no one else! Under all heaven there is no other name for men to call upon to save them" than the name of Jesus (Acts 4:12 ). This is binding for us as Christians. For us, yoga is a form of apostasy, leading to destruction. For the heathens it is a wrong way, but the Lord can still redirect them on to the true path of knowledge of Jesus Christ .

God is admonishing us, His New Testament People, with probably even greater urgency than He did His Old Testament people, for we have been redeemed by the sacrifice of Jesus and the precious blood of the Lamb. He is asking us, "How long are you going to waver between two opinions? (1 Kings 18:21). When we think that we can serve Jesus and at the same time go after other gods, heathen idols, brought to us is the teaching of the yogis and gurus, we shall incur a serious judgment indeed, for we were ransomed at great cost.

A further point - yoga is not merely a personal matter confined to the religious life of the individual. As mentioned earlier, Maharishi Mahesh yogi has a world plan. The practice of yoga today already shows signs that this teaching will lead into the God-detached, universal church, for which the way is being paved. Even now one can see indications of the world brotherhood, the world religion, the anti-Christian world church, in which all religions will unite in order to form a unified world society.

In view of these great deceptions today, at the beginning of the end times, Jesus bids us, "Come to Me! I am the Way and the Truth and the Life. Whoever believes in Me has eternal, divine life!" Indeed, in Him alone can we find true salvation and redemption from sin - sin, which is our ruin and misery. And one day above Jesus will receive us in the glory of heaven when we are truly transformed into His image. Then He will grant us the privilege of dwelling in His kingdom for ever. For Jesus alone has the one true plan for the world. His plan of salvation includes not only the perfection of the individual, but the renewal of the world, which was created by Him and redeemed by His sacrifice, and which He will recreate by means of judgment and grace. But whoever forsakes Him and turns to another salvation - one from below - that is, to the "broken cisterns" of yoga, will perish. Yes, "all who turn from you shall be disgraced...for they have forsaken the Lord, the Fountain of living waters" (Jeremiah 17:13).

Yet Jesus is entreating those who have turned from this fountain. As the living Lord and Saviour He bids them, "Turn back to Me. Renounce the powers from below by claiming in faith My blood, the blood of the Lamb!" His blood contains releasing, victorious might to destroy the fetters of Satan and his demons, the powers from below. The forces of evil have been defeated by Jesus Christ, who is the mighty Ruler and Lord of all.
 After a renunciation has been made and the victorious name of Jesus proclaimed, it is vital to fight a battle of faith, for the enemy will attack again. It is best to enter such combat with the aid of a spiritual counsellor or a group of believers, who would give their prayer support. At the same time it is essential to cling to the unshakable certainly that the victory has been won, because Jesus Christ and He alone has absolute authority. He is the victorious, risen Lord, before whom every other power must yield

What Does the Bible Say About Yoga?

by Michael Sharif

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 charkas 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 charkas 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.

 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.).

 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.

 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.

 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.

Michael Sherif 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


“Kneel to yourself. Honour and worship your own being. God dwells within you as You.' Swami  Muktananda, Hindu guru

'I know that in me, that is in my flesh, dwells no good thing.' Paul the Apostle

At a New Age fair, where I was helping with a Christian witness, a young man told me that he rejected all religious systems. He said that he was discovering god as a force within himself and so finding harmony with all created things. When I told him that he was in fact following the ancient religious system of Hinduism, he said angrily, 'I don't like Christians telling me what to believe,' and walked off.

This brief conversation highlighted the conflict between the eastern religious world view now being accepted by many people in the West, and the biblical world view now being rejected. According to Biblical Christianity the basic problem of humanity is our sin nature which causes us to break God's laws and thus separates us from God who is holy. The solution is to invite God into our lives through repentance and faith in the Gospel message: that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself through the sacrificial death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus. Before we take this step of faith, God is outside of our lives. After doing this He is inside our lives, dwelling within us by the Holy Spirit. See Sin, Repentance and Salvation

According to Hinduism the problem of humanity is not a moral one, but one of a lack of knowledge. God already dwells within us, but we do not know this. We have lost contact with our innate divinity through becoming entangled in the material world and being limited by our rational finite minds. The solution is to discover the 'god within' through experiencing a higher state of expanded consciousness. It was evident from the huge numbers of young people attending the New Age fair that this idea is far more attractive to many today than the traditional Christian view. New Age devotee Miriam Starhawk has written, 'The longing for expanded consciousness has taken many of us on a spiritual journey to the East and to Hindu, Taoist and Buddhist concepts. Eastern religions offer a radically different approach to spirituality than Judeo-Christian traditions. Their goal is not to know God but to be God. In many ways these philosophies are close to witchcraft.' (Yoga journal May 1986).

How does Hinduism claim that one can experience an 'altered state of consciousness' leading to discovery of 'godhood'? Over thousands of years it has developed numerous techniques to manipulate human consciousness in order to bring this about. These techniques are called yoga. According to a Hindu saying, 'There is no Hinduism without yoga and no yoga without Hinduism.' Yoga therefore can never be seen solely as a means of gaining physical exercise, reducing stress or as a medical therapy. Some of the methods used by yoga are as follows:

Hatha yoga: Physical and breathing exercises
Body postures (asanas) are intended to immobilise the whole body. Practising them will enable the body to become completely motionless and hardened in fixed positions. Meditation words (mantras) serve to immobilise the consciousness. Mantras are usually the names of gods used for worship. Symbolic body movements in yoga are designed to close 'all nine doors of the body', so that no sense perception from the outside penetrates into the mind. When all outer sensation is shut off the body itself will create sense perceptions of an inner kind, an inner light, an inner sound, an inner smell, and an inner pleasure.

I once talked to a yoga teacher who became a Christian. He said that he did not teach his pupils anything about Hinduism to begin with, but simply taught them the techniques of yoga. They then experienced things that they could not explain and he interpreted their experiences in such a way that would lead them deeper into the Hindu philosophy of discovering god within yourself.

Japa Yoga: The mechanical way of salvation
Japa is the repetition or chanting of a mantra which is usually the name of a Hindu god. One example of this is the Hare Krishna movement which chants the names of Krishna and Rama. I once had a conversation with a young man selling Hare Krishna books in London. As soon as I questioned his basic philosophy he began chanting 'Hare Krishna, Hare Rama' after which all meaningful discussion became impossible.

Transcendental Meditation (TM), taught by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, has become one of the most well known forms of yoga in the West. In TM the meditator learns first to forget the rest of the world and to concentrate only on the mantra (usually a short word, a name of a deity such as Ram or OM). Then he forgets the mantra too, transcending all thoughts and feelings. After several years of meditation one is said to attain 'god consciousness.' In this state it is said that one can even communicate with birds, animals, plants and rocks. The final state is 'unity consciousness', in which the devotee perceives the oneness of himself with the universe. This is 'liberation.'

Kundalini Yoga: Salvation through the 'Serpent Power'
Hindu psychology teaches that the 'kundalini shakti', or serpent power, lies at the base of the spine. Normally the kundalini lies dormant in most human beings, but when it is awakened it arises and begins to travel upwards. In its journey from the base of the spine to the top of the head it passes through six Kundalinipsychic centres called 'chakras'. When it passes through a chakra it kindles various psychic experiences and energies. When it reaches the sahasrara, or crown, one attains power to perform miracles and to achieve liberation. The most influential guru who preached Kundalini was Swami Muktananda. He labelled it Siddha (perfect) yoga, for it is the only yoga in which the aspirant does not have to do anything. He just surrenders to the guru and the guru's grace does everything for him.

Robert Walker described what takes place in Kundalini yoga: 'Few Christians realise that for thousands of years gurus have operated with gifts of healing, miracles, gifts of knowledge, and intense displays of spiritual consciousness as they stretch out and connect with a cosmic power which, though demonic in origin, is very real. The meetings which mystic Hindu gurus hold are called 'Darshan'. At these meetings devotees go forward to receive spiritual experience from a touch by the open palm of the hand, often to the forehead, by the guru in what is known as the Shakti Pat or divine touch. The raising of the spiritual experience is called raising Kundalini. The practice is quite intricate but is brought on by Shakti Pat in conjunction with the repetition of mantras or religious phrases and by holding physical positions for a long time. After a period when the devotee has reached a certain spiritual elevation they begin to shake, jerk, or hop or squirm uncontrollably, sometimes breaking into uncontrolled animal noises or laughter as they reach an ecstatic high. These manifestations are called 'Kriyas'. Devotees sometimes roar like lions and show all kinds of physical signs during this period. Often devotees move on to higher states of spiritual consciousness and become inert physically and appear to slip into an unconsciousness when they lose sense of what is happening around them. This state is called 'samadhi' and it leads to a deeper spiritual experience.'

The role of the Guru in granting liberation
The role of the guru in the liberation of a devotee is described differently in different sects. Generally speaking the guru's task is only to teach the technique of achieving liberation; the devotee has to achieve liberation by practicing the technique on his own. Some sects however teach that at initiation the guru takes the karma (action) of a disciple upon himself. According to the law of karma, each man has to take the consequences of his good and bad actions. For this he has to be continually reborn into the world. But if the guru (out of love and grace) takes the karma, the necessity of a rebirth vanishes, and one attains deliverance from the bondage of reincarnation. Therefore it is believed that without the guru's grace, one cannot be saved. Devotees generally claim blessing, peace and a sense of union with god as a result of the guru's ministry. Clearly something supernatural happens, often with miracles taking place. There is however no lasting blessing, peace or real union with God.

Connections to contemporary Christianity
Today we see that the 'guru' mentality is being accepted by some Christian groups in which it is required to submit to authoritarian leaders who are said to provide the believer's connection to God and who cannot be questioned. Often these leaders' authority is reinforced by demonstrations of spiritual power causing people to fall to the ground, laugh uncontrollably and generally behave in a way which resembles an 'altered state of consciousness.'

An audio tape produced by Hank Hanegraff, author of 'Christianity in Crisis', features actual recordings of well known American preachers getting crowds under their spell to repeat, mantra like, the serpent's lie, 'I am god.' Those who resist or object to these new trends are often ridiculed as narrow minded legalists or Pharisees, warned that they will miss out on God's blessings or even threatened with death and damnation.

Christians alert to the deceptions of the end times should not be intimidated into accepting uncritically all that they are told at highly charged meetings by preachers with apparently powerful ministries. We should question any manifestation which is not to be found in scripture, especially if it connects to yoga and Hinduism. These spiritual forces do not bring liberation and union with God, but bondage, deception and alienation from God. In his book 'The Dust of Death' Os Guiness has described the invasion of eastern religious ideas well;

'The subtlety of eastern religion is that it enters like an odourless poison gas, seeping under the door, through the keyhole, in through the open window, so that the man in the room is overcome without his ever realising that there was any danger at all.'
Looking at this issue from a prophetic point of view we see that yoga is a force which is helping to bring together religious devotees of different backgrounds, since its techniques can be superimposed on any religious system including nominal Christianity and Islam. As such it is helping to unite the religious world in the coming one world religion described in Revelation 17, 'Mystery Babylon the Great, the Mother of Harlots and Abominations of the Earth.' The defence we have against all this is to be found in a true faith in Jesus as Lord and Saviour, the one way to a true relationship with God, who has given us the Holy Spirit to guide us into all truth.


Should Christians Practice Yoga?

by Jeremy Butler
What is Yoga?
Yoga is a practice that has become very popular in the United States.  According to a 2008 study, there are 15.8 million Americans who practice Yoga.{1}   Before we can answer whether Christian's should practice yoga or not, we need to define what Yoga is.  We must first understand that yoga is taught within all sects of Hinduism, in which it is taught as a means to have salvation.

There are different types of yoga, but what they all have in common is they are a way to earn salvation.  There are several practices within Yoga.  These include, but are not limited to meditation, repeating the divine name, breathing exercises, performing acrobatic exercises, trying to put one's own body in difficult postures.  Meditation is central to all forms of Yoga.  Meditation helps its practitioners to be able to find release from the endless cycle of birth, death and rebirth.{2}   'Yoga is a method of spiritual training whose purpose is to integrate or unite the self.  A physical exercise, its goal is nonphysical-uniting with God.  Yoga teaches that people should attempt to yoke the individual spirit to God, to atman-the individual soul or essence of a person-and to Brahman. {3}    So we see that Yoga is essentially physical exercises in which one tries to work his or her way to God.

So Should Christians Practice Yoga?
It is not recommended that Christians practice yoga since the intention of yoga is a path in order to attain salvation.  Some Christians do practice yoga and say that all Christians can practice yoga.  So let us answer a few basic objections.

Can a Christian practice yoga without getting caught up in the religious aspects of it?
The problem is that yoga is religious in nature.  The point of the practice of yoga is to unite oneself with God.  Take this quote from the Yoga Journal: 'Connecting the mind, body, and breath helps us to direct our attention inward. Through this process of inward attention, we learn to recognize our habitual thought patterns without labeling them, judging them, or trying to change them. We become more aware of our experiences from moment to moment. The awareness that we cultivate is what makes yoga a practice, rather than a task or a goal to be completed. Your body will most likely become much more flexible by doing yoga, and so will your mind. {4}  As one can see, Yoga is more than just a physical exercise.  We as Christians do not want to make our mind more flexible. We do not want to leave our mind open to false teaching.

Is there anything wrong with doing stretching exercises?
This is a question that needs to be answered since a major part of yoga is strecthing.  There is nothing wrong with stretching at all.  In fact stretching is a very useful exercise to help people stay healthy.  The problem comes when one meditates and focuses on the religious aspects of yoga.  One needs to distinguish between purely stretching and yoga.  So if one is just purely stretching and is not practicing the philosophical and religious nature of yoga, then feel free to participate.

If there are medical benefits from practicing yoga, then why should Christians not be able to practice yoga?
With any physical fitness, there are going to be some positive medical benefits.  There are many other great physical fitness programs that are out there with great benefits.  So why take the chance in meddling with something that comes from, and is associated with, a false view of salvation?  Why do we feel like we have to use an exercise that has religious values from a false religious system?  Yoga is different than other exercise systems because it is more than just exercise.  The point of yoga is to combine body, mind, and soul together.

There are a few reasons why I discourage Christians from practicing yoga.

  1. Jesus is the only way in order to have salvation.  Salvation is not found in any other religious system, practice or founder.
    1. Jesus told us that he was the only way to the Father in John 14:6: 'I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.'
    2. Acts 4:12: 'And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.'
  2. We are not saved from any works that we can do ourselves.  It's all by grace through faith in Jesus Christ as our Saviour.
    1. Ephesians 2:8-10: 'For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.  For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.'
      1. So we see by this passage that we are not saved by our good works.  Our good works are a result of our salvation, but they do not cause our salvation.  Our salvation is to bring glory and honor to God, not to ourselves.
  3. We as Christians are to be different than the world.  We are not to do things the same way as the world.
    1. Romans 12:1-2: 'Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.  And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.'
      1. As Christians we are not to be conformed to this world.  We are to be different and set apart from the world.  When we try and use the methods of the world in order to get to God, then we are in direct disobedience to God.  Even if a Christian can practice yoga without any of the religious practices getting involved, would you want to take the chance of hurting your witness with Hindus or those of the New Age who think that Yoga is religious in nature?
  4. As Christians we are to meditate only on God and His Word.  We are not to focus on ourselves or to clear our minds.  The Bible never gives us a prescription to free our mind.  The prescription that the Bible gives us is to only meditate on God and His Word.
    1. Psalm 1:1-3: 'How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, Nor stand in the path of sinners, Nor sit in the seat of scoffers!  But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night.  He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water.  Which yields its fruit in its season and its leaf does not wither; and in whatever he does, he prospers.'
    2. Psalm 63:6: 'When I remember You on my bed, I meditate on You in the night watches.'
    3. Psalm 119:15: 'I will meditate on Your precepts and regard Your ways.'
    4. Psalm 119:23: 'Even though princes sit and talk against me, Your servant meditates on Your statutes.'
    5. Psalm 119:27: 'Make me understand the way of Your precepts, so I will meditate on Your wonders.'
    6. Psalm 119:48: 'And I shall lift up my hands to Your commandments, which I love; and I will meditate on Your statutues.'
    7. Psalm 119:97: 'Oh how I love Your law!  It is my meditation all the day.'
    8. Philippians 4:8: 'Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.'
      1. When one clears his mind, he is opening himself up to demonic powers.  We are to only let our minds dwell on Godly things and meditate on Scripture.  Again, we are not to clear our minds, empty ourselves and open ourselves up to anything but God.

1, accessed June 6th, 2010.
2 Kenneth Shouler, Ph.D. and Susai Anthony, The Everything Hinduism Book, F&W Media, Inc.; Avon, MA; 2009; page 10.
3 Ibid, page 10.

 Christian Yoga: Rooted in Hindu Occutlism
By Chris Lawson

     Dear reader, the following article has been written in order to convey information about the unbiblical practice of Christian Yoga.  Sadly, many professing Christians in the church are too undiscerning to know any better. Even Hindu’s recognize that “Christian Yoga is still Hindu”.

     This article is also written with heartfelt grief and concern for those whom I have lovingly warned about the dangers of yoga, but who have rejected biblical counsel, pastoral exhortation, brotherly advice, testimony of destroyed lives, written warnings from yogi’s of the dangers involved with yoga, etc.  This past year I have received several emails from people whose lives have become dismantled due to yoga practice.  Others, thinking they know better, have laughed at me and said that I don’t know what I am talking about.  Some have even gone so far as to ignorantly state that hatha yoga is just “exercise” and cannot harm anybody.

     Although this article is in two parts, it is not meant to be a full length biblical critique on Christian yoga. Rather, it is meant to serve as a wake up call and warning to all who profess to be Christian—and yet find themselves “Stretching out in Worship” through yogic poses (asanas) and breath control techniques (pranayama).  If any professing Christian can still justify doing yoga after reading this and the forthcoming articles, they might want to think twice about which Jesus they worship.  The Jesus of the Bible does not and will never endorse any kind of yoga.  Yoga, in any way, shape or form, has the ability to corrupt the mind and undo a Christian’s faith.  It has as its goal the conversion of individuals to an occult, pantheistic world view.  As we shall see, Christian Yoga, like all yoga, is part of the occult based Hindu religion.  Relabeling yoga for undiscerning westerners doesn’t change the facts.  Yoga is yoga!


     The number of people today, including Christians, that are involved with yoga is absolutely astonishing.  Yoga, once considered by the western world to be a Hindu spiritual practice for attaining of occult enlightenment (Self-Realization), has now been thoroughly integrated into the western world—and into compromised churches.  In fact, in many churches today, to proclaim about yoga what it really is - an eastern occult practice rooted in paganism - is tantamount to committing linguistic suicide.  Calling yoga by its true colours and telling people what it is really designed for is simply not “politically correct” anymore.  It seems that people no longer value how a common dictionary defines yoga. Furthermore, defining terms, by definition and in context, is even considered “unloving” because people get offended when they are told the truth.  The western standard for right and wrong, even in many churches, has become, “if it looks good and feels spiritual, just do it.”   This mentality has gone so far off the scale in some camps that people are willing, when presented with irrefutable factual evidence of what yoga is, does, and can lead to,  say “never mind the warnings from occult literature, never mind the destroyed lives, never mind the physical, mental, psychological and spiritual damage, we want our yoga.”


     Even more daunting than the documented warnings and hazards of yoga is the fact that many Christians are teaching “Christian Yoga”.  It seems that relabeling yoga as "Yoga for Christians" has given people the green light to bow down and “Do yoga for Yahweh”.  One wonders though which Jesus these people have come to “worship.”  A Jesus who allows Christians to integrate pagan occultism into Christian worship is not the Jesus of Scripture.  “For if he that cometh preacheth another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or if ye receive another spirit, which ye have not received, or another gospel, which ye have not accepted, ye might well bear with him” (2 Cor. 11:4).  People all over the place are buying into yoga through “Christian Yoga ministries”.  The following is a sample listing of some of these “ministries”.  Christian Yoga Exercise; Stretched Out In Worship; Yahweh Yoga; Holy Yoga; Body Prayer; Christ-Centered Yoga”, Son Light Yoga”, “New Day Yoga”, “Yoga From a Christian Perspective”, “Bringing the Light of Christ to the Practice of Yoga; Trinity Yoga; Yoga for all of Humanity; Yoga Devotion; Prayer of the Breath and Body; Grounded in Yoga; Be Still Yoga; etc.   The following is from the Holy Yoga website:

Holy Yoga was created to introduce physical worship of the Lord through prayer, breath work and movement to all seekers and believers in Jesus Christ, regardless of denomination...The purpose of the ministry is to introduce people to yoga as a form of collective (mind, body and spirit) worship…as well as certifying teachers through the registered yoga school (RYS) of Holy Yoga…to facilitate Christ-centered classes in their individual churches, studios, and community spaces....Our sole purpose at Holy yoga is to introduce people to a unique and powerful yoga experience centered on out Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. To deepen the experience, Holy Yoga classes are practiced to contemporary motivational Christian music...Yoga is NOT a religion; it is a practice of mind and body control. When led by scripture, prayer and worship poses; it is a practice that encourages patience and cultivates an understanding of what God can manifest in our physical and emotional bodies. [1]

Along with this “Christian Yoga” ministry description is a long list of Scripture verses that are being conveniently misused to justify a “Christian Yoga Ministry”.


     Like the house of Jacob (Jacob’s descendents-Israel) in Isaiah’s day (Isaiah 2:6-9), the people rebelled against God and God had to discipline them.  It is not that God no longer loved the people, but the people of Judah became like the pagan nations surrounding them.  God’s people became as superstitious as the people in the East – they were following the practices of the Assyrian Empire.  The people were also engaging in divination like the Philistines.   Isaiah cried out to God,

For You have forsaken Your people, the house of Jacob, because they are filled with eastern ways; they are soothsayers like the Philistines, and they are pleased with the children of foreigners (Isaiah 2:6).

     So too today, compromising Christians have turned Eastward and are doing what |Hindu holy men do—yoga!  Compromised Christians are putting into practice yogic philosophy through breath control techniques (pranayama) and ancient [and even trendy new] yogic postures (asanas).  Many are even doing the “Surya namaskara (Salute to the Sun).  According to Wikipedia,

…the Sun Salutation is a 20th century yogic invention of Bhawanrao Pantpritinidhi, the Rajah of Aundh…  [2]

….Proponents who use Surya namaskara as part of the modern yoga tradition prefer to perform it at sunrise, which the orthodox consider to be the most 'spiritually favourable' time of the day. [3]

     Regarding the abomination of saluting the sun and giving reverence to the creation rather than the Creator (Rom. 1:18-25) , the prophet Ezekiel addressed this issue in his own day (Ezek. 8).  The priests of Israel, instead of crying out to God for mercy on behalf of the idolatrous people, were themselves bowing down to the sun in the East.  The priests had their own backs turned on God (in God’s temple) and they were bowing in submission and worship to the sun.  This was and still is today an expression of contempt for God and is a direct violation of God’s command in Deuteronomy. 4:19.  Ezekiel 8:15-18 has this to say:

Then said he unto me, Hast thou seen this, O son of man? turn thee yet again, and thou shalt see greater abominations than these. And he brought me into the inner court of the LORD's house, and, behold, at the door of the temple of the LORD, between the porch and the altar, were about five and twenty men, with their backs toward the temple of the LORD, and their faces toward the east; and they worshipped the sun toward the east. Then he said unto me, Hast thou seen this, O son of man? Is it a light thing to the house of Judah that they commit the abominations which they commit here? for they have filled the land with violence, and have returned to provoke me to anger: and, lo, they put the branch to their nose. Therefore will I also deal in fury: mine eye shall not spare, neither will I have pity: and though they cry in mine ears with a loud voice, yet will I not hear them.  (Ezekiel 8:15-18)


     Trendy, fashionable and spiritual as it may seem, Christian Yoga is an unscriptural hybrid of Christianity mixed with Hinduism.  Christian Yoga is the ultimate oxymoron?  Even non-Christians, including a Hindu Yoga professor has boldly expressed that yoga cannot be integrated into Christianity, except through the deceptive practice of relabeling Hinduism.  Mixing yoga with Christianity is nothing less that artful subterfuge—“deception by artifice or stratagem in order to conceal, escape, or evade.” [4]  This is exactly what is going on in the church, in the name of Christ, and through professing Christians.

     Most Christians seem clueless to the fact that over the last 100 or so years, many eastern gurus have been bringing “various philosophies” to the west.  Many have come to the west “professing to achieve a knowledge of God by spiritual ecstasy, direct intuition, or special individual revelation.” [5]  Theosophy, which is the Mother of western occultism has done just this. Modern movements and cults following Hindu and Buddhist teachings have done this too. The clever handling of eastern philosophy has been put into western terminology and passed off to the masses.  Eastern spirituality has come west and the west has bought into it hook, line and sinker.  This has been planned out through nothing less than the genius of Satan, the god of this age (2 Cor. 4:4).

Yogi Ramacharaka, a western convert to eastern occultism and a full-blown promoter of Hindu occult philosophy wrote about how this would be accomplished.  In 1903, Yogi Ramacharaka wrote his Hindu Yogi occult primer, titled The Hindu-Yogi Science of Breath. Ramacharaka stated how “The theory of the East, wedded to the practice of the West, will produce worthy offspring.” [6]    Ramacharaka’s words are in direct reference to the yogic philosophy breath control, also called “The Science of Breath”, being embraced by Westerners. Ramacharaka states:

Whole schools of Oriental [Eastern] Philosophy have been founded upon this science [Yogic breath control] , and this knowledge when grasped by the Western races, and by them put to the practical use which is their strong point, will work wonders among them. The theory of the East, wedded to the practice of the West, will produce worthy offspring…This work will take up the Yogi "Science of Breath” [pranayama – yogic breath control], which includes not only all that is known to the Western physiologist and hygienist, but the occult side of the subject as well. It not only points out the way to physical health along the lines of what Western scientists have termed "deep breathing," etc., but also goes into the less known phases of the subject, and shows how the Hindu Yogi controls his body, increasing his mental capacity, and develops the spiritual side of his nature by the "Science of Breath”.  [occultism]  [7]

Sounds like Westerns embracing yoga are merely duped pawns in a cosmic chess game.


     The philosophy behind yoga and its postures are inseparable.  On a Blog hosted by Lighthouse Trails Research Project, we found a link to an article written in a Hinduism Today publication. [8]  Professor Subhas Tiwari, (a Hindu professor at the Hindu University of America) has a few things to say about “Christian Yoga”.  In an article titled, Yoga Renamed is Still Hindu, Professor Subhas Tiwari stated:

The simple, immutable fact is that yoga originated from the Vedic or Hindu culture. Its techniques were not adopted by Hinduism, but originated from it....Efforts to separate yoga from its spiritual center reveal ignorance of the goal of yoga....If this attempt to co-opt yoga into their (Christians) own tradition continues, in several decades of incessantly spinning the untruth as truth through re-labelings such as "Christian yoga," who will know that yoga is--or was--part of Hindu culture? [9]

Seeing that many Christians and non-Christians have been involved with yoga with no prior research into what yoga is or where it originates from, we note the following definitions from a number of resources.

YOGA DEFINED by Miriam-Websters Online Dictionary

Yoga: Sanskrit, literally, yoking, from yunakti he yokes; akin to Latin jungere to join -- more at YOKE

1 capitalized: a Hindu theistic philosophy teaching the suppression of all activity of body, mind, and will in order that the self may realize its distinction from them and attain liberation

2: a system of exercises for attaining bodily or mental control and well-being.   yo·gic /-gik/ adjective, often capitalized. [10]

YOGA DEFINED by Wikipedia

The word "yoga" derives from the Sanskrit root yuj ("to yoke"); which is cognate to modern English "yoke", "jugal" and "jugum" in Latin.  All derive from the Proto-Indo-European root *yeug - meaning "to join" or "unite".  It is generally translated as "union of the individual atma, loosely translated to mean soul, with Paramatma, the universal soul."  [11]

YOGA DEFINED by Swami Nirmalananda Giri
     In answering the question 'What is Yoga?’, Swami Nirmalananda Giri states:

"Yoga" is a Sanskrit word that comes from the root-word yuj that means "to join." Yoga, then, is both union and the means to union. What do we join through yoga? Two eternal beings: God, the Infinite Being, and the individual spirit that is finite being. In essence they are one, and according to yogic philosophy all spirits originally dwelt in consciousness (sic) of that oneness.  [12]

YOGA DEFINED by Experience Festival
     So that there is no confusion about what yoga is, we have included here more definitions on yoga. At, a monstrous archive of New Age, occult and mysticism oriented literature; yoga is defined this way:

Yoga: The ancient Yogis recognised long ago that in order to accomplish the highest stage of yoga, which is the realisation of the self, or God consciousness, a healthy physical body is essential. [This is part of the occult philosophy of yogic breathing]   For when we are sick, our attention is seldom free enough to contemplate the larger reality, or to muster the energy for practice…The masters of yoga also teach us that personal growth is possible only when we fully accept our embodiment and when we truly understand that the body is not merely skin and bones but a finely balanced system of energies...The roots of Yoga can be traced back roughly 5,000 years to the Indus Valley civilization, where seals depicting people performing asanas (yoga postures) were used in trade along the river…The word Yoga comes from the Sanskrit word "Yuj" meaning to yoke, join or unite. It is the union of all aspects of an individual: body, mind and soul. Hence, Yoga reunites all opposites - mind and body, stillness and movement, masculine and feminine, sun and moon - in order to bring reconciliation between them…Yoga is one of the six branches in Indian philosophy and is referred to throughout the Vedas, the ancient scriptures of India. There is a legend that says that the knowledge of Yoga was first offered by Lord Shiva to his wife Parvati and from there passed on to the world…According to the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, the ultimate aim of Yoga is to reach "Kaivalya" (freedom). This is the experience of one's innermost being or "soul" (the Purusa). When this level of awareness is achieved, one becomes free of the chains of cause and effect (Karma) which bound us to continual reincarnation. The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali is a 2200 year old classical piece of Yoga Philosophy. [13]

The writers of this definition of yoga then go on to state the eight disciplines of yoga:

Hear, Patanjali describe 8 disciplines of yoga which must be practiced and refined in order to perceive the true self- the ultimate goal of Yoga: 1) Yama - Universal ethics: Non-violence, truthfulness, non-stealing. 2) Niyama - Principles of self conduct: purity, contentment, study of self, surrender. 3)  Asana - practice of the postures. 4) Pranayama - Breath control.  5) Pratyahara - withdrawal and control of the senses.  6) Dharana - concentration. 7) Dhyana - meditation. 8) Samadhi – higher consciousness.”  [13]

YOGA DEFINED by Yoga Journal Website
     What is Yoga Journal’s Definition of Yoga?  Cyndi Lee at the Yoga Journal website answers the question ‘What is Yoga?’:

The word yoga, from the Sanskrit word yuj means to yoke or bind and is often interpreted as "union" or a method of discipline. A male who practices yoga is called a yogi, a female practitioner, a yogini….The Indian sage Patanjali is believed to have collated the practice of yoga into the Yoga Sutra an estimated 2,000 years ago. The Sutra is a collection of 195 statements that serves as a philosophical guidebook for most of the yoga that is practiced today. It also outlines eight limbs of yoga: the yamas (restraints), niyamas (observances), asana (postures), pranayama (breathing), pratyahara (withdrawal of senses), dharana (concentration), dhyani (meditation), and samadhi (absorption). As we explore these eight limbs, we begin by refining our behavior in the outer world, and then we focus inwardly until we reach samadhi (liberation, enlightenment).  [14]

YOGA DEFINED by the Index of Cults and New Religions

Yoga: Exercises (physical, mental or spiritual) based on Eastern metaphysical assumptions designed to aid in enlightenment or self-realization. Goals sometimes include altered states of consciousness or uniting the practitioner with the impersonal pantheistic God. Types of Yoga include: Karma Yoga (spiritual union through correct conduct), Bhakti Yoga (spiritual union through devotion to a Guru), Juana Yoga (spiritual union through hidden knowledge), Raja Yoga (spiritual union through mental control), Hatha Yoga (spiritual union through body control/meditation), Kundalini Yoga (spiritual union through focusing inner energy) and Tantra Yoga (spiritual union through sexual practices). Yoga philosophy is based on the concept of reincarnation and is drawn from the Upanishads and other Hindu scriptures.  [15]

YOGA DEFINED by Divine Life Society’s Sri Swami Sivananda
     The following is the Publisher’s Note found on Sri Swami Sivananda booklet, Yoga for the West: [16]

Publishers' Note:  The word Yoga comes from the Sanskrit root "Yuj" which means "to join." Yoga is the Science that teaches us the method of uniting the individual soul with the Supreme Soul, of merging the individual soul will in the Cosmic Will. Yoga is a perfect, practical system of self-culture. It is the discipline of the mind, senses and the physical body. It helps the student to attain perfect concentration of the mind, ethical perfection, moral excellence and spiritual calmness. Real Yoga is the attainment of the highest divine knowledge through conscious communion with God. Yoga transmutes the unregenerate nature of the student and raises him to the highest state of Divine Glory and Splendour. It bestows on him increased energy, vitality, vigour, longevity and a high standard of health. It brings a message of hope to the forlorn, joy to the depressed, strength to the weak, and knowledge to the ignorant. It kills all sorts of pain, misery and tribulation. By the practice of Yoga one can turn out efficient work within a short space of time and attain full success in every walk of life.  [16]

     Simply put, why would any Christian want to be a part of this, unless they have been seriously misled?  Jesus and His Word should be more than enough.


     It is very clear in the Old Testament that God explained to Moses how He, Yahweh, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is to be worshipped – and how His people are not to worship Him!  Moses was very clearly commanded not to worship like the surrounding nations.  The Israelites were to have no other gods before the LORD. They were not to worship the Eternal God in the way that the pagan nations worshipped their false gods.  This same principle applies in the New Testament. Christians are not to integrate pagan method of worship into the worship of the true God – Jesus Christ.

    Although old news by now, the 2004 National Pastors Conference of a yoga workshop.  A yoga workshop at a National Christian Pastors Convention?  At the current growth rate of apostasy, this trendy yoga fad and other eastern methods of spirituality will continue to influence the Church for the worse.  Compromised evangelical leaders, Contemplative Spiritual Formation movement (Contemplative Spirituality) leaders, and Emerging Church leaders are promoting other methods of eastern spirituality as well—but they label it as “Christian”.  Those Christian leaders who endorse these things and, or, do not warn people about the dangers of yoga and eastern mysticism and occultism are doing an incredible disservice to the body of Christ.  Christian pastors and church leaders ought to be warning people that yoga is not Christian but has simply been keenly re-processed for the Western world.


     To make things worse, many leaders in the Church today will not speak out against yoga, contemplative “centering -prayer”, Christian “mantras”, and other experience-based methodology.  These so-called spiritual methods being employed by Christians are also used by occultists in order to have a “direct experience” with the “Divine”.   Instead, the bandwagon approach to justifying these practices has come into full play.  “Pastor ‘so-and-so’ endorses it, so it must be OK!”  Here is a sample of the mentality people are using to justify doing yoga, etc.   “Yes, but Rick Warren taught at the National Pastors Convention and they had yoga classes offered at the conference, in the morning, the day Pastor Rick spoke.  It must be OK to do yoga if they have it at the National Pastors Convention! Leaders endorse it so why can't they do it.”

     As previously mentioned, the 2004 National Pastors Convention that offered a workshop on yoga is old news.  But the Christian yoga craze and Contemplative Spirituality has virtually exploded across denominational borders.  Interestingly, at the same 2004 National Pastors Convention, contemplative spiritual director Ruth Haley Barton gave a talk on “The Art and Practice of Discernment”.  Somehow the leaders [See list of leaders at endnote 17] at this “National Pastors Convention” did not discern that yoga is historically rooted in paganism.  Furthermore, yoga can convert people into full blown occultists.  Where in the New Testament, and Old Testament for that matter, do we see “Holy Yoga”, “Body Prayer”, “Trinity Yoga”, “Yahweh Yoga”, Christian “mantras”, “Centering Prayer”, etc?   Jesus taught His disciples not to pray like the heathen.  Jesus said:

But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking. Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him. After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name…  (Matt.6:7-9).

     Why did Pastor Rick Warren and many other speakers at the National Pastors Convention 2004 not protest the “Prayer Labyrinth”, “Contemplative Morning Prayer Exercises”, and the “Sustainable Life Forum: Stretching and Yoga” sessions that were offered? [18]   The 2007 National Pastors Convention will have workshops promoting the controversial, occult based Enneagram.  [19]


       These and many other such things are being promoted through Christian book conventions, publishing houses, conference and retreat centres, bookstores, churches and more. Those that speak against the promotion, sales, endorsements, and distribution of materials that mix paganism with Christianity are labelled as divisive, unloving, etc.  Worshipping Jehovah by mixing paganism, yoga and Eastern contemplative methods with Christianity is an outright abomination to God.  Relabeling mysticism and paganism for Christians, in the name of “emerging” and “contemplative” worship is horrific.  Second Kings 17:10-12 speaks about how Israel provoked the LORD to anger when they served idols.  God very clearly said to them, “You shall not do this thing.”  Is it any different when Christians do worshipful Hindu poses [asanas] and get “stretched out in worship” with “Yahweh Yoga”?

God spoke very clearly to Jeremiah the prophet, “The Lord says, ‘Do not learn the way of the nations...” (Jer.10:1).  Deuteronomy 12:2-4 speaks of the nations that worshipped other gods.   Their altars and images were to be destroyed.  “You shall not worship the LORD your God with such things.”  And further on in Deuteronomy 18:9 “When you come into the land which the LORD your God is giving you, you shall not learn to follow the abominations of those nations.”


     Christian Yoga is a lie!  Those who are caught up in it are deceiving and being deceived. The ultimate goal of yoga is “Self-realization” – to realize ones own divinity.  This is the lie Satan gave to Eve:

And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: 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 (Gen. 3:4-5).

Christianizing Yoga is pure chicanery. This is exactly what Christian Yoga is.  It is “deception by artful subterfuge or sophistry”.  Christian Yoga is a form of satanic deception masquerading as “a deeper form of Christian spirituality.” These things ought not to be so. We urge:

Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God. (2 Thess. 2:3)
Yoga’s goal is “Self-exaltation”, “Realizing” ones own “divinity” and “yoking with the Universal Consciousness”. These things have nothing to do with Jesus Christ and everything to do with Satan.  Christian yogi’s it is time to repent!

3.    Ibid.
6.    Yogi Ramacharaka, The Hindu-Yogi  Science of Breath, London, England: W. & J. Mackay & CG. Ltd., Chatam, 1903, p. 9.
7.    Ibid.

Yoga without ethics: just empty posturing?

Can the fitness fad live up to its traditional roots?

Zac Alstin | 5 March 2015
Bikram Choudhury teaches Yoga class

Bikram Choudhury, founder of the popular Bikram Yoga, is currently facing six civil lawsuits from female former-students alleging rape or sexual assault.  Bikram Yoga is famous for its 90 minute classes carried out in 41 °C (105 °F) heat at 40% humidity.  First introduced in the 1970s, Bikram Yoga has made its namesake a wealthy man with a net worth reportedly in the billions. With several dozen Rolls-Royces and Bentleys, an 8,000 square foot Beverley Hills mansion, and devoted students spending thousands of dollars just to train with their hero for a week: the swearing, name-dropping, speedo-wearing guru hardly fits the popular image of what a master Yogi should be.

Yet Yoga in its many, varied forms has become so popular in the West that – along with meditation – it has even made its way into corporate environments, promoting physical and mental health in the workplace.  But the mainstream adoption of these ancient religious practices is not without its critics. Buddhist psychotherapist Dr Miles Neale coined the terms “McMindfulness and Frozen Yoga” to describe the denaturing and secularisation of these practices, stripped of their important ethical content for the sake of mainstream palatability:

“What we see in America today, in both the yoga boom and mindfulness fad, is an overemphasis on training in meditation (samadhi) to the exclusion of the trainings in wisdom (prajna) and ethics (shila)...
American culture is fascinated by quick fixes, glamorous fads and celebrity teachers: yoga and mindfulness are no exception to this trend. What’s next? Drive-through yoga? Meditation on demand? We are experiencing a feeding frenzy of spiritual practices that provide immediate nutrition but no long-term sustenance.”

Even the overtly irreligious expressions of the Bikram Yoga founder can’t take the spiritual shine off the mysterious Indian practice.  According to Choudhury “Religion is the biggest piece of **** created in all time!", yet civil lawsuits describe:

“a cult-like atmosphere where the charismatic Mr Choudhury would tell young women training to be instructors they had been "touched by God" before forcing himself upon them.”

In fact what most Westerners know as “Yoga” is more accurately described simply as “asanas” or postures. Traditional Yoga (from Sanskrit yoga, think “yoke”) is a spiritual discipline aimed at union with the divine.  The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, compiled around 400 AD, include eight aspects or “limbs” of this spiritual discipline:

Yama – abstaining from violence, deceit, covetousness, sexual activity, and possessiveness.
Niyama – observing cleanliness of body and mind, contentment, austerity, scriptural study, and worship of God.
Asana – the postures required to maintain physical health as a support to the Yogic discipline.
Pranayama – breathing exercises.
Pratyahara – withdrawal of the senses from the external world.
Dharana – mental concentration.
Dhyana – steadfast meditation.
Samadhi – the final blissful goal of meditation.

It’s hard to imagine Yoga being quite so popular in the West if the first two limbs were emphasised over and above the promise of a “taught and toned Yoga body” with intimations of feel-good meditative bliss. Likewise, it’s hard to imagine Choudhury having as much cachet in a society where ethics extends Yogic discipline beyond the merely physical.

But in our self-consciously secular environment it’s hard to give credence to the idea that mysterious-looking postures might be less effective than onerous moral injunctions, let alone religious observances.  Without a trace of irony, many Westerners would rather twist themselves into the most difficult and unlikely contortions if only to avoid the conclusion that self-denial, moral rectitude, and religious observance might be the genuine path to a better way of life.

Yoga: Harmless Exercise or New Age Sex Cult?

Recent expose of Bikram yoga founder prompts questions.

February 26, 2015

Patti Maguirre Armstrong

Editor's Note: In light of the February 23 New York Times article, "Schism Emerges in Bikram Yoga Empire Amid Rape Claims," we take a closer look at the roots of yoga. Is it harmless exercise, or should we be concerned?

I consider myself flexible.  But if you are talking about physical flexibility and the ability to cross my legs and the wrap them around my head, well, that’s not going to happen!

Yoga is not my sport. But my aversion to it is not a matter of disdain for the lean and limber who stretch into unnatural poses. Stretching is legitimately good for the body. Yoga, however, is more complicated than physical fitness.

My first introduction to yoga came when I was in high school living in Dearborn, Michigan. My friend Denise and I took an evening class at a local public school. We went to the Catholic school and were looking for something adventurous to do while we scanned the list of community education classes. Denise’s mother nixed the belly dancing class (bless her) so yoga it was. We did a lot of harmless balancing and stretching such as “The Tree” in which we stood one-legged with the foot from the other leg pressed on the opposing inner thigh while holding our arms outstretched.  We wobbled and struggled to stay upright and felt very un-tree-like.

One day, the instructor brought in a picture book of yogis in advanced poses.  Good heavens, I’ve bet you’ve never seen the likes of such contortions outside of a circus — and even then… The various Gumby-like yogis looked bizarre; bending and twisting in ways I never imagined possible.

Now, fast-forward 30-some years. I’ve grown in knowledge and experience and have ten kids. Where once my faith was shallow, it now goes to the core.  And I’ve learned some things about yoga along the way.  Many years ago I read a book by a Christian and former new ager previously considered an authority on spiritual power though crystals. Once converted, he warned of the danger and actual demonic influences in new age practices, which had become clear to him after a difficult but major awakening to Christianity.  This man had personally explored a number of new age practices in depth, including yoga.  He had attended a special center for Yoga in California and reached a high level. The author claimed that at the upper levels, practitioners are actually inviting the serpent into their bodies during advanced relaxation poses and meditations. Hint:  the serpent is not God.

Not one to spread rumors that cannot be verified, I went to the Internet and put in the words Yoga and Serpent.  Lots of entries popped up.  Some of it was Christian-based warning against yoga.  If you are a yoga enthusiast, you could easily brush these sites aside as fanatical.  But you can’t brush aside the fact that actual yoga sites announce the power of the serpent as part of the attraction. Here is an excerpt from one of many sites:

• Kundalini (Divine Serpent Power) is a super power of our life.
• Over here lies focused all energies of the body and mind.
• Great Yogis, Rishis, Munis had discovered it.
• They all proclaimed that Kundalini is the supreme energy.
• It is the final step that helps us unite with God.
• Divine Serpent Power is the super power of our life.

As a Christian, this should shout out… False god! One book on yoga sold through Amazon is even called The Serpent Power.

On “The Lighthouse” website, self-described as a Christian Bible Based Cult Awareness Center, people are warned that Yoga is not in harmony with Christianity:

Yoga, in the Indo-European language, the ancestor of English, Latin, Greek, Sanskrit and many others, had a root meaning "to join," according to Webster’s Dictionary of Word Origins. In the English word, borrowed from Sanskrit, yoga means literally "union" (with deity), and is used specifically to refer to a program of spiritual discipline to attain this union. Christian understanding is that the goal of uniting with an alternate spirituality to God is to be united with a demonic being.

Harper’s Encyclopedia of Mystical & Paranormal Experience by Rosemary Ellen Guiley, describes yoga as “Various systems of spiritual discipline and liberation from the senses.” This is an interesting way of saying that yoga is designed to separate one from their mental faculties by creating an altered state of consciousness….

In Asia, Yoga is also found in Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism, and Bon (the early religion of Tibet) and has evolved into different systems, but all share the common goal of “union with the Absolute,” or divine, and are spiritual practices inseparable from the Eastern mystical religions that spawned them.

To the Christian, the greatest danger is the spiritual idolatry, before God, in engaging in practices devised thousands of years ago by pagan experts or “adepts,” to become “united” with spiritual deity, they believed to be the "Absolute," or "Ultimate Reality," but which the Bible calls "fallen angels" or demons.

Is yoga rooted in the demonic?  Some say yes, while others say it’s merely an Eastern religion. To make the demonic connection automatically puts the naysayer in the light of fanatic. But even if it’s nothing more than an ancient religion, how should Catholics view it? Is it harmless physical exercise when just the stretching is used?

There is another, very surprising aspect behind those stretches. Yoga’s historical roots as a sex cult was reported in an article in New York Times this year. Reporting on a sexual scandal of a well-known leader in yoga, the Times reported that the frequent scandals common among yoga devotees should come as no surprise. Yoga teachers and how-to books seldom mention that the discipline began as a sex cult – an omission that leaves many practitioners open to libidinal surprise.

Hatha yoga – the parent of the styles now practiced around the globe – began as a branch of Tantra. In medieval India, Tantra devotees sought to fuse the male and female aspects of the cosmos into a blissful state of consciousness.

The rites of Tantric cults, while often steeped in symbolism, could also include group and individual sex. Yoga is offered far and wide from gyms to schools and church activities. Isn’t it going overboard and becoming a troublemaker if we object to the practice of Yoga?  But even in a yoga class where you evaluate it as mere stretching and balancing, are you astute enough to understand any and all terms that might be thrown out there in languages you don’t understand?

Looking at an excerpt from The Power of the Serpent, it’s easy to see that you could unwittingly participate in a class without understanding what is really taking place.  Do you know what it means to pierce the Six Centres or regions (cakra) or Lotuses (padma) of the body?  I don’t, but based on what I know, I think we should abstain. Here is an excerpt from the book:

The power is the Goddess (Devi) Dundalini, or that which is coiled; for Her form is that of a coiled and sleeping serpent in the lowest bodily center at the base of the spinal column until by the means described She is aroused in that Yoga which is named after Her. Kundalini is the Divine Cosmic Energies in bodies…”  Does it strike you as odd that the author capitalizes pronouns “she” and “her” when referring to this serpent?  A footnote on the page explains, “Devi is Bhujagi, or the Serpent.”  So if your yoga instructor mentions Bhujagi during class, will you recognize the serpent being called on? Many people like exotic, exciting things.  Different languages and cultures are interesting but yoga is not like a trip to a Chinese restaurant.

In Fr. Mitch Pacwa’s book, Catholics and the New Age, he describes Yoga as the general category of various kinds of Hindu disciplines meant to unite a person with the divine. He states: “Yoga can refer to physical (hatha) mental (raja) sexual (tantra) or other discipline to achieve enlightenment.” Fr. Pacwa’s book was written to alert Catholics of new age influences that hamper Catholic practices and traditions. It is highly regarded and is cited in the magisterial document Jesus Christ Bearer of the Water of Life: A Christian Reflection on the “New Age”.

On the Catholic Answers website, a mother wrote wondering what her response should be to Yoga being practiced at her daughter’s Catholic elementary school during religion class.  Here was their response:

Particular physical exercises that are common to yoga and that help improve one’s health are perfectly fine. The problem is when a Christian participates in non-Christian Eastern spirituality. If your church is sponsoring an exercise class, it should call it simply an exercise class and omit confusing and possibly scandalous terminology such as yoga. If the church is sponsoring classes in non-Christian Eastern spirituality that is a serious problem that should be discussed with the pastor.

My kids have been to a Catholic vacation Bible school that had yoga.  My high schoolers were in sports that had a class in yoga as part of their conditioning. (It’s not a part of the program any more, thanks to solid, Catholic influences.) I figured it was just the exercise part of yoga – no religion involved.  Since they were not rising to the upper levels, I did not imagine their stretches were anything more than harmless exercise.

But recently I reconsidered this issue. In the future, I plan to gently but firmly protest such practices.  I don’t like being a thorn in the side to anyone. However, I am willing to be a thorn for the One who wore a crown of thorns for us.
Yoga is an ancient pagan religion. There are many parts to it such as stretching and meditation but they are all connected. Therefore, even if we don’t consider the serpent, why is it okay to take a part of a pagan religion and sponsor it and even force participation of it in schools and sports?  My contention is that even in a public school, forced participation falls under the definition of pushing and proselytizing children into a religion. Certainly in a Catholic school, a pagan religion – even a part of it – should not be required.

“For crying out loud,” the reply may be, “we’re just talking about some simple stretches and relaxed breathing techniques.”  Well, fine.  Then why not simply have stretching exercises?  Yoga is a religion with different parts and levels to it.  The stretching and meditation is just a part of it. I am raising my kids Catholic. They can learn about other religions, but practicing it goes beyond learning.

As Catholics, we should not be put on the defensive if we don’t want our children participating in an Eastern religion.

Patti Maguire Armstrong is a speaker, author, and was managing editor and co-author of Ascension Press' "Amazing Grace" series. Her latest books are Big Hearted Families and Dear God I Don't Get It. This article was originally published on The Integrated Catholic Life.

Father Roland Colhoun warns of risk involved in yoga

Father Roland Colhoun.
Monday 23 February 2015

A Derry priest has warned parishioners against taking part in yoga and having Indian head massages, writes Sheena Jackson.

Fr. Roland Colhoun, who is based in the Waterside, issued caution when saying mass in Drumsurn two Sundays ago, when he says he was drafted in at short notice. He said his sermon was based on the devil and exorcism.

“I mentioned a number of things that are part of the new age movement. It’s so embedded in our culture now that it has gained a kind of a respectability, but the new age practices, they’re certainly not good for us and the Church is very concerned about people employing them and has written specific documents on the new age movement. There is a great body of research (theological, spiritual and physiological) already done on it.”

Fr. Colhoun said he mentioned yoga and Indian head massage. “The Indian head massage, while I haven’t done a great study into it, the difficulty is that it involves the laying on of hands on another person’s head. There is a risk when you do that because that is a rite we use in the sacramental practice for the communication of the Holy Spirit in baptism and confirmation, and ordination as well,” said Fr Colhoun, “but if you do that outside of a sacramental rite you’re running the risk of communicating a bad spirit, not the Holy Spirit.”

Regarding yoga, Fr. Colhoun said the medical journals have taken great interest in yoga and the case studies of yoga practitioners who gained injuries and long term disabilities.

“Pope Francis said ‘do not seek spiritual answers in yoga classes’. Yoga is certainly a risk. There’s the spiritual health risk. When you take up those practices from other cultures, which are outside our Christian domain, you don’t know what you are opening yourself up to. The bad spirit can be communicated in a variety of ways. I’m not saying everyone gets it, or that it happens every time, and people may well be doing yoga harmlessly, but there‘s always a risk and that’s why the Pope mentioned it and that’s why we talk about that in terms of the danger of the new age movement and the danger of the occult today. That’s the fear.”

Fr. Colhoun said yoga or Indian head massage “don’t have their origins in Christianity”.

“There is definitely power from them, but where it’s from the Church is nervous and that’s why it fits into the sermon on the devil,” said Fr Colhoun who accepts some people may be bemused by his comments, but said: “I would refer people to the evidence. The Church documents are written on it. It’s not an exhaustive study as the new age movement keeps changing. The documents give great caution about their practices.”

Church bans 'un-Christian' yoga class from using its hall because of activity's links with 'alternative spiritualities'

    By Daily Mail Reporter, 10 February 2015

A church has banned a yoga class from using its hall because of its links with 'alternative spiritualities'.

Not welcome any more... Yoga instructor Naomi Hayama has been told by chiefs at St Michael and All Angels in Bristol that she will have to find another venue – even though she has used their hall for nine years Not welcome any more...

Instructor Naomi Hayama has been told by church leaders at St Michael and All Angels in Bristol that she will have to find another venue – even though she has used the hall for nine years.

In a letter, the parochial church council told her that yoga's roots 'lie in thinking that is not compatible with the Christian faith'. Her students have been left angry at the decision, telling the church the twice-weekly evening classes at St Michael's Hall have no religious content whatsoever. Ms Hayama, said the decision was made despite church leaders never observing one of her sessions.

In a letter to her, the Parish of Bishopston and St Andrews' Parochial Church Council said yoga fell foul of a new ban on groups linked to 'alternative spiritualities'. 'We are aware that yoga can be practised as either an exercise class or as a spiritual discipline and anywhere in between, however we understand that its roots lie in thinking that it is not compatible with the Christian faith and the Christian faith has not appropriated yoga,' the letter stated. 'The parish church council recently passed a resolution stating that we would no longer take either new or continuing bookings for groups practising "alternative spiritualities".'

Ms Hayama, 39, from Horfield, has until the end of the month to find alternative premises and avoid letting down her 30 students.

In a statement, the Church said yoga was a 'spiritual activity whose roots are not Christ-centred'. 'All of our buildings are open to and used by a wide range of groups from the local community,' the Church said. 'The primary purpose of these buildings is the worship of God as revealed in the person of Jesus Christ.
Yoga means the union of "mind, body and spirit". By definition, therefore, Yoga is a spiritual activity whose roots are not Christ-centred  'Yoga means the union of "mind, body and spirit". By definition, therefore, Yoga is a spiritual activity whose roots are not Christ centred.

'We are confident we have acted legally and have waived the last nine months of Naomi's fees, amounting to nearly £1,000. 'We are surprised at the actions currently being taken. Whilst we understand that Naomi would not agree with our decision, in December 2014 she informed us that we had reached an agreeable compromise with regard to her notice period.'

A spokeswoman for the Diocese of Bristol said: 'Decisions on who can lease church buildings lie entirely within the remit of the relevant parochial church council (PCC) in each case.

'The Diocese of Bristol therefore supports the PCC of Bishopston and St Andrews in exercising its responsibility in deciding to cease bookings for a yoga class in St Michael's Church.'

He left the seminary to practice Yoga and to follow Hindu gurus until in prayer Jesus touched him!

Testimony of Fr Paresh Gujarat (Ahmedabad diocese)

I am a Gujarati, from Bombay. Though my fore-fathers hail from Gujarat, we have settled down in Bombay since last two generations. We converted to Catholicism since the last two generations only, as the church of Gujarat is 114 years old..

I was born and brought up in Bombay. My daddy expired when I was in 9th std. Being the youngest of six brothers and sisters, I was showered with a lot of love and care. I joined the Engineering College (Production Engineering) soon after my 12th std. I was elected as the General Secretary of the college. I was into blood donations and was also involved in other social work in hospitals and other public centers. When once I visited TATA hospital I met a little 11yr old girl suffering from leukemia. Her parents were finding it difficult to get blood donors for her. In Bombay there are several such families begging to the doctors for the life of their babies. I decided to help this little girl. We had a big group of blood donors. I also arranged for the treatment expense. Though we tried our best to save her life she died in 6 months. This death had its effect on me and my perspective about life changed. My dream was to become successful person, go abroad and work but suddenly, I saw that nothing or no one can stop prevent death, no matter how much money you have!
I started asking God 'why do you allow so much suffering? Why do you allow people to cry?' I wanted to experience God if He really existed and my search for God began.

I was just a routine church- goer. During those days I got my hand on a philosophical book by Swami Vivekananda. I found it interesting. I read all the volumes of the books by Swami Vivekananda. Somehow I felt that we can never encounter God at home. One needs to renounce the world. Thus, with little or no faith in Jesus, I went to Gujarat to become a priest. I spent a year there but I was not happy. I left the place and retuned back to Bombay.

Even though I tried to become a priest I couldn't experience God. As soon as I left the seminary my brothers and sisters-in-law wanted me to get married. I was not ready for marriage and so finally I reached a decision to open a factory in Bombay. However even this did not give me any satisfaction instead my desire to experience God grew stronger. Not knowing what to do I started visiting famous Swamis and Gurus all over India. I visited many Ashrams. I met preachers of different communities. Every Monday I used to go to Shiv Temple, Tuesday - Friday I went to Kali and Durga devi temple and Saturdays to Hanuman temple. I used to get up at 3:30 a.m , have a cold water dip, do kriya yoga etc. although I was a catholic I completely stopped going to Church. Some of India's famous Swamis used to come to my house and take me with them to their ashrams.I used to go with them to the jungles and stay for 10-15 days with them.

Because of my yoga practices, I started getting some psychic gifts But my Hindu guru's kept telling me that if I get stuck with the spiritual gifts, then I will not be able to experience the 'giver of the gifts, i.e. God. So I continued in my search for God. I was looking for a Guru who would accept me as his disciple. A well known Hath-Yogi from Malad, Bombay had told me several times that Jesus is my Guru and that I have to become a priest. My mom began to get worried about me seeing me running after so many gurus.

A 108 year old guru from a village called Zarap, near Sawantwadi [Maharashtra], gave me a guru mantra (a chant) and asked me to recite and see its power. I started reciting the mantra. I was very happy and recited that mantra religiously. I had already spent two and a half years since I had left my seminary and seeking God following the Hindu guru's. Nothing seemed to be happening. Infact I was experiencing some sort of turmoil within me.

On 7th of June, 1994 I was out for an evening walk and was passing through my parish church (St. Teresa's Church) in Bandra. I saw the board 'Jesus heals'. A force dragged me into the Church. I was not aware of the charismatic movement at that time. When I entered I noticed that Fr. Joe Santiago from Poona Diocese was conducting the prayer services. People were screaming on the top of their voices shouting 'Alleluia' before the exposed Blessed Sacrament. I found all this a bit funny. I found my self misplaced there and was just waiting for this prayer service to get over so that I could get out of all that madness.

At 9 pm, the priest asked all of us to stand up and pray so that the Lord may touch us. I too got up casually looking all around with curiosity. And lo... what happens....Suddenly I saw a ball of light on the altar. The light entered into my heart and I fell down. I was embraced and engulfed with that light. I instantly recognized the light. IT WAS JESUS. Jesus was right in front of me. I could hear His voice saying "I am the Master you are looking for. I have a plan for you to become a priest; go to Gujarat and I have a plan for you there". I could experience the light for 10 minutes. I could experience a power entering my body and another power leaving my body. I was getting transformed. Like 'Saul was becoming Paul'.

After the prayers I found myself a changed person. I came home and for the first time in my life I started reading Bible with devotion. I miraculously came in touch with my college friend Ralph, who was into healing ministry. I joined his prayer group and there I received the gift of tongues and the gift of healing.
Having confirmed Gods call, I left my home once again to join priesthood. I went to Gujarat and met the Bishop of Ahmedabad and he accepted me in his diocese.

I was 28 years old when I joined. And today, I am 40, and have completed 4...years of my priesthood and I continue to serve our LORD in His vineyard. Praise the Lord. Many are the wonders he has worked in my life thereafter and continues to work everyday of my life. Today I am convinced beyond any doubt that our Lord is the true God and also the only living God. Thank you Jesus Praise you Jesus.

I would like to conclude my testimony by stating that if any of you are searching for the one true living God then it stops at Jesus. I have been through the arduous path and convinced myself beyond any doubt.

John 14:15 ‘If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate (HOLY SPIRIT), to be with you for ever.

Exorcist: Yoga/Reiki Can be Point of Entry for Demons

August 25nd 2015. During a recent interview, Dominican priest and exorcist Father Juan Jose Gallego of the Archdiocese of Barcelona said that both Reiki and some forms of yoga can be points of entry for demons.

CNA is reporting on the comments made by the exorcist to the Spanish daily, El Mundo, in which he said that pride is the sin the devil likes the most. He also warned that “New Age” practices like Reiki and some yoga can be points of entry for the demons, and called addictions a “type of possession.”

Gallego, who has been serving as an exorcist in the diocese for nine years, admitted to the interview that he sometimes afraid when confronting demons.“In the beginning I had a lot of fear,” Fr. Gallego replied. “All I had to do was look over my shoulder and I saw demons… the other day I was doing an exorcism, ‘I command you! I order you!’…and the Evil One, with a loud voice fires back at me: ‘Galleeeego, you’re over-doooing it.’ That shook me.” But he knows that God is more powerful than the devil and likes to remind members of his family who were worried about him when he first took on the assignment.

“ . . . [W]hen they appointed me, a relative told me, ‘Whoa, Juan José, I’m really afraid, because in the movie ‘The Exorcist,’ one person died and the other threw himself through a window. I said to her ‘Don’t forget that the devil is (just a) creature of God.’”

He’s seen a lot in the last nine years. “There was a boy whom the demon would set his shirt on fire at night and things like that. He told me what the demons were proposing him to do: If you make a pact with us, you’ll never have to go through any more of what you’re going through now,” he said.

He also said that when people are possessed, “they lose consciousness, they speak strange languages, they have inordinate strength, they feel really bad, you see very well-mannered people vomiting and blaspheming.”  He added: “You see the most proper ladies vomiting and swearing, saying things like ‘The Virgin Mary is a whore,’” he said.

Breitbart is reporting that his most terrifying case was that of an Ecuadorian lady whose husband summoned her after watching his wife lose consciousness and fall to the ground anytime she saw a religious symbol. When he arrived on the scene, he found the woman unconscious. As he was putting on his stoke and getting out his holy water, the woman suddenly began to crawl across the floor like a snake.

“I threw holy water on her and she writhed as it burned her. Her three-year-old son attempted to approach her and she tried to attack him. We had to take the child away. Then she came at me.” In another case, a possessed 16-year-old boy with very little education said to him in perfect Latin: “I order you never to say the Lord’s Prayer again.” The humble priest, who has a doctorate in theology from the University of St. Thomas Aquinas in Rome, as well as a degree in Philosophy from the University of Barcelona, says his work can sometimes be “a very unpleasant job.”

Catholic bishop tells women to abstain from yoga


May 22, 2015. “Good Christians” shouldn’t do yoga. That’s not a new stance, but when retired Catholic Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz issued a statement telling Catholics to abstain from yoga -- all hell broke loose on Facebook this past week. Especially, in the Lincoln area, where Bruskewitz ruled the Catholic Diocese for 20 years, often taking hardline ultra-conservative stands on issues even the church had softened on.
Bruskewitz’s statements were included in a May 18 blog on the Women of Grace website, a Catholic organization for women of which Bruskewitz is on the board of directors. In his letter, he urged women to find other forms of exercise that do not jeopardize their faith. The issue with yoga is that it is based in Hinduism -- a religion the Catholic church has called “incompatible to Christianity.” Indeed, Catholicism is not the only Christian-based faith that takes issue with yoga. Evangelicals have long preached yoga-avoidance -- because the chants, poses and movement names all connect to the ancient Hindu religion and the individual quest for enlightenment.

That’s not to say all yoga enthusiasts embrace Hinduism -- in fact most Americans taking part in yoga do it for the physical and mental benefits of stretching, breathing and meditating. But still, practitioners say Hindu phrases such as “namaste” -- commonly translated: “the light within me bows to the light within you” -- they assume poses with names like sun salutations and warrior, which have deep roots in the Hindu faith. To get around the theological Hindu aspects, yogis of other faiths have created Christian and Jewish yoga programs such as Holy Yoga, Praise Moves and Shalom Yoga, in which people pray, recite Scripture from the Bible or Torah, and assume religiously neutral poses or ones specifically linked to their own religious beliefs.

This past fall, Lincoln’s Bonnie Meyer opened Studio 4:8 Yoga, a Christian yoga ministry based on Philippians 4:8. Meyer, a strong Christian, said she struggled for a long time over the decree that yoga and Christianity were incompatible. But then she did her research, took classes and learned that yoga predates Hinduism, although yoga is now part of the Indian religion. Rather than quit yoga, she converted it. “The purpose is not to empty the mind, but invite the Holy Spirit in and allow ourselves to feel that connection to Christ and to God,” Meyer said of Christian yoga. “Yoga is not a religion. It offers a different lens of focus,” she said. And that is where Christian leaders, like Bruskewitz, have a problem.

From the Catholic perspective, Hindu is “a pagan religion based on heathen beliefs and a false doctrine of revelation involving such things as transmigration of souls, and so forth,” the Women of Grace blog quoted from the bishop’s letter. It is impossible to separate the Hindu religious aspects of yoga from the practice of yoga, said JD Flynn, special assistant to Bishop James Conley for the Lincoln Diocese. Flynn spoke on behalf of Bruskewitz and Conley, who were unavailable for comment.

The bishops’ position is guided by a 1989 document from the Vatican “Common Aspects of Christian Meditation” written by the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith (then headed by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who later became Pope Benedict XVI). The document in part acknowledges that some physical exercises produce feelings of quiet and relaxation, which can resemble spiritual well-being, but it is not authentic. In 2003, the Vatican somewhat softened its stance with the provisional document “Jesus Christ: The Bearer of the Water of Life: A Christian Reflection on the ‘New Age.’” It said people could discern whether New Age spiritual practices such as Zen meditation, Feng Shui, Reiki and yoga are permissible -- “provided the posture is severable from the religion or philosophy that first motivated it.” But the church itself, has not changed its stance that yoga is dangerous. “The practice of yoga is very ancient and rooted in theological monism -- that we are all one being ... that the universe is one and oneness is divine,” Flynn said.

Yoga with its body positions and meditation is designed to create a greater self awareness “of oneness with the universe and a proclamation of oneness with the universe,” Flynn said. “Christians believe God is God. ... We are called together in unity, but we are not one with God and we cannot become God and the universe will not become God,” Flynn said. The problem with yoga, even if practiced solely for exercise is that combining certain stretches and meditation can “lead to certain spiritual awareness and consequences,” Flynn said. Lincoln Yoga Center owner Sheila Palmquist agreed. Yoga is a uniting of the mind and body, bringing harmony to a person's inner spiritual life and relationship with others, she said. "We all have a unique relationship with what we consider to be the divine. Yoga as it is practiced in the western world today is not intended to change one’s beliefs but rather compliment and root them deeper in their religion, faith or values," she said. "Yoga postures with deep breathing are linked with observation, acceptance and understanding."
Warnings like those issued by Bruskewitz, are based on unfounded fears, she said. “It’s very frustrating. That (indoctrination) is not the purpose of yoga at all,” she said. The church is not convinced.

“Bishop Bruskewitz is saying that even if you practice yoga for exercise, you need to be aware that yoga is intended for a particular purpose and it can undermine what Christians believe about themselves and what Christians believe about God,” Flynn said. “We are not against exercise or stretching. But you have to be very careful,” Flynn said

Indeed, Bruskewitz encourages physical exercise -- so long as it is “morally neutral and would not, in itself involve anything detrimental to our Catholic faith,” he wrote in his letter to Women of Grace
And Bruskewitz does not have faith that Catholics can resist yoga’s draw to anti-Christian beliefs. “ ... The practice of yoga, if it does not begin that way, eventually morphs into an acceptance of points of view, and even doctrinal and moral matters that are distant from Catholic truth and from genuine and authentic Christian revelation,” Bruskewitz wrote.
“In our time there are innumerable ways and methods by which appropriate and proper exercise of the human body can be undertaken that present no real danger to our faith or to our Catholic beliefs and commitments,” Bruskewitz wrote. “It would be most desirable for persons who are Catholic to abstain from the practice of yoga and use other methods to exercise. ... We are never allowed to place our Catholic faith unnecessarily in any danger, and certainly the practice of yoga could be an occasion of serious sin. ... ”

Can Yoga ever be Christian?

Interview with Caryl Matrisciana

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