Could This Pagan Influence Be Affecting Your Faith?

Why I Think Yoga and Christianity Don't Mix

My goal is not to question anyone's faith or offend those doing yoga. My desire is to make Christians aware of concerns regarding the practice of yoga. I welcome comments and even disagreement, but please read the guidelines for comments at the bottom. Thanks!

Demon Possessed
In the 1980’s I was the program chairman for a large Christian women’s group for military wives. 

One of our speakers was a woman who had become demon possessed through practicing yoga. 

She had no interest in pagan or occult practices. She was simply doing something she thought was exercise.

She ended up in a mental ward and only recovered because a nurse shared Christ with her and prayed for her release from yoga demons.

This speaker warned Christians not to get involved with yoga on any level. She said it couldn’t be Christianized. 

The Growing Popularity of Yoga
No one argued with her in the 1980’s, but today it’s a different story.

From 2012 to 2016, the number of Americans doing yoga doubled from approximately 20 million to 40 million (source). 

Many YMCAs, community centers, churches, and grade schools now offer yoga classes. 

Syncretism
While many of these classes claim to remove the Hindu elements, and some claim they are Christian, even the most sterile versions incorporate aspects of yoga’s meditation techniques. 

This syncretism - the combining of different religions - is not a healthy practice.

It's Not the Same as Christmas Trees
Why I Think Yoga and Christianity Don't Mix
Some folks are troubled by the use of Christmas trees because people once worshiped trees. I don’t share their concerns because tree worship is not a modern religion, nothing about Christmas trees mimics rituals or ceremonies of past or current tree worship, and I don’t know a single person who worships their Christmas tree. If it bothers a Christian to have one, they shouldn't, but it's not syncretism.

On the other hand, yoga bears a pagan name and yoga is still very much a part of current Hindu and Buddhist worship. Wherever it’s taught, it mimics some of the rituals and ceremonies of pagan origin. And many people still use yoga to worship pagan gods.

What's in a Name?
“Christian yoga” is an oxymoron. That’s like saying Christian Hinduism. 

Does it honor God to use an exercise program with a pagan name and pagan origins? You will have to answer that question for yourself, but I hope you will consider the Scriptures below in the Bible study before making up your mind.

We are Not Merely Physical Beings
Perhaps yoga has physical benefits, but we are not merely physical beings. We are spiritual beings as well, and things we do physically can affect our spirits. 

Because our bodies are temples of God's Holy Spirit everything we do with our bodies should glorify God (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).

"For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come." 1 Timothy 4:8

Let’s exercise our spiritual discernment and choose activities that honor and bless the God of the Bible, first, last, and forever.

Maybe you can do yoga without harming your witness or your spiritual growth.

Then again, you may not even be aware of the ways it has already affected your spiritual growth. 

Is any exercise program worth that risk?

Why is Yoga So Incredibly Popular?
Let's be aware that Satan is still very much our enemy, dear Christians, and he is called an angel of light because he makes evil attractive. 

Yoga is one of the most popular forms of exercise in the world (source). Many of its followers believe it is the only exercise that keeps them healthy physically and mentally. 

I believe the popularity of yoga is demonic. What toll is it taking on our witness and effectiveness as Christians?

It's so important that we stand firm (1 Corinthians 10:12; 2 Corinthians 11:3). 

Whether you are currently doing yoga or just curious about it, I encourage you to do the Bible study below this devotion. Don't let your enjoyment of yoga keep you from exploring the concerns and prayerfully examining the Scriptures that speak about pagan influences. Thanks!



 Bible Study
Exploring Excuses for Doing Yoga

1. Let's start with the most common Scriptural excuse.
It goes something like this: "Romans 14 says we shouldn't tell other Christians something they are doing is wrong if it isn't specifically mentioned in Scripture."

This excuse flips Romans 14 upside down. Romans 14 warns against doing anything that might cause your brother or sister with weaker faith to do something against their conscience. It doesn't prevent Christians from raising concerns.

And, most importantly, the burden in Romans 14 is put on the person who approves things, not the person who disapproves them: 

"It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or to do anything else that will cause your brother or sister to fall. So whatever you believe about these things keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the one who does not condemn himself by what he approves." (verses 21-22)

This article explains how doing yoga can affect the faith of others even if it doesn't affect our own: Questions Christians Should Ask Before Doing Yoga.

2. Another argument people use for practicing yoga is that it's "just an exercise and no exercise in and of itself is pagan."  

While we are no longer under Old Testament laws, there are principles in some of these laws that are pertinent to us today. For example:


Could This Pagan Influence Be Affecting Your Faith?
Deuteronomy 12:1-3:  These are the decrees and laws you must be careful to follow in the land that the Lord, the God of your ancestors, has given you to possess—as long as you live in the land. 2 Destroy completely all the places on the high mountains, on the hills and under every spreading tree, where the nations you are dispossessing worship their gods. 3 Break down their altars, smash their sacred stones and burn their Asherah poles in the fire; cut down the idols of their gods and wipe out their names from those places.

These pagan gods were made of wood and stone. There is nothing wrong with the wood and stone found in these altars, nor is there anything wrong with altars. But God didn't want these stones, poles, and altars (designed for pagan worship) to be used to worship Him. In addition, God wanted them destroyed. What they represented was offensive to God, even their pagan names were offensive to God.

3. A third argument for practicing yoga is that Christians can chant Scriptures instead of the traditional yoga chants.

Deuteronomy 12:4: You must not worship the Lord your God in their way.

If you follow yoga meditation techniques and replace the Hindu words with Scripture verses, aren't you still worshiping the Lord "in their way"?

This command is repeated a few verses later:
Deuteronomy 12:29-32: The Lord your God will cut off before you the nations you are about to invade and dispossess. But when you have driven them out and settled in their land, 30 and after they have been destroyed before you, be careful not to be ensnared by inquiring about their gods, saying, “How do these nations serve their gods? We will do the same.” 31 You must not worship the Lord your God in their way, because in worshiping their gods, they do all kinds of detestable things the Lord hates. They even burn their sons and daughters in the fire as sacrifices to their gods. 32 See that you do all I command you; do not add to it or take away from it.

I doubt any Israelite began exploring pagan religions in order to sacrifice his son or daughter to a pagan god. But that exact thing happened in Israel’s history. And I doubt any Christian begins practicing yoga in order to hinder their prayer life or compromise their Christianity. But that doesn't assure that it won't happen.


For additional warnings:
Deuteronomy 18:9-13


4. Another argument to do yoga is that we are not living in Old Testament times so none of the above prohibitions pertain to us.
However, these warnings are also found in the New Testament.

2 Corinthians 6:14-18: Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? 15 What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? Or what does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? 16 What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said:
“I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.” 17 Therefore, “Come out from them and be separate, says the Lord.  Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you.” 18 And, “I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.”

Read warnings from well-known Christians:
Piper, Mohler, MacArthur on Yoga

Some non-spiritual cautions:
Certain yoga poses can damage the eyes
4 Dangerous Yoga Poses
How Yoga Can Wreck Your Body

Guidelines for Comments:

When I raised concerns about the book The Shack, many professing Christians responded with angry comments and emails. If questioning a man-written book or an exercise program like yoga leads you to write rude comments, it's very likely that you’ve lost your discernment and objectivity.

Disagreement is healthy when done according to Scriptural guidelines (Matthew 5:22; Luke 6:45; Ephesians 4:29; Colossians 4:6). 

Whichever side you are on in this discussion (even if you agree with this post), I hope you will use gracious speech when expressing your opinion. Stick to why you support your view, especially in regard to Scripture, and don’t make personal attacks against people who hold other views. Thanks!

16 comments:

  1. Thank you for caring enough for Gods Children to warn them of what appears innocent, and actually pulling them out of bondage.

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  2. I second Kayla's comment, Gail! There are plenty of other wholesome means of keeping our bodies fit that will honour our Lord God! Thanks for having the courage to speak out on such controversial subjects with such grace and love!

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  3. I have believed this for 40 years. Even so, my daughter has strayed and now I see my grandson on Instagram verbally exalting his Sun pose. I covet your prayers.

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    1. I'm sorry, Kim. I pray that your grandsons will come to understand the truth.

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  4. Thank you for speaking truth. We are definitely in a Bible drought and it takes Courage for someone to speak out against something so popular. It’s like a tidal wave has hit the church and this is one of the waves.

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  5. Wow, I had no idea - thank you for insight.

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  6. Wow, I had no idea, thank you for your insight!

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  7. I agree with you. I was raised that Yoga was not an OK practice. My mom always told me that it was a sin and not honoring God. My daughters are now having to do it in PE and for a workout for their High School soccer team. I appreciate this email as I can now share it with them and help them better understand what I was raised to believe.

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  8. Yes, I completely agree. We need to be very careful. There are many things that can be harmful, though they may look harmless.
    I couldn't find a search bar on your blog, so I don't know if you've written an article about the Jesus Calling and/or older book, God Calling. Someone gave me Jesus Calling as a gift, and I bought God Calling because it was recommended as a good book. I have read little bits of them, but feel uncomfortable with them written in the first person. Some information I have read said they are New Age, and should be avoided. I would like to know your thoughts. I want to be discerning, but not critical of everything either. I enjoy your devotions and value your opinion. God bless you.

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    1. Hi Melanie,
      I also have concerns with the book, and I've read some good articles on it. It might be a good idea for me to write something on it. Until then, you might want to check out Tim Challies' article called "10 Serious Problems with Jesus Calling." Comments don't allow links, but you can copy this url: https://www.challies.com/articles/10-serious-problems-with-jesus-calling/

      I hope it's helpful.

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  9. Thanks a lot for the eye opening more so to those who do not know. When you make your mind empty is the same as removing even the holy spirit from you and once He is not in the vacuum is filled by the evil spirit. We should always be examining ourselves whether we are still in the faith. ( 2nd Corinthians 13:5) The word is the one that will judge us on the last day and as a result it should be our measure.

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  10. Gail, Thank you so much for this eye opening article. I have always been wary of yoga but have been sliding more toward just a daily yoga routine to tighten and tone my body. I am struggling desperately to maintain some physical strength as I am dealing with a chronic fatigue, yet undiagnosed, that is really changing my life. It can be quite discouraging and I was thinking maybe just this series of "poses" to help me hopefully improve my strength - however, you have helped me to see that I must find something else because I do want to honor our wonderful Lord above all else. Thanks so much! Dell

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    1. I've been where you are....I was diagnosed with Chronic fatigue in my 30's and had some very hard years. I know the frustration and the desire to try anything to see some improvement. For me it has come with rest, vitamins, right eating, dealing with yeast in my system, and time. I pray you will also fine relief.

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    2. That's soooo wonderful that you want to honour the Lord! Say, I have Lyme disease, and my greatest symptom besides joint pain is chronic fatigue. Most of the tests are lousy, but it would be worth a try to test for it and see if it comes back positive or not. Even if it's negative, you could have it. If you have joint pain and other revolving issues, that might be your issue. Look up on the Lyme Disease awareness sites for symptoms.

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  11. I was trying to suggest that we warn a mostly "Christian" mother's group about the connections with the occult that the Pokemon cards have (Wizards.com). The leader, as it was, also was allowing her small children to play with them. Her son walked up and handed her a card while we were talking nearby in a private area, and she tapped her finger firmly on the card and said something to the effect: "idols are nothing" "this is just a piece of paper, it has no power." I didn't know of any instances of testimonies at the time, as more than likely, how someone became "possessed" by demons (because they are depicting "monsters" with powers), but I thought I'd observed a youth in the group that was obsessed with them. So many things you said, would have been helpful in rebuttal. She was a woman of strong faith and convictions (head coverings, I think, and dresses, no pants) but there seemed to be no fear of what evil spirits could do because she was "protected by the Holy Spirit" and she had prayed about it and got no word against it. Never the less, we are entrenched with pagan practices. We do and participate with practically everything our culture around us has to offer. We do it without thinking about, "would our Heavenly Father be pleased?" Do we bother to check things out before we buy things or bring things into our home? I was amazed that Pokemon cards became popular after it had been sold to the Game company called "Wizards of the Coasts" (makers of Dungeons and Dragons and The Gathering which is kinda on the order of Ouija Board). It was bought back by Nintendo again. With such connections, you'd think that would have scared the mother off, but no! She seems to think that nothing can hurt her family because they are under the protection of the Holy Spirit. There is such things as grieving the Holy Spirit. Sigh ... We need to pray that the blanket of deception is lifted from the eyes of our brothers and sisters so that they can see. I know; I was under that blanket for decades! Thank you so much for this well put together subject, though, I do believe we have been worshiping "under every green tree", so I got rid of my "Nativity" Trees, including the garlands and gold and silver balls. ;)

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  12. This is a neat post. I have voiced to my sisters in Christ that I didn't want to participate in Yoga, because I'm spiritually convicted not to. That doesn't usually go over well - but it's my inability to tie scripture into my response. Thank you for this devo.

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