Excerpted from “YOGA and CHRISTIANITY: Are They Compatible?” by Chris Lawson
Western Culture Embraces Yoga
It is no secret that Yoga is taking Western civilization by storm. In just a little over a hundred years, a mystical revolution has occurred that millions of Westerners have wholeheartedly embraced. Amazingly, the Western Judeo-Christian view is in the process of a paradigm shift toward the same perspective as yogic India.
To illustrate the magnitude of the Yoga explosion, consider Yoga Journal’s “Yoga in America Study 2012.” This study reveals some incredible statistics:
• 20.4 million Americans practice Yoga, compared to 15.8 million from the previous 2008 study.
• Practitioners spend $10.3 billion a year on Yoga classes and products. The previous estimate from the 2008 study was $5.7 billion.
• Of current non-practitioners, 44.4 percent of Americans call themselves “aspirational yogis”—people who are interested in trying Yoga.
Yoga (or Yogic spirituality) is influencing Christians and non-Christians alike. In Time Magazine’s book, Alternative Medicine: Your Guide to Stress Relief, Healing, Nutrition, and More, it states:
Hard to believe now, but yoga was once considered heretical, and even dangerous. As recently as a century ago, yogis in America were viewed with suspicion; some were actually thrown in jail. Today, though, most gyms offer it, many public schools teach it, and a growing number of doctors prescribe it . . . It may have taken 5,000 years, but yoga has arrived.
Just What is Yoga?
No doubt, many, probably most, of the millions of Westerners who practice postural Yoga have never read a simple definition of what Yoga really is. Below, I have presented a small selection of definitions of Yoga.
According to Webster’s New Twentieth Century Dictionary, Yoga is essentially: “a practice involving intense and complete concentration upon something, especially deity, in order to establish identity of consciousness with the object of concentration; it is a mystic and ascetic practice, usually involving the discipline of prescribed postures, controlled breathing, etc.”
The Merriam Webster Online Dictionary adds: “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.”
Cyndi Lee, expert yogi and writer for Yoga Journal, defines Yoga as such:
The word yoga, from the Sanskrit* word yuj means to yoke or bind and is often interpreted as “union” . . . 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).
Goutam Paul, author of Bhagavad Gita: The Ultimate Science of Yoga states:
When we talk about linking or connection, an obvious question arises: to connect what with what? The very word “connection” implies that there must be two different entities separated from one another, and they need to be connected. The ancient Vedic* text Bhagavad Gita explains that these entities are the individual consciousness and the universal Supreme consciousness. Some may call this universal consciousness an all-pervading energy, whereas most theists consider this Supreme consciousness to be God. . . . The purpose of Yoga is to connect the individual energy with the universal energy, or put another way, to connect the individual being to its source—the Supreme Being.
Swami Nirmalananda Giri of the Atma Jvoti Ashram, answering the question to “What is Yoga?” states:
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 of that oneness.
The Concise Dictionary of the Occult and New Age describes how Yoga is done:
Typical exercises, such as those found in hatha yoga, are practiced under the tutelage of a guru or yogi, a personal religious guide and spiritual teacher. Gurus teach students to combine a variety of breathing techniques with asanas, or relaxation postures. In each of the postures, students must first enter the position, then maintain it for a certain length of time, and finally leave it.
This dictionary further states that people in the West have mistaken Yoga to be “mere breathing and relaxation exercises,” when in reality “[t]he practice of yoga serves as a gateway to Eastern mysticism and occult thinking.” It adds:
Certain postures, such as the lotus position, are taken to activate the psychic energy centers [the chakras]. And specific breathing exercises are practiced to infuse the soul with cosmic energy floating in the air. A guru might have students gaze at a single object, such as a candle, to develop and focus concentration. The guru might have them chant a mantra to clear their minds and become one with the object in front of them. The goal is to achieve increasingly higher meditative states until reaching oneness with the cosmic consciousness.
Understanding the Meaning of “Occult”
The word “occult” comes from the Latin occultus or “hidden,” and those who employ the term generally do so in an attempt to describe secret and mysterious supernatural powers or magical (magick) religious rituals.
Throughout history, there have been those who attempted to gain supernatural power or knowledge through occult means. Occultism also can generally refer to witchcraft, Satanism, neo-paganism, or any of the various forms of psychic discernment such as astrology, séances, palm reading, and a myriad of other spiritual methodologies for contact with the spirit world. The term occult is often interchangeable with the term metaphysics—these terms share the belief that there is a universal energy (e.g., Chi, Prana, Ki, etc.) that exists in all things. By engaging in the occult (i.e., metaphysical arts), this energy is awakened. Yoga in all its forms is simply one spiritual genre among many designed to induce practitioners into altered states, thereby gaining access into the world of occult spirituality.
Kundalini—the Energy Behind Yoga
Internationally recognized occult authority, Hans-Ulrich Rieker (author of The Yoga of Light: Hatha Yoga Pradipika) describes the vital role kundalini plays in Yoga when he states, “Kundalini [is] the mainstay of all yoga practices.” With this in mind, a brief look at “kundalini energy” (the root of Yoga) is in order.
Born as Chinmoy Kumar Ghose (1931-2007), Sri Chinmoy was an Indian spiritual “master,” spirit medium, occultist, and interfaith guru. Teaching Yoga in the West from the time he moved to New York City in 1964, Chinmoy spent 43 years in the West producing “prayers and meditations, literary, musical and artistic works.” Giving spiritual meditations twice a week at the United Nations building (since 1970), Chinmoy’s occult philosophy for life was, “When the power of love Replaces the love of power, Man will have a new name: God.”
Like many other occultists who promote yogic spirituality intertwined with “love,” Chinmoy masterfully crafted his occultism under the guise of “Concentration, Meditation, Will-Power and Love.” These themes are expanded upon in Chinmoy’s occult manifesto, Kundalini: The Mother Power where Chinmoy explains Yoga’s occult foundation, goals, and the purpose of manifesting the kundalini serpent power.
Chinmoy likened “kundalini arousal” (varying states of demonic possession) to a “game” that is to be “played” between Shakti “The Mother Power” (a Hindu goddess) and the adept who seeks to manifest kundalini. The “power” and “force” that Chinmoy encourages people to “play with” is, in actuality, in many varying religious contexts, demonic spirits (fallen angels) that masquerade as “The Mother Supreme,” “kundalini,” “Chi,” “prana,” etc. Chinmoy wrote:
When the kundalini is awake, man is fully aware of the inner world. He knows that the outer world cannot satisfy his inner needs. He has brought to the fore the capacity of the inner world, which he has come to realise is far superior to the capacity of the outer world. He has brought to the fore the hidden powers, the occult powers, within himself. Either he uses these powers properly or he misuses them. When he divinely uses the powers of kundalini, he becomes the real pride of the Mother Supreme. When he misuses them, he becomes the worst enemy of man’s embodied consciousness and of his own personal evolution.
Here in the West there are many who feel that the powers of kundalini yoga are nothing but rank superstition. I wish to say that those who cherish this idea are totally mistaken. Even the genuine spiritual Masters have examined kundalini yoga and found in their own experiences the undeniable authenticity of its hidden occult powers.
The kundalini power is the dynamic power in us. When the dynamic power and the spiritual knowledge go hand in hand, the perfect harmony of the Universal Consciousness dawns and the conscious evolution of the human soul reaches the transcendental Self [godhood].
If Kundalini is “the mainstay of all Yoga practices,” as Rieker and other Yoga authorities maintain, the Yoga practitioner must understand clearly what the “kundalini” power is, how “it” operates, and what its effects are.
Kundalini is a term which in Sanskrit means “coiled.” This “yogic life force” supposedly moves through the chakras (energy centers that are “activated one by one through the breath” in the human body in order to bring one into a state of occult enlightenment. According to occult philosophy, Kundalini is a non-physical field of energy that yogis say not only surrounds the physical body but can infuse the body.
Lee Sannella, M.D., a noted Psychiatrist, Ophthalmologist, and cofounder of the Kundalini Clinic in San Francisco, explains in his book The Kundalini Experience: Psychosis or Transcendence:
According to this [tantric] Indian tradition, the kundalini is a type of energy—a “power” or “force” (shakti)—that is held to rest in a dormant, or potential, state in the human body. Its location is generally specified as being at the base of the spine. When this energy is galvanized, “awakened,” [which is done during Yoga], it rushes upward along the central axis of the human body, or along the spinal, to the crown of the head. Occasionally, it is thought to go even beyond the head. Upon arriving there, the kundalini is said to give rise to the mystical state of consciousness, which is indescribably blissful and in which all awareness of duality [separation] ceases.
For those who have doubts that all Yoga has the capacity to arouse kundalini energy, perhaps one ought to think again. After all, the Yoga postures themselves were designed specifically to receive this serpent power.
Yoga’s Dangers of Psycho-spiritual and Psycho-physical “Emergencies”
Volumes of material could be quoted from regarding the dangers of Yoga, meditation, and other psycho-spiritual and physio-spiritual practices. Modern practitioners—and even medical doctors—are now testifying to the fact that physical dangers associated with practicing Yoga are a reality. In fact, people who have done Yoga for purely “physical exercise” have been spiritually affected to the point of being systematically dismantled by hostile “forces,” over which they have no power. Eastern gurus call this type of Yoga effect “enlightenment,” yet it is anything but that!
In India today, countless millions of Yoga practitioners are influenced by the spirit world, achieving manifold “possession” states and “manifesting” the kundalini-shakti power (also called “serpent power”). It is the same in the West, only it falls under different names and in a Western context. One should note well that it was not until the 19th and early 20th centuries that Yoga was touted as a physio-postural “exercise” in Britain and the USA.
The following is a mere sampling of what can occur when the kundalini-shakti “force” is “aroused,” “galvanized,” “awakened,” “summoned,” etc. These “spiritual emergencies” can even occur during Hatha Yoga sessions at the local fitness center. Depending on the teacher (yogi/yogini) one has, you never quite know what you will get.
In Lee Sannella’s book The Kundalini Experience: Psychosis or Transcendence, Sannella tells how the “Physio-Kundalini” experience is “a dramatic occurrence . . . culminating [in a] state of ecstatic unification.” He adds:
[T]he kundalini causes the central nervous system to throw off stress . . . usually associated with the experience of pain . . . It appears to act of its own volition, spreading through the entire psychophysiological system to affect its transformation.
[T]he kundalini produces the most striking sensations . . . the “heat” generated by “friction” of the kundalini . . . causes turbulence, which may be experienced as painful sensations . . . spontaneous bodily movements, shifting somatic sensations.
Amongst other kundalini symptoms, “spiritual emergency” scenarios and numerous case studies of destructive kundalini manifestations, Sannella mentions Swami Narayanananda, author of “the first detailed book on the kundalini experience.” Sannella notes that Narayanananda’s book:
. . . distinguished between a partial and a full arousal of the kundalini energy. Whereas partial arousal can lead to all kinds of physical and mental complications, only the kundalini’s complete ascent to the center at the crown of the head will awaken the true impulse to God-realization, or liberation, and bring about the desired revolution in consciousness. Only then can the body-mind be transcended in the unalloyed bliss of enlightenment.
He says the Yoga breathing techniques “may prematurely unleash titanic inner forces,” and the practitioner will have no way to control these forces. He warns, “The kundalini can be forced, but only to one’s own detriment.” Basically, one must go through varying stages of what the Bible would consider demonic possession!
What About “Christian” Yoga?
In an eye-opening article titled “Yoga Renamed is Still Hindu: I challenge Attempts to Snatch Yoga From its Roots,” Professor Subhas R. Tiwari of the Hindu University of America made some very interesting points in response to inquiries from several journalists around the country. As a graduate with a Master’s degree in Yoga philosophy from the famed Bihar Yoga Bharati University, Professor Tiwari’s response was featured in an article in Hinduism Today. Professor Tiwari enlightened undiscerning American’s with the following:
In the past few months I have received several calls from journalists around the country seeking my views on the question of whether the newly minted “Christian Yoga” is really yoga.
My response is, “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.” . . . The effort to separate yoga from Hinduism must be challenged because it runs counter to the fundamental principles upon which yoga itself is premised. . . . Efforts to separate yoga from its spiritual center reveal ignorance of the goal of yoga. . . .
[Yoga] was intended by the Vedic seers as an instrument which can lead one to apprehend the Absolute, Ultimate Reality, called the Brahman Reality, or God. If this attempt to co-opt yoga into their 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?
Some may ask, “Well, can’t I just do the Yoga exercises and forego the religious or spiritual aspects?” One researcher has this to say:
There is absolutely no problem in stretching exercises in and of themselves. . . . No one can deny that stretching helps the blood flow, that breathing in oxygen helps our overall health. . . . There are numerous exercise programs that incorporate stretching that in no way relates to yoga (and its perspective). . . . Religious syncretism is probably the most dangerous thing we can involve ourselves in because we can rationalize its purpose. . . . Essentially one cannot practice a portion of Hinduism and continue to walk with the true Christ who is not a Hindu Guru.
A former occultist who is now a Christian explains:
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
The Conflict Between Yoga, “Christian” Yoga, and the Gospel
Is Yoga a religion that denies Jesus Christ? Yes. Just as Christianity denies the Hindu MahaDevas such as Siva, Vishnu, Durga and Krishna, to name a few, Hinduism and its many Yogas have nothing to do with God and Jesus . . . all of Yoga is all about the Hindu religion. Modern so-called “yoga” is dishonest to Hindus and to all non-Hindus such as the Christians.—Danda, Dharma Yoga Ashram, Classical Yoga Hindu Academy; an e-mail written to Lighthouse Trails Research
Even the Christian church has been affected by alleged “Yoga for Christians.” Consider the names of such “ministries” that mix Scripture and “Jesus” with Yoga, and then sell it as Christian Yoga exercise: Yahweh Yoga, Holy Yoga; Body Prayer, Christ-Centered Yoga, New Day Yoga, Trinity Yoga, Yoga Devotion, Grounded in Yoga, Be Still Yoga, Atoning Yoga Extending Grace, and many more.
Most Christians would probably acknowledge that occultic practices are the antithesis of biblical Christianity. But when it comes to Yoga—also the outworking of occultism—they seem oblivious. And yet, the philosophies and practices of yogic mediation have the capacity to “unhinge” (dismantle) humans—in every way. These philosophies come from ancient occultism and originally started back in the Garden of Eden. The voice of that old serpent, the Devil and his satanic forces, put forth the exact same lie today that has fueled the world of the occult through all the ages—that humanity can become God. “[Y]e shall not surely die . . . ye shall be as gods” KJV (i.e., like God; Genesis 3:4-5).
The very nature of many of the meditative yogic practices are engineered to (1) blow out the discernment faculties of human beings, (2) create an insulating barrier of spiritual resistance against the biblical Gospel, and (3) generate personal hostile opposition towards Jesus of Nazareth and His teachings. Consider the difference: the Bible teaches that man is sinful and the wages of sin is death; Jesus Christ, came in the flesh, died on the Cross, and was resurrected, paying the penalty for man’s sin with His own shed blood. He then offers salvation freely to “whosoever” believeth on Him by faith.
Yoga (i.e., Hinduism), on the other hand, is completely the opposite. Man is already divine, and that divinity only needs to be “awakened” through Yoga. No sin, thus no need for a Savior. Man will save himself.
In place of God’s Word as the ultimate authority, a new higher authority called “experience” is embraced. Thus, the Jesus Christ of the Bible, the clear teachings of Scripture, and the established historical doctrines of the Christian faith, along with “biblical separation” from occult pagan spirituality, are thrown out of the window…
The respect, honor, and adoration of rats, snakes, monkeys, cows, and the worship of 330 million gods of Hinduism surely ought to speak volumes to the Western Yoga practitioner who thinks he or she can Christianize Yoga or simply turn it into a benign physical exercise program.
When you stop and realize that increasing numbers of Christian churches are now allowing Yoga classes, and when you look at the sheer facts, this is simply hybridized yogic evangelism in the church. Sadly, the bulk of Western Christians seem to be blind to this.
Paul the Apostle, remembering the sinful disaster that took place in the garden of Eden, warned the early church at Corinth about the danger of spiritual deception in the name of Christ:
But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtlety, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. (2 Corinthians 11:3)
“Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23 and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things.
24 Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, 25 who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.”