Thursday, May 28, 2015

Is Yoga Right For Christians?

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When Catholic Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz issued a statement to the question, his answer went viral.

He told the women's group in Lincoln, Nebraska, "Good Christians shouldn't do yoga."

The Lincoln Journal Star reports that following his statement, "All hell broke loose."

Indeed it did.

Any perceived serenity was quickly lost as Catholic yoga enthusiasts became angry and took to Facebook.

Tranquility aside, the Bishop's beliefs and even the Bishop himself was attacked.

The Star Journal wondered if Protestant leaders agreed with the bishop.

In answer to their own question they reported that "Evangelicals have long preached yoga-avoidance, because the chants, poses and movement names all connect to ancient Hindu religion and the individual quest for enlightenment."

The Journal Star is right about the Hindu connection, but perhaps they should take a closer look at what many Evangelicals are saying about yoga today.

When Christians ask whether believers should practice yoga, they are asking a question that reflects the strangeness of our current culture.

Praised by many for its calming effect and the health benefits of exercise, yoga is gaining acceptance---even advocacy in Protestant, as well as Catholic churches.

Most do not question its origins in ancient Hindu and Buddhist religious practices, but Christians who support the practice---and often sell memberships to their yoga programs, dismiss those like Bishop Bruskewitz with a variety of explanations.

Lincoln Yoga Center owner Sheila Palmquist says the Church is over-reacting.

Lincoln's Bonnie Meyer says she is a committed Christian and "struggled for a long time over the decree that yoga and Christianity were incompatible."

"But," she says, after doing research and taking classes she learned "that yoga predates Hinduism and although it is part of the Indian religion, rather than quit yoga, I converted it."

Bonnie now operates a profitable Christian yoga studio called "4:8 Yoga" based on Philippians 4:8.

Others center their advocacy around the argument that physical exercise is biblical, and we separate the yoga positions from the Hindu or Buddhist tenets and focus on Scripture. Christian advocates also use the conversion of the Christmas tree, Easter eggs, etc. to make the case for yoga.

The following is why I and others of greater note than myself believe Christians should not practice yoga.

Space does not allow me to be exhaustive. I believe this a is a very serious spiritual matter and biblical Christians must be informed. Please read the links I have provided below.

1. The Catholic Church has said much about this issue. They say it jeopardizes one's faith by opening up the mind and can undermine what Christians believe about themselves and about God.

Bruskewitz says, "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."

2. Stefanie Syman has written a book titled, "The Subtle Body:The Story of Yoga In America." If possible read it.

In her book, Syman documents the ties between yoga and groups or movements such as Transcendentalists and New Thought---movements that seek to provide a spirituality that is a clear alternative to biblical Christianity.

Al Mohler, a leader in the Southern Baptist Convention, has written an article strongly instructing Christians to not participate in yoga. He uses Syman's book as part of his resource references.

Dr. Mohler says, "The embrace of yoga is a symptom of our postmodern confusion, and to our shame, this confusion reaches into the church."

3. The Atlantic magazine, not a Christian publication, has published an article titled, "The Dark Knight of The Soul" exposing how medically, "for some, meditation has become a curse not cure."

The article reports on how some people are contemplating suicide and other violent acts resulting from opening their minds to contemplative meditation, or what is now being called "Mindfullness."

4. Laurette Willis was involved in yoga and the New Age movement for 22 years before accepting Jesus Christ personally.

Understanding the curse of yoga and the value and biblical admonition of physical exercise, she created a program called "Praisemoves" a number of years ago. She also wrote a book titled, "BASIC Steps to Godly Fitness."

Laurette explains that the postures of yoga are the postures offered in worship to the 330 million Hindu gods. She says in yoga they do what they call "pranayama" breathing. "Prana" is the Hindu word for life force, the same concept as the word "chi" in martial arts. Yoga breathing attempts to manipulate that life energy. She says, "This is a dangerous thing."

She believes, for a believer, this is "coming out from under the blood of Jesus when we do stuff like that, and we are no match for the enemy in those areas. I think of what Paul said in Ephesians 2:2 that Satan is the prince of the power of the air. We are not talking about oxygen."

She says, "Christian yoga is an oxymoron. There is no such thing."

"It's like saying someone is a Christian Buddhist or a Christian Hindu," she says. "What some people are doing is trying to make yoga Christian. Even Hindus say you cannot do that."

She believes, based on her years in the "New Age Movement" and yoga, that yoga and Hinduism are inextricably linked.

Laurette says she regularly attended church growing up, but does not recall ever hearing a sermon about accepting Jesus Christ personally. "We were not aware of the deception of that is inherent in yoga and its connections to Hinduism," she says, so her mother enrolled her in free yoga classes.

As a struggling actress in New York, she was alone and grieving the loss of her parents. She was reaching the end. Not knowing where to turn or where to go, she decided to move to Oklahoma and join a New Age community and start her life over.

There was no new beginning at the New Age community. "New Age" thinking is not "new," it's as old as the garden of Eden.

On April Fool's Day 1987, Laurette says she fell on her knees and as best she could cried out to God for help.

He was there.

She was delivered from years of alcoholism. Four days later she met the man who would become her husband.

She says, "I found that everything that I was looking for in the New Age and metaphysics and the occult, the wisdom of God was in the Bible."

She said, "I had no idea there was so much in the Bible. I had thought that Christianity was just kindergarten, and I was into higher things."

Dr. Mohler says, "Christians who practice yoga are embracing, or at minimum flirting with a spiritual practice that threatens to transform their own spiritual lives into a 'post-Christian, spiritually polyglot' reality. Should any Christian willingly risk that?"

Be Informed. Be Wise.