Drinking Deeply

Wednesday, July 19, 2006 at 3:09 PM

Yoga, Spiritual Warfare, and Christian Meditation

In Revolution in World Missions (review coming soon), K.P. Yohannan writes an interesting chapter on spiritual oppression, especially that done through yoga.

He retells the story of flipping on a TV channel to see an American yogi praising health benefits of breathing techniques and other exercises of yoga.

He writes, "What her viewers did not know is that yoga is designed for one purpose only - to open up the mind and body to receive visitations from demon spirits."

Now, at first, I was like "well, that may be true, but nothing's wrong with stretching, after all spiritual warfare (as I've written on previously) isn't in the history of places and things, but rather in the thoughts themselves."

Making that point as a side note in small group, someone else also pointed out that God redeems, taking something that may have originated as a sinful thing, and redeeming it for good, after all, it's not like foods sacrificed to idols are going to negatively impact a Christian, unless they believe it. In one sense, what they know won't hurt them... but it would be far better for them to know and reject false teaching so that they can eat in faith, rather than to be ignorant and deceived (but still eating in faith).

So I thought that was all resolved and everything, was going to make an interesting blog post on it.

But then I started doing some research. I looked at the origins. I looked at popular sites: www.yoga.com

I looked at current yoga practices.

What did I find? It's not just a stretching excercise. It's also a mental practice. And that sent warning bells of in my head. What someone engaging in yoga does is engage in meditation and emptying the mind in order to achieve oneness with self, fulfillment, energy, and all sorts of other things, apart from the sovereign working of God in the Holy Spirit through Jesus Christ.

Like all things produced out of a fallen world apart from the grace of God, it is inherantly hostile to God, at odds with His revelation, seeking to rebuild a tower of Babel apart from God.

In short, practicing the mediation that yoga promotes is akin to practicing a foreign (and false) religion. One can stretch and seek flexibility for physical health, but to seek non-Christian mediation for anything (and I mean anything) will be detrimental to your spiritual health.

Instead, Christians meditate not by emptying one's mind or visualizing things, but rather delighting in the Laws of the Lord, thinking Christian thoughts about a Christian God.

As Psalm 1 reads:

1Blessed is the man[a]
who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
2but his delight is in the law[b] of the LORD,
and on his law he meditates day and night.

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Blogger Jessica said...

this is a very acute observation. i signed up for yoga during my junior year, but dropped the class after a couple weeks because i didn't want to do the meditation/mind clearing/whatever that the instructor was teaching. also, i don't do the "qi-gong" (literally translated: breathing/gas technique) stuff that my parents try to get me to do because it emphasizes the metaphysical worship of self. it's all very strange. and all contrary to the 1st commandment.  


Blogger Eric said...

"What someone engaging in yoga does is engage in meditation and emptying the mind in order to achieve oneness with self, fulfillment, energy, and all sorts of other things, apart from the sovereign working of God in the Holy Spirit through Jesus Christ."

I agree with your analysis of the principles involved here, but I wasn't able to find anything on yogabasics.com to suggest that American pop yoga has anything inherently or even usually to do with connecting. There is a big difference between meditating to achieve connection or oneness with something and meditating to quiet the mind. It's a difference I would emphasize if someone were to ask me for advice about a yoga studio. Can you be more specific with your references?  


Anonymous theocentric522 said...

LOL! I had a similar experience recently by taking a Lamaze class with my wife. I didn't enjoy it very much. But I think we can certainly redeem breathing exercises, stretching, and all other techniques so that you don't apply them for godless ends. My wife doesn't have to clear her mind, she could just pray or think of scriptures that remind her about the Christian life. Oh...and rather than blaming the husband, she can even hate sin all the more for her birth pains. =D

But I agree with your observation. Certain things are not compatible with the Christian world-view. Certain things are from sinful origins and Christians can redeem them for godly purposes (maybe some technologies or music?); but to redeem some other things would mean going back to what bible commands. To redeem yoga would mean that you would have to meditate on the Word and be of a sober mind. When you filter through a Christian worldview, some things lose their essential qualities it started with.  


Blogger mxu said...

Meditation basics:

Meditation is a focusing of the mind on a single object, creating the cessation of all thought. As thoughts dissipate, the mind becomes quiet, and we are able to be fully in the present moment. The techniques of meditation are simple and easy to learn, but the ability to keep the mind focused takes time, patience and practice. The benefits of a regular meditation practice include reduction of stress, tension, anxiety and frustration, as well as improved memory, concentration, inner peace and whole body well-being.

Reduction of stress, tension, anxiety and frustration, improved memory, concentration, inner peace, and whole body well-being.

But these come to Christians by the gift of God - Jesus Christ. To seek these things without an explicit dependance upon Christ and Christ alone is false worship.

Even "emptying the mind" is worthless without filling it with explicitly Christian content. We don't achieve calm by emptying the mind, but we achieve calm and contentment the way Paul tells us to in Philippians 4:

8Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. 9What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me--practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.  


Blogger Eric said...

Well, I guess my question then is what the "single object" is that we're being asked to focus on, and how much latitude is given to the practitioner to decide what to focus on. Because by its terms I'd say that's a pretty accurate description of Christian meditation: focusing on a single object (Christ) in order to be still and be fully in the presence of God, not distracted by all the other things that clutter our minds.  


Blogger mxu said...

Fair enough.  


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Didn't Christ teach us a message of love and inclusion, rather than the "us (the right ones) versus them (the lost ones)" messages I am reading here?
Can someone tell me the difference between the yoga mental exercises and those proposed by St. Ignatius of Loyola in his Spiritual Exercises (he was the founder of the Jesuits and a church mystic).


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