What is Yoga?

Yoga is a group of spiritual practices originating in India. Many Dharmic scriptures discuss different aspects of Yoga. In the context of the Bhagavad Gita, the Yoga describes a unified outlook, serenity of mind and action and the ability to stay attuned to the glory of the Self (Atman).

For many in the West who don't understand the history behind it, yoga is simply a means of physical exercise and strengthening and improving flexibility of the muscles. However, the philosophy behind yoga is much more than physically improving oneself. It is an ancient practice derived from India, believed to be the path to spiritual growth and enlightenment.

Mayor branches of Yoga are: Hatha Yoga, Karma Yoga, Jnana Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, and Raja Yoga. The most popular one in the West is Hatha Yoga and is practiced mainly for mental and physical health.

Hatha Yoga is seen in Hinduism as a convenient way to the heights of Raja Yoga (school of Hindu philosophy); it is a preparatory stage of physical practice that renders the body fit for meditation.

The Meaning of Yoga

Yoga is a Sanskrit word which literally means 'yoking' and it refers to practices – originated from Hinduism – whose purpose is to unite the individual's mind with the Divinity, that is, the only true reality which is called Brahman. In other words, yoga consists of some practices which are designed specifically to induce a state of trance which supposedly allows the mind to be drawn upward into a yoking with Brahman. It is a means of withdrawal from the world of illusion (for according to Hinduism all is illusion) to seek the only true Reality.

Yoga consists of eight steps whose aim is to free the individual's mind from its impurities which hinder man from realizing and knowing the Atman which is within him. According to Hinduism, Atman is the God that is within all human beings, which is nothing but what is called Brahman (the universal Atman which pervades the universe) for Atman and Brahman are one thing. Therefore, at the core of yoga – no matter what kind of yoga – is the following doctrine: the Divinity is within every man, and unless one purifies (or frees) his mind from all the impurities which hinder him from realizing his Divinity he cannot realize that he is divine. Yoga is a means through which a man can realize that he is Brahman (which is falsely called God). Furthermore, it must be said that yoga is strictly linked with the doctrine of reincarnation for it is the means through which one can attain moksha, that is, the liberation from the cycle of reincarnation. This liberation is achieved when one realizes his essential union with Brahman.

The eight steps of yoga are these: yamas, niyamas, asanas, pranayama, pratyahara, dharana, dhyana, and samadhi. The yamas and the niyamas are the major do's and don'ts. The asanas are meditative postures. Pranayama is breath control. Pratyahara is the withdrawal from the senses; that is the stage at which an adept learns how to control the 'tentacles' of consciousness that are called 'indriyas' in Sanskrit. Dharana is the discipline of concentration. Dhyana is the discipline of meditation which leads into samadhi. Samadhi is a consciousness of pure detachment from the world in which the soul abides in its essence alone, and in which the yogi discovers his true identity as transcendent spirit and perceives the basic unity of existence. Afterwards, the yogi gets to Nirvana, which is a stable Mergence with the Consciousness of God. The term "Nirvana" means 'complete burning away', i.e. obliteration of one's individuality in the Mergence with God; at that a man, having expanded and dissolved in Him, feels that he is God.

Through samyama (that is, through dharana, dhyana and samadhi) one can obtain some occult powers. In addition to this, it must be said that the aim of pranayama is not only to control prana, that is, the vital energy, but also to arouse the kundalini. Kundalini is the latent power believed to rest at the base of the spine. When aroused it rages like a vicious serpent inside a person with a force "that it is impossible to resist." The kundalini produces supernatural psychic powers having their source in demonic beings.

There are about ten forms of yoga. The names of some of them are: raja-yoga, bhakti-yoga, jnana-yoga, karma-yoga, tantra-yoga, kundalini-yoga, and hatha-yoga. The most famous form of yoga in the Western world is hatha-yoga, which many consider merely a neutral form of exercise, a soothing and effective alternative for those who abhor jogging.

What is the Christian view of Yoga?

For many Christians in the West who don't understand the history behind it, yoga is simply a means of physical exercise and strengthening and improving flexibility of the muscles. However, the philosophy behind yoga is much more than physically improving oneself. It is an ancient practice derived from India, believed to be the path to spiritual growth and enlightenment.

The word "yoga" means "union," and the goal is to unite one's transitory (temporary) self with the infinite Brahman, the Hindu concept of "God." This god is not a literal being, but is an impersonal spiritual substance that is one with nature and the cosmos. This view is called "pantheism," the belief that everything is God and that reality consists only of the universe and nature. Because everything is God, the yoga philosophy makes no distinction between man and God.

Hatha yoga is the aspect of yoga which focuses on the physical body through special postures, breathing exercises, and concentration or meditation. It is a means to prepare the body for the spiritual exercises, with fewer obstacles, in order to achieve enlightenment. The practice of yoga is based on the belief that man and God are one. It is little more than self-worship disguised as a high level of spirituality.

The question becomes, is it possible for a Christian to isolate the physical aspects of yoga as simply a method of exercise, without incorporating the spirituality or philosophy behind it? Yes, but then it wouldn't be called Yoga, it would simply be called normal stretching and breathing exercise. Everything in Yoga that is related to the pagan philosophy, i.e., the strange postures, the breathing exercises a person makes to become "high", and the self meditations or out of body experiences or trances, must be completely avoided by Christians (see Dangers of Yoga). Yoga originated with a blatantly anti-Christian philosophy, and that philosophy has not changed. It teaches one to focus on oneself instead of on the one true God. It encourages its participants to seek the answers to life's difficult questions within their own mind instead of in the Word of God and the Church. It also leaves one open to deception from God's enemy, who searches for victims that he can turn away from God (1 Peter 5:8).

Whatever we do should be done for God's glory (1 Corinthians 10:31), and we would be wise to heed the words of the apostle Paul: "Fix your thoughts on what is true and honorable and right. Think about things that are pure and lovely and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise" (Philippians 4:8).

Yoga: a Hindu (pagan) spiritual discipline

Yoga is a Hindu (pagan) spiritual discipline which attempts to unite one with the divine within oneself and unite one with all of creation through breathing, physical exercises, concentration, etc. The idea that the divine is to be sought for and found within oneself is, of course, occultic. The idea that the divine permeates all of creation -- the idea upon which the practice of yoga is based and toward which it is geared -- is pantheism, reprobated by Vatican I and other councils and teachings of the Church:

“The holy, Catholic, Apostolic, Roman Church believes and confesses that there is one, true, living God, Creator and Lord of heaven and earth... Who, although He is one, singular, altogether simple and unchangeable spiritual substance, must be proclaimed distinct in reality and essence from the world...” (Constitutio Dogmatica de Fide Catholic, Sess. III, Cap. i)

God is distinct in reality and essence from His creation. Pantheism teaches that God and the universe are one. Pantheism teaches that the grass, trees, rivers, lakes, oceans, etc., were all united with Christ by virtue of the Incarnation. Pantheism "divinizes" the material world and leads to the "Gaia" belief of the New Agers that the material world lives and has a soul, and to environmental radicalism, in which trees and whales have more rights that human babies.

Since the practice of yoga is based on the idea of union with the divine within oneself and within all of creation, the practice of yoga is therefore an expression of belief in the condemned pantheistic heresy that God and His creation are a single thing. Practicing yoga, therefore, is practicing a false religion and expressing belief in a false god.

The practice of yoga is pagan at best, and occult at worst... For the first time in history, it is being widely practiced throughout the Western world and America. It is ridiculous that even yogi masters wearing a cross or a Christian symbol deceive people by saying that yoga has nothing to do with Hinduism and say that it is only accepting 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. Yoga is evil because it leads to a worship of Hinduism and other pagan Eastern religions.

The Dangers of Yoga

Yoga is of the devil for its purpose is to lead man to realize that he is God (that is, he and God are one and the same) or to discover within himself his godhood. Yes, because according to the philosophy that underlies yoga man is ignorant of his divine nature and thus he needs to discover it, and yoga is the means which will lead him to this discovery! Listen to what brother Rabindranath R. Maharaj, who used to practice yoga every day when he was a guru, says in his book Death of a Guru:

"What I experienced in meditation agreed with the Vedic teaching about Brahman, but my experience of life at other times disagreed. In Yogic trance I felt a oneness with the whole universe; I was no different from a bug or cow or distant star. We all partook of the same Essence. Everything was Brahman, and Brahman was everything. 'And that thou art!' said the Vedas, telling me that Brahman was my true Self, the god within that I worshiped sitting in front of a mirror." (Rabindranath R. Maharaj with Dave Hunt, Death of a Guru, Hodder and Stoughton, Great Britain 1986, page 97)

Whereas the Holy Scripture teaches that man is just a creature of God and can never become God (although we can become like unto God by being made partakers of His glory), and that those who believe they are God are God's enemies for they are full of pride. In ancient times God rebuked sharply the prince of Tyre for he believed that he was God, as it is written in the book of the prophet Ezekiel:

"The word of the LORD came again unto me, saying, Son of man, say unto the prince of Tyrus, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Because thine heart is lifted up, and thou hast said, I am a God, I sit in the seat of God, in the midst of the seas; yet thou art a man, and not God, though thou set thine heart as the heart of God: Behold, thou art wiser than Daniel; there is no secret that they can hide from thee: With thy wisdom and with thine understanding thou hast gotten thee riches, and hast gotten gold and silver into thy treasures: By thy great wisdom and by thy traffick hast thou increased thy riches, and thine heart is lifted up because of thy riches: Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD; Because thou hast set thine heart as the heart of God; Behold, therefore I will bring strangers upon thee, the terrible of the nations: and they shall draw their swords against the beauty of thy wisdom, and they shall defile thy brightness. They shall bring thee down to the pit, and thou shalt die the deaths of them that are slain in the midst of the seas. Wilt thou yet say before him that slayeth thee, I am God? but thou shalt be a man, and no God, in the hand of him that slayeth thee. Thou shalt die the deaths of the uncircumcised by the hand of strangers: for I have spoken it, saith the Lord GOD." (Ezekiel 28:1-10)

Some decades ago, God rebuked also Rabindranath R. Maharaj for the same reason, that is, because he believed he was God. Pay attention to what he says in his book Death of a Guru:

"At the end of my third year in high school, Ma and Aunt Revati invited a large group of neighbors and relatives to join us in a special puja in our home. Those arriving approached to make their respectful bows and to reminisce a bit upon my father's greatness. Their comments, overheard here and there as the room filled, bore out the admiration I read in their appraising eyes. I was a Yogi who would bring fame to our town, a guru who would one day have many, many followers. My inner conflicts were forgotten in the sheer pleasure of being worshiped. Although I was not quite 15, I knew that already I had attained a status among Hindus that was the envy of some pundits. It gave me a good, honest feeling to know that I was not among the hypocrites my Uncle Deonarine despised. Our Baba, Pundit Jankhi Prasad Sharma Maharaj, my spiritual adviser and greatest inspiration, the acknowledged Hindu leader for all of Trinidad, performed the elaborate ceremony. Proudly I assisted. It was a great occasion for me. Fingering a large, fragrant garland of flowers around my neck, I stood near the altar greeting the guests after the ceremony. A neighbor laid several pieces of money one after another at my feet, and bowed to receive my blessing – the Shakti pat that every worshiper craved because of its supernatural effect. I knew her to be a poor widow who earned pitifully little for her long hours of hard labor. The offerings I received at one ceremony would far exceed her wages for a month. The gods had decreed this system of giving to Brahmins, and the Vedas declared it to be of great benefit to the giver, so why should I feel guilty? Uncle Deonarine's words rose vividly before me in all their venom: 'It's a business with all of them; they do nothing without pay … mainly from the poor!' I glanced at her small offering of coins uncomfortably. Of course I had much to give her in exchange. Reaching out to touch her forehead in bestowal of my blessing, I was startled by a voice of unmistakable omnipotent authority: 'You are not God, Rabi!' My arm froze in midair. 'You … are … not … God!' The words smote me like the slash of a cutlass felling the tall green cane. Instinctively I knew that the true God, the Creator of all, had spoken these words, and I began to tremble. It was a fraud, a blatant deception to pretend to bless this bowing woman. I pulled back my hand, acutely aware that many eyes were watching and wondering. I felt that I must fall at the holy feet of the true God and ask his forgiveness – but how could I explain that to all these people!' Abruptly I turned and pushed my way through the crowd, leaving that poor woman staring after me in bewilderment. Inside my room, I locked the door, tore the garland of flowers from around my neck with trembling fingers, flung it to the floor, and fell across my bed, sobbing." (Rabindranath R. Maharaj with Dave Hunt, Death of a Guru, Hodder and Stoughton, Great Britain 1986, pages 107-108)

As you can see, God resists those who believe they are God. And since the purpose of yoga is to lead men to believe they are God, we conclude that the father of yoga is the devil.

Yoga is of the devil because through it a man reaches an altered state of consciousness, which is the doorway to the occult. In other words, yoga is of the devil because it enables those who practice it to contact evil spirits (demons), that is, to see them, to talk with them, and to receive occult powers from them. In some cases yoga leads to demon-possession, as in the case of those in whom the kundalini power is aroused. I will cite again some words of brother Rabindranath R. Maharaj, who used to practice yoga every day when he was a guru, to show you how dangerous is the practice of yoga:

"Before the age of ten, in addition to my daily meditation, I practiced Yoga – the positions, breathing exercises, and meditation – on the veranda outside my room from midnight to 1:30 A. M., when everyone else was asleep. I did either Brumadhya Drishti or Madhyama Drishti. This concentration, combined with the breathing exercises, projected me into realms of consciousness totally unrelated to the world around me. Through Yoga I experienced increasingly the presence of spirit beings who were guiding me and giving me psychic powers. The gods were real!" (Rabindranath R. Maharaj, op. cit., pages 89-90); "Nothing was more important than our daily transcendental meditation, the heart of Yoga, which Krishna advocated as the surest way to eternal Bliss. But it could also be dangerous. Frightening psychic experiences awaited the unwary meditator, similar to a bad trip on drugs. Demons described in the Vedas had been known to take possession of some Yogis. Kundalini power, said to be coiled like a serpent at the base of the spine, could produce ecstatic experiences when released in deep meditation – or, if not properly controlled, it could do great mental and even bodily harm. The line between ecstasy and horror was very fine. For that reason we initiates were closely supervised by the Brahmacharya and his assistant. During the daily meditation I began to have visions of psychedelic colors, to hear unearthly music, and to visit exotic planets where the gods conversed with me, encouraging me to attain even higher states of consciousness. Sometimes in my trance I encountered the same horrible demonic creatures that are depicted by the images in Hindu, Buddhist, Shinto, and other religious temples. It was a frightful experience, but the Brahmacharya explained that it was normal and urged me to pursue the quest for Self-realization. At times I experienced a sense of mystical unity with the universe. I was the universe, Lord of all, omnipotent, omnipresent." (Ibid., 56-57); "Often while I was in deep meditation the gods became visible and talked with me. At times I seemed to be transported by astral projection to distant planets or to worlds in other dimensions. It would be years before I would learn that such experiences were being duplicated in laboratories under the watchful eyes of parapsychologists through the use of hypnosis and LSD. In my Yogic trances most often I would be alone with Shiva the Destroyer, sitting fearfully at his feet, the huge cobra coiled about his neck staring at me, hissing and darting out its tongue threateningly." (Ibid., page 75).

Having demonstrated then that through yoga one is led to believe that he is God (as well as that through it one can achieve the liberation from the cycle of reincarnation, which is another lie), and that yoga induces a state of trance in which demons manifest themselves by appearing to those who practice yoga and by taking possession of them, it is evident that every Christian must flee yoga, lest he give place to the devil.

Let no one deceive you with vain words such as "You can practice yoga apart from the philosophical and religious beliefs that are behind it!", for it is not possible to separate yoga from the philosophy which is behind it.

Know this, that there is but one way to have access to God, and this way is Jesus Christ. If a man wants to know the only true God who created the universe (but He is not the universe), whose throne is in heaven, he must repent and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. Only in this way he can unite himself with the Lord and become "one spirit with Him" (1 Corinthians 6:17). Of course, he will not become God, for he will remain a creature of God separated from His Creator. All the other ways, yoga included, are ways which don't lead man to the knowledge of God nor to the union with Him. If a man has already come to the knowledge of God through Christ, he can have access to God only by His Son, for Paul says that in Christ Jesus "we have boldness and access with confidence through faith in Him" (Ephesians 3:12). Note that it is through faith in Jesus – and not through a practice such as yoga – that we have access to the Father. I say this because there are some people who have created the so called "Christian yoga," through which – they claim – a Christian can have access to God. Brothers, let no one deceive you. Draw near to the Father through Christ, that is, in His name; whether you pray or sing do all in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, but do not resort to this so called "Christian yoga" in order to draw near to God, for yoga – being an eastern practice rooted in occultism – cannot become a Christian practice, just as spiritism cannot become a Christian practice. Know this, that there is no such thing as "Christian yoga," just as there is no such thing as "Christian spiritism". If a practice is Christian, that is, if a practice is biblical and thus we are allowed to follow it, it can't be influenced by Hinduism nor by occultism, for everything the Bible and the Church commands us to do is pure and just, free from all kinds of errors or superstitions. So I warn you against the so called Christian yoga, for it is a device of the devil to introduce into the Church the Hindu philosophy which is rooted in occultism.

Remember that in the days of the prophet Isaiah God forsook the Israelites for they were "filled with eastern ways" (Isaiah 2:6).

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