As of 2001, statistics show 36 million Americans practice yoga, 1.7 million being children, with reports in 2022 discussing how people are now more and more practicing yoga for spiritual benefits, surpassing the physical benefits previously reported. But, are there truths about yoga that may be sinister to the Christian heart? Despite all the “benefits” listed in countless journals, blogs, and magazines, there are several reasons why you, as a Christian, should STOP doing yoga.
What Is Yoga?
Taking a look at the dictionary, we see “yoga” clearly defined:
– A school of Hindu philosophy advocating and prescribing a course of physical and mental disciplines for attaining liberation from the material world and union of the self with the Supreme Being or ultimate principle.
– Any of the methods or disciplines prescribed, especially a series of postures and breathing exercises practiced to achieve control of the body and mind, tranquillity, etc.
– Union of the self with the Supreme Being or ultimate principle.Dictionary.com
“Yoga is a method of spiritual training whose purpose is to integrate or unite the self. A physical exercise, its goal is nonphysical-uniting with God. Yoga teaches that people should attempt to yoke the individual spirit to God, to atman – the individual soul or essence of a person – and to Brahman.”Ibid, page 10
“…nonphysical uniting with God.” While that sounds good, there is no mention of whom specifically you're uniting yourself with. This becomes dangerous, as the Christian worldview shows us trickery is used to deceive believers into straying from God.
The History of Yoga
Yoga originated with a philosophy that directly conflicts with the Christian worldview. It teaches you to focus on yourself instead of focusing on the one true God. Participants are encouraged to seek answers to complex life questions within their consciousness instead of in the Word of God, which leaves you open to deception from God’s enemy, who searches for any victim able to be turned away from God.
Yoga is a practice deeply rooted in Hinduism. There are different types of yoga, but all are used as a means to achieve unity with the divine, earning salvation. There are several practices in Yoga, including meditation, repetition of sacred sounds, breathing techniques, acrobatic exercises, and positioning your body in specific postures.
Yoga uses specific stretching, breathwork, and meditation to “yoke” yourself to “god.”
10 Reasons To Stop Doing Yoga
Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.1 Peter 5:8
1. Yoga Comes From Hindu Practices
Yoga is Dedicated to a different lord, “Lord Shiva the Destroyer” in Hinduism, who is also known as “the first yogi.”
2. Yoga Means “To Yoke.”
Yoga leads people away from Christ.
The “yoke” in Yoga is different than the one Jesus refers to “For My yoke is easy and My burden is light” in Matthew 11:30.
In this context, the Yoke refers to spiritual teachings. While many spiritual teachings overlap among several different religions, other spiritual teachings don't and remain very specific to that one religion.
Yoga is one of those principles that do not complement Christian morals and values.
3. Yoga Poses Are Dedicated to Hindu Gods
Dr. George Alexander (a Christian believer who taught World Religions at Biola University) said yoga poses are documented as being “offerings to the 330 million Hindu gods.”
Abstain from THINGS offered to idols.Acts 15:29
Acts 15:29 tells you specifically to not provide any offerings to idols.
Because of this, anyone claiming to provide “Christian yoga” is either consciously deceiving you, looking to profit, or sorely misunderstanding the spiritual chaos they're inflicting on you unknowingly.
4. Yoga Invites Spiritual Entities Into Your Life That Conflict With God
Former Kundalini Yoga teacher, Mike Shreve said, “Though I was unaware of it at the time when I studied yoga, I came under the influence of a counterfeit spiritual power that was not the true power of God.”
Mike taught yoga at several universities in Florida before he experienced a dramatic encounter with God as a result of many people praying for him. He surrendered his life to Jesus and has gone on to lead many to Christ and away from yoga and other “New Age” practices.
He says, “There are many sweet, gracious, kind, and compassionate people studying yoga who would never purposefully seek to come under the influence of dark, deceptive, demonic powers.” Yet, it happens.
I've seen countless testimonials from numerous past yoga practitioners and instructors, which all are very similar. Everything starts out great. Their health increased, their mental health increased, and many experienced financial abundances as well. Then strange encounters started happening. Some would experience nightmares, and many reported hearing weird voices or experiencing other strange phenomena within their homes or bodies.
I've personally held conversations with 6 recovered Yogis, and every one of them said the same thing: “everything was great, until it suddenly wasn't.”
5. Yoga Is a Step Into “New Age”
Pope Benedict XVI: In 1989 the Vatican issued a document saying the practice of Eastern traditions like yoga ‘can degenerate into a cult of the body,’ warning Catholics against mistaking yoga’s ‘pleasing sensations’ for ‘spiritual well-being.’ It was signed by Cardinal Ratzinger, who later became Pope Benedict XVI.
In a 2003 document, “A Christian Reflection on the New Age,” the Vatican further distanced itself from New Age practices, including yoga.
“Some of the traditions which flow into New Age spiritual practices include ancient Egyptian occultism, Kabbalism, early Christian Gnosticism Sufism, the lore of the Druids, Celtic Christianity, medieval alchemy, Renaissance hermeticism, Zen Buddhism, Yoga, and so on.”
“Yoga, zen, transcendental meditation, and tantric exercises lead to an experience of self-fulfillment or enlightenment.”– A Christian Reflection of the New Age.
6. Yoga Cannot Be Separated From Hinduism
Swami Param agrees that Yoga IS Hinduism and cannot be separated from its religious elements.
The ‘Soul’ purpose of the asanas (yoga poses) is to create a healthy body, calm mind and emotions in order to enter the spirit realms.
It is for this Soul purpose that, of all the Hindu/Yogas, Hatha Yoga was supposed to be kept, relatively, secret. Sages realized that the immature would emphasize the body, thus, completely distorting the spiritual intent. Feeling good at the expense of others is not an ethical choice.Swami Param, Coast News, March 2013
7. Yoga Is a Gateway To Spiritual Practices
A study conducted in 2014 documented people’s motivation for beginning and continuing to practice yoga.
Both students and teachers adopted yoga practice primarily for exercise and stress relief, but reported many other reasons, including flexibility, getting into shape, and depression/anxiety relief. Over 62 percent of students and 85 percent of teachers reported having changed their primary reason for practicing or discovering other reasons; for both, the top changed primary reason was spirituality. Findings suggest that most initiate yoga practice for exercise and stress relief, but for many, spirituality becomes their primary reason for maintaining practice.Why practice yoga? Practitioners' motivations for adopting and maintaining yoga practice, 2014
The Bible warns us in several places how deceptive Satan can be. The study mentioned above concluded that most people began participating in yoga for exercise and continued their yoga practices for spiritual purposes.
Seeing how easily a few strategic stretches can draw believers away from biblical principles is humbling and alarming.
8. Yogi Sutras Promote “Supernatural Powers” via Meditation
- Sutras 3.16, 3.22: The practitioner can attain special abilities to tell the past and future through meditation.
- Sutras 3.25, 3.32: Through meditation, one can also discover spirits and communicate with master spirits.
- Sutras, 3.17-3.38: Many other powers of sorcery can be attained through meditation practice.
- Sutras, 3.5: Mastering meditation lays the groundwork for these powers and leads to what is called “absolute knowledge of all that can be perceived.”
- Sutras, 4.1: “Supernatural powers” can also be attained by drugs, mantras, and yoga.
The Bible Explicitly and Repeatedly Forbids Gaining “Supernatrual Powers,” and Other Similar Practices
- mantras: invokes spirits (which the Bible tells us are actually demons) by sound.
- yoga: invokes spirits (demons) through movement.
- drugs: invokes spirits (demons) with altering substances. The word “drug” comes from the Greek word “pharmakia,” which is translated to English in our Bibles as witchcraft.
Not only does the Bible forbid dabbling in other religions, but it also explains that these “powers” are rooted in demonic forces. They will lead to death (spiritual and sometimes physical).
- Leviticus 20:26: . . . Do not practice divination or sorcery.
- Leviticus 19:31: Do not turn to mediums or seek out spiritists, for you will be defiled by them. I am the Lord your God.
- Deuteronomy 18:9-12: When you enter the land the Lord your God is giving you, do not learn to imitate the detestable ways of the nations there. Let no one be found among you who sacrifices his son or daughter in the fire, who practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft, or casts spells, or who is a medium or spiritist or who consults the dead. Anyone who does these things is detestable to the Lord . . .
- Leviticus 20:31: . . . do not turn to mediums or seek out spiritists, for you will be defiled by them. I am the Lord your God.
- 1 Corinthians 10:20-21: No, but the sacrifices of pagans are offered to demons, not to God, and I do not want you participating with demons. You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons too; you cannot have a part in both the Lord’s table and the table of demons.
- Ephesians 6:10-12: Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world, and against the spiritual forces of this dark world, and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.
- 2 Corinthians 11:14-15: And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, if his servants masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve.
- 2 Corinthians 11:3-4: But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ. For if someone comes to you and preaches a Jesus other than the Jesus we preached, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received or a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it easily enough.
9. Yoga's Mission Is Contradictory To Biblical Teachings
The goal of the Yogic Path:
To yoke and become one with god, to attain all knowledge, wisdom, and freedom by practicing and perfecting the practices outlined in the Yoga Sutras, 1.1-4.34
The goal of the Christian Path:
To follow the teachings of Jesus by faith alone, believing with your heart, and confessing that he is Lord. To live dedicated and motivated by your love for God and to love others in a way that glorifies and honors God through your thoughts and actions.
Contradictions Between the Purpose of Yoga and Christianity:
- Christians are to strive to be like God, not to become Him.
- Christians are to pursue knowledge and wisdom through His instructions outlined in the Bible.
- The only way to freedom is by faith we received as a gift from Jesus Christ our Savior.
Just like in the snare of the teaching of yoga, Satan’s snare from the beginning was to convince Eve that she could be like God and attain real knowledge if she just disobeyed what the Lord had said:
And the Lord God commanded the man . . . but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.Genesis 2:18
“You will not surely die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”Genesis 3:4
When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.Genesis 3:6
The story of Adam and Eve outlines the devil's trap that brought initial sin and death. Though they did not physically die right away, they both experienced a spiritual death that came from separation from God, and later they endured physical death. Both the physical and spiritual deaths could have been avoided with faith and obedience in the face of temptation.
The Lord gifts wisdom and knowledge after you respect him, follow his ways, humble yourself, and remember that our time on earth is limited:
For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.Proverbs 2:6
And he said to the human race, “The fear of the Lord–that is wisdom, and to shun evil is understanding.Job 28:28
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.Proverbs 1:7
When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.Proverbs 11:2
Wisdom’s instruction is to fear the Lord, and humility comes before honor.Proverbs 15:33
As you can see, the Bible is filled with guidance towards handling the information we receive from this world.
10. Yoga Is Not the Only Physical Exercise With Physical and Mental Health Benefits
The simplest way to put it: you don't need yoga.
Physical exercise has benefits. You can still stretch without using yoga poses. You can still gain balance and strength without participating in yoga poses. You can still unclutter your mind and focus on your needs without using yoga meditation techniques. There are plenty of alternatives you can participate in that will have you feeling fit, energetic, and healthier (more on that below).
Can the Physical Benefits of Yoga Be Isolated From the Spiritual Practice?
By definition, No. Doing yoga poses without consciously meditating doesn't save you from the fact that you're still participating in a spiritual practice outside of Christianity.
Remembering the ultimate goals and doctrine of yoga, it is clear that practicing yoga is more than just a type of physical exercise. As a Christian, you do not want to leave your mind open to false teaching.
Professor Subhas Tiwari of the Hindu University of America in Orlando, Florida, says, “Yoga is Hinduism,” and has also proclaimed that you cannot separate the spiritual from the physical regarding yoga practices.
Efforts to separate yoga from its spiritual center reveal ignorance of the goal of yoga.Professor Tiwari, Hinduism Today 9/1-3/09
What About Stretching Exercises? Can You Separate the Stretching From the Spiritual Aspects of Yoga?
The main problem with participating in yoga is when you add in meditation techniques or other spiritual practices. However, there are a few yoga poses that go beyond just stretching. For example, using prayer hands, commonly done at your forehead.
Christians can stretch. Stretching is good. However, yoga is not just stretching. It is religious in nature intending to unite yourself with “God.” Take this quote from the Yoga Journal:
Connecting the mind, body, and breath helps us to direct our attention inward. Through this process of inward attention, we learn to recognize our habitual thought patterns without labeling them, judging them, or trying to change them. We become more aware of our experiences from moment to moment. The awareness that we cultivate is what makes yoga a practice, rather than a task or a goal to be completed. Your body will most likely become much more flexible by doing yoga, and so will your mind.
Excellent Yoga Alternative for Christians
With any physical fitness, there will be some positive medical benefits. And thankfully, there are many means of physical fitness you can participate in that won't yoke you into other spiritual teachings and compromise your faith.
- Weight Lifting
- Wholesome, worship dancing
What About Pilates, Zumba, or Martial Arts?
Pilates, Zumba, and martial arts sound like great alternatives until you look into the history and intent of each.
Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.1 Thessalonians 5:21 (KJV)
Utilizing the wisdom offered in the bible and applying it to every minute aspect of your life to ensure you pursue what is just, righteous and holy in the sight of God is critical.
Understanding Pilates and Taking Caution
Pilates was created by Joesph Pilates, who has a history in Eastern occult practices. He incorporated several elements from Eastern (Yoga, Qigong, and Zen Buddhism) philosophies and Western (Roman and Greek) forms of fitness. He called his fitness compilation “controlology,” which he claims is the “science of control.”
Like Yoga practice, Pilates emphasizes the importance of focused breathing patterns and concentration while practicing renamed yoga positions. Controlling your mind is integral to Pilates.
Does a physical fitness routine need to involve mind control? Self-hypnosis and visualization part of pilates shouldn't be necessary for physical well-being. Physical and mental lines are getting blurred as body-mind-spirit ideologies are becoming more mainstream throughout our global society.
Aerobics and resistance training with bands can be very beneficial and enjoyable, but watch out for any instructors or classes that focus on meditative breathing techniques, “going inward,” or “spiritual benefits.”
Understanding Zumba and Taking Caution
Zumba can be troublesome to a Christian, depending on the instructor.
- Zumba was created as two words meaning”fast-moving” and “party” were merged into one and often referred to as “a sexy workout” with Latin origins.
- Many Zumba instructors use music with dishonorable lyrics, enticing sin.
- Most Zumba instructors choreograph dances that may be sensual, provocative, or mimic yoga or martial art poses.
- Many Zumba instructors integrate principles from Taoist and Yogi spiritual practices that contradict Biblical teachings.
I will not look with approval on anything that is vile. I hate what faithless people do; I will have no part in it.Psalm 101:3 (NIV)
Without the right Christian instructor, Zumba is not designed to enhance worship and may cause impure thoughts.
Some Christian Zumba instructors provide wholesome dances with worship music, but before you choose to participate, do your due diligence in interviewing them to ensure their classes are, in fact, Christian-friendly (many Christian Zumba classes aren't).
Be mindful of what you watch and allow in your home and places you go outside your home.
You can take all the sinful dance moves and music out, which would transform it into an aerobics routine… which would be a much better option.
Fun Christian-friendly Workout Programs
As mentioned earlier, many Christian-friendly workout programs are fun, effective, and wholesome.
The Daniel Plan is a “healthy lifestyle program founded on Biblical principles.” While they offer low-cost workout plans, recipes, and other services to help transform and maintain a Christian-friendly healthy lifestyle, they do offer some free resources on their website too. The Daniel plan is meant to be about more than working out. Instead, followers concentrate on the ideals of The Daniel Plan: faith, food, fitness, focus, and friends.
Faithful Workouts is a fitness ministry and 501 (c)(3) charitable organization. They offer various workouts, including cardio dance, resistance bands, and chair workouts. Workouts and recipe plans are available for free on the website or app (free membership is required), and every single one is infused with encouraging Biblical reminders.
“Be Holy Yourselves Also in Your Behavior”
but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy.'”1 Peter 1:15-16
Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.1 Corinthians 10:31
Conclusion: Christians Should Not Do Yoga nor Conform to the Fad
Many other great physical fitness programs are out there with great benefits. So why take chances in meddling with something that comes from, and is associated with, a different line of spiritual teachings, false teachings, or potentially more sinister effects? Yoga, and other fitness offshoots, are different than other basic systems because it is more than just exercise; specifically created to combine body, mind, and soul together. This specifically contradicts Biblical teachings as we are taught that our soul is separate from our bodies.
Jesus told us that he was the only way to the Father.
I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.John 14:6
We are not saved from any work that we do ourselves, but by grace through faith in Jesus Christ as our Saviour.
For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.Ephesians 2:8-10 (NIV)
Christians are instructed to be different and to not do things the same way as everyone else in the world.
Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.Romans 12:1-2
As Christians, we are not to be conformed to this world. To be a Christian is to be different.
As a Christian, you must meditate only on God and His Word, not focus on yourself or clear your mind.
How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, nor stand in the path of sinners, nor sit in the seat of scoffers! But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night. He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water. Which yields its fruit in its season and its leaf does not wither; and in whatever he does, he prospers.Psalm 1:1-3
Do you remember the old adage “idle hands are a devil's playground?” When you fully clear your mind, you open yourself to demonic influences. Several areas in scripture warn to only allow your mind to dwell on Godly things and to only meditate on Scripture.
In summary, do not clear your mind, empty yourself, and open your body, mind, or soul to anything but God.
My Personal Experiences With Yoga
Feels like a lifetime ago; I spent most of my days using a wheelchair or crutches to navigate life after the military. I felt abandoned, weak, and broken both physically and spiritually. Through that nearly decade-long health crisis, I was graciously accepted by the yoga instructor who taught at the college I attended in southern California. She helped me adapt the poses so I could manage most of them without my blood pressure dropping, which often caused me to fall unconscious.
I loved my yoga classes. For the first time in years, I felt accepted, appreciated, and somewhat capable. After a semester in her class, I had slightly better mobility, unexpectedly lost weight, and increased confidence.
Then, I couldn't bring myself to continue the practice without understanding why. I assumed it was because my health took another turn for the worse, further restricting my physical abilities.
A few years later, after having shared my yoga success numerous times, I encountered more teachings of New Age and Kabbalah influence. I look back, feeling alarmed by my initial acceptance of it compared to other Christians I've met who never attempted yoga at all, which tells me yoga can easily be considered the “gateway drug” to more nefarious spiritual practices. Much like other prior Yogis I've held conversations with, everything was great… until it wasn't.
I experienced numerous metaphysical phenomena, some of which shook me to my core. The only remedy was to call for Jesus and beg for His forgiveness and protection, learn from my past mistakes, and serve by being a voice of warning.
Since that experience, I've been very diligent in removing myself from any and all “mysticism” and “New Age” influences and deepening my dedication and relationship with Christ.
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Nicole is a wife, homeschooling mom, child of God, Navy veteran, information research analyst, and entrepreneur currently serving as a writer, healthy lifestyle coach, and flexible business strategist. Since earning a BA in Business from Virginia Wesleyan University, focusing on business strategy, she has also taken many courses and seminars in Psychology, Aromatherapy, Herbalism, Chemistry, Biology, and Theology. She loves gardening, needlepoint, hiking, animals, and teaching natural wellness and healthy lifestyle topics.