ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel
  • »
  • Education and Science»
  • Philosophy

Why Are Many Evangelical Christians Opposed to Yoga?

Updated on August 27, 2015
cam8510 profile image

Chris spent 50 years in the Evangelical world as a layman, as a student at a prominent Christian University and as a missionary and pastor.

Source

Author's Note

A question was asked in the Q&A area of Hub Pages a few days ago. I responded to that question and decided to turn my comments there into a hub. The original question thread can be found here: Why Do Some People Consider Yoga Anti-Christian?

Why Are Many Evangelical Christians Opposed to Yoga?

Many Evangelical Christians are opposed to the practice of Yoga. I would like to offer an explanation for this based on my 50 years of experience in the Evangelical community as a layperson, student, pastor and missionary. I am not an expert on the topic of Yoga, so I will do my best to handle that subject responsibly in this article. I also will avoid defending Yoga against the opposition they find among Evangelical Christians. I merely want to clarify the issue described in the title of this article.

Yoga Poll

Do you believe that Yoga can be used solely as a beneficial form of physical exercise?

See results

What Element of Yoga Do Christians Object to?

There is one particular teaching of Yoga to which some Evangelical Christians are opposed. It might be argued that they are actually opposed to a misunderstanding of this particular tenet of Yoga.

Here are two quotes that will represent the aspect of Yoga to which some Evangelical Christians are opposed.

“Dhyanam nirvishayam manah-‘That state of the mind, wherein there are no sensory thoughts, is meditation.’”

According to Yogasutra of Patanjali, ‘Yoga is restraint of the activities of the mind.’”

Source: Yoga: A Basic Understanding

We are not really dealing with what Yoga teaches at this point but with how Evangelical Christians perceive the teachings of Yoga.

A Yogi Seated in a Garden

Source

Emptying the Mind

These quotes contain statements which many Evangelical Christians consider to be dangerous. The quotes refer to “No sensory thoughts” and “Restraint of the activities of the mind.” These teachings, and others similar to them, are interpreted by some in the Evangelical community to refer to a complete emptying of the mind. Here is a quote from the CANA (Christian Answers for the New Age) website:

The ultimate goal is samadhi with no cognition, or absorption into a state of pure consciousness through disengaging the mind and a loss of self-awareness and subject-object awareness4.

Does Yoga teach such a concept as a complete emptying of the mind? I will leave that to others to clarify since I have had very little teaching on the subject of Yoga. But as I look at the quotes above, two things stand out. Neither of these quotes mentions a complete emptying of the mind. The first refers to “No sensory thoughts.” The kinds of thoughts that are to be eliminated are qualified. It is not a blanket statement. The other quote uses the word “Restraint” in reference to the activity of the mind. Restraint is not necessarily a complete shut down.

But in reference to the question at hand, it really doesn't matter if Yoga teaches the concept of emptying the mind or not. What matters is that many Evangelical Christians are absolutely convinced that Yoga teaches the concept of completely emptying the mind. We are not really dealing with what Yoga teaches at this point but with how Evangelical Christians perceive the teachings of Yoga.

What is the Biblical Basis for the Christian Objection to the Practice of Yoga?

We have seen the particular teaching to which Evangelicals are opposed. Now let’s look at why they are opposed to it. The root of the opposition can be found in a passage from the New Testament of the Christian Bible. It is found in Matthew chapter 12, verses 43-45.

When the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, but finds none. Then it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ And when it comes, it finds the house empty, swept, and put in order. Then it goes and brings with it seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and dwell there, and the last state of that person is worse than the first.

Meditation and Yoga as a Christian Spiritual Practice

Interpretation of the Biblical Basis

These verses are about the subject of demon possession. The hypothetical situation is that a person has had a demon cast out of them after which the demon is running around without a place to go. It returns to see whether it would be possible to repossess its previous host. According to other Christian teaching, in order for this person to be safe from being repossessed, they would need to have a relationship with the Christian God. If this was not the case when the demon returned, then it could repossess the person and bring other demons along as well.

Sri Swami Ken MahaRaj

Source

Yoga and the Phenomenon of Demon Possession

Some may be asking at this point, what does this have to do with Yoga or being in opposition to Yoga? Look at the verses again. One word stands out that is important to this discussion. It is the word, “Empty.” The demon went back and found the person empty, having not built a relationship with the Christian God.

This idea of being empty is where Evangelical Christians find a conflict with the teachings of Yoga and the teaching of the Bible. In their understanding, Yoga teaches people to completely empty their minds. Evangelical Christians believe the Bible teaches that if a person is completely empty, they are opening themselves up to demon possession. The logical next step then is to conclude that Yoga leads to demon possession. This is why many Evangelical Christians are opposed to the practice and teaching of Yoga.

In the Words of a Demon

“You cannot take her from me. She’s mine. You’ll never get rid of me and even if you do, I’ll get back in.”

Reportedly, the words of a demon about a woman it had previously possessed because she participated in Yoga.

Do Evangelical Christians Really Believe That Yoga Leads to Demon Possession?

Some of you at this point may be wondering if I have any idea what I’m talking about. I will admit that on many issues, I don’t. But on this one, yes, I know that what I am saying is true. But I want to bolster my position by providing a few quotes from Evangelical Christians regarding Yoga.

E. W. Jackson, Pastor and GOP Politician

Source

Quote by E. W. Jackson

When one hears the word meditation, it conjures an image of Maharishi Yoga talking about finding a mantra and striving for nirvana. . . . The purpose of such meditation is to empty oneself. . . . [Satan] is happy to invade the empty vacuum of your soul and possess it. That is why people serve Satan without ever knowing it or deciding to…. E.W. Jackson, Virginia pastor and GOP politician. Yoga Opens You to Satanic Possession.

Pastor Mark Driscoll

Source

Quote by Pastor Mark Driscoll

Should Christians stay away from yoga because of its demonic roots? Totally. Yoga is demonic, If you just sign up for a little yoga class, you’re signing up for a little demon class.

Mark Driscoll. Pastor of Mars Hill Church, Seattle, Washington. This mega church closed its doors on December 28, 2014. Yoga 'demonic'? Critics call ministers warning a stretch


Father Gabriele Amorth, Former Chief Exorcist at the Vatican

Father Amorth is seen here with Angela Musolesi
Father Amorth is seen here with Angela Musolesi | Source

Quote by Father Gabriele Amorth

Evangelicals aren’t the only ones who feel this way. Father Gabriele Amorth, former Vatican chief exorcist agreed. "Practicing yoga is Satanic, it leads to evil just like reading Harry Potter.” Yoga is the Work of the Devil

David Ortiz Interviews a Woman Who Was Reportedly Demon Possessed as a Result of Participating in Yoga

David Ortiz Interviews Former Hindu Woman Named, Purvi

Video above. David Ortiz is a Television Reporter most recently with Infowars. This is an interview with a Woman named Purvi, who was raised as a Hindu. She now is head of a Christian ministry which teaches Christians about the alleged dangers of Hinduism, including Yoga.

Yoga/Demon Possession Poll

Can Yoga Lead to Demon Possession?

See results

Is This Relevant to You?

I could post more quotes, but why don’t you do it. Google “Yoga demon possession” and you will have plenty of reading to do.

I have attempted to remain neutral on the subject at hand. My purpose is not to support or condemn either the practice and teachings of Yoga or the beliefs of the Evangelical Christian community regarding Yoga. I have provided information, but it is up to you to evaluate its truth and relevance and to use it as you see fit.

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • cam8510 profile image
      Author

      Chris Mills 2 years ago from Maple City, Michigan

      Deb, and that is a healthy, socially supportive attitude. We need more of it.

    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 2 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      All I can say, is to each their own.

    • cam8510 profile image
      Author

      Chris Mills 2 years ago from Maple City, Michigan

      Excellent feedback, in my opinion, Lawrence. You said something subtle and important here, "There's a lot about the Human spirit/soul that God hasn't told us." Does anyone believe that the Bible is the complete source of all knowledge? I know it is believed that the content of the Bible is absolutely true, but that is not the same as containing all knowledge.

      So it would seem that there is truth out there that is not found in the Bible. Of course, by its very nature, newly discovered truth would not contradict previously known truth. In other words, Yoga may have been something God wanted to give us, but for whatever reason, it was lost except in the East. As you have shown, it does not contradict the Bible. Good insight Lawrence.

    • lawrence01 profile image

      Lawrence Hebb 2 years ago from Hamilton, New Zealand

      Chris.

      I found this hub fascinating and up to a few months ago I would have agreed withwith those who said it was wrong, but the last few months has resulted in me re-examining just why we allow or oppose some things.

      I remember being taught that Acupuncture was also "of the Devil" and accepting it until I shared a room on the Mission field with a Korean brother who practiced it!

      He explained to me that yes it was Eastern in origin but it pre-dated Buddhism by many thousands of years and was knowledge God has given about how our body works so why shouldn't we use it?

      From what I understand Yoga isn't a total emptying of the mind but a gettibg rid of the distractions, I'm not sure if you can choose what to focus on but in many ways its similar to what we Christians want to achieve in our quiet times with God...Tuning out the cares of this world and tuning in to God.

      I know there is a secular part that says "focus on yourself" but as Christians we can focus on Jesus.

      There's a lot about the Human spirit/soul that God hasn't told us yet, or maybe he did and we in the west lost it!

      My thoughts anyway

      Lawrence

    • cam8510 profile image
      Author

      Chris Mills 2 years ago from Maple City, Michigan

      Ruby, unfortunately, for some people, life is a daily grind of judgement, moving from thing to thing, person to person, judging. Nothing escapes their scrutiny and evaluation. That is a sad existence. But for people like you, life is beautiful. Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts.

    • always exploring profile image

      Ruby Jean Fuller 2 years ago from Southern Illinois

      This is unbelievable! Meditation is a spiritual exercise to draw closer to God. It also cleanses the mind of clutter. I love to do yoga. The stretching relieves stiffness and relaxes the mind and body. My opinion.

    • cam8510 profile image
      Author

      Chris Mills 2 years ago from Maple City, Michigan

      peachpurple, and it is enlightening to notice that no one has come forward to contest my assessment.

    • peachpurple profile image

      peachy 2 years ago from Home Sweet Home

      you hub brought light to the whole problem between these two.

    • profile image

      christinemariezzz 2 years ago

      Oops I got the equation wording wrong

      Glad I caught that:

      One plus three equals zero.

      (positive, neutral, negative)

      Sorry, think about it, long, it makes sense.

      Write it out and read it, and think.

    • profile image

      christinemariezzz 2 years ago

      Chris,

      Keeping in the middle; not bad at all!neutral!

      A good friend has helped me to understand a universal equation: one plus two equals three; he explained to me the universality of positive, neutral, and negative in all things. I had the opportunity to have his mastership, so to speak for 8 months following my divorce; and I refer to him as Pearl. In sharing his insights I gained wisdom that could not be bought with a price; or for that matter a great price!

      What I learned could only be expressed in an eight month layering of well-chosen oil paints on an eighteen by twenty four inch canvas, a silent work representing the beauty of right teaching coming from the depths. Just as one harvests a true pearl.

      Only a kitchen table top discussion could dissolve the peculiarities of any change of thinking I have adopted on evangelicals, the issues etc. one thing is certain I am as you are too! to live that expression is simple, uncomplicated and a course I can no longer deviate.

      The beauty of life has now manifested itself perfectly in its time; the set time has come to leave off contention and meddle not with any who are given to change.

      On this Yoga issue may all be persuaded to find a firm position to sit and relax- added to keep it lighthearted; knowing the sadness of such who remain closed to the emptying of the mind for its universal purposes to love all.

      Added this tonight, off the cuff in response to your reciprocated comment - a Comment Thread of Sorts

      May we all continue to move past the clearing of all grit and grasp the beauty of the pearl.

      Christine

    • cam8510 profile image
      Author

      Chris Mills 2 years ago from Maple City, Michigan

      Michael, I'm so glad you found this article and that it helped to clarify the issue. My goal in writing this was to stay in the middle and provide as much good information as I could. Thanks for visiting and for your comments......and for the awesome. I appreciate it.

    • cam8510 profile image
      Author

      Chris Mills 2 years ago from Maple City, Michigan

      Christine, thank you for your thoughts and experiences. For some this is a complicated matter. For others, on either side of the issue, it is simple. On one hand are those who would categorize any meditative practice outside a biblically based format to be satanic. on the other hand are those who have no problem with anyone doing exactly what helps them no matter what religion or philosophy it might come from. In the middle are those who are trying to be committed to a Christian worldview, but see no problem with joining a yoga class for the stretching and exercise. For that middle group, this is a difficult maze to navigate. Thanks for reading and interacting here. Your input is always quite interesting.

    • Michael-Milec profile image

      Michael-Milec 2 years ago

      Hello Chris.

      Do they? Was my first reaction to your article's title, only to discover from your exceptionally well presented matter, that you are dealing with incompatible supernatural spiritual forces. I was carefully following you cauteously chosen terms in attempt to understand correctly . Speaking of " Evangelical Christians raises a flag that there might be various classes of christians, and only certain do oppose to Yoga. They actually do stand agains the opposite spirt to the Anointing of the One you very carefully calling the Christian God. Here provided video explains it correctly in details, that this " Christian God is the man of Galilee , Jesus Christ revealing God the Father in human flesh and in His name and by His name the demonic spirits are being cast away even as we speak. The Evangelical Christians aren't the pretenders, it comes automatically, since "You can not serve two masters" as well who is not with me is against me. I do not have any experience if the Yoga can "lead to Demon possession" but there is much truth in it as the demonic spirits are using any subtler given opportunity to enter into the spirit of man to "posses" the mind of person even through lying, listening rock music , illicit sex and such. . .

      The horror story of Matthew 12 , the demons 'coming back is being manifested in our very owns world daily - "and the last state of that person is worse than the first" - seeing young people committing suicides , living in rebellion and disobedience , even false presentation of the gospel in modern preaching is manifestation of demonic activity. Whoever "they are" opposing to "yoga" they are in spiritual warfare ( 2 Corinthians 10:30-5)

      Too bad that we can not ''vote" anymore, your Hub has my " awesome".

      Peace.

    • profile image

      christinemariezzz 2 years ago

      Oh, I forgot!: Great poll questions.

    • profile image

      christinemariezzz 2 years ago

      Chris,

      I've read and re-read your hub, not sure whether to comment. A comment from me on something that plucks a sad note on the ledger of life isn't easy for me. I lived a bit over 36 years in a plurality of evangelical teachings;(quagmires) while often seeking solitude to escape each destructive quagmire.

      Anyways:

      Can't spend time in this small box to tell about that-so I came up with this after a time of thinking:

      "Hmm...I want to comment, what should be said:"

      Came up with this:

      My brain was once washed by doctrines of men, Some of which are taken up here in your hubs on evangelicals. I could still be crippled (figuratively) if I had not left those. I did leave, and with much circumspection. A heroine knowing high risks.

      . I am not a yogini; those are well-studied, respected practitioners of longstanding beliefs. I could never catch-up

      I have done these!:

      Learned mantras and finger positions while in meditation. I like the results.

      I like to perfect my head stands; which are currently practiced by resting my head on a folded wool blanket that I scoot close to a wall.

      I position my head, go into a tripod portion.I slowly and gently throw my feet forward on the wall, straighten up, and slowly release.

      Over time, I've been able to sustain the tripod, and standing on my head with my legs upward without the support of the wall.

      I practice sitting positions that are firm and keep me relaxed. There are different ones. I hope to achieve a supported headstand someday.

      Since practicing firm and relaxing positions I sense a sort of magical release when I sustain a certain position (as I described with my progressing headstand). My mind is not filled with anything other than the fact that my brain feels really good. Some times I am amazed how many minutes I can stand on my head sometimes and my body is relaxed and my face never going red....rounding age 55, wonder how long that can last.

      Yogi and Yogini have my adoration for endurance.

      My bit, on a subject I'm glad you took the time to extend toward your own Hubpage.

      Christine

    • cam8510 profile image
      Author

      Chris Mills 2 years ago from Maple City, Michigan

      Ann, This should not be a matter of should or shouldn't. I would think that a person who is committed to a particular faith would simply not participate in the spiritual part of another faith. I don't mean they would not practice yoga but that they wouldn't do as a spiritual practice. It would be a physical/mental experience. It just seems to be a matter of common sense. Thanks for visiting this hub.

    • annart profile image

      Ann Carr 2 years ago from SW England

      Interesting discussion, Chris. I always regarded yoga as an exercise but also good for relaxing the body AND the mind, but never emptying it. I had to laugh at the quote regarding yoga being akin to 'reading Harry Potter'! Fiction is fiction and should be taken as such. Are we not to be allowed to write fiction about these sort of things any more? How boring that would be!

      Back to the subject - I think yoga can exist side by side with any religion, if a rational person is practising it.

      Great article, Chris.

      Shared.

      Ann

    • cam8510 profile image
      Author

      Chris Mills 2 years ago from Maple City, Michigan

      Titen-Sxull, You and I had similar upbringings. I'll just say ditto to your examples, all of them except kung fu and karate, although the subject never actually came up. As a pastor I was called on occasionally to help in an exorcism. I never saw a case that was anything supernatural. It was always a psychological issue. A dear friend warned my late wife and me about having any pictures or images of frogs because they were part of the plagues in Egypt. They were supposed to give satan a foothold in our house. I always wondered why nothing was said about lice, flies, locusts, storms and darkness....oh, and blood.

      Your accounts are very valuable examples for those who read the comments. Thank you for sharing these things.

    • cam8510 profile image
      Author

      Chris Mills 2 years ago from Maple City, Michigan

      Larry, Yes, I believe that was the gist of Frank Peretti's book a few years ago called "This Present Darkness." It is a fictional account of Demons overrunning a town by taking over the community college and having "New Age" principles taught there. Of course liberals were the unwitting accomplices.

    • Titen-Sxull profile image

      Titen-Sxull 2 years ago from back in the lab again

      A very fascinating and informative article cam8510 !

      This is a subject I am very interested in because I grew up in a fundamentalist household and went to a Pentecostal style church and can remember being warned by my Father and by church leaders about things that could let the devil in or open the door to dark forces or lead us down the wrong path.

      I don't recall if Yoga was ever brought into it but I do know that things like Dungeons and Dragons, Magic the Gathering cards, Pokemon cards, and horror films were frequently maligned.

      We even had a guest preacher tells our Congregation a story of a young teenage girl who'd sneaked in to see Blair Witch Project (when that cinematic abomination came out) and that a demon had attached itself to her as a result.

      I do also remember my Father telling me that karate and kung fu had too much Eastern philosophy in them and that's why I wasn't allowed to take karate classes as a kid (though I suspect the real reason was mostly financial, that stuff is expensive).

      I think a lot of it is that people fear what they don't understand and what is foreign to whatever they currently believe. Certain kinds of Evangelical Christianity love to drive this home as it seems anything can be construed as Satanic if it can be shown that it doesn't come from God or glorify or acknowledge him in some way.

      In a similar way I grew up listening to Christian music because even though it mimicked trends in secular music it was seen as superior because the artists acknowledged god and refrained from swearing and vulgarity.

    • Larry Rankin profile image

      Larry Rankin 2 years ago from Oklahoma

      A certain sect of Christian is especially ignorant and associates yoga with liberal ideals, in answer to your question:-)

      I like liberal ideals and yoga, so what does that make me?...demon, probably.

    • cam8510 profile image
      Author

      Chris Mills 2 years ago from Maple City, Michigan

      Bill, It it had been a flash fiction, it would have been another horror story and would have been titled "Possessed: to Exercise or to Exorcise." Thanks for reading.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      I thought this was the title of a flash fiction. LOL I didn't know it was a serious question. Very interesting to say the least.

    • cam8510 profile image
      Author

      Chris Mills 2 years ago from Maple City, Michigan

      Hi Mary, It's quite an interesting concept isn't it? I'm glad you were enlightened. Have a great weekend.

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 2 years ago from New York

      I had no idea! I know Yoga has its roots in religion, but thought practicing it here was for relaxation and physical fitness.

      I guess you learn something everyday. Possession by the devil because of Yoga is something I never would have ever thought of!

      Thanks for the enlightenment.