From USA Today:
SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — A pastor of an Assemblies of God megachurch recently took aim at yoga, saying it has “demonic roots” and warning Christians to avoid the popular activity.
As someone who enjoys the thrills and jump scares of Halloween how do I feel about this and, more importantly, does this guy have a point?
From Wikipedia on the topic of yoga (emphasis mine):
Yoga is a group of physical, mental and spiritual practices or disciplines which originated in ancient India. Yoga is one of the six orthodox schools of Hindu philosophical traditions.
A lot of Christian women participate in yoga for exercise and this isn’t the first time I’ve seen the topic of its religious roots brought into question, but does participation mean your dipping your toe into demonic forces?
Lets take a look at what Paul has to say about such things in 1st Corinthians 10 (NKJV):
23 All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful; all things are lawful for me, but not all things edify. 24 Let no one seek his own, but each one the other’s well-being.
25 Eat whatever is sold in the meat market, asking no questions for conscience’ sake; 26 for “the earth is the Lord’s, and all its fullness.”
27 If any of those who do not believe invites you to dinner, and you desire to go, eat whatever is set before you, asking no question for conscience’ sake. 28 But if anyone says to you, “This was offered to idols,” do not eat it for the sake of the one who told you, and for conscience’ sake; for “the earth is the Lord’s, and all its fullness.” 29 “Conscience,” I say, not your own, but that of the other. For why is my liberty judged by another man’s conscience? 30 But if I partake with thanks, why am I evil spoken of for the food over which I give thanks?
31 Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. 32 Give no offense, either to the Jews or to the Greeks or to the church of God, 33 just as I also please all men in all things, not seeking my own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved.
As Christians we are not stricken from any physical thing that is not called sinful, but we must partake of these things knowing that not all of them are helpful or edifying. I might enjoy some alcoholic drinks and can glorify God that He provides, yet if I become a drunkard and alcohol becomes a pastime that renders me useless to my family and the work of the kingdom then perhaps I should not be partaking of it.
In the verses preceding these Paul tells the church to avoid partaking in those things which are idolatry, including partaking in the food and drink sacrificed to idols, yet here starting at verse 25 we find he tells them to eat whatever comes from the market, asking no questions for conscience sake. Why? Because the earth belongs to the Lord, and so does all the things that inhabit it. He also tells them that if they receive an invitation to eat from one who is an unbeliever then go and eat. However, if the one who has invited them tells them “this food was sacrificed for idols” do not eat! Why? Not for your own conscious because, again, the earth belongs to God and so does all those things within it, but for the conscious of the one who brought it up!
Now I have to admit, I struggled with this because the way Paul writes this out doesn’t seem to make sense. However, after speaking to one of the older guys in my office he revealed that in that day and age partaking of food sacrificed to idols was indicative of accepting and being part of the worship to that idol. Paul makes this point in the preceding verses though I didn’t put the two together. By partaking of this food after being made aware it was sacrificed to idols you, as a Christian, are essentially giving the impression that its okay for Christians to join in the worship of idols. Though YOU know that eating the food is innocuous, and eating it in no way affects your salvation, proceeding to eat it tarnishes the name of Christ and the perception of what Christians believe.
Taking this in mind, how do we apply it towards the practice of yoga?
Well if I translate this into my enjoyment of Halloween I would say that if someone invited me to a séance or some type of activity intended for the worship of demons or paganism I would definitely not participate. However, if someone invited me to a costume party because they just wanted to have fun and enjoy the company of friends and watch some scary movies I would be more than happy to go, knowing that it in no way affects my salvation. If, during the course of the evening, however, the host informed us that the intention of the party was to celebrate paganism I would thank them and leave, citing my Christian beliefs if anyone questioned why.
In the same manner I would say that Christians can enjoy yoga provided its understood that its strictly for physical exercise and activity, but you should consider leaving and finding a new studio if your trainer starts getting into things like meditation, achieving enlightenment, opening chakras or any type of religions affiliation to the activity. Once this is becomes apparent then its up to us, as Christians, to uphold the integrity of the name of Christ and the belief of Christians and avoid any studio that participates in such practices. I would say that it wouldn’t be wise to even stay in that studio and proclaim, “well I just dont partake in that part of the exercises”, your presence there gives the instructor, and other Christians, the impression that your okay with this spiritual part of the activity.
In the end we as Christians know that these things dont affect our salvation, though consistent exposure can eventually cause us to stumble ourselves and we need to take that into consideration. There should be plenty of yoga studios in the West that participate in the physical aspect without the spiritual aspect, but I dont participate in yoga at all, so I couldn’t say for sure. THE POSES THEMSELVES, THOUGH THEY ARE SUPPOSED TO HELP WITH METAPHYSICAL ALIGNMENT DO NOT IN ANY WAY AFFECT YOUR SALVATION OR EVEN OPEN YOU UP TO ANY TYPE OF DEMONIC OR PAGAN “SPIRITS”, though, again, if an instructor starts to reference the opening of spiritual channels it might be time to move along.
After all, you could always just lift weights.
Ideas? Input? Complaints? Chat it up in the comment section, just keep it clean and keep it civil! What do YOU think?