Recent expose of Bikram yoga founder prompts questions.
I consider myself flexible. But if you are talking about physical flexibility and the ability to cross my legs and the wrap them around my head, well, that’s not going to happen!
Yoga is not my sport. But my aversion to it is not a matter of disdain for the lean and limber who stretch into unnatural poses. Stretching is legitimately good for the body. Yoga, however, is more complicated than physical fitness.
My first introduction to yoga came when I was in high school living in Dearborn, Michigan. My friend Denise and I took an evening class at a local public school. We went to the Catholic school and were looking for something adventurous to do while we scanned the list of community education classes. Denise’s mother nixed the belly dancing class (bless her) so yoga it was. We did a lot of harmless balancing and stretching such as “The Tree” in which we stood one-legged with the foot from the other leg pressed on the opposing inner thigh while holding our arms outstretched. We wobbled and struggled to stay upright and felt very un-tree-like.
One day, the instructor brought in a picture book of yogis in advanced poses. Good heavens, I’ve bet you’ve never seen the likes of such contortions outside of a circus — and even then… The various Gumby-like yogis looked bizarre; bending and twisting in ways I never imagined possible.
Now, fast-forward 30-some years. I’ve grown in knowledge and experience and have ten kids. Where once my faith was shallow, it now goes to the core. And I’ve learned some things about yoga along the way. Many years ago I read a book by a Christian and former new ager previously considered an authority on spiritual power though crystals. Once converted, he warned of the danger and actual demonic influences in new age practices, which had become clear to him after a difficult but major awakening to Christianity. This man had personally explored a number of new age practices in depth, including yoga. He had attended a special center for Yoga in California and reached a high level. The author claimed that at the upper levels, practitioners are actually inviting the serpent into their bodies during advanced relaxation poses and meditations. Hint: the serpent is not God.
Not one to spread rumors that cannot be verified, I went to the Internet and put in the words Yoga and Serpent. Lots of entries popped up. Some of it was Christian-based warning against yoga. If you are a yoga enthusiast, you could easily brush these sites aside as fanatical. But you can’t brush aside the fact that actual yoga sites announce the power of the serpent as part of the attraction. Here is an excerpt from one of many sites:
• Kundalini (Divine Serpent Power) is a super power of our life.
• Over here lies focused all energies of the body and mind.
• Great Yogis, Rishis, Munis had discovered it.
• They all proclaimed that Kundalini is the supreme energy.
• It is the final step that helps us unite with God.
• Divine Serpent Power is the super power of our life.
As a Christian, this should shout out… False god! One book on yoga sold through Amazon is even called The Serpent Power.
On “The Lighthouse” website, self-described as a Christian Bible Based Cult Awareness Center, people are warned that Yoga is not in harmony with Christianity:
Harper’s Encyclopedia of Mystical & Paranormal Experience by Rosemary Ellen Guiley, describes yoga as “Various systems of spiritual discipline and liberation from the senses.” This is an interesting way of saying that yoga is designed to separate one from their mental faculties by creating an altered state of consciousness….
In Asia, Yoga is also found in Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism, and Bon (the early religion of Tibet) and has evolved into different systems, but all share the common goal of “union with the Absolute,” or divine, and are spiritual practices inseparable from the Eastern mystical religions that spawned them.
To the Christian, the greatest danger is the spiritual idolatry, before God, in engaging in practices devised thousands of years ago by pagan experts or “adepts,” to become “united” with spiritual deity, they believed to be the "Absolute," or "Ultimate Reality," but which the Bible calls "fallen angels" or demons.
Since you are here…
…we’d like to have one more word with you. We are excited to report that Aleteia’s readership is growing at a rapid rate, world-wide! Our team proves its mission every day by providing high-quality content that informs and inspires a Christian life. But quality journalism has a cost and it’s more than ads can cover. We want our articles to be accessible to everyone, free of charge, but we need your help. To continue our efforts to nourish and inspire our Catholic family, your support is invaluable. Become an Aleteia Patron today for as little as $3 a month. May we count on you?