Is it possible to worship God while practicing Yoga? This is a very practical question, as Yoga is extremely popular in America today. As it becomes more mainstream, Christians are beginning to take part in ever-increasing numbers. To many brothers and sisters in Christ, then, this might even be a silly question, akin to asking, “Is it possible to worship God while exercising?” The assumption here is that Yoga is simply an exercise regime. It is not.
The purpose of Yoga is to enter an altered mental state where you realize the union between yourself and the Universal Spirit. In other words, you discover the secret of “true spirituality” in which the body doesn’t really matter. This has always been its purpose, from the time of its inception prior to the birth of Jesus until now. To the Hindu, the physical world is merely an illusion, and Yoga is meant to help you forget the illusion.
Sannyasin Arumugaswami, managing editor of Hinduism Today is refreshingly honest. He says, “based as it is on Hindu Scripture and developed by Hindu sages. Yoga opens up new and more refined states of mind, and to understand them one needs to believe in and understand the Hindu way of looking at God. ... A Christian trying to adapt these practices will likely disrupt their own Christian beliefs.”
Everything you do in Yoga is designed to help you reach that altered state of mind. The breathing, the concentration, the stretches: each contributes to getting you there. For the person that is not very good at Yoga, the outcome is simply “feeling relaxed.” But that is only the first step on your way to true enlightenment, when the energy from the serpent wrapped around the base of your spine releases its hold and you can make use of it for other purposes. Don’t worry if you haven’t experienced this yet. With practice you will begin to understand the true mysteries of the religion. The Christian who has studied Church history will recognize this teaching as remarkably similar to the ancient heresy of Gnosticism.
Is it any wonder then, that those who defend Christians practicing Yoga depend on Gnostic principles? You see, Yoga is to Hinduism what attending church is to Christianity. It is the worship service. It is, at its heart, spiritual, not physical. The physical act is simply a tool for the spiritual act. The modern Christian who wants to partake in Hinduism by way of Yoga will make the claim that what they do with their body doesn’t matter. It’s all about the intentions of their heart. But this is almost exactly what Gnosticism teaches! So I warn you that practicing Yoga as a Christian will lead you to believe the lies of the Gnostics, and you respond saying, “Don’t worry, dude! I’m already a Gnostic! The actions that my body takes don’t affect my spirit or my heart at all.” Somehow that isn’t very reassuring. Instead it confirms that Christians who partake in Yoga are being syncretistic—mixing Christianity and Hinduism to form a new religion.
This is what Rob Bell has done in his “Breathe” NOOMA video, when he says, “You are a sacred creation of God. The divine breathe is flowing through you, and it's flowing through the person next to you and it’s flowing through the person next to them. You are on holy ground. There is a holiness to the people around us and how you treat them. Jesus said whatever you do for them, you've done for him.”
But what if your intention is to worship the true God as you physically contort your body into the shape of a Hindu god? This concept has been around for a long time, and Pascal describes it well when he says, “…as they have done in the Indies and China where they allowed the converts even to practice idolatry by the subtle device of making them conceal under their dress an image of Jesus Christ to which they were mentally to refer the public worship which they paid to the idol Cachinchoam” (Provincial Letters, page 100. Read more here
.). Pascal mocks the Jesuits for claiming that this practice can be called Christian. Unfortunately, we are unwilling to do so today. But the Bible is clear:
Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness? Or what harmony has Christ with Belial, or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever? Or what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; just as God said, “I WILL DWELL IN THEM AND WALK AMONG THEM; AND I WILL BE THEIR GOD, AND THEY SHALL BE MY PEOPLE. “Therefore, COME OUT FROM THEIR MIDST AND BE SEPARATE,” says the Lord. “AND DO NOT TOUCH WHAT IS UNCLEAN; And I will welcome you. “And I will be a father to you, And you shall be sons and daughters to Me,” Says the Lord Almighty. Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God. (2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1)