Is Yoga a Workout or Disguised Occultism in the Church?

Introduction (An article that I wrote back in 2011 to help Christians understand this issue)

I Peter 5:8 says “Be sober-minded; be watchful.  Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”

It is on this basis that the Church must constantly be on guard against the many ploys of Satan as he tries constantly to infiltrate and destroy it.  The Church’s foundation of Sola Scriptura (Scripture Alone) as heard in the rallying cry of the Reformation must not be allowed to be weakened or removed by Satan.

The Church has been warned a number of ways in Scripture.  In Paul’s charge to Timothy he warns that there will come a time that

“…people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.”  (II Timothy 4:3-4) 

This seems to be a regular occurrence in human history. Mankind has regularly decided to turn away from the only completely true source of divine revelation in the universe and follow after his own lusts and passions, the Bible points out that many times this turning away is a willful act of sinful man.  Another example can be found In Deuteronomy 18:9-13, where God told the Israelites that:

“When you come into the land that the LORD your God is giving you, you shall not learn to follow the abominable practices of those nations.  There shall not be found among you anyone who burns his son or his daughter as an offering, anyone who practices divination or tells fortunes or interprets omens, or a sorcerer or a charmer or a medium or a necromancer or one who inquires of the dead, for whoever does these things is an abomination to the LORD.  And because of these abominations the LORD your God is driving them out before you.”

Deuteronomy 12:29-31 also says:

“When the Lord your God cuts off from before you the nations which you go to dispossess, and you displace them and dwell in their land, take heed to yourself that you are not ensnared to follow them, after they are destroyed from before you, and that you do not inquire after their gods, saying, ‘How did these nations serve their gods?  I also will do likewise.’  You shall not worship the LORD your God in that way; for every abomination to the LORD which He hates they have done to their gods; for they burn even their sons and daughters in the fire to their gods.”

These acts are not only acts dreamed up by men but are covertly or overtly Satanic in their origins as noted again by Paul in his charge to Timothy in I Timothy 4:1

“Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons…”

A study of the Scriptures will reveal a worldview that is antithetical to every other religion.  Also, contrary to popular belief, a study of every other religion will show that each religion denies all other religions.  If one religion (let’s call it “religion X”) claims to accept all religions it actually denies that each of those other religions is correct and it says that this new religion (religion X), which accepts all religions, should now be followed and the distinctive doctrines that differentiated the other religions from each other should be set aside and now all religions should come together and worship as one under “religion X”.  So as tempting as a religion that accepts all religions may sound to its adherents, they should recognize the ponzi scheme before they get sucked in.

Christians have often fallen into the trap of accepting other religious practices without realizing what they have done.  The practice of combining religious practices or beliefs is known as syncretism.  This is exactly what God warned the Israelites against in Deuteronomy because these practices were actually doctrines of demons and so there could be no combining or accommodation of the religious practices.

What about Yoga?

*Great reference material for this is information is a book called The Transcendental Explosion.  This book has done a great job at gathering prime source material.  It is a shame that the Church did not read it and do something about it in the 1970s when it was published.  This information can be found throughout any New Age literature, Occult books or a study of Hinduism.  The author of this paper has studied all of these extensively.

The goal of Yoga as well as Transcendental Meditation is Hindu god realization.  That is that a person might figure out that they themselves are gods.  There are a number of different Yoga styles some concentrate on poses, some on breathing, and some on both.  Several of the styles are:

  1. Hatha Yoga which concentrates on poses
  2. Raja Yoga which covers all eight stages of Yoga
  3. Kundalini Yoga which focuses on awakening the psychic centers or chakras
  4. Pranyama which focuses on breathing (controlling the “prana” or breath)

The Hindu/New Ager/Occultist will speak of seven chakras (psychic centers) that originate at the base of the spine and go up through the body and terminate on the top of the head with the “Crown” Chakra.  They speak of a “Kundalini” force that is coiled at the base of the spine like a serpent.  The goal of practicing Yoga and meditation is to awaken the Kundalini force.

“The Kundalini is thought of as a female serpent lying dormant at the base of the spine.  When aroused via Yoga she travels up the spine, opening the chakras (psychic centers) and leads to union with Brahman.  “Traditionally she is known as Durga the creatrix, Chandi the fierce and blood-thirsty, and Kali the destroyer.  She is also Bhajangi the serpent.  As Chandi or Kali she has a garland of skulls around her neck and drinks human blood.””[1]

According to Hinduism a Yogi is:

  1. One who practices Yoga; one who has attained the goal of yogic practices
  2. A Sanskrit word meaning one who is constantly united with the Supreme Self
  3. One who has mastered the technique and practice of Yoga and can impart yogic discipline to others
  4. A practitioner of yoga, a Hindu practice of meditation and exercises designed to achieve spiritual insight and tranquility

One of the primary catalysts in bringing Yoga and Meditation into this country was Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.  He was a founder of a school on Transcendental Meditation.  He says that…

“It is through yoga alone that knowledge steps into practical life,” and “the technique of transcendental meditation, which helps the mind transcend sankalpa (desire), is the technique of become a yogi or a sanyasi (recluse, another valid path).”[2]

John Weldon and Zola Levitt in their ground-breaking book the Transcendental Explosion go on to say:

“We should note on the authority of Avalon that yoga and magic go hand in hand.  Meditation is the operative principle of yoga.”[3]

It should be noted that each yoga pose is worshipping a different Hindu god or goddess while again the goal is Hindu-god realization.  In other words it is realizing that one is united with the gods.  We should remember Deuteronomy 12:29-31 “…you shall not worship the LORD your God in this way…”  This practice which is usually packaged with some form of meditation has crept into the Church unawares and with the idea that it can be utilized as some sort of Christian meditation practice or stretching exercise.  The meditation practices that are brought into the Church with the yoga are sometimes called quieting prayers, practicing silence, Lectio Divina, or contemplative prayer.  The idea is the same but admittedly all of them open one up to the spirit realm providing a defenseless person that is open to spiritual attack.

In the Desert Youth Worker, after being asked what the difference is between Hindu or Buddhist meditation and Christian meditation, Mike Perschon with Youth Specialties (a Christian organization) said:

“Well, on the surface, nothing.  The approach to meditation for a Buddhist looks an awful lot like what I do.  The difference is the reason we’re doing it.  The Buddhist empties the mind for the sake of emptying it.  The Christian empties the mind to fill it with Christ.”[4]

He went on to talk about some of his other uses for eastern mysticism in the churches he worked with:

“I worked as a church planter the following year and began contemplative elements in worship from the outset.  We held “thin place” services in reference to a belief that in prayer, the veil between us and God becomes thinner.  Entire nights were devoted to guided meditations, drum circles, and “soul labs.”  At soul labs we used the rave culture’s approach to multiple rooms for different music to create a number of prayer stations, where people could try various approaches to contemplative prayer.”

In contrast to this idea Hebrews 4:14-16 (ESV) says

“Since we then have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.  For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.  Let us with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”

Mark Ostreicher with Youth Specialties (a Christian organization) mocked the idea that Youth Specialties was embracing eastern religion:

“Yoga is really just about stretching and slowing down.  Sure, yoga, I suppose, could focus on Hindi or Buddhist gods or something – but it can also focus on Christ.  We received a couple stomping-mad complaints about the yoga at the National Pastors Convention, saying ‘putting your body in those positions invites Hindi gods to enter your body.’  I’m sorry- this just sounds like heresy to me.  If we don’t believe Hindi gods actually exist, then why are we concerned about them entering our bodies?”[5]

It must be remembered that humans do not wrestle against flesh and blood but against demonic powers as Paul emphasizes in Ephesians 6 while he warned Timothy against doctrines of demons.  With a systematic biblical study of fallen angels one quickly realizes that Satan was given power and dominion over the earth for a time and the angels that fell with him seek not only to deceive but also to possess humans.  So, while Hindu gods do not exist, demons posing as Hindu gods exist and seek to inhabit bodies and destroy lives.

Whether yoga and contemplative prayer/meditation are practiced together or separately they both step into the spiritual realm in a way that Scripture forbids.  Even Richard Foster, author of Celebration of Discipline and a self proclaimed Christian and expert in the field of Spiritual Formation, promotes occultic practices but offers a word of caution:

 At the outset I need to give a word of warning,… Contemplative Prayer is not for the novice. I do not say this about any other form of prayer… Contemplative prayer is for those who have exercised their spiritual muscles a bit and know something about the landscape of the spirit. In fact, those who work in the area of spiritual direction always look for signs of a maturing faith before encouraging individuals into Contemplative Prayer…

I also want to give a word of precaution. In the silent contemplation of God we are entering deeply into the spiritual realm, and there is such a thing as a supernatural guidance. While the Bible does not give us a lot of information on that, there are various orders of spiritual beings, and some of them are definitely not in cooperation with God and his way! … But for now I want to encourage you to learn and practice prayers of protection.[6]

The need to give this caution should alert Richard Foster and any of his followers to the occultic nature of his proposals.  The Bible warns to stay away from the practices of the pagans, and forbids using them for worshipping God even if one does keep a wary eye out for any intruders.

In a recent article titled “The Subtle Body – Should Christians Practice Yoga?” Al Mohler makes the following observations:

“When Christians practice yoga, they must either deny the reality of what yoga represents or fail to see the contradictions between their Christian commitments and their embrace of yoga. The contradictions are not few, nor are they peripheral…”

“…Nevertheless, a significant number of American Christians either experiment with yoga or become adherents of some yoga discipline. Most seem unaware that yoga cannot be neatly separated into physical and spiritual dimensions. The physical is the spiritual in yoga, and the exercises and disciplines of yoga are meant to connect with the divine.

Douglas R. Groothuis, Professor of Philosophy at Denver Seminary and a respected specialist on the New Age Movement, warns Christians that yoga is not merely about physical exercise or health. “All forms of yoga involve occult assumptions,” he warns, “even hatha yoga, which is often presented as a merely physical discipline.” While most adherents of yoga avoid the more exotic forms of ritualized sex that are associated with tantric yoga, virtually all forms of yoga involve an emphasis on channeling sexual energy throughout the body as a means of spiritual enlightenment.

Stefanie Syman documents how yoga was transformed in American culture from an exotic and heathen practice into a central component of our national cult of health. Of course, her story would end differently if Americans still had cultural access to the notion of “heathen.””[7]

To close out this article, a final note must be made.  The Yogi masters, New Age teachers, and Occult practitioners warn of the dangers of yoga and meditation.  In the preface to “Kundalini Causalities,” an article discussing the dangers of yogic kundalini arousal during meditation and other New Age therapies, The New Age Journal points out:

“Traditionally, spiritual teachers have warned their students of the dangers and possible side effects of meditative techniques and helped practitioners deal with these difficulties as they arose.  Now that meditation is being marketed as a mass commodity, the information concerning the dangers and the necessary help is often not part of the package.  Moreover, certain body therapies and human potential techniques appear to be triggering off the Kundalini syndrome completely outside the context of spiritual training and often the therapists themselves have no idea what this energy is, let alone how to deal with it.”

Weldon and Levitt in The Transcendental Explosion speak of the problems that arise from yoga:

“You don’t fool carelessly with kundalini – unless you care for terrible body pain and heat, deteriorating health, numerous forms of insanity or sudden death.  Shree Purohit Swami experienced near insanity, ate the leaves of two entire nimbi trees, devoured insipid mudra leaves and could not sit or stand.  He mentions one yogi who had the fire rage for six to eight months, another who had to sit under cold tap water eight hours a day.”

There are no answers for these problems.  They can be triggered any time someone does yoga whether it is called Christian, Hinduism, or Buddhism.  The Christian is called to meditate on God’s Word by thinking about His Law and promises and NOT by clearing one’s mind or using a focus word.  Psalms 1:2 says

“…but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on His law he meditates day and night.”

Joshua 1:8 and Psalm 63:6 can also be referenced for the Bible’s thoughts on meditation.  Yoga and Transcendental Meditation are eastern occultism through and through.  They cannot be separated no matter how hard one may try.  Placing a different name on them will not change the result.  If Christians continue to practice these things they will knowingly or unknowingly be opening themselves up to Satanic forces and God will not honor this.  Ephesians 5:11 provides great wisdom:

“Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.”

May these words serve as a warning to the Church and a rallying cry to take Christ to a lost world!  Maranatha!


[1] Weldon, John and Levitt, Zola, The Transcendental Explosion (Irvine, CA, Harvest House Publishers, 1976), 208

[2] Weldon, John and Levitt, Zola, The Transcendental Explosion (Irvine, CA, Harvest House Publishers, 1976), 206

[3] Ibid, 206


[5] Mark Oestreicher in a response on their website to the charge that Youth Specialties is embracing eastern religion.

[6] Foster, Richard, Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home, 155-157.

[7] Mohler, Albert, (

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