In my thirties I had a girlfriend I loved dearly, who was a successful and accomplished yoga teacher. She was a well-meaning, loving lady with a heart of gold, always ready to serve others. She had built a yoga centre on her land and I practised yoga with her regularly for many years, as well as meditation and chanting.
Over the years, I have participated in many different yoga modalities all over North America, everything from very physical sweaty yoga, such as Bikram Yoga, to very meditative and flowing yoga, such as Kripalu Yoga, as well as many other types in-between, such as Kundalini yoga and Iyengar yoga. I had been taught that the physical and mental disciplines of yoga were a powerful method to attain union with the divine. Its techniques and discipline were a means of reaching higher states of consciousness and eventually, with enough practice, become enlightened. I was struggling even to achieve a slight change in consciousness and rise above my everyday confusion.
I was painfully aware of my limitation to reach the bliss of enlightenment and I believed that I had to first pay-off my karmic debt and endure many more years of suffering before I could enter the ecstatic union with the gods. But I was told not to worry because Yoga is the supreme highway leading to self-realization. Self-realization is, unfortunately, nothing more than a self-worship and a self-idolatry.
I studied the ancient Hindu writings, the Yoga Sutras of Pantajali (150 B.C.), an Indian teacher who is credited with developing yoga, one of the six systems of Hindu philosophy and from which the modern practice of yoga is derived. The Yoga Sutras is a complex, rigorous religious system involving asana (yoga poses also called Hatha yoga), breath-control, sense-withdrawal, inner contemplation, concentration, meditation, ethics, ascetism, metaphysics, and samadhi (oneness with the Hindu god Brahman).
The Yoga tradition is referenced in the ancient Hindu texts of Mahabharata, and the Bhagavad Gita, as well as in the later Upanishad, Yogatattva. Early in the twentieth century, Hatha yoga, the physical aspect of the Hindu teachings devoted to postures, the yoga we know today, was exported to the West and ironically actually enjoyed a greater popularity in non-Indian cultures than in the land of its birth.
The yoga of the West has become trendy, glamorous and highly fashionable. Thirty million people are practicing yoga in the United States alone. Yoga studios are popping out like mushrooms all over the landscape. Despite the fact that much of the emphasis of Western yoga is on the beauty of the form and the perfection of the pose, the philosophy and meaning of yoga is taught in most classes.
However, the tendency in the West has been to dissociate Hatha yoga from its source, which is an intimate part of the whole Hindu religious system. As a result, many practitioners see yoga primarily as a technique for improving fitness and flexibility or reducing stress, and don’t recognize Yoga is not just merely an exercise but, indeed, a religious practice. The purpose of Yoga is to awaken the Kundalini spirit to move into your being and take possession of your body. There is no denying yoga exercises have clear physical benefits, but do people really know what they are getting themselves into? Can yoga be separated from its religious ancestral roots?
In many of the yoga studios I visited, I found altars made of statues, posters and images of Ganesh, the elephant god, Hanuman, the monkey god, Shiva, Krishna, Kali, Durga, shakti, Buddha, etc.
In many classes, a ritual bow in front of the altar is a routine practice before and/or after the session. Often one or two Sanskrit mantras (repeating the name of gods) will be chanted and incense burned as part of the ritual and worship of yoga. I was eager to stretch and release the stress of my body but I often felt uncomfortable with the display of worship to Hindu deities. In most cases, the class ends with the greeting “Namaste”, meaning I bow to the divine within you, which is another way of saying: I am god and you are god. There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, But the end thereof are the ways of death. Proverbs 16:25
The term yoga comes from a Sanskrit word which means “yoke” or “union”. Practicing Yoga is yoking yourself to the Hindu gods. The series of yoga poses called “salutation to the sun” are a bowing down and a worship of the sun. The sun worship is a pagan practice common to many ancient civilizations. Yoga asana are prayer movements to the many gods of the polytheistic Hindu religious system; they are offerings to the 330 million Hindu gods.
The basic postures or positions in yoga are called asanas. Breathing exercises called pranayama are practiced along with asanas.
The purpose of asanas and pranayama is to facilitate the flow of prana which is described as being a “vital energy” which must flow throughout the body.
There is such a thing as a vital energy invigorating the body that comes from proper breathing. However the “vital energy” of prana in yoga is really talking about a “spirit”. That is, more specifically, a demon spirit as stated below in a quote from a yoga book:
“The ultimate purpose of both asanas and pranayana is to purify the nadis or nerve channels so that prana can freely flow through them, and to prepare the body for the raising of Kundalini, the supreme cosmic energy, which leads the yogi to a state of god consciousness”. (See chapter 11 and 12 on Kundalini)
Most people would agree that entering a yoga class is not like walking into a fitness gym for a stretching class. Why is yoga so appealing to the western crowd?
There is in most yoga space a mystical atmosphere appeasing the overstimulated nervous system of the average westerner. This appealing ambience created with encens, soft music, dim lighting and repetition of mantra quiet the mind and provide a refuge from the outside world. It is clear yoga reach far beyond mere physical exercise and is indeed a religious practise. Hindu devotees are offended to witness westerners separate yoga from its source and purpose. The sacred space of yoga is a devotional religious practice even if most yogi and yogini don’t consciously recognize it.
Yoga exercises copy nature. Many yoga poses can be traced to the shapes of animal creatures, such as the cobra, cat, dog, tortoise, crab and eagle. I remembered a teacher in the cobra pose, who was encouraging the class to ask what would it feel like to be a cobra. And she said: “Become the cobra”…!! Looking back at this moment, I recognize the deceptive work of the serpent…!! Here I was in the cobra pose trying to become a cobra….!! What an embarrassing, pathetic episode….!!
The implication of yoga is that God is to be found in and through the mortal body instead of through the eternal human spirit. Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption.1 Corinthians 15:50
Pantheism is a belief shared by many of the New-Age belief systems. Pantheism also happens to be a core belief of Hinduism. Pantheism is a belief which identifies God with the universe, or regards the universe as a manifestation of God. This concept holds that the creator and the creation are one and the same and that the creator did not precede the creation.
The truth is, God lives in a different dimension that has nothing to do with the universe He created. Yes God is not separated from His creation, He is indeed omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent but it is important to understand the creation cannot be greater than the Creator. The concept of pantheism, the worship of many gods is consistent with the core beliefs of Hinduism and most New Age practices. In this belief the worship of the many forms of the created world has taken the place of the worship of the Creator. The natural world, the stars, the planets, animals and humans have become little gods and are the object of veneration and idolatry. That idolatry is indeed an abomination to our Father in Heaven.
“You shall have no other gods before me. “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments. Exodus 20:3-6
Do not turn to idols or make for yourselves any gods of cast metal: I am the Lord your God. Leviticus 19:4
The sorrows of those who run after another god shall multiply; their drink offerings of blood I will not pour out or take their names on my lips. Psalm 16:4
The idols of the nations are silver and gold, the work of human hands. They have mouths, but do not speak; they have eyes, but do not see; they have ears, but do not hear, nor is there any breath in their mouths. Those who make them become like them, so do all who trust in them! Psalm 135:15-18
Those who pay regard to vain idols forsake their hope of steadfast love. Jonah 2:8
Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry (1 Corinthians 10:14); Little children, guard yourselves from idols (1 John 5:21).
Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me; declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things that are not yet done; saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure; Isaiah 46:9-10