What Is the Bible’s View?
Would Yoga Benefit You?
YOGA has become very popular among people in many walks of life. For instance, one actress employed it throughout her half-century career and credited yoga with keeping her fit. A group of Roman Catholic nuns at Round Lake, New York, combine meditation and yoga with their morning and evening prayers.
Practicers of yoga recommend it highly. They may tell you that it keeps them in good physical condition, cures illnesses or relieves hypertension. “I was very ill, restless and lonely in spite of having a loving family and many wonderful friends,” wrote one woman. “The study and practice of Yoga helped me to regain my physical health and to acquire peace of mind.”
Well, then, would yoga benefit you? And does the Bible say anything that has a bearing on the practice of yoga?
From the standpoint of Hindu religious philosophy, yoga is “a system of ascetic practice, abstract meditation, and mental concentration, used as a method of attaining union with the supreme spirit.” The term also is applied to a system of physical exercises for achieving well-being and serenity. There are about ten different types of yoga. Among these is Hatha Yoga, widely advocated for health benefits and described as “a system of mental and physical training with prescribed postures, breathing exercises, meditation and relaxation.”
Actually, Hatha Yoga is a stepping-stone to Raja Yoga, a higher form. Yoga has been defined as “the suppression through progressive discipline (as raja-yoga) of all activity of body, mind, and individual will in order that the self may realize its distinction from them and attain liberation from all pain and suffering.” So, ‘the suppression of individual will’ is an ultimate objective of the yogi or practicer of yoga.
Another objective of the yogi is the development of extrasensory perception. A certain head-standing posture is specified as the one “for those who wish to develop suprasensory powers like telepathic communication and clairvoyance.” According to yoga teaching, Kundalini, the serpent power, lies at the base of the spine. Once aroused, it is made to ascend the spine through six stations, or chakras, to the residence of the deity Vishnu in the brain. When this “serpent power” reaches each chakra, the yogi is said to experience new kinds of psychic powers. Finally, after years of effort, at the “union of Kundalini with Vishnu,” the persistent yogi attains the goal of samadhi, the state of complete illumination or superconsciousness.
Associated with the many yoga postures is an elaborate system of breathing exercises. Concerning yoga breath control, we are told: “Its significance has been acknowledged even by the well-known [spirit] medium Eileen Garrett . . . ‘Control of breathing,’ she says, ‘plays an important part in all my supernormal work.’”—Forever Young Forever Healthy, by Indra Devi.
Concentration and meditation come next. The student may concentrate on the tip of a burning candle, gazing at the flame till tears come into his eyes. Then, with them closed, he holds the image as long as possible. Why? Ultimately to make the mind a total blank. Next comes prolonged meditation on one idea, which leads to self-induced hypnosis.
Manifestations of the “serpent power” are numerous. They include: “Knowledge of past and future. . . . Knowledge of others’ minds . . . Knowledge of minutely small, concealed and distant things . . . clairvoyance . . . Levitation. . . . Clairaudience.”—Yoga Dictionary, by Ernest Wood.
As we have noted, one of yoga’s objectives is ‘the suppression of individual will.’ Yet the Bible encourages, not the suppression, but the exercise of a person’s own will in harmony with God’s will. Jesus Christ said: “I seek, not my own will, but the will of him [God] that sent me.” “I have come down from heaven to do, not my will, but the will of him that sent me.” (John 5:30; 6:37, 38) Jesus still had ‘his own will,’ but he exercised that will in doing the will of God.
In this, Christ set an example for his followers. Also, rather than implying that individual will should be suppressed, the Christian apostle Paul told fellow believers that “God . . . is acting within you in order for you both to will and to act.” (Phil. 2:13) This does not sound like the yoga concept, does it?
What about concentration that makes the mind a total blank? And what of meditation that leads to self-induced hypnosis? Nowhere does the Holy Bible associate Christian thought and meditation with such practices. The apostle Paul did urge Timothy: “Ponder over these things; be absorbed in them.” (1 Tim. 4:15) But Paul was advising the young man to ponder over, or meditate on, his personal teaching, conduct and ministry. The apostle was not recommending any kind of trance-inducing fixation of thought on a single idea or object. Nor was Timothy being told to make his mind a total blank.
In fact, there is great danger in making the mind totally blank. Jesus Christ indicated this in saying that when an unclean spirit comes out of a man and later finds that “house” swept clean and adorned, “it goes its way and takes along seven different spirits more wicked than itself, and, after getting inside, they dwell there; and the final circumstances of that man become worse than the first.” (Luke 11:24-26) Yes, a blank mind makes a person easy prey for the demons. But the Christian, through proper meditation on Bible truths, can resist these wicked spirit creatures.—Eph. 6:11-13.
What about the yogi’s development of extrasensory perception and such manifestations of “serpent power” as knowledge of the future, clairvoyance, levitation and clairaudience? A Biblical incident enables us to identify the source of these things. At Philippi, “a certain servant girl with a spirit, a demon of divination,” met Paul and his companions. “She used to furnish her masters with much gain by practicing the art of prediction,” says the account. But in the name of Jesus Christ the apostle Paul ordered the demon to come out of her, “and it came out that very hour.” With what result? No longer was she able to predict the future. (Acts 16:16-19) A demon had been responsible for her uncanny power.
The unvarnished truth is that yoga’s “serpent power” is spiritism, which is condemned in the Bible. (Rev. 21:8) Chiefly behind such occult power is “the original serpent, the one called Devil and Satan, who is misleading the entire inhabited earth.” (Rev. 12:9) Guard against deception by the Devil and his demons. Draw aid from God’s Word, the Bible. Yoga in any form definitely cannot benefit you. It can only do you harm.