The Emperor’s New Yoga Pants

by Mary Eady on December 1, 2011

Child in lotus position meditating between textbooks and globe

Children in Southern California schools are being taught yoga during the school day.

 A group of children sits in a circle, legs crossed, and palms pressed together in front of their hearts.  A lovely woman has just finished leading them through a yogic exercise of stretching and quiet meditation to music.  “Now,” she tells the children, “with your hands together in front of your hearts, look down and say, ‘I see the light in me.’  Now look at someone sitting next to you and say, ‘I see the light in you.’”  The children giggle, but comply.  “And now make a big stretch with your hands arou-u-u-und the whole circle and say, ‘This light in all of us makes us one.’”  They echo her in unison.  “Finally,” the woman continues, “bring your hands back together in front of your heart and say, ‘Namaste.’”  “Namaste,” the class repeats.  The yoga class is finished and the fourth grade students file out to continue their school day in a small, Southern California public school. 

Last week, I observed this class with the principal, after having asked that my Kindergarten-aged son be removed from the course. My son and one other student are the only children in the school not participating in these weekly, graded yoga classes.  The school insists and truly believes that yoga is non-religious and non-spiritual, but I witnessed a deeply One-ist spiritual exercise built on purely religious foundations. 

As I stood beside the principal, I felt like the child in the story of the emperor’s new clothes, who finally protests, “But the emperor isn’t wearing any clothes!” Only, the emperor in my story was wearing yoga pants!  Everyone insists that the students are in an exercise class, but as I look on, my mind screams, “But everything taught in this class is religious!” 

The front page of the website for the group running these courses in schools all over southern California and New York states, “Age and developmentally appropriate yoga poses, breathing exercises, chanting, meditation, and relaxation techniques offer a child-friendly relationship to the physical and philosophical traditions of yoga.” (Emphasis mine) 

This group has convinced the principal of my son’s school to schedule what he thinks is a non-religious form of yoga exercise. In reality, he is introducing children to a “relationship with the traditions of yoga,” which are inherently rooted in Hinduism, a One-ist tradition to its core.

Myths of the Asanas by Alanna Kaivalya and Arjuna van der Kooij explains to yoga practitioners that “behind each asana and its corresponding movement is an ancient story about a god, sage, or sacred animal.”  In the introduction we learn that “Asana (physical pose) practice’s… philosophical principles encourage spiritual growth…[that] Asanas can be viewed as a kind of prayer.”  The authors of the book even take a moment to point out that it is these very spiritual foundations that “distinguish asana practice from other systemized forms of movement.”  They, too, see clearly that even yoga’s purely physical forms are not just exercise, but something much more.

Yoga, including its physical practice, is very religious indeed.  A religion that worships, serves, and seeks salvation from gods that are not the God of the Bible is in direct conflict with Christian worship, service and salvation.   

Mark Driscoll says that “a faithful Christian can no more say they are practicing yoga for Jesus than they can say they are committing adultery for Jesus.”  I must agree.  The God who condemns adultery in the Ten Commandments also tells his people, “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.” (Exodus 20:4-5, emphasis mine)

Yet, in schools on the West and East coasts of the United States, little children are bowing and worshipping—being taught the things I witnessed at my son’s school:

to perform Sun Salutation (a movement sequence that worships the sun god Surya as a symbol of health and immortal life);

 to take on the posture of the half-man, half-monkey god Hanuman through the Crescent Moon Pose; and

to acknowledge the divine light in each other, through the mudra Namaste which, in fact, means, “the light in me honors the light in you.”  This last gesture of obeisance pays homage to the divine light believed to be within the body and soul of each person. As the students repeated to each other, “this light in all of us makes us one.” 

Only two of the fifty or so professing Christian families at our school have thought to pull their children out of these classes. 

This experience has been a poignant reminder to me of the vital importance of the work we do here at truthXchange.  Mine is not just a job to help do research and spin off apologetic theory. Our work is of urgent necessity to Christians living right now in this culture.  All Christians must understand the spiritual foundations of One-ism and Two-ism and recognize the implications of each worldview in everyday life. I need to speak intelligently and with grace to the issue of yoga in my son’s school. Other Christians will need courage and grace to speak up about a huge variety of implications that stem from an increasingly One-ist culture.   

Will you pray for me and for our school as I contemplate how to address these questions with the school staff?  Will you pray that I will have an opportunity to share the truth of the Gospel and the God of the Bible with the people at this school and in my community?  And, will you prayerfully consider the important work we are doing at truthXchange?  You’ll find information our website (www.truthxchange.com) and we are working hard every day to provide more materials to warn Christians and to equip them to speak the gospel clearly.

 

{ 54 comments… read them below or add one }

Deborah Dewart December 5, 2011 at 1:17 pm

We absolutely need to have some Christian parents file an Establishment Clause challenge to this practice. Here is one First Amendment lawyer ready and willing to help!

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Gary Upton December 5, 2011 at 2:05 pm

More Truth on the subject of Yoga and its influence right here in America.

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Dave Englund December 5, 2011 at 2:17 pm

Deceived about Yoga? Check this out and read carefully – your kids may be worshiping false gods.

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Dave Englund December 7, 2011 at 1:52 pm

“Yoga begins and ends with an understanding of the body that is, to say the very least, at odds with the Christian understanding. Christians are not called to empty the mind or to see the human body as a means of connecting to and coming to know the divine. Believers are called to meditate upon the Word of God” See: http://www.albertmohler.com/2010/09/20/the-subtle-body-should-christians-practice-yoga/

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LewisandClaire Ridgway December 5, 2011 at 2:42 pm

Watch out Yoga”ites”! :)

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Nitoy Gonzales December 5, 2011 at 6:33 pm

I have a book by a famous yogi and he says true yoga is being one with a hindu deity…

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Samantha Wolf December 6, 2011 at 12:59 pm

True yoga is finding peace and relaxation to connect spiritually with God without all the chaos in your mind. Yoga is not merely used in Hinduism, and was merely an adopted practice to find yourself closer to true good conduct and health.

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Pamela Frost December 8, 2011 at 1:09 pm

I have read widely varying accounts from American yoga teachers on the origins and meanings of yoga. One popular “Christian” yoga teacher claims that the practice of yoga predates Hinduism by 1000 years and that it was later adopted by Hindus for its physical and mental benefits, and that the practice of yoga has always been spiritually neutral. There are many variations of this story that abound so I would like to give some historical clarification here.

The word yoga is a derivative form of the root word yuj, meaning “yoked” or “union,” and was first recorded around 1500 B.C. in the ancient Rig Veda, the oldest of the Hindu sacred texts. The oral Vedic tradition dates back somewhere between 3000 and 2500 B.C. so the concept of yoga is deeply rooted in the ancient spirituality of India. The “yoking” or “union” recorded in the Vedas refers to being yoked in devotion to the deities of India to attain the goal of yoga (its salvation experience), which is self-realization of the soul’s eternal union with the impersonal, universal divinity of Brahman. This is the altered state of consciousness known as Samadhi.

The ancient sage Patanjali, considered the father of yoga, organized the Vedic path to Samadhi into Ashtanga Yoga, the eight-limbed (ashtanga means eight-limbed) path to attain the Royal Yoga (Raja Yoga), the state of Samadhi. Among the eight limbs recorded in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, are the ascetic practices of yama (severe abstentions of asceticism) and Niyama (mandatory observances such as devotion, bhakti, to the gods and goddesses, asanas (ritual postures of worship to varying deities, which subdue the material body and mind facilitating awakening of meditative states of consciousness), pranayama (breath control to suppress breathing and heart rate to awaken spiritual enlightenment), pratyahara (withdrawal of the senses during the postures, breath-control, and meditation), dharana (the yoga of sound stilling the mind through meditation on the mantra “Om” to harmonize consciousness with the universal vibration of divinity), and dhyana, sustained meditation leading to the experience of Samadhi where the subject/object distinction disappears (nonduality) as the created merges into universal divinity. This is classic One-ism.

In the fifteenth century, Swami Swatmarama wrote extensively on the cosmology, theology, and practices of Hatha Yoga, the yoga of asana (posture). In his work the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, the swami claims all the postures of Hatha Yoga were revealed by Shiva, the Destroyer, to his consort Parvati (an incarnation of Shakti who is the Divine Feminine serpent goddess Kundalini) as ritual acts of worship to Shiva and other deities as the means of attaining Royal Yoga, the nondual state of Samadhi. In order to attain this end, the swami claims the postures of Hatha Yoga (the asanas) alone will awaken the serpent Kundalini within the body and lead one to the experience of Samadhi. The meaning of the word “Hatha” helps us understand his conclusion. According to the swami, the word “Hatha” is comprised of two parts: “Ha” means sun, representing the male principle on the left side of the body and “Tha” means moon, representing the female principle on the right side of the body. By means of the ritual worship of the postures (asanas) for Shiva and other deities, the male and female principles are merged into spiritual androgyny as the serpent Kundalini arises to open Shiva’s Third Eye of Destruction on all subject/object distinctions such as those of Creator and creation, good and evil, male and female.

When Mary observed the children in the kindergarten yoga class being instructed in the asanas, chanting, meditation, and the Namaste salutation to the universal Light, she recognized the children were receiving religious/spiritual instruction in the ancient Vedic One-ism of yoga. In order to understand the spiritual times in which we live, we must have a solid grounding in our understanding of the cosmology of universal One-ism, which ultimately denies the value of the individual and leads to a kind of annihilation beyond the mind, and biblical Two-ism, which affirms the distinction between God and creation and affirms the infinite worth and value of individuals created in the image of God and of their minds, which are gloriously renewed and transformed through the growing knowledge of His Word.

Let’s be spiritually alert and discerning so we can graciously and effectively engage the culture with the beauty of biblical Two-ism’s salvation message of Christ’s blood atonement for sinners and let us pray in genuine concern and love for those caught in the web of One-ism.

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Joe Jervis December 5, 2011 at 8:48 pm

Yoga is from Satan! And Satan is a Hindu! I read that online! I swear to God, Jesus and five more white people!

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Colin Dubi December 5, 2011 at 11:37 pm

Yoga anyone?

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Matt Rennie December 6, 2011 at 4:16 am

wow, this is being allowed? incredible! but don’t you dare say merry christmas or have a nativity scene in or near a school!

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Nattida Samanukorn December 6, 2011 at 10:17 am

While I agree that this may not have a place in a school, I would ask if a follower of Christ doing yoga poses, with no openness to the spiritual aspect, makes them an idol worshiper, anymore than an atheist sitting in a church pew makes them a Christian.

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Mary 'Wagner' Eady December 6, 2011 at 11:27 am

This is such a valid question, Nattida, and one I have asked myself. However, I think the example of sitting in a church pew is different from a Christian doing an asana. An asana in its very form tells the story of something sacred to the Hindu faith. A better comparison, then, would be a Christian doing an asana and a Hindu being baptized with no faith. Their action, still, tells a physical story of Christ’s death and resurrection. There are quite a few resources I looked through when struggling through these questions which I’d be happy to point you to if you are interested. They also deal with many other valuable issues with regard to Christians and yoga practice than the one you mention here.

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Dawn Reidy January 9, 2013 at 8:04 am

I assume, based on your argument here, that you are opposed to ANY and ALL religious expression in schools. I’m guessing that if you feel that “thanking the sun” has no place in school, you also object to “under God” being part of the Pledge of Allegiance which is recited at the start of the school day. (Actually, per your definition, wouldn’t the Pledge to the flag be kind of like worshipping a false idol?) I also assume that you are opposed to the term “Under God” being printed on our money?

I’m not opposed to any of it. If someone wants to pray they should pray. If someone wants to refer to God, they ought to refer to God. If someone wants to thank their morning cup of coffee for getting them up and going, by all means … And I don’t care where anyone does this stuff.

I’m an agnostic. I don’t have a religion, but I have kids who attend public schools where they have sung Silent Night, Hannukah songs and so on. They pledge allegiance to that flag every morning and everything — I’ve given them the option to skip “under God” if they want to, but they prefer not to skip it, which is fine. They’ve made Christmas ornaments and gingerbread houses in school. Everyone shouts out, “Merry Christmas.” I think it’s great. It’s fun for them and they get the chance to learn something new. It has given me opportunities to talk to them about what people believe and to teach them about showing respect for other people’s feelings and beliefs. They get it. They’re teenagers now and they are very much tuned in to other people. They get that the best way to get along with other people is to understand them and their beliefs.

Do you have so little faith in your ability to communicate with your son that you think he’ll come home as a Hindu convert after practicing yoga poses in the morning?

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Samantha Wolf December 6, 2011 at 12:58 pm

Mary ‘Wagner’ Eady Actually an asana is merely the name given to a certain position a yoga practitioner uses to begin a yoga sequence, or meditation sequence. More specifically, a mastering of sitting still to focus. There are mantras sometimes used in meditation, especially during an asana, but the asana itself is not in anyway a story or worship of the Hindu faith. Is sitting still not a way of focusing on prayer to our Christian God?

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Samantha Wolf December 6, 2011 at 12:54 pm

While I do disagree with some of the typical mantras taught by some yoga instructors, because they are difficult to understand by children, yoga is not strictly Hindu and never has been. I would like the writer’s research that led her to the biased belief that yoga is a religious practice strictly for Hinduism and is therefore against the belief in the Christian God.

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Mary 'Wagner' Eady December 6, 2011 at 4:41 pm

Hi Samantha, The book I quoted in the article is one source I used. It is a book recommended by mainstream American yoga instructors such as Rodney Yee whose exercise equipment you can even buy at Target. The forward for the book, which I quoted directly, was written by Shiva Rea, whose site you might also peruse. I also collected thoughts from other yoga sources including Hindu Currents (specifically quotes from Swami Param), and various yoga-based websites about yoga practice and technique including the one for the group teaching at the school (These sources are also where I pulled from as I wrote about what asanas are). From a Christian perspective I also looked at the article I linked to from Mark Driscoll’s blog, a blog called “The Contender” and at some very helpful papers. I hope this addresses some of your thoughts below, as well. I do think that you will find many yoga practitioners themselves would disagree with you about what true yoga is. I do thank you, so much though, for engaging about this.

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Samantha Wolf December 6, 2011 at 5:43 pm

Mary ‘Wagner’ Eady Many of those that argue what true yoga is, are not historians or religious experts, or even philosophers that look into true historic written fact. Yoga was adopted into the Hindu practice from outside citizens of India that were brought into the Hindu religion by Buddha. We could go back and forth with this, but American writers will always win when it comes to a biased religious extremist.

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Pamela Frost December 8, 2011 at 1:26 pm

Samantha Jasmer I have read widely varying accounts from American yoga teachers on the origins and meanings of yoga. One popular “Christian” yoga teacher claims that the practice of yoga predates Hinduism by 1000 years and that it was later adopted by Hindus for its physical and mental benefits, and that the practice of yoga has always been spiritually neutral. There are many variations of this story that abound so I would like to give some historical clarification here.

The word yoga is a derivative form of the root word yuj, meaning “yoked” or “union,” and was first recorded around 1500 B.C. in the ancient Rig Veda, the oldest of the Hindu sacred texts. The oral Vedic tradition dates back somewhere between 3000 and 2500 B.C. so the concept of yoga is deeply rooted in the ancient spirituality of India. The “yoking” or “union” recorded in the Vedas refers to being yoked in devotion to the deities of India to attain the goal of yoga (its salvation experience), which is self-realization of the soul’s eternal union with the impersonal, universal divinity of Brahman. This is the altered state of consciousness known as Samadhi.

The ancient sage Patanjali, considered the father of yoga, organized the Vedic path to Samadhi into Ashtanga Yoga, the eight-limbed (ashtanga means eight-limbed) path to attain the Royal Yoga (Raja Yoga), the state of Samadhi. Among the eight limbs recorded in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, are the ascetic practices of yama (severe abstentions of asceticism) and Niyama (mandatory observances such as devotion, bhakti, to the gods and goddesses, asanas (ritual postures of worship to varying deities, which subdue the material body and mind facilitating awakening of meditative states of consciousness), pranayama (breath control to suppress breathing and heart rate to awaken spiritual enlightenment), pratyahara (withdrawal of the senses during the postures, breath-control, and meditation), dharana (the yoga of sound stilling the mind through meditation on the mantra “Om” to harmonize consciousness with the universal vibration of divinity), and dhyana, sustained meditation leading to the experience of Samadhi where the subject/object distinction disappears (nonduality) as the created merges into universal divinity. This is classic One-ism.

In the fifteenth century, Swami Swatmarama wrote extensively on the cosmology, theology, and practices of Hatha Yoga, the yoga of asana (posture). In his work the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, the swami claims all the postures of Hatha Yoga were revealed by Shiva, the Destroyer, to his consort Parvati (an incarnation of Shakti who is the Divine Feminine serpent goddess Kundalini) as ritual acts of worship to Shiva and other deities as the means of attaining Royal Yoga, the nondual state of Samadhi. In order to attain this end, the swami claims the postures of Hatha Yoga (the asanas) alone will awaken the serpent Kundalini within the body and lead one to the experience of Samadhi. The meaning of the word “Hatha” helps us understand his conclusion. According to the swami, the word “Hatha” is comprised of two parts: “Ha” means sun, representing the male principle on the left side of the body and “Tha” means moon, representing the female principle on the right side of the body. By means of the ritual worship of the postures (asanas) for Shiva and other deities, the male and female principles are merged into spiritual androgyny as the serpent Kundalini arises to open Shiva’s Third Eye of Destruction on all subject/object distinctions such as those of Creator and creation, good and evil, male and female.

When Mary observed the children in the kindergarten yoga class being instructed in the asanas, chanting, meditation, and the Namaste salutation to the universal Light, she recognized the children were receiving religious/spiritual instruction in the ancient Vedic One-ism of yoga. In order to understand the spiritual times in which we live, we must have a solid grounding in our understanding of the cosmology of universal One-ism, which ultimately denies the value of the individual and leads to a kind of annihilation beyond the mind, and biblical Two-ism, which affirms the distinction between God and creation and affirms the infinite worth and value of individuals created in the image of God and of their minds, which are gloriously renewed and transformed through the growing knowledge of His Word.

Let’s be spiritually alert and discerning so we can graciously and effectively engage the culture with the beauty of biblical Two-ism’s salvation message of Christ’s blood atonement for sinners and let us pray in genuine concern and love for those caught in the web of One-ism.

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Linda McClellan December 6, 2011 at 1:43 pm

As a Great Grandmother I will stand with you, and also pray about this…This infiltrting our churches too!

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Dale 'n Maggie Linn December 6, 2011 at 1:46 pm

It’s really sad to see this.

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James Tesla December 6, 2011 at 3:33 pm

I completely agree with your article regarding what is being done in school. It should and must be stopped. I also agree that we need to be very careful about what we practice and that Christians should not practice traditional Yoga. However, could there theoretically be a secular form of exercise that would utilize some physical aspects of Yoga? When I was an athlete in High School (a wrestler) I used some Yoga positions as warm up exercises with no spiritual connection at all. Is it inherently idolatrous to cross one’s legs one over the other? Could such exercises be recycled? We use completely pagan names for the days of the week, we use a pagan name for the day of resurrection (Easter), we use pagan names for the months of the year, but all without committing idolatry. Is there a possibility of recycling some the physical exercises of Yoga, just as all Christians commonly and routinely recycle other pagan practices? (This is being posted by an ultra-conservative Presbyterian minister, by the way!)

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Jeff Nealon December 6, 2011 at 10:54 pm

Thankful the lord blessed me with a dog to run. Thankful for Sunday worship daily prayed to the lord of the bible. Freedom found in Christ Jesus and good old fashioned excercize.

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James Tesla December 7, 2011 at 11:00 am

I read the Mohler article. Just to be clear, I am not asking if a Christian can practice Yoga. The answer is definitely no as far as I am concerned. I am asking something different. What I am asking is: “Is it possible that there are some physical aspects of Yoga that have value as exercise that can be divorced from Hinduism?” Mark Singleton wrote a book claiming Yoga as practiced in the West has come about more through an interest in exercise than spirituality. (The book is: Yoga Body: The Origins of Modern Posture Practice) His thesis may be wrong and no doubt the spiritual aspects have crept in along with the exercise programs. My question is could anything in Yoga, in terms of purely physical practice, be recycled and used in purely secular exercise scrupulously cleansed of Hinduism?

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Mary 'Wagner' Eady December 8, 2011 at 3:05 pm

Hi James —

I think that, as a system, it would be impossible to “scrupulously strip the hinduism” out of yoga simply because every movement IN yoga is a representation/depiction of a deity or a myth within the religion. See Pamela Frost’s comments posted here in the discussion stream about what asanas actually are (which is drawn from ancient documents that she’s read in translation and extensive research into its history…we have an article she has worked on that we will be putting up about this soon. She has gone to the ancient sources for her research and I can’t wait until it’s posted)

However, take for instance, Praise Moves, which is a system of stretching and exercise that does not draw at all from yoga asanas, simply layering some Christian ideas over a core telling a physical story. Rather, it was a system of exercise built from the ground up to tell the stories of the Bible and to meditate on Christ and His work for us. So, rather than physically taking on a pose that depicts a Hindu god (say the Crescent Moon pose) but saying a Christian verse, you would also be doing an exercise that depicted a Christian idea or image.

What if, however, if one of those moves looked similar to a yoga pose? (I don’t know if that’s the case but we were exploring the hypothetical when talking about this very thing this morning). I am not a pastor or scholar (obviously) and others may disagree with me, but I would say that is NOT something that would be problematic. By associating your exercise with yoga and working through yoga systems of posture, you are working through Hindu systems. However, outside of that context and identification, then I think that there is no longer an issue.

One other point that I make here is that yoga systems are meant to open and connect you with divinity through physical exercise. I don’t assert that myself — it is a stated objective made by endless numbers of yoga practitioners. So while I’ve not sat down to work this out well on paper and am just giving you the raw thoughts in my head, I think that knowing this really does have an impact on how you approach whether or not you can strip the Hinduism out of yoga.

It is also interesting to note that there are movements of Hindus who are very offended seeing non-Hindus practice yoga in a “non religious form” because even in their minds the physical practice of the systems is entirely connected to their religion and can’t be separated out.

James I’m not sure if this is all making sense, as I’m truly typing out my stream of thoughts about this as I have them.

Thank you so much for your thoughtful response to my article. You now see how much my wonderful editor had to help my rambling manner of communication!

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Pamela Frost December 9, 2011 at 9:19 am

Hi James,

I think Mary has drawn some very good distinctions. I would also recommend reading the book Al Mohler reviewed, The Subtle Body: The Story of Yoga in America (by Stefanie Syman) to get a really clear historical picture of the spiritual thread of transcendentalism as it began to unwind in western consciousness specifically through the introduction of Eastern mystical religion (Hinduism/Yoga) in the nineteenth century through literary figures like Thoreau and Emerson. in 1893, the guru Vivekananda was all the rave at the Parliament of World Religions in Chicago and interest in the practice of yoga dramatically increased in the west – as did interest in Theosophy, which synthesizes eastern and western mysticism into what Madame Blavatsky called “The Secret Doctrine” of the ancient Perennial Philosophy that all is one. In every aspect, yoga’s postures of body prayer fit within this system.

You are right that yoga has been packaged, advertised, and popularized as a means of physical exercise but when you scrutinize the teachings of those promising yoga’s physical benefits apart from its spirituality you find that the postures of yoga have never been successfully separated from their native spirituality. Mary’s experience in her son’s school is very typical. They claim their version of yoga is non-religious exercise, yet, in reality, they are training children in eastern mystical One-ism through body prayer. The web site of the woman behind these increasingly popular classes is a follower of Deepak Chopra and she incorporates chanting, eastern meditation, and the ancient spirituality of yoga into her classes. This is very typical and in every case I have studied, these supposedly spiritually neutral teachers have drawn their entire system of yoga directly from the ancient Vedic spiritual principles behind yoga. Stefanie Syman, who is herself a yoga practitioner, is refreshingly honest in her openness about this aspect of yoga in America and she documents the intertwined practice of Kundalini (awakening the sleeping serpent) and Tantric yoga (sex as a means for spiritual enlightenment and power). She also unveils the frequent sexual scandals between guru and student/students that have come to light throughout the history of yoga in the west. This is not surprising since Kundalini yoga and Tantric yoga are essential elements of yoga on the path to enlightenment.

So, back to your question on whether or not we can ever practice any of the yoga poses just for their stretching and strengthening benefits because they do, in fact, achieve that purpose. I would just urge some discernment and caution in this. While I do not believe that everyone who happens to do some position of stretching or exercise that is also found in yoga is in spiritual danger, there are certain poses I personally would not be comfortable practicing. One in particular is the Lotus pose, which is the primary position from which all other poses unfold as the lotus flower opening toward mystical enlightenment. The Lotus pose is also the pose of the mantra Om, in which one begins to meditate and bring body, mind, and spirit into alignment with the vibrations of the universe. It is also the core pose for awakening Kundalini. But if you find that some position of stretching happens to be similar to a yoga pose, I generally consider it to be a matter for personal discernment before the Lord since yoga does not own the body nor the field of exercise and similar moves, positions, and stretches can be found in various forms of exercise. It is the system of yoga that is of real concern. Just use wisdom and prayerful discretion in this.

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Paul Inberea December 8, 2011 at 11:17 am

It’s an outrage that hindu yoga which is steeped in occult practices, is %100 accepted in our American schools. Yoga is thinly cloaked brain washing.. it’s no surprise that yoga shrines, yoga meditation, and yoga practices were prevalent in Occupy Movement. Yoga is the Lazy Man’s Answer to life’s challenges… ‘Do nothing.’

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Amy September 2, 2012 at 11:06 pm

Because Hindu is the only religion that is brain washing… Pft get a clue

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Joey Gonzalez January 23, 2012 at 11:43 am

This is Wonderful Yoga is Universal I wish I was taught this in School,

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Janice Bratene January 25, 2012 at 10:45 pm

Shocking, the water is rising church! Time to get the life boats ready and and throw out the life lines! Recue the perishing! let your light shine in the darkness and hold His Cross High! We must expose the deception!

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don p June 15, 2012 at 3:36 pm

So when cristians sing ‘this little light of mine I am going to let it shine…’ where is that little light coming from? And if jesus is light, what could possibly be so bad about me seeing the light in you?

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Joshua Gielow June 29, 2012 at 2:56 pm

Jesus is the light of the world. When you pray Namaste, it is to the light of self, and not the light of the world.

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Mary Eady July 10, 2012 at 4:50 pm

Don — While I see the point you’re trying to make, it doesn’t come off as a valid one for a number of reasons. First, the light of a believer is not an indicator of their own divinity — rather, they have faith in a God who is Creator and they are part of His creation. The Holy Spirit works on a person, dwells in a believer, but never becomes the believer and the believer does not become divine.

Namaste, and the resulting acknowledgement of the light in each other that was recited in English during the class, is reference to an inherent divine spark carried by every person, Christian or not, because we all essentially are a part of the divine. This is a very different sort of light than that referred to in the little children’s song you’re referring to. (which makes heavy reference to Matthew 5 — again referring to the duty of believers, not all men) Add to that the fact that the children in these classes were not all Christians — in fact, based on the statistics of the school perhaps only 1 in ten would have called themselves a Christian in any sense.

You asked, “If Jesus is light, what could possibly be so bad about me seeing the light in you?” I would respond that not all light is the same — and, indeed, not all light is good light. 2 Cor. 11:14 makes it clear that even Satan masquerades as an angel of light and that those who are his ministers do the same — that sort of light is deceptive, calling itself good when it is in fact evil and death.

Lastly, in John 3, we learn that the true Light is Jesus and again, men can reject it and remain in darkness, or believe and come into the true light and truth. But THEY are not the light, Jesus is. Namaste and a Hindu-style acknowledgement of light is very different.

As I write this I worry that it’s overkill for your one simple comment — but I think it’s very important to distinguish between the truth and the lie out there and this is an instance where the vocabulary sounds the same, but the underlying beliefs and doctrines are very, very different indeed. It is of vital importance for everyone to understand those differences.

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Amy September 2, 2012 at 11:04 pm

Chill (edited for language by site admin) out people. You should be happy that your children are doing movement rather than being stuck indoors working on the obesity epidemic. Not only that, these children are the ones who are going to be solving our climate change issues, allowing them to connect to the earth and land is what is going to motivate them to do so. We need to be teaching children to become creative, innovative and strong communicators because these are the jobs of the future. And realistically, they will need to be doing all those things in a multicultural world. So perhaps a little insight into other religions is not such a bad thing?

But sure, go ahead and helicopter parent your children. I’m sure they will appreciate it as adults being removed from the group of kids who are having all the fun!

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Mary Eady September 4, 2012 at 10:54 am

Amy — I wholeheartedly agree that insight into other religions is not a bad thing. In fact, I think it’s a very GOOD thing, and something that would be terrible to keep from our kids. However, the practice of a religious exercise under the administration of a public school is very different from learning about a religion at school. One can learn about without participation in the practice. I go back to the very physical practice of baptism. I do not think it would be wrong for a child to learn about what baptism means to a Christian at school as they learn about other religions. I do think it would be wrong for a school to have children participate in the physical act of baptism as a part of their curriculum.

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e October 24, 2012 at 11:25 am

Wow, you people are completely terrified of your children thinking or feeling for themselves aren’t you? You are threatened by stretching and relaxation exercise? That is really pathetic. Yoga is practiced in many religions because it is not religious, it is about mind body alignment and mental peace. It does not conflict in any way with the beliefs of Christianity. Your narrow minded interpretation of the Bible and of yoga however directly conflicts with the teachings of Jesus.

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Mary Eady November 1, 2012 at 11:08 am

E — I think that the response to the comment above addresses this already. No, there is no fear about children thinking or feeling for themselves. There is also no fear about their learning about and spending time with, and having relationships with people from other religious backgrounds.

You insist that yoga is not religious but time and time again throughout this article and comment thread we have given proofs from the history of yoga practice here and in the East, the beliefs of Hinduism, the writings of gurus ancient and modern, the texts of Hinduism, etc. that contradict that claim. In fact, there is a growing movement of Hindus who find this claim quite troubling and offensive themselves, as it implicitly ignores the deep, historical religious connection they have to their practice of yoga. You can read about one of these groups here: http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2011/01/25/fight-emerges-over-yogas-religious-roots/

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Zina January 9, 2013 at 8:04 am

Mary – what exercise would you prefer your child learn in the morning. There is abundant data that demonstrates exercise in the morning leads to better attention, more cognitive functioning and heightened ability to cope in difficult situations. Yoga is the easiest, lowest cost and highest reward exercise, making it the perfect tool for public school teachers. SO – unless you are truly advocating for NO morning exercise (which, if a concerned parent, you would never do), what would you prefer?

While you ruminate on that question, let me say that this selfishness will backfire. America is changing. The world is changing. Christianity has had its glory day in America, and now must share the stage with every other world religion. I know you disagree, but religion is religion. Yours is only right to you because you have put your faith into it. You do not know what will come in the end, you do not know who will await you. What you DO know is that America suffers from comparatively high rates of childhood obesity (MORBIDITY), depression, suicide, ADD/ADHD and behavioral disorders, and comparatively low rates of education, creativity, health. We, ANYONE WHO HAS EVER READ A BOOK ABOUT HEALTH, and I, someone trained in early childhood development, know that the benefits of yoga address every issue mentioned. Why do you want to take away the benefits we KNOW will help every child, because they *might* conflict with something that you BELIEVE to be true? Does you God also preach selfishness and blind bigotry? I never found such a passage in my Bible…

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Sharpy December 3, 2012 at 4:12 am

“claims the postures of Hatha Yoga (the asanas) alone will awaken the ***serpent*** Kundalini within the body”—!!! Doesn’t that tell us EVERYthing?

What amazes me about this whole child-Yoga instruction thing is the blindness of people to the fact that it most certainly **IS** religious. The evil genius of the antichrist spirit of the 20th and 21st centuries is in presenting religious toxins under clever camouflage: witness Bolshevism, which claims to be atheist, but is a total (un)gospel unto itself; ditto for Brownshirtism, which masqueraded as a political movement, but in fact did obeisance to the unholy trinity of “Ein Reich, ein Volk, ein Fuehrer.”

Truly, “W/o a vision [nurtured by God's word], the people perish.” Man is a spiritual creature, designed for spiritual nurture. If he doesn’t feed on the Genuine Manna, he will seek after various junk-food spiritualities.

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Mike Garske December 16, 2012 at 11:46 am

Wild eyed fanatacism at its best.

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Mike Garske December 16, 2012 at 11:37 am

The idea that Yoga “indoctrinates” those that practice it into the Hindu belief system is absurd. The meditation and ability to focus and become one with the “light inside” can have whatever parallel you choose to place on it. Any Religion stripped of its trappings and various deities, all have common spiritual aims. This whole scare tactic movement of Ms Eady’s, smacks of the frightened little Christian whitey alarmed by the “Big Bad World”, that lies beyond her own experiences. The benefits of stilling the mind while engaging and challenging the physical body are far more beneficial to the overall health than kneeling in a church and listening to a threadbare religious sermon. Children are the products of their environment Ms Eady, the parenting and guidance you provide your child will make the difference between a cloistered existence and a life that is open to “foreign”, but meaningful experiences. Stifling of experience with children, more often than not, tends to have opposite the effect in later life. I remember watching many a sheltered Daddy’s girl or boy that have been thrown unawares into the realities of life and the ensuing chaos that results. In my opinion, taking a practice like Yoga and thoughtfully integrating it into any child’s life can only be beneficial to them.

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Paul December 17, 2012 at 9:49 am

This is silly. Yoga can either be a religious activity or a purely physical one people do to feel better. I know several people who devout Christians who go to prayer groups and church multiple times a week yet also do Yoga an a regular basis. This does not make them any less Christian.

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Gigi January 5, 2013 at 2:47 pm

I just did it. I said a prayer for you. I prayed that you got a hobby so you’d have less time to dither about yoga. If that fails, perhaps you should consider home-schooling.

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Amy E. January 9, 2013 at 7:48 am

The argument against yoga here seems, paradoxically, to believe that some Hindus are completely correct when they say that the movements are inextricably symbolic of or tied to a religious story, that to move a particular way *is* to become one with or worship a particular god, etc. Essentially, it seems to argue against doing any of the practices of this ‘false religion’ because the religion is right about the divine connection between certain movements and certain gods.

Take Mary Eady’s example of the Crescent Moon pose as evoking Hanuman or the Sun Salutation as worship of Surya. No kid is going to know that a movement has this historical or symbolic connection unless they are explicitly taught this (and even if they are taught this, that does not mean the kid is going to believe it). Unless certain Hindus are actually right about the movements’ necessarily spiritual and divine aspects, which I very much doubt Eady et al believe, then any yoga movement is just a movement with some interesting cultural significance for a number of people.

Furthermore, there is a wide range of beliefs in Hinduism, and not all Hindus believe yoga has the same deep connection as the thinkers Eady has cited, so she seems to be crediting one subgroup for having the correct interpretation while other Hindus would claim that it is merely a way of disciplining one’s body in a particular way that makes possible contemplation and mental discipline.

Frankly, the examples that Eady cites in the post above seem extremely ambiguous and content neutral – the ‘light within,’ for example, could be many, many things, and as long as the instructor is letting each child (ideally, I suppose, in discussion with parents or guardians at home) figure out how he or she understands it rather than forcing a particular interpretation, I don’t see how this has a religious slant.

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Maybe yes maby no January 9, 2013 at 9:07 am

So as i understand it the chaturanga pose is essentially a push-up, and Uttanasana is simply bending forward and putting your head to your knees.

Any athlete ever has repeated those same physical motions thousands of times.

Are they practicing yoga?

And as for the objection about being a “light” John 8:12 “Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life”

And Romans 12:5 “So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another”

Seems like the light in all of us really does make use one.

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Lindsey January 9, 2013 at 11:24 am

Many of you have asked for prayers and strength to spread the teachibgs of the bible. Is that not teaching religion? I am a yoga teacher who has taught yoga in classrooms. I am very careful to use non-traditional names of poses, as well as omitting any potential reference to Hinduism. Teaching children to be mindful, present in their bodies amd aware of their breath is NOT religious! It’s something EVERYONE religious or not benefits from. In today’s world our children take on stresses at an early age! Yoga if nothing else is a way to relieve stress and teaches children and adults alike to tune in. When we are comfortable and well within our bodies we are present in whatever else we are doing. Studying and learning at school or even more present for bible school in Sundays! Yoga compliments any religion and is NOT a religion within itself!

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Randolpho January 10, 2013 at 7:47 am

Although I think you should probably allow your kids to do yoga anyway as a means of providing them a healthy and open-minded spiritual upbringing, I agree with you that yoga is usually taught in a religious way and therefore has no place in a public school.

The exercise and meditation are good for children, and if the yoga could be modified to a secular tone (perhaps dropping chakras in favor of a mild humming, etc.), it could probably be retained in a public school.

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Christian Salafia January 11, 2013 at 7:05 am

Don’t you find it ironic that while condemning yoga in schools because of its religious roots, you openly advocate evangelism in those same schools through your statement “Will you pray that I will have an opportunity to share the truth of the Gospel and the God of the Bible with the people at this school and in my community?”.

If you were truly congruent, you’d also be against celebrations of Christmas because of it’s religious roots, but, correct me if I’m wrong, I’m going to say you’re not.

Seems to me, and to most rational adults, that it’s more about making sure what you believe to be the “wrong” religion is kept out while ensuring what you believe the “right” religion is kept in.

This is why some people think Christians are just plain ol’ dumb.

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A February 23, 2013 at 3:47 am

This is an incredibly foolish article by someone who thinks in simplistic categories, which renders her incapable of seeing reality as it is. By confusing description with analysis, she neglects to link historical/cultural practices with ACTUAL practices in the schools. Someone said this about that pose, therefore that pose represents this.

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emilyreid.weebly.com July 19, 2013 at 12:39 am

I like the helpful information you provide in your articles.
I will bookmark your blog and check again here frequently.
I’m quite sure I’ll learn a lot of new stuff right here!
Best of luck for the next!

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Bob Smith September 12, 2013 at 10:57 am

When will this mom learn and others on this planet. There is only one God.
Some people on this earth call it Jesus. Some call it Bhagwan. Some call it Buddah. Some call it another name for the same God.

Yoga is a good form of exercise which may make the Christians live longer and be more flexible. Why does it matter that the pose looks like an animal or like someone in another religion.

Use common sense and think. Be healthy, be kind to others, don’t do bad to anyone else. Be a Christian, Catholic, or whatever you want to be. And teach your kids to learn about all in the world so that they are not IGNORANT about others in the world.

Don’t hold your child back from learning about the world but instead teach them to use common sense and teach them.

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Mary Eady September 24, 2013 at 10:13 am

Mr Smith, thank you for your comment. I’m the mom in reference here, so thought I would try to respond. Your claims about Jesus, Bhagwan, Buddah, etc. are contradicted not by me, but by the very names you’re invoking to make your point. There is a gentleman who has been doing a lot of work on this, clearly pointing out the irreconcilable differences between the different belief systems that so many in our culture insist are ultimately the same and lead to the same god as you do. His point is, “They can’t all be true.” I think he makes the case clearly. You can see some of it here: http://www.contradictmovement.org.

As to your request that parents teach their kids about the world and not encourage ignorance about others and their belief systems, I could not agree with you more and I thank you for emphasizing such an important thing. I would say, however, that in order to honestly assess and understand different belief systems we must also acknowledge the places where they do conflict and disagree rather than trying to force all of them into one homogenous mold where none of them truly fits. We must not allow our own cultural prejudices to color the way we handle the history and content of the world’s religions.

Lastly, I would point out that there is a difference between teaching children ABOUT a religion and its practices, and training them to participate IN a religion and its practices. We, as Christians, are told to be in the world but not of the world. I think this does mean we need to understand as much as we can about the world and its people, but that does not mean that we must participate in all the world has to offer. This is common sense which you have called us to use.

I know we disagree, but I do thank you for joining the discussion.

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hutch March 22, 2014 at 4:28 am

this has obviously hit a nerve. i would agree with those who want to take christmas, halloween, and all other religious practices out of schools. i think those who push to get prayer in schools or the ten commandments on the wall should consider the doors this opens. having this is schools is problematic enough, but now it seems to be infiltrating the churches as well. one point of entry has been the P90X fitness series which has a yoga component. i am currently working with our pastor to remove “yoga worship” from our fitness classes and replace it with WhollyFit or Praise moves. my analogy is “Could have modestly dressed, christian music driven christian pole dancing classes?” this is generally received as patently absurd. there is nothing inherently wrong with exercising on a vertical bar and i am not asserting that it is automatically wrong for a christian to practice this. But, i dont think it wise to offer christian pole dancing classes in a church. likewise when i see my sisters and brothers coming out of the gym i dont feel compelled to confront them unless they invite me to join them. the lack of concern by the majority is very distressing. sorry to have drifted off the school topic but this is the only forum i have found that has well constructed, largely polite, thoughtful expressions.
grace and peace to y’all

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hutch March 22, 2014 at 4:30 am

meant to say coming out of yoga class at the gym.

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