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.