Updated: Nov 26, 2018
John Lindell, pastor of James River Church in Ozark, in his sermon delivered last month, asked his followers to stay away from yoga since yoga has demonic roots and pagan origin which are diametrically opposite to Christianity.
He believes that the yoga positions too have demonic roots and the meditation opens up the person’s mind to demonic influences. A video of the sermon is posted to YouTube. To call the positions of yoga are no more than exercises is tantamount to saying water baptism is just aqua-aerobics, he said. He further claimed that Hinduism is demonic and the meditations practised during yoga leaves the Christians spiritually vulnerable.
Do his claims have grounds? Or just overwhelming hypocrisy? Does yoga go against Christianity?
The very basic point lies in the approaches to yoga. Why one approaches to yoga? For having a better health of the body and the mind. Of course for having a balance in between them also. It is purely a mind-body workout. Yoga does not ask for any change in the belief system of the person doing yoga. The yoga mostly practised in the west is postural yoga with breathing exercises alone. Moreover, Power Yoga, Hot Yoga, Goat Yoga are the creations of the west only. It does not involve any metaphysical ideas of Hinduism. It does not have any pagan part attached to it.
Hinduism and Christianity are radically different belief systems. But meditation does not belong to Hinduism alone. Meditation has been just a part of Hinduism as it has been the part of Buddhism, Jainism and Christianity too. It is found in the scriptures of Christianity that meditation has been the integral part of it since its beginning.
Documented evidences show that yoga lowers high blood pressure, stress, insomnia, asthma, arthritis and many more. Its benefits include improved flexibility, enhanced muscle tone and calmness. Are these yoga poses created with demonic indent?
No doubt, yoga has Indian roots. Is it correct to say that yoga should not be practised by the Christians solely for the reason that it is of Indian Origin? There are more than 20 million practitioners and more than $10 billion is generated by this blooming Industry. America has the major share in this. Though it is of Indian Origin, it flourished only in the west and developed to newer heights. The New Yorker reported that the modern yoga performed in the west often incorporated elements like British Army Gymnastics and Indian wrestling which are unrelated to yoga.
More interestingly, the idea of pagan in Christianity is later addition. The pagan elements are found in Christianity like Christian trees and Valentine’s Day.
While considering the subject of the objects of meditation, Yoga Sutra 1.39 of Patanjali states that the object of meditation can be anything that appeals to one as good. For Patanjali, it is purely a personal choice. For him, yoga is a science, not a religion. But he never restricts the yogi to be religious. Patanjali was not religious while teaching yoga. If he is understood as religious, it is not the fault of Patanjali and it is the fault of the insufficiency on the part of the observer.
In any case, no one can deny the fact that yoga is definitely more than the worthless myth.