What about yoga?

Yoga is one of the most popular forms of exercise in America today. A recent article on meditation may have prompted some readers to wonder if Christian’s should include yoga as part of their exercise routine.

Yoga began as part of the spiritual practices of the eastern religions. The classic yoga positions and poses were not designed to stretch and strengthen muscles. They were designed to carefully position and align the individual’s seven chakras. In eastern mystical religions, for example, Hinduism and Buddhism, the chakras are a person’s energy centers. An individual’s spiritual power flows from the chakras. Misaligned or blocked chakras result in illness, poverty and powerlessness.

Yogic meditation is a way to realign and open up the person’s energy centers. A properly aligned chakra enables self-expression, increases intuition or taps the hidden power within. This spiritual practice is still a vital part of many mystical religions in America and the Far East.

Yoga’s unique, challenging poses have an undeniable physical benefit. Stretching the muscles and holding a pose requires a degree of muscle control that can not fail to increase health and strength. These physical benefits can be received without any involvement in mystical practices. If yoga is practiced without resorting to mysticism then no Biblical prohibition would forbid the Christian from participating.

If yoga is practiced in conjunction with the religious principles then it would be wrong for a Christian to participate. The practicing yoga as a means to align the chakras, make some connection with the divine or tap into a hidden source of strength is engaging in pagan spiritual practices. Christian’s must have no part of the religious practices of false religions. (2 Corinthians 6:15-17)

Mystical religions present a view of God, man and salvation that contradicts that of the Bible. The mystical religions believe man is a manifestation of the great Divine Reality. The divine reality is the source of everything. The goal is to be rejoined with the divine. The individual draws closer to this goal through meditation, including yogic meditation.

Mysticism changes the truth of man’s spiritual existence. The problem of humanity is not a misaligned or unenlightened spirit. Man’s problem is a broken spirit that has rejected the One true God. The solution to the spiritual problem of man cannot be found in realignment or in becoming one with the Divine. Man is unable to solve his problem.

Man’s spiritual need was met by Jesus. When a person trusts only in Jesus to forgive her sin and reconcile her to the Father, God’s Holy Spirit takes up residence within her. The spiritual problem is repaired by God. Jesus fully satisfied the justice of God upon sin. Those who trust Him are made the children of God and have all the benefits of eternal salvation. No human exercise will improve upon what Jesus has completed.

If yoga is treated as nothing more than an exercise routine it presents no spiritual problem, though it may present some physical challenges, to the child of God. If relied upon for salvation or spiritual gain yoga is worthless.

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What is meditation?

The Bible exhorts men to meditate. So does Buddhism, Confucianism, Hinduism, Shintoism, Kabbalah, the new age religions, yoga, business leadership seminars and life improvement coaches. Meditation is popularly presented as a means of getting in touch with self, controlling emotions, conquering disease, becoming one with the divine or reaching one’s true potential.

Did the Psalmist practice meditation similar to that of Buddha? Did Paul have something like transcendental meditation in mind when he commanded, “Meditate on these things”? Does the Bible present meditation as means of calming the soul?

Meditation comes in many different varieties, some very different from others. Some groups teach meditation as an emptying of all thought and losing oneself in the peacefulness of harmony with the universe. Others teach meditation as a careful attention to one’s breathings and sensations that gives full attention to what is happening at that moment.

Much of the meditation practiced in America today is influenced by Buddhist and Hindu teachings but is stripped of its associated teachings. Despite the lack of overt eastern religious training getting in touch with oneself, paying careful attention to the moment, not reacting to external stimuli and feeling a connectedness to others are all ideas pulled straight out of the Eastern religions.

Meditation in all the eastern religions is a means of achieving the highest spiritual state, usually associated with ending the supposed cycle of reincarnation. For example, the Buddhist is at peace with the world because he is not deeply affected by anything that goes on. He has distanced himself from his passions and longings. Only by disconnecting himself from everything can the Buddhist reach Nirvana. Meditation is the means by which the Buddhist trains himself to remain aloof from deep desire and deep attachment.

Meditation in the Bible is very different from the meditation practiced by mystical, new age and eastern religions. The Biblical practice of meditation is centered on the truth of God. When David says in Psalm 119, “Oh how I love thy law, it is my meditation all the day” he is describing a careful attention to the Word of God. When Paul says, “Meditate on these things” he is instructing Timothy to think deeply about the truths Paul has taught him. Meditation always refers to careful attention to information. Biblical meditation focuses on what God has revealed in His Word so the Christian may better understand and obey it.

Biblical meditation is not a way to disconnect, focus, heal or reach the Divine. Biblical meditation is one part of the study of the Bible. The one meditating remembers truth, considers truth, seeks the best understanding of truth, and works through how truth applies to his life. Biblical meditation does not require a particular pose or measured breathing. Biblical meditation does not require an emptied mind released of conscious thought. It requires an attentive mind directed to and by Scripture. Biblical meditation focuses on God and His Word so the Christian may better live in a way that is pleasing to Him.