What's the Big Deal with Yoga?
Yoga is so popular today that you can see yoga videos, clothes, or mats almost everywhere you go. Many people say yoga is just an exercise that makes your body flexible and strong, and no doubt it can do these things for you. However, yoga was not designed to be form of exercise. Rather, yoga is an essential part of Hindu religion. Yoga means "to unite with" and the goal of all forms of yoga is to unite with the Hindu concept of the Absolute – their main god. Yoga was brought to the West by Hindu teachers and gurus who wanted to spread their religious beliefs. Hatha Yoga, the most popular form of yoga in the West, is a discipline of the body and mind used to prepare people to undertake more advanced forms of yoga. Hatha comes from the words for sun and moon, representing opposites that are united and transcended in yoga devotion. Hence, religion is at the core of yoga.
Can yoga be done for mere exercise? The problem is that Hatha Yoga is not merely a physical practice. The positions in yoga are designed to enhance the flow of a mythical energy which Hindus call kundalini. This energy is supposedly coiled snakelike at the bottom of the spine and is said to awaken through yoga and other techniques so that it can move to the top of the head through invisible chakras, which are thought to be wheels of energy. It is believed that this process brings spiritual cleansing, knowledge, and understanding. Some yoga positions honor Hindu gods. The breathing techniques, pranayama, are based on a belief that prana is the sacred breath of the universe, and pranayama is designed to get the mind into a non-thinking state. The goal of yoga meditation is not to think but to transcend thinking since Hinduism believes that the active mind is a barrier to knowing God.
Yoga is designed as a method to understand the Hindu concepts of self and god. In contrast, Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me" (Jn 14:6). Yoga does not bring true knowledge of self or God, nor does it bring anyone close to God. Jesus said, "All of you, take up My yoke and learn from Me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for yourselves" (Mt 11:29). We are to yoke (unite) ourselves to Jesus through faith, not to seek connection to another spiritual source through practices such as yoga. Jesus alone paid the penalty for our sins and opened the way to lasting peace and rest (Heb 4).
Yoga, as part of a non-Christian religion, should not be blended with Christianity. Jesus said that "God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth" (Jn 4:24). In other words, how we worship and honor God is important. Our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit (1Co 6:19); therefore, how we use our bodies matters to God. You don’t need yoga to find the truth about God; instead, God promises, "You will search for the LORD your God, and you will find Him when you seek Him with all your heart and all your soul" (Dt 4:29)
This article can be found in "Apologetics Study Bible for Students", page 183.
Please also see our comprehensive study for the book of Deuteronomy that includes commentary from www.enduringword.com.