Eugene Cho

is yoga demonic?

Today’s Seattle Times paper had an article about the practice of Yoga and 1) its growth in popularity and b) the push-back from some Christian leaders that believe Yoga is ‘demonic.’ Now, let me first say that I’ve never practiced Yoga but know of several folks that regularly do Yoga.

Let me also say that I’m not writing this as a back-handed slap against the two pastors/leaders that are prominently featured on the article: Mark Driscoll [Mars Hill] and Al Mohler [President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary]. I share this because pushback comes up in the form of:

“Eugene, why are you such a jerk? Why can’t you first contact “them” to work stuff out with them rather than writing about it on your blog?”

Umm, nothing to work out. I’m just responding to public leaders and their comments on a public medium.

But back to the topic at hand. The simple question I pose to you:

Is ‘yoga’ demonic?

Here are some of my vomitaceous thoughts:

  • I really think we need to be a bit more careful with the usage of the word, ‘demonic.’ Translation: Let’s not use it so freely. That or folks don’t quite know what that word means.
  • Demonic bullet point.
  • The problem is that we’re trying to exegete complex aspects of culture with very simplistic and black/white paradigms. To try to imply that there’s such a thing called a “pure” practice of Christianity is well…incorrect. The Gospel enter into a context and culture and will inevitably take various forms – particularly, over generations and generations. In one sense, I could make a case that we’re all syncretists in some way.
  • I understand Mohler and Driscoll’s premise: “Rather, they believe the physical aspects of yoga can’t be separated from its historical roots in Hinduism and other Eastern religions.” The distinction is that they seem to see it as a practice of religion while some see it as form of wholistic exercise.
  • While I certainly wouldn’t phrase the question in such a simplistic way, I think it’s worthwhile to ask for Christians:
    • “Is Yoga helpful or detrimental to our faith and devotion to Christ?’
    • How can Yoga be detrimental or helpful?  I don’t know personally but personally know of folks that have indicated as such. And vice-versa, the same is true for friends that have espoused its value to them.
    • My point is that if you’re practicing Yoga as a religion, it opposes our worship of Christ and thus, is not good.
  • Out-of-context. Having been interviewed for articles before, I can also tell you that it’s difficult and at times, unfair, to have a lengthy conversation be deduced to couple sentences for an article. But such is the reality of articles and media. All to say that I’d be curious to hear or read more unless its simply a ploy to get attention.
  • I’m also curious about the implications of a Mars Hill member, leader, or staff person being a practicing Yoga-ite [Is that the right word?] and chose NOT to stop. Would that be person guilty of demonic practice and thus, expelled from church?
  • Gender issues. Gender issues. Gender issues.
  • Sometimes, I wonder if pastors/leaders think that Christians or their church-goers are incapable of processing, reconciling, and living in a complex world without the necessity of simplistic answers.

I did appreciate this commentary [via his FB] from a Quester [minus the demonic usage of the word sh*t]:

…this coming from a guy [Mark Driscoll] that thinks Jesus should be an MMA fighter.

Here is the 411. If he thinks Yoga is ‘demonic’… so is MMA.

Why? MMA is essentially Brazilian Jujitsu and mixes thereof eastern martial arts which is derived from Kadokan Judo…practiced by Buddhist monks in ancient Japan. Martial arts is not just a way of beating the crap out of others. At its core, is an art of mediation, discipline, and exercise based out of eastern religions, kind of like…Yoga.

Sometimes, I find the sh*t that ‘in the spotlight’ leaders spew to be exactly that… sh*t. As an asian man, I’ve reconciled my culture and traditions, which are not rooted in judeo christian ideals, with my Christianity, so i’m not worried about losing my faith over some exercise/meditation classes.

Here’s a portion of the article from the Seattle Times:

Is the downward-facing dog somehow … demonic?

A recent essay by the president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., warned Christians that yoga is contradictory to Christianity. And local megachurch pastor Mark Driscoll of Mars Hill Church went even further, saying earlier this year that yoga is “absolute paganism.”

“Should Christians stay away from yoga because of its demonic roots? Totally. Yoga is demonic,” Driscoll said. “If you just sign up for a little yoga class, you’re signing up for a little demon class.”

Even as yoga has become a mainstream form of exercise and stress relief in the United States, the question of whether Christians should practice it is making the rounds once again, raising a stir among some Christians and yoga practitioners alike.

“Here we go again with fear-based, black-and-white thinking,” said Jennifer Norling, of Seattle, a 42-year-old mainline Protestant who has been practicing yoga for many years. “It’s not fair to say yoga is demonic. In fact, I find it insulting. There are many ways to grow spiritually.” [full article]

Your turn.

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65 Responses

  1. DJ says:

    This post is demonic!

  2. Eugene,

    I’d commented earlier on comments by Dr Mohler in an AP article. You can read those here:

    http://emergingumc.blogspot.com/2010/10/our-bodies-matter.html

    What I’d push back on a bit in your piece is the notion that Yoga as a religious practice is necessarily opposed to our worship of the Triune God. For one thing, Yoga is not one thing– either in terms of the exercises, nor in terms of the specific “doctrinal” content. But more fundamentally, Yoga, like many other Hindu related religious traditions, tends not to be oppositional but complementary (or syncretistic) in its approach to other religions. It tends not to focus on worshiping other gods (which would be problematic) but rather on connecting with God.

    That’s not to say that every possible or actual permutation of Yoga would be inherently non-problematic– but rather that many of them, likely, wouldn’t HAVE to be.

  3. ND says:

    Eugene, I’m really glad you’re opening up this dialogue🙂 In short, I think “demonic” is way too far.

    However: as with many good things in life, it has the potential to become an idol or yourself as the source of inner calm can be as well…

    Sometimes an instructor will mention statements at the end of a session with affirmations like, “Now deeply relax and channel that inner peace that will lead you into your day, freeing you from stress.” Cool. Thanks. For me personally, I know that the inner peace I feel is not out of my own humanity ( though the stretching is very relaxing!) but because Jesus has poured out his love to me. I’m inherently selfish and need redemption therefore I cannot look to my inner self for such provisions. In this particular aspect, Yoga must be practiced using wisdom and understanding of its form. It should also appreciated for his incredible health benefits no matter if you profess Jesus as leader or not. To say it’s demonic shows ignorance of yoga practice and culture and I would expect more out of someone like Mark Driscoll.

  4. mo says:

    crap you beat me. I’ve been stewing about a post on this for awhile.

    i actually don’t think the guy said anything wrong. As an Indian, i’m pretty familiar with Yoga, and at the end of the day, he’s pretty much right in what he said. He wasn’t even all that confrontational when we said it.

    What’s unfortunate is that someone can’t point out something from a Christian point of view without everyone, Christians (myself) included, rolling their eyes.

    When did we all start thinking truth was so lame? When did standing up with a countercultural Godly POV stop being something we might at least consider?

  5. Tracey says:

    God is bigger! We need to stop being fearful. 🙂

  6. Kathryn says:

    Thanks for this post. I always felt a bit of evangelical guilt when practicing yoga because I sat through an anti-yoga sermon before. Praise God for this excellent form of stress relief… I’m pulling up yogajournal.com right now to exercise in peace. Just breathe, people.

  7. Derek says:

    I’ll let the man’s words (rather than selected soundbite phrases) speak for himself. I think before anyone says anything about his viewpoints, they should be responsible and at least watch this clip.

    I’ve attended a few yoga classes, and they’ve ranged from being glorified stretching classes… to some being kinda weird annoyingly pseudo-spiritual classes. However, I’d wager, if you talked to those instructors, they’d emphasize that the spiritual aspect was a huge component of what they were offering/teaching.

    I think most of the over-reaction comes from the Hollywood/Bellevue crowd attending their “yoga-style stretching classes” b/c most have stripped out or watered down the spiritual component these days…

    • Adam Shields says:

      So why does Driscoll get to define what yoga is for everyone? There are many things that we do that have pagan roots, but we have stripped out the paganism from them. That has been written as the strength of Christianity. The MMA example above is a good one. But soccer is at least partially related to the Aztec games that were celebrations to their Gods. The olympic flames were part of a worship of the Greek gods. So are the Olympics demonic?

      The point is that Driscol time and time again, takes something, and he has a small point, but then he takes it to an extreme without thinking about all the other places where the same logical conclusion doesn’t make sense. Does he have a point about yoga. Yes. My brother in law is completely screwed up in his theology in part because of yoga.

      This is another example of no one should ever drink because I became an alcoholic fallacy.

      • Tracey says:

        Yes, yes, yes! To my point above … God is bigger.

        • Having now seen Mark Driscoll’s remarks, I don’t know that “God is bigger” would answer his concern.

          His concern seems to be that the idea that we connect with the divine in our bodies and even become one with the divine in some way in our bodies is problematic.

          In comparative religions terms, it’s a distinction made between monotheistic religious views (God is out there and is One) and monistic religious views (God is everywhere (though not everything) and all are ultimately one in or through God, but may not often realize/experience that).

          Mark is siding here with an exclusivist monotheistic view– one that says that unless you connect with the God who is out there and radically not in your body, you have not connected with God.

          Yoga, and Hinduism generally, tend to promote an inclusivist monistic view– that is one that can (and often does) embrace a notion of a God out there is who different from us, but who is also knowable and with whom we can connect in and through our bodies and minds.

          That understanding– with a clear identification of the One out there as our Triune God, has been at the heart not only of Yoga and Hinduism, but also the entirely of the Christian monastic and mystical tradition of contemplative prayer– practices themselves grounded NOT in Hinduism (for us), but rather in both mystical Judaism (to a degree) and the experiences of deeply committed Christians who began praying this way and have taught others the benefits of this for centuries and centuries.

          The Christian tradition would probably label itself in his regard as “inclusivist monotheism”– not that there is any God other than our Triune God, but that, because of the Incarnation, God is indeed knowable not only through “external” revelation, such as scripture, but also through personal experience in prayer, and so in our minds and bodies as well. Perhaps Jesus was pointing to just this when he counseled that we not only pray — externally if you will– in public worship, but that we especially pray alone, with God, in secret.

          Now, the experience of oneness that one can have in such prayer can surely become an idol. Where that happens, we need help, even correction. Correction doesn’t mean just telling folks they’re wrong– it means helping them move beyond idolatry and toward a way of experiencing this oneness that, instead of focusing on our selves, becomes a means of empowering us for sharing and embodying the love of God and the work of God’s reign in the world through Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit.

          • Need to revise this sentence… hit send too soon.

            From this: That understanding– with a clear identification of the One out there as our Triune God, has been at the heart not only of Yoga and Hinduism, but also the entirely of the Christian monastic and mystical tradition of contemplative prayer–

            To this:
            That understanding– that there is One out there with whom we can also connect in and through our bodies– has been at the heart not only of Yoga and Hinduism, but, with the identification of that One as our Triune God, at the heart also of the entirety of the Christian monastic and mystical tradition of comtemplative prayer.

  8. Ben@TIC says:

    I think I’ll switch to Rolfing:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/07/fashion/07rolfing.html?_r=1&scp=1&sq=rolfing&st=cse

    I haven’t heard any push-back on that yet.

  9. Margaret says:

    At least they are acknowledging the religious aspects of yoga. My partner was raised Buddhist, and sometimes it gives him a headache to watch Christians take up sitting meditation as though it were completely devoid of religious meaning. As though you can take an ancient religious tradition, carve it up into manageable bits, and just take the ones you like best home to your Christian practice. I imagine yoga is the same way.

    But unlike these pastors, I don’t think a little syncretism always threatens our Christian faith. As you said, we’re already living a faith full of bits and pieces borrowed from other traditions.

    For myself, when I practice yoga, and the instructor talks about quieting your mind & looking for inner peace– I experience the same feeling as when I pray to be open and free of distraction before worship. The Spirit blows where the Spirit wills!🙂

    Also, I’d be curious to hear what your take is on the gender issues in this piece.

  10. Jennifer says:

    Yoga IS demonic.

    Well, it’s demoic if you’re a Mark Driscoll type man who needs to control women.

    Here’s the thing…Women’s bodies are not like men’s. A man’s skin is the boundary of his body, and it is never entered by another, while a woman hosts both babies and men inside her body (apologies to our homosexual friends for whom this analogy is not true.) What yoga does for some women is teaches them that they inhabit their bodies too, that all their physicality is good, that they can live life not just in their head. Sooo, if you’re a man looking to control women, the last thing you want is for her to realize that she belongs to herself.

  11. Michael says:

    I am deeply suspicious of anyone who invokes demons or devils or says something is demonic. Okay maybe if it is to describe murder or mayhem, but yoga? Invoking the word demonic to describe something as positive and life affirming as yoga is a sign that the pastor is being jealous, petty and controlling. The underlying messages are…”worship my way or go to hell” and “good and positive things in your life should only come from me and the church”.

    This is the pastor putting himself and his beliefs before their followers personal relationship with God. This is the pastor being all too human and acting like a jealous lover.

    Sometimes God works in mysterious and very personal ways that have nothing to do with either the pastor or the church. Mysterious as it sounds God could guide someone to yoga as a way to strengthen their relationship with Christ. Some people get so caught up in semantics that they miss out on this possibility.

    The real issue is this…how free are we to establish our own relationship with God, with the Bible, with our faith and how can pastors help us? How free are we to ask God ourselves if a practice is right for us or inspired by God? How can we tell when something is right for us and our faith? When do pastors words ring true and when do they ring false?

    How can pastors help us live positive, God centered lives that do not seek to judge others’ positive choices harshly? In these troubled, stressful times yoga is a God send, literally. If it helps people connect to God, then God approves. If it helps people stay sane, then God approves. If it helps people be tolerant of one another then God approves. If it helps people be peaceful in times of uncertainty and strife then God approves.

    One last point, many Christians are open to learning from other religions. They have open minds and do not automatically discount other religions, knowing that on some level these religions were inspired by the same God that they worship.

  12. Jason Douros says:

    Having graduated from Mohler’s Seminary, I’m quite accustomed to his paranoid, fear based, needlessly black and white rantings about issues he has less then no business speaking into. My favorite is calling Christian couple who choose not have kids living in sin.

    And people wonder why I’m so down on Seminary.

    Question though Eugene…why so diplomatic? Shouldn’t you call them out on their…less then well thought out statements they make in a public forum? AKA most recent load of crap.

    If they choose to make a public statement, then they open themselves up for public comment. They can’t say something to the entire world, then expect people to call them on it privately when they disagree. There is no need to do whole Mathew thing here. If they wanted it to be a private discussion, they they shouldn’t put their ideas out for anyone to hear/read.

    Call a spade a spade…and an idiotic idea and idiotic idea. It isn’t the person we attack but the thought they espouse.

    Use your fame to make statements for common sense…nicely of course…but honestly and strait forward. People can handle it.

    • Eugene Cho says:

      “why so diplomatic? Shouldn’t you call them out on their…less then well thought out statements they make in a public forum? AKA most recent load of crap.”

      because people want me to go MMA and that’s not my style. i’d rather try to make my point diplomatically…

      • Melissa W. says:

        Thank you for being a Godly, pastoral example of the fruit of the Spirit. We all get fired-up from time to time, that’s completely understandable, but the message is often lost or distorted when we lash out. Thanks for your tenor- it helps people hear you and listen.

  13. sol abril says:

    Vive la libertée!

  14. franctay says:

    I would like to answre this to people like pastor Driscoll: if Yoga is demonic, how then should we describe the US government seemingly irrespressible urge to go fight wars all over the planet for no good reason?

    Let’s rewind and take this from a totally differant angle: yoga is not demonic because of one simple theological truth: our free will.

    A third take: the question seem to be tied to protestantism lack of memory: in the 2000 years of church history, some christians committed to a very strict ascetism have developped extreme practices aiming at creating an inner silence and the right dispositions to allow for a connection with God. It was not yoga but it shared many similarities with it.

    A fourth take: By and large, the church in the west has always been afraid of the religious practices of “pagans” and has fought hard to insure the adoption by new converts of “our ways”. So now, as a result, you can travel the globe and on any given sunday morning, church services are pretty much the same all over…Christianity does not seem to enhance creativity like it ought to… Western Christianity, regrettably seem to have been infected with some kind of cultural arrogance and imperialism.

    A fifth take: the stream Pastor Driscoll represents is what I call a “frontal cortex spirituality”. It is all about words, concepts, rational thoughts.

  15. steve m says:

    Has anyone ever seen a demon posessed person as a result of Yoga? Has yoga been known to cause people to turn people away from their faith? Have preachers ever been responsible for people leaving churches or their faith? Just curious

  16. Steven Kim says:

    The Church is so divided. God help us all.

  17. elderj says:

    This question is not answerable unless you are willing to define your terms. What do you mean when you say “demonic?”

  18. Pat Stark says:

    My wife and I began to practice Holy Yoga (www.holyyoga.net)and have learned a ton through Brooke Boon’s book by the same name. For starters, Yoga pre dates Hinduism by a few hundred years. As most people know, Mark Driscoll says a lot of things just to get a rise out of people, so who knows what he really thinks. For me the bottom line is: Can Jesus redeem all things (including certain exercise practices)or not? For me, part of my faith is partnering with God’s Spirit to co-opt practices that are compatible with my faith AND helpful. Personally I have found Holy Yoga to perfectly integrate body, mind and soul into one practice as I live out my faith.

  19. Chris says:

    what about Christmas trees having their roots in paganism? What about listening to Nirvana? What about going trick or treating on halloween?

    Matthew 15:11 sums it up for me:
    “What goes into a man’s mouth does not make him ‘unclean,’ but what comes out of his mouth, that is what makes him ‘unclean.'”

    This is a heart issue, not an exterior.

  20. Let me see if I can find a reading that makes some kind of sense of what Dr Mohler and Mark Driscoll are doing here.

    I’m not saying this legitimizes their reading entirely– but maybe it provides a context so that what they’re saying doesn’t seem entirely off the wall.

    It seems to me that both would fall into the “Christ Against Culture” camp described by H Richard Niebuhr in his book, Christ and Culture.

    Both see Christ, and consequently the church and individual Christians, as agents of God’s reign at work to counter the prince of the power of the air, or the powers that be in this world. It’s a legitimate Christian worldview, one that has roots very likely in the ministry of Jesus himself, and certainly in early apocalyptic Christianity, as well as in all sorts of radical reform movements in the life of the Christian church since that time (Anabaptists, Quakers,and the nineteenth century holiness movements and their twentieth century offspring, Pentecostalism, to name just a few).

    Dr Mohler’s particular focus for decades now has been a recovery of what he takes to be Christian teaching from what he also takes to be its subversion or at least radical reinterpretation by the Enlightenment. One of the pieces of the Enlightenment legacy is a view, pervasive in liberal Christianity in the 19th and 20th centuries, but also nascent in the Universalisms already present in the late 18th century among Congregationalists (from whom, largely, Baptists in America today are descended), but then also highlighted with the popularization of Eastern religions in the US in the sixties and the New Age movements since the 1980s– a view that all religions are essentially one or leading to the same destination. Much of initial Enlightenment thought, as well as the “New Atheism,” has viewed that destination in a profoundly negative way, and so has rejected religion as an obstacle to human progress. Those in the Enlightenment/Post-1960s Eastern exposure who do not take so radical a tack view that common destination more positively.

    But if you are trying to recover Christian teaching from the Enlightenment entirely, as Dr Mohler and what is now clearly his seminary (from which I graduated before his arrival– it was a very different place then!) seek to do, and you have this “Christ against Culture” approach, then, for you, anything that substantially participates in or benefits from Enlightenment presuppositions to not only to be avoided, but utterly rejected.

    I think that might be at least a fair reading of the project Dr Mohler is attempting with his call for Christians to have nothing to do with yoga.

    I honestly don’t know Mark Driscoll’s work well enough to be able to say exactly how he has arrived where he did. I don’t think it’s an attempt to control women– but I don’t know. I think where he stands, and somewhat self-consciously, is squarely in the sort of separatist Reformed tradition that informed much of US Puritanism, and, on the continent, led to the stripping of all artwork from worship spaces (most notably the demolition of statues and the whitewashing of the walls at Zwingli’s church in Zurich). The move here was not only anti-Roman Catholic, but more specifically, anti-sensual out of a conviction that such artwork was both idolatrous (leading to the worship of statues– which of course was never the point) and a distraction from what really mattered in worship– the hearing of the pure word of God, rightly preached.

    The bias in this tradition, as another poster has suggested, is clearly toward the cognitive and away from the sensory, physical and mystical. It is this stream of Reformed theology that has been most closely associated over the centuries with the labeling of any teaching not squaring with its own reasoned conclusions as heretical at best (if among Christians) and as “lies of Satan” where it comes from any tradition outside its own, and especially outside Christianity.

    Overall, what I’m suggesting is that both Mohler and Driscoll are being consistent with the kinds of theological projects they are pursuing and the traditions in which they stand (or in Mohler’s case, the tradition he and his seminary are working to re-establish as THE tradition within his denomination). I have to find myself thus admiring their integrity in these things, even as I, standing in another stream of Christian thinking and commitments, neither share their presuppositions nor approve of their conclusions.

    Peace in Christ,

    Taylor Burton-Edwards

  21. seth says:

    I think there is the context of driscoll’s comment. You’re taking straight from his sermon where he’s not focusing on yoga directly, but just a side comment on yoga.

    Mohler’s article and response on yoga is a lot more valid for arguments.

    His argument is that people don’t have a strong theological argument to combat his and he’s right.

    Mohler himself states that he isn’t talking about the physical aspect only, but the union of the physical and the spiritual aspect in yoga.

    I think you need to read more into why he wrote that about yoga.

    I will admit though, his article is a bit regressive and a bit too hard hitting for something that most people don’t take that seriously.

  22. marissaburt says:

    What got me about this whole thing is why it made the front page of the newspaper. How is this news? I think whoever posted above saying Driscoll likes to shock people is right, but shame on the article’s author who wrote the whole piece to get a rise out of people.

    This piece took up most of the front page, along with an article about the foreclosure crisis. And the smallest article? “Chinese dissident Liu wins Nobel Peace Prize”.

    http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/nationworld/2013104950_apnobelpeaceprize.html

    The fact that I’ve seen the yoga reference posted all over facebook, blogs, etc. by fellow Christians highlights what seems to be a classic evangelical bent. We do really tend to get consumed with “our spirituality”. Yes, it’s important to think these things through – I’m not minimizing the reality of pursuing godliness.

    But we often are so caught up with what we oughtn’t do in our personal spiritual practice that we don’t define ourselves positively. I have no idea the religious status of Mr. Liu, but wouldn’t it be cool to see us all pay as much attention to the newsworthy reality of his work for human rights and democracy under an oppressive regime as our concern with whether we should applaud Driscoll and Mahler’s statements or be embarrassed about them?

    To me, the yoga thing feels like a food-sacrificed-to-idols issue. Some Christians are going to have a problem with it. Others aren’t. But you know what all Christians should have a problem with? The oppression of our fellow human beings.

    • marissaburt says:

      I have a nagging feeling the peace prize on the same page as Driscoll’s article might have been the chemistry prize? But I can’t find a hard copy of the paper to confirm.

      Kind of takes the wind out of the sails of my argument if it is (ha!), but still!

  23. Tony Lin says:

    Based on the logic that Yoga is demonic because of it’s original roots… then what do Driscoll and Mohler suggest we do with the cross? Which was the ultimate pagan sign of guilt, humiliation, torture and death.

  24. Tony,

    The problem isn’t pagan roots. It’s non-Christian teaching.

    Yoga, when practiced authentically, includes various versions of Yogic or Hindu teaching by the instructor that explains, in Yogic or Hindu religious terms, what’s going on.

    Mohler is right that if that isn’t part of the package, it would be disingenuous to call it Yoga. Stretching, perhaps. Yoga, not so much.

    The question for Christians then becomes, “Is everything taught by other religions necessarily false, opposed to the Christian faith or Christian teaching, or even demonic?” I’m not sure exactly how Mohler would respond to that. Driscoll was unequivocal that the answer is Yes, and indeed, “Yes– if it’s not from us, it is demonic.”

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  28. the Chiz says:

    I’m waiting for the fallout to the imminent “Subaru’s are demonic” sermon from MH. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth in Ballard.

  29. […] Cho has the good sense to push back against the “yoga is evil” meme that Al Mohler has seen fit to inaugurate. from […]

  30. Rachel B. says:

    Eugene, I very much appreciate the “diplomacy” of your post. Engaging and dialoguing with respect is a much more effective way to communicate than simply insisting that someone is wrong.

    My favorite thing about yoga is that it recognizes the interrelatedness of our physical lives, our minds and spiritual lives. In our culture we like to separate things and we treat our different dimensions as if they have nothing to do with each other. As followers of Jesus, we’ve given our entire lives over to God, not just the overtly spiritual parts. That means that anything you ever do can be done to the glory of God, including physical poses.

    As a Christian yoga teacher, the nature of yoga is a topic that I’ve had to deal with over and over again. Yoga experts claim that yoga precedes Hinduism, but there is no doubt that yoga and Hinduism have been very closely connected throughout history. In my experience, yoga teachers in the United States are more likely to identify themselves as Buddhists than Hindus, although many don’t truly identify themselves as any particular religion. Anyone who has studied either Hinduism or Buddhism knows that those religions identify the same brokenness in the world that Christianity does, and their teachings about the way people have to behave for the world to function properly are nearly identical to the teachings of the Bible. The differences between Christianity and these other religions are the reason the world is broken in the first place and the belief or unbelief in the abilities of people to fix the world. Looking at it this way makes the word “demonic”, when referring to anything associated with other religions, seem harsh (to say the least.)

    While I think it’s important for yoga practitioners to be aware of the history of yoga and aware of where their yoga teacher may be coming from as they lead class, I don’t think that practicing yoga is likely to contaminate your Christian faith if you’re grounded strongly in it. Just as Muslims, Hindus and Christians can all participate in the discipline of prayer, they can all practice yoga.

  31. katz says:

    The alternative to demonic yoga?

    Exorcise!

  32. […] these days,” but that doesn’t really go beyond his haircuts and t-shirts. His new condemnation of yoga as well as Stephanie Meyer seems to indicate that he’s becoming more and more suspicious of […]

  33. Rusty Rabon says:

    How do you define “demonic?” I would define “demonic” as anything which is influenced by Satan, advances his “cause,” draws people toward him and away from Christ, or is anti-Christ and the true God and the Bible.

    Just this morning, NPR’s “Morning Edition” featured a piece by a man who is a native of India, and he made a definitive link between Yoga and Hinduism. He talked about Yoga studies with pictures of Krishna in them, and so forth.

    So I believe Al Mohler is right. So-called “progressives” and liberals seem to want to syncritize all religion and push away any claim of Christianity to having absolute truth. I’m afraid that, for many, this will be done to their eternal dismay . . .

    • Andy M says:

      “anything which is influenced by Satan”

      Well, then we must all be demonic, because at some point we are all influenced by satan, whether it is through culture, through our own pride, through family history, through him wispering in our ears, through nearly anything. Read the Screwtape letters. If the word “demonic” just means “influence”, then it means nothing.

      I’m sure this has been said above. Yoga in its original content and intent, may have strong ties to other religions which we as Christians believe to be false. However, in it’s American context with typical Americans it is an excercise routine, and if they get spiritual meaning out of it, it is because they are feeling more in tune with their body. Their unique body, created by God, and worship of God has always had a strong physical aspect to it. Spritual meaning from Yoga to most Americans would be only within the realm of their already held beliefs.

      Yoga, in it’s typical American context, is not demonic in any sense of the word.

      And please do not generalize about liberals or progressives. I have no doubt there are people who may fit your description, but there are very few people who actually believe there is no absolute truth.

  34. this post has had some amazing longevity!

    as a pastor of a small congregation, I was doing some research on yoga in order to speak with a bit more knowledge in case anybody asks me about its relation to following Christ, as well as in case the need to preach on it comes up. a few thoughts after some brief skimming:

    – yahoo’s not bad if you want to get an idea out there, as long as you don’t mind the fact that they get to frame your argument with their headline of choice

    – on the other hand, a yahoo headline aimed at garnering clicks probably isn’t the best way to start a balanced and thoughtful debate on an important topic

    – despite the hope I had that we were moving past judging ideas and people based on 2 minute clips and soundbites (in politics, theology, culture, you name it), looks like that’s going to be a tough habit to shake (not saying that this blog is guilty of that, just the way the topic as a whole was handled)

    – would love to read “the subtle body”, the book that sparked Mohler’s post

    – I think that it’s valid to be concerned about the religious and spiritual roots of something, especially if the teachers that are teaching it to you are working out of that framework.

  35. nnonye enwonwu says:

    the battle is in the mind, and the danger is in the motive behind doing yoga. if doing yoga to connect spiritually or as a form of physical exercise.
    what i want to know is if the poses themselves, such as salutation of the sun, are demonic??

  36. nce says:

    Man has always been curious and thus the quest for illumination. God had warned Adam that should he eat from the tree of knowledge he would `die` – Gen 2: 15-17
    The tree was there from time, but not meant to be dabbled with, for although its fruit was sweet and good for the body, it would ultimately kill it mans soul.
    The serpent cunningly convinced man & woman that it would do no such thing and was indeed good, that they would become like God himself. – Gen 3: 1-7
    I think, the bottom like is that we can be as God-like as we want to be through Jesus Christ, but we are not to become God himself ( i hope you get the difference), for there cannot be two Gods, only one God – the Almighty, the Lord God. All other gods will be eliminated by God. Man being made in Gods image, is the closest and easiest to attain the ´God´ form. If not, why do not dogs or apes have our same intellect? We have the option to be followers of God, through Jesus Christ or `Gods` ourselves.
    After thought: Does satan want you to become ´God´ so that he has more to fight alongside him on the day of battle?
    After Adam and Eves disobedience and consequent sin. After they became aware – attained God illumination – the Lord God cursed them but made tunics of skin to contain them.
    Q: If God had not made tunics of skin, what would have happened to Adam and Eve, would they have cosmicised away, having not been able to control their new found powers? Would they have begun to be like God, being omnipotenet and omnipresent and challenging Him. Would God then have had to cast them out, like He did lucifer, who tried to overthrow Him?
    Why doesnt God want us to be Him? we can be like Him, through Him but not on our own. Because through Him, we asre guided. Because there can only be one true God, the one that existed before it all. We were created to worship Him, and dewell with Him, but by the choice of our free will.
    My conclusion is that only believing in in God and through Jesus Christ is the right God ordained way to Him. This is also the way tho become Gods, in the God-ordained way. INSERT BIBLE PASSAGE THAT WE ARE GODS. All other religions offer a way which may seem right, feel right, seem innocent, seem the way to God as well, but in fact are ways that lead to you become a God, but outside of God himself. The only downside to that is that there is only meant to be one true God – Yaweh, the Lord God Almighty. So today, choose wisely.

    Pertaining to Yoga, my question now is are yoga poses symbols of demonic worship? In doing them, do we unknowingly attain ´illumination´ whether we do not chant or meditate non-Christian things?

  37. nce says:

    There is a path that seems right to man but its end leads to destruction – Prov 14:12

  38. I need to give thanks very much for that work you have made in writing this piece of writing. I am hoping the same effective work by you down the road also.
    http://video.jkr30.com/a/ – mein blog

  39. Rochele Davies says:

    Yoga as exercise good, Yoga as religion bad. That is all!!

  40. Josh Gray says:

    Good thoughts Pastor Cho. I appreciate your recognition of the fact that we can’t always boil down complexities to black and white statements.

  41. Jon says:

    Mark is too flabby to do yoga, so it must be demonic.

    Wonder how Christ-like suing another church for using the words Mars Hill in their name is.

    Can someone check their watch and let me know when Mark’s 15 minutes are up? It’s gotta be close…

  42. Nick Scott says:

    Eugene, I’m like 2 seconds away from throwing my Wii in the trash because, I’m pretty sure, one of those games (Wii Fitness) includes YOGA!

    Doesn’t yoga teach you how to center yourself, to SLOW down, to clear your mind and focus? Isn’t this meditation? Doesn’t Scripture invite us to meditate, albeit on God’s word; however, wouldn’t or couldn’t a practice such as yoga help or aide a follower of Jesus in forming the habit of meditation?

    I sat in on your lab at CAT11 in ATL. Holy Spirit definitely used you to challenge me and my worldview or lack thereof. Thank you.

  43. LoveDrSteve says:

    I cant believe he would say such thing. Such a bad look for Christians in Seattle. Its a freaking excercise!!!

  44. LoveDrSteve says:

    EXTREMIST … “if you sign up for yoga class youre signing up for a demon class I DONT WANT YOU TO BE HANGING OUT WITH DEMONS” . WOW!!! Mark. I just felt a little shame in saying I am christian because of you. SMH

  45. choup says:

    👿
    demonic bullet points lol. Yoga helps me be a better MMA figher.

  46. j says:

    sorry for my demonic usage of ‘sh*t’

    but why does it matter… God hates you!

    http://marshill.com/media/luke/jesus-sweats-blood : marker 43:35.

    Driscollogy says God hates some of you more b/c you commit greater sins than others… as the scriptures say “God hates sin”… therefore.. God hates sinners.. and since we are ALL inexplicably susceptible to sinning, He should hate all of us.. but NO.. its SOME OF YOU. HE HATES YOU! HE IS SICK OF YOU! GOD IS WEARY OF YOU!

    Do Yoga.. go big or go home, i say!

    Please make this note. Our God, out of all the many other gods, is the ONLY GOD that pursued us. Weary Gods don’t do things like pursue you b/c they are tired of dealing with you.

  47. Chris says:

    Driscoll is the modern day “Church Chat” character from SNL, played by Dana Carvey.

    “Could it be….umm….SATAN!”

    Driscoll is a joke. In his egomaniacal quest for continual relevancy, he has to be the Christian Hipster, and throw out remarks like he’s the Terrell Owens of Churchdom.

    He’s a troll. We shouldn’t feed him.

  48. AmySioux says:

    Just… wow. Quite the litany here… So, a couple of comments to add that I did not see (but who could read this all…!) — There are many forms of yoga that are very much focused on worshiping something that is very much NOT God — and the result can be pretty harmful to the minds and souls of more gullible folk thinking nothing of it. A quick Internet search turns up enough to make you think twice. I have friends who can speak to this first hand.

    Second, a recent article in the NYT tells us that yoga is (or should be) clearly associated with Hinduism (http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/28/nyregion/28yoga.html?_r=1&pagewanted=all) – perhaps this caused the pastoral comments that started this entertaining blog post and string of comments. Regardless, the debate isn’t elementary, and it isn’t harmless. We westerners have lost sight of a lot of things. One of them is just how very far we have strayed from loving, honoring and serving (REALLY LOVING and HONORING) a HOLY God.

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One Day’s Wages

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As I soaked in this breathtaking sunrise this morning above the clouds, I felt compelled to pray for so my places in America and around the world that are experiencing such pain, heartache, injustice, and violence. At times, it feels so overwhelming but in prayer, I was reminded of these words from John 16:33. As we keep striving, working, hoping, preaching, loving, truthtelling, reconciling, repenting, forgiving, dismantling, peacemaking, Kingdom building...may we fix our eyes on Christ: “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” - John 16:33 Grateful for a very full weekend of ministry and preaching in Toronto, Canada (GTA). Such a privilege to partner with @worldvisioncan @wvcollective to advocate for the most vulnerable around the world. God is so gracious. A true honor to meet and encourage local pastors, lecture at Tyndale University & Seminary (photo), and preach at Richmond Hills Community Church, Compass Point Bible Church, and New City Church. Thank you, Lord, that you use broken and imperfect people like me to speak of Your love. Today, Minhee and I dropped off our eldest child at her college. We have been thinking and praying about this day for many years. On some days, we hoped it would never come. On other days, we couldn't wait for it to come. On some days, we prayed for time to stop and other days, we prayed with anticipation. 
After an entire summer of laughing it off, it hit us...hard...this week. Seeing all of her stuff laid out on the basement floor was the catalyst to a load of emotions.

After unloading the car and taking her stuff to her new home for this year and mindful that she might never live with us again; helping sort out her stuff, saying hello to her roommates...I wasn't sure what to do or say.

A flood of thoughts rushed my mind.

Is she ready?
Have we done enough?
Have we taught her enough? 
What if this? What if that?

And so we shared what we have shared with her the moment she began to understand words: "Remember who you are. Remember WHO you belong to. Remember what you're about. God loves you so much. Please hold God's Word and His promises close and dear to your heart. We love you so much and we are so proud of you." And with that, we said goodbye. Even if she may not be thousands of miles away, this is a new chapter for her and even for us. I kept it composed. Her roommate was staring at me. I didn't want to be that father. I have street cred to uphold. Another final hug. 
And I came home.
And I wept.
Forget my street cred.
I miss her. I love her.
She will always be my little baby.

I'm no parenting guru. I just laughed as I wrote that line. No, I'm stumbling and bumbling along but I'd love to share an ephiphany I learned not that long ago. Coming to this realization was incredibly painful but simultaneously, liberating. To be honest, it was the ultimate game-changer in my understanding as a parent seeking after the heart of God.

While there are many methods, tools, philosophies, and biblical principles to parenting, there is – in my opinion – only one purpose or destination.

Our purpose as parents is to eventually…release them. Send forth. For His glory. Met a friend and fellow pastor who I haven't seen in over 20 years. In him, I saw a glimpse of my future. While only 10 years older, his kids are married and he's now a grandfather of 3. His love for his wife and family were so evident and his passion for the Gospel has not wavered. It was so good to see someone a bit older still passionately serving the Lord with such joy and faithfulness. Lord, help me to keep running the race for your Glory. Happy wife.
Happy life. - Eugenius 3:16

I still remember that time, many years ago, when Minhee was pregnant with our first child. She had left her family and friends in Korea just two years before. Her morning sickness was horrible and when she finally had an appetite, she craved her favorite Korean food from certain restaurants in her neighborhood in Seoul, Korea. I had no way of getting that food from those restaurants so I actually said, "How about a Whopper? Big Mac?" Sorry honey. Eat away. You deserve it. I don't care if it sounds mushy but sunsets are one of my love languages. Seoul, Korea was amazing but WOW...what a breathtaking welcome back sunset by Seattle. Not ready to let go of summer.

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