Occasionally a topic will pique my curiosity, and I will give it some study. Due to the fact that I am not familiar with many of the terms of the religion of Hinduism and the language of Sanskrit, I am not sure that I have totally done justice to this topic, but I do hope that you find this as helpful and informational as I did. I knew that the background of yoga was that it stemmed from an Eastern religion, but I wanted to know more, so here is what I learned:
- Yoga moves are postures that in the Hindu and Buddhist religions are postures that are offerings to their deities (gods). There are over 330 Hindu gods.
- The word "yoga" means to join or to unite. The religious use of the word "yoga" means to join one's self to a chosen deity in order to become one with the deity.
- The idea of yoga is to empty all of one's thoughts and focus on one thing--to become one with the chosen deity. Yoga is to take a person from his natural form to a perfected form when he is united with the deity of his choice.
- The Yoga Sutras are writings which define the Hindu religion.
- In the Yoga Sutra, Samadhi is a state of bliss in which the person performing the yoga is absorbed into the "One."
- According to the Yoga Sutra, the person performing yoga will be capable of "Vibhuti" which means "supra-normal powers. The goal of yoga, according the the Hindu religion should not be to attain Vibhutie, but the goal should be to be liberated.
- Two other words that are important to the practice of yoga are "pranayama" which is control of breath which steadies the body and allows the mind to focus and concentrate. "Pratyahara" is the withdrawing of all senses in order to focus on external objects.
- As I was studying for this, I came across a site that was promoting teaching one's self yoga. The conclusion was: "I have less pain when I do more yoga. I feel calmer throughout the day. Ultimately, yoga isn't just doing poses. Yoga is something that permeates your life, and it does so in a way that brings wholeness and connection to the rest of what you do and who you are."
- Quotes concerning yoga:
1. “There is no Yoga without Hinduism and no Hinduism without Yoga." -unknown
Yoga and Hinduism are intertwined; that is according to the Hindu religion itself.
2. "Any belief, whatever it is, is counterproductive in the context of the practice of yoga. One holds a belief instead of knowing. For example, you wouldn’t say you believe in your right ear, since you know your ear, no belief is required. Believing always excludes knowing. When jnana (supreme knowledge) comes through the practice of yoga, you will know. Do not be satisfied with believing.” ~ Gregor Maehle
The practice of yoga will bring about this "supreme knowledge." This reminds me of the knowledge that Eve was seeking by eating of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.
3. “Inhale, and God approaches you. Hold the inhalation, and God remains with you. Exhale, and you approach God. Hold the exhalation, and surrender to God.” ~ Krishnamacharya
Who is this god? Don't let the upper case "G" lead you astray, this is whichever deity the person doing yoga focuses upon.
In 1853, Henry David Thoreau, a writer and American philosopher who was disillusioned with Christianity and turned to Hinduism, wrote:
“ Repentance is not a free and fair highway to God. A wise man will dispense with repentance. It is shocking and passionate. God prefers that you approach him thoughtful, not penitent, though you are chief of sinners. It is only by forgetting yourself that you draw near to him. The calmness and gentleness with which the Hindoo philosophers approach and discourse on forbidden themes is admirable.”
"The Christian and Hindu concept of man," Thoreau wrote, "are diametrically opposed to each other, the former sees man as a born sinner whereas the latter takes him to be potentially divine."
Thoreau turned from Christianity and embraced the many gods of Hinduism. During the years he spent alone in the wilderness writing the classic book "On Walden Pond," Thoreau was known to have practiced the art of yoga in order to become the divine being that Hinduism offers to humanity.
In our post-Christian society, Christians now, more than ever, need to be aware of their need to be "salt and light" in a world that is denying the one, true God at every turn. Being physically fit is important to a certain extent, but not to the extent that we walk blindly toward the tricks of the old serpent, Satan. I Thessalonians 5:21 says, "Prove all things; hold fast that which is good."
As I was studying about yoga, I often thought to myself how glad I am that I serve ONE God who is so easy to worship and so easy to access. I can enter boldly unto my God and pray to Him anywhere I choose. I don't have to breathe a certain way or manipulate my body in hopes of trying to connect with Him.
So what do I believe about yoga? I believe I love my God too much to follow after other gods or even appear to follow after other gods. Even if I thought that I was too grounded as a Christian to let my mind be controlled by yoga practices, I would choose to follow, worship, and serve God in a way in which I KNOW He would be pleased.