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Yoga : Exercise or Religion?




Exercise or Religion?

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While many in the west see yoga as a program of seemingly harmless physical exercises, it is an intrinsic part of Hinduism.

What is yoga?

It's a practice by the means of which a spiritual seeker strives 1) to control prakriti (nature) to make the jiva (the soul) fit for union with purusha (the Oversoul), and 2) to attain nirvikalpa samadhi (union with God) and thus jivanmukta (the liberation of the soul from the rounds of birth and death).

Afterwards, the yogi is said to be a jivanmukti or atmajnani (a possessor of Self-knowledge). Western yogis prefer to call the goal "God-consciousness" or "Self-realization." Some call it "Christ-consciousness."

When did the practice begin?

Evidence of the practice, say Hindu scholars, appears in the Upanishads (ca. 1000 B.C.), which declare that atmajnana is the goal of life. Further evidence appears in the Bhagavad Gita (ca. 500-400 B.C.), which advises serious seekers of God to practice "control of the self by the Self." But yoga was officially systematized by Patanjali, a student of the Samkhya philosophy, in his Yoga Sutras (ca. A.D. 150).

Is yoga a religious or spiritual practice?

Unquestionably, yes, as its history, methods, and goal prove. Four main yogas now exist. Depending on temperament and attainments, the yogi may choose one or more of "paths" to liberation: karma (work), bhakti (devotion), raja (meditation), jnana (atmajnana, Self-knowledge: Atman = Brahman).

Ironically, hatha yoga is the third of eight limbs in Patanjali's system of raja yoga, the adoption of which presupposes the completion of the first two: scriptural study, moral purity, non-violence, etc. To practice hatha yoga is to accept the doctrines of raja yoga, involving the coiled serpent-power at the base of the spine (kundalini), seven chakras, postures (asana), breath control (pranayama), and meditation (dharana and dhyana).

Source: Yoga: An Overview, Watchman Expositor, Vol. 18, No. 2, 2001, by Watchman Fellowship
Information about Apologetics Index research resources This is an archived entry. Please see our newer resources on Yoga


Christian Does Yoga Conflict with Christianity? In this edition of ''Rob's Reviews,'' Robert Bowman reviews the April, 2001, issue of Yoga Journal.
Christian Is Yoga Really So Bad? "The truth behind this exercise sensation", by Sarah E. Pavlik, Today's Christian Woman, Sep/Oct. 2001.
Christian Profile: Yoga Brief profile by Watchman Fellowship
Christian Theory and Practice: Separable?  John Ankerberg and John Weldon document that physical yoga and Eastern philosophy are mutually interdependent.
Christian Yoga and Transcendental Mediation: A Chritian Option? by George Smith, Christian Medical Fellowship
Christian Yoga: An Overview Watchman Fellowship
Christian Yoga: Exercise or Religion? by Brad Scott, Watchman Fellowship
Christian Yoga: Yokes, Snakes, and Gods by Marcia Montenegro, of CANA
Christian Yogasanas: physical postures, spiritual method or both? A preliminary, unedited report by John F. Weldon


Christian Encyclopedia of New Age Beliefs by John Ankerberg and John Weldon. Includes an extended entry on yoga.
Christian The Facts on Hinduism [Out of print] by John Weldon. Includes information about yoga.


Secular Alt.Yoga Newsgroup (About newsgroups). Alt. Yoga FAQ
Secular Yoga is for better health (Pro) Claims that ''[y]oga is a science which leads an individual to better health and living through the balancing of the energies in the body and mind and the development of their awareness.'' The list is meant for those who wish to learn or share about all aspects of yoga.


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Secular Yoga Journal (Pro) (See Robert Bowman's response to the April, 2001, issues of Yoga Journal issue, in which contributing editor Alan Reder argued that yoga can be practiced by Buddhists, Christians, Jews, and Muslims - and by implication, just about anyone else - without any conflict with their religion.

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