by Barbara (Elliott) Zyskowski
I grew up in a Christian household and I heard the message growing up that Christians should not practice yoga. I shook my head and thought this was a ridiculous statement likely made by extreme fanatics or people who were way too “religious.” I mean, why wouldn’t we do a ‘stretching’ exercise that’s good for our muscles? What was the big deal?
I’ve always loved doing grueling exercise classes – I love the group dynamic of it, the friendships you make working out together and the way you can mindlessly follow along and not have to make decisions. It always clears my mind and de-stresses me in the best way!
Sometime in my 30’s, I began practicing yoga, first to balance out my work-outs with “stretching.” Then, I stumbled upon Bikram yoga and was hooked right away. Bikram yoga is a 90 minute class; a set of 26 postures, done in very high heat and high humidity. It’s designed so your sweat does not evaporate and you are unable to cool down during class. Believe it or not, I do hate the heat, but my hyper-mobility and the challenge of it (and class atmosphere) made Bikram yoga a fun test for me. Although the class was never easy, I have to say that I excelled at it and I practiced Bikram for many years.
In part of my personal journey, I had walked away from the Church and then from Christianity some time in my 20’s. I had had enough of what I perceived as hypocrisy within the church. Now I know that I was actually placing extremely harsh judgement and blame in the wrong direction. However, at the time, I had developed an unhealthy and distorted view of God and saw him as a punishing, distant figure.
Thankfully, about 5 years ago, I returned ‘home’ so to speak, which is a much longer conversation. At that point in time, my faith was building and strengthening, my heart was transforming and my walk with Jesus was getting back on track! I was still practicing Bikram and other styles of yoga almost daily and again, began pondering the legitimacy of why a Christian should not practice yoga?
I remember around that time, I had listened to a short debate online between 2 pastors; one was very against yoga and the other pastor was hosting a yoga class in the church basement. Other than the “right and wrong” debate, there was zero substance as to WHY it should not be practiced. I learned nothing from it.
Then my brother, Bryan explained what “Namaste” actually meant, which is what you say when you bow at the end of every yoga class. We are told it’s simply a mantra honoring and showing respect to others. However, Namaste literally translates to “the light in me, bows to the light in you,” or, “the god in me bows to the god in you.” What?!
When I learned this, I was appalled at the sheer amount of times I had personally bowed and said this word! Father God does NOT bow to any other gods. He is the ONLY true God, he is the King of the universe. (1 Cor 8:6: Yet for us there is only one God, the Father and for whom we have life, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through and by Whom are all things and through and by whom we all exist).
I have to admit that I still continued to practice yoga knowing this, but my first step was that I refused to bow and say “Namaste” at the end of class. I just couldn’t do it! As the class bowed in the final moments and chanted Namaste, I would not bow and would instead say “God Bless!”
As my walk with Jesus continued to strengthen, I began to feel more and more conflicted and convicted during the classes. This was hard for me because I absolutely loved my teachers and the other people in the classes. These were my friends now for many years and I felt like I would lose my community if I stopped practicing.
Beyond just the wording, I decided to look more into the practice itself. Was it really anything more than stretching? The answer was a resounding yes!
Did you know that every single posture in a yoga class is literally positioning and contorting our bodies to bow and worship other gods? It’s not just the phrase at the end of class, it’s your body positioning itself to honor idols the entire way through. Not only this, but such movements open dangerous doors to other spirits. (Just do a quick internet search on “Kundalini spirits.” You will shutter.) The Bible says in Exodus 20:3, “You shall have no other gods before Me” and in Deuteronomy 5:7: “You shall have no other gods before Me or besides Me.” The verses in the Bible about this are plentiful!
What a revelation and what a great deceit I had been under! I was convicted by the Holy Spirit, but never in a shameful way. Here I was literally disrespecting God with this practice over and over, and he was continually chasing me down with his loving kindness. In fact, as is stated in Romans 2:4, it is God’s kindness that leads us to repentance. This completely changed the position of my heart. I mean, would a judgmental, mean and punishing Father approach it this way?
God wants to be in relationship with us. That’s why he created us in the first place, to have kids and grandkids and he searches the world looking for hearts set upon him. He simply wants us to choose him, which is why he also gave us free will. I was beginning to fall in love with Jesus again and yet I had been constantly disrespecting him by blatantly putting other gods before him.
With this revelation and conviction, I never practiced Yoga again.
I love what Katherine Krick has to say on the subject of why the New Age Movement is dangerous, “There’s no neutral supernatural power. Light or Dark. Jesus or the devil. Heaven or hell. Abundant life or oppression! Jesus is the ONLY answer for true life, salvation, peace, contentment, joy, healing, freedom, abundant life and supernatural power.” To hear more from Katherine, check out this reel: https://www.instagram.com/reel/C0VqQM_uHa4/