Guest Posts

Guest Post: Why Not Yoga?

If your theology pretty much matches up with mine (as outlined in my “Welcome” and “Statement of Faith” tabs in the blue menu bar at the top of this page) and you’d like to contribute a guest post, drop me an e-mail, and let’s chat about it.

Why Not Yoga?
by Michal Russo

Most people in the world are familiar with, or have at least heard of, “yoga”. Whether it’s simply wearing yoga pants, or actually practicing and teaching, the notion is widespread and accepted as a pillar of wellness and spirituality. A practice that is often referred to as uniting the mind, body, and soul through asana (poses) and pranayama (breathing techniques) has evolved widely over the centuries. Beginning with ancient times and pre-classical yoga, all the way through modern day westernized schools of “yoga”. However, one thing remains the same, and that is: it’s all deeply rooted in connecting your spirit to other spirits.

First let’s make sure we fully understand, and agree, on what yoga truly is.

What is yoga?

The origin and the name of the word “yoga” dates back to roughly 5,000 years ago and comes from two sanskrit roots: (1) yujir and (2) yuj, with its first mention coming in the Rig Veda, an ancient and sacred text used by the Brahmans, or Vedic Priests. The Veda used the word ‘yoga’ with the meaning of ‘yoking’, ‘joining’, ‘coming together’ and ‘connection’. These priests were considered mystic seers, and they documented their beliefs in a collection of hundreds of scriptures called The Upanishads, culminating in the Bhagavad-Gîtâ around 500 B.C.E. They went on to become the very foundations for Hinduism, and Yoga.

Now, many will argue that over time, and most especially in the Western World, Yoga has lost this yoke, or connection, to the religion, or spirituality.

B.K.S. Iyengar (one of the foremost yoga teachers in the world and founder of Iyengar Yoga) wrote about it quite succinctly in the preface to his book, “The Illustrated Light on Yoga” by stating:

Yoga is a timeless pragmatic science evolved over thoughts of years dealing with the physical, moral, mental and spiritual well-being of a man as a whole.

The first book to systematize this practice was the classic treatise The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali dating from 200 BC. Unfortunately most of the books published on yoga have been unworthy of both the subject and its first great exponent, as they are superficial, popular and at times misleading.

The Western reader may be surprised at the recurring reference to the Universal Spirit, to mythology and even some philosophical and moral principles. He must not forget that in ancient times all the higher achievements of man, and knowledge, art, and power, were part of religion and were seen to belong to God and to his priestly servants on Earth. The Catholic Pope is the last such embodiment of divine knowledge and power in the West.

But formerly, even in the Western World, music, painting, architecture, philosophy and medicine, as well as wars, were always in the service of God. It is only very recently in India that these arts and sciences have begun to shake off the Divine – but with due respect, for the emancipation of man’s will, as this thing from the Divine will, we in India continue to value the purity of purpose, the humility of discipline and the selflessness that are the legacy of our long bondage to God. I consider it important as well as interesting that the reader should know the origin of asanas, and I have, therefore, included legends handed down by practicing Yogis and Sages. All the ancient commentaries on yoga have stressed that it is essential to work under the direction of a guru (Master), and although my experience proves the wisdom of this rule, I have endeavoured with all humility in this book to guide the reader – both to teacher and student – to a correct and safe method of mastering these asanas and pranayamas.

Can I Break The Yoke and Still Practice Yoga?

So, I ask you, is it still possible to practice yoga but not submit to this “yoke” or “connection”, which is the very name and essence of this ancient “science”, “art”, “ritual”, “practice” or whatever name chosen to describe it?

Does it not raise the very question as to what you are yoking to at the very least? If the answer is ambiguous, does that not alone irk your very soul? The answer seen most often to this question: You are connecting to whatever belief, power, or God you have (if you ask a Westernized teacher). Clearly, Iyengar had different feelings.

Further, the very nature of a practice is to make it become a ritual, so routine that it is automatic.

Perhaps that sounds like offering ourselves wholly to something, while “opening our mind, our body, and our soul”. You are commiting to serve something.

Perhaps that means becoming a bondservant, or slave.

What Does The Word Say?

To prepare this answer I prayed for the Holy Spirit to coat me in the armor of God and grant me the wisdom to discern and learn the Word, not with eisegesis (not to read it out of context or read into it my own cultural biases), but with evangelistic power, and the wisdom of apologetics.

Notice Iyengar’s direct usage of the term “bondage to God”, and understanding that “yoga” means to connect or to yoke, and a bondslave, or a bondservant, is one that makes a long lasting and permanent commitment as a slave.

In the Book of James, chapter 2, we see James the Just use the Greek word for “bondservant” – doulos- to describe his relationship to Jesus. While this may have been a gesture of humility coming from the very brother of Jesus himself, I am sure, there is no humility in shrugging off the clear and defined yoke and connection to any other god, or actively practicing a bondage to a god other than the One and Holy God of Israel.

Matthew 11:28-30
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Joshua 24:15
But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”

Psalm 32:8
I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you.

My Personal Journey

Through practicing and teaching yoga, I thought I was contributing to the overall positive well-being of myself and others. I was in pursuit of calm and peace and tranquility. This was the way, I thought.

So I began to study it, and not just any form – I began in the College of India School of Bikram where the whole theory was that 90 minutes in this heated room was better than an eternity in hell. My emancipation and salvation would come after Savasana, or the final resting “dead man’s pose”, and I thought nothing more of this, even then, even as a believer.

Ten years passed and I traveled across the world to get my yoga teacher training. I sought out more than a teacher. Now, I wanted a guru. I got my teaching certificate and Yoga Alliance membership and started offering classes. Again, I thought I was helping people. Helping them relieve pain, stress, tension. I thought that when I put a Buddha in my home, it was harmless. We had them in the studio and so I thought it was a harmless symbol that represents peace, but it was an idol.

I eventually even built a small altar in my basement with my yogic books, chakra stones, guides and incense. Again, every studio I worked in had these at the front of the room so I thought that it wasn’t wrong. When I led chants, mantras and Ohms I thought they were harmless, even though they directly called out auspicious goodness, or Shiva, or other gods by name.

When I wore “yoga pants” I never thought twice about what I was truly calling them or adorning my body in. When I bowed down on my yoga mat, I never considered myself bowing down to other gods or submitting myself in connection by yoking to anything at all. I was just breathing and stretching… right?

Again, this wasn’t and isn’t an easy assignment, answering this call to renounce and repent from the practice of yoga entirely. The further I pursued my faith in Jesus Christ, the block came. It was like a spiritual stop sign that no longer allowed me to continue practicing yoga, and definitely to stop teaching it.

Like any ritual, especially one that involves the body, mind, and even my soul, I longed for that time where I could flow but now I knew it needed to be clear and intentionally in His mercy and grace. I can worship Him safely and without unintentionally leading others into the very slippery slope I found myself in by teaching and practicing yoga.

Now, all I want is to practice Christianity with my entire heart, mind, and soul: free and uncompromised by deceptive practices.


Michal Russo is a wife and mother of two teens, a toddler, and one baby on the way. She moved back to her small hometown in Ohio after she renounced her life as a yoga teacher, and founded a ministry called WorshipFlow, bringing the message of Christ and His healing deliverance to those who may have fallen into the snares of Yoga and New Age mysticism. Follow her on Instagram.

If you’d like to know more about yoga and why Christians shouldn’t practice it, please click here.

Podcast Appearances

Videocast Guest Appearance with Doreen Virtue and Melissa Dougherty: What the Bible Says About Women’s Ministry

 

What a joy it was to sit down and chat with Doreen Virtue and Melissa Dougherty recently to discuss…well, all kinds of things! From the role of women in the church to Christian women in online ministry, from yoga to the Enneagram, I think we pretty much covered it all!

I would encourage you to watch some of Doreen’s and Melissa’s other videos, and subscribe to their YouTube channelsDoreen  Melissa. You can also follow these wonderful ladies on Facebook: Doreen  Melissa, and on Twitter: Doreen  Melissa.

My articles mentioned or touched on in the interview:

Popular False Teachers and Unbiblical Trends (tab at the top of this page)

Recommended Bible Teachers (tab at the top of this page)

Searching for a new church? (tab at the top of this page)

Speaking Engagements (tab at the top of this page)

A Word Fitly Spoken Podcast (“Podcast” tab at the top of this page)

Rock Your Role: Jill in the Pulpit

Rock Your Role: Order in His Courts: Silencing Women? (1 Corinthians 14:33b-35)

Adam 3.0: Meanwhile, Back in the Garden, It’s Deja Vu All Over Again

Are Female Bloggers Violating Scripture by “Teaching” Men?

The Mailbag: Should women give testimonies and reports, lead prayer and worship in church?

The Enneagram

The Mailbag: Should Christians do yoga?

Answering the Opposition- Responses to the Most Frequently Raised Discernment Objections (see #1 for info on the Matthew 18 issue)

Hillsong, Bethel/Jesus Culture, Elevation Music

The Mailbag: False Doctrine in Contemporary Christian Music

The Mailbag: How should I approach my church leaders about a false teacher they’re introducing?


Got a podcast of your own or have a podcasting friend who needs a guest? Need a speaker for a women’s conference or church event? Click the “Speaking Engagements” tab at the top of this page, drop me an e-mail, and let’s chat!

Mailbag

The Mailbag’s Top 5

 

While I’m out of town this week, let’s recap The Mailbag’s greatest hits. Here are the five most popular Mailbag articles:


Should Churches Use Praise Teams?

It’s a decision each individual pastor has to prayerfully make as he seeks to do what is
best, wisest, and most godly for his particular church.


What is Calvinism? Semi-Reformed?

It’s OK to hold those things in tension while we’re here on earth. We believe what Scripture says God does, but, where the Bible is silent as to how He does it, His reasons for doing it, etc.,
well, we trust God and believe Scripture there, too.


Should Christians Do Yoga?

The reason the question “Should Christians do yoga?” is even being asked is because there’s doubt in the minds of the Christians asking the question that yoga is kosher with God.
That’s a healthy doubt because yoga is a Hindu worship practice.


False Doctrine in Contemporary Christian Music

Are there any CCM groups, artists, or songs I should avoid?
Can you recommend any specific doctrinally sound artists or groups?


What is the New Apostolic Reformation?

Since there’s no official NAR creed or statement of faith, beliefs and practices can vary from church to church, but, loosely speaking, the NAR takes the Word of Faith (prosperity gospel) heresy and kicks it up a notch with outlandish “supernatural” manifestations, blasphemously attributed to the Holy Spirit.


If you have a question about: a Bible passage, an aspect of theology, a current issue in Christianity, or how to biblically handle a family, life, or church situation, comment below (I’ll hold all questions in queue {unpublished} for a future edition of The Mailbag) or send me an e-mail or private message. If your question is chosen for publication, your anonymity will be protected.

Sermons

What I’ve Been Listening to Lately

I am so thankful for my pastor and my teachers at church. They are my main source of spiritual nourishment (along with my personal time in the Word), but for some reason they don’t seem to want to come over and teach me while I’m doing the dishes or putting on my makeup. Go figure! So for leisure time listening, I’m thankful for the great men and women of God whose teaching is available online. (These all happen to be available on iTunes, too.) Here’s some awesome audio I’ve come across lately that’s sure to encourage and edify you:

Sheologians had Steven Bancarz – a survivor of New Age false doctrine – on last week to talk about New Agey, occultic, mystical stuff and why you should say no-ga to yoga. It was good. You should listen.

New Age Jesus and How to Find Him with Steven Bancarz

 

Sometimes it can be hard to trust God for provision, or to carry you through a difficult situation. John MacArthur’s multi-part series, Anxiety-Free Living, on the Grace to You Radio Podcast explains from Scripture why and how we can trust God for every need.

 

 

Kerrie suffered horrible abuse at the hands of C3 “Church” and Hillsong in Australia. False doctrine and the so-called churches that promote it destroy real lives, folks. Listen in as Fighting for the Faith’s Chris Rosebrough interviews Kerrie Ferguson about her harrowing experience.

A Look at the Dangers of False Ecclesiology

Mailbag

The Mailbag: Potpourri (Nabeel, Spiritual Leadership, Essential Oils…)

Today’s edition of The Mailbag is a tad different in format. Usually, I answer one reader’s question in a long form article. Today, I’m addressing various questions from several readers in a “short answer” format.

Just a reminder- I changed my comments/e-mail/messages policy a few months ago, so I’m not responding individually to most e-mails and messages. Here are some helpful hints for getting your questions answered more quickly. Remember, the search bar can be a helpful tool!


Have you heard of Nabeel Qureshi? What do you think of his teaching and ministry?

I know little about Nabeel except that he was saved out of Islam and now has a ministry that centers on evangelizing Muslims. I’ve never listened to him speak or read any of his books, so I can’t comment one way or the other on the doctrinal specifics he teaches.

However, he is not someone I’d recommend anyone follow. Tragically, Nabeel was diagnosed with cancer about a year ago, and shortly thereafter decided that the thing to do would be to head to Bethel “Church” in Redding, California to have them pray over him for supernatural healing. If you’re not familiar with Bethel, or its leader, Bill Johnson, you may wonder why that’s problematic.

It’s problematic because Bethel is basically ground zero for the New Apostolic Reformation heresy- the most dangerous and destructive heresy attacking the church at large today. Dozens of Christians familiar with NAR false doctrine urged Nabeel on social media not to go to Bethel, and Nabeel blew them off, went anyway, and came back downplaying Bethel’s false teaching as minor, inconsequential differences in theology.

Nabeel also apparently believes in extra-biblical revelation as evidenced by this July 2017 Facebook post:

Cancer is a horrid, painful ordeal. I sympathize with Nabeel’s suffering and have prayed for him. But as our Lord so beautifully demonstrated at His temptation in the wilderness and on the cross, even the worst kind of suffering is not an excuse to compromise Scripture or disobey God.

Popular False Teachers (Bethel/Bill Johnson)
What is the New Apostolic Reformation?


Do you have any resources you’d recommend for women who are married to men who aren’t leading spiritually?

I know it can be really frustrating and painful when you desperately want your husband to be the spiritual leader of your home and he either can’t (because he’s not saved) or he won’t (due to spiritual immaturity, fear, disobedience, etc.)

I’m sure there are books and resources out there that at least touch on this topic, but I don’t read a lot of materials about marriage, so I’m not familiar enough with any to recommend them. (Perhaps someone reading this might like to make a suggestion in the comments? Doctrinally sound authors only, please.) Grace to You’s resources and store and Ligonier’s learn and store are always a good place to look for solid books and resources.

There are a few things I would recommend aside from marriage books, however:

♦ Pray for your husband, and be prepared that you may be in it for the long haul. If he’s not saved, pray for his salvation. If he’s saved but disobedient in this area, pray for his obedience, and ask God to show you how to encourage and help (not nag) him along the way. Ask God to increase your love, understanding, and compassion for your husband.

♦ If your husband is saved and willing to lead but feels inadequate, see if you can find him some help – a Christian men’s group, an older gentleman in your church who’d be willing to disciple him, some counseling sessions with the pastor – if he’s open to the idea of you helping or suggesting in this way. Be careful not to be pushy or bossy about these things or harp on him about attending.

♦ Be faithful to your personal Bible study time. First of all, you need it. Second of all, it sets a good example for your husband.

♦ Any time your husband makes the slightest step toward godly spiritual leadership, encourage him and affirm his leading. That sounds easy right now, but, at least early on, part of that is going to include you submitting to some decisions he makes that you don’t agree with. As long as those decisions aren’t unbiblical, grit your teeth and submit, because…

♦ The Bible says your behavior can have a tremendous impact on your husband. Take some time to study 1 Peter 3:1-6 and 1 Corinthians 7 (especially verses 12-16). These passages both deal with wives who have unbelieving or disobedient husbands, and how our behavior can either encourage them toward godliness or become a stumbling block to them.


Is it dangerous to be involved in yoga even though I don’t practice the meditation part of it? I just like the stretches and exercise I get from it. What are your thoughts?

“Dangerous” isn’t the word I’d choose. “Disobedient” is a better fit. Here are my thoughts (remember, the search bar is your friend):

Should Christians do yoga?


What’s your take on this essential oils craze so many Christian women seem to be into?

There are a lot of different facets to this question:

♦ Some companies who make and sell essential oils and some people who use them do so in conjunction with beliefs in chakras, energies, auras, and all that New Age movement jazz. (Christian Answers for the New Age has more in depth information on those issues.) No Christian should be dabbling around in occultic beliefs and practices.

♦ The oils themselves are spiritually “inert,” so picking up a bottle at the store is not a sin (though you might want to do a little research on the store and/or company that makes the oil to make sure you’re not financing beliefs you don’t want to support).

♦ There are multi-level marketing (MLM) businesses that sell essential oils in the same way people sell Tupperware or Pampered Chef. If that is the business you have chosen, make sure you’re not selling for a company that subscribes to the New Age stuff I mentioned above, don’t annoy your friends, and don’t make a practice of doing business at church. If you have a friend who MLM’s non-New Agey essential oils and you want to buy some, that’s absolutely fine, biblically speaking.

♦ If essential oils work on your minor ailments and that’s what you want to use instead of over the counter medications, there’s no Scriptural problem with that. Just be a good steward of the body and health God gave you and make sure you get proper medical attention for symptoms and illnesses that require it.


I read your article, Should Christians Attend Homosexual “Weddings”? and wanted to know, should Christians attend the wedding of a Christian and an unsaved person? What about the wedding of two unsaved (heterosexual) people?

I would advise Christians not to attend the wedding of a professing believer to an unbeliever due to Scripture’s admonition against this in 2 Corinthians 6:14-18. As with a homosexual “wedding,” Christians should not be supporting, participating in, or giving the appearance of supporting, sin, and a believer marrying someone he or she knows is an unbeliever is sin.

There is no biblical prohibition against an unsaved man and an unsaved woman getting married, so unless there are other grounds on which you cannot support the union (for example- you know he abuses her or you know she’s been cheating on him during the engagement), you would not be supporting, participating in, or appearing to support sin by attending the wedding of two unsaved heterosexual people. (May I suggest a couple’s Bible or Bible study book as a wedding gift?)


If you have a question about: a Bible passage, an aspect of theology, a current issue in Christianity, or how to biblically handle a family, life, or church situation, comment below (I’ll hold all questions in queue {unpublished} for a future edition of The Mailbag) or send me an e-mail or private message. If your question is chosen for publication, your anonymity will be protected.