Is Yoga Bad for a Christian? Is Yoga Dangerous?


Years ago, I was on my way to finding Jesus, but hadn’t arrived yet. As I was starting to turn my head away from all of my business activities and the years of building my own kingdom, I knew I needed more of Him. Certainly, there was a spiritual quickening happening in me. There was regeneration happening in me even before I claimed Jesus as Lord and Savior.

But, I was finding Christian teaching, and yet I wasn’t seeing the power. When I looked in the scriptures, I saw Jesus’s words about, “You who believe will do these things and greater” and I was looking at the Church and I was saying, “Well I don’t see anybody really working in these things and greater, so where is the power?”

That launched me into a journey. As I put those questions to the Christians I knew were further along in their spiritual journeys than I was, they would shrug and say, “Yeah, well, we don’t know, either.”

So, I felt left to my own in that space.

But as I looked at Jesus, I’m like, “Deny yourself, pick up your cross, and follow Me.” Well, I didn’t know quite what “deny myself” meant yet. And picking up my cross? I didn’t know what that meant yet either.

But “Follow me.” Jesus said, “Follow Me.”

Jesus meditated. Now, there’s a difference here. He meditated on His Father. He meditated on the Word because He was the Word. He knew Scripture inside and out. I didn’t know Scripture yet, and so what I was doing was I was taking Scripture (I was essentially proof-texting) and then trying to run with it, which was good (kinda); I had a lot of zeal (but not a lot of knowledge.) I still have a lot of zeal, but it’s more targeted now. (As you can plainly see, it wasn’t so targeted in the beginning.)

One of my errant shots during this season was kriya yoga.

Jesus meditated. I figured I needed to learn how to meditate. So, what did I do? I went to YouTube and I typed in “free guided meditation” which brought me to Sadhguru, an Eastern guru out of India. While he projects wisdom, not everything he says is accurate.

However, the first few videos I watched seemed to speak truth. (There is a way that seems right to a person.) And so, I entered his marketing funnel with this free guided meditation which then leads you to Inner Engineering, which is his introductory course. (Maybe there was some money associated with Inner Engineering, like a hundred bucks or something. The notion here is to get rid of the tire-kickers. You want folks who are truly interested in taking this path.)

My wife and I went through Inner Engineering. We thought it was a pretty good course. It taught us more about things that were going on inside us, from an Eastern perspective. At the end of the course, Isha made the pitch to go to the next level, which at the time, was the Shambhavi meditation. Sadhguru would go and lead these Shambhavi workshops around the world. There was one coming up in a few months in Chicago. I really wanted my wife and I to go. I was on a spiritual journey and I thought this was absolutely the next step. I turned to my wife and said, “We gotta do it!”

She said, “No way! It’s 250 dollars.”

I really wanted to go. She didn’t want to go. I sat with it for a little while. Finally, I said to myself, “Man, I gotta go.” So, we fought about it a little bit, and she finally said, “Just go.”

So I went! I bought my ticket. $250 on something like this for us at that time with our four little ones, was a little bit of a financial burden.

I was so zealous, however, I slept in my car the entire weekend on top of the hotel garage, which, turns out to be real close to the local airport, so the entire time I was in the flight path. No problem.

Anyway, got to the Shambhavi event which hosted upwards of 500 or 600 people. Sadhguru was up front on his wooden throne. He would instruct for a while, and then his younger acolytes would model the Shambhavi movements as he described the steps. Then you would try it. Sometimes you’d partner up with people near you and they would do the moves and you’d correct it, and vice versa. He had other advanced students walking around to help make corrections to form, etc.

Through this meditative practice, I began to see the the human body do things that I didn’t know it could do. The breath got bigger than just the lungs. Some metaphysical experiences came through this time.

During all of this, I was absolutely praying, “Lord, if I’m on the wrong path, please yank me off the path.” But I would look around and, “Okay, I’m still okay to be on this path, so I’m gonna keep going.”

By this point, I’m practicing Shambhavi at home now, twice a day, once in the morning before the family wakes up and then again in the evening. I’m doing the mantras, the breathing techniques, the stretches–the whole thing.

Early on, I had a sister in Christ tell me, “You know, Matthew, you should track your journey and you should capture it in video” so I had captured some of this on video. Fast-forward and now I’m sharing some of these videos.

After a while, someone approached me on Facebook and says, “Hey, Matthew, you say you’re a Christian, but you’re following Sadhguru. Something’s off here.”

At the time, I defended my position. I said, “Well, I’m seeing things go in a different direction and I’m experiencing the universe in a larger way. It must be good! This must be the right path.”

I had two Pauls in my life. One was encouraging me on the yogic path. The other was this Facebook Paul comes out of the woodwork to say, “Well, this path doesn’t lead to life.” I refuted him a couple times, but then he sent me some other YouTube videos of folks who were experiencing Kundalini rising in them and they were seeing different manifestations that didn’t look like anything like Holy Spirit.

I did more research. I occasionally found old students of Sadhguru’s who said, “Yeah, I got high up in the rankings.” They had gone through Inner Engineering. They had gone through Shambhavi. They had gone through whatever the next steps were. They eventually came to a place where they were experiencing demonic manifestations. They experienced things that were dark, not light and bright and ooey and gooey and love and bliss. Then they would cry out, “Jesus!” and there’d be this dramatic conversion in their life. They would feel love. They would feel safety. There would be light. All of a sudden, they’d feel this intense release, and now they’re a born-again Christian.

So, they were having these dramatic conversions while they were in this yogic arc. These yoga students were pointing back to, “Wow. I was on the wrong path. Jesus came into my life. I realized I was heading down an unhealthy set of stairs and it was leading into dark places.” I couldn’t refute those videos.

One of the other things that cinched it for me, I noticed that further on down the Isha Foundation path (Isha is the name of Sadhguru’s foundation) you see people bowing before idols, big metal obelisks or phalluses. This is idolatry. I recognized it when I saw it. I at least knew that much Scripture to recognize this is not paying any glory to Yahweh God. This is not paying any glory to Jesus. There’s no glory here for Holy Spirit. This is idolatry; straight-up Old Testament nonsense.

That’s what took me out of yoga.

Now, granted, kriya yoga is real yoga compared to what we’ve done with yoga here in the west. Here in the west, we’ve focused on balance, flexibility, and some strength-building, maybe. But in the east where yoga originated from, there is plenty that is still true to form.

And it’s not Jesus.

Isha also had local chapters where you could go and practice Shambhavi with other students and I was all about community. When I arrived at the center, up at the front is a picture of Sadhguru. They would play a teaching that he had done recently. Then they play a recorded meditation he’s leading, where he teaches you to focus on the moon or go through some mental journey. On this recording, he’ll usually being to sing or chant. But I kept hearing the name “Shiva.”

I was troubled. As a follower of Christ, (who obviously didn’t know what he was doing) I’m in this guided meditation and I’m hearing the name Shiva chanted over and over.

I’m like, “Wait a minute. We’re talking about the moon as if ‘she’s’ alive.” The rest of it’s in Hindi. I don’t know what was being said, which is dangerous in and of itself. What are you agreeing to, right?

So, I finally went to one of the senior students and I said to her, “I’ve got some concerns.” As I relayed them to her, she was nodding and she did a great job of listening to me.

And then she said: “I had those concerns at one time, too. You know, when I took those concerns to the upline, they kind of said, ‘Oh, it’s okay. You can just swap out whatever name you want. You can put in, if the meditation leads you to Sadhguru and he’s the guru that you come to in this room in the house in the forest that he just led you to in the guided meditation. If it’s not Sadhguru, you can put Jesus in there and it’s fine.'”

And she told me this, and I was like, “Oh, ah, I don’t think this is right.”

That’s where I stopped going.

And during that time, I was studying, all right, well, if it’s not guided meditation through an eastern guru, certainly there has to be some sort of meditative journey to the Christian.

And that’s when I discovered the Desert Fathers, Teresa of Avila, Jeanne Guyon, Brother Lawrence, some of these early Christian mystics who walked with the Lord and walked with the Lord well. So much so that those around them collected their notes, collected their journals, and asked them to write letters on their own journeys.

Right around this time, the Lord–who’s so faithful–He put two more folks in my life. One became my assistant at my office, an ex-pastor, and one was a guy from my church. We didn’t know we went to the same church.

As for the second guy, I had sold him some gym equipment and he needed help putting it together. I went over to his place and asked him, “Hey, on your voicemail, you talked about Inner City Missionaries. What is that?” He lit up and started talking to me about his street-side evangelism. He eventually asked me about my journey. I mentioned I was raised Catholic, had been trying to follow Jesus through eastern meditation, but now was turning to contemplative prayer and studying Teresa of Avila and Jeanne Guyon.

At that point, he gasped. “You’re the first Christian in eight years that I’ve heard who even knows anything about Teresa of Avila!”

He’s a lifelong brother at this point. Love him.

Yes, the Lord is faithful. Totally faithful.

And granted, it took a season. Maybe it took me a year to navigate all of this. As I began to lay down my kingdom and pick up the Lord’s, I was still going through this weird spiral of my own syncretism, my own mixing with the world and mixing with the kingdom of God. Slowly, gently (oh, He’s so gentle,) God was pulling the world out of me. This was one of the worldly expressions to be removed, this yogic path.

Anyways, this was not a formal instruction on yoga. This was just me sounding off on my own personal journey into yoga and out of yoga. I was a climbing the wall to God that did not go through the narrow gate of Jesus Christ. Even though there were moments in my studies and in my research where I was seeking Jesus, I was finding New Age error. Thankfully, the Lord has set me free of that. I quickly glommed onto the Holy Spirit and He has set me free of a lot of things. The journey has been really good. Thank you, Lord!

So that’s my journey through yoga.

My recommendation? Steer clear.

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