I fully intended to pass on David Garrigues’ latest news — and we’ll get to it, promise — but before I could I was smashed by an unusual amount of items related to key themes here: yoga as religion; yoga and science; and yoga and raves.
The first one, I’m suspecting, will start to make its way around the Internet. It’s a blog by a conservative Christian pastor, Ed Hird, in Vancouver. (Continuing our Canadian theme. And you can find a little more on him here, which also includes a link to a counter-offering worth your checking out.) In his lengthy piece, Hird runs through yoga’s introduction to the West, touches on the Bhagavad Gita and, of course, grasps onto William Broad’s direct connection between yoga and Tantric Yoga that “worships female deities, roots its ceremonies in human sexuality, seeks supernatural powers for material gain, and cloaks its rites in secrecy.”
Oh, and he doesn’t mince words about the conclusions he reaches:
I have intentionally avoided writing this article for years, because I knew that it would be unavoidably controversial. With genuine reluctance, I faced my conflict avoidance, obeyed the Lord and read hundreds of yoga books in our local public libraries. In preparing this article, I have not read one book which warns against yoga. All book citations in this article are from yoga advocates and practitioners.
I unknowingly participated in yoga, in the form of martial arts, for twenty years before renouncing it. It is not an easy or light thing for someone to renounce this, even as a Christian. In hindsight, I realized that the ritual motions and postures (asanas or katas) had gotten very deep into my psyche, shaping my very identity. Without intending it, I was to some degree serving two masters.
Yoga is the primary technique used by the yogis in attempting to become gods themselves. Through mantric yoga chanting and asanas, the mind experiences both sensory deprivation and sensory overloading, causing a shutting down of the mind. Unlike Christian prayer and meditation on God’s Word, the purpose of Eastern yogic meditational practices is to ‘kill the mind’. Mantra or breath yoga causes one to enter into a meditational trance state in which the mind is emptied. The ‘killing of the mind’ produces the experience of differences disappearing and all becoming one. While yogic philosophy is polytheistic, it is also monistic, in the sense that it holds that through yoga, we become the universe and/or god. While these tenets are rarely taught at community center yoga classes, they are often held by the community center yoga instructor who has gone to a deeper level of yogic initiation. The further one enters into yoga, the greater the hold that this ‘other master’ has in one’s life.
With yoga and Hinduism, nothing is what it seems. This is why it has been described as the embrace that smothers. Yoga has always been shrouded in illusion and secrecy, and can intentionally look like whatever you want it to in the short term. In the end, the road leads to idolatry and monism, to serving two masters. The Lordship of Jesus is what is at stake. Just as there is no Christian Ouija board and no Christian astrology, so there is no Christian Yoga that is either truly Yoga or truly Christian. I invite you to do the stretching, perhaps unthinkable thing of turning from Yoga towards healthy stretching and calisthenics.
I’ll come out and say it: He isn’t as controversial as he thinks. And I don’t really think I need to answer him point for point. He certainly isn’t the first to say that one can’t practice Christian Yoga, and all his points have been picked apart before. Nevertheless, this post has the feeling of something that might go “viral.” His humblebrag to start off seems to be begging for it, right? (And, yes, we could be part of those who help its cause that way. We’ll do penance, if necessary.) Consider yourselves warned.
Anyway, now that we’ve clearly determined there can be no such thing as Christian Yoga, the question becomes: What about Atheist Yoga? The answer: Yes. From a press release:
The new book Atheist Yoga by Anton Drake, which was released late last month by Puragreen Productions, has been generating a lot of interest and intrigue among yoga practitioners in the United States. Although yoga as generally practiced in America is a secular activity that is largely concerned with physical fitness and mental relaxation, some the traditional principles that underlie its mind-body methodology are a bit murky from a Western perspective, and Atheist Yoga delves deeply into the essence of the art in-practice to explore some of its key components. The book also explicitly makes the case that atheism itself is strongly beneficial to the practice of yoga, and that by stripping away any vague or ambiguous mystical ideas about it and approaching meditation and the hatha yoga mind-body connection from a thoroughly materialistic perspective, modern practitioners can greatly increase their mental clarity, focus and body-awareness.
It goes on into a two-question Q& A with Drake. I’ll have to admit, I haven’t heard a lot of the “interest and intrigue” the release mentions. But that’s why they call it “spin.” That aside, I wonder if anyone worries that answering the lawsuit against the Encinitas schools yoga program with an emphasis on yoga’s physical benefits might somehow lead to a position that gets cornered into an atheistic position. Or can yoga sometimes be religious and sometimes not? Rev. Hird and those behind the Encinitas law suit, pretty obviously, think not. I suppose we’ll find out when the trial begins next month.
On, and since I teased it above: There’s a yoga rave happening in Los Angeles this month, on the night of the “full Pink Moon.”
Posted by Steve