Did Jesus teach Yoga?
It may surprise you, but the
answer to this question is a definite “No.” (If you
are not a
follower of Jesus yet, please don’t stop reading! You will
understand my response by the end of this article.)
O, I know some
insist that I am wrong. Any argument offered would surely include the
following information. The word “yoga” means yoke
and the implied meaning is to be yoked with God or
with God. “Certainly Jesus taught that we should be yoked
God,” many would say, “so He must have taught
yoga.” That may
sound logical to some people, but let’s inspect what the real
practice of yoga involves. In Hinduism, it is believed that this
union with God can be achieved through different
yoga, such as:
Yoga—the path of physical disciplines (asanas)
and breath control (pranayama).
Yoga—the path of action: good works or selfless
Yoga—the path of chanting mantras.
Yoga—the path of devotion to God, a god or an
individual guru or avatar.
Yoga—the path of transcendental knowledge.
Yoga—the royal path of meditation and mind control.
Yoga—the use of esoteric methods to obtain
supernatural experiences, sometimes the harnessing of power through a
sexual union with multiple partners.
Yoga—a blend of many kinds of yoga, with the
primary aim of awakening the
“kundalini”—defined as a latent, divine
power coiled like a serpent at the base of the spine.
Usually, various branches of yoga
several of the above types into one composite yogic system. Though
each branch may promote a slightly different approach, the ultimate
goal of all yoga practices is Enlightenment, oneness with the Divine,
the awakening of the Higher Self, the attainment of
God-consciousness. To the uninformed, these terms may sound very
attractive and it may appear that yoga and Christianity are both
striving toward the same goal—but this is not the case. Keep
reading, and you will see why.
I was a teacher of Kundalini Yoga at
universities in Florida, so I am well aware of the various yogic
practices designed to carry devotees to higher levels of
consciousness. I am now a Christian minister, a believer in the
biblical worldview. So I have experienced both sides: theoretically,
theologically and experientially. (You can read my testimony,
the story of my conversion to Christianity by clicking
As a yoga teacher I often proposed to
students that Jesus was just another yogi—for He definitely
men and women how to be “yoked with God,”
and how to
experience “union with God.” I
would often try to
reinforce this claim by quoting Jesus’ famous invitation:
“Come to Me, all you who
labor and are heavy laden, and I will give
you rest. Take My yoke on you and learn of Me, for
I am meek
and lowly in heart: and you shall find rest to your souls. For My
yoke is easy, and My burden is light.” (Matthew
said, “Take My yoke on you”
in essence, He was saying, “Come into union
Me—learn to think, feel, act and react just as I would.”
Furthermore, He prayed in John 17 that His disciples would be one
with the Father, just as He was. So oneness of heart, union with the
Almighty, was definitely an emphasis in Jesus’ preaching.
the primary goal of yoga and it was the primary theme of
message—so what’s the difference?
God within philosophical Hinduism ultimately involves the realization
we are Divine; we are God in manifestation (as is all of creation).
It means embracing the idea that Atman
(the soul) and Brahman
(the Oversoul) are one and the same. There is no difference. So the
goal of yoga is coming into the experience of an undifferentiated
union with God.
This is NOT the
goal of Christianity. We are called to yield to God. We surrender to
His Lordship. His Spirit enters our hearts and blends with our
Spirit. But we never—I repeat, NEVER actually BECOME GOD.
cream become the tea when the two are mixed together? NO! So when
human beings come into true union with God, do they actually BECOME
God—the answer again is NO! A husband and wife become ONE in
marriage, but they still maintain their own personal
so it is with the heavenly Bridegroom and His earthly bride (the
behind true Christianity and the philosophy behind the practice of
yoga are oceans apart. There may be common terms used in both
worldviews, but the terms are interpreted differently. The inward
experience, though described with similar words, is still something
totally different. When closely inspected, you will see that the
teachings of Jesus do not fit at all within the framework of the
various yoga schools already mentioned:
never taught the necessity of physical exercises and breathing
disciplines in order to open up the chakras (spiritual energy centers) and
achieve a state of inner harmony. Most teachers of New Age ideas or far
eastern religions would readily label Jesus an Avatar (a manifestation
of God on earth). If He did fill this role (of course, Christianity
teaches that Jesus was the “only” incarnation of
God to ever visit this world) and if Hatha Yoga is a valid methodology,
why did He neglect such an important subject? Of course, the logical
answer is that He did not consider such methods necessary to
man’s spiritual development. Years ago, I spent many hours
doing yoga postures (asanas) and breathing exercises (pranayama). Now I am convinced, they may
help tone and oxygenate a person’s body, but they do not aid
anyone in obtaining true experiences of the transcendent state. God is
a personal God who is approached in a personal way, not by such
structured, mechanical methods.
yogic system is based on the idea that every action causes either good
or bad karma. Furthermore, the soul of a person remains locked in a
series or rebirths (reincarnations) until all karmic debt is paid off.
So the object of Karma Yoga is to live such a perfect life that there
is no karmic indebtedness. At that time, release (moksha)
physical existence is achieved.
Jesus did not teach
this. He taught
one life and then a resurrection, not karma and reincarnation.
did teach a certain
concept of cause and effect. He warned that if we judge others, we
will be judged; if we are merciful, we will obtain mercy; and the
measure we deal out to others will also be dealt back to us. (See
Matthew 5:7; 7:2) Later on, Paul, the apostle, restated this concept
with the words, “Whatever a man sows, that will he also
statements describe a general truth that is somewhat predictable
concerning life and relationships in this world. For instance, if we
show hatred toward others, they will normally respond with hatred
toward us. If we express love toward others, they will usually react
with love toward us. If we bless others selflessly, they will often
bless us in return—and God Himself will often reward us with
outpoured blessings for our generosity. If we drink or do drugs, we
will end up destroying our bodies and minds. If we involve ourselves
in sensuality and immorality, it will destroy family relationships.
If we rebel against God’s laws, we will suffer the
What we sow, we reap.
That’s just the way things work in life.
neither Jesus nor Paul intended to convey the karmic concept that
every action MUST result in an exactly matched counter-action.
Neither did they teach that souls get ‘locked’ into
(the cycle of
of karmic debt. Believing this doctrine leaves no room for
forgiveness coming from God, which was a major emphasis in
teachings. Man instead is required to work out his own destiny by the
strength of his own choices. We will definitely reap from all of our
actions and attitudes in this life, but if
come in this life, it will overflow into the next stage of our
existence—after we stand before the Lord and receive from Him
decree of our eternal destiny.
never taught the use of mantras. Quite the opposite, he warned against
this method, describing the practice as “vain
repetitions.” (See Matthew 6:7) The Bible does encourage us
to confess the promises of God’s Word. It also urges us to
use certain words and phrases in prayer that can sometimes get somewhat
repetitive (like “Praise the Lord” or “Hallelujah”). However, it never
instructs Christians to chant these words or some magical phrases over
and over in a monotone way, in order to manipulate some kind of inner
cosmic power. God is a personal God, to be approached in a personal
way, and these biblical praise words are a means of worshipful
celebration for those who have already established a relationship with
course, Jesus taught that the greatest commandment is to love God with
all the heart, mind, soul and strength. However, to actually do this, a
person must know and correctly define the name and nature of the true
God. Not all names and personalities ascribed to God are correct.
Bhakti Yoga would advocate devotion to any god as being legitimate.
However, if one expresses love and devotion to a god that is actually
non-existent, there is no value to the soul. A deity that is the
product of human imagination is a deity that cannot deliver its
devotees from sin and deception, for the very worship of that deity is
itself sinful and deceptive, a transgression of the first commandment
(“I am the Lord your God…you shall have no other
gods before Me”—Dt. 5:6-7).
believers are encouraged to grow in the knowledge of God and we are taught that
“in Christ” are hidden all the treasures of wisdom
and knowledge. Gaining greater knowledge of
God through prayer (revelation knowledge) and through the study of
God’s Word (intellectual knowledge) does heighten
one’s awareness of God and increase intimacy with God. And
Jesus did explain to His disciples, “This is life eternal,
that they may know You, the only true God, and
Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” (John 17:3) So knowledge is
important—though knowing God is far more important than knowing
The difference is this. Much of what is
promoted in Jnana Yoga
as the “Path of Knowledge” would not be in harmony
Jesus taught. Just learning theories and ideas about God is not
enough; we must learn the truth for it to be effective in our lives.
Just experiencing the supernatural is not enough; we must have an
experience of true Spirit of God. Reading the Scriptures of all world
religions will lead us down a path of theological error (I did this
as a yoga teacher); we must study only what is truly inspired of God,
and only the Bible fits this description. “Knowing”
eastern religions involves an experience of Ultimate Reality as an
impersonal force; “knowing” God in Christianity
establishing a relationship with a personal God (the Everlasting
Father). So the two paths do NOT lead to the same place.
group emphasizes meditation. Well, Christians are taught to
“meditate” on God and on His Word. Biblically, the
word “meditation” simply means a private and
focused time of devotion, which often involves prayerful study of
God’s Word. Many of the meditation practices encouraged in
Raja Yoga are much different that the methods Christians would employ.
Often, yogic meditation is geared toward emptying the mind in order to
experience mystical experiences within higher levels of consciousness.
The Bible never advocates
“emptying” the mind, nor the seeking
mystical experiences. On the contrary, we are commanded to fill our
minds with thoughts of praise and worship toward God. If supernatural
experiences come, that is God’s decision. We don’t
them up with some mechanical esoteric or magical method. These are
never prescribed as a part of the biblical approach to God. The Bible
teaches that a spiritual regeneration is necessary in order to know
God. This can only happen through the soul being cleansed by the
blood Jesus shed on the cross. Any other method aimed at penetrating
a supernatural world will fall short of its goal.
true Christian would EVER be involved in the pursuit of enlightenment
through sexual practices. Quite the contrary, the Bible teaches against
fornication, adultery, incest, homosexuality, lesbianism and any other
aberrant sexual behavior. Sexual involvement is only allowed within the
confines of marriage and is never projected as being a means of
obtaining enlightenment. Any supernatural experience coming from this
method involving partners other than a spouse actually bring a person
into a demonic experience.
Yoga—Jesus never taught his disciples
methods aimed at awakening some inward, latent, coiled energy at the
base of the spine, bringing on enlightenment. Neither did He portray
God as an impersonal cosmic energy that permeates all things, to be
discovered by meditating within. He rather taught an external,
transcendent God who is personal and accessible only through the
atoning death Jesus died on the cross. Jesus said, “No one
comes to the Father but by Me.” (John 14:6 NKJV)
order to enter a relationship with God, again let it be
heart must first be cleansed by the blood of Jesus from all sin. This
takes place when a seeker asks Jesus to come into his heart and be
Lord of his life. The Holy Spirit will then enter that heart from
without, effecting a spiritual regeneration. This is the experience
Jesus referred to as being “born again,” an
different than any experience provided through yogic disciplines.
(See John 3:1-6.) Jesus clearly informed that this experience is
necessary to enter the Kingdom of God. If the Spirit of God has not
yet entered a person from without,
any attempt to awaken some divine presence within
is in vain.
TEACH HIS DISCIPLES YOGA?
not—for what He taught never has and never will integrate
the yogic methods, practices and beliefs taught by the groups listed
above. However, Jesus did teach us how to be in union with God, and
that is the most important discovery to be made in this life. Seek it
with all your heart and you will find a treasure that will enrich you
LIGHT, which gives light to every man coming into