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Mike Shreve was a teacher of yoga at four universities. (The portrait above was drawn by one of his students in 1970.) Then a spiritual rebirth brought him into a real relationship with God and drastically changed his heart, his life and his belief system.  Read his story here.

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Site Completed–10/15/01
Major Revision—5/28/03
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Mike Shreve.
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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 people will insist that I am wrong. Any argument offered would surely include the following information. The word “yoga” means yoke or union and the implied meaning is to be yoked with God or in union with God. “Certainly Jesus taught that we should be yoked with 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 schools of yoga, such as:

  1. Hatha Yoga—the path of physical disciplines (asanas) and breath control (pranayama).

  2. Karma Yoga—the path of action: good works or selfless service.

  3. Mantra Yoga—the path of chanting mantras.

  4. Bhakti Yoga—the path of devotion to God, a god or an individual guru or avatar.

  5. Jnana Yoga—the path of transcendental knowledge.

  6. Raja Yoga—the royal path of meditation and mind control.

  7. Tantric Yoga—the use of esoteric methods to obtain supernatural experiences, sometimes the harnessing of power through a sexual union with multiple partners.

  8. Kundalini 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 incorporate 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 four 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 here.)

As a yoga teacher I often proposed to my students that Jesus was just another yogi—for He definitely taught 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 11:28-30 MKJV)

When Jesus said, “Take My yoke on you” in essence, He was saying, “Come into union with 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. This is the primary goal of yoga and it was the primary theme of Jesus’ message—so what’s the difference?

Oneness with 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. Does the 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 identities—and so it is with the heavenly Bridegroom and His earthly bride (the church).

The philosophy 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:

  1. Hatha Yoga—Jesus 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.

  1. Karma Yoga—This 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) from physical existence is achieved.

Jesus did not teach this. He taught one life and then a resurrection, not karma and reincarnation. However, He 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 reap.” (Galatians 6:7)

These 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 consequences. What we sow, we reap. That’s just the way things work in life.

However, 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 samsara (the cycle of rebirths) because of karmic debt. Believing this doctrine leaves no room for forgiveness coming from God, which was a major emphasis in Jesus’ 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 “payment” doesn’t come in this life, it will overflow into the next stage of our existence—after we stand before the Lord and receive from Him the decree of our eternal destiny.

  1. Mantra Yoga—Jesus 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 Him.

  1. Bhakti Yoga—Of 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).

  1. Jnana Yoga—Bible 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 about God.

The difference is this. Much of what is promoted in Jnana Yoga as the “Path of Knowledge” would not be in harmony with what 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” God in eastern religions involves an experience of Ultimate Reality as an impersonal force; “knowing” God in Christianity means establishing a relationship with a personal God (the Everlasting Father). So the two paths do NOT lead to the same place.

  1. Raja Yoga—This 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 “conjure” 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.

  1. Tantric Yoga—No 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.

  1. Kundalini YogaJesus 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)

In order to enter a relationship with God, again let it be said—the 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 experience far 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.


He certainly did not—for what He taught never has and never will integrate with all 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 forever:

“…THE TRUE LIGHT, which gives light to every man coming into the world.” (John 1:9)


"In Search of the True Light" ©2002 copyright by Mike Shreve.
All articles unless otherwise noted are copyright by Mike Shreve.
Personal Stories are the work of the individuals.
All Rights Reserved.

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