In my late 20s, a good friend invited me to a Power Vinyasa yoga class. It took me a few weeks to agree to go, but I finally went to check it out. The room was packed full of students. It was very hot and humid, and everyone was sitting on a yoga mat with shoes and socks left behind in the other room.
The teacher primarily cued postures and breath, using anatomical and kinesthetic language which was familiar to me. I was a practicing Certified Hand Therapist during that period of my life. I noticed in my very first class that yoga felt very natural for me. I grew up competing in gymnastics and spending my Saturdays walking on my hands, practicing backbends, and doing a variety of forward folds to open up my hamstrings. Everything about yoga seemed to fit my body and seemed to be a perfect form of exercise for me.
I became instantly hooked on yoga and all the benefits I felt in my body. I loved how similar it was to gymnastics, but with low impact on my joints. I loved how it helped reduce my anxiety and seemed to cultivate within me a form of peace and well-being. I began practicing Power Yoga three to five times a week on a regular basis. I bought all the yoga gear: yoga pants, mat, towels, and blocks, and began buying up as many yoga books as I could lay my hands on. I couldn’t get enough of it. I wanted to learn as much as I could about this new fitness regimen I had discovered.
After three years of practicing Power Yoga, I decided to open my own yoga shala (a gathering place for students of yoga). My husband and I agreed on a location and signed the lease. The space was located in a retail shopping center in the city of Jacksonville, Florida, close to lots of restaurants and shops. I knew I wanted this space to be a place of healing and a place where people could experience the presence of God. So, I intentionally prayed and dedicated the space to Jesus before we ever opened our doors.
At that time, I had very little understanding of the philosophical and spiritual roots of yoga. I had heard often from other practitioners that yoga came long before Hinduism, so it was not a religion. I accepted that view. I also believed at that time that yoga was simply a tool or vehicle one could use to get in shape or enhance his/her personal spirituality.
As I began teaching at my shala, I thought it would be important for me to study the yogic texts. By doing so, I could share my thoughts and insights with students from a historical and cultural perspective. If yoga came from India, then I wanted to offer students a deeper knowledge of the roots of the practice of yoga. So, I studied the Sutras by Patanjali, the Bhagavad Gita, and began researching the beginnings of Power Yoga. I began to learn about the foundational practice of Power Yoga called Ashtanga Yoga. I learned that Ashtanga Yoga (and all other yoga systems) were broken down into eight limbs which a practitioner must utilize to achieve what they call “Samadhi” or enlightenment. For a long time, it did not dawn on me that this concept is a complete departure from the biblical revelation of a real relationship with the Creator of heaven and earth.
The First Limb of Yoga: Yamas
The first limb called Yamas are five ethical precepts that Yoga devotees observe to properly relate to the world around them and other people on the planet. These are Ahimsa: non-harm/non-violence, Satya: commitment to truthfulness, Asteya: non-stealing, Brahmacharya: sense control, specifically sexual energy, and finally Aparigraha: non-hoarding or non-covetousness.
These disciplines are very similar to the Mosaic law of the Bible. In the Ten Commandments, God commands, “You shall not murder,” similar to Ahimsa, non-harming. God also commands, “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor,” similar to Satya, the practice of truthfulness. God commands, “You shall not steal,” similar to Asteya, non-stealing. God also commands, “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house, wife, male servant, ox, donkey or anything that’s your neighbor’s,” similar to Aparigraha, non-hoarding/non-covetousness. So, I assumed at the time that there was a strong connection between yogic teachings and biblical truth.
These ethical disciplines appear very familiar to most people. Many religions and philosophies have included such universal truths. The Bible explains where and how it all began in the book of Genesis. Adam and Eve were the very first humans to be created by God. God gave them a beautiful and bountiful place to live called the Garden of Eden. God gave Adam and Eve only one commandment—not to eat of the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. He warned that the day they ate from that tree, they would surely die. Satan tempted Eve by convincing her that God was withholding something good from her that would make her wise, so she partook of the fruit and gave some to Adam.
Immediately, their conscience began to bear witness to what was good and what was evil. Their conscience made them feel guilty and ashamed for disobeying God and they knew what they had done was evil. Romans 1:20 explains:
For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so they are without excuse, because although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts and their foolish hearts were darkened.”
This explains why the various concepts out of the Sutras resonate with some Christians and non-Christians alike because we each have inherited a conscience that was activated when Adam and Eve ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
However, the primary difference I see now is this: the Sutras and the eight-limb path were created by a human being—a man named Patanjali, who lived (according to some sources) between the second and fourth centuries A.D. These Sutras have been used in yoga circles in the East and West to provide ethical standards as part of the yogic path to enlightenment for centuries.
The Ten Commandments, on the other hand, were written by the finger of God in stony tablets about 3,300 years ago, and designed to be a holy standard by which God’s chosen people were to live and be blessed. They were also spoken audibly to all the Israelite people from Mount Sinai.
The Bible gives a rich account of how God’s people unfortunately rejected God’s law and statutes, and went after the lusts and appetites of the flesh. Leaning not on the wisdom of God but on the wisdom of man, God’s people wandered in the wilderness for forty years. God knew man could not uphold His law perfectly and had already put in place a rescue plan that would make a way for human beings to be in right standing with God. A free gift of righteousness that could never be achieved through the law, religion, or any self-disciplines was to be made available through the coming of a Savior.
The Second Limb of Yoga: Niyamas
The second limb in yoga is referred to as the Niyamas. These comprise five ethical standards that help the devotee to become a more devoted seeker. The first is Saucha: cultivating purity internally and externally through various disciplines. The second is Santosha: being content with the present state and appreciation what we have right now while achieving our goals or desires. The third is Tapas: practicing self-discipline, cultivating will-power to avoid the desires of the flesh and focus on the work or goal ahead. The fourth is Svadhyaya: the practice of self-study or taking time to reflect on one’s actions and behaviors. The fifth Niyama is called Ishvara Pranidhana: practicing a state of devotion, surrendering all the fruits of your practice to a higher source, a chosen deity, or the universal consciousness.
This is where the yogic path and the biblical path clearly diverge from one another. The Ten Commandments begin with God’s clear command to have no other gods before Him. God goes on to demand that no image be made in the likeness of heaven or earth and that no one should bow down to worship or serve them (which happens often among yoga devotees). This demonstrates the true God’s desire to reserve all worship and devotion to Himself alone. Patanjali promotes devotion and worship to a higher source but does not clearly state who or what that source is. However, serving the true God—and knowing the right revelation of His identity—is absolutely essential to salvation. Ultimate reality is not an impersonal “universal consciousness”; He is a personal Creator, our heavenly Father.
The third limb of Yoga: Asanas
The third limb in yoga is referred to as Asanas. The word asana in Sanskrit means posture. The physical postures that most of us have heard about or seen on television or in advertising make up this third limb. In the early 70s, the guru of Ashtanga yoga came to America. His name was Sri K. Pattabhi Jois and by his influence, as well as many other gurus, yoga spread from California all the way to the East coast. Western teachers like Beryl Bender Birch, Bryan Kest and Baron Baptiste began to develop a type of Ashtanga yoga that would attract more students in America.
This adapted style was coined as Power Yoga, Vinyasa Yoga or Power Vinyasa Yoga (which was my yoga of choice). Instructors primarily focus on the asanas, proper alignment and techniques, and increasing the intensity of the experience through repetition of movements or very long holds. Some teachers also play music and add external heat to the room to get students to sweat just like they are used to doing in popular group fitness classes. This cutting away of the other limbs created a subtle deception that yoga is only a physical practice similar to Zumba, Pilates, Step, or popular HIIT classes. All or most of the other limbs of yoga have been deemphasized, removed, or re-packaged into something that looks more appealing to both non-religious and faith-based students.
In the original Eight Limb Path of Yoga, the asanas were not an end in themselves; they were primarily designed to prepare the practitioner for meditation. It had little to do with getting in shape to improve health or well-being. Asanas were and are supposed to be performed before any meditative practice to help prepare students to sit comfortably for long periods of time without the distraction of bodily discomforts or pain.
The primary asana for meditation is the Lotus pose or in Sanskrit Padmasana. Many of the asanas in Ashtanga yoga and other yogic disciplines are named after specific Hindu deities and are acts of worship toward them. For instance, Surya Namascar (the Sun Salutation) pays tribute to the Hindu Sun god Surya. Other poses pay homage to specific Hindu sages. As I went deeper in yoga, I began to realize that all of the asanas have a spiritual connection and meaning. They are not just physical expressions. When I learned these things, I should have been alarmed, but instead, I continued on my path, undeterred for a season.
The Fourth Limb of Yoga: Pranayama
The fourth limb of yoga is called Pranayama. Prana is a Sanskrit word meaning breath, life force, or vital principle. Yama is translated to mean restraint. So, pranayama is the discipline of breath control. There are several different breathing techniques utilized with the intention of moving the life force through the body and the energetic pathways. Often breath retention exercises include physical locks to seal the prana in specific regions of the body. Some locks are performed during asana practice like udhiyana bandha (the abdominal lock). Yogis believe the body has a complex network of energy channels called nadis that are connected to seven energy centers called chakras. The word chakras means wheels, supposedly a reference to wheels of energy that begin at the base of the spine and move up to the crown of the head. These chakras are allegedly located along the shushuma nadi which relates to the spinal cord. It should be noted that these nadis and chakras have never been proven to exist scientifically.
The Bible states in Genesis 2:7, “And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living being.” The source of life as revealed in the Bible is clearly God. There is no mention of these energy centers in the Bible or the need to manipulate the breath to reach higher consciousness or enter a relationship with the Almighty God. Furthermore, when Adam fell, though he retained natural breath (gaseous vapors that fill the atmosphere flowing in and out of the lungs), he apparently lost the spiritual aspect of breath, which contains the presence of God.
This supernatural divine breath was reinstated by the resurrected Messiah when He breathed on His disciples in the upper room and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit”—something He imparts to all true believers (John 20:22). Therefore, the yogic practice of pranayama is incapable of increasing or enhancing true spirituality, because only natural breath is being inhaled.
The Fifth Limb of Yoga: Pratyahara
The fifth limb of yoga is Pratyahara which, in essence, means sense withdrawal. The goal is to reduce sensory input by closing one’s eyes, sitting in a quiet space, letting go of fidgeting, and eliminating or reducing all sensory input to reduce distractions.
In many passages of the Bible, prophets like Daniel, Elijah, and the New Testament Messiah Himself, would withdraw from the crowds, and go to a quiet space to pray. The quiet space was a place to enter the presence of God and commune with Him. So, quieting the mind is, of itself, not wrong. Being focused on prayer without distraction is a good thing.
Pratyahara is a discipline used in Hinduism to train the mind in preparation for meditation. However, practicing it does not give anyone access into the presence of God. Only the cleansing of the soul by the blood of Jesus can grant that privilege and blessing (see Hebrews 10:19). Moreover, the practice of Pratyahara is not necessary for encounters with God to take place. There are many instances in the Bible when people heard from God as they were going about their work or even during sleep. God met Adam and Eve every evening, in the cool of the day, to talk and fellowship with them. Abraham was sitting in front of his tent. Moses was walking by a bush. Samuel was asleep when he heard the voice of God. Saul (later to be known as Paul) was traveling down a road to Damascus to persecute those who called on the name of Jesus when Jesus appeared to him.
A sovereign God can speak to us whenever He chooses. Nowhere in God’s Word does He require us to withdraw from our senses to find Him. Quite the opposite, we are commanded to enter His presence with thanksgiving and praise (Psalm 100).
The Sixth Limb of Yoga: Dharana
The sixth limb of yoga is Dharana, which is the practice of focusing the mind. Yogis use different techniques to laser their focus on one thing. Candle flame gazing, repetition of a mantra, and rolling mala beads between the fingers, can all be used to assist concentration. Jesus significantly refutes this kind of approach in Mathew 6:7-8, insisting:
“But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking. Therefore, do not be like them.”
God makes it clear that he wants a personal relationship with His followers not a rote and sterile religious exercise.
The Seventh Limb: Dhyana
The seventh limb is Dhyana, which is meditative absorption. In this state, you are ready to face your supposed true self without distractions from the five senses. This step requires serious levels of focus and concentration according to most yoga gurus.
The Bible differs greatly on how to meditate. Philippians 4:8 states,” Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable if anything is excellent or praiseworthy- meditate on such things.” The Bible also states in Romans 12:2 “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.”
God’s prescription for health is written in Proverbs 4:20-23, “My son, attend to my words; incline thine ear unto my sayings. Let them not depart from thine eyes; keep them in the midst of thine heart. For they are life unto those that find them; and health to all their flesh.” God’s form of meditation is to prayerfully ponder and meditate on His Word. He promises that doing so will result in wholeness for us, physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually.
The Eight Limb: Samadhi
The final, eighth limb is called Samadhi which means enlightenment (or total self-connectedness). This is conceptualized as a spiritual state in which there is no distinction between the individual self (atman) and the Higher Self (God / Brahman). In other words, yoga devotees believe they achieve God-consciousness: a conscious realization that they are manifestations of God (one of the greatest deceptions promoted in the study of yoga).
This concept of enlightenment never set with me. I remember one of my students, who was a Buddhist, telling me that I had a dualist philosophy and needed to embrace non-dualism. According to the concept of Samadhi, once practitioners of yoga move through the other seven limbs and clear away every distraction, both outward then inward, remove all the impurities and false concepts from the mind, then they can achieve this serene place of recognizing their own divinity: the idea is that we have always been divine god-like beings and have never been separated from God. We just need a spiritual “awakening.”
The Bible teaches a stark contrast to this concept. Genesis reveals God as the Creator of all things in heaven and earth. God did not even create man until the sixth day. He made sure all that man needed on the earth to live an abundant life was already created for him to enjoy and that it would multiply.
I believe the enemy (Satan and his demonic underlings) is at work in this yogic belief system, trying to deceive practitioners into thinking they are God and that they just don’t realize it, because of all the blockages in the body and mind. This is an attractive, but dangerous deception. It’s the same temptation Satan presented to Eve in the garden of Eden in the book of Genesis. As I already mentioned, Satan tempted Eve to believe that God was withholding from her something that would be good and beneficial. If she ate the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, she could become just like God. Satan convinced this mother of the human race that this would happen if she disobeyed God and ate the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and gave some to Adam who also ate. As a result, the fall of humanity took place.
In a similar deception, the Sutras also try to get practitioners to believe they can become holy and enlightened through their own efforts and disciplines without leaning on the Lordship of Christ. Quite the contrary, we must cling to what Jesus’ accomplished through His death, burial, resurrection, and claim His promise to indwell the hearts of those who yield to Him (see John 17).
These revelations have come to me mostly in the past few months as the Lord has unveiled them to me (as of September, 2023). I began to realize that yoga’s goal was much deeper than getting in shape or improving one’s health and well-being. I still thought in my naivety that because I knew Jesus was the way to the Higher Power (God the Father), I could still glean beneficial outcomes from yoga and that it would help remove distractions for me to connect deeper to God.
After about three years into my role as a teacher, I began instructing my students in a more traditional form of Ashtanga yoga. I even began reciting the invocation and closing prayers during classes and naming the poses in Sanskrit. I really thought I was just giving students a richer yoga experience. It didn’t occur to me that I was opening a door to the enemy to infiltrate their hearts and minds. I didn’t notice that my own heart was being pulled slowly away from Christ as it was drawn more deeply into the things of yoga.
Over the next few years, I received a lot of positive feedback from my classes which always fueled me to continue this work. I started up a yoga school and began training students to become yoga teachers. To get certified through Yoga Alliance we had to include a specific number of hours on yoga philosophy. So, I continued to teach and study the Sutras, and other yogic texts. We also brought in popular Western Ashtanga teachers like Tim Feldman, Greg Nardi, Doug Swenson, and David Keil to teach weekend workshops and trainings.
I was feeling great and excited about the community we had created at the shala. I really thought I had found my calling in life. That was the case until we received the worst news of our lives: the news that would change our family and our whole way of life.
Our son, Gage, had been struggling to communicate at the age of 2.5. At age 3, he began flapping his arms and spinning all the plastic plates in the house. As a former occupational therapist, I knew this looked like Autism and I began seeing my greatest fears emerge before my eyes.
I was so heartbroken for my baby. How could this happen to our sweet, wonderful son? I felt every emotion—sadness, and anger, but fear really set in. Then, a massive desire to find a cure became my mission. After much research, we found a home-based therapy program for Gage called Son Rise that really appealed to me. It focused on fostering connection through love and acceptance. Joining your child and his/her stimming behaviors in order to build a bridge into your world was the main concept. I deeply wanted our son to be connected to us. I did not want to lose him in the fog of Autism.
With great sadness, I decided to close my yoga shala after growing it for almost eight years. I couldn’t see how I could do both well at the same time. I went to work for the next six-and-a-half years on a mission to get my son healed from this terrible disorder that was stealing his voice. I cannot write in this testimony how many therapies we did because the list would be much too long. Suffice it to say we spent over $100,000.00 trying to find a cure for our baby.
Exhausted and totally hopeless, I finally came to the end of myself. I told God I was done trying to heal Gage. If this is how He made him, then I would accept Autism and move on.
A few weeks after I surrendered all my efforts to heal Gage, God showed up in a dream. The Lord gave me a beautiful vision of Gage and me walking up the last few steps to the peak of a mountain. As we got to the top, I knew we had climbed the mountain of Autism. I looked down at my feet and heard the Lord say, “I have placed Autism under your feet.” I grabbed my son’s hand and lifted it high and shouted, “Gage We did it! God has placed Autism under our feet!!!” I woke up so ecstatic. I knew for the very first time that God intended to heal my son. God breathed life back into my heart and refueled my hope that had died.
Before I received the vision, I had lost all hope, thinking God could heal Gage if He wanted, but I didn’t know that He was willing. I asked the Lord to show me how to believe in healing. He sent me to Andrew Wommack Ministries where I began to learn that it is always God’s will to heal because it is our inheritance when we receive Christ. It’s part of our salvation package. (See Psalm 103:2-3, Mathew 8:16, 1 Peter 2:24.)
For the past five years, I have been seeking the Lord with my whole heart. I even began asking God to use all my yoga training for His glory. I believed God would help me find a way to teach Christian yoga. I thought this would be how God would use me.
I got connected about two years ago with a lady who offers Christian yoga online. I thought for sure this was God answering my prayers. I created some content for her platform that included a series called “Healthy and Whole in Christ” and a pre-natal yoga series to teach mothers how to declare God’s Word over their babies. I was excited about the opportunity to teach faith-based yoga. Pointing people to Jesus through yoga seemed to be where God was leading me. Once again, I thought this was the call on my life that God had for me. But a few months ago, everything changed.
I was reading through the Old Testament about King Solomon. It grieved my heart to see that even King Solomon, with all the wisdom, fame, honor, and riches God bestowed upon him, was drawn away from the true God to the idols of his Canaanite wives. That really upset me, because Solomon had everything this life could offer through the grace of God, yet his heart was drawn into darkness because of a mixture of false religious beliefs.
It was around that time that my mom invited me to see the movie, “Come Out in Jesus’ Name.” It was a film about Christians who needed deliverance because they had often unwittingly opened a door to the enemy. After the movie, I felt very convicted about yoga. I got in my car to be alone in prayer, and I asked the Lord if this was something He wanted me to lay down. If that was the case, I petitioned the Holy Spirit to give me a scripture for confirmation. The Holy Spirit dropped in my mind “Hosea 4:6.” I had to look it up on my Bible app. In that verse, God states, “My people perish for lack of knowledge.” I knew this was a word from above.
Then the Holy Spirit brought to my remembrance that I had laid down yoga for my son when I closed my shala. I heard the Father say, “Sara, you laid yoga down for your son. Will you now lay it down for Mine?” Tears rushed down my face as I repented and thanked God for showing me His will. I immediately contacted my employers and gave them my notice. I stopped practicing and teaching yoga from that point on, because I had clearly heard from God.
God has shown me since then that yoga was an open door to demonic influence for me. It was an access point in which evil spirits had a legal right to come in and “steal, kill, and destroy,” both me and my family (John 10:10).
The word “yoga” means to yoke. However, the god a yoga devotee yokes with is not the true God and Savior of the world. Jesus wants us to take up His yoke which is light. His righteousness is a free gift that we cannot earn through self-discipline or self-efforts. He does not want us to carry any yokes of bondage, including false methods of trying to penetrate the supernatural world.
The physical practice of yoga, which comprises the third limb of Patanjali’s path to enlightenment, is only one rung of a much more complex spiritual discipline. Yoga, at its essence, is trying to create a different way or door to God. Jesus made it very clear in John 10:9 that there is only one door. He said, “I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture.” Jesus also unequivocally stated in John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” The eternal Savior and Redeemer revealed in this verse that He is the only way to God, the only way to heaven.
Yoga teachers often say there are many trees but the same forest, or many paths but one destination. Jesus completely refutes this concept by stating emphatically that He is the only way.
I believe now that practicing stretching, meditation, and breathing techniques under the umbrella of yoga are not just benign practices; they are open doors into deception perpetrated by the enemy of our souls, because it tries to create a different way to access God and will only draw us further and further away from Jesus Christ. Remember, the Bible warns that “Satan transforms himself into an angel of light” (2 Corinthians 11:14).
God knows how to protect us from the prince of darkness and the evil spirits that serve under him if we have ears to hear and if we are willing to listen and obey His voice. He has our very best interests at heart and would never withhold any good thing from us. I do not know what tomorrow holds, but I know God’s plan is to give me hope and a secure future. I have already seen miracle after miracle these past five years with our son’s healing journey to know that God’s way is the best way!
I am so thankful for the leadership of the Holy Spirit who promises to guide us into all truth. I know now that my God loves and watches out for me, and I can fully place my trust in Him. I know and believe that Jesus is the only way to God. God loves each of us so much that He sent His Son Jesus to die on the cross in our place so that anyone who believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. (See John 3:16.) This eternal life is knowing God intimately as a bride knows her husband, yet in a much higher spiritual sense.
The more we seek Him, the closer we can draw near to Him. We will fully know Him once Jesus returns to earth, but we can know Him progressively, deeper and deeper, as we follow His Word, are filled with His Spirit, and become sensitive to His still small voice. None of us need the “eight limbs of yoga” to achieve oneness with God; we simply need to yield to the One who said:
“I am the true vine . . . you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.” (John 15:1,5)
God wants to fellowship with us and be close to each of us individually, but that can only happen through Jesus. Only Jesus died on a cross for the sins of the human race and only Jesus rose again victoriously, conquering death. Only Jesus sent the Holy Spirit from heaven to draw us back to the heart of the Father. If you are involved in yoga, I pray that you will realize it is not of God and you will leave it behind. I also pray that you will fervently pursue Jesus. It will be your greatest adventure and bring the greatest fulfillment you have ever known.
You may contact Sara Torbett by leaving a comment here or by emailing her at: firstname.lastname@example.org