Monday, March 10, 2014

Thoughts on Al Mohler's Post on Yoga?

I've informally asked around for comments on Albert Mohler's post on Yoga (link to post). My own impression of his post was that it seems to be mostly derived from the teachings of one book, as opposed to being based on his own more detailed study of the subject. Is anyone aware of any scholarly responses to Stefanie Syman's book, The Subtle Body: The Story of Yoga in America? Or - I suppose - even some well-written or well-thought-out responses that say more than just "yoga is exercise, exercise is fine, stop worrying"?



Anonymous said...

Lighthouse trails research team has some great articles about yoga. Below is one of their links to a booklet written by pastor Chris Lawson who did a good amount of research (includes endnotes).

c.t. said...

This is a suggestion from another angel, but P. D. Ouspensky wrote an essay titled What is Yoga? in 1913 and included it in his book A New Model of the Universe. It's out of copyright. Here's a pdf of the book:

Type in page 251 to go to where What is Yoga? is.

The essay is valuable because it's not written in a modern context. So you can read it knowing this is pre-Eastern yoga, mediation, etc. craze that started whenever (1960s?), and for that reason you can get knowledge of the subject that isn't tainted by or reacting to the modern context.

Here are the subjects of the essay:

What does the word Yoga mean?
Man according to the teaching of yoga.
Theoretical and practical parts of yoga.
The five systems of yoga.
(each system if described with its unique subject matter)
Common source of all systems of yoga.

This essay is not general known or read by teachers of yoga today. (My brother is one such person.)

Rick Mang said...

To me, if yoga were just exercise, then it would be called exercise and not yoga. If that seems simplistic, let me explain. Yoga, like Tai Chi, Aikido, Qigong, Reiki and others, is about cultivating what's called "Life Force". This Life Force goes by many names (mana, prana, chi, ki and others), and it is indispensible to achieving any benefit from these disciplines. This "Life Force" is instrumental in achieving health (with a view to attaining immortality as the Chinese immortals), supernormal powers such as telekinesis, prognostication, superhuman feats of strength and so forth. An intersting and informative book on this is called "Breaking through the barriers of darkness: recognizing the cult of Qigong for what it is".

Even if you become involved in these disciplines for exercise, you will eventually come into contact with others who practice them authentically and they will either convert you to their understanding, or dismiss you as a fraud.

Rick Mang

Rick Mang said...

Having posted previously, I would also like to say that to simply call yoga exercise, is like saying that Mormons are Christian because they believe in Jesus.

Rick Mang

c.t. said...

Doing things to be more awake and access powers, abilities, features of our inner being that are dormant at best now is potentially very real. I mean, it's very possible to extend our limits and increase out level of being in real ways.

What I always say to people in such environments, though, is: You don't want to be the most awake person in hell.

Usually a stated goal of such schools and exercises is to increase consciousness, understanding, and will (usually spoken of as something like real will, as opposed to self-will). Obviously such a goal leaves one short of salvation.

The Creator/creation divide, the biblical anthropology of human beings (our sin nature, fallen state) and the solution to it, seeing our state as children of wrath from birth, all these things are typically (and obviously) missing from such teachings.

At best such teachings need to be seen as *method* rather than *doctrine.* As method they can be incorporated into the progressive sanctification and spiritual warfare aspects of Christianity. I.e. only on a *foundation* of faith and repentance in the only Mediator and Savior, the Lord and King Jesus Christ, and hence only on the foundation of justification and definitive sanctification and adoption can such school knowledge and practices be worth anything.

Even then the chaff will have to be discerned and thrown out.

But a knee jerk response from the Christian side that such extra-biblical knowledge (sometimes not so extra biblical if one pays close attention to Jesus' teachings throughout the Gospels, i.e. be awake and love your enemy have much deeper application than most Christians leaders and educators have ever known or thought about), again, a knee jerk response from the Christian side that such extra-biblical knowledge and practice is by default evil or silly or wacky or mystical or - look out - gnostic (that all purpose bad word that rarely is used accurately) or dangerous, or what have you is shallow itself.

The truth is most people don't seek such practical teachings, can't discern them even if they are right in front of their nose, don't value them, aren't interested. So be it. Some people, maybe only a few, do get interested and do feel a need to go further (the Dutch Further Reformation was in this direction) which always is in the direction of the practical, where the rubber meets the road type of knowledge and practical and goals.

Having said this, yoga as it's known in the thousands of strip malls across America is not what I'm talking about. That tends to come with very shallow New Age-y beliefs and political-correctness and anything of a practical nature having to do with inner being is usually "feel the spirit of the sunrise course through you" level material. Feel the force of the universe. Breathe in love, breathe out love. Etc. We are light, we are holy, Mother Nature, blah, blah, blah.

David Brainerd said...

Here are my thoughts. Bodily excercise and religious people that condemn it

The Captain said...

I've always been surprised that people find it so hard to believe there could be an immaterial energy that animates the universe or even just human beings. We don't even come close to understanding it, but why conclude that it must be evil or somehow demonic? It doesn't make any sense.

Anonymous said...

Read "The Light on Yoga" or ask a Hindu. Yoga is worship.