By Clete Hux –
Yoga: Physical exercise or religious spirituality? Legal or illegal? Those are some questions that the State Senate Committee needs to consider with regards to practicing or not practicing yoga in Alabama schools K-12. The Alabama Administrative Code (AAC), Rule 290-040-040-.2 that bans the practice of yoga and meditation in its public school system has been in place for over twenty-seven years. It was for good reason this was passed due to the intrinsic and inseparable relationship of yoga and Hinduism. In addition there is the issue of the establishment clause of religion in the First Amendment.
One thing I learned in researching into various educational curricula over the last few decades is how subtly the religious practices including yoga and meditation were introduced. For example, Marilyn Ferguson, author of The Aquarian Conspiracy and a pioneer of infiltrating New Age philosophy and practices into education said over thirty years ago that in order to have a new society, you have to change the education of the younger generation. She stated that in surveying the Aquarian Conspirators, more were shown to be involved in education than any other work. Indeed, she admitted that “subtle forces were at work, forces that are not likely to be seen in banner headlines” that would promote the New Age philosophy in education.
Another among many examples of such subtlety was back in 1986, by New Age leader and activist Dick Sutphen, stating, “One of the biggest advantages we have as New Agers is, once the occult, metaphysical and New Age terminology is removed, we have concepts and techniques that are very acceptable to the general public. So we can change the names and demonstrate the power. In so doing, we can open the door to millions who normally would not be receptive.”
These subtleties have been making their way into this issue of education mostly because people do not understand Eastern mystical beliefs and practices, i.e., yoga and meditation. This is more so when original meaning is shifted to a replacement meaning in disguise.
Knowingly or unknowingly, the proponents of a new bill to allow yoga are doing the same thing by trying to distance the practice of yoga away from its religious origin, attempting to redefine it with a secular basis, again devoid of its true meaning. The question should be asked, “What gives us the right to that”? Just wanting a different meaning is not a legitimate reason. Intent does not change meaning.
While consciously trying to relegate yoga to just the physical, he unconsciously proved by his words that it cannot be separated from its religious meditative practices which involve the controlled breathing and stretching that Gray speaks of. These are also known as progressive relaxation techniques which the “in place” bill prohibits because of meditation’s dissociative nature.
Also, there are those who want to Christianize yoga. Dr. Candy Gunther Brown, in an article for Psychology Today, talks about a Christian and former yoga instructor who makes the argument that simply relabeling yoga as Christian fails to make it so because “authorship implies ownership”, and “ownership implies right of possession and control.” Yoga is “not just a human invention” but “coauthored” with the “spirit realm.”
She further pointed out that no matter what Christians call yoga postures, they are a “moving liturgy, an embodied form of worship, a physical offering to the Hindu gods” who are “attracted to the offering.” By analogy, the owners of a “stolen Lexus” won’t be fooled” if a “thief removes the license plate.” Likewise, the “Hindu spirits” who own yoga retain the “title deed, so to speak. They’ll get back in the vehicle while you’re driving it.”
It has become a fad in America to reduce yoga to what “pop” culture wants. This is exactly what is happening today with Hatha yoga, based on bodily postures (asanas), breathing techniques (pranayama), and meditation (dyana).
Swami Param, president of the Classical Yoga Hindu Academy in Barnegat, N.J., accuses proponents of NAY, his term for “New Age Yoga,” of theft saying, “stealing from an existing religion (and/or culture), then denying it and profiting from it is the M.O. of the usurper.” For our better understanding he states, “Imagine treating Baptism and Communion as an Underwater Therapy and Wine Tasting business! Envision a Fitness Rabbi, Diet Pope and Gaming Imam! Picture Hot Baptism (at your local gym), Power Mass and Gentle Genuflecting! How about a 200 hour Certified Communion Teacher greeting students with Hallelujah and denying any Christian connection? How about marketing Baptism pants to display one’s physical accomplishments! As ridiculous as it seems, this is exactly how callous, absurd and insulting is the NAY crusade.”
He says the asanas represent a specifically Hindu worldview and the word Hatha refers not only to nature worship (moon; sun:tha) but also to the Hindu deities Siva, Vishnu (Hara:Hari). In light of this, school administrators and politicians need to understand the religious teachings of Hinduism concerning the practice of yoga. If they understood that they may be subjecting students to possible spiritual danger they may think it best not to allow yoga to be taught in schools.
Hinduism teaches that there exists in all forms of yoga something known as Kundalini energy and is, as Hans Rieker puts it, “…the mainstay of all yoga practices.” Taken from kundal (coiled up), kundalini refers to the Hindu belief that a “serpent power” lies coiled up at the base of the spine. It is revered as a goddess who begins to evolve. Starting at the lowest chakra, she is aroused through yoga practice and travels up through the other chakras, finally reaching the crown. In Tantric Yoga, which is more sexual than other forms of yoga, Kundalini is a part of Shakti, the divine female energy and consort of Shiva (male deity).
There are a number of websites alerting people about the dangerous exposure to the demonic spiritual realm that exists in yoga. One website actually quotes the non-Christian renowned psychoanalyst Carl Jung in his warning about yoga:
“One often hears and reads about the dangers of Yoga, particularly of the ill-reputed Kundalini Yoga. The deliberately induced psychotic state, with certain unstable individuals might easily lead to a real psychosis, is a danger that needs to be taken very seriously indeed. These things really are dangerous and ought not be meddled with in our typical Western way. It is a meddling with Fate, which strikes at the very roots of human existence and can let loose a flood of sufferings of which no sane person ever dreamed. These sufferings correspond to the hellish torments of the chonyid state…” (see www.yogadangers.com).
I cannot believe that any politician, administrator, or any school authority, if they really understood the implications of allowing yoga, would want to open such a “pandora’s box.” Why choose yoga when there are hundreds if not thousands of other exercise programs that are available? It is not wise to promote a practice that is an inherently religious and spiritual by relabeling it. We must remember that intent does not change meaning. Regardless of intention, there is no yoga without Hinduism and there is no Hinduism without yoga.
I agree with the Swami that divorcing any aspect of yoga from its Hindu roots is dishonest and a grave insult to a world religion and its adherents. I also agree with him when he says, “If one wants to learn Hinduism/Yoga (and perhaps become a Hindu), do that. If one wants to stretch and relax, be thoughtful and considerate, but don’t call it yoga.”
Clete Hux is the Director of the Apologetics Resource Center located in Birmingham, Al. He is a Teaching Elder in the PCA ( Presbyterian Church in America ) and on the Teaching Faculty of the Birmingham Theological Seminary where he teaches Comparative Religions, Christianity and Competing Worldviews, and other related Apologetic courses.