There are hidden dangers associated with yoga and meditation, not the least of which is that one of its main aims is to create a passiveness of mind which can easily cause a person to unknowingly become vulnerable to spiritual manipulation in various forms.
When one looks at the facts and the statistics, there is no doubt that there are many reasons that yoga – and meditation which is so often associated with yoga – are potentially harmful.
Just how popular is yoga these days? The statistics are staggering…
Worldwide, yoga is estimated to be a 30 billion dollar business encompassing almost every aspect of life. According to Google, in 2002, there were approximately 1.2 million web pages carrying the term yoga and ten years later, that has increased to 85 million. Today, a search for yoga on Amazon.com returns more than 96,000 results, with 23,000 in the books, CDs and DVDs categories. The remaining 73,000 results cover no less than 34 categories including 260 in the Pets category, more than 4,750 in Homes and Kitchens, around 2,000 in jewellery, 200 in Toys, 200 in Office, and 400 in Automotive.
It is estimated that 15 million Americans practise yoga. The Los Angeles Times estimates that there are more than 70 yoga studios in Southern California alone, with some of the bigger ones pulling in as much as $30,000 a week. The largest yoga residential retreat centre in the US, The Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health in Lenox, Massachusetts draws close to 20,000 guests a year, for an annual gross of about $10 million. The popular Jivamukti Yoga Center in Manhattan offers at least 108 classes a week, with an average of 60 students packed into every class.
“Yoga studios may be as ubiquitous as Starbucks in our country, and worldwide, yoga is getting as popular as Coca-Cola!”
“As part of a pledge to donate $1 million of yoga each year to non-profit organizations, YogaFit, the leader in Mind/Body Fitness education has partnered with Chicago-based Aparecio Foundation, a mentoring program for young, underserved women as well as over 100 nonprofits in the US & Canada. Yogafit is a $5 million company. YogaFit has trained and certified over 200,000 yoga instructors on six continents and is the largest yoga school in the world, and will be donating yoga mats to Aparecio’s program. YogaFit donated 1 million dollars in yoga supplies and free yoga instruction in 2011.”
The following was posted on Yoga Business Academy site over a year ago:
- A whopping $6 billion was spent solely on yoga products last year (that is 2010)
- One in 10 Americans now practice yoga
- The percentage of people that practice Yoga increases on an average of 20-25% every year.
- Yoga is becoming mainstream in the corporate world.
- Companies looking to associate their products or services with a wellness lifestyle will turn to yoga imagery (think Worldly-Wise by Morgan Stanley). A sexy yogini sipping a glass of wine while sitting in lotus position on the hood of a car is not out of the question if it helps sell a car.
- Asia will be a major growth market for yoga.
- New training — with overall growth of the wellness industry, new training programs to support practitioners in demand, including advanced professional development and business training.
- Insurance companies are already paying for yoga
- Yoga will be prescribed by the doctor
- Yoga’s growth is part of a bigger wellness trend. Those companies that want to capitalize off the trend will add services such as nutritional programs, exercise routines, spa services and wellness consultations in conjunction to yoga offerings.
- Conclusion: Yoga as a business is a HUGE market, what’s your take?
Is the bustling business of yoga—a practice rooted in renunciation and greedlessness—good karma?
According to a May article in U.S. News & World Report, about 18 million Americans now practice yoga. The average practitioner’s yearly expenditure on all things yoga-instruction, mats, props, clothing, weekend workshops, books, CDs, videos-could be conservatively estimated at a ballpark $1,500. That amount times 18 million equals $27 billion. To put this into perspective, if the yoga business were consolidated, the resulting corporation (Yoga-Mart?) would be slightly larger than Dow Chemical, slightly smaller than Microsoft. That’s big. And it’s getting bigger. Mainstream retailers like J.Crew and Puma have been selling their own lines of yoga gear for some time now, and Nike is introducing its first yoga shoe (the Kyoto, $55 retail) in November. (Russell Wild)
Some people, granted, not many, are getting rich off yoga. One executive, whose company is one of the largest sellers of yoga paraphernalia, makes a quarter-million a year in salary. That’s in addition to this manager’s stock options, which over the last several years have totaled $1.4 million. When asked to comment on such good fortune, this executive responded testily: “To take this [discussion] into my salary is to trivialize what we do here. I feel compromised by your asking me that question. People are expected to make a living. And besides, you have no clue what I do with my worldly goods – what, for instance, I give to charity. I’m very upset with you.”
A touch of soul-scraping ambivalence? If so, our executive is far from alone. Throughout the yoga community, people are wondering whether the bustling business of yoga is good karma. Is it OK to make big money off a practice that has its roots in renunciation and asceticism? Is the commercialization of yoga distorting its very essence? And what’s next for the yoga biz, now that we’ve already seen the marketing of yogatards, yoga shoes, yogi pillows (stuffed with buckwheat hulls), the $1,200 “Tantric Bedroom Set” (for adults only), and a battery-operated, inflatable “Chi Machine”?
What are the dangers?
One of the major dangers must be the way that yoga is so readily connected with so many not so healthy ‘New Age’ beliefs. Is yoga really all that bad?
Throughout her childhood, Laurette Willis’ family regularly attended church. “If someone had asked us, we would have said we were Christians,” she says. “But we never heard the message of salvation at our church.” Lacking knowledge about the Christian faith, Laurette’s mom found herself drawn to New Age practices, and began reading books by Nostradamus and Edgar Cayce (both claimed to have psychic abilities) and taking Laurette to an ashram, a Hindu yoga retreat.
As an adult, Laurette immersed herself in every New Age and metaphysical practice she came across: chanting, crystals, tarot cards, psychics, channeling spirits. “I tried everything—Kabbalah, Universalism, Taoism, Zoroastrianism —because I was spiritually hungry,” Laurette says. “I call the New Age movement ‘Burger King’ because it’s like the fast-food restaurant’s motto: ‘Have it your way.’ That’s what the New Age movement tries to do, to achieve God on its terms.”
There was one thing Laurette wasn’t remotely interested in pursuing: Christianity. “I thought Christians just wanted to give me a bunch of rules and dogma,” she says. “I didn’t know they were speaking about a relationship with Jesus.”
But in Laurette’s quest to find herself, she only found a deepening sense of loneliness. “God will use whatever it takes to bring you to your knees,” she says. “I’d made a mess of my life. I was an alcoholic. I’d been promiscuous. I tried every form of religion, never coming to any knowledge of the truth.”
One day in 1987, a thought popped into Laurette’s head: What if everything I thought about God was completely wrong? Two days later, she fell to her knees. “I didn’t know anything about the Bible or Jesus. I just cried out to God from the depths of my soul, ‘I give up! You win! If you can do something with my life, you can have it.’ “As Laurette asked God to take control of her life, she felt a physical weight lift from her body.
“I learned much later that the weight was sin,” she says. “I hadn’t realized sin was real. New Agers think the word ‘sin’ is an acronym for ‘self-inflicted nonsense.’ That’s the deception of the Enemy, because if there’s no sin, then you don’t need a Savior.”
She remembers the change at the moment she accepted Christ: “I felt peace descend upon me for the first time in my life.”
After giving her life to God, Laurette began devouring the Bible. She burned her New Age books and disengaged from everything associated with her turbulent past—including yoga.
The Problem with Yoga
The goal of all yoga, Laurette explains, is to obtain oneness with ‘the universe’. That’s also known as the process of enlightenment, or union with Brahman (Hinduism’s highest god). The word ‘yoga’ means ‘connect’, ‘union’, ‘attach’, ‘to yoke’ or ‘to be yoked to’.
“Yoga wants to get students to the point of complete numbness in their minds. God, on the other hand, wants you to be transformed by the renewing of your mind through his Word,” Laurette says.
Before she became a Christian, Laurette used subliminal tapes to train her mind to empty itself. These tapes are often used in yoga classes, she says. She also taught yoga classes and instructed her students in astral projection, or “stepping outside” of the body, which Laurette says poses a serious spiritual danger.
“If there’s nothing in your mind, you’re open to all kinds of deception. After coming to Christ, I wondered who—or what—came into my body when I ‘stepped out.’ While I don’t believe Christians can become possessed, I do believe we can become oppressed by demonic spirits of fear, depression, lust, false religion, etc. These are all things designed to draw us away from Jesus Christ.”
But what about hatha yoga, the less overtly spiritual form of yoga taught at most gyms? Even in this format, Laurette says there are commonly used words and poses antithetical to God’s Word. For example, the word ‘namaste’ (an anagram of ‘me satan’ often said at the close of yoga classes, means, ‘I bow to the god within you’. The sound ‘om’ chanted in many yoga classes, is meant to bring students into a trance so they can join with the universal mind. And the ‘salute to the sun’ posture, used at the beginning of most classes, pays homage to the Hindu sun god. Laurette believes it’s impossible to extract Hindu spiritualism from yoga—and she’s gotten a bit of confirmation on this from an unlikely source:
“I received an e-mail from a staff member of the Classical Yoga Hindu Academy in New Jersey. The staff member wrote, ‘Yes, all of yoga is Hinduism. Everyone should be aware of this fact.’ This staff member included that she didn’t appreciate my ‘running down the great Hindu/Yogic religion,'” Laurette says.
Numerous Christian women have told Laurette they decided to quit yoga after learning about its Hindu roots. It’s a hard decision for those who’ve invested many years and many dollars into the practice. Laurette says, “I tell people that if their reasoning is, ‘But I’ve already paid for these yoga classes,’ or ‘But I just bought these cool yoga pants and a yoga DVD,’ to ask themselves: Am I willing to give these things up to know the truth?”
Proceed with Caution
The Bible makes it clear that syncretism, the blending together of pagan worship with the worship of Yahweh is an abomination to God. Yet there’s a new practice popping up at churches and fitness clubs dubbed ‘Christian yoga’ or ‘yoga for Christians’ and these programs supposedly offer the physical benefits of yoga along with Christian spirituality. Is it really possible for yoga to be transformed into a practice for Christians?
Doug Groothuis, author of Confronting the New Age and a professor of philosophy at Denver Seminary, says proponents of ‘Christian yoga’ are misled—and are misleading others. “Christian yoga is an oxymoron. Yoga is rooted in Hinduism and cannot be separated from it”, he says. “There’s nothing wrong with stretching and calming down one’s breathing. But yoga isn’t really about that; it’s aimed at transforming human consciousness to experience the Hindu god, which is a false god.”
The Many Claims Made for Yoga and Its Widespread Growth
Yoga is often but not exclusively associated with meditation, or is regarded as being a series of stretching exercises, good for relaxation and suppleness, health, peace of mind, and so on (there is a list of claimed benefits further on in this article). There are many varied things associated with yoga, eg. philosophies and beliefs. It is often directly and indirectly connected with many dubious institutions, cults and gurus (‘teachers’).
There seems to be an endless list, whether it be retreats, holidays, and all things associated. So there are very many different reasons why people choose to practise yoga.
An example of the vigorous across the board promotion of yoga that is now taking place all over the world
Nationwide Campaign To Bring Free Yoga To Schools
FRIDAY, 11 MAY 2012: The first full week of May has been declared National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Week by the National Federation of Families for Children’s Mental Health. The purpose of the week is to increase public awareness about the triumphs and challenges in children’s mental health and to emphasize the importance of family and youth involvement in the children’s mental health movement. Shanti Generation® and Move with Me ® Action Adventures, supported by Yoga-Recess™, have launched a “Buy 1, Give 1“ program, similar to the TOMS™ shoe model, to bring yoga programs into public schools, FREE.
“Children with a wide range of mental health issues can benefit from the social-emotional learning (SEL) skills that basic yoga practice teaches including self-awareness and self regulation. We use simple techniques of conscious breathing, mindful awareness, stretching and centering postures to give children tangible tools for reducing stress,” says Abby Wills, a Southern California yoga instructor, who holds an MA in Education and has fifteen years of hands-on experience working in schools. She is the founder of Shanti Generation™, a “youth centric” yoga program created to help tweens and teens (ages 8 – 16) develop confidence and strength while cultivating inner peace and mindfulness, SHANTI GENERATION: YOGA SKILLS FOR YOUTH PEACEMAKERS.
The “Free Yoga Resources for Classrooms Project” was envisioned as a way to bring easy-to-use yoga curricula to educators from Pre-K – 12, at no charge. The project encourages public school teachers to register to receive a free DVD (plus educational license) of either SHANTI GENERATION: YOGA SKILLS FOR YOUTH PEACEMAKERS (middle and high schools) or MOVE WITH ME ACTION ADVENTURES (for pre-school and early elementary grades) and then solicits the yoga community to Buy 1 (or more copies of the DVD) in order to Give 1 to a school. “With ongoing budget cuts, most teachers can’t afford to purchase the educational license required to use these program in schools,” says Leah Kalish, MA, former Program Director of Yoga Ed. and founder of Move with Me ™ Action Adventures DVDs, which are designed to involve the whole child (ages 3 – 7), in social-emotional learning through yoga stories and pretend play.
Over the last 2 years, Yoga Recess™ collected ten thousand requests from teachers wanting a FREE copy of the SHANTI GENERATION or MOVE WITH ME; however the cost involved in fulfilling those requests is prohibitive. “Now we just need the yoga community to step up,” says Wills. “Yoga has helped children with ADHD, Autism and chronic disease to stay physically healthy and mentally focused. It’s also an incredible antidote to the bullying epidemic that is confronting our children. “
“Our goal,” says Kalish, “is to have at least 600 units of both SHANTI and MOVE WITH ME purchased and delivered to teachers by the end of the 2012.
Yoga practices give kids and teachers the tools and techniques they desperately need to manage stress, develop emotional intelligence and learn healthy self-regulation. This is our way to support the next generation in becoming well-balanced adults.”
About Shanti Generation and Abby Wills
Shanti Generation is a movement to empower youth with peacemaking skills to build a world that respects and celebrates difference on the way to discovering unity. We produce educational media experiences that bring ancient and modern practices to youth in relevant, innovative formats. Every step of our process is informed by youth input. Our programs are designed to reduce stress, increase resiliency and nurture mind/body health.
Shanti Generation: Yoga Skills for Youth Peacemakers
The first DVD in a series, merges yoga exercises and mindfulness techniques for youth ages 9 to 16. Developed by renowned youth yoga expert, Abby Wills, MA, and created in collaboration with teens, the program integrates a series of movements, breathing techniques and mindful practices that facilitate inner calm, positive attitude and a strong, healthy body. Exercises are demonstrated by Abby’s teenage students and set to positive grooves created by 311 bassist, Aaron Wills (aka P-Nut).
For Program details for Middle and High School programs and teacher registration, visit www.shantigeneration.com.
Many Claims are being made about What Yoga Can Do For You
Taken from the website: Yoga for Schools
“Yoga is currently practiced in many educational institutions worldwide. In several countries in Europe and South America, Yoga has been taught in schools for more than twenty-five years. Many schools in North America have already trained teachers to include Yoga as a regular part of the classroom day. It is also becoming more common as a regular part of the physical education curriculum where it offers a non-competitive alternative to competitive sports. “
“In addition to enhancing physical and mental well-being, Yoga teaches students to concentrate, releases tension and develops inner qualities such as patience and insight. With regular practice, students learn to develop better self-control, inner confidence and focus. Regular Yoga practice unifies the two sides of the brain, allowing information and knowledge to enter the brain at deeper levels. Practicing the exercises together enhances the relationship between teacher and students, enabling them to work together productively and enjoy the learning process.”
Why Take a Yoga Break?
- Develop motor skills and balance
- Create physical and mental strength and flexibility
- Energize body and mind and bring more oxygen to the blood cells and brain
- Make breath, blood and lymph fluids circulate better
- Release physical and mental tensions that have accumulated while students who have been sitting for a long time
- Enhance concentration
- Develop better listening skills
- Improve posture
- Bring students into the present moment
- Exercise the body and balance the emotions
- Open the shoulders and chest, allowing students to relax and breathe deeper during their classes
- Open the hip joints and prepare students to sit comfortably
- Teach patience and insight
- Create a calm harmonious classroom
Evangelicals Embrace Energy Of The Serpent
In a frank interview in Yoga Journal, Ken Wilbur, a yoga expert who is often called the “Einstein of consciousness,” warns that Eastern meditation, no matter how carefully practiced, involves “a whole series of deaths and rebirths…some very rough and frightening times.”
David Pursglove, therapist and transpersonal counselor for decades, warns that those involved in Eastern meditation can encounter “Frightening ESP and other parapsychological occurrences…out-of-body experiences…[encounters] with death and subsequent rebirth…awakening of the serpent power (Kundalini)…violent shaking and twisting….”
Among the few who honestly warn the public is Dr. Walt Larimore. He explains, “Yoga has spiritual roots…. [Therefore] one could argue that promoting it in schools violates the…so-called separation of church and state….” He warns that the “deeply religious practice” of yoga, with its roots in Eastern mysticism, may put kids in a position to be influenced by elements that are not at all healthy.
Yoga opens the door not to true enlightenment but to demonic seduction of mankind. And in spite of the literally hundreds of exposés by those who have experienced the evil firsthand and barely escaped, yoga is gaining adherents among Christians and is being practiced in a growing number of churches, including those that claim to be evangelical. Christian leaders have naïvely encouraged this deadly practice. Robert Schuller was one of the first to give it his endorsement….
No matter what the various schools and forms of yoga being practiced in the West, however, there is no mistaking that if one is interested in true yoga, one must be willing to have that terrifying Kundalini aroused. What is this serpentine power that allegedly lies coiled at the base of the spine?
The texts by ancient yogis warn that the “Kundalini serpent force” often manifests itself in frightening and destructive ways. Unfortunately, those texts are scarcely known to yoga enthusiasts today and are certainly not heeded by their instructors. Kundalini is the “enlightenment” that the practice of yoga is designed to “awaken.” One yoga enthusiast writes, “The cobra that opened its fan over Buddha’s head is the metaphor for the field of energy, which…emits out from the head during and after sustaining Kundalini….”
[Another] writes, “When the Kundalini awakens, tremendous power is unleashed. The resulting expansion of consciousness affects every element of our being, from our biological functions to our personal relationships to our concept of reality to our influence in the world….Kundalini is Shakti, the Great Mother Goddess, the living energy that daily makes her vibrant presence known in my body and my psyche….If Kundalini is to be invoked, it must be with care and better still, with reverence and humility. We are treading sacred waters here. To plunge in recklessly is to risk self-annihilation.”
This entire discussion always brings us back to the most fundamental fact about yoga. No matter what physical benefit might be derived from the exercises themselves, yoga inevitably involves Eastern meditation. And Eastern meditation, unlike Western contemplation or reflection, accompanies an intentional dissociation from our conscious minds.
This shutting down of the mind is, in fact, a total abdication of our God-given responsibility that Jesus declared is the first and great commandment: to love Him with all our heart, soul, and mind (Deuteronomy 6:5-6, Matthew 22:37). Thus, we are violating one of the true God’s most basic commandments every time we give our minds over to the intentional ‘nothingness’ of yoga and associated ‘relaxation techniques.’
[PILATES is a great alternative for Christians.]