Is PraiseMoves the same as yoga?
There are some similarities in the postures. Our body can move in only a finite number of ways, not an infinite number of ways. Yoga and PraiseMoves are both spiritual and physical exercises. PraiseMoves is not Christian Yoga or Holy Yoga. “‘Christian yoga’ is an oxymoron,” Malhotra (2) says. PraiseMoves is based on the biblical teaching on the views of God and the body. People are made to worship and obey Him, experience healing and have an eternal relationship with Him. PraiseMoves offers a Christ-centered alternative, built on the Scriptures found in the Bible.
In PraiseMoves, the participants feel connected with fellow believers. At the end of the session, they have had a real encounter with God, through His Word, and His Holy Spirit. PraiseMoves direct the participant to the Word of God, which does have the power to save souls, and the power to renew the mind (Romans 12:2) and body (Romans 12:1-2).
What is yoga?
The word yoga means “union with the supreme being”. Etymologically, it is connected to the English word, yoke. Yoga is a mystic and ascetic Hindu discipline for achieving union with supreme spirits through works. The union is achieved through meditation, prescribed postures, controlled breathing, etc. In other words, salvation through works. Maharishi Mahesh Yogi taught that through meditation a sinner comes out of the field of sin and becomes a virtuous man. In the West, the term “yogi” is used to refer to anyone who practices yoga. However, in the Bhagavad-Gita (Hindu holy scriptures), the god Krishna says that the true yogi is one who has surrendered himself “fully unto me.” In the Hindu teaching it is known that there is no Yoga without Hinduism and there is no Hinduism without Yoga. The two cannot be separated into physical and spiritual exercises. The very point of Yoga which was designed in the Bhagavad Gita is for the individual to connect to his god consciousness.
Yoga physiology described humans as existing of three bodies (physical, subtle and causal) and five sheets (food sheet, prana-breath, mind sheet, intellect, and bliss) which cover the atman, and energy flowing through energy channels and concentrated in chakras. Yoga is more than mere body exercise, it’s Hindu prayer using body poses. According to Professor Subhans Tiwari of the Hindu University of America; “Yoga is religion. Efforts to separate yoga from its spiritual centre reveal ignorance of the good of yoga.”
Buddhist Scholar Robert Thurman explains that according to Patanjali, “Yoga is the actuality of our union with the absolute, the supreme reality of ourselves…the blissful void, freedom, or what is called Absolute Glory (Brahman, nirvana), god (Ishvari), or Buddha, Reality Embodied (Dharmakaya), and many other names (1)“.
Louis Hughes, a yoga practitioner and author in Ireland, wrote in his book ‘Yoga – A Path to God?’ lists four definitions of Yoga. Hughes says that according to the Katha Upanishad, written in the fifth century BC, Yoga is described as the steady holding of the senses. He goes on to explain that according to the yoga sutras, yoga is the restraint of the processes of the mind, and he says that the Bhagavad-Gita describes yoga as mystical discipline with the goal of uniting the human and divine soul. Lastly, he states that according to India’s national epic poem the Mahabharata, yoga is seen as practical discipline or activity that leads the soul to Brahaman. In Hindu philosophy, this is portrayed as a person’s soul being united with the ocean of the divine (described as supreme reality), like a drop of water that is united with the ocean (1).
Below are quotes from Yogis and yoga enthusiasts which explains that yoga is not just a physical exercise as some believe. This Hindu culture site explains that the steps of each of the yoga pose is a prayer to the sun. www.hindulegacy.org
“Yoga is not just exercise and asanas. It is the emotional integration and spiritual elevation with a touch of mystic element, which gives you a glimpse of something beyond all imagination.” – Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar
“Many Westerners who practice yoga today are unaware that the physical positions assumed in yoga symbolize a spiritual act: worshiping one of the many Hindu gods,” – Dr George P. Alexander, Ph.D., taught World Religions at Biola University.
“In order to really get the deepest benefit from the practice, you have to set your intention on the spiritual journey of yoga.” – Kino MacGregor, international yoga teacher and author of co-founder of Miami Life Center, founder of Miami Yoga Magazine.
“Spirituality is not just some mumbo jumbo, sitting somewhere and doing something. It is revisiting the truth about ourselves…” – Daya Krishnan with inputs from Shriram Sarvotham a Yoga enthusiast.
“…Do I believe yoga can be imparted without being grounded in its cultural and spiritual heritage? No. Whatever that is, it isn’t yoga.” – Namaste, quote from qz.com from the article ‘Any practice of yoga that isn’t spiritual isn’t really yoga’
“While many people practice yoga for the physical benefits, there are other types of benefits; for example, the spiritual meaning of yoga postures can help yogis develop oneness inside themselves, as well as unity with the exterior world. In yoga, the natural world is especially important, which can be seen in many of the Sanskrit and English names for yoga poses that are taken from animals and other entities one finds in nature.” – Rachel Hanson, contributor on yoga.lovetoknow.com
“Efforts to separate yoga from its spiritual center reveal ignorance of the goal of yoga.” – HinduismToday.com (9/1-3/09)
“The ‘Soul’ purpose of the asanas (yoga poses) is to create a healthy body, calm mind and emotions in order to enter the spirit realms.” Swami Param tells Yoga cannot be separated from its religious elements – Coast News (March 2013)
Gopi Krishna in his article, “The True Aim of Yoga,” he says: “The aim of yoga, then, is to achieve the state of unity or oneness with God, Brahman, [and] spiritual beings….”. (Gopi Krishna, “The True Aim of Yoga,” Psychic, Jan.- Feb., 1973, p. 14.)
According to Wikipedia, yoga is a physical, mental, and spiritual practice or discipline, that aim to transform body and mind. The definition of Yoga from Merriam Webster, “A Hindu theistic philosophy teaching the supression of all activity in the body, mind and will in order that the self may realise its distinction from them and attain liberation”.
In an article dated May 14, 2006, Darryl E. Owens of the Orlando Sentinel quoted Sannyasin Arumugaswami, managing editor of Hinduism Today, “Hinduism is the soul of yoga based as it is on Hindu Scripture and developed by Hindu sages. Yoga opens up new and more refined states of mind, and to understand them one needs to believe in and understand the Hindu way of looking at God”.
In this talk “What is Yoga?” Sri Sri Ravi Shankar addresses the very foundation of yoga and brings out its true purpose which is not just an exercise.
The Difference between Yoga and Christianity
1. Yoga poses are offerings to the 330 million Hindu gods. Some argued that the ancient yogis drew inspiration from the world around them. Therefore, most yoga poses were named after animals or things in nature. Whether it is a worship to Hindu gods or imitating animal poses the Bible clearly states in Romans 12:1-2 we are to offer our bodies as a living sacrifice to God. In Ephesians 5:1 we are called to be imitator of Christ.
2. In yoga they do pranayama breathing. Prana is the Hindu word for life force, the same concept as the word chi in some martial arts. Yoga breathing attempts to manipulate that life energy. “The air” in Ephesians 2:2 refers to the invisible realm above the earth where Satan and his demons move and exist. He is the “ruler of this world” in John 12:31.
3. Yoga is the concept of emptying the mind or “stillness” of the mind (code for “emptying the mind”), which is contradictory to what Christianity teaches. “We are transformed by the renewing of our minds, (Romans 12:2) not the emptying.” Along with emptying the mind, yoga guides people into astral travel, which is where people actually leave their bodies.
Christian Meditation (like we do in PraiseMoves) is ACTIVE, meditating on the Word of God and on “whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things” (Philippians 4:8).
4. Yoga promotes reincarnation which says man passes through endless cycles of birth and death for eternal improvement. Yoga is designed to help in the cycle of reincarnation. Hebrews 9:27 teaches, “it is appointed for men to die ONCE and after this comes judgment.”
5. Yoga means “yoke” in Sanskrit. It’s a different yoke from the one Jesus talks about when He said “My yoke is easy and My burden is light” (Matthew 11:30).
6. Yoga focuses on Self, which separates us from others. In Christianity the believers are called to continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer (Acts 2:42).
7. The Indian gurus that teach yoga are always in a disciple/devotee relationship with their students. In Christianity, the disciples are called to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ. So that they in turn can go and do likewise (Ephesians 4:11-17 ).
Recently, I came across an article “Take a Pass on Yoga” by Holly Vicente Robaina [pictured at left]. The article was her response to Agnieszka Tennant’s “Yes to Yoga” published in Christianity Today’s website. Holly was deeply involved in the New Age, trances, channeling spirits and past-life regression and, yoga was a normal practice for her back then. In her article she interviewed several Christian Yoga instructors and Laurette Willis, the founder of PraiseMoves. In her article Holly described the difference between Yoga and PraiseMoves. I believe Holly is qualified to write on his subject. She practiced yoga with many different instructors (who all said they taught purely “physical exercise” without any yogic spiritualism), and she has done the PraiseMoves programme. It took her many years and many prayers to let go of her New Age practices and to be healed from the pain it caused her. When she met Laurette Willis, she had never met another Christian who’d come out of the New Age.
(1) Quoted from the book ‘Bowing to Yoga? The Truth about Roots and Fruits of Yoga’ by Armin Weidle.
(2) Rajiv Malhotra is a Hindu scholar and yoga practitioner.