Should Christians Practice Yoga?

Some time ago while doing a study about the new moon worship day mentioned in the Old Testament, and quite by accident, I ran into some very curious comments about how the day was observed by some Yoga practitioners and their students. The observance may not be kept by all Yoga groups but the reasons given do suggest a very fascinating dimension to yoga that many people may not be aware of. And Christians who practice yoga should find this very interesting.

One part of my study was listing various reasons as to just why people were keeping the day. From strict sabbath observance down to well... this is where it got interesting. Point 5 was as follows...

5. A rest day from certain activities but not necessarily work. For example, some Yoga practitioners and students:

Why don’t we practise Yoga on moon days?

Full moon and new moon days are days of rest in the Ashtanga Yoga tradition.

Through practising Yoga we become aware of our own tendencies and the natural cycles that occur within and around us. Hopefully, over time we are able to function more harmoniously with ourselves and with the environment we live in.

Observing moon days connects us with the functioning of the universe and makes us aware of the effect the universal energy can have on us individually.

The phases of the moon are felt throughout the natural world and humans, being 70% water are subject to the moon's gravitational pull at different times of the month, giving rise to different energetic experiences.

The full moon is a time of heightened energy, of strength and abundance. It is likened to the end of the inhale when the upward force of prana is at its fullest. Whilst the new moon is a time of calmness, of introspection, the small pause before growth and expansion. It is likened to the end of the exhale, when the downward force of apana is greatest.

Because of these differences in energies it is advised to take rest from your yoga practice. It is also said that practitioners are more likely to injure themselves on moon days..therefore best to rest!
http://www.ashtangayogamelbourne.com.au/moon-days/
Typo corrected.
Yoga Comics Moon Day
http://www.alliscoming.com/index.php?/ongoing/the-yoga-comics/
http://aylibrary.blogspot.com.au/2012/01/moon-days.html
Note: the moon day shown here is the full moon but the new moon is also one of the moon days. Of course, humorously, the artist would not draw Elise howling to a new moon!

It’s part of the traditional approach to take time off during the new and full moons. This is partly due to the Indian astrological belief that it is not auspicious to do certain things on moon days. Because we are part of this lineage, we have chosen to honor the moon days in this way.
Why we don't practice on Moon Days
Ashtanga Yoga Library
http://aylibrary.blogspot.com.au/2012/01/moon-days.html

So a belief in Indian astrology is necessary for support of these views. And having another look at the last page I found an extremely curious comment. The restraint mentioned is not engaging in yoga activities on moon days—new or full moons. Here's the quote:

Observing this restraint to practice can be helpful in not becoming too attached to practice and routine. It also provides time for the body to rest and recuperate.
http://aylibrary.blogspot.com.au/2012/01/moon-days.html

So this Yoga view is that the new moon day is for rest and recuperation. In contrast, the Christian weekly worship day is for this [apart from worship]. Rest from work and business activities.

And the suggestion from Isaiah 66:22,23 is that the weekly worship day and the new moon days may complement each other in the ages of eternity. And since the weekly worship day mentioned is a sabbath rest, the Biblical new moon worship day may not be, which is clearly in disagreement with this yoga view.

And this just gets more interesting. Note the above quote mentioning the forces of prana and apana:

The full moon ... the upward force of prana ...
Whilst the new moon is a time of calmness, of introspection, the small pause before growth and expansion. It is likened to the end of the exhale, when the downward force of apana is greatest.
http://www.ashtangayogamelbourne.com.au/moon-days/

A Yoga site gives some information about these forces:

Through their exploration of the body and breath, the ancient yogis discovered that prana (life force energy) could be further subdivided into energetic components they called Vayus (winds). ...
The two most important Vayus are Prana-Vayu and Apana-Vayu. Prana–Vayu is situated in the head, centered in the third-eye, and its energy pervades the chest region.
http://www.yogabasics.com/learn/the-five-vayus/

The third eye?

The third eye (also called the mind's eye, or inner eye) is a mystical and esoteric concept referring to a speculative invisible eye which provides perception beyond ordinary sight.
In certain dharmic spiritual traditions such as Hinduism, the third eye refers to the ajna, or brow, chakra. ... The third eye is often associated with religious visions, clairvoyance, the ability to observe chakras and auras, precognition, and out-of-body experiences. People who are claimed to have the capacity to utilize their third eyes are sometimes known as seers. In some traditions such as Hinduism, the third eye is said to be located around the middle of the forehead, slightly above the junction of the eyebrows.

A Cambodian Shiva head showing a third eye.
A Cambodian Shiva head showing a third eye.

According to the neo-gnostic teachings of Samael Aun Weor, the third eye is referenced symbolically and functionally several times in the Book of Revelation 3:7-13, a work which, as a whole, he believes describes Kundalini and its progression upwards through three and a half turns and seven chakras. This interpretation equates the third eye with the sixth of the seven churches of Asia detailed therein, the Church of Philadelphia.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Third_eye

In Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism, a chakra is thought to be an energy point or node in the subtle body. Chakras are believed to be part of the subtle body, not the physical body, and as such, are the meeting points of the subtle (non-physical) energy channels called nadi. Nadi are believed to be channels in the subtle body through which the life force (prana) (non-physical) or vital energy (non-physical) moves. Various scriptural texts* and teachings present a different number of chakras. It's believed that there are many chakras in the subtle human body, according to the tantric texts, but there are seven chakras that are considered to be the most important ones.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chakra
* Not from the Bible.

And some more...

The third eye chakra deals with self-knowledge, action of ideas, detachment, intuitive reasoning, visualization, wisdom, intellect, and understanding. A person with a balanced third eye chakra has a keen intellect, strong intuition, active imagination, and deep spiritual awareness.
For practicing specific yoga poses or breathing techniques to balance or open the ajna chakra, there is a ‘seed syllable’ or specific sound to make while meditating. Aum, or Pranava Om is the supreme sound. When paired with asana and pranayama, it will reinforce balance and centering in the body.
Yoga and the Chakras: Focus on the Third Eye Chakra 
https://yoga.com/article/yoga-and-chakras-focus-third-eye-chakra

Metabolism Boosting Yoga. Bring your prayer hands up to your forehead, and place your thumbs on your third eye point, in the middle of your forehead.
Metabolism Boosting Yoga. Elena Brower, co-owner of Virayoga, one of the best yoga studios in NYC, shows us a simple metabolism boosting series.
This sequence combines Kundalini yoga with some Hatha postures to warm us up and boost our metabolism.
Bring your prayer hands up to your forehead, and place your thumbs on your third eye point, in the middle of your forehead.
Breathing Meditation
http://elenabrower.com/practice-perfect/metabolism-boost-featured-in-goop-com

Every time you bring your folded hands to your forehead at the close of a yoga exercise practice, you are contacting Ajna (or Agnya), your Sixth Chakra. Likewise referred to as the Brow Chakra, Ajna is found at a point in between and simply above your physical eyes– which is why it’s called the Third Eye.
http://www.yogadivinity.com/see-clearly-yoga-poses-for-balancing-your-sixth-chakra

And considering that gnostic writings from the early centuries were rejected by the growing Christian church and not accepted as part of the Bible canon and hence are not in the collection of writings that we now have as the New Testament, it would be a reasonable conclusion for Christians engaging in yoga activities to give all of this some thought.

CHRISTIAN YOGA CALENDAR CONUNDRUM

Those Christians who are actively involved with Yoga should be aware that the new moon is a special day in Yoga. In other words they should be keeping the new moon in accordance with their Yoga group beliefs.

For those following the Ashtanga Yoga tradition the new moon is a day to avoid any Yoga activities because "new moon days are days of rest in the Ashtanga Yoga tradition." They believe "that practitioners are more likely to injure themselves on moon days..therefore best to rest!" And it "is partly due to the Indian astrological belief that it is not auspicious to do certain things on moon days."
http://www.ashtangayogamelbourne.com.au/moon-days/
http://aylibrary.blogspot.com.au/2012/01/moon-days.html

There may be some other Yoga groups that follow these restraints but it appears that the majority actually believe in celebrating the new moon day with special yoga poses!

5 Yoga Poses To Celebrate The New Moon
One of the most dominant cyclical patterns we can pay attention to is the lunar cycle. A new moon can be an especially potent time as it is the start of a new cycle. This sequence has room for you to not only take a moment for receptivity, but also to allow yourself to feel potentiated and opened up to the possibilities of what a new cycle can bring!
http://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-23970/5-yoga-poses-to-celebrate-the-new-moon.html

The new moon is the first phase of mother moon's cycle. This divine occurrence happens every month when the Luminaries—sun and the moon—are in alignment.
The new moon is a magical time for self-reflection, relaxation, and enlightenment. It's the perfect time to set new intentions, new goals, and prepare for new beginnings. During this lunar phase, take time for yourself and reconnect with your yoga practice and your deepest desires.
The sequence below is designed as a peaceful and invigorating celebration for the new moon. ... Consider moving your practice outdoors so you can really feel the power of the new moon and the elements around you.
Chandra Namaskar :: Moon Salutation
Affirmation :: "I honor the lunar energy within and above." ...
Slowly exhale as you bow forward keeping the palms pressing together, conscious of the thumbs passing by the third eye, heart, and finally down to the Earth, allowing the moon’s energy to flow through you from head to toe. ...
Namaste.
Affirmation :: "I honor the divine within myself and within all those around me. We are all one." ...
Happy New Moon!
New Moon Yoga Sequence to Reconnect With Your Practice
http://www.yoganonymous.com/new-moon-yoga-sequence-to-reconnect-with-your-practice

Grounding New Moon Yoga Poses
Follow this short sequence below to help you deeply connect to yourself, your dharma, the earths energies and the magic of the moon to help you to clearly see the direction you need to go in.
Part of the gift of yoga ...
Supta Baddakonasana (Reclining Goddess Pose)
As you lay here resting imagine that you are planting seeds of growth within yourself, feel yourself swelling with magic and potential and open your heart to infinite possibilities.
http://www.kirstygallagher.com/grounding-new-moon-yoga-poses/

So whichever Yoga view they follow, Christians involved with Yoga will most likely observe new moon days in accordance with their group's beliefs. But there are also some things mentioned in these last few quotations Christians may find a little awkward to engage in or be associated with.

And I am not speaking out against Christians keeping the new moon here. Colossians states we should not judge anyone with regard to the new moon so whether anyone wants to keep the day I don't see that as a problem. And according to Isaiah and Revelation, the new moon day, along with the weekly day of worship, a sabbath, will be kept for eternity by God's people.

But here's the conundrum, and it's a beauty.

Just which new moon day do you want to keep?

The new moon of the Bible, according to Jewish sources, is determined by the first sliver of the waxing crescent and occurs approximately a day or two after the astronomical new moon.
The new moon Yoga groups follow, in accordance with the Hindu calendar and astrology, occurs on or a day before the astronomical new moon!

So here's the question. If you are a Christian just which new moon should you be more comfortable with? The Bible version the Jews and some Christians keep? Or something from Indian astrological beliefs?

We use an Indian astrology system of calculation ...
Further more, in this system, the day is considered to begin at sunrise rather than mid-night. ...
In India, where yoga comes from, the term ‘moon day’ is a loose translation of the Sanskrit term ‘tithi,’ ...
http://joisyoga.com/practice/moon-days/

And did you notice something else different in that last quotaton? For Yoga, "the day is considered to begin at sunrise rather than mid-night." Again that's different to the Bible view. Not only does the Biblical new moon occur at a different time, but according to Jewish sources, and the Bible, the day of the Bible new moon is from sunset to sunset, not sunrise to sunrise, or midnight to midnight. This is why the Jews, and some Christians, keep the weekly sabbath day from Friday sunset to Saturday sunset. The Jews, and some Christians, keep Bible days from sunset to sunset.

So again, to ask a Christian observing the new moon according to their Yoga group's beliefs, just how comfortable should they be keeping a day from the Hindu calendar and astrology where the corresponding Bible new moon day actually occurs on a completely different day and according to a different construct? It's a very curious question to ask!

SOME FUN STUFF

Here in the West, the term Yoga brings to mind special sexy pants, healthy stretching, and meditation. But did you know that Yoga’s origins go back 2500 years when wandering ascetics from the Hindu, Buddhist, and Jain religions looked for ways working with the body and breath to quiet the mind, to counter what the Buddhists call “Monkey Brain”? We’re all still working on that one, right?
“Yoga” in Sanskrit means “yoke” or “join,” referring to its basic concepts of stilling the mind and uniting mind, body, and spirit.
Artworks show various forms of yoga practice, including meditation and postures. Especially from the 17th through 20th centuries, the Western imagination was piqued by the sensationalism of partially naked yogis, with long matted hair, practicing extreme rituals, like lying on beds of nails and austerities–fasting, celibacy, and immobilizing the body in difficult positions–with cages on head and neck as well as nether parts. From around 1600, ten pages from the first illustrated book of yogic postures (asanas) is on display, as is a 1902 film by Thomas Edison, Hindoo Fakir.
Your own bed of nails at San Francisco’s Asian Art Museum: art history of yoga
By admin in Travel on October 9, 2016.
http://asrof.cf/your-own-bed-of-nails-at-san-franciscos-asian-art-museum-art-history-of-yoga.html

"partially naked yogis, with long matted hair, practicing extreme rituals, like lying on beds of nails"? Sure, we've all heard of this or read about it somewhere.

Bed of nails

So what was the point of this [yes that's a pun]—just why were they doing this?

The mystical bed of nails originated over 1,000 years ago in Asia, used by gurus in the practice of meditation and healing.
http://bedofnails.org/about-acupressure-mats/

The bed of nails is an ancient tool with its roots in Indian mysticism. With its origin, dating back thousands of years, the bed of nails is a well tested tool for healing the body and releasing emotional, physical and mental block-ages. It has been use by Indian yogis (yoga practitioners) throughout time to attain perfection of body and mind.
http://theyogalunchbox.co.nz/a-review-of-the-shakti-mat-a-modern-bed-of-nails/

So this very curious yoga approach was taken to attain perfection. And there has been a resurgence of this activity as the previous link suggests. And the following article from the Daily Mail [UK] gives some more info...

To devotees of the Vedic tradition of early-Hinduism, lying on spikes was the best way to align the body and mind in perfect harmony.
To find out more, I don’t have to visit the dusty Himalayan ashram of some heavily bearded guru. I am in a spiritual healing centre just off the M20 in Kent with yoga teacher Rose-Marie Sorokin.
She is the British distributor of the lightweight, roll-up answer to the fakir’s bed of nails — the Shakti mat.
How I see it: Is lying on a bed of 6,210 nails torture or true bliss?
By Robert Hardman for the Daily Mail
Updated: 19:19 +11:00, 14 December 2009
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-1235619/How-I-Is-lying-bed-6-210-nails-torture-true-bliss.html

All very interesting. And sure Christians are told to be perfect:

Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.
Matthew 5:48 KJV.

But somehow I just can't see that the Bible view is for a bunch of Christians to sit around on beds of nails to attain this.

Yoga approach for attaining perfection
Yoga approach for attaining perfection

And finally...

Here there is a clear indication that diksa is necessary for salvation, and that a guru is necessary for diksa.
http://yogaposes8.com/asana-yoga-poses.html

Diksha also spelled deeksha or deeksa in common usage, translated as a "preparation or consecration for a religious ceremony", is giving of a mantra or an initiation by the guru in Indian religions such as Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism.
Vishnu Yamala (tantra) says: "The process that bestows divyam jnanam (transcendental, spiritual knowledge) and destroys sin (papa), the seed of sin and ignorance, is called diksha by the spiritual persons who have seen the Truth (desikais tattva-kovidaih)."
In the tradition of Lahiri Mahasaya, initiation into Kriya Yoga is given as diksa.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diksha

And just in case anyone is not getting the import of this these quotations are stating that for initiates in Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism the path to salvation is through preparation or consecration under the guidance of a guru and one suggested process for this is Yoga. And without a guru this salvation cannot be achieved.

These quotations are clearly oppositional to...

And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.
Acts 4:12.

What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet, if it had not been for the law, I should not have known sin. I should not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, "You shall not covet."
Romans 7:7.

Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me.
John 14:6.

And he called for lights and rushed in, and trembling with fear he fell down before Paul and Silas,
and brought them out and said, "Men, what must I do to be saved?"
And they said, "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household."
Acts 16:29-31.

So should Christians practice Yoga?
What do you think?


Companion pages:

Sabbath Day or Worship Day? Is the Biblical New Moon worship day a sabbath rest? Or is it something else?

The New Moon Worship Day: Which One? This is the study which led to this page being constructed. You may be surprised to know that there are actually quite a few different methods people use to determine the day of the new moon. If you are interested in this day chances are you are using one of these methods. And in the middle of all of this I stumbled across the Yoga view. Enjoy.


References:
Bible texts from:
Revised Standard Version of the Bible, 1971.


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Stephen Buckley
E-mail: stephen@chodesh.info
Last revised: 25 Mar 2017.