First off, I want to head off this whole series with a disclaimer: this is my testimony, sharing my own personal convictions and experiences. I’m not the Holy Spirit, nor am I trying to be. It’s not my aim to push my convictions onto anyone else. If you disagree with them, peace be with you. My only goal is to share where God is leading me and what He’s been doing in my life, in the hopes that it will give my fellow Believers something to think about and inspire them to draw closer to Him.
Before I talk about what led me to stop doing yoga, let’s talk about what led me into it in the first place.
I had flirted with yoga off and on over the years. Way back when VCRs were still a thing and I was still struggling with my weight, I purchased a Yoga for Weight Loss VHS tape and actually did the workout regularly for months. It was a pretty benign workout that, other than a little bit of talk here and there about rooting into the earth and the standard Namaste salutation at the end, didn’t have anything overtly new agey enough to raise my hackles. When a church friend of my mom’s criticized me for doing yoga and warned me that I was participating in pagan worship and opening a spiritual doorway, I, like many Christian yoga enthusiasts, rolled my eyes (I mean, not to her face; I was polite about it) and insisted that there’s nothing inherently pagan or dangerous about stretching and that you can’t inadvertently or unwittingly worship demons–a position I continued to hold until a little over a year ago.
Nevertheless, I eventually got a DVD player and some Pilates DVDs, my VCR broke, and yoga fell off my workout radar.
Fast forward to the start of 2019. Not only had yoga become increasingly mainstream and popular, but it was also widely accepted in the Church–not just accepted, but actively promoted, with many churches offering “Holy Yoga” classes and Christian yoga instructors proliferating YouTube. Many of the Christian influencers I followed on Instagram were getting into yoga and loving it. What’s more, as someone with PCOS, I was constantly seeing yoga recommended as a great, healing exercise for PCOS sufferers.
I was at a highly vulnerable point in my life. I’d just survived one of my hardest years, which started with my mom having a stroke and ended with a major move to a new state where the only soul I knew was my husband. In between, my world had imploded as I realized how deeply the dysfunction ran in my family and narratives I’d bought into my entire life were stripped away, and my identity along with them. I’d figured out that I still suffered from childhood trauma and that it was making me sick. I was worn out, depressed, chronically ill, and desperate for healing. Of course, I prayed daily and spent time in the word, but I felt like that wasn’t enough. I needed to heal my trauma, I needed to quiet my mind and ground my body in the present reality, and I needed to move in gentle ways that would alleviate stress and not add to it.
Yoga seemed like the perfect fit. So I pulled up those Christian yoga channels on YouTube and got started. And I loved it. Within a few months I lost that last stubborn 20 pounds that had refused for years to come off, I felt more centered and balanced, I was strong and flexible and had more energy… what’s not to love?
I should add that I also prayed about it before I got started. My beliefs about yoga hadn’t changed, but enough of a seed of doubt had been planted that I wanted to make sure I wasn’t going to do anything that wasn’t pleasing to God. But I admit that I didn’t pray long about it. Pretty much, I said one prayer, basically asking for permission, and came away thinking of meat sacrificed to idols, and that yoga falls into that category. In other words, I once again settled in my conscience that the devil doesn’t own breathing and stretching and that there isn’t anything inherently pagan or worshipful about this type of exercise, and it’s a matter of Christian liberty.
So it’s all good, right?
Fast forward again another year, to January 2020, in those innocent days when rumors of a viral outbreak in China still seemed far away and unthreatening and I thought the election would be the most stressful thing going on that year. All those Instagram influencers I followed? They were all signing on for a month-long yoga challenge with an instructor named Adrienne. I’d been slacking on my yoga practice through the holidays and wanted to get back into my health groove, so I signed on as well. I’d done a few of Adrienne’s lessons on YouTube before, so I was familiar with her. I liked her well enough, even though she was a little more New Agey and woo woo than the other instructors I’d followed. I shrugged off all her talk about chakras and simply didn’t participate in the moves that she promised would open my third eye. It was fine.
Or so I told myself.
Now here’s where things get crazy. Around this time, we started having what I would call spooky incidents around the house. Things we could dismiss at first. A strange noise here, a bottle falling over by itself in the shower there, our live Christmas tree propped firmly in the corner waiting to be set up and decorated suddenly pitching forward and falling over… there had to be a rational explanation for all these things. Even as my husband and I sat in the kitchen one night and watched as the lid to our Pyrex baking dish slowly slid forward by itself and then fell on the floor, we found a way to explain it away.
And then something happened that we could neither dismiss nor explain. One night I got woken up by a bang so loud I thought a tree had fallen on the house. It sounded like it was right next to my head. We were sleeping in separate rooms at the time, because I would have to stay up late to give our Chihuahua his heart meds, and Matt was such a light sleeper, so Pete and I just slept on the guest bed in my office.
The bed was against the wall that was shared with the guest bathroom. On the other side of the wall, pretty well aligned with where my head would be, sat the crate that we keep our cat in at night.
Like I said, I thought something must have fallen on the house. The noise I heard sounded like an explosion next to my head, and it also shook me. So I got up to investigate. I looked all over, inside and out, and couldn’t find anything that could have caused that ruckus. Finally, I shrugged it off and decided to use the bathroom before I went back to bed. I’d worry about it in the morning.
So I went in the bathroom–and saw the cat crate pushed away from the wall, skewed catty-corner from its previous position, her food and water dishes on top having skidded to the edge, and our kitty Boudicca looking out at me with a terrified expression on her face.
Y’all. I don’t know what did that, but you better believe I prayed over my house and everyone in it and asked the Lord to rebuke anything that didn’t belong there before I went back to bed.
The next day, I started praying long and hard about what was going on and asked the Lord to show me anything in my life that could be inviting anything into my home that didn’t belong there. Immediately I became strongly convicted about the yoga I’d been doing and felt that I needed to stop. So I did, and I repented for doing it in the first place. And the strange activity stopped.
But the conviction didn’t. That’s when the Lord started opening my eyes to how truly spiritually dangerous yoga was for me to practice. Coincidentally, if you believe in coincidence, which I don’t, right when all of this was happening, Allie Stuckey interviewed a former New Ager turned Christian on her Relatable podcast. In this episode, Doreen Virtue explained how certain yoga poses, particularly those involved in the Sun Salutation, as well as the Warrior poses, act out a battle between Hindu gods, and how these poses are inextricably linked to Hindu worship practices. She warned that these poses can an often do open a door to unsavory spiritual forces to come into your life and oppress you. I’d heard all of this before, and scoffed. But this time, I felt convicted with a sense of certainty that what she was saying was true.
That was the first domino. Once it tipped over, more would fall with it. But I’ll save those for another post.