Missouri megachurch pastor John Lindell has warned his 10,000-member congregation not to participate in yoga, saying that positions associated with exercise and meditation activity were designed to "open you up to demonic power."
Lindell, the pastor of the James River Church in Ozark, gave a sermon titled "Pursuing the Paranormal" on the Sunday before Halloween in which he spoke out against "demonic influences" such as paganism, witchery, sorcery, fortune-telling, astrology and elements of Eastern mysticism such as yoga.
"I am doing this because it seems that our culture is becoming increasingly obsessed with all things paranormal," the Assemblies of God pastor said at the beginning of the sermon.
"According to a Gallup poll, three-in-four Americans believe in the paranormal and in a recent Pew poll, 40 percent of Christians believe in psychics, 29 percent of Christians believe in reincarnation and 26 percent of Christians believe in astrology. ... The entertainment industry has taken note by responding to a plethora of video games, television shows and movies."
"It seems the paranormal has become the new normal," he added. "It's not just haunted houses and witches at Halloween but it has worked its way into everyday life through things like Eastern mysticism and Mother Earth practices and philosophies."
Lindell said that one of the most pressing signs of today's "post-Christian" society is the mainstream acceptance of yoga by not only the culture but Christians and Christian organizations as well.
He argued that no matter what practitioners do during yoga, that the physical practice of Yoga cannot be separated from its "Hindu roots."
Lindell admitted that it may seem strange to many that he is talking about yoga in a sermon about paranormal influences.
"That alone really for me is an indication of how far our society has drifted into a post-Christian culture," he stressed. "Earlier, it would have been a given that yoga is a form of Eastern mysticism that Christians should absolutely avoid but that is no longer the case. Yoga it seems is everywhere. For example, if you go to the local [YMCA] and you click on the 'Healthy Living' link, you will find no less than 31 references to yoga."
Lindell warned that Christians should "stay away from Yoga because of its demonic roots."
"Participating at any level is potentiative the opening of your life, your home, your situation to the demonic," he warned.
Lindell explained that there are three main components of yoga to achieve the goal to raising and expanding "consciousness for the purpose of experiencing peace, energy and divine presence." One of those elements is different body positions.
"Every single body position has a meaning," Lindell said. "Let me say this, yoga positions were not designed by your local fitness instructor. They were designed and they were created with demonic intent to open you open you up to demonic power. Because Hinduism is demonic."
"Every false religion is demonic. Hinduism is not a mild, gentile, pacifist religion. Anybody who says that has not visited India," Lindell continued. "Neither is Buddhism. We may have a sanitized view of it in our Western culture but it is not pacifist. It is demonic. It is idle worship."
Lindell contended that yoga salutation poses are designed to pay homage to the sun god Surya.
"That is what all of those are doing. You are welcoming the sun god," Lindell said.
Lindell also condemned the lotus position because it has "sexual connotations."
"Some may say that is not what it means to me," Lindell recognized. "Well, when you participate in yoga, that is what it means. To say that the positions of yoga are just exercise are tantamount to saying water baptisms is just aqua aerobics."
According to Lindell, practitioners of Hatha yoga are sometimes given mantras to chant. Those mantras, he said, are typically the names of Hindu gods or goddesses. He claims that chanting those mantras violate the first commandment to have no other gods but God.
"Yoga is diametrically opposed to Christianity," he warned. "Meditation in yoga brings a person to a consciousness of nothing around them, an awareness of nothing around them. It lowers the mind gate that God has established for a spiritual preservation spiritually speaking for a person."
As reported by The Springfield News-Leader, Lindell's remarks have drawn the ire of yoga practitioners in the area and seems to have impacted turnout at yoga classes in the area in the week following the sermon.
Christian yoga practitioner Reggie Harris explained that he was "disappointed" and "angry" with Lindell's sermon.
"I know my relationship with the Lord and my relationship with him has gotten deeper through yoga," Harris, who has been doing yoga for five years, explained.
Harris told The Springfield News-Leader that "yoga transcends religion."
"Yoga brings people together in a heart of unity and love," he argued. "You're teaching people to hate something that may help them physically, emotionally, spiritually."
During his sermon, Lindell addressed those who claim that they "chant Jesus" while doing yoga.
"Demons don't care what you chant, as long as you open the door to them," Lindell said. "They don't care if you are in peace, harmony, have energy or in great shape as long as you give them access."
Lindell's sermon comes as Christians continue to debate the appropriateness of practicing yoga.
Earlier this year, Serita Jakes, wife of popular evangelist T.D. Jakes, reignited the Christian debate on yoga when she shared photos a women's group at The Potter's House in Dallas participating in a "taste of yoga."
Some Christians responded to the photos saying that it is wrong for Christians to do yoga.
The group Christians Practicing Yoga began in 2001 and argues that there is an "appropriateness in Christian spiritual practice of going to God the way God came to us: in and through a body."
"The breadth of our network reveals a truth: Christians connect instinctively with an embodied spiritual practice that inclines toward deeper prayer, the group's website claims.
Christian actress, author and public speaker Janine Turner also sells a Christian yoga program, which she dubbed "Christoga."
The Christian satire site The Babylon Bee has mocked Christians opposed to yoga several times. "Man Accidentally Performs Yoga Pose, Is Possessed By Horde Of Demons," one headline read.
Popular theologian John Piper has voiced his disapproval with yoga, saying that it has roots that are "antithetical to a Christian understanding of God and the way he works in the world."
Al Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, has also argued that yoga's spiritual and physical aspects can't be separated.
"The embrace of yoga is a symptom of our postmodern spiritual confusion, and, to our shame, this confusion reaches into the church," Mohler wrote in a 2010 op-ed. "Christians who practice yoga are embracing, or at minimum flirting with, a spiritual practice that threatens to transform their own spiritual lives into a 'post-Christian, spiritually polyglot' reality. Should any Christian willingly risk that?"