DALLAS, Texas — Concerns were recently raised online after Serita Jakes, the wife of controversial megachurch minister T.D. Jakes, posted photographs of women engaging in a yoga session at The Potter’s House during a forum designed to teach women about leading healthy lives.
“Today, we aspired to inspire #health mentally, emotionally, and physically. Our ladies even got a taste of #yoga from @Mrs_BrittHall,” Jakes posted to Instagram and Facebook on Aug. 4. “Health goes beyond what you eat. It’s in the way you think, speak, and live. Thank you to all of the lovely sister girls that came to play with us! I love you. #AspireToInspire #W2W #EmotionalWellnessMatters”
The photographs showed the crowd of women at the “Woman to Woman: Aspire to Inspire” event following various yoga poses as led by Hall. Hall outlined on social media that she led the women in chair yoga, walking them through aspects such as flexibility and balance, mindfulness and conscious breathing.
“I led the #W2W #AspireToInspire ladies through a chair yoga session where we focused on: physical wellness with strength, flexibility, mobility, and balance; mental wellness by reciting positive affirmations and being mindful of our thoughts regarding ourselves (mindfulness); emotional wellness by focusing on conscious breathing, and letting go!” she wrote.
Hall identifies as an engineering yogi, and is an instructor at Gaia Flow Yoga in Dallas. She and her husband also run Hall Strategies, LLC. Hall had written an article for Jakes’ eMotions Magazine last year, explaining why she believes yoga is beneficial for Christians.
“I believe that yoga is a form of body prayer, which allows us to express gratitude and thankfulness to God through physical movements and meditation (prayer),” she wrote. “My genre of yoga allows students to practice surrendering their bodies to Jesus Christ, knowing that because of Him, we are able to move, breathe, flow and live.”
Hall argued that while some point to yoga’s Hindu roots, she believes no single religion can lay claim to yoga—that it is a neutral practice and is what one makes it to be.
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“The simple truth is that ‘yoga’ does not belong to one religion any more than prayer can belong to a single religion. Therefore, yoga is neutral and takes on the quality of the student,” she asserted. “Each student should set their own intention and establish a purpose for their personal practice.”
However, some have expressed strong objections in seeing that a yoga session was held at The Potter’s House.
“I’ll be going to a new church now. Yoga is rooted in Hindu worship. Yoga is a practice found in all sects of Hinduism. There are different types of yoga, but all are touted as a means to achieve unity with the divine and thus to earn salvation. Kundalini [is] the yogic life force that is held to lie coiled (snake) at the base of the spine until it is aroused and sent to the head to trigger enlightenment,” one commenter wrote.
“This is very dangerous practice to introduce in the church. It may seem innocent, but it really isn’t. Who will stop people from going into deeper forms of yoga?” another asked. “When one opens up their spirit, the enemy has the legal right to bring all kinds of corruption to one’s soul. I have cast out many demons that have entered in this fashion. This is not right.”
“‘Is yoga really that bad? C’mon, it’s just stretching,’ said the serpent. Yes, it is opening yourself up to a worldview that is completely opposite of Biblical truth. And, I speak from direct experience,” a third opined.
“Is Heaven so bankrupt that you have to borrow from the devil?” another inquired. “Please research before you lead these beautiful ladies to worship that’s not of God.”
In a booklet entitled “Yoga: Exercise or Religion—Does it Matter?”, author Ray Yungen outlines that while many view yoga as harmless exercise, there is no denying that the practice is rooted in Eastern New Age religion.
“The word ‘yoga’ actually means to be yoked to or united in body, mind, and spirit with Brahman (the Hindu concept of God). It doesn’t get more spiritually obvious than that,” he outlined. “… Even the traditional Hindu greeting, Namasté, that is said at the end of yoga classes, is spiritual. When translated, it means, ‘The god in me bows down to (or salutes) the god in you.’”
“If you go to the fitness section of any bookstore and look in the yoga subsection, you will find references to the spiritual aspects of Yoga such as the chakra system, kundalini, etc. in almost every book on yoga. It is quite rare to find a book on yoga that does not incorporate spiritual concepts found in classic Hinduism,” Yungen explained. “To devout Hindus, yoga cannot be separated into physical and spiritual parts. Both are relevant to the practice, with the end desire being a profound religious experience.”
He said that some Christians have wrongly concluded that yoga can be adopted by believers as long as it is stripped of its pagan aspects.
“We live in an age where the acceptance of trendy practices, such as yoga, is hammered into us from every side, with the end result being an ecumenical generic inter-spirituality that fits everybody,” Yungen lamented.
“Believers in Christ have fallen prey to some dangerous ideas. One is that we feel free to draw from pagan sources. Or, as is popularly stated, we can chew the meat and spit out the bones. But this doesn’t make any sense from a biblical standpoint,” he said. “As a Christian, we can’t segregate into portions what part we think will do us harm and what part will profit us. If the foundational spirituality is contrary to God’s word, then it will be folly to interact with it.”
I was amazed to read an article (URL now removed) from the Washington Post.
It seems that for T.D. Jakes, yoga can be divorced from its Hindu roots, and the good bishop has a better definition for yoga than that which the Websters dictionary offers.
There is a difference between Christian meditation and yoga. In Christian meditation, you actively consider the Word of God. In yoga, you empty your mind in a process similar to self-hypnosis.
Processes which lead to a passive mind make a person very vulnerable to demonic influence.
I am concerned that here we have a Christian leader with a powerful platform obfuscating the meaning of words and virtually encouraging people to try out something that is powerfully connected to eastern mysticism.
He writes: “If you are embracing or practicing “New Age” eastern spirituality in search of finding an alternative to your current religion, then you have already left the practices and laws that previously governed your religion.”
What if you are embracing New Age eastern spirituality with no intention of replacing your current religion, is that supposed to be O.K.?
Maybe its like saying that masturbation is ok as long as you don’t do it in a spirit of lust.
What is practicing yoga exercises, breath control and contemplative techniques IS in itself a form of eastern spirituality? How can one practice it without seeking it?
Many experts say that you can’t separate these breathing exercises from the spirituality of Hinduism. Possibly because the exercises in themselves constitute an invitation to evil spirits. Remember that the word for “spirit” is the same as the word for “breath” in both Hebrew and Greek.
“For You have forsaken Your people, the house of Jacob, Because they are filled with eastern ways; They are soothsayers like the Philistines, And they are pleased with the children of foreigners. ” (Isaiah 2:6)
T.D. Jakes is not a trinitarian, he subscribes to modalism, which is a part of Oneness Pentecostal theology. Now he is saying that Yoga is O.K., as long as you practice it in a Christian way. It would have been a lot better if he had used terms which are biblical, and defined exactly what he meant, rather than seeking some kind of common ground with practitioners of eastern New Age spirituality.
This Jakes is a man who comes on Christian television all over, gets invited to Hillsong conferences as a featured speaker, and is looked to by many as a great Christian leader. I believe it was Time Magazine that suggested he might be something like another Billy Graham in the making (that in itself might not be such a great endorsement actually).
What we are seeing today is that it is not so much truth that is highly esteemed, but influence. I would say that influence is very dangerous if it is not used in the right way. It is more important to lead people into the right things than it is to lead many people. Much more important.
We are skating on thin ice friends.