— Albert Mohler, president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, from “The Subtle Body - Should Christians Practice Yoga?”


I happened upon this blog post by Dr. Mohler after reading this Seattle Times article by Janet Tu in which Mark Driscoll, pastor of Mars Hill Church, followed up on on the Evangelical leader’s statements with this comment:

“Should Christians stay away from yoga because of its demonic roots? Totally. Yoga is demonic. If you just sign up for a little yoga class, you’re signing up for a little demon class.”

Richard Mouw recently told Krista that the antichrist has changed over his lifetime: from the pope to communism to Stalin and now Islam. These articles are worth a read if you’re interested in learning about some conservative Christians’ views on how cultural trends may be diluting their faith. Perhaps yoga is one of those antichrists?

Share Your Reflection



Wow. The very same Mohler that tool an "unexpected kindred tone" in his op-ed about homosexuality. Not surprised. Don't be wooed by him just 'cause he appears to be conciliatory. Obviously, he is not. At all.


no i think tool is much more appropriate.

Intuition allows for accessing the guidance in most cases not accessible to our
senses. Call it a still voice, a hunch or a gut feeling - as soon as
it begins happening you will know it's no accident.!
Dowsing is a routine we can use to access the intuition using dowsing pendulum as well as divining rod.
I have been using it for a long time and I do think everyone can easily learn it.

As my sister-in-law, Agnieszka Tennant, wrote in a CT column many years ago...you can choose not to invite the Hindu gods onto the yoga mat.


What a buffoon. Because Jesus never sat in stillness to reconnect with the divine, right?

Thanks for your contribution. It's very helpful to read and contemplate.

Peggy's comment is exactly why I am confused about the supposed "contradictions". Mohler's quote above makes it sound like the only way to be Christian is by "obeying" his words, and by not reflecting and making our own connection to God. It strikes me as almost going back to the days before the Reformation when the only path to God was through priests' teaching since the common person could not have their own relationship to God.

really! How horribly ignorant. I will pray for him.


Did Richard Mouw say Islam _is the antichrist, or it has become so in conservative Christians' thinking, as did the previous targets? Mouw hardly would target Islam in such terms; your sentence above suggests he does.

I wonder what Huston Smith would have to say to this man.

Good question. I'll take a look.

What strikes me first in this debate, as in some others, is the ignorance, the lack of thoughtful understanding, a basic level (not a Ph.D. level) of scholarship and scholarly curiosity.

Then I get a little sarcastic, internally. "So, stop doing the yoga and have your followers stop, too. My friends and I will make room in our lives to push your wheel chairs and help you with your walkers even while you condemn us to the hellfires of your imagination."

What strikes me second is how any public play in the press of this teapot tempest curls its fingers around the minds and attentions of the rest of us and squeezes the bejeezus out of us. It's a kind of counter-counter-counter reformation with a hundred not-so-grand inquisitors.

What I urge KT on Being to do with this is to take up the "mountain pose" and to do a "sun salute;" in the words of one of my favorite (and unfamous) yoga teachers, "Now lift your hearts up!" (and she meant it literally). And tap the scholarliness, curiosity and wisdom of deeper thinking Christians, including Roman Catholics (with their genuflecting yoga and ordination prostrations) as well as of Jews (with their yoga of davening), Muslims (with their physical yoga of salaat), Tibetans (with their kum nye form of yoga and 100,000 prostrations) and yoga adepts to lift the conversation to a higher level. Do not yoke yourself to the argument culture of contemporary America. Continue to life our hearts up.

These statements by these particular Christian leaders, one of whom should know better rather than "no" better (Mouw) are just plain ignorant (ignoring what could be known with more penetrating thought) and stupid (living in a stupor).

KT, TG and on Being do know better. Continue to live into your knowing, and be awares but ignore-ant of these stupidities.

thank you for the brilliant (distinguished by unusual mental keenness) response!

Mark, we do tap the "curiosity of deeper thinking Christians" but there is also a a strong strain of Evangelical Christians who think about contemporary culture and trends differently. This blog is a place to present those views in many forms. And we try to pick up on points of past guests and showcase how they might challenge some of our own beliefs and assumptions about what is good, what is right, what is a fair approach, and so on.

We do our best to draw connections, but I also hold a high reverence for our readers/listeners and their ability to digest and respond to these viewpoints. If readers choose not to think about what this means and value the concern of Albert Mohler and his constituency, that is a choice.

For me, it's interesting to see that history carries on. I can't tell you how many people talk to me about yoga and its merits — and, dare I say, in some ways evangelizing. So, when I hear a statement like this made by a powerful Evangelical leader, I pay attention and take those beliefs and views on these cultural topics quite seriously. I want to know more, to understand more, and piece it together as best I can.

To not present his unpopular view is a disservice too. I just wish people wouldn't name call or deride others, whether they believe in the power of yoga or not.

I believe others have been derided by Driscoll and Mouw's stark accusations towards yoga practice. Many people- Christian and non-Christian alike find yoga to be an energizing, body awakening, healing practice. It restores balance and health in the minds and bodies of people, and promotes relaxation which is being found to greatly reduce health risks in people. I believe in the power of relaxation and it's beneficial effects on our minds and bodies. Excess stress in the body I believe is a leading cause of much dis-ease. People need to create the space to release stress, and relax their minds- yoga is one way that space is created. Now christians who practice yoga may be stressing over whether it is right or wrong for them to be doing it, when before it was simply a time to release and let go. I encourage them to continue their yoga practices for the sake of their livelihood, health, and well being. :)

Amen! Thanks, Rev!

You have got to be kidding. This man is dangerous and is a Cult leader himself. Anyone who outright blasts something as healing and helpful and ancient as yoga practice needs to be forced to go take 10 yoga classes (He can pray to whatever God he chooses). What an asinine radical statement and position. I guess he's never read the hard research about all the healing aspects of yoga- that cuts across all traditions and social situations including prisons, cancer patients, traumatized children and adults etc.
Such ignorance is frightening.

I don't think Dr. Mohler is saying yoga should be done away with. He is advising his fellow Southern Baptists to think hard about what doing yoga means. He comes to a different conclusion than many others in these forums, but his Christian roots see it differently. I find this supremely interesting to think about and to try to understand since I don't know that source very well.

So, calling yoga "demonic" does not suggest that it is an evil activity that must be repressed? Hmm, maybe I'm missing something.

And then there is the view of Father Bede Griffiths who saw many parallels between Hindu and Christian thought and who even taught the possibility of a Christian Yoga. Many of us in the West only know the physical movement meaning of Yoga. There is more to it. The heart of these fundamentalist Christians' fear probably is that practicing the movements will lead to the adoption of the religious ideas. So Yoga becomes as Mouw pointed out just another symbol of that which in some Christian's minds takes people away from their union with Christ. What they miss is yoga means union with the divine.

I think you hit upon a point that Dr. Mohler was making: that yoga is more than a physical discipline. The conclusions drawn are much different. I appreciate your commenting here.

oh, good grief!

Francis, I don't think calling Dr. Mohler a name helps the discussion. In his worldview, he has deep concerns about practices adopted in contemporary culture. It's not my place to dismiss this viewpoint, but I do try to understand the place from which he's coming. It might help me understand deeply conservative viewpoints better.

I do not question Mohler's "deep concerns about practices adopted in contemporary culture," I simply marvel at the man's ignorance and his willingness to (literally) demonize what he appears to know little or nothing about. As I see it he's airing his prejudices, nothing more. fwiw, I know some real yogis and to characterize their practice as demonic is to my mind absurd and something close to hate speech.

Trent, I agree with Francis. I wish Being wouldn't give airtime to people like Mohler (or the authors of the Left Behind series, for that matter, whom I believe Krista interviewed a few years ago) for the same reason I'm opposed to legitimate scientists debating creationists - you legitimate their opinions and world views by implication. You treat their beliefs as though they have inherent worth. They do not. These people believe that the vast majority of humanity will be tormented for all of eternity - and they have no problem with it. Their beliefs are obscene, and have no place on public radio or television - two of the last refuges for political and theological liberals (i.e., people who are capable of reason).

Although we haven't had Albert Mohler or Tim LaHaye/Jerry Jenkins on our program yet, we haven't ruled out possibilities for conversations with voices like these. Public media is a space for all types of voices from all segments of society.

As to your point about legitimization, I disagree. Why? Because we trust our listeners/readers to truly listen, question, be open to surprises, and make sense of the humanity behind the words sometimes. If we marginalize many voices because we judge their opinions not have inherent worth is wrong. We're not in the business of making editorial decisions based on that criterion. We need to include both theological liberals and conservatives. Thanks for commenting.

To lump Mohler and Mouw together is wrong. Mohler represents exactly what Mouw describes when he is talking about a fundamentalist need to have a group to revile, the antichrist. Mouw is expressing that this is an aspect of fundamentalism that drove him from the church for a time.

Where does this guy's fear of yoga come from? The practice has so much to teach us. Understanding that my body is a vehicle for the divine is exactly how I came to understand the "grace" of God. Fear not, all yoga-goers! Seperate spirituality from religion, and press forward!

Yoga is one of the best ways to be a good steward of our bodies. It is prayer in motion, or stillness. There is a lot of focus on breathing and tuning into our bodies. Like in everything else in this world, intention is one of the most important things. If you use yoga for physical and mental wellbeing, spirit is part of that. If you use it for any other purpose, it's hard to believe it would be either helpful or satisfying.

Perhaps yoga is one of those antichrists?

So your piece wasn't quite inflammatory enough with that capper?

If this raw red meat for Evangelical haters was genuinely intended to increase understanding, as you indicate below, you have an unaccountably bad grasp of how understanding is achieved. Posting selected inflammatory, divisive remarks without any significant effort to get clarification from or dialogue with the sources isn't a good means to understanding. It is an excellent way to stir up more bad feelings and inhibit understanding. This site is truly amazing in how far it is from what it thinks it is.

Nuts. That should read "without that capper." Wish I could edit with the edit button!

Interesting. Perhaps there is a bias in the reporting of the information presented. (Can't help but think legitimate connections are being made, though.) I am a Christian and a yoga devotee. If your God makes your life smaller, less productive, healthy,peaceful and inspired, that is sad.

I didn't refer to any bias, but since you bring it up, there is bias in picking a negative, inflammatory, peripheral topic like this to focus on instead of some more positive point such as we almost always get here in regard to more liberal beliefs.

I have no idea what the basis for your last remark is.

I think it's important to note that yoga-- like everything else in life-- is not a static, unchanging system. The yoga that's exploded in popularity in the West over the past few decades is actively evolving. It's not the same discipline that was passed down from guru to disciple in the temples of India thousands of years ago, although that's not to say that what is taught today is any less spiritual or valuable. It seems to me that Mohler's commentary draws from his interpretation of a discipline quite different from what many yoga practiioners in practice studios, fitness centers, and spas today.

My experience has been that my yoga practice is what I make it. If I come to my mat with an intention of growing spiritually, psychologically, and in my relationship to the world I life in, it's going to be a very different 90 minutes than if my intention is to burn a few hundred calories.

Given that Xtians believe in the Divine, why not think that this is a way to get in touch with the divine? In the Bible, the still, small voice speaks to people, couldn't yoga be a way to be quietly listening?

I am saddened by these kind of statements made by conservative Christians. It is narrow-minded, to say the least. It also betrays a lack of understanding and appreciation of the fact that ideas and practices from other cultures and religions can be an enriching experience. Even though I am a Christian, I cringe when I hear these kind of statements, especially when Christians label and demonize ancient spiritual practices like Yoga (which by the way antedates Christianity) and call it satanic. In this day and age we, Christians, should learn to be more respectful of what other people believe in or practice even though we don't agree with them. It's not really helpful when we label and demonize the beliefs and practices of people who are different from us...

What are those spiritual elements you do not believe in?

I didn't expect yoga to be viewed as such a threat to Christianity but I suppose I can understand the concerns it raises for Dr. Mohler. I gather Dr. Mohler believes Christianity requires a purity of thought and an absolute indoctrination. That is certainly one way to practice Christianty but I don't believe it leaves much room to discern God's true voice within us, or to embrace those different than ourselves. I can't help but wonder whether Dr. Mohler may fear that God's voice is faint and he/she (God) can easily be overpowered, thus the need to avoid something such as the "practice" of Yoga. I have come to believe the greater our fear of being led astray, the greater the likelihood that there exists within us, parts of ourselves we disavow. I don't write this with disrespect toward Dr. Mohler, but for me, he raises more questions than he answers.

I do not agree with Dr. Mohler. I do not know much about him personally, but I believe, the following speculations may be relevant to him and his Southern Baptist denomination, convention, members and followers.

His niche followers are very conservative Christians with the following characteristics: they watch Fox news; they are tea party members; they live in the south and Southeastern United States; they are predominately middle age white males; they are conservative republicans; they supported the racist interracial dating policies of Bob Jones University, in Greenville, South Carolina,and they are against health care reform.....etc.

I believe, the Southern Baptist Convention is align with his Southeastern Seminary, and as recent as 1995 they apologized to blacks for racism. The history of his denomination is replete with racism in all forms. For example, his denomination condoned and perpetuated slavery.

If you Google, " Southern Baptist Convention Apology" you will find 122,000 results. Why did it take Southern Baptist so long to repent and apologize to blacks?

In my research, I discovered that scholars like Dr. Mohler back during slavery, used the bible to condone slavery. If the Bible condoned the type of slavery practiced in America and condoned by Southern Baptist, why did Southern Baptist apologized in 1995 to Blacks for obeying the bible? What Changed?

Can anyone recall Dr. Mohler making statements to his followers about how demonic divorce is. Surely Satan must be the cause of all divorce? or how about gluttony; the bible has lots of bad stuff to say about gluttony from Exodus to Jude; what is the average body fat and Body Mass Index (BMI) of members in the Southern Baptist Denomination? Statistics indicate most Americans are overweight, and since most Nominal Christians in America,(not all Christians in America) are Nominal and Worldly, who copycat secular world views from divorce to entertainment, except Worldly Christians go to church on Sundays for two hours. After church they try to catch up to the World, by going to all you can eat buffets and entertaining themselves to death watching football games on their big screen, High Definition Televisions, for the balance of the Lord's Day. They call that "keeping the Sabbath Holy" We just may have some demonic, football game, idol worship going on here.

Why do I believe the above may be true? Some Christians like to copy the popular world view. For example, Christian divorce rates are equal or greater than non Christian divorce rates.

Therefore, I speculate that odds are in favor of Southern Baptist meeting or exceeding obesity rates of non Christian Americans? Obesity is caused by over eating and lack of physical activity. so the real anti-Christ is not yoga, but Food, lack of exercise and physical activity (laziness), HDTV and Sunday Football games.

Therefore Southern Baptist are not being good stewards of their temple (body) in which God dwells, by means of the Holy Spirit. That just may be Demonic!!

Now that I think about it; I further speculate, that very few Southern Baptist practice yoga, or any kind of regular exercise. Yoga is not a Southern Baptist Christian problem. if the world has been as successful infiltrating and proselytizing Southern Baptist in regards to food and lack of exercise, like they have been with getting them to divorce, Southern Baptist are not doing yoga, because they are not exercising period; they are eating when they should be exercising.

Instead of focusing on yoga, I continue to speculate Dr. Mohler should focus on issues relevant to his niche Southern Baptist followers, over eating which is gluttony, and lack of physical activity which is laziness, and not keeping the Lord's Day holy by watching football games in HDTV. After tackling those issues he can focus on anti-Christ yoga stuff.

For me, there are a few litmus tests for spiritual maturity. But these are not doctrinal, but rather behavioral. For example, the presence/absence of contempt. Contempt (valuing the Other--be it a person, animal, object--as worth-less than myself) elicits even more contempt among all but the most advanced spirits.

Or another example: fear. This man exhibits both of these and, therefore, forfeits the right to be listened to.

His own revered writings state clearly, "God has not given us the spirit of fear" and that we should consider our brother as more important than ourselves.

So, to spread fear and to demean other's beliefs/practices seems to contradict this man's own beliefs.

It is not possible to discuss specifics such as the benefits/liabilities of a practice such as yoga with a person in such a state of confusion. First, we would have to discuss the underlying belief structure and see if there is common ground to even begin a discussion.

My experience is that Fundamentalists have created such an air-tight dogma, that it takes some sort of catastrophic break-down (usually some type of overwhelming mental/physical suffering) to help them reorient to what is actually the Real.

I am a Kripalu trained Yoga teacher with 10 years experience. I'm also a Catholic. Recently I did a research paper for my MA in Holistic Spirituality at a Catholic college (Chestnut Hill) looking into the background of statements of Yoga not being Christian. I noted that when Moses and Aaron encounter Pharaoh, Aaron's staff turns into a snake and then back into a staff. Later in the Exodus story, Aaron's staff is used in the book of Numbers to affirm leadership. His staff was so revered that it was placed with the Arc of the Covenant. ... From Yoga, the energetic understanding is that the "snake" coiled at the base of the spine can awaken with diligent practice. In awakening, the "snake" rises up the spinal column, and straightens it, ... like a staff. There are some interesting pictures of the staffs used by Catholic bishops that are decorated with ... snakes. I think both Yoga and the Judeo-Christian heritage honor the same universal process of awakening. Caroline Myss's book, Anatomy of the Spirit, further explains the foundational energy process and how that is taught in the mystical branches of Judaism, Hinduism, and the Catholic sacraments (7 sacraments and 7 chakras ...) I would also add that yes, Yoga IS about higher levels of consciousness, but that doesn't mean escaping the world. It is a way of honoring incarnational spirituality; the true meaning of Christmas. - Through developing a deeper relationship with the Divine within, one becomes of greater service to the world. On that, both yogis and christians agree.

Beautifully stated!

I personally know Jesus very well.
Jesus was a yogi.
UNION; heaven and Earth, at hand. Peacemaker, meek, Nonviolence, Truth, Integrity, Chastity, Relinquishment.
Simplicity, contentment, discipline, self-study, and God-reliance.
And I'm unlikely to be swayed otherwise.
Catholic == Come down whole.

Yoga was first introduced to me by a dear friend who had just entered the novitiate of contemplative nuns. When I commented this to my spiritual director, he got me a copy of Fr. Jean Marie Dechanet's OSB "Christian Yoga in 10 lessons", founder of the first Christian ashram in India. It has changed my life. Recently the Centering Prayer movement has become very popular world-wide, based on Fr. Thomas Merton's life and works. I find that Fr. DeChanet's work and CP are practically one and the same. A great blessing for all humans and the creation that surrounds all of us.

Dr. Albert Mohler, Pastor Mark Driscoll and all others who believe like them--that the Pope, Islam and now Yoga are demonic or the anti-Christ are merely expressing their own inner demons and deeply rooted fears. Their belief systems protect them from having to face those demons and fears and do the deep personal work necessary to heal their own darkness within. To adhere so completely to any belief system that creates a "we and them" is, to me, demonic. In my early Christian upbringing, I was taught that it is the work of the devil to separate us from one another because in that separation we are weakened and in that weakened state he is able to invoke his ill will upon us. Yoga is a practice that encourages us to open--to ourselves, to our lives and to each other. Anti-Christ? Seems like Christ would have good things to say about that.

I appreciate Trent Gilliss' approach to listen to all voices. When I was a yoga devotee totally immersed, I too would have dismissed Rev Mohler as ignorant and benighted. What I would recommend for someone like Mohler is to talk with people who actually practiced the spiritual aspects of yoga and then returned to Christianity. There are philosophical differences. And some of the yoga organizations in the West are not just teaching exercise, they are bringing the more esoteric teachings (most of which are quite beautiful and profound) - but in the organization to which I belonged, there was a particularly Western twist added. We were told not to "interfere with the karma of others," which would have led someone like Seane not to intervene with young prostitutes and consign them to being lost. Other times I heard that wealth is "deserved from past lifetimes," and if you took that to its logical conclusion, that means hedge fund billionaires "deserved" to affect the global economy, and those of us harmed by their actions "deserved" our karma. Any teaching, Christianity or yoga, Islam or Buddhism, can be twisted by the purposes of those who claim to follow it. I think we do have to go beyond labels of "demonic" but ask, is there a difference between a redemption faith like Christianity and a work-on-yourself belief system such as many yoga teachers in the West propound (sometimes with more or less ties to Hindu beliefs and practices)? There's certainly a difference between Seane Corn and many people I knew in yoga, who only believed in "working on their own consciousness," including accepting social wrongs without doing anything about them.

Hi, Onceayogini! Just read your comment. I agree with you. The issue then is how do you define YOGA. What I know as yoga is very different from what you are describing. Thanks for sharing!

I'm actually wondering if all of you commenting read the same quote by Al Mohler that I did. I don't know who Mark Driscoll is, but Mohler said nothing crazy about the anti-christ or demons. He made a fairly lucid comment about yoga and Christianity being inconsistent with one another. I'm an evangelical, and I'm not sure he's wrong. Many of you are making comments based on a loose affiliation you had with Christianity in the past, or what you imagined Jesus was really "all about." That's quite a different thing from Mohler's perspective: born again, Biblically based. Does he have to agree with you? Is he allowed his opinion?

Phil. 2:5 - "have this mind in you which was also in Christ Jesus". When you look at the early Church Fathers, the notion of deification/divinization/theosis is orthodox teaching....Irenaeus says, "God became man, so man could become God." From the Church Fathers to the great mystics of the Middle Ages - John of the Cross, Teresa of Avila, Ignatius of Loyola, Francis of Assisi, to our modern time..with Father Thomas Keating among others...we are called to a higher conscisousness...to put on the mind of Christ. How many Christians do not see this or get this reveals their lcak of understanding of the depth of our tradition and that it calls for a transformation equal to the Hindu cliam of realizing our union with God.

Absolutely, Wfhaardt. Now explain to me how that relates. The discussion is about yoga in the Christian's life. The scriptures are absolutely full of instruction on how to acheive the mind of Christ... yoga isn't found there. Paul would be mystified at such a suggestion, and wonder what faith we were discussing.

The Church Fathers include Gregory Palamas, whose conception of "hesychastic" prayer was very physical and oriented toward breathing a particular way. Christian prayer at the very least should include silence and meditation, without one's mind racing all over the cosmos. I'm not sure that yoga is the way to pursue it, but it is difficult for me as an Orthodox Christian to listen to someone like Seane Corn and identify her attitude inconsistent with Christianity. In many ways, she is closer to Orthodox Christianity than Dr. Mohler and "Bible Christians" seem to be.

Wow. I think this man has profoundly misunderstood what yoga is. And maybe it's not entirely his fault. Many many many yoga teachers in this country do not even understand what yoga is truly about, which is connecting with the divine that is within and all around us, whatever that might be for you. Yoga is just another pathway toward connecting with Christ (or Allah or the Tao or whatever un-named spirit you experience within) you and it does not dictate what to believe about God, but rather how to experience God within yourself, which if I'm correct is also what Christianity seeks to do - to connect with God and live in a way that is in line with divine action. What better way to live with divine action than to identify the divinity within yourself, imbed it, and live through it in every single moment!

As a devout Catholic, 20 year student of non-denominational bibles studies and now student of theology toward my Masters....I am still humored by man's ability to build walls where there could be bridges. I practice yoga along with running marathons and participating in triathlons enjoying all the ways I can mentally and physically use the body/temple/gifts God gave me and enjoy his world and people....I meet people everywhere, everyday who are clearly at a different place in their journey to heaven or hell and a different level of faith development. When I participate in yoga and hear the teacher instruct me to the divinity of myself and honoring the spirit within....I don't think of the devil or myself, but rather the Holy Spirit within me and the Trinity of God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit working in His world and His people and me. I trust in His plan to reach me through His children whether they are Buddists, Muslims, Jews, Baptists, Evangelicals, Hindu's and even Athiests...they are all His and He knows them/ Whether they know Him when they come face to face with Him will depend on whether they listened to him in all his glory or whether they only lived for themselves...Psalm 118:8 "Better to take refuge in the Lord, than to put one's trust in mortals." Jesus is the way the truth and the life....but he ALWAYS points us to His Father and offers us grace through His Holy Spirit....for those who cannot hear or open their minds to Jesus, there is still God and the Holy Spirit trying to shepherd them home. The devil and sin are anything we use to separate us from the love of God. God made us all. He created diversity. He has a plan. Don't shut out the possibilities of how He reaches, touches and brings His children home.

We should focus on practicing our faith in the way God wants us to. Faithfulness is composed of believing, trusting and praising Him. We will never be strayed if we just follow His words. So no matter what other people will say about the things you have learned right, your heart has the answer to it and you will never go wrong if you follow His teachings.