I recently discovered a developing trend on Google trends related to the question, “Is Yoga a sin?” The trend shows that there is an increased interest in this question by over 160%.

So as a writer on Yoga I would like to share with you my reflection on this question.

In answering this question, I will begin with my story related to yoga and sin. Then I will continue the reflection of this question as follows:-

Is Yoga a Sin Menu

It isn’t my intention to persuade you either way.

However, as this article will show I do have a bias toward the invitation that is called Yoga but not yoga as understood by most people who use that term.

Personal Story of Yoga and Sin

is yoga sinful

I am 71 years old living close to the border of Northern Ireland and Eire. I originate from my homeland of Northern Ireland.

When I was around 17 years old my mother gave me a book.  She had never given any book before, but she handed it to me and said, “Son, this might be of interest to you.”

Many years later I wrote a poem about this event that took place on the stairway of my home in Armagh in Northern Ireland.

On the winding stair my mother gave me a book.  Inside there was a treasure I didn’t know I had lost. Now oft times I remember my mother and I think, “How come my mother knew the treasure was mine – Tony Cuckson.

This was a book on yoga.

I read this book and I KNEW that this was something I loved.  I KNEW this teaching, but I had no idea how I could know.

I KNEW at that moment that Yoga was something I wanted to teach.

Yoga is the Work of the Devil

Yoga at the time (1967) was controversial.  In Northern Ireland in 1967 there was a fundamentalist Christian minister called Dr. Reverend Ian Paisley.

He became the founder of a Christian fundamentalist church called the Free Presbyterian Church.

Not much has changed since 1965. The Vatican’s 85-year-old chief exorcist Gabriel Amorth said,

why is yoga a sin

Yoga is the devil’s work. You think you are doing it to stretch your mind and body. But it leads to oriental religions based on the false belief of reincarnation.

The teaching of the church as with many Christian teachings in my life was filled with the focus on sin and damnation.

No one supported my interest in this teaching called Yoga. Instead of becoming one of the first-ever teachers of Yoga in the West (and probably the 1st in Northern Ireland), I became an accountant.

So, the very thing that I was created to express in the world was denied due to those who claimed to know the will of the Divine but clearly did not.

Return Journey of Yoga

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It probably took around fifty years before I returned to the teachings of the Master Jesus Christ. This was initially something I resisted (which is really an understatement).

However, I found teachers whose focus was more in keeping with the mystical side of Christianity.

I don’t belong to any established church and I love the teachings from almost all mystical traditions that I have explored for over 50 years.

The difference is that all mystics KNOW through direct personal and trans-personal experience the unity nature of the teachings flowing from so many glorious spiritual teachings.

The problem is when you are taught such spiritual teachings from people who have never had a direct encounter with the Divine.  They are the blind leading the blind.

The problem is so many think that they KNOW when they don’t.  What they know is the words but not the direct experience beyond words.

This is why so many believers feel threatened when anyone questions their belief system.

You can’t threaten a mystic with regard to belief because their foundation is  KNOWING. They don’t have to be convinced and they don’t have to convince anyone else.

What is Yoga and Sin

why is yoga considered a sin

If you have searched for an answer to the question “Is yoga a sin?” it suggests to me that you are probably

  • Interested in practicing Yoga.
  • Feel uncertain about exploring the practice.
  • Have been introduced to the idea of “sin.”

In my experience, most people have no idea what either the word “yoga” or “sin” means.

This is especially the case with people who declare that “Yoga is a sin.”

When you attack the teachings or practices of another religion or culture it indicates that you do not have a very grounded relationship to your own religion and culture.

When my mother gave me the book on the winding stair of my homeplace 50 plus years ago I KNEW what yoga was. I KNEW I was in love with this teaching.

What I wasn’t in love with was the idea of being a “sinner.”

It took me another fifty years of exploration to recognize and understand this word ‘sin’ and its place in the wisdom teachings of the world especially that of Christianity.

The Meaning of Sin

why is doing yoga a sin

In Northern Ireland, the key focus of my religious upbringing centered around sin and redemption. This never sat well with me.

Most Christians I know associate the word ‘sin’ with the idea of wrongdoing.

However, sin has nothing to do with morality.  The root of word ‘sin’ relates to an archery term that means “to miss the mark.”

For most of the history of hierarchical religion the way in which the church retained its claim on its followers was to instill a sense of guilt.

If there was no guilt, then there was no need for redemption and thus no need for the services of those who claimed authority in such matters.

Thus, for most of the history of the Christian church the word ‘sin’ and ‘guilt’ went together as they still do.

Thus, if you think or are taught that Yoga is a sin you will feel guilty and you will avoid the practice.

This is in the interest of the established hierarchical church.  They get to keep you as a follower.

Consequently, as in my case, you may lose the opportunity to realize the fullness of who you are created to be.

True Meaning of Sin as Separation

As any mystic will assure you the word ‘sin’ is never intended to make you feel guilty. It is never intended to have you battle the moral opposites between good and evil.

The word ‘sin’ and the related word ‘sinner’ points to an existential fact that each and every one of us feel as part of the experience of being human.

This is whether you are a believer, non-believer, atheist.

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The word ‘sin’ points to the fact that you feel separate. From a spiritual point of view, you feel separate from that experience which is referenced by the word ‘God.’

This is the truth for most every one of us.  You do not have to believe in God to experience the all too human experience of feeling separate.

There is no requirement to feel guilty about this.  It is part of the journey of living as a human being within this dimension of time and space.

If you are taught that you are “Born a sinner” there is a certain element of truth to this.  We might not like this, but it’s only because we have been conditioned to feel guilty.

The reality is that you are born into a collective consciousness on this planet where everyone feels separate from everyone else.  Is this not so?

You don’t have to feel guilty about this because you had no part of the setup.

Most religious hierarchies convince you that you are guilty of having been born a “sinner” so they can have authority over you.  This is despite the fact that such persons in authority have never entered the state of union or Heaven.

But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut up the kingdom of heaven against men; for you neither go in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in. – Matthew 23-13 KJV

The Meaning of Yoga

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Most people practicing yoga in the West have no real understanding of its depth.

The deeper meaning of the word yoga is encapsulated in the word “union.” Thus, yoga is the invitation to explore the journey beyond the experience of feeling separate (sin).

The problem that those who declare “Yoga is a sin” feel just as separate as you do.

Most of them have never had a direct experience of that which they reference with the word “God.”

God is an experience. God is not a concept.

Yoga as it is understood by those in the KNOW is the way to overcome the feeling of separation from God.

This is not something you believe in.  It has no value if it is not your personal and transpersonal experience.

Belief in God is like belief in electricity.  It has no real power without a direct connection.

The Master Jesus referred to the experience of Yoga in the following way.

I am in the Father and the Father is in me – John 14:11 KJV

Notice here that this is the complete description of unity.  There is no separation.

The experience of sin (as separation) is realized to be false.  Think of what that would do to the established Church if it were declared in every pulpit.

Such teaching would have to be suppressed as has been the case throughout the history of the Christian church and other churches.

Within this direct revelatory experience, of non-separateness, you KNOW that you have never, nor can you ever be separate from the experience referenced by the word ‘God.’

Experience is the beginning of mysticism… People will say ‘I am drawn to mysticism because I want an experiential faith.’ I think that’s great! But let that be your starting point, and not your ending point. If the experience of God is the beginning of mysticism, then God’s encounter with you is the end of mysticism. — Carl McColman

God is not outside you and you are not outside God although for most people for almost all their lives this is the feeling they experience.

This is the feeling of being separate. (sin)

On Whose Authority is Yoga a Sin

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If you have come to this article from an interest in the question “Is Yoga a sin?” I have a related question for you that is of importance.

This is the question, “By whose authority do you ask this question and why?” Who do you give authority to in matters of your DIRECT relationship with the Divine?

In my experience, there are very few people who have any real authority in this matter. Although there are more than enough who claim such authority.

The only people authorized to give you guidance in such matters are those who are mystics of all traditions and none.

A mystic is a person who has been graced a direct experience of God. They are not believers but KNOWERS. It is only the mystic who can invite you into the experience of authentic faith.

One thing a mystic will always invite you to do is to trust the still small voice within you.

This is the voice that directs your higher and true purpose. This is your primary purpose as one created to serve the Purpose of Love.

Any practice that invites listening to this inner voice of authority is a practice of yoga – an invitation to union.

If you listen to the voice of another who has had no direct experience of God, then you are the blind following the blind.

The Journey

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice –
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
“Mend my life!”
each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do –
determined to save
the only life you could save.

Mary Oliver

Claim your own authority in this matter and go on the quest to live in union with God. You are going to have to do this at some stage in the journey into union with the Divine.

In doing so you move from feeling separate to an experience of union.  This experience of union or yoga is who you truly are.

Within that revelation of union with God, you KNOW beyond belief that you have never been nor can you ever be separate from the Divine.

This is the Good News, but it has been highjacked by those who are non-knowers of that experience referenced by the word God.

What is the Practice of Yoga

effortless yoga

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Yoga as practiced in the West has little or nothing to do with the invitation to the direct experience of union as outlined above.

The practice of Yoga for around 90% plus of the people who do it has to do with fitness and flexibility. There is nothing wrong with this other than to call it Yoga.

If the average Yoga teacher were to introduce the deep spiritual understanding of Yoga that is the experience of union, she/he would probably lose 90% of their students.

Yoga only really becomes Yoga when your focus and intention is union with the Divine as a direct experience rather than something you profess a belief in.

Whether you practice Yoga or not you are still someone who for the most part feels themselves to be a separate personal individual.

In that sense, you remain a sinner. This isn’t a judgment although you are likely as in my case to feel a sense of guilt when that word is used.

However, this is an existential experience for most people on the planet.

One way of getting a bit of relief from this sense of separateness is to practice a form of exercise that in the West is called yoga.

Do not however confuse this everyday exercise routine as having any real connection to the true invitation that is at the heart of Yoga.

This is the invitation to KNOW that you and God are never and can never be separate.

I would appreciate your sharing your thoughts about this article. Please, however, do not be someone who simply parrots a verse from scripture.

Yoga is a Sin Summary

effortless yoga

So let me summarize the above reflection on the expanding interest around the question “Is Yoga a sin.”

Yoga is a Sin – Yes

The practice of Yoga is likely to be viewed a sin if you feel aligned with the following.

  • Sin is defined as a moral choice between good and bad.
  • The authority for such choice is given to an authority outside yourself.
  • Your relationship with God is based on belief rather than direct experience – KNOWING.
  • Yoga is seen as belonging to a different religion and culture that threatens your belief system.

Yoga is a Sin – No

The practice of Yoga is viewed as non-sinful if you feel aligned with the following.

  • Sin is the personal experience of separation from the Divine.
  • Yoga is seen as the invitation to overcome such separation (union).
  • The authority for such union comes from the still small voice within.
  • Yoga is seen as an invitation to the experience of the transpersonal.
  • Any practice that unifies this sense of separation is a form of Yoga.

I would appreciate your sharing your thoughts about this article.

Please, however, do not be someone who simply parrots a verse from scripture unless you have direct experience of its meaning.

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