Yoga: Can We Exercise Discernment?

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Yoga: Can We Exercise Discernment?

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yoga250By Karis Carlson. Posted with permission from Baptist Bulletin May/June 2012. All rights reserved.

In April, the First Lady hosted the 134th Annual Easter Egg Roll, one of the oldest and most unusual presidential traditions. Over 30,000 people flocked to the White House to roll eggs down the south lawn, watch a cooking demonstration, listen to celebrities read children’s stories, take a basketball lesson, and…do yoga.

Michelle Obama introduced the Yoga Garden to the Easter festivities last year as part of her “Let’s Move” initiative to combat childhood obesity. Yoga has become one of the most popular forms of exercise today. Not surprising, considering yoga already was a fitness phenomenon without the presidential seal of approval. As Stephanie Syman writes in The Subtle Body: The Story of Yoga in America, “There certainly was no better proof that Americans had assimilated this spiritual discipline. We had turned a technique for God realization…into a singular thing: a way to stay healthy and relaxed.”

Stephanie has succinctly summed up the entire argument of yoga for believers. Should believers condemn yoga for its pagan origin, or embrace it for its modern benefits? The Christian community is closely divided over this issue, and both sides are passionate about their viewpoints. So who is right?

Two Sides to Every Yoga Pose

Let’s begin with a brief explanation of traditional yoga. To put it simply, traditional yoga is an ancient mental, physical, and spiritual discipline. The term “yoga” comes from the Sanskrit word yuj, which means “to join or unite,” referring to the union of body, mind, and spirit. The purpose at the time of its creation was to join the disciple, or yogi, with the universal spirit in order to reach samadhi, or enlightenment.

In the Yoga Sutras, one of the most important texts of yoga, Patañjali divides the practice of yoga into eight aspects: yama (moral codes), niyama (self-purification and study), asana (postures), pranayama (breath control), pratyahara (sense control), dharana (concentration), dhyana (meditation), and samadhi (absorption into the universal). These eight pillars make up the foundation of all yoga practices. So to call yoga simply a stretching exercise is like calling baptism water aerobics, because the physical movements (asanas) are only a small fraction of what yoga involves.

There are many different styles of yoga—too many to count, and certainly too many to discuss in any amount of detail. One style, however, is important to understand, because it is the version that modern Americans have accepted. Hatha yoga is the combination of three of the eight aspects of yoga: asanas (postures), pranayama (breath control), and dhyana (meditation). But the emphasis of most modern yoga classes is on the physical postures.

Since the traditional styles of yoga and the modern American alternative are so different from one another in practice and purpose, we need a good understanding of each to decide whether believers should practice yoga.

Yoga: A technique for god realization?

Laurette Willis was introduced to yoga in 1965 at age 7. She and her mother, Jacquie, spent many hours together exercising along with a television yoga program. Laurette loved it. Her mother loved it as well—so much so, in fact, that she began to teach classes out of her home, often using her daughter as a model for poses.

Laurette’s family attended a church regularly, but the church did not teach salvation or a relationship with Christ, so as a young adult, Laurette grew hungry for spiritual truth and found that yoga filled that longing. As a result, Laurette became immersed in metaphysical practices, including universalism, Taoism, tarot cards, Ouija boards, crystals, and parapsychology. What began as an innocent exercise program led Laurette into New Age beliefs that would enslave her for 22 years.

In 1987 Laurette was freed from these addictions through a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. Her life was radically altered. Now, as a popular speaker, writer, fitness professional, and the founder of PraiseMoves (a Christian fitness alternative to yoga), she is outspoken about the dangers of yoga.

According to Laurette, the meditation aspect of yoga encouraged her to empty her mind and have “out of body” experiences. The postures she practiced were worship to the 330 million pagan Hindu gods. Even the breathing aspect taught her to “manipulate the life force.” All three aspects are dangerous.

Laurette’s story is proof that yoga is not always just an innocent exercise, especially for those who lack a strong spiritual foundation. Yoga programs that emphasize spirituality stand in direct opposition to what the Bible teaches us about life, God, salvation, and ourselves.

But is there such a thing as yoga without pagan religious philosophies? Yes, in fact, there is.

Yoga: A way to stay healthy and relaxed?

Three years before I was born, my mother, Jeannie Vogel, was pregnant with her second child, my sister Heather. Remembering the 10-hour nightmare of giving birth to her first child, Nathan, my mom enrolled in a prenatal yoga class at the hospital, hoping that her second delivery would go more smoothly.

The class was simple and strictly physical exercise. “I would have been uncomfortable if it had been at all religious,” my mom said. There was no meditating, no emptying of the mind, no New Age undertones. The class was designed for the sole purpose of strengthening the muscles used for childbirth and teaching the mothers-to-be to breathe and relax their bodies.

“It was my easiest delivery,” my mom says. “I remember thinking during my next delivery, I wish I’d taken a yoga class.” She said the yoga class taught her to relax and control her body—things that are extremely difficult during labor—and made the whole experience faster and less painful.

My mother has been the wife of a conservative Baptist minister for 33 years. She is a popular speaker and an author of women’s Bible studies. She is a godly woman. And she still uses the yoga program on Wii Fit to improve her balance and get a good workout. “Yoga is just exercise to me.” And she’s not the only one who feels this way.

A quick perusal of book titles in the health section of Barnes and Noble will tell you that yoga not only prepares a woman for childbirth but can heal osteoporosis, relieve neck and back pain, improve posture, help breast cancer patients, eliminate stress, reduce arthritis pain, reduce stuttering, improve runners’ speed, and be therapeutic for children with special needs like cerebral palsy and Down syndrome. Yoga is for every body type, every physical condition, and every age, even infants. Itsy Bitsy Yoga: Poses to Help Your Baby Sleep Longer, Digest Better, and Grow Stronger by Helen Garabedian pictures an infant in the downward facing dog pose on the front cover. And you won’t want to miss the sequel: Itsy Bitsy Yoga for Toddlers and Preschoolers: 8-Minute Routines to Help Your Child Grow Smarter, Be Happier, and Behave Better.

It’s no wonder yoga is overwhelmingly popular. It appeals to every American. Whether yoga can deliver on all of these promises is doubtful, but it does have undeniable physical benefits. These days, hospitals, therapists, and chiropractors are recommending yoga as a way to treat common ailments, not because of any spiritual emphasis, but because it has been proven to be good for the body.

In America today, yoga is loved for its physical benefits, not its religious affiliations.

Learning to Be Discerning

So which is it? Is yoga a dangerous religious discipline associated with the occult, or is it an exercise program that eases aches and pains while helping a person lose weight?

The answer is yes.

Yoga can be both. It was created to be a spiritual discipline; however, somewhere between the ancient temples in India and our modern American suburbs, yoga has been transformed into a purely physical discipline. Of course, that is not completely true in all cases. There are yoga programs in America today that still teach pagan religious doctrines, but just as many do not. I don’t believe Christians should ban all yoga programs, just as I don’t believe they should embrace them all.

The idea of a “Christian yoga” class poses special problems, and perhaps some of my concern is with the label itself. Is the instructor attempting to reconcile the teachings of Hinduism with the teachings of Christ? If so, the result can only be confusion and compromise. Is the instructor teaching solid Bible principles along with the exercise regime? If so, their teachings should be evaluated for their Scriptural value, not just their exercise value. Would you invite this particular exercise leader to teach a Bible study at church? The “Christian yoga” label, at its best, might describe a healthy workout delivered with a thin veneer of God-talk and “Christianese.”

Yoga options that will not compromise your faith do exist. As a fitness enthusiast who loves to use a variety of workouts, I can attest to the fact that nearly every workout instructor uses a yoga pose or two in every warm-up and cool-down and usually sprinkled throughout the workout. So when Jillian Michaels asks me to go into downward facing dog pose, I do not have the slightest hesitation. Or when Shaun T, from the popular cardio workout Insanity, invites me to go into child’s pose after a particularly strenuous circuit, I do so gladly.

It’s clearly not the pose or position of the body that makes yoga a threat to Christian beliefs, but rather the intent behind them. Otherwise, we would not allow our children to sit Indian style (lotus pose, or padmasana), we would not stretch out with lunges (low lunge pose, or anjaneyasana), or we would not even just stand up tall (mountain pose, or tadasana). Obviously yoga does not own the sole rights to these positions. Many of us have been using them all our lives without ever knowing that there is an ancient Sanskrit name for them.

The issue, then, is one of discernment. How do believers ensure that when they practice yoga it is free from any pagan undertones?

Across the page are five warning signs that will help you recognize the difference between a classical approach to yoga and a purely physical approach.

Just last month, San Francisco officials opened the first airport yoga room in North America. Yoga is taught in school gym classes, incorporated into workout programs, and hailed by health enthusiasts. The First Lady endorses it, doctors prescribe it, and our neighbors are probably doing it. Yet as innocent as it appears to the rest of the nation, believers should handle yoga with caution and discernment.

Related: Your yoga program is more than just physical exercise if…


Karis Carlson is a graduate of Baptist Bible College, Clarks Summit, Pa., with a degree in Biblical studies and communications. She works at Fenwal, a global blood technology company in Lake Zurich, Ill. She and her husband, Brett, enjoy breeding exotic animals, training for triathlons, and leading worship in their church.

Chip Van Emmerik's picture
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So, why can't we apply these

So, why can't we apply these arguments to music.

Quote:
Yoga can be both. It was created to be a spiritual discipline; however, somewhere between the ancient temples in India and our modern American suburbs, yoga has been transformed into a purely physical discipline. Of course, that is not completely true in all cases. There are yoga programs in America today that still teach pagan religious doctrines, but just as many do not. I don’t believe Christians should ban all yoga programs, just as I don’t believe they should embrace them all.

Does anyone else see the similarity between this line of reasoning and the one frequently applied in the music debates. Why would one be deemed acceptable and the other be deemed unacceptable?

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

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Thank you, Karis, for this

Thank you, Karis, for this balanced article that will hopefully stretch our thinking (I know, I know, GROAN!).

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Good thought

Chip Van Emmerik wrote:
So, why can't we apply these arguments to music.
Quote:
Yoga can be both. It was created to be a spiritual discipline; however, somewhere between the ancient temples in India and our modern American suburbs, yoga has been transformed into a purely physical discipline. Of course, that is not completely true in all cases. There are yoga programs in America today that still teach pagan religious doctrines, but just as many do not. I don’t believe Christians should ban all yoga programs, just as I don’t believe they should embrace them all.

Does anyone else see the similarity between this line of reasoning and the one frequently applied in the music debates. Why would one be deemed acceptable and the other be deemed unacceptable?

You are right, Chip. Indeed, many of our hymn tunes were bar songs or love songs. So we have been doing this for centuries. So I agree that we should apply the same standard to music. We do that with the days of the week, too, whose names are all pagan. Many, many of the things we do or say have pagan origins (as even does the name typically used for Resurrection Sunday, Easter). This is why we must avoid being too meticulous.

Ecclesiastes 7:16 (ESV)

Quote:
Be not overly righteous, and do not make yourself too wise. Why should you destroy yourself?

I Corinthians 10:25

Quote:
Eat whatever is sold in the meat market without raising any question on the ground of conscience.

We need to take these principles seriously. It is the weaker brother who can't leave things alone.

Great, balanced article and great correlation to music.

"The Midrash Detective"

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why?

I don't understand why many people are so eager to embrace this pagan practice. There are other methods that already exist to loosen and relax the body, such as pre/post workout stretches. These have been by athletes for years now.

People claim that Yoga is just a way to relax and maintain flexibility. But if you go to a Yoga class or read about it, there is an emphasis placed on emptying one's mind, and channeling spirit forces. Almost everyone who practices Yoga has some type of New Age mentality.

J Ng's picture
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Chip Van Emmerik wrote: Does

Chip Van Emmerik wrote:

Does anyone else see the similarity between this line of reasoning and the one frequently applied in the music debates. Why would one be deemed acceptable and the other be deemed unacceptable?

Absolutely. In linguistics, words are arbitrary symbols on which speakers of a language endow meaning and connotation. The word "nice" might've seemed a bad thing to call someone in a bygone era; it no longer carries a negative vibe now. There's nothing particularly "moral" about the alphabet or conventions of punctuation. Yet put them together in a recognizable form, and you can get stuff that's pretty blasphemous and objectionable.

In terms of music, that sense of self-will and rebellion derived from the 1960s may not have altogether shaken off the sounds of CCM. But who's to say the sounds mean something different a couple of generations hence. For now, though, churches and pastors have a responsibility to discern and identify the semantics of the music.

Over to yoga, could it be that it's going through a phase that western medicine underwent decades ago when it was shrugging off the Snake-god and superstitious connotations of Galen's and Hippocrates' eras? Eventually, western medicine managed to shrug off all those things and perhaps too much--becoming overly naturalistic--but I don't hear any Fundamentalist pastor sermonizing against the dangerous, idolatrous background of cancer or stroke treatment. Yoga may need a little time to completely shake its mystical, pagan roots, and it's worth studying if it's possibly further ahead in this respect than rock music as form of purely physiological therapy.

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J Ng wrote:Chip Van Emmerik

J Ng wrote:
Chip Van Emmerik wrote:

Does anyone else see the similarity between this line of reasoning and the one frequently applied in the music debates. Why would one be deemed acceptable and the other be deemed unacceptable?

Absolutely. In linguistics, words are arbitrary symbols on which speakers of a language endow meaning and connotation. The word "nice" might've seemed a bad thing to call someone in a bygone era; it no longer carries a negative vibe now. There's nothing particularly "moral" about the alphabet or conventions of punctuation. Yet put them together in a recognizable form, and you can get stuff that's pretty blasphemous and objectionable.

In terms of music, that sense of self-will and rebellion derived from the 1960s may not have altogether shaken off the sounds of CCM. But who's to say the sounds mean something different a couple of generations hence. For now, though, churches and pastors have a responsibility to discern and identify the semantics of the music.

Over to yoga, could it be that it's going through a phase that western medicine underwent decades ago when it was shrugging off the Snake-god and superstitious connotations of Galen's and Hippocrates' eras? Eventually, western medicine managed to shrug off all those things and perhaps too much--becoming overly naturalistic--but I don't hear any Fundamentalist pastor sermonizing against the dangerous, idolatrous background of cancer or stroke treatment. Yoga may need a little time to completely shake its mystical, pagan roots, and it's worth studying if it's possibly further ahead in this respect than rock music as form of purely physiological therapy.

Yoga is not just another form of Eastern medicine. It is a practice coming directly from the pagan practices of Eastern mysticism. It was introduced into this country in the 1960's, by music groups like the Beatles, while they began to experiment with drugs and Eastern mysticism. It was they who made Yoga something mainstream. It was also responsible for the rise of New Age spirituality, and other forms of pagan ideas that gained prominence in the 1970's.

Yoga does not heal anything. It can easily be replaced by countless other forms of exercise and relaxation activities. Once again, why are Christians so eager to practice or defend this pagan ritual? Do you not know that your bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit? Can this temple move in ways that mimic the pagan practice of meditation, and emptying one's mind in order to become enlightened?

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Christian, I'm wondering if

Christian, I'm wondering if you could respond to the points the author made in the article?

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Pastor of Adult Ministries

Grace Church, Des Moines, IA

Adjunct Instructor
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J Ng's picture
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christian cerna] Yoga is not

christian cerna ]<br /> Yoga is not just another form of Eastern medicine. It is a practice coming directly from the pagan practices of Eastern mysticism. It was introduced into this country in the 1960's, by music groups like the Beatles, while they began to experiment with drugs and Eastern mysticism. It was they who made Yoga something mainstream. It was also responsible for the rise of New Age spirituality, and other forms of pagan ideas that gained prominence in the 1970's.[/qjote ]</p> <p>If you go to Bergama/Pergamum in today's Turkey, you will see the underground tunnel of the shrine of Asklepios where western medicine had its roots. The patient will traverse that tunnel, poultry sacrifice in hand, and hear the gods prescribe cures from the holes above. Having sacrificed the chicken and having had a good nap at the end of the tunnel, the patient would presumably feel better and proceed to fill the prescription. Today's medical profession is not ashamed to claim that pagan root when they display the snake-god symbol on their logos. And just because it's "Western" mysticism doesn't make it somehow purer than Eastern mysticism.</p> <p>Point is, nobody's trying to justify yogic, New Age, or pagan ideas here. Those are satanic corruptions of all that God created (and pronounced good/very good). But the Christian scientist, rather than avoiding certain phenomena, affirms that "This is my Father's world," and that He owns the cattle on a thousand hills. The challenge is to apply God-given wisdom to approve what is excellent even when at first blush the temptation (of convenience perhaps) is to dismiss it all as trashy garbage.</p> <p>[quote wrote:
Yoga does not heal anything. It can easily be replaced by countless other forms of exercise and relaxation activities. Once again, why are Christians so eager to practice or defend this pagan ritual? Do you not know that your bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit? Can this temple move in ways that mimic the pagan practice of meditation, and emptying one's mind in order to become enlightened?

And who's to say those "countless other forms of exercise and relaxation activities" are not somehow pagan and evil? O yeah, their pagan overtones are somehow lost over time, I suppose. Yes, our bodies are the Spirit's Temple, but bodily exercise, quoth the KJB, also "profiteth little." So an obsession with getting ripped could be equally idolatrous and distracting to spiritual growth, might it be argued.

Ah, but the emptying of one's mind (absent in many applications of yoga) is another story that I'm not inclined to defend, together with chicken sacrifices and divine prescriptions from tunnel holes. And for that reason alone--while the pagan association may still hang heavy in the air--it might be good to maintain an arm's length to yoga for now while putting its putative beneifts under the rigorous microscope of science.

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How to?

So are we now supposed to judge whether something is moral or not, by the therapeutic effect it may have for a person?

What if a person likes to relax after work, listening to Marilyn Manson records?
What about the woman who likes to walk around topless at the beach, because it is a relaxing way to get a tan?
Should we then allow our children to smoke marijuana, because they use it to relax when they are hanging out with friends?
What about the medicinal properties of marijuana?

Yes, I am sure that doing stretches from Yoga may promote some relaxation and balance, but are we opening the door to other questionable activities?

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christian cerna wrote: So are

christian cerna wrote:
So are we now supposed to judge whether something is moral or not, by the therapeutic effect it may have for a person?

Hmm, that's really perceptive Smile (not).

Seriously, after all that's been said, how could anyone come up with that?

Quote:
What if a person likes to relax after work, listening to Marilyn Manson records?
What about the woman who likes to walk around topless at the beach, because it is a relaxing way to get a tan?
Should we then allow our children to smoke marijuana, because they use it to relax when they are hanging out with friends?
What about the medicinal properties of marijuana?

What if? What about? Should we? Should we therefore not relax after work, ever get a tan, relax when hanging out with friends, or ever imbibe a medication?

Seems like you're not far from answering your questions.

Quote:
Yes, I am sure that doing stretches from Yoga may promote some relaxation and balance, but are we opening the door to other questionable activities?

Hmm, to turn it around, what could one NOT be opening oneself up to in any sort of activity?

Yes, one could be totally opened up to Hinduism and occultic possession through yoga, or codeine-based cough mixture, or getting relaxed when hanging out with friends. Does this mean that we should never do any of those activities? Perhaps, as Paul says, we should give up ingesting animal protein if it causes our brethren to stumble. But we need to know if that's really the case.

And FWIW, I've never done yoga as a personal precaution (and because it doesn't look terribly exciting), but I can't speak for those who are Christian practitioners. Over the years, certain questionable practices have been "purified" and "rehabilitated" such that they're practised by Fundamentalist ministers, some of whom are MDs themselves--e.g. tai chi quan and acupuncture/acupressure. Through education, research, and scientific evidence (or lack thereof on the part of objectors), their stigma has been lost among Bible believing communities. Who's to say that yoga might never join that list of neutral/permissible activities someday?

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J Ng wrote: christian cerna

J Ng wrote:
christian cerna wrote:
So are we now supposed to judge whether something is moral or not, by the therapeutic effect it may have for a person?

Hmm, that's really perceptive Smile (not).

Seriously, after all that's been said, how could anyone come up with that?

Quote:
What if a person likes to relax after work, listening to Marilyn Manson records?
What about the woman who likes to walk around topless at the beach, because it is a relaxing way to get a tan?
Should we then allow our children to smoke marijuana, because they use it to relax when they are hanging out with friends?
What about the medicinal properties of marijuana?

What if? What about? Should we? Should we therefore not relax after work, ever get a tan, relax when hanging out with friends, or ever imbibe a medication?

Seems like you're not far from answering your questions.

Quote:
Yes, I am sure that doing stretches from Yoga may promote some relaxation and balance, but are we opening the door to other questionable activities?

Hmm, to turn it around, what could one NOT be opening oneself up to in any sort of activity?

Yes, one could be totally opened up to Hinduism and occultic possession through yoga, or codeine-based cough mixture, or getting relaxed when hanging out with friends. Does this mean that we should never do any of those activities? Perhaps, as Paul says, we should give up ingesting animal protein if it causes our brethren to stumble. But we need to know if that's really the case.

And FWIW, I've never done yoga as a personal precaution (and because it doesn't look terribly exciting), but I can't speak for those who are Christian practitioners. Over the years, certain questionable practices have been "purified" and "rehabilitated" such that they're practised by Fundamentalist ministers, some of whom are MDs themselves--e.g. tai chi quan and acupuncture/acupressure. Through education, research, and scientific evidence (or lack thereof on the part of objectors), their stigma has been lost among Bible believing communities. Who's to say that yoga might never join that list of neutral/permissible activities someday?

So basically your defense for Yoga is, "that Christian minister is doing it, so it must not be that bad".

I never knew that morality was decided based on majority consensus. I also have heard many preachers who preach a watered down gospel, promote ecumenicism, and who live luxuriously. Does that mean they are right? I don't live my life, deciding what is right by what everyone else is doing. I try to decide whether something is right, or true, or beneficial, from what I read in Scripture.

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Discernment would mean ridding ourselves of Yoga

I am quite surprised by some desiring to compare music with yoga. This is comparing an apple to an orange. Music was created by God for good and was tainted by sin and is worth redemption. Yoga is a pagan exercise of demonic worship which would seem to have little to no redemptive value at all. It would be like someone going out and buying a Buddha statue because they thought it was cute. Is an idol not an idol whether someone is aware of it or not?

When the spokesperson for the Hindu American Foundation argues against the "Christianizing" of Yoga, one would think we ought to listen. This is what the spokesperson stated in regard to the idea of "Christian Yoga,"

Quote:
Shah is wary of these adaptations, noting that yoga teaches pluralism, “the idea that there are multiple paths to the Divine (or God.)”

“I believe that at some point a person with an exclusivist mindset (i.e. the idea that my God is the only God, my way is the only way, those who don’t believe in my God cannot be ‘saved’, etc.), who is deepening his/her yoga practice will eventually realize there is an inherent contradiction between his/her belief and the path of yoga,” Shah said.

“I have yet to understand how ‘Christian yoga’ reconciles that.”

Yet, I know Christians who will ignore the "Hindu" experts because our personal experience always trumps outside authority. So maybe someone who has study the New Age Movement from a Christian worldview: According to an article linked below; "Douglas R. Groothuis, Professor of Philosophy at Denver Seminary and a respected specialist on the New Age Movement, warns Christians that yoga is not merely about physical exercise or health. “All forms of yoga involve occult assumptions,” he warns, “even hatha yoga, which is often presented as a merely physical discipline.”"

Or, maybe Albert Mohler's http://www.albertmohler.com/2010/09/20/the-subtle-body-should-christians... review of Stefanie Syman's recent book, The Subtle Body: The Story of Yoga in America Where she describes yoga as a varied practice, but she makes clear that yoga cannot be fully extricated from its spiritual roots in Hinduism and Buddhism.

As Carlson mentions, there are alternatives out there and Lauren Willis seems to have a good grasp on this. So if there is an actual alternative, why bother working so hard to sanitize an act that is a part of demonic worship?

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Chip Van Emmerik wrote:So,

Chip Van Emmerik wrote:
So, why can't we apply these arguments to music . . . Does anyone else see the similarity between this line of reasoning and the one frequently applied in the music debates. Why would one be deemed acceptable and the other be deemed unacceptable?

I think one significant difference (and I think there are others, perhaps related) would be personal liberty. What one might find liberty to participate in should not be imposed on entire congregations. Difference between one's iPod playlist and the list of hymns/worship songs the congregation sings during a given year.

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DavidO wrote: Chip Van

DavidO wrote:
Chip Van Emmerik wrote:
So, why can't we apply these arguments to music . . . Does anyone else see the similarity between this line of reasoning and the one frequently applied in the music debates. Why would one be deemed acceptable and the other be deemed unacceptable?

I think one significant difference (and I think there are others, perhaps related) would be personal liberty. What one might find liberty to participate in should not be imposed on entire congregations. Difference between one's iPod playlist and the list of hymns/worship songs the congregation sings during a given year.

Yes, but we are not talking about music, we are discussing the act of practicing the ritual of Yoga.

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Some "we"s may not be

Some "we"s may not be discussing music, other "we"s were.

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I am wondering what those who

I am wondering what those who are against all forms of yoga think of the five areas of discernment that this article is connected with. http://baptistbulletin.org/?p=22177 I haven't seen anyone really seriously deal with the points that they make to make sure that pagan religion is not incorporated into these physical stretches.

It sure seems as if New Age, Hinduism, and Buddhism is gutted out of the yoga physical exercises if these five areas of discernment is followed. I could see if a person who has come out of the Eastern Religion background would easily be tempted to go back into it, even if they follow these five areas of discernment. I find it extremely unlikely for a person like myself which has absolutely no connection to yoga and the eastern mindset to do a physical stretch associated with Yoga (without all the emptying your mind meditation garbage) to get sucked into Hinduism. I really think I Cor. 8 comes to play here. Anyway, good job Baptist Bulletin for giving an example of how to "eat the chicken and spit out the bones" when it comes to a certain aspect of today's culture. You keep on pleasantly surprising me....

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1 Cor. 8 this is not

Joel,

1st Corinthians 8 is dealing with meat being sold in a market for a profit. This is completely different than trying to "sanitize" a means to demonic worship. This whole thing is truly moot by the author when she admits that there are alternatives out there for "yoga". As I have stated previously though, it just does not seem to matter to Christians what the "experts" state from both worldviews on this matter. Let us just disregard what the Hindus and fellow believers who have studied this say, we want what we want and there is nothing going to change our mind....

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Two Ways to Look at Things

Do we (1) focus on the origin of what we can do (e.g., calling Thursday "Thursday" which is a variation of Thor's Day, or the origin of playing cards, etc.) or we can look at (2) what the Scriptures forbid or do not forbid. Many of our customs, from Christmas trees to chocolate Easter bunnies/eggs (BTW, we did not bring up our kids with the Easter Bunny) are pagan in origin (despite all the claims that Easter eggs represent new life, both eggs and bunnies are about fertility). I opt for number 2.

Then, if a matter is not forbidden in Scripture, we need to look at whether it leads people to false beliefs. This is going to vary. For example, attending a Catholic mass to better understand Catholics so we can reach them may be profitable for some, but for those easily manipulated by artwork (and there are many people who confuse the spiritual with the emotional), it can lead them INTO Catholicism. We have to calculate the risks. When it comes to yoga, I think the risk is higher if the leaders are New Age, etc, vs. Christian or secular.

While we are at it, any comments on the martial arts? We sort of have the same issues there, do we not?

"The Midrash Detective"

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Discernment

The principles used to address yoga in this article work for all aspects of our lives. There are many practices with pagan or questionable origins that have lost their original meanings and connections, as Bro. Ed has pointed out. We simply can't divest ourselves of every element of life that has an extra- or anti-Biblical origins. I couldn't even teach my kids the names of the planets. It'd be a sin to say 'horsefeathers' (which some believe is an allusion to Pegasus). All church materials with depictions of angels as women with wings would need to be trashed. Oh- and you need to take your wedding ring off immediately.

It is possible for someone to exercise using various body positions without practicing Yoga. And based on what I've seen standing behind America's pulpits, exercise is something that many Christian leaders should engage in more often.

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Quote: 1st Corinthians 8 is

Quote:
1st Corinthians 8 is dealing with meat being sold in a market for a profit. This is completely different than trying to "sanitize" a means to demonic worship. This whole thing is truly moot by the author when she admits that there are alternatives out there for "yoga". As I have stated previously though, it just does not seem to matter to Christians what the "experts" state from both worldviews on this matter. Let us just disregard what the Hindus and fellow believers who have studied this say, we want what we want and there is nothing going to change our mind....

Again, you haven't even dealt with the 5 areas of discernment that is linked with this article. What you have said is what the "experts" tell you with a few links to them that it is demonic and that is good enough for you. That is why the music comparison is brought up. For instance, one can say that the origin of Hip-Hop is demonic coming from the philosophy of 5 Percenters (a mixture of Islam and New Age/Eastern Religion). However, the philosophy of Hip-Hop has changed over the years and it took a completely different turn within culture (in some ways better with Christian Hip-Hop and some ways worse with gangsta rap, over-the-top consumerism, and sexual, misogynist philosophy). But one bright spot within Hip-Hop culture is Christian Hip-Hop who are turning into incredible articulators of conservative theology at least in my context of the inner-city. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6oDyC27mn7c

And because there are still secular hip-hop artists that practice the 5 percenter pagan religion, several black Pentecostal preachers have publicly denounced it as demonic, and that there is no way to "sanitize" something whose origin is Satanic, which sounds alot like what you are saying.

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Quote: 1st Corinthians 8 is

Quote:
1st Corinthians 8 is dealing with meat being sold in a market for a profit. This is completely different than trying to "sanitize" a means to demonic worship. This whole thing is truly moot by the author when she admits that there are alternatives out there for "yoga". As I have stated previously though, it just does not seem to matter to Christians what the "experts" state from both worldviews on this matter. Let us just disregard what the Hindus and fellow believers who have studied this say, we want what we want and there is nothing going to change our mind....

Again, you haven't even dealt with the 5 areas of discernment that is linked with this article. What you have said is what the "experts" tell you with a few links to them that it is demonic and that is good enough for you. That is why the music comparison is brought up. For instance, one can say that the origin of Hip-Hop is demonic coming from the philosophy of 5 Percenters (a mixture of Islam and New Age/Eastern Religion). However, the philosophy of Hip-Hop has changed over the years and it took a completely different turn within culture (in some ways better with Christian Hip-Hop and some ways worse with gangsta rap, over-the-top consumerism, and sexual, misogynist philosophy). But one bright spot within Hip-Hop culture is Christian Hip-Hop who are turning into incredible articulators of conservative theology at least in my context of the inner-city. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6oDyC27mn7c

And because there are still secular hip-hop artists that practice the 5 percenter pagan religion, several black Pentecostal preachers have publicly denounced it as demonic, and that there is no way to "sanitize" something whose origin is Satanic, which sounds alot like what you are saying.

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Coupla More Questions

I was wondering if we might think about the biblical evidence for discernment when these random thoughts came along:

  1. Given that medicine was not fully exorcised of its pagan roots and underpinnings in the first century, what was Luke's approach to medicine as a Christian and a doctor? Mark, as we know, wasn't overly sympathetic to the medical profession, opining that people had wasted their fortunes on physicians who couldn't do a thing. But neither of them, AFAIK, threw out the baby with the bathwater.
  2. To help the metaphor-resistant/challenged, perhaps the analogy of yoga exercises to sports exercises would be more acceptable--so, what might the Bible's attitude to sports be like? Out-of-hand repudiation due to its pagan or pornographic association--gods were praised and competitors routinely shed their clothes--or was it possible the biblical authors applied some discernment? Would they allow a "cloud of witnesses" to surround such awful physical events?
  3. Are modern, "scientific" therapies so sanitized or perhaps even Christianized that no discernment is required at their application? Some of these are built on naturalist, Secular Humanist or even atheist, and evolutionary assumptions. A Christian physician or fitness instructor may share the same procedures as a practitioner who is a "free thinker," agnostic, or nominal Christian. Can the Christian safely switch off his/her spiritual defenses simply because the ancient Hippocratic or Spartan associations and superstitions have been completely eradicated?

    Just sayin'.

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J Ng wrote: I was wondering

J Ng wrote:
I was wondering if we might think about the biblical evidence for discernment when these random thoughts came along:

  1. Given that medicine was not fully exorcised of its pagan roots and underpinnings in the first century, what was Luke's approach to medicine as a Christian and a doctor? Mark, as we know, wasn't overly sympathetic to the medical profession, opining that people had wasted their fortunes on physicians who couldn't do a thing. But neither of them, AFAIK, threw out the baby with the bathwater.
  2. To help the metaphor-resistant/challenged, perhaps the analogy of yoga exercises to sports exercises would be more acceptable--so, what might the Bible's attitude to sports be like? Out-of-hand repudiation due to its pagan or pornographic association--gods were praised and competitors routinely shed their clothes--or was it possible the biblical authors applied some discernment? Would they allow a "cloud of witnesses" to surround such awful physical events?
  3. Are modern, "scientific" therapies so sanitized or perhaps even Christianized that no discernment is required at their application? Some of these are built on naturalist, Secular Humanist or even atheist, and evolutionary assumptions. A Christian physician or fitness instructor may share the same procedures as a practitioner who is a "free thinker," agnostic, or nominal Christian. Can the Christian safely switch off his/her spiritual defenses simply because the ancient Hippocratic or Spartan associations and superstitions have been completely eradicated?

    Just sayin'.

Where do you get the assumption that medicine practiced by Luke, or most doctors, was pagan? I am sure that the medicine that many used in those days, is what we would call 'natural remedies'(e.g. fasting, herbal medicine, clay baths, rest, etc.)

Why do you want to compare Yoga to sports? It's not a sport. It's a pagan religious practice.

You are not making any sense. Just because the Greeks partook of games dedicated to the gods, doesn't mean that the Jews did so also. And yes, it is true, athletes in those days competed without clothes in some instances, but as I recall, women were not allowed to attend those games. And once again, your analogy falls flat, because athletes today are not naked.

All knowledge and science and truth is from God. When science 'discovers' a cure for something, it usually existed already in nature. They merely took the natural remedy, and engineered it a bit, and then got a patent on it, so they could make money from it.

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christian cerna wrote: Why do

christian cerna wrote:

Why do you want to compare Yoga to sports? It's not a sport. It's a pagan religious practice.
....
All knowledge and science and truth is from God. When science 'discovers' a cure for something, it usually existed already in nature. They merely took the natural remedy, and engineered it a bit, and then got a patent on it, so they could make money from it.

Interesting. You seem to have 2 categories of reality--1. things that belong to God but were corrupted by Satan and can be redeemed through discernment and/or engineering; and 2. things that don't belong to God ever, and hence should not be approached with discernment but only outright rejection.

I think your approach is more Dualistic than what the Bible teaches, that all things were made by Him, and without Him was not anything made that was made. This applies to more than the material universe--the cattle on a thousand hills--to knowledge as well, things like physical suppleness, fitness, and the like. Satan or pagan yoga masters don't have the patent on God's creation in those departments they've exploited--it's all His, and they will be exorcised permanently some day, starting (on my charts) with the abyss during the Millennium and culminating in the Lake of Fire for eternity.

Not that our resurrected, glorified bodies might necessarily require maintenance through yoga moves; but just sayin'.

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J Ng wrote:christian cerna

J Ng wrote:
christian cerna wrote:

Why do you want to compare Yoga to sports? It's not a sport. It's a pagan religious practice.
....
All knowledge and science and truth is from God. When science 'discovers' a cure for something, it usually existed already in nature. They merely took the natural remedy, and engineered it a bit, and then got a patent on it, so they could make money from it.

Interesting. You seem to have 2 categories of reality--1. things that belong to God but were corrupted by Satan and can be redeemed through discernment and/or engineering; and 2. things that don't belong to God ever, and hence should not be approached with discernment but only outright rejection.

I think your approach is more Dualistic than what the Bible teaches, that all things were made by Him, and without Him was not anything made that was made. This applies to more than the material universe--the cattle on a thousand hills--to knowledge as well, things like physical suppleness, fitness, and the like. Satan or pagan yoga masters don't have the patent on God's creation in those departments they've exploited--it's all His, and they will be exorcised permanently some day, starting (on my charts) with the abyss during the Millennium and culminating in the Lake of Fire for eternity.

Not that our resurrected, glorified bodies might necessarily require maintenance through yoga moves; but just sayin'.

You are wrong. There are things that never belonged to God, nor will they ever, nor is He their originator. (e.g. lies, witchcraft, ouija boards, idols, pagan rituals, tarot cards, devil worship, yoga, toxic waste, pollution, etc.)

Just because these things are made from protons and atoms, does not mean they are ultimately from God.
You have a pantheistic view of the Universe. You seem to think of God as a force that is in everything.

I honestly don't understand why you are defending Yoga so much. Or are you just feeling argumentative?

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Human body

I understand what Bro. Joseph is saying. God created the human body, and humans have exercised and stretched their muscles long before someone came along and started calling certain body positions by goofy names and attaching a spiritual value to it. People sat cross-legged long before yoga came long, and they will continue to sit that way without summoning any demons. One yoga position is patterned after the way babies grab their toes- should we start spanking infants if they assume this 'yoga' position? Of course not. Another position is patterned after the way cats stretch... although I have my suspicions about cats...

The bottom line is that yoga doesn't own body positions or the concept of stretching one's muscles.

I'm in trouble if they ever name a body position Hunched Over Laptop.

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Susan R wrote: The bottom

Susan R wrote:
The bottom line is that yoga doesn't own body positions or the concept of stretching one's muscles.

I'm in trouble if they ever name a body position Hunched Over Laptop.

Thanks, Sis. Susan. I couldn't have said it better!

That said, I think we might have a situation here where a brother's conscience is offended--whether the body's twisted like a pretzel or hunched over a laptop doesn't matter--it's clearly idol worship in his view, on par with Ouija boards and the like, a view that's unlikely to change regardless. So in such a situation, we're told not to flout his conscience. And I would concur with him that we should refrain from even putting yoga under the microscope in his presence. Further, I'm skeptical of yoga to begin with and don't really enjoy somehow being made out to be its advocate, woohoo.

Those brethren wishing to examine the subject together in the light of Scriptures would probably be better off doing so at a separate (online) venue. PM me if such an opportunity arises.

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Yoga is a vehicle not a symbol

Joel Shaffer ][quote wrote:
Again, you haven't even dealt with the 5 areas of discernment that is linked with this article. What you have said is what the "experts" tell you with a few links to them that it is demonic and that is good enough for you. That is why the music comparison is brought up. For instance, one can say that the origin of Hip-Hop is demonic coming from the philosophy of 5 Percenters (a mixture of Islam and New Age/Eastern Religion). However, the philosophy of Hip-Hop has changed over the years and it took a completely different turn within culture (in some ways better with Christian Hip-Hop and some ways worse with gangsta rap, over-the-top consumerism, and sexual, misogynist philosophy). But one bright spot within Hip-Hop culture is Christian Hip-Hop who are turning into incredible articulators of conservative theology at least in my context of the inner-city. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6oDyC27mn7c

And because there are still secular hip-hop artists that practice the 5 percenter pagan religion, several black Pentecostal preachers have publicly denounced it as demonic, and that there is no way to "sanitize" something whose origin is Satanic, which sounds alot like what you are saying.

The problem here is that we seem to want to equate the practice of Yoga with the transformation of pagan symbols from previous cultures. This is not as helpful as one may think. The better association of Yoga is to the Ashera tree of Canaanite worship. Were the Israelites allow to "redeem" these trees? I mean they are just trees right? What could be so bad with that?

If we want to go to the Bible and actual discern a proper comparison, the altar of Baal and/or the Ashera would be the most appropriate here. Yoga is not an exercise it is a mode, a means, a vehicle for the Hindu worship of their gods. Is this not what the Ashera was as well? According to the arguments displayed here, all one had to do was to say that they no longer would use the altar or tree for evil, just use it for a better benefit and all would be okay, right?

Yet everywhere in Scripture, we find that these pagan means of worshiping their god was destroyed, not "redeemed" for a better purpose.

Joel, you are correct that I do give some weight to a practicing Hindu who seems to have a much better handle on what Yoga is than I or any Christian would. Also, fellow believers who have studied New Age mysticism and as well being in the Word, teachers of the Word should give us pause instead of just brushing them off because it may not fit the "5 areas of discernment".

But isn't the bottom line moot since in this same article one finds that someone actual came up with alternative exercises that has no attachment to Yoga anyway? Why not just do those instead.

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What a second here!

Pastor Shaun wrote:
Joel,

1st Corinthians 8 is dealing with meat being sold in a market for a profit. This is completely different than trying to "sanitize" a means to demonic worship. This whole thing is truly moot by the author when she admits that there are alternatives out there for "yoga". As I have stated previously though, it just does not seem to matter to Christians what the "experts" state from both worldviews on this matter. Let us just disregard what the Hindus and fellow believers who have studied this say, we want what we want and there is nothing going to change our mind....

It is an exact comparison. The reason some hesitated to eat meat dedicated to idols was they felt they were thus WORSHIPPING those idols, as the pagans did who ate the meat. Just as eating of the sacrifices from the Temple at Jerusalem was considering part of worshipping God, so argued the pagans.

"The Midrash Detective"

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Ed Vasicek wrote: Pastor

Ed Vasicek wrote:
Pastor Shaun wrote:
Joel,

1st Corinthians 8 is dealing with meat being sold in a market for a profit. This is completely different than trying to "sanitize" a means to demonic worship. This whole thing is truly moot by the author when she admits that there are alternatives out there for "yoga". As I have stated previously though, it just does not seem to matter to Christians what the "experts" state from both worldviews on this matter. Let us just disregard what the Hindus and fellow believers who have studied this say, we want what we want and there is nothing going to change our mind....

It is an exact comparison. The reason some hesitated to eat meat dedicated to idols was they felt they were thus WORSHIPPING those idols, as the pagans did who ate the meat. Just as eating of the sacrifices from the Temple at Jerusalem was considering part of worshipping God, so argued the pagans.

The scriptures make it clear that all food has been approved by God- save for eating the flesh of a strangled animal, and meat with its blood in it. But nowhere does scripture make pagan rituals acceptable for us to participate in.

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Yes and No

christian cerna wrote:
Ed Vasicek wrote:
Pastor Shaun wrote:
Joel,

1st Corinthians 8 is dealing with meat being sold in a market for a profit. This is completely different than trying to "sanitize" a means to demonic worship. This whole thing is truly moot by the author when she admits that there are alternatives out there for "yoga". As I have stated previously though, it just does not seem to matter to Christians what the "experts" state from both worldviews on this matter. Let us just disregard what the Hindus and fellow believers who have studied this say, we want what we want and there is nothing going to change our mind....

It is an exact comparison. The reason some hesitated to eat meat dedicated to idols was they felt they were thus WORSHIPPING those idols, as the pagans did who ate the meat. Just as eating of the sacrifices from the Temple at Jerusalem was considering part of worshipping God, so argued the pagans.

The scriptures make it clear that all food has been approved by God- save for eating the flesh of a strangled animal, and meat with its blood in it. But nowhere does scripture make pagan rituals acceptable for us to participate in.

Pagan rituals, yes, you are right. But would you eat meat as it was be sacrificed to a pagan god? (as opposed to meat in a market place, as per Revelation 2:20)? I think not. Exercise that had its origins in paganism but stripped of its false worship, not so much. I do agree that many forms of yoga practice are still connected to paganism, but not always.

I have to make a pun -- can't help it. "You have to admit, these discussions are quite a stretch." Smile There, I feel better now.

"The Midrash Detective"

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Complicated, I guess
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Straining at a gnat, possibly

I don't suppose many of us can do this " http://www.relax.com.sg/relax/features/1069278/Stiff_on_flight_Here_s_th... Gravity Pose ," but perhaps for reasons other than the religious.

[img ]http://static.relax.com.sg/site/servlet/linkableblob/relax/1099400/topIm... ]

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J Ng wrote: FWIW, a brief

J Ng wrote:
FWIW, a brief survey of how not just Fundies are looking at yoga but other groups as well:

http://www.americanyogaassociation.org/general.html American Yoga Association on the Hindu Roots of Yoga

http://vimeo.com/27010166 ]Holy Yoga

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yoga#Christian_meditation ]Romish Warning

http://www.christianyoga.us/small_movie2.htm Christian Yoga

http://www.christianyoga.com/FAQ.htm Scripture Yoga

http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1098937,00.html 2005 Stretching for Jesus Time Mag article

http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1862306,00.html Muslim Yoga?

http://www.atheistliving.com/2011/03/can-atheists-practice-yoga.html Atheist Yoga?

http://www.torahyoga.com/ Torah Yoga

http://kavvanah.wordpress.com/2009/11/18/more-on-spirituality-and-secula... Yoga, Jewish Yoga, and Hasidism

Wow-- you have put a lot of time compiling these links. Thanks!

"The Midrash Detective"

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Correction and expansion

Correction to an earlier post:

Sorry for the typos--it is what happens when someone is talking to you at the same time you are typing.

I have corrected and expanded my earlier post:

.... But would you eat meat as it was being sacrificed to a pagan god, in the temple itself? (as opposed to meat in a market place. I believe Revelation 2:20 is the former and I Corinthians 10:25 the latter. Exercise that had its origins in paganism but stripped of its false worship would be like meat bought in the market place, IMO. I do agree that many forms of yoga practice are still connected to paganism, and therefore it must remains questionable in most instances. Still, a thoroughly purged approach to yoga could be a good thing.

"The Midrash Detective"

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J Ng wrote: I don't suppose

J Ng wrote:
I don't suppose many of us can do this " http://www.relax.com.sg/relax/features/1069278/Stiff_on_flight_Here_s_th... Gravity Pose ," but perhaps for reasons other than the religious.

[img ]http://static.relax.com.sg/site/servlet/linkableblob/relax/1099400/topIm... ]

I am more worried about those red PJ's than about the stretches.

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