There is nothing wrong with physical exercise, and yoga positions in themselves are not the main issue. But these positions are teaching postures with a spiritual purpose. Consider this — if you have to meditate intensely in order to achieve or to maintain a physical posture, it is no longer merely a physical posture.
Al Mohler (Calvinist) in The Subtle Body — Should Christians Practice Yoga?
The idea that a certain physical position may carry with it a certain spiritual energy may be the belief of some insane Yoga practitioners, but its a shame that Mohler would be superstitious enough to believe that himself.
That blog post of Mohler’s is rather old, but I was directed to it by a more recent post on the blog of Turretinfan (Calvinist) Thoughts on Al Mohler’s Post on Yoga?.
I don’t know anything about Yoga, quite frankly, but I do know a thing or two about martial arts. Just doing something as simple as the splits can require concentration (at least when you first start) because it hurts at first.
Now, I would imagine that Mohler would also say Christians should not study any martial arts. After all, isn’t there a spiritual dimension to those too? Weren’t they developed by Buddhist monks? etc.
I suppose many of them were. But when I took Taekwondo at the YMCA as a kid, they didn’t teach us anything spiritual, other than don’t use this to start fights, only use it for self defense (if you consider that “spiritual”).
I remember there were some family members that condemned Taekwondo when I was taking it, saying it teaches kids to be violent, Christians are to be pacifists, etc. Well, I’ve never started a fight, and didn’t join the army, so I guess it didn’t make me violent.
Here is an article by a man (apparently Greek) who describes himself as an atheist convert to the Eastern Orthodox church, Tae-Kwon-Do and Orthodoxy, in which he condemns Taekwondo (which is sometimes abbreviated as TKD):
One of the characteristics of the Holy Spirit is peace. The teachers of TKD also show a peaceful face, as sheep-like wolves that they are, and their bodies are relaxed through too much exercise. They do not have virtue. They can be debauchers, meditating gurus, participants in mental suggestions, whereas their soul does not rest in the Holy Spirit, as it is dead, not alive; in it live demons (this is what I understood in the school where I was taught TKD).
This is exactly the kind of rhetoric Jesus is warning against when he says “Judge not lest ye be judged, for with what measure you mete, it shall be measured to you.” When you condemn something innocent, you put yourself at risk. Taekwondo is not a heresy like Calvinism or Gnosticism, nor is it immorality like adultery and so on. Its just bodily exercise. There is also that component of learning techniques to repel an attacker with minimal force (especially if it is paired with Hapkido as it was when I took it), which is good and useful, even virtuous. There certainly is no “mental suggestion” involved, nor demons.
What is the purpose of man’s existence? The answer is given to us by our Lord and also by His Saints through the ages, whose bodies were wasted in hard asceticism, fasting, vigils, prayers, and virtues in general. In all these, they lived freedom in Christ. This answer is also given through the conversation of St. Seraphim of Sarov with Motovilov (cf. Chapter 3). According, therefore, to the Saint, purpose of Christian life is the acquisition of the Holy Spirit, namely the living of the Kingdom of God from this life.
It is madness for someone to wish to combine the path of extreme humility that our saints walk with the Luciferian self-deification path that we are subject to through TKD training.
What? So beating the body rather pointlessly through depriving it of food is good. But doing push-ups, sit-ups, jumping-jacks, that thing where you lay down and raise your legs up 6 inches and hold, and then kicks and punches into the air, why that’s bad. Really? So breaking the body and making yourself sick is good; but improving the shape of your body is bad. Why, isn’t that just wonderful teaching?
In many TKD schools one can find the Korean flag. This flag (according to [website removed]) has its philosophical foundations in the Chinese traditional philosophy (religion, rather) of Yin and Yang. It is called Taeguk and has imprinted on it a summary of the ideas of the (occultist) book of changes I’ Ch’ing.
Yep, it started in Korea, so the Korean flag is used as a symbol, not only will there be a flag, but there is usually a patch with the Ying/Yang thing on the should of the Gi (the Karate suit thing that you wear during class). So what! Nobody is thinking about the meaning of Ying/Yang as a spiritual symbol; its just something showing the national origin of the martial art.
For someone to obtain a belt in TKD, he needs to learn to execute certain “choreographies”, as Cook calls them, namely forms of TKD. The repetitive execution of these movements is essentially a form of meditation because it trains man’s imagination against imaginary opponents, having always as an aim self-deification.
If this guy really took Taekwondo he ought to know what these things are actually called. This is what in Karate is called Katas, and in Taekwondo they are called Poomses, both of which are just Asian words meaning “forms.” Essentially what they are is a way for instructors to make money. Rather than teaching you scenarios, “If an opponent does this, you do this,” they teach you these dances. And with each belt you get a new dance. And in these Katas, new moves are introduced, new blocks, or punches, or kicks, or elbow-strikes, or whatever. This is what makes it take a long time to go through the belts, which in turn is what allows the school to make money. It has nothing to do with “self-deification,” nor really with “meditation.” Of course, since these are self-defense moves being introduced in choreographed form, you are supposed to consider what the new moves would be used for in a real situation, but I wouldn’t call that “meditation.”
The teacher is the one who trains his pupil in the technique and philosophy of TKD, and he is essentially his guide in Do, the spiritual path of the martial art. He places the pupil to begin meditation in movement (forms) and teaches him more or less about Buddhism, Taoism, even Confucianism and this without using many words; irrespective as to whether he himself is doing this consciously or not.
I was about to say, that when I got up to red belt in my YMCA Taekwondo class, they had me teach the younger students, or rather, the lower belts. I certainly didn’t teach any Confucianism or Taoism, etc. All I did was either lead them in the basic exercise stuff (doing the splits, push-ups, jumping jacks, etc.), teach them the Katas, or for brown belts, show them the Hapkido moves (e.g. techniques for getting out of holds). But look, this nut has that covered, doesn’t he, “irrespective as to whether he himself is doing this consciously or not.” Lol. So I was teaching Taoism the whole time and didn’t know it. Crazy, right?
So what it amounts to is that because the martial art was first developed in a Buddhist country, it is now inherently evil for all time. What an absurd way of thinking. We are talking about physical self-defense tactics, and exercise, not doctrine. Get a grip people.
[I should add I didn’t learn Taekwondo from actual Asians, but rather white guys who had fought in the Korean conflict and learned it while they were over there. Don’t know how much difference that makes, if any.]
By the way, Do does not refer to a spiritual path. Tae means kick. Kwon means punch. Do means art. Hence, Taekwando means “art of kicking and punching.” This can be verified by looking at the wikipedia article for Taekwondo.
Similarly, with Hapkido, Hap means coordinated, and Ki means power. Hence “art of coordinated power.” It is essentially about coordinating kinetic energy, or in other words, using your opponent’s momentum to throw them, or using centrifugal force to break from holds or to flip an opponent. Thus its more physics than spirituality to be sure.
Now, of course, Yoga is entirely different ballgame (to use a trite sports metaphor). I really doubt anyone is going to prevent themselves from being kilt with Yoga. Twisting yourself into a butterfly ain’t going to repel a mugger. And as for the physical benefits of Yoga, you are more likely to throw your back out with some of those positions (I would imagine) than to improve your health.