Yoga is popular today. But despite its popularity, not everyone is comfortable with the spiritual connotations behind it. For example, Can Jehovah’s Witnesses do Yoga? Let’s understand the dilemma.
Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that God has announced his name as Jehovah in the Bible, and they follow the path of God Jehovah and his Kingdom and the principles laid down by his son, Jesus Christ. The Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses directs their spiritual path.
Jehovah’s Witnesses have different beliefs from mainstream Christianity. In fact, the distinct set of beliefs is why this question arises: can Jehovah’s Witnesses practice yoga?
Yoga has immense physical and mental benefits, which are among the primary reasons it has become so popular worldwide. But if you research a little about yoga, you will learn that it’s not limited only to physical benefits but also has many spiritual and religious aspects (we will discuss it thoroughly later).
Before I jump to the fundamental question of whether Jehovah’s witnesses are allowed to do Yoga, let’s briefly discuss some core values of Jehovah’s witnesses.
What Are The Beliefs Of Jehovah’s Witnesses?
The group of Jehovah’s Witnesses has a total membership of 8.7 million people, and around 17 million people attend the annual memorial. Charles Taze Russell was the founder of the Bible Student movement in the late 1870s, and the Jehovah’s Witnesses originated from the same movement.
So what is the central belief of Jehovah’s Witnesses? Jehovah’s Witnesses believe in only one God and not the trinity, unlike Christianity. Christianity believes in the trinity: the father (Jehovah), the Son (Jesus), and the holy spirit.
According to them, Jesus died for man’s sins, but he only resurrected spiritually, not physically. The leadership of Jehovah’s Witnesses believes that the end of the world is near. They say that destruction of the current world order at Armageddon is imminent and that establishing God’s Kingdom is the only solution for all problems humankind faces. They believe that Satan controls the current world order.
According to the members, only Jehovah’s Witnesses will survive Armageddon when the whole world’s population is wiped out.
They always use the name “Jehovah” when mentioning “God”. They only worship Jehovah and not Jesus, whom they believe was Jehovah’s only direct creation. In contrast, according to them, the Holy Spirit is only a force and not a person.
Practices Of Jehovah’s Witnesses
Jehovah’s Witnesses follow many different practices primarily made by Charles Taze Russell and are now operated by the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
I have listed some common practices of Jehovah’s Witnesses:
- Jehovah’s Witnesses never celebrate holidays that have pagan origins. For instance, Easter, Christmas, and birthdays. The Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses decides their holidays.
- They don’t sing the national anthem or salute the national flag of any country. They also reject military service.
- Jehovah’s Witnesses also refuse blood transfusions even when it’s necessary to save a life.
- They refrain from eating animal meat without properly draining its blood.
- They conduct meetings at Kingdom Halls, which generally do not feature religious symbols. They study Bible and the Watch Tower Society literature at the meetings, which often includes two gatherings each week.
These are some of the most significant differences in the practices followed by Jehovah’s Witnesses worldwide.
Now that we understand the beliefs and principles of Jehovah’s Witnesses, let’s focus on answering whether Jehovah’s Witnesses can do Yoga?
Before that let’s take a small detour to understand yoga and also its spiritual values. While we are on it, I will also discuss what the Bible says about yogic practices and the values of yoga in Hinduism.
What Is Yoga?
Yoga originated in ancient India, and it holds a lot of physical and mental virtues. It is a spiritual discipline that focuses on bringing harmony between the mind and body through breathing techniques, meditation and asanas.
As for the West, having a healthy and fit body has been why people turn towards Yoga.
History Of Yoga
The word “Yoga” originated from the Sanskrit word ‘Yuj‘, which means to to join or yoke together or to harness and control. As per the scriptures, yoga connects the mind and soul with the universe, bringing in perfect harmony between human and nature.
The history of Yoga goes way back. You can see figurines of people sitting in Yoga postures excavated from Indus valley civilizations. Archaeologists date the Indus Valley civilization to between the third and the second-millennium B.C.E.
According to Hinduism, the figurines are of Lord Shiva, who is also considered as the first Guru of Yoga, termed as Adiyogi.
The Yoga practices were written in detail for the first time by the Indian yogic sage Patañjali as the Yoga Sutra. In the words of Patañjali, Yoga is “an effort to achieve perfection, by controlling various elements of human nature, both mental and physical”.
What Is The True Aim Of Yoga?
Yoga is found to be an integral part of many Eastern religions, including Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism. Most people believe that yoga will help them attain Moksha, that is liberation or bliss where you reach a state of oneness. In Eastern philosophy, Moksha is the deliberate stopping of spontaneous activities of the mind.
Contrary to what most western yoga instructors would suggest, it’s hard to claim that yoga limits only to physical exercises. For example, in the book Hindu Manners, Customs and Ceremonies, a yoga student says that while practicing holding his breath for long periods, he saw a bright light like the moon, swaying side to side.
He quoted that his Guru was incredibly pleased with the incident. His Guru told him that he would experience more surprising results in the future. According to the Yoga Guru, the sights were the results of practicing Yoga and the right path to achieve moksha.
Is Yoga Something More Than Just Exercise?
The higher purpose of Yoga is to connect your body and soul to the supernatural spirit. But what does it mean?
Some people believe that yoga used to be magical ritualism, and it still retains sorcery and occultism. Hindu philosophers also believe that yoga can give you supernatural powers, but that is not the ultimate goal.
Some examples are mentioned in the book “An Introduction to Indian Philosophy“, which says that “controlling the body by attaining different postures results in a great resistance against extremes of heat and cold”. It also mentions how a yogi can make himself invisible.
Even in recent times, you can find that many claim to achieve supernatural feats through their yogic powers.
While such claims may seem extreme, yoga does help in calming your mind, strengthening your body, relaxing your nerves and being aware of your own self. Therefore, it is evident that Yoga is not just about physical exercises but has far greater spiritual significance.
But what does it mean for Christians, and is there any place for Yoga in Christianity? Let’s find out.
What Does The Bible Say About Our Mind And Body?
This concept of Moksha is very different from Christian beliefs. The Bible states that a person’s body is the temple of God and should be used only to perform his will in living a pious life.
In no way is it right for a Christians to consciously stop physical and mental activities because they belong to God, not to him.
While choosing physical exercises may seem like a personal choice, but Christianity does not allow certain things. Any kind of eating, bodily training, clothing, drinking, or entertainment that hinders their relationship with God is considered wrong.
Why Can’t Jehovah’s Witnesses Do Yoga?
According to the Bible, when Israelites were about to enter the Promised Land, owned by the Canaanites, Jehovah said to Israel’s sons through Moses that they must not follow those nation’s detestable things.
Moses answered the question of what “detestable things” are and said, “anyone employing divination, a practicer of magic or anyone who looks for omens or a sorcerer.”
It is clear from the examples above that yoga would fall squarely within the parameters of such “detestable things.”
As Jehovah’s Witnesses only follow Jehovah as their one true God, they are not allowed to indulge in activities that exclude their bodies and minds from him, and yoga is certainly one of those activities.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can Jehovah’s Witnesses do Yoga?
Jehovah’s Witnesses should not practice yoga as it hinders their relationship with Jehovah, who is the only God according to them.
What things are Jehovah’s witnesses not allowed to do?
Jehovah’s witnesses are not allowed to do the following things:
- They can’t celebrate holidays because they have pagan origins.
- They can’t sing the national anthem or salute the national flag.
- No blood transfusions.
Can Jehovah’s witnesses meditate?
They are encouraged by their churches to meditate. Seventy-seven percent of Jehovah’s witnesses meditate.
Do Jehovah’s witnesses do baptisms?
Yes, they do the baptism. It is a way for them to show dedication towards their God (Jehovah) and his values.
I hope this article clarified all your doubts and questions of why you shouldn’t practice yoga if you’re a Jehovah’s Witness. Share this guide with everyone who you think may find it useful.