Think Yoga is safe if you think you are avoiding the religious and spiritual aspects of it? Think again! The following is a testimony of a woman who got into merely just the physical aspects of Yoga yet she claimed it still got her demonized:
Epic Deliverance Number One
Quite unexpectedly in 2010, I received two epic deliverances back to back. The first was the expulsion of a demon of energy medicine, which was dramatic, and this catapulted the second, the expulsion of a demon of yoga, which was not so dramatic, but equally shocking to me. Prior to my deliverance, I had been seeking the Lord for some time about a vague and prolonged sense of oppression and block to my life’s purpose. Despite my qualifications and capabilities as a teacher and despite my good faith effort to promote a work I thought was beneficial to others, I kept getting disappointed time after time by opportunities that always dwindled into dead ends. Spiritually, I felt I had bumped against a low ceiling to advancement and that personal fulfillment and the emergence of my true identity was far, far away. Convinced that real promotion only comes from the Lord, I cried out about this pervasive sense of uneasiness and suppression and about the business mirages and mundane life that did not match my dreams or my potential. I earmarked a verse in Psalm 103:6 that says, “The LORD executes righteousness and justice for all who are oppressed” (NKJV) and claimed it for myself because the Lord vaunts Himself as “a Rock, His work is perfect, for all His ways are law and justice. A God of faithfulness without breach or deviation, just and right is He” (Deut 32:4 AMP). And P.S., I told the Lord I was willing to be corrected if I was doing something wrong, but I knew nothing against myself. This turned out to be my ticket to freedom—my willingness to admit that I might be wrong about something, though I knew not what.
While I was waiting for the Lord’s response, I continued to work on my own personal issues and to prepare for ministry as I was in the habit of doing. I attended an inner healing and deliverance workshop and volunteered as a demonstration subject.1 The minister, Hixson, followed the usual protocol, interviewing me about possible entry points of the demonic in childhood and adolescence—any physical, verbal, sexual abuse, neglect, and so on. In the middle of his intake, he stopped.
“I’m getting a word,” he said.
“Oh yeah?” I said, “What’s that?”
“Shiatsu,” he said, pulling a pink rabbit out of a black top hat—not just any pink rabbit, mind you, but my pink rabbit. “Does that mean anything to you?”
“Uh…yeah,” I said, stunned. “I’m a practitioner of shiatsu. I’m a teacher. I’ve written a textbook on the subject that was published by a fairly reputable—maybe even prestigious—academic publisher. I guess I could be considered a subject matter expert.” I was perplexed but intrigued. “What’s the matter with shiatsu?” I said, furrowing my brow.
“It’s demonic,” he said flatly.
“You’ve gotta be kidding me,” I said, folding my arms.
“No. I’m serious.”
I stared at the man. Hixson was a total stranger; we had never met each other before. He had just flown to the U.S. from Spain. Moreover, I didn’t know anybody else at the church that was hosting the workshop, nor did they know me, so nobody could have apprised him of my background. How could he know that I was a massage therapist, or that I practiced a niche specialty? The average person doesn’t know much about massage, much less an exotic oriental modality with a Japanese name based on Traditional Chinese Medicine. Nobody could simply look at me and guess my vocation. Only the Holy Spirit could reveal that to him.
“Well…uh…I’m skeptical, but you’ve got my attention. That’s an outstanding word of knowledge; I have to admit. I’m really impressed.”
“Would you be willing to test if you have an evil spirit?”
“Sure. But I can tell you up front that I’m not gonna renounce the practice for a light cause. I just spent the last decade of my life studying and mastering the subject. I have to see a strong demonic manifestation to believe you.”
Some time later in a private session as we were sitting face to face with student witnesses observing and taking notes, Hixson commanded the spirit to manifest. At first, nothing happened. But then as he continued to command the spirit to show itself in the name of Jesus, I got a weird, queasy, whirling feeling in my head. I reported it to Hixson.
“I’m feeling something like a whirling electromagnetic force field around my head.”
“Is that enough for you?”
“No. Absolutely not. I know myself. I’ve got a strong rational intellect. After you leave town and I ponder what happened, my mind will kick into high gear and offer other plausible explanations for the sensation I’m experiencing—that I was sleep deprived; that I had too much coffee; that I hadn’t eaten in a while and had low blood sugar; that I was nervous about deliverance; that I was influenced by the power of suggestion, etc. etc. No. I need a dramatic manifestation to believe.”
“OK then. Let’s keep going.”
Hixson resumed invoking the spirit. Suddenly, I felt my eyeballs bulging out of their sockets and my teeth clenching. My face seized up like the kabuki mask of a Samurai warrior scowling grimly, crossed-eyed with rage, red and black clouds puffing off the forehead, murder sublimated into art—you know, the beauty-in-the-kill expression, the watch-my-sword-decapitate-you expression. Next, my abdomen and chest began to heave—I mean really heave—with deep, bellows-like, diaphragmatic breathing, to the sound of loud vacuuming inhalations and horse wheezing exhalations. Who was neighing in the room?! Abruptly, my right hand started slapping my right thigh over and over to the point of stinging, and my left foot started stomping on the ground like a homesteader having a tantrum. Somebody was pushing the buttons on the control panel of my being, overriding involuntary organ functions and voluntary motor functions that were supposed to be regulated by my central nervous system and me! I was horrified.
“Is that enough for you?” Hixson said.
I bobbed my head yes. Blow me down!
“How did you enter her?” Hixson demanded, addressing the demon.
“Literature,” I heard in my head.
“It’s saying, ‘literature,’” I said, “and by that it means texts on Traditional Chinese Medicine that I had to read to write my book and teach the eastern paradigm of healing.”
Great! I thought. All that research and all that study came with hell’s hitchhiker! So books can be portals to spiritual attachments…I knew that, but I didn’t KNOW that. What a blooming chasm between knowledge and experience!
“Are you transferable through touch?” Hixson demanded.
“Yes,” I heard in my head.
“It’s saying, ‘yes,’” I reported.
Great! I thought. Not only bogus healing, but communicable spiritual contamination—an occult counterpart to the Christian sacrament of laying on of hands. Questions started popping in my mind: Does the demon reproduce itself by some strange process of mitosis in order to inhabit two people? Does it shuttle back and forth between two people? Does it set up shop for another demon like itself in the other person? Huh.
Hixson nodded and summarily cast it out.
Wait a minute! I thought, still in a state of shock. I have questions! (For the full story, please see my forthcoming book, What’s the Matter with Energy Medicine?)
As the session wound down, Hixson brought up one final concern.
“Yoga is also demonic,” he said rather matter-of-factly.
“No way,” I said, shifting in my seat.
I scrutinized this Presbyterian minister, this Fuller Theological Seminary graduate who had majored in cross cultural studies, who had traveled much of Europe, Africa, and Central America, who now operated a residential counseling retreat and training center for missionaries, pastors, and church leaders, and who reminded me ever so much of Santa Claus—a portly, sanguine, endearing old man whose sage-like visage and white whiskered cheeks were pinch-able and whose belly was jolly.2 I felt like pouting, but restrained myself.
“Yes way,” he said. “See to it.” Then he dropped the subject without further ado.
Hixson had a knack for convincing me. He had an easy going, take-it-or-leave-it manner. He had no zest for argument, no vested interest in any of my pet subjects, no need to prove himself right or me wrong. His blunt advice was for me, not for him. But I had to receive it. Moreover, I had to muddle through the discovery of truth on my own because he was about to leave town and would be unavailable for further deliverance sessions.
I left that session profoundly impacted, even dumbfounded, by the reality of a demon of oriental medicine and perturbed by the possibility of a demon of yoga. Since I had been deceived about oriental medicine, could I also be deceived about yoga? I had heard this objection before from other Christians and had considered it myself—but only fleetingly. I was more persuaded by my own good intentions, my own clear conscience, and my own normal (not paranormal) experience of the practice as good exercise. In short, I had made myself the standard for what is right. Because of this—my good intentions, clear conscience, and personal satisfaction with the practice, I dismissed any claims of demonically charged idolatry as inapplicable to me. However, I now had new facts to consider. None of those prior warnings had come from Christians who had given me an outstanding word of knowledge like Hixson had. None of them had forced a demonic stowaway to go public like he had. Those Christians may have told me the truth, but unfortunately for me, I could not be convinced apart from a power encounter. I had to see for myself that a demon was lurking inside me.
Around the year 2000, I decided to get certified to teach yoga—a purportedly westernized, non-Hindu version of yoga. I had mixed motives for doing so. The good motive was to gracefully retire out of dance yet continue with lyrical movement, which I found so therapeutic, cathartic, and enjoyable. The bad motive was to retaliate against a boyfriend who had dissed me. I knew that he took yoga classes at a local community recreation center, so I figured that one day he would wander into class and discover that I was the instructor, and he would have to submit to me and namaste me (prayerfully greet me as god, heh heh) or leave. I never recognized this motive until over a decade later after my deliverance when I started examining everything, including how I got involved in the practice. Unresolved offense had played into the mix of motivators. (As a side note, I wonder how many women get involved in yoga in part because they have been offended by people or by God? Although I can’t prove it, I suspect that much misdirection in life is launched by offense.)
Back to the backstory: In 2000, I got certified to teach yoga. I had my scruples, though, as all good Christians do (or ought to). I knew that yoga was associated with eastern mysticism and especially Hinduism. I was familiar with Hindu theology, having gotten converted out of the New Age. However, I had never practiced yoga as a pagan. Even so, I knew that yoga was a Hindu form of worship, one of several paths to enlightenment in the Hindu system: the path of bodily austerity or purification; the physical path of union with the Hindu divine. But after my conversion to Christianity, I knew that the Hindu supreme reality is not reality at all and that Hindu gods are not gods at all, and that YHWH is the one true God. I thought that my understanding of who’s who and Who is superior and my disbelief in the Hindu system divested Hinduism of any demonic power. So I was unconcerned, even indifferent to what I perceived to be a bogus threat. I figured the demonic had no power in light of my knowledge of the one true God.
This notion—that I know better than the teachings of a false religion, that I know the truth and am no longer in error or subject to error—was a subtle form of spiritual pride and deception. For I underestimated the power of the practice and was clueless to the spirit realm’s ownership right in the practice. I assumed, wrongly, that I could detach the physical practice from its religious moorings and steer it my way, the way of fitness or the way of Christ. I denied that the devil had any intellectual property right in the moves my body makes (like Bikram suing to enforce his franchise interest in hot yoga). But I was wrong. The spirit realm knows what belongs to it. Just as a stolen Lexus can be traced back to its rightful owner even if the thief removes the license plate and re-upholsters the interior and paints the body another color, so, too, yoga misappropriated by naive westerners can be traced back to Hindu spirits who are not fooled by a little revamping. They’ve got the serial number and title deed, so to speak. They’ll get back in their vehicle while you’re driving it—and gleefully, I might add, with you as their little joy ride.
But I thought I was safe. I practiced a “demystified” version of yoga based on exercise science, you see. It was presented to me as gutted of all Hindu elements, strictly secular and non-sectarian, and I believed it to be such. My training used medically illustrated texts, not sacred texts. The yoga that I practiced and taught was informed by myology (the study of muscles) and kinesiology (the study of human movement). When I taught, my students got an education. They learned about the kinesiology of yoga flow—which muscles were contracting and which were relaxing in any given pose; they learned about opposing muscles and their agonist-antagonist relationships; they learned about the importance of developing core strength and joint stability; they learned about the importance of stretching the flexors and strengthening the extensors, and especially as we age and tend toward stooped posture.
The yoga I taught followed fitness industry guidelines. My classes weren’t just boring stretch classes, they were challenging and incorporated all components of a well-rounded exercise regimen, including strength training, cardiorespiratory conditioning, coordination, and balance. (Men would sometimes watch my class and smirk; try my class and bonk.) Like any self-respecting group exercise instructor, I demonstrated and cued proper alignment and wouldn’t let slackers cheat with sloppy form. I took care to design proper progressions. I demonstrated modifications to accommodate mixed level classes so nobody got injured. I even adapted exercises for the occasional special population member—the pregnant lady or overweight student on the one hand, the zealous athlete or aspiring instructor on the other. I observed safety precautions and advised students about contraindications. I maintained my certification through continuing education workshops, as well as CPR, AED, and blood borne pathogens certifications, just in case somebody had a heart attack or bled out, God forbid.3
In short, my focus, at least in public venues, was great and safe exercise. That’s certainly what it looked and felt like. (In the privacy of my own home, I worshipped YHWH and Jesus on my mat.) I was certified as an instructor by YogaFit before the founder, Beth Shaw, expanded her program to meet Yoga Alliance requirements. (Yoga Alliance is a prestigious credentialing association that requires the study of Hindu sacred texts as a qualifying condition for listing in its teacher and school registry, an indicium of reputability in the field.) When I took my certification training, YogaFit still distinguished itself as a western maverick in the yoga industry by touting a demystified practice. Certainly, levels 1 and 2 were just that. They focused exclusively on asanas (poses) and myology. Level 3 introduced meditation at the end, and that’s when I quit getting any more training with the company. Also, I learned from a former student of mine who became an instructor that the newly developed level 4 delved into Hindu ideology. So much for holding the line on demystification.
As for me, I only taught yoga in secular venues: local city recreation centers, a national gym, the YMCA, and as an adjunct instructor at a local community college (the college required a semester of P.E. for an A.A. degree, and this could be satisfied with yoga).4 I scrupulously shunned all references to Hinduism. I banned Hindu devotional music, chanting of mantras, meditation, guided visualization, and doctrines on esoteric yoga physiology, such as prana (vital energy or life force), nadis (energy channels), chakras (energy wheels), the rise of kundalini (an indwelling spiritual energy depicted as a serpent). Most especially I eschewed Hindu religious doctrines, such as karma (consequences of wrongdoing and right doing that accrue in the next life), reincarnation (returning in the flesh again and again as a lower or higher order of being to work off karma that continues to accumulate), samsara (the cycle of suffering, death, and rebirth), and moksha (enlightenment—escape through the loss of self and merger with the Higher Self or Brahman).
My other line of work, massage therapy, occasionally brought me into traditional yoga studios as a passing visitor, never as a student. I could feel spirits of eastern mysticism thick in those places where idolatry was blatant—idolatry that made me cringe: altars to personal gurus; statues of the elephant deity Ganesh, of Shiva dancing, of Buddha sitting; ornate geometric meditation mandalas; pictures of the black, blubbery, multi-armed, tongue flicking Kali wielding weapons, adorned with a necklace of human skulls, trampling her consort underfoot (clearly, she failed finishing school!); pictures of the blue Krishna cozying up to a python (blue because he’s spiritually strangled?). I held myself aloof from such blatant and grotesque expressions of idolatry and fancied myself free, but the spirit hiding in me was of this culture and of this cosmology.
The Dream of Shipwreck and Piracy
In early 2004, I wrote a question on a piece of paper to the Lord and tucked it under my pillow, hoping He would answer me in a dream. I enjoy dreams because they are surreal and because I trust my ability to receive guidance when my rational intellect is at rest and can’t invent anything:
For God may speak in one way, or in another, yet man does not perceive it. In a dream, in a vision of the night, when deep sleep falls upon men, while slumbering on their beds, then He opens the ears of men, and seals their instructions. Job 33:14-16 NKJV
An opportunity for career advancement as a yoga trainer arose at a national gym, Bally Total Fitness. Upper management had decided it wanted a multi-level yoga program to offer at all the clubs nationwide and was seeking the best of its yoga instructors to design and implement the program. According to a co-worker who was half serious and half facetious, management wanted to pattern its yoga classes after the Catholic mass: Just as you could go to any Catholic church in the U.S. and enjoy the same formatted service, so too, you could go to any Bally Fitness in the U.S. and enjoy the same formatted yoga class. Once the national trainers were selected to develop the program, they would train local instructors to teach yoga to local members. The company would provide free in-house training with continuing education credits for group exercise instructors who wanted to add yoga to their repertoire of fitness classes. The position required traveling nationally to facilitate training workshops; it also required getting yet another fitness certification (AFAA) on top of the one I already had (ACE) to qualify me to award CEU’s (continuing education credits). I had never thought about becoming an itinerant trainer, but the opportunity looked good.
Despite my interest, I asked the Lord whether I should pursue the training opportunity; whether I should commit to the position and for how long; and whether it would be beneficial or detrimental professionally and personally. I got a prophetic dream that I did not recognize as prophetic until several years later, so I did not heed its warning. Even if I had understood it, it is questionable whether I would have yielded to God’s counsel at that time. Desire can be despotic. Only disillusionment with self-directed desire (self-determination) has compelled me to not only confer with God, but defer to God.
In the dream, I was in the dark, making progress through a structure that seemed to be a building but turned out to be a floating shipwreck. I advanced a couple levels along the outside of the structure, moving with considerable urgency, though what my purpose was, I was not sure: It seemed survival oriented. In one chamber, I accidentally discovered an open carrying case partially filled with jewelry bags. I opened one jewelry bag and found the most incredible ruby jewelry: earrings, broaches, pendants, and so forth, studded with multitudes of coruscating rubies. I rummaged further and found other jewelry, not quite so stunning. I thought to myself that the jewelry could be a very valuable way to navigate through an uncertain world. Gradually, I became aware of a dim light in the chamber that made my activities visible from afar. I was pretty sure that the light had not been on before. I looked up and saw a pirate leering at me, as if I were better booty than my booty. I dashed with my stash, clambering down several levels until I got clear of the wreck.
Three years later, I discovered the dream was about Bally Total Fitness, and six years later, I discovered it was about yoga. The promises of the trainer position—the opportunity to use my choreographic skills to develop a multi-level yoga program; to travel nationally to facilitate weekend workshops several times per year; to receive greater remunerations for my labor— ultimately proved empty, as I never got to choreograph; I averaged only one engagement per year for two years, which was not even enough to recoup the cost of the additional certification I had to get. The program ended abruptly after the CEO and administrator in charge of development of group exercise classes resigned. In 2006, Bally Total Fitness of Greater New York filed as debtors for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. In 2007, I got a notice summarizing the company’s reorganization plan, which classified debts into various categories of claims too numerous to enumerate. If my addition is correct, the company owed a total of $1,031,446,998.00 to various claimants. That’s roughly one-and-one-third billion dollars. Ahem.
Obviously, the corporation was a financial “floating shipwreck,” due to mismanagement, as the dream foretold, but I was “in the dark” about it. The dream accurately depicted my promotion within the floating shipwreck, for I was chosen as one of a team of instructors culled from all the clubs across the U.S.: I “climbed” the corporate structure from an entry level position as an instructor to a higher position as a trainer of instructors. Nevertheless, I felt like an outsider (climbing outside the structure). My purpose was indeed “survival,” for I transitioned from a two person household to a one person household during this time and the Bally job was no help. My clambering down to get off the shipwreck foretold of my resignation from Bally in 2007 and my deliverance from a demon of yoga in 2010.
As for the rubies and jewels, I believe they pertain to me as an escapee: “A capable, intelligent, and virtuous woman—who can find? She is far more precious than jewels and her worth is far above rubies or pearls” (Prov 31:10 AMP and NKJV combined). At the time of the dream, I thought the way to “navigate through an uncertain world” was to have something of value to offer, like a salable skill, such as my ability to teach. Now I realize that the way to navigate is to be worthy, and if the Lord wants to promote, He will promote. Jesus said, “I AM the way” (John 14:6 NKJV). What He modeled was not a skill, but virtue: or if you will, the life skill of virtue. I now realize that virtue is the way, but there are many things that compromise virtue, and yoga is one of them. Yoga violates the first and greatest commandment. Jesus said, “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength” (Mark 12:30; Luke 10:27; Deut 6:4). I unwittingly worshipped other gods with my strength. Because I did not realize or want this, my worship was stolen from me, and my worth was compromised. Yoga is a pirate. A pirate is a liar, a thief, and a murderer. He steals treasure and wastes it or uses it for evil purposes. The greatest treasure, of course, is people.
The Dream of a Hindu Altar and Communion Table
So that’s the backstory of my yoga career. Now I was faced with the possibility that I was harboring a demon of yoga just as I had harbored a demon of oriental medicine unawares. I left the deliverance session profoundly disturbed and unsettled by this possibility. So I fasted and asked the Lord to reveal to me the nature of yoga. That night, I had the following revelatory dream:
I was walking through an athletic club—a familiar venue where I taught yoga classes— and entered a warm-up/cool-down/stretch space. A woman was lying on a yoga mat, looking up at me intently. She was wearing street clothes, not exercise attire, and said assertively, “I live here,” as if to make a point. I passed by her, saying nothing, but thought, “That’s strange…she’s strange.”
Then I entered a free weight section stacked with racks of dumbbells and barbells and weight plates and benches and a squat machine. A bodybuilder was pressing a barbell overhead; he had his back turned to me and was facing a mirrored wall. His muscles were über-hypertrophied and gnarly—bulging and puckering obscenely—like Arnold Schwarznegger’s in The Terminator. His will was hard; his affect, cold; his being, alien. I thought to myself, “Whew. I’m sure glad I don’t have to massage that guy.”
The scene changed. I was in my office at night, the place where I prepared yoga class materials like syllabi and quizzes and class formats (choreography) and handouts on breathing techniques and so forth. The venetian blind was raised on the window facing my backyard. I sat on the floor to light a brass bowl of a substance like incense or pot. The smoke ascended and uncurled in gossamer grey ribbons. What I was doing felt clandestine; it had the quality of mystical ritual and a psychotropic mood-altering, mind-bending, reality-shifting effect.
I stood up, glanced out the back window into the night and gasped. A huge, inflatable, phosphorescent altar to Hindu gods was erected in my backyard and next to it, a fully furnished banqueting table with a place setting reserved just for me. I was seized with alarm and wanted it cleared off my property post haste. No sooner had I thought this, than a festive windsock of a Chinese New Year’s dragon flew in an S-curve toward me like an aerial eel and rattled its head and shimmied its mane menacingly in front of the glass. “*@#$% you!” I shouted, pounding the window with both palms to make it retreat. The dragon didn’t budge. Then I screamed over and over, “Jesus! Jesus!” and it withdrew.
I awoke from the dream horrified and knew in my spirit that the nature of yoga is indeed Hindu worship, regardless of any neutral secular view that had been presented to me and regardless of my intention to convert it to my own Christian use in private. As for the other dream elements, the full interpretation came together later like puzzle pieces as I searched scripture to understand how I had been so deceived.
Interpretation of the Dream
The first part of my dream—the gym scene—introduces the spirit behind yoga through two encounters: one with the woman on a yoga mat and the other with the bodybuilder. First, the woman and her strange ways: no woman wears street clothes to work out—that is impractical—and no woman lives at a gym—that would be prohibited by the owner of the business and illegal by law. So the woman (and what she represents) admits to me that she is doing something odd and irregular, something contrary to expectations, something forbidden by the person in charge of the facility and something unlawful by the rule of the land. Who is this woman? Clearly, she is associated with yoga, even identified with it, for she lives on a yoga mat. But she is wearing street clothes. Something is not right, not what it seems. The woman and her street clothes are a plainclothes disguise, a front for another entity inside her, a spirit that speaks through her. The spirit speaking through her says to me assertively, “I live here,” meaning, “This is my house.” The spirit claims ownership of the woman, the yoga mat, and the gym as its territory and home. The spirit is an illegal squatter.
This agrees with scripture. Jesus describes the possessive, territorial nature of an evil spirit and its ownership claim on the person it inhabits. He says:
When an unclean spirit goes out of a man, he goes through dry places, seeking rest, and finds none. Then he says, “I will return to my house from which I came”. Matthew 12:43-44 NKJV
The phrase my house indicates that the evil spirit regards its host as its habitation or dwelling. It also regards the place that the host occupies as its territory (read the story about the Gadarene demoniac: the legion of spirits in that man did not want to leave the region of Gadara where they had been living; they regarded Gadara as their jurisdiction; see Mark 5 and Luke 8:26-39). So the evil spirit in the woman was telling me, “I live in you,” or “You are my house,” for I was exactly like that woman: I had been hanging out for a long time on a yoga mat in gym settings. I was at home on a yoga mat, and as a consequence, something was at home in me.
The illegal squatter’s homestead proclamation, which was weird news to me, culminates in my encounter with a bodybuilder or strongman. Jesus uses the term strongman to refer to Satan or an agent of Satan like a demon. He says:
If I cast out demons with the finger of God, surely the kingdom of God has come upon you. Or how can one enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless one stronger than he comes upon him and overcomes him and binds him and takes from him all his armor in which he trusted? Then he will divide his spoils and plunder his house [release the person held hostage]. Luke 11:17-23; Matthew 12:21-30 NKJV; see also Mark 3:22-27 (brackets mine)
In this description of exorcism, Jesus likens exorcism to a turf war; he likens Satan and his demons to a strongman squatter; and the exorcist to one who is stronger than the strongman, who can overpower the strongman by the finger of God. So the gym scene announces that there is a strongman, or evil spirit, behind yoga. This spirit is territorial in nature: it claims the yoga practitioner and the places she occupies and influences as its domain. To personalize, a spirit of yoga claims me and the places I occupy and influence—the places I practice and teach yoga—as its domain.
The second part of the dream—lighting a bowl of incense or pot in my office—reveals the nature of yoga as mind altering ritual worship (the burning of incense/pot). In appearance, the practice of yoga looks like physical exercise, but in essence, yoga is obeisance (devotion), and in effect, yoga is a world view that can shift a world view. In scripture, the burning of incense is a devotional practice that emphasizes adoration of deity or entreaty of deity, for example:
In every place incense shall be offered to My name, […] for My name shall be great among the nations, says the LORD of hosts. Malachi 1:11 NKJV
[…] they have forsaken Me and burned incense to other gods. 2 Kings 22:17; 2 Chron 34:25; Jer 1:16 NKJV
[…] the whole multitude of people was praying outside at the hour of incense. Luke 1:10 NKJV
[…] and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. Revelation 5:8 NKJV
The association of yoga with burning incense and pot smoking indicates that yoga is not just physical, but metaphysical and spiritual. Yoga is a bodily offering of movement: it is embodied prayer to a higher being and embodied veneration of a supreme reality. Such veneration is predicated on a world view about the origin of being, the value and purpose of life, and the destiny of the human soul. Not all religions agree. Which supreme reality, which higher being, which world view is invoked by yoga? Unlike exercise, which is for the self, yoga is for another, for one who observes the practitioner, for one who is attracted to the offering. Who is it? Who receives the practitioner’s offering? Is it the one whom the practitioner designates, or the one to whom the practice belongs? Who dictates this? The practitioner or the practice? Which came first?
The third part of the dream—the Hindu altar and banqueting table—identifies yoga as communion with Hindu idols or deities, and behind these Hindu deities, the dragon, or Satan. In scripture, the banqueting table is a place of communion or fellowship of love: “He brought me to the banqueting house, and his banner over me was love” (Song 2:4 NKJV). The table also represents sacrifice, a life laid down for another, and implies a covenant or sacramental relationship between the parties, as for example, the Passover meal (Ex 12:1-28; Luke 22:14-20). In actuality, every ordinary meal shadows this reality because it necessitates the death of something living to support the life of the one remaining. However, the Christian communion table uniquely celebrates the Lord’s sacrifice for humanity. By contrast, a pagan communion table typically celebrates the devotee’s sacrifice for his or her gods. Obviously, these types of communion are incompatible, yet I mixed them because I thought I could redefine yoga as Christian, not Hindu, and rededicate it to YHWH, not Shiva or Brahman. Does the Lord enjoy reworked pagan practices? Does He accept them? I did not think to consult Him about this. I consulted my own good intentions and my own clear conscience and thought these were sufficient to vindicate me. But the dream told otherwise.
Paul addresses the problem of dual communion or dual fellowship, which is spiritual infidelity borne out of spiritual confusion:
Are not those who eat of the sacrifices partakers of the altar? What am I saying then? That an idol is anything, or what is offered to idols is anything? Rather, that the thing which the Gentiles [pagans] sacrifice they sacrifice to demons and not to God, and I do not want you to have fellowship with demons. You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons; you cannot partake of the Lord’s table and the table of demons. Or do we provoke the Lord to jealousy? Are we stronger than He? 1 Corinthians 10:18-22 NKJV
Here is how Paul’s admonition applies to modern Christians who practice yoga: Even though Hindu idols are admittedly nothing and Hindu deities are not real and therefore not a threat in and of themselves, yet Hindu demons are real, and they are a danger, for they will attend to anybody at their communion table, and especially without a person knowing it. This is what happened to me. Since God is no respecter of persons and neither is the Devil, this can happen to anybody—you, too!
The dream ended with the dragon. When I realized that I had unwittingly entertained Hindu spirits through my yoga practice, I decided to remove them from my property and the ground of my being. But the dragon flew at me in a menacing way and challenged me. Who is the dragon? In scripture, the dragon is a type of Satan: “So the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was cast to earth, and his angels were cast out with him” (Rev 12:9 NKJV). I could not force him to leave by my own strength (by cussing at him), nor even my moral outrage (my own will power), but only by Jesus: “And they overcame him [the Devil, Satan] by the blood of the Lamb [Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world] and by the word of their testimony” (Rev 12:11 NKJV; John 1:9; brackets mine). Taken as a whole, the dream revealed that Satan is behind Hindu demons; Hindu demons are behind Hindu deities, and Hindu deities are behind yoga, be it ever so secular or ever so Christian in appearance.
Some time later I asked the Lord why the most sinister elements—the Hindu deities and the dragon—were depicted as toys? Why was the Hindu altar a party-colored, glow-in-the-dark, blow-up altar (like oversized holiday lawn decorations), and why was the dragon a party-colored kite or windsock? The Lord explained that I had been playing with something dangerous and didn’t realize it; evil appeared like a toy or game that appealed to my child-like nature.
Epic Deliverance Number Two
The following morning, I prepared for deliverance. I repented heartily of idolatry and began scouring my office for things to purge. I got out my YogaFit Level 1, 2, and 3 instructor certifications and all my continuing education certificates for ACE and AFAA approved yoga courses and was about to tear them up, when something in me revolted big time. It was the demon, and I recognized it. Then I ripped up everything with fervor. I set up a long, vertically oriented mirror and a chair in front of it and supplied myself with paper and pen, for I wanted to confront this demon, cross-examine it, see it manifest, and take notes, if possible.
Now some do not believe in demonization or deliverance. Others believe but recoil. Still others advocate for deliverance but advise against self-deliverance. But I was in a predicament: Hixson was leaving town and would be unavailable for further deliverance sessions. I didn’t know anybody who could do deliverance. I was furious. I was disgusted. I had just cause to confront my adversary who had robbed me of ten years of my life. I felt extreme urgency and impetus from the expulsion of the demon of oriental medicine, and I happened to believe scripture—the unrestricted application of it—and the general invitation to “come boldly to the throne of grace to find mercy and help in time of need” (Heb 4:16 my paraphrase).
Scripture says unequivocally, “These signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; […] they will take up serpents” (Mark 16:17-18 NKJV; italics mine). This means that followers of Christ will handle, deal with, control, and dispose of demons. And again, the Lord says to the seventy disciples and by extension to us through the great commission:
I saw Satan falling like a lightning [flash] from heaven. Behold! I have given you authority and power to trample upon serpents and scorpions, and [physical and mental strength and ability] over all the power that the enemy [possesses]; and nothing shall in any way harm you. Nevertheless, do not rejoice at this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are enrolled in heaven. Luke 10:18-20 AMP; Matthew 28:19-20
(As a courtesy to those who want a Biblical basis for my experience, I include a crash course in demonology and deliverance as applied to Christians: see the webpage entitled “Demonization?”)
My reasoning was that if the Lord was kind enough to give me revelation about the demon of yoga, He would be kind enough to give me the power to deal with it. After all, revelation is for a purpose: it’s a vision on wheels. So in the name of Jesus I commanded the demon of yoga to manifest, and it responded with thoughts and impressions in my mind and sensations in my body.
“Manifest yourself!” I demanded.
“I will not!” it said.
“Do I have authority over you?”
“Yes,” the demon said; then it backpedaled, “He’s not as powerful as I am.” (By that, it meant, “Jesus is not as powerful as I am.”)
Suddenly, I felt a pleasurable surge of energy from below erupt toward my head like a geyser—it was a full body rush that lit up my flesh like a thousand pin points of light and made me tingle all over. I recognized this as kundalini energy. I had never felt anything so sensual and titillating in practice. I suppose if I had, I would have become suspicious. But it was clear that the demon was inducing this experience and vaunting its power, for I had no reason—either physical or emotional—to feel pleasure in the moment, quite the contrary. I had been fasting, and I was mad. Then a snake-like expression settled on my face. (Too bad I didn’t get a photo.)
“What’s your name?” I said.
“Whom do you serve?”
“You lie. In the name of Jesus and before the throne of God and under pain of punishment, I command you to tell the truth. Whom do you serve?”
“You look a lot like a snake—sly, ugly, and vicious. What’s the primary lie you tell Christians to induce them to practice yoga?”
“Give me another.”
“Tell them all.”
“I do good. I help them lose weight. I make them flexible and strong. I give them balance. I improve their health and calm their mind. I’m not really spiritual. There’s nothing spiritual about me. I’m just physical. I am a health practice, an exercise system.”
“What kinds of lies do you tell unbelievers?”
“I raise their power level. I improve their sex life. I give them control over their lives. They can have siddhis [supernatural powers in the Hindu system] like levitation, teleportation, telekinesis, telepathy.”
“Are you associated with divination?” (By this, I meant psychic power, clairvoyance, clairaudience, fortunetelling.)
“So you’re a python spirit?”5
“Do you work with any other spirit?”
“I worked with idolatry [of the body], but you kicked him out.”
“Religion.” (By that, it meant a demon that substitutes religious formality and religious decorum in the place of friendship with God and obedience to God.)
After deliverance, the rest of the purging was easy. I scanned my library of yoga books, training manuals, music CDs, exercise videos and DVDs. Among these exercise videos was a demo of me teaching an intermediate level class that I had submitted for a position as a master trainer that got me promoted at Bally Total Fitness. My own work and my own image were hard to dump (idolatry, eh?), but then again, my talent had been hijacked. I wanted to burn everything in a big cone-shaped bonfire inspired by the Ephesians (Acts 19:19), but the flame retardant chemicals and plastics would make it hard to burn, if not hazardous, and I didn’t want the firefighters dropping by. Instead, I boxed, taped, and dumped into the trash thousands of dollars worth of instructional materials, including a decade’s worth of yoga class materials I had developed, as well as plans for an exercise video series—one class for every day of the week except the sabbath, with each day emphasizing a different fitness component and/or section of the body—hips, legs, and feet; arms, chest, and hands; back and core. All of these things I dumped with regret, not borne of ambivalence, but loss of life—wasted years and wasted effort.
There is nothing like becoming undeceived.
I look at that blank shelf now, and I envision it filled with books exposing the dark side, like this one. And who knows? Maybe the good Lord will let me make a dance based calisthenic exercise video as an alternative to yoga? God redeems all. Giant-slaying is on the agenda; they must become our bread (Num 13: 30-31 and 14:8-9). Bon Appétit!
By the way, after my deliverance I did background research to educate myself on the reasons why yoga is the practice of another religion (and therefore idolatry) and why it attracts a spirit or spirits that can attach to the practitioner. Two texts that are relevant to my deliverance testimony confirm the demon’s assertions that it was a python spirit and that it could confer occult powers through yoga. I had never heard of these texts. The first is the Yoga Sutras, a classic yoga treatise written around 250 CE. Certain limited portions of it are studied by western practitioners who aspire to become certified yoga instructors. The Yoga Sutras contain an entire chapter on developing occult powers through seated meditation (as opposed to the moving meditation of the active posture system).6 The putative author is a sage called Patanjali who is credited with writing texts that are several centuries apart, indicating that he is not entirely human or that he is a human operating on spirit power. As it turns out, the sage Patanjali is a hybrid being—a man snake, or rather, the snake of infinity that transformed itself into a man in order to communicate with mankind.7 He is depicted in illustrations and sculptures as having the head and torso of a man and the lower body or long tail of a snake. That makes yoga philosophy snake talk.
Another text is the original Goraksa Sataka, a yoga manual written around 1400 CE by a disciple in the lineage of Goraksa,8 a famous yoga master who founded an order called the Naths that are credited with developing an early form of the yoga posture system.9 This text describes the spiritual energy in yoga as a dormant snake harbored in the body that becomes active through yoga, enters a central energy channel, and travels from the lowest energy center to the highest and out the crown of the head, an event associated with transcendent consciousness (samadhi). The snake is roused from coiled repose and impelled to move upward through various yogic disciplines, including breath control (pranayama), a backward rolled tongue position (khekari mudra), and muscular locks (bandhas).10 The geyser-like sensations I had when the demon manifested follow the path of this snake and suggest that kundalini experiences are not caused by a spiritual energy, but by a spirit or demon.
Both of these texts are included in the canon of Hindu sacred literature, and both confirm that yoga is a practice that partners with a snake that can confer occult powers. In fact, the power of yoga is the power of the snake, and the doctrine of yoga is snake doctrine. Welcome to the spirit realm!
My testimony involves traditional deliverance under the guidance of a deliverance minister and do-it-yourself deliverance. Which is better? Hands down, having another qualified person minister deliverance is the best way to go, and in most cases, the only way to go. There is an afterword to my do-it-yourself session. Although I did a great job disempowering the demon of yoga, it was not dislodged. Some years later after Hixson and I reconnected, he probed for the demon and delivered the coup de gråce. When he asked the yoga demon why it didn’t leave at my command some years earlier, the smart aleck replied, “I was waiting for you, Hixson.” So Hixson cast it out straightaway. I felt like the loser who heaves and grunts to twist off the lid of a vacuum-sealed jar, only to hand it to somebody who pops it off in a flash. Hey! I primed that for you! Don’t steal my glory! (Have we forgotten Whose finished work this is?) So why couldn’t I cast out the yoga demon myself? I believe I could have with God’s grace, but God wanted to teach me the value of relationships because I prefer flying solo.
Reliance on others certainly clashes with our cultural conditioning—our independence, self-reliance, self-sufficiency, self-determination. Let’s be real. We like to be in control. Most of us don’t really trust others, their competence to help or their capacity to suspend judgment and keep confidential incriminating personal disclosures. We have a mentality of “I don’t need you; I don’t want you; I can do it all myself.” We don’t like to submit to others or to God. But this negates God’s sovereignty and the general principle of spiritual community or “body life” (the body of Christ is made of multitudes of believers): “So we, numerous as we are, are one body in Christ (the Messiah) and individually we are parts one of another [mutually dependent on one another]” (Rom 12:5 AMP). Christians should be able to rely on one another for help in the process of sanctification, as for example, when one hand washes the other. The Lord prefers mutual dependence and interdependent functioning of the saints to Marco Polo going solo. Community is His general modus operandi. To state this another way, the Lord values relationships. He is a relational God who works through relationships, and especially through spiritual fathers and mothers.
There are other reasons that traditional deliverance is better than self-deliverance: the superior knowledge, experience, and counsel of a seasoned saint; the objectivity of an onlooker; and the recipient’s freedom to focus on receiving while someone else is facilitating. In seeking ministry, the recipient necessarily humbles herself to receive from and confess to another. Receiving help is an admission of helplessness, which is our true state apart from God. It is also an act of trust that points to our vulnerability and an act of intimacy through self-disclosure. Confessing to another person always costs more than confessing to God privately: public repentance slays pride and provides some accountability. Humility and repentance are primary movers in deliverance. For all these reasons, traditional deliverance is better than self-deliverance.
Some people may be motivated to try self-deliverance because they are embarrassed about or ashamed of being demonized or needing deliverance. This is not a good motivation; it indicates the need for inner healing. In my case, self-deliverance was motivated by an urgency to get free, expedience (having no apparent alternative), and a criminal passion against the Devil. However, as I examine the condition of my heart and longstanding personal issues, I can honestly say that independence played a significant role in my choice of self-deliverance and that my independence was backed by an aversion for helplessness and vulnerability and a tendency to undervalue the importance of relationships (which is to undervalue people). God wanted to boost my appreciation for relationships (for people), not just as a power tool, but as a teddy bear.
That said, I believe there is still a place for self-deliverance. I think it may become more prevalent in the last days as kingdom business accelerates. I do not think self-deliverance is invalid either in doctrine or in practice. Jesus did not qualify or restrict the authority to cast out demons. He did not say, “Cast out demons, but only out of other people, not yourselves.” The Lord knows human nature; that people are pioneering and experimental and desperate and aspiring. He could have qualified or restricted the deliverance mandate, but He did not. To me, anything not specifically restricted in the supernatural realm and in general line with scripture falls into the “greater works” category. I would include self-deliverance and self-healing, for the same Holy Spirit that raised Jesus Christ from the dead also dwells in us, and the kingdom of heaven is within us: “For behold, the kingdom of God is within you [in your hearts] and among you (surrounding you)” (Luke 17:21 AMP).
Concerning self-deliverance, here is a proviso: Spiritual housekeeping must be done before casting out demons. Dr. Charles Kraft, who was Hixson’s advisor and mentor at Fuller Theological Seminary, likens demons to rats and soul wounding to garbage. You have to take out the garbage before driving out the rats. If you don’t take out the garbage, the rats will return. Likewise, people need inner healing or deep cleaning before deliverance. Inner healing is different for everybody, but involves reversing emotional damage and warped ways of thinking due to sin. Spiritual housekeeping cancels any legal claims the Devil has to harass and oppress a person. It includes repenting of generational sin patterns in one’s family; repenting of personal sin; forgiving offenses related to the bondage; resigning from work that has no spiritual merit or that promotes the wrong spirit; renouncing unregenerate or degenerate perspectives and attitudes; annulling compromising business partnerships and contracts; severing corrupt soul ties and affiliations; revoking word curses and “blessings” from demonic sources (for example, names of gurus or mantras); discarding or destroying media that transmit pagan, syncretistic or heretical ideologies and spiritual influences such as books, magazines, music CDs, instructional DVDs on yoga; articles of practice or worship; contact objects, souvenirs, mementos (for example, anything with the OM symbol on it). While there are exceptions, deliverance is best done after inner healing and spiritual housekeeping.11
One last caveat: demons are lying spirits; they might pretend to leave but not leave. Therefore, testing their departure is prudent. But when we are committed to truth in our daily lives, regularly submitting to God’s discipline, and striving to keep our heart with all diligence, demons cannot prevail. What trumps demonic deception is our commitment to the Word of God made flesh in us (taking the moral imperatives of the Bible seriously and applying them) and the Lord’s faithfulness: “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (Jn 8:31-32 NKJV). Jesus calls deliverance “the children’s bread” (Matt 15:26). If we ask for bread, He will not give us a stone (Matt 7:7-11). That is my firm belief, and that is His firm promise.
Finally, deliverance should not be so complicated that only an “expert” can do it. Jesus rejoiced that the Father had revealed deliverance not to the “wise and prudent” but “to babes” (Luke 10:21 AMP). The kingdom, which includes power over the evil one, is for “little children” (Mark 10:15): “Do not fear, little flock, for it is My Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom” (Luke 12:32 NKJV). Jesus said without qualification or restriction that “the spirits are subject to us in His name” (Luke 10:17). He didn’t say they are subject to us only if we are knowledgeable and experienced enough, or ordained as ministers, or credentialed with a divinity degree, or some other thing. While all these things are helpful, the most important thing is faith in Christ: We are qualified as ministers of Christ (Col 1:12). Our sufficiency is in Him (2 Cor 3:6).
If you don’t know Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior you can receive Him into your heart and He can deliver you from darkness and sin and have your name written in His Book of Life.
If you are sincere you can say this simple prayer to the Father (it doesn’t have to be word for word):
“God, I recognize that I have not lived my life for You up until now. I have been living for myself and that is wrong. Please forgive me of all of my sins just as I forgive others. I need You in my life; I want You in my life. I acknowledge the completed work of Your only begotten Son Jesus Christ in giving His life for me on the cross, I believe in my heart Jesus is Lord and was raised from the dead and I long to receive the forgiveness you have made freely available to me through this sacrifice. Come into my life now, Lord. Take up residence in my heart and be my king, my Lord, and my Savior. From this day forward, I will no longer be controlled by sin, or the desire to please myself, but I will follow You all the days of my life. Those days are in Your hands. I ask this in the Lord and GOD Jesus’ precious and holy name. Amen.”