Spiritual Dangers of New Age Meditation and Yoga

Harper’s ran an in-depth article on the fate of a young woman who did intensive Easterm meditation at a retreat and contacted mental illness as a result. It ended tragically. The piece reviews significant scientific literature on the deleterious effects of meditation.


I warned of the psychological, physical, and spiritual dangers of yoga and meditation in my book, Confronting the New Age (InterVarsity Press, 1988). Back then, a New Age organization was set up to help people who experienced mental problems through New Age involvement, The Spiritual Emergency Network. I also quote yoga teachers who warn of the psychological and physical dangers of yoga when (in their mind) done wrongly. I have excerpted part of that book below from the Kindle version. (Sadly, the footnote references do not appear, but they will if you purchase the book from Amazon, which is only $2.99.)

We were made for worship, relationships, and work. We were not made to sit for hours on end focusing on our breath, having little external stimuli, and blanking out our God-given minds. Our minds are to be renewed through the Holy Spirit and according to the Word of God (Romans 12:1-2; 2 Timothy 3:15-17; Hebrews 4:12; Psalm 119), not annulled or deconstructed into oblivion.

The article mentions that Buddhist writers of old warned of “demonic” dangers of meditation. Remember that “Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light and his ministers as ministers of righteousness” (2 Corinthians 11:14; see also 2 Peter 5:8; 1 John 4:1-6). 


Please read the Harper’s article with what I wrote in mind–in mind! Don’t waste your mind or direct your consciousness to nothing or Nirvana. “The mind is a terrible thing to waste.”

Spiritual Dangers (from Douglas Groothuis, Confronting the New Age)

Those who trust in Christ are given access to spiritual discernment and power in spiritual combat. Yet those outside of Christ are fair prey of the enemy. In communicating to New Agers it is sometimes wise to warn them that psychic sojourns may lead them into raging spiritual storms. 

As New Age seekers dive into their spiritual experiences, they leave themselves vulnerable to both fraud and spiritual deception Some seekers are primed for deception because they are desperate, hurting people looking for an answer—any answer. If Christians encounter such souls, a word of warning is a good tonic. Even if we can’t lead them to Christ just then, we can warn them of occult dangers and offer the safety of knowing Christ as victor over sin and Satan. 

It should be made clear that the Bible prohibits all occult activities for at least two reasons. First, God alone is worthy of worship, and he is rightfully jealous of our affections and obedience. Since he is supremely good, this jealousy translates into a desire both to glorify himself and to have his creatures live as they ought to live. Second, God also knows the reality of fallen spiritual beings who entice humanity to follow their destructive ways. For these reasons he vetoes any suggestion of occult involvement. Although many biblical passages condemn the occult, this passage from Deuteronomy, originally given to God’s people who were to possess the Promised Land, is the most exhaustive: 

When you enter the land the LORD your God is giving you, do not learn to imitate the detestable ways of the nations there. Let no one be found among you who sacrifices his son or daughter in the fire, who practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft, or casts spells, or who is a medium or spiritist or who consults the dead. Anyone who does these things is detestable to the LORD, and because of these detestable practices the LORD your God will drive out those nations before you. You must be blameless before the Lord your God. (Deut 18:9–13; see also Lev 19:31; 20:6) 

Isaiah echoes this and points us in the right direction: “When men tell you to consult mediums and spiritists, who whisper and mutter, should not a people inquire of their God? Why consult the dead on behalf of the living? To the law and the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, they have no light of dawn” (Is 8:19–20; see also 47:8–15). 

Although there are scores of other biblical warnings, consider the stark finality of Jesus Christ’s words concerning those who will not enter the eternal city: “Outside are the dogs, those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood” (Rev 22:15). If the biblical warnings are not heeded, cautions can be given from New Age literature itself. For instance, if a friend wants to take a yoga class at the local YMCA to help calm her nerves, we might quote the following, written by an advocate of yoga: “Yoga is not a trifling jest if we consider that any misunderstanding in the practice of yoga can mean death or insanity.”26 Practitioners of yoga often warn of the power of the kundalini energy, represented as a serpent coiled at the base of the spine. The purpose of many forms of yoga is to “awaken the kundalini” and release its energy upward through the seven chakras (energy centers) of the body. But the yogis themselves caution that this is no child’s play. One might get burned (literally!) by the serpent’s hot breath—or go insane.27 

In an issue of ReVision, a scholarly New Age journal, consciousness researchers Christina and Stanislav Grof speak of “transpersonal crises” that are often linked to “various meditative practices which are specifically designed to activate spiritual energies.” These include “the practice of yoga, Zen, various movement meditations, pranayama, Kundalini maneuvers, Tibetan Buddhist psychoenergetic exercises, Christian prayer and other forms of deep and systematic spiritual involvement and self-exploration.”28 (Given the substance of their article, it is clear their concept of “Christian prayer” is not a biblical spirituality, but pantheistic introspection falsely labeled Christian.) 

The Grofs believe these “emergencies” are merely difficult stages often required for greater growth, which they interpret as New Age enlightenment Yet their descriptions of the “crises” are bone chilling, especially when describing the “awakening of the Serpent Power (Kundalini)” which they say “can be accompanied by dramatic physical and psychological manifestations called kriyas,” which include “powerful sensations of heat and energy streaming up the spine, associated with tremors, spasms, violent shaking, and complex twisting movements.” They also mention “involuntary laughing or crying, chanting of mantras or songs, talking in tongues, emitting of vocal noises and animal sounds, and assuming spontaneous yoga gestures (mudras) and postures (asanas).” Other physical manifestations include “nausea, diarrhea or constipation, anal or uterine contractions, clenching of the jaws, rise and drop of temperature, and bulimia or loss of appetite. The entire body can be rigid or limp, and feel unusually large or small.”29 

Although the Grofs also list supposedly positive benefits of kundalini such as “ecstasy, orgiastic raptures, and states of indescribable peace and tranquility,”30 one must risk a total breakdown (or worse) for that prize. Yet all the subjective enjoyment in the world cannot yield the forgiveness of sins or the peace of mind offered by Jesus Christ, who requires no such psychological and physical violence from his followers. 

The Grofs found these “transpersonal emergencies” prevalent enough among New Agers that in 1980 they founded “the Spiritual Emergency Network” to help enlighten the “psychotherapeutic community” to the reality of the issue and to offer assistance through education and referrals to those undergoing various crises. The headquarters for the Spiritual Emergency Network is on the campus of the California Institute of Transpersonal Psychology in the San Francisco area and has 42 regional centers worldwide.31 

Yoga may also open up a person to spiritual contacts and all manner of occult activity. Transcendental Meditation—while claiming to be a neutral, psychological technique—uses yogic methods to alter consciousness. Maharishi, its founder, has said that the purpose of chanting the mantra in Transcendental Meditation is “to produce an effect in some other world, to draw the attention of those higher beings or gods living there. The entire knowledge of the mantra . . . is devoted to man’s connection, to man’s communication with the higher beings in a different strata (sic) of creation.”32 

If a person says he is interested in yoga simply as a physical discipline, he should be told that it was not invented by the mystic masters of old simply to cultivate better physiques. Yoga teachers such as R L. Hittleman admit that any health benefits are secondary He also admits to having used the health angle to hook Westerners on the Hindu world view.33 

An article in Yoga Journal on parapsychology even warns psychic sojourners that the use of divination (through Ouija boards, automatic writing and other methods) “in a frivolous or disrespectful manner” makes one “liable to attract ‘lower’ discarnate communicators, including ghosts or poltergeists, and one runs the risks of becoming obsessed or possessed.”34 Christians need not use quotation marks for the word lower, because they believe in an active “Lowerarchy.”35 of demonic mischief-makers capable of possessing, obsessing and oppressing those outside the protection of the risen Christ. Although the article in Yoga Journal issues a small warning, it falls tragically short of Christian discernment It tantalizes readers by saying that “two of the most famous ‘channeled’ teachings of recent years—the Seth books and the ‘messages from Michael’—got their start on the Ouija board.”36 

Christians may challenge New Age aspirants by concretely relating dangers of various New Age practices. Many of these—channeling, psychic healing, mind-altering meditations and so on—are nothing but modernized occultism, and occultism exacts too high a price in the end. The late Kurt Koch, Christian theologian and occult counselor for over forty-five years, has given hundreds of examples of occult bondage in his many writings. His seasoned analysis was that “no one makes use of occult powers without harm.”37 We are not suggesting that all people involved in some occult/New Age practice will suffer similar symptoms, but that these practices are outside the will of God and thus generally dangerous. 

Confronting the New Age: How to Resist a Growing Religious Movement (pp. 76-80). InterVarsity Press, 1988. Kindle Edition.

Mike Shreve on Yoga, Christianity, and the New Age Worldview

Mike Shreve was deep into eastern religion and yoga before he converted to Christianity in 1970. He has since written books and done many media and speaking appearances to expose the errors of eastern mysticism and yoga and to promote the Christian gospel. Although I have been writing and researching in these areas for decades, I have just discovered his work through his excellent booklet, Seven Reasons I No Longer Practice Yoga. I asked Michael several questions related to yoga, Christianity, and the New Age worldview and found his answers insightful and needful for Christians today.

  1. Tell us about your life before you converted and how you got involved in Eastern religion.

I was raised Roman Catholic and very devoted, anticipating a day when I would probably enter the priesthood. However, having never been “born again,” I was easily wooed by the world as a teenager and drifted away from religions altogether, eventually becoming a keyboardist in a rock band. It was just a matter of time before I got swept up in the megatrend of psychedelics so dominant in the latter 60s. This eventually resulted in a near-death experience at the age of 18, but the “curse” became a “blessing,” because it showed me the brevity and frailty of life, and put me on a search for truth and ultimate reality. In desperation, I dropped out of college to study under an Indian guru named Yogi Bhajan in a sect referred to as “Kundalini Yoga.”

  1. How did you come to hear and accept the message of Jesus?

Several events led to my personal encounter with the Lord Jesus Christ and my salvation. Because I was running a yoga ashram in Tampa, Florida, and teaching Kundalini Yoga extracurricularly at four colleges in the Tampa/Sarasota area (University of South Florida, University of Tampa, Florida Presbyterian, and New College), the Tampa Tribune newspaper did a half-page story on me. I thought it would dramatically increase my class attendance. Instead, it alerted a local 24-hour Christian prayer group to start praying for me. Every hour of every day someone was interceding in my behalf.

Then the second link in an amazing Holy-Spirit-inspired chain of events took place—I received a random letter from an old college friend explaining to me how he had been “born again,” emphatically insisting that Jesus was and is the only way. Trying to politely refuse that concept, I countered that Christianity was a lesser “Bhakti Yoga” path (devotion to an individual god), and that I embraced all religions as being equally legitimate and effective means of achieving oneness with God. However, Larry’s letter kept resounding in my mind until one day I decided to deal with it. Attempting to push my way through all the objections I had to the exclusivity of Jesus Christ, I decided to open my heart to the possibility that His teachings were true. Also, it dawned on me that if He really did die on the cross for the sins of humanity, I owed it to Him to at least explore His claims.

So, one day, instead of following my normal yoga routine (14 hours daily of asanas, mantra-chanting, pranayama, raja yoga disciplines, reading of the Bhagavad Gita and the Vedas, etc.). Veering drastically from the norm, I only read the Bible that day (the Gospel of John and the book of Revelation primarily) and only prayed to Jesus—pleading that if He was the only way, He would give me a supernatural sign.

high-school-picture-with-yogi-picture

That afternoon I was hitchhiking to teach a yoga class at the University of South Florida. One of the members of the prayer group was two miles away walking in a laundromat when God spoke to him to get back in his van and start driving. Thinking it quite strange for God to direct him that way, he reluctantly got back behind the wheel and started driving, turning whenever he felt an impulse. Then everything fell into place—he saw me hitchhiking, felt compelled to pick me up, and pulled over. When I opened the door to climb in, the first thing I noticed was a picture of Jesus he had taped to the ceiling. I knew it was my answer. Within a few minutes he began witnessing to me and shortly after that, I was on my knees asking Jesus to dwell within my heart. It happened! I was born again. I had a genuine encounter with the true God, and everything changed. I went back to all my yoga classes, explaining that I had unknowingly misled them and that from that point forward, classes would no longer be held. I also shut down my yoga ashram. Many of my main students became followers of Jesus as well. Thank God, He brought me out of darkness into His marvelous light!

  1. What kinds of spiritual battles have you experienced since becoming a Christian?

In fifty years of walking with the Lord, I have faced numerous spiritual battles, but I have learned through the Word of God how to overcome them all (Romans 8:37, 1 John 5:4). One of the first major spiritual attacks I experienced occurred about two weeks after I was saved. I was laying in bed, reading the Bible, when a demon spirit visibly appeared and attempted to re-inhabit my body and pull my soul out into something referred to as “the astral realm” (an experience I had previously pursued as a student of yoga called “astral projection”). I was deeply concerned if that spirit achieved its purpose, I could lose control completely. I felt paralyzed. I couldn’t move. I couldn’t even open my mouth to rebuke the demon. But at that critical moment, I remembered counseling I had received from some mature believers and acted on it. Though I couldn’t talk, in my mind I declared, “The blood of Jesus be upon you.” When I merely formed those words mentally, the evil spirit backed away from me. That freed me up enough so that I could speak those same words out loud, commanding the spirit to depart from me and flee from the room—which it did, and I was never attacked that way again. So, I learned early on the authority that rests in the blood of Jesus. I know this story may sound a little farfetched to those who have never experienced a literal demonic attack, but things like this really do take place. In fact, people contact me from all over the world asking me to pray for their deliverance from something they call “spontaneous kundalini awakenings”—uncontrollable surges of spiritual energy that feel very evil and demonic in nature—that began happening to them because of their involvement with yoga.

  1. What is the key to freedom if someone has been oppressed by demons through the practice of yoga or other pagan practices?

There are several keys to freedom. Shortly after becoming a follower of Jesus I burned all of my books on eastern religions and new age practices and all my yoga paraphernalia, which is a biblical pattern for severing ties to the evil spirits behind occult practices (Acts 19:19). Also, being prayed for by mature believers who understand deliverance can be very helpful and needful. Fasting has always been a key for spiritual cleansing to take place also—coupled with lengthy times of focused prayer.

  1. Why do think yoga is so popular today?

I believe there are at least four reasons yoga has become so popular: (1) many versions of yoga have deemphasized the connection to Hinduism and emphasized just the physical and health aspects of the practice, but it still becomes a door to demonic intrusion, spiritual oppression, and religious contamination. (2) often people turn to yoga because they have never been exposed to authentic New Testament Christianity. They have only experienced a brand of nominal Christianity that offers information about a historical Christ, but fails to inform seekers about the transformation available to them spiritually through His indwelling (Ephesians 3:17). (3) I personally believe the hugely popular yoga movement is a satanic strategy helping to prepare humanity for a “one-world religion” that accepts all paths as legitimate approaches to God. I feel this will be one of three pillars supporting the platform of the Antichrist (a one world religion, a one world political system, and a one world currency).

  1. Do you think there can be Christian versions of yoga?

I believe the very term “Christian yoga” is an oxymoron. It is impossible to extricate it completely from its Hindu foundation. Through the years I have talked with many people practicing what they called “Christian yoga” and often discovered their worldviews contain a mixture of biblical ideas and far eastern concepts (such as a belief in chakras). I actually caution believers never to practice yoga. There are low impact exercise regimens that are helpful alternatives offering similar physical results without the spiritual trappings. Even if classes seem benign, with Bible readings and Christian music going on, attending “yoga” sessions is an endorsement of the entire belief system out of which yoga springs, which is very non-Christian.

  1. What does the church need to know about yoga and New Age religion in order to stay true to her calling?

The very word “yoga” means yoke or union and implies “union with God”—but the “God” (ultimate reality) enshrined in the Hindu worldview is usually Brahman—an impersonal life force, not a personal God. Educating believers about the true nature of practices such as these is essential to sharpen the discernment in the followers of Jesus. As a yoga student I often did “breath meditation” in the hope of increasing intimacy with God through an increased intake of prana (a Hindu word for the elemental life force in all creation, which the Chinese call Chi). Now as a Christian, I explain the fallacy of this belief by using the following acrostic for the word yoga:

Y = you
O = only
G = get
A = air

You cannot “breathe” your way into an intimate relationship with God. You must use the biblical plan of salvation and approach Him from the heart.

Furthermore, believers need to be informed about the nature of the New Age Movement so they can interact intelligently with those who embrace that worldview and show the uniqueness of Jesus. It is very important to approach New Agers and yoga advocates in a very peaceful and loving way—which are characteristics they value, instead of resorting to arguments over theological points—something I call “confrontational apologetics.”

8.  What resources do you suggest for those who want to be more knowledgeable in this area?

I invite anyone reading this short explanation of my personal transformation story to visit my comparative religion website: www.thetruelight.net. There are many helpful articles and personal testimonies featured on the site.

On that website also, you can download a free mini-book titled The Highest Adventure: Encountering God that goes into more detail about my former beliefs as a yoga teacher and the biblical response to those beliefs. This mini-book is available in other languages including Japanese, Portuguese and Spanish.

For those who want a very in-depth examination of these issues, I suggest my 336-page comparison of over 20 religions titled In Search of the True Light.

My ministry website is www.shreveministries.org

My YouTube channel is Shreve Ministries where our two series of television programs are posted: (1) In Search of the True Light TV programs, and (2) Discover Your Spiritual Identity TV programs, a biblical study of the names and titles of the children of God.

The Vapidity of Pop Spirituality

My Audible.com subscription offers free audio for “finding bliss” every day. Out of curiosity—and not in hope of edification—I began to listen as I exercised at the recreation center. This bliss-promising offering ill fit with my audio books by Os Guinness, C. S. Lewis, Timothy Keller, Francis Schaeffer, and their edifying kin. My interest didn’t last more than about two minutes (my crap detector was ringing too loudly in my ears to go on), but during that time a sense of spiritual disgust came over me. Oh, the vapidity and vacuity of the pop spirituality of bliss, yoga, self-esteem, mindfulness, and the rest!

To truly live in, and through. and by the Spirit, to be spiritual, comes only through faith in, submission to, and friendship with the triune God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit, who has mercifully come to us in the flesh in Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus warned of false Christs and counterfeit gospels, as did his Apostles (Matthew 7:15; Colossians 2:8; 2 Peter 3:16; 1 John 4:1-6). Christ confronted the twisted, but pious, religiosity of both the Scribes and Pharisees with the gospel of repentance from dead works and faith in himself as the source of eternal life (Matthew 4:17; John 3:16-17). But what is pop spirituality?

I have studied New Age spirituality for many years. When I began research just after my conversion in 1976, the worldviews and spirituality of Hinduism, Buddhism, and occultism were beginning to flower like a poisonous plant. Yoga was viewed as a bit exoteric and exotic. Buddhist mindfulness were not mainstream. But even then, when these Eastern philosophies hit American soil, they tended to be diluted by American values and ideals—especially our optimism and boosterism. Today, we are sold a pop spirituality that fails to rise or fall to the level of any one religion, but which combines religious ideas with American sensibilities to form something nearly insufferable. Let me explain.

Second, pop spirituality is simplistic and deceptive. Real peace, it claims, can be found merely by practicing yoga, visualizing what you want, or cultivating a new, positive self-image. The program I heard told the listener to say, “I am grounded. I am grounded.” But you may not be grounded in the good, the true, or the beautiful. You may be about to run aground into one of the many unpleasant realities out there. You might intone “I am grounded” over and over and not realize that your children are strangers to you, your wife is having an affair, and the IRS is about to ambush you. Worse yet, you can feel at peace but not be at peace with your neighbor or with your Creator. That is no small matter.

You might intone “I am grounded” over and over and not realize that your children are strangers to you, your wife is having an affair, and the IRS is about to ambush you.

Third, pop spirituality can be dangerous when it plays with spiritual practices not grounded and sanctioned by the one, true God. Any so-called meditative practice that shifts your mind into intellectual neutral provides an opening to deception and even spiritual bondage. It is one thing to de-stress a bit through getting relaxed and not worrying about life. Jesus told us to ponder the birds and the flowers, remembering that if God cares for them, he will care all the more for us (Matthew 6:25-34). It is something else entirely to “let go of your thoughts” and enter a state without judgment or evaluation.

The mind is as much a battleground as it is anything else. Since “the heart” includes the mind, consider this wisdom: Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it (Proverbs 4:23; see also Philippians 4:8). We guard our hearts through treasuring the truth and resting in the God of all truth, not by emptying our minds or letting it run free. The enemy of our souls is all too eager to find a mind idling in neutral and to shift it into reverse and over a cliff (John 8:44). Surely, we can do better. It is the truth of Jesus that sets us free (John 8:31-32). We do not find freedom by floating on the dangerous sea of consciousness without Jesus as the anchor of our souls (Hebrews 6:19).

Pop spirituality must give way to cross spirituality, the way of Jesus himself.

Pop spirituality must give way to cross spirituality, the way of Jesus himself. He is too wise to assume that we are fine the way we are and that he merely provides a means to our own autonomous ends. No, he calls us to deny ourselves, take up our cross daily, and to follow him (Luke 9:23-26). And while the gospel is simple, it is not simplistic or one-dimension, unlike pop spirituality. You can never get to the bottom of God, Creator, Designer, Redeemer, Judge. The Christian life is a deep voyage into meaning, truth, and life. In self-denial, there is self-liberation. In truth, there is love. Even in suffering, there is meaning. Abandon vapidity, all you who enter here!