Does Yoga Lead to Possession?

Maha Shivaratri
Photo Credit: dinesh.I

In the wee hours of the morning while my kids are sleeping, I found an article about a recently released book claiming that practicing Yoga and reading horoscopes can lead to possession by the devil. Oh no, I’m doomed. So here I am, serious yoga practitioner, getting totally freaked out at 3 a.m.! It doesn’t scare me that I practice yoga, or that I indulge in my horoscope from time to time, what creeps me out is the viewpoint that would consider this practice satanic and immoral.

I find that my tendency towards this is to create judgments of my own, which is not a response but a reflection of my own tendency to condemn what I do not understand. So, in recognition of this moral shortcoming, I feel compelled to explore, and hopefully understand, more fully the basis for these conclusions. The statement comes from a book Exorcism: Understanding Exorcism In Scripture And Practice, published by the Catholic Truth Society and written by a leading British clergyman and exorcist to the Cardinal, Father Jeremy Davies. I will not claim to understand anything relating to Catholocism, especially exorcism, but the Catholic Truth Society website states that its mission is to help people understand and practice the Catholic faith. Sounds like a good place to start.

The CTS mission statement acknowledges its work to provide “completely reliable publications about the faith, teaching and life of the Catholic Church… It desire[s] to communicate these treasures both to the faithful and all other enquirers by way of inexpensive and accessible English language publications.” This sounds like an honorable and noble mission. But, I keep getting stuck, how does the “fear” illicited by publications such as Father Davies’ support this mission? In short, this is where I keep getting stuck. Why is fear necessary?

In yoga, we hold ourselves accountable to certain moral observations and restraints (very similar to other faiths), but failure to uphold these standards leads us only to deeper ignorance and lack of awareness, not into the path of demonic creatures or harsh punishments. There is no place of damnation only accumulated karma that must be encountered again and again until awareness unfolds. The only judgment in Yoga is the judgment of the self, and for me that can be scary enough.

Many teachers today are pointing to the path of greatest resistance, encouraging us to explore what we avoid and dive into what we fear. The seeds of unhappiness that stem from our habitual patterns of resistance, they say, can only be eliminated by fully understanding it from first hand experience. We are not told to take what is said as truth, but to test it in our experience again and again. This seems to be a fundamental difference between the path of yoga and the publications offered by the CTS. Followers of this path are told to believe what they hear without doubt or experimentation, and fear what is unknown or uncovered about the self.

Doing my best to be in a space free of judgment and open to understanding, I offer two comments on the claim that yoga can lead to demonic possession. One: yoga is not so much a path to the “devil,” as it is an experience of uncovering karmic demons. Without practice, the seeds of past actions plant deeper and deeper and grow into a self-created “hell.” With practice we expose and dispose of these inner “devils,” and find liberation. Two: if Father Davies finds yoga so demonic and evil, I would encourage him to “lean against the sharp points” of his fears (as Pema Chodron puts it), and try it for himself. At the very least, this will find his judgments based in authentic experience rather than blind assumption, and maybe I’ll be able to take my damnation a little more seriously.

Comments 6

  1. I do not want to judge you and am not doing so; however, I wanted to share my experiences with you. I am a Christian and I got really involved with studying Astrology. I found out first hand that it can be very dangerous as you are dealing with satanic forces. It was very interesting to me and I became very involved, but then bad things started happening. I just wanted to bring this to your attention so that you will be very careful. You cannot dabble with the devil. God will let you but it will not bring happy results. (I do Yoga exercises.) May God bless you and protect you.

  2. Dear skd777,

    I think it would be helpful for me to know more about your experiences with Astrology, with some specific examples. Anything can be dangerous if done incorrectly, so I’m wondering if this is the case with you. Do you feel Astrology is inherently dangerous or only potentially dangerous if done incorrectly?

  3. The article and the comment are clearly coming from two different fundamental beliefs. The Roman Catholic Church (RC) believes in life after death, spirits, & angels (good & bad). While the article addresses the Yoga striving for God through learning about yourself during the practice of Asanas and the ancient Astrology belief that the subtle electric energy present at our birth can influence our tendencies, abilities, etc, and perhaps not believing in spirits. The RC is completely aware of the influence of earthbound spirits on the ignorant and chose to control the ignorant through fear rather than teach, which may have been appropriate a thousand years ago, but we are entering a new paradigm shift from being told what is truth to taking personal responsibility for our own spiritual evolution. Spiritism is a spiritual philosophy which bridges the gap between the two. It enlightens the fear bound by teaching the understanding that like attracts like and if you are fearful, jealous, egocentric, etc., you will attract spirits of like mind who will encourage your fear, your jealousy, etc. Spiritism totally is in agreement with Ms. Golden’s comments about the only hell is the one you make for yourself. As far as using astrology – everything depends on ‘intention’. As I said, like attracts like. If you use astrology as a tool to bring harm to others or to give yourself an excuse to not do something, etc., you will attract negative energies that will help you. While if you do anything with only the highest intentions you will attract positive energies that will help you, but even the highest intentions require the responsibility of education. SKD777’s comments about becoming very involved in astrology until bad things started happening seems to be addressing two things: 1) External Locus of Control (ELC) and 2) intention. The intention I’ve already addressed. The ELC simply put means that you believe things happen outside of your personal control – that you have no personal control over life, i.e., your choices, intentions. What Spiritism tells us is that when bad things happen (sometimes that’s life) they are challenges for us to learn and practice how to address these challenges in the most evolved way, which is helped by practicing Yoga in a spiritual way. It has been scientifically proven that our thoughts are energy and that energy never dies. So why shouldn’t there be spirits? These energies don’t suddenly become evolved once their vehicle (body) dies. If they were ignorant thoughts, they’re still ignorant.
    You can find out about Spiritism on Amazon.com by searching The Spirits’ Book, Allan Kardec Educational Society, for the most modern English translation of the book. Or for a really good website go to http://ssbaltimore.org
    Ms. Golden should not freak out about anything she does as we are here to learn, and as humans we learn the best through making mistakes. Doing yoga and practicing astrology are not mistakes, but the wrong intention can be. These mistakes are OUR mistakes which we can correct (Karma?). Once we become enlightened enough to realize we are solely (soul-ly?) responsible for our own growth we become acutely aware of our intentions and begin to lead a more spiritual/non-judgmental life. Discernment is one of our biggest lessons. Relax! Be happy! Know your intention.
    Namaste

  4. I appreciate skd777 sharing these comments and concerns. I too would like to know more about the experiences. I don’t deal much with astrology with the exception of reading my horoscope from time to time, but I have spent a decade learning about yoga. I am curious to know if skd777 will reevaluate their experience with yoga based on the deductions of Father Davies.

  5. Hocus pocus. The catholic church (and not the teachings of Jesus), like most western religions was an institution set up to control the population. Geographical borders between communities and even countries in Europe can be traced back to parrishes, dioceses, bishoprics etc. One of the easiest ways of controlling people is by instilling fear in them. The more hidden the source of fear, the more the population is encouraged to put its faith (and surrender its rights) to the person in charge. (Look at what has happened to privacy rights in the US since 911.) What you have come across is a modern day example of scaring people away from something, in this case yoga (which the author might lead one to let’s say a competing eastern religion and away from the “refuge” of catholicism). My advice to you is to take that article and put it in the recycling bin.

  6. I came across this website by searching yoga possession by evil spirits or demons. well about 3 weeks ago, i started hearing a familiar song i normally listen to from my MP3 player, it took a while before i noticed the song is coming from head, i looked at the tv shelves and saw a yoga DVD my girl friend just ordered. I ripped it open, slot it in the DVD player and took my MP3 player to listen to the particular song that was ringing in my head, in order to subdue the sound in my head.

    The yoga lady from the DVD started by sitting in lotus position to meditate so i followed suit, (meanwhile i had never had any experience practising yoga nor do i know much about yoga apart from it’s an exercise good for the body and mind ).

    Suddenly my environment changed, i felt some “energy” around me, and later i realised the music was talking to me one after the other, by now i had listened to about 5 to 10 tracks and each seems to be talking to me. these are the same songs i listened to occasionally when the need arise.

    I started crying i weeped like a baby and i saw my life in front of me, later i realised i became more aware of who i am.

    I opened my eyes, looked at the TV, saw the yoga lady doing a bend down yoga pose (her head touched her knees), i stood up to do the same thing(of course my head couldn’t touch my knees), so when i reached the limit i could go, I BREATHED IN AND USED THE “ENERGY” AROUND ME TO GO FURTHER AND MY HEAD TOUCHED MY KNEES. I heard my spinal cord cracked but it wasn’t painful, it felt like some kind of relief.

    At that moment i knew something SUPERNATURAL is happening to me, so i thought let me rise and confirm the POWER, if truly my head just touched my knee.

    The next thing….. I saw myself on the floor, tried to stand up but couldn’t, felt some pain on my face, touched my face and it was bleeding, i knew i had to rest, so i passed out.

    When i woke up, i was confused, had no idea where i was, stood up slowly and realised i was in my sitting room, i layed down on the sofa and looked at the TV, and i remembered i was actually doing yoga…… then i started having flash backs and remembered everything backwards. (it took some days before i could reconstruct everything that happened.) It also seems like something STOPPED me from confirming the POWER, because the bruise i had on my face and leg cannot be explained LOGICALLY.

    In short from that day, my life hasn’t been the same, people become more nice to me, i know what i have to do and things have been working fine.
    I started a yoga class by using over 60% of available cash i had, but i got over 300% of that money back the same day.
    Unbelievable events started occurring in my life, each time i listened to music is like there is a message for me from the songs.

    What troubles me is that i still cannot understand what happened that day, so i started thinking did something supernatural happened to me, if so, is it good or bad? because right now i’m thinking if i’m insane or sane.

    any help would be appreciated.

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