Yoga and Martial Arts for Children: A Dangerous Spiritual Path

Yoga and Martial Arts for Children: A Dangerous Path

Today I’m honored to share this guest post from Mark McGee. Mark is a former atheist who was led away from his Christian upbringing by the philosophies he learned in yoga and martial arts. He now shares his story to help warn Christian parents about the possible spiritual dangers of these disciplines.

“Breathe in slowly, breathe out slowly. Feel your breath. Feel the energy growing through each shakra.”

I sat on the floor of a small room in the local YMCA with my legs crossed in an unusual fashion, eyes closed, breathing “into my belly.” It’s Saturday morning and I’m loving it. Tomorrow is Sunday and I’ll have to go to church, but I won’t think about that right now. I’ll just breathe in and breathe out.

I was 12 years old and yoga offered me something I had never experienced before: a feeling of personal power and a purpose beyond myself. My mother enrolled me in the program believing it would be good for my health. Like many Christian parents, she didn’t know the hidden spiritual dangers that lie beneath the surface.

More than 20 million people in the United States are part of a yoga program today. The majority are young women. They spend billions of dollars on classes, clothing, books and equipment. Why do they do it? Most say they want to improve their flexibility and get relief from the stresses of life. Sounds like a good thing, right?


What You Need to Know About the Danger

What most people in western cultures don’t understand about yoga is that it’s a vital component of one of the world’s oldest religions: Hinduism. While many people think of yoga as a physical system with a spiritual component, it’s really a spiritual system with a physical component.

A Hindu named Patanjali is believed by many historians to be the “father” of yoga. He codified his understanding of yoga in The Yoga Sutra of Patanjali sometime before the birth of Jesus. Patanjali’s teachings are known as the “eightfold path of yoga” and are at the core of how to live a better life through yoga. Patanjali believed that union with the “Supreme” was the result of restraining, controlling and eventually annihilating the ego. He believed that yoga was the way to overcome the many obstacles of a mortal uniting with the immortal.

Without realizing it, I was learning how to live a better life and become a better person through yoga rather than through Jesus Christ.


How the Danger Can Grow with Martial Arts

The yoga classroom was next to a larger classroom where another group of children and teens were learning a martial art called Judo. I was a small child often bullied by larger boys. I was fascinated that the small children in Judo were throwing larger children, teens, and even adults over their shoulders and hips as if they were ragdolls. I wanted to do that and my mother thought it would be good for me as well.

Classes in Judo, and later in Aikido, Karate and Kung Fu introduced me to other eastern philosophies. The one that impacted me most was Buddhism. A primary focus of Buddhism is “right living”–doing right things toward the cessation of suffering and achieving self-realization or awakening.

My years of training in Hinduism, Buddhism and Taoism as a teenager and young adult always began with a time of meditation and often continued throughout the class. Instructors acted as guides to help students relax and calm the mind to allow the internal power flow to the external naturally and powerfully.

The better the meditation the greater the impact of technique in martial arts.

Meditative practices of Hinduism, Buddhism and Taoism focus on a power that adherents believe everyone possesses and can tap into. I was taught that martial arts would be the pathway to spiritual enlightenment.

As it turned out, meditation did put me on a pathway, but it wasn’t to spiritual enlightenment. After five years of training, I became an atheist.


How Meditation Can Lead to Atheism

So why did I become an atheist? One reason was that meditation in yoga and martial arts focused on me and what I wanted out of life. Christianity focused on God and what He wanted out of my life.

Yoga and martial arts taught me that I was intrinsically good and could accomplish anything I put my focused mind to. Christianity taught me I was intrinsically bad and needed God to save me from myself.

I had an atheist professor in my freshman year of college. His attacks on religion had a powerful impact on me. I had experienced the teachings of monotheism and polytheism and found both to be both hypocritical and ineffective. Buddhism was the closest to what I thought could possibly be true, and becoming an atheist was an easy step from Buddhism.

I became a radio announcer, journalist and talk show host after college and used the power of the microphone to argue with Christians who called in to the show. My anger toward religion and believers continually grew until I was well-known as an outspoken atheist.

My atheism was very hard on my parents, but they never gave up believing God could and would save me. My mother told me she was praying for me and knew I would soon be a Christian. I laughed and told her not to waste her time.


Prayers Answered

I challenged God during one of my shows to sit down in the radio studio and let me interview Him if He really existed. I waited quietly for several seconds, then told my audience God must be sick or on vacation.

God did show up on my show several months later in His own way. I saw that Dr. Henry Morris, a leader in Creation research, was coming to our city to talk about his search for Noah’s Ark in Turkey. I invited him to appear on my show so I could make fun of him. What I didn’t take into account was the power of the Holy Spirit to use biblical and scientific evidence to put a chink in my atheistic armor.

I invited another Christian on my show soon after that and met a man who had just written a book about archaeology and the Bible. After investigating the truth claims of Christianity for several months, I asked God to forgive me, believed on the Lord Jesus Christ and was saved.


What’s a Parent to Do?

I was one of the fortunate atheists who God saved by His grace. I am so grateful for His love, but I can’t help but think about the ten years I spent involved in eastern mysticism and atheism. I view it as a loss of precious time when I could have been serving God.

What can you do as a Christian parent to protect your child from the many spiritual and philosophical dangers of the world? Know as much as you can about what your children are involved in and what their instructors are teaching them. The more Christian parents and grandparents know about how the spiritual enemy will attack their children, the more they can do to prepare them to defend against those attacks. And, of course, always keep praying and trusting God for your child’s eternal future.

All of us are in this together. As the apostle Paul wrote, “If one member suffers, all the members suffer with it” (1 Corinthians 12:26). Our prayers are with you as you raise your children to become faithful followers of Jesus Christ.


About Mark McGee: Mark McGee is a journalist and former atheist. He has taught martial arts for 50 years and was a student of Eastern philosophies before becoming an atheist. Mark became a Christian after investigating the evidence for the truth claims of Christianity more than 40 years ago. He became a member of Judo and Karate for Christ in 1972 and teaches martial arts from a Christian perspective through Grace Martial Arts and Karate for Christ International.  Mark and his wife have two sons and three grandchildren and live in Alabama.

Do you have a question for Mark? Share in the comments!

31 thoughts on “Yoga and Martial Arts for Children: A Dangerous Spiritual Path”

  1. I thought this was the “takeaway” statement from the article. “One reason was that meditation in yoga and martial arts focused on me and what I wanted out of life. Christianity focused on God and what He wanted out of my life.”
    So true how the enemy makes us think that “bad is good” and “good is bad.” Children are easy prey for this kind of temptation.

  2. I appreciate this article so much. A while back, our daughter expressed interest in karate classes, and we began searching for one near our home. We felt it would be a positive thing for her to know self defense. We were unable to find a class we were comfortable with, but we didn’t really understand why. None of them felt “right” to us, so we explained as best we could that we just didn’t think it was the right atmosphere for her. I am so thankful for the Holy Spirit who guides with a steady hand, even when we are unaware of it.

  3. Thank you for shedding light on this. I have always been bothered by the commonness of yoga, even Christians partake and do not think of the spiritual implications. But the spirit world is very real. And in yoga, you are messing around with it and aligning yourself with false ‘gods.’ I learned of the realness of the spirit world in a simple child’s game of ‘light as a feather, stiff as a board.’ It really worked and opened my eyes to the fact that spirits are real and these games and activities are not innocent.

    1. Hello Heather, you took the words out of my heart. I am just as surprised seeing many Christians engaging in these practices.

      They don’t see anything wrong with so many new world activities. Including Tattoos! One Christian Blogger mentioned the fact that she loved them and was getting one. Are encouraging others to go with the way the world thinks?

      As Parents we should be careful of activities we allow our kids engage in no matter how harmless they seem.

      God Bless Natasha for sharing this article.

  4. I know our church opened up their doors for “Christ Centered Yoga” on Saturdays for those who want the exercise benefits but are seeking a Christ honoring way of doing it.

    Our local martial arts classes have (at least so far) been quiet on any spiritual parts. Parents can be in (participating or watching) the classes to get an idea of what’s going on — and I’d encourage anyone to pay attention. The martial arts instructors have been pushing good healthy habits, respect, paying attention, and working hard — better life lessons for grade school kids to be learning that can help reinforce parental teaching.

  5. As a middle aged Christian I’ve considered yoga to help with my constant arthritis pain & pain from a back injury. I’ve thought about meditating on God’s Word through the exersices? I’d love to know your thoughts on that.

    1. Hi, Jen. Stretching is excellent for arthritis pain, pain from back injuries, etc. The physical aspects of stretching are just that, physical. The problem with practicing yoga as your stretching exercise is if you really practice yoga. Yoga includes a spiritual meditative process that is often left out of yoga classes in the West, which is good. The problem is that once inside that door the practitioner is open to the potential of spiritual influences from other students, teachers, books, videos, etc.

      I have taught stretching for 50 years and worked with the Arthritis Foundation in helping people with arthritis through stretching exercises. So, suggest you do it regularly. Yes, meditate on God’s Word as you stretch. That increases both the physical, mental and spiritual aspects of your walk with Christ.


      Mark McGee

    2. Jen, I am not a ‘yoga’ expert, but from what I understand (and Mark may have said this already, I don’t know), those yoga poses are ‘prayer poses to Hindu gods, meant to align you with the universe where all are one.’ So the very act of engaging in those particular poses is imitating Hindu prayer to false gods. I would say that is pretty risky, dancing with evil.

      In the Old Testament, God is very clear about breaking away from any contact with the spiritual practices of the other nations. I think yoga is a modern day example of this, that we should not do it or play around with it.

      I read of a christian woman who created her own work-out videos with yoga-like stretches, called something like Praise Moves or something like that. Maybe look that up. She came from a yoga background and said that there is something very evil and powerful in those yoga poses, so she left yoga and made her own stretches and poses so that she was not partaking in Hindu prayer poses. Hope this helps.

  6. Dianne H. Plourde

    I am a bit confused … this brother has (rightfully) warned …. but … yet compromises on the sport of eastern self-defense (I do understand appeal!) and mixes it with the Gospel. I must admit that this is a bit difficult for me to reconcile. Why must we have it at all? (again, fully relating to the appeal of it for our sons & daughters in this world today). Thank you for letting me voice my comment … and I do not mean to be antagonistic …. just sincerely wondering.

    1. Hi, Dianne. I struggled with the same concerns you expressed after becoming a Christian. It wasn’t until I discovered a group of Christian martial artists that I began to become comfortable with the idea of teaching martial arts from a Christian perspective.

      Self defense is simply that – defending yourself – and has been my primary purpose in teaching for the last 40+ years. We begin and end each class with prayer. Memorizing Scripture and Christian character qualities are part of every class. Many of us teach classes at churches with full support from the pastors and other leaders. I also teach pastors, elders and deacons how to protect their members during church services from people who might enter the buildings with the intent to harm.

      I understand your concerns and appreciate your sharing them. Every parent must do what is best for their child. For parents who are interested in their child learning self defense, Christian martial arts instructor stand ready to help them.


      Mark McGee

    2. Hi Diane, I was blessed to be able to be in Marks class for several years and 2 things struck me. 1 is we always prayed before and after each class. In martial arts it is custom to bow to the highest ranking person in the room before and after each class, we bowed to God in the form of prayer. Also Scripture memorization was part of our testing. Also, Mark never let us leave without telling us the Gospel. The second thing is this is all about self defense. Mark teaches that we fight only when we can’t run and if we fight we fight just hard enough to be able to get away.

      I hope this alleviates some concerns.

  7. Dianne H. Plourde

    I thank you both, Cathy and Mark, for your replies, which really did help me see this in another light. Defending oneself from an intruder in the home, or from someone on the street, etc., is important. And, I have always believed that if we are to ‘turn the other cheek’, effectively, and with any meaning, we first need a cheek to turn (or, in other words, the ability to fight back – if we so choose). However, I do believe that any personal danger which might arise from persecution, as the early church experienced and many others do today in some countries, should not be fought back from in the same manner as other general types of attacks which have nothing to do with our faith in Christ. I must say that I wish there had been something like what Bro. McGee offers, when our boys were young and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were so popular. :o) Thanks again for your thoughtful replies!

  8. Very interesting post (and very interesting testimony from Mark!). This is something I hadn’t thought about much before, so thank you! Our tae kwon do school is secular, but I can see now how their message of ‘you have strength in yourself’ can essentially put us in the place of God. Since Tae Kwon Do is a Korean Martial Art, and there are many Christians in Korea, I have found that some Tae Kwon Do schools will be overtly Christian. Not sure about the other martial arts though.

  9. I’ve wondered about this over the years and was always reluctant to join in any yoga classes or martial arts types of exercise courses for that reason. I didn’t know if I was over-reacting to my concerns, but this post lets me know that it was a valid concern. Thanks so much!

  10. Could anyone reccommend any YouTube or similar with yoga style exercises from a Christian perspective? I do both yoga and pilates which help with chronic back pain and an over reactive stress response, and have always used meditation time as time to connect with God. It has been an answer to my prayer for pain relief and healing. However reading this I am concerned about some of the exercises and would prefer to switch to a Christ centred workout. I do believe in praising God with the body as well as the heart and voice, and in looking after your health ( and others) as part of your service to Christ . I see reasonable maintenance as my responsibility – a way of honouring Gods creation and keeping myself fit for purpose!

  11. I can definitely attest to the fact that practices like meditation, massage and other Eastern medicines encourage one to expand their mind and awareness. As a young 17 yr old Christian I took a semester of massage therapy courses and learned to meditate and become more aware of internal energy. I quit after the first semester, but sadly fell away from the Lord not long after.
    Over 10 years later I am investing more in my relationship God and trying to raise my son to be a young man after God’s heart.
    Being diagnosed with SVT and knowing of myself that I have anxiety, I LOVE yoga. Maybe it’s age and wisdom, but I don’t think it deters from my Christian walk. Many times God is my “meditation” while I breathe in and breathe out to find my flow. I’m actually considering becoming a yoga instructor because it’s done wonders for my anxiety, and I feel strong!
    If your kids are interested in yoga or martial arts, then make sure you’re involved in their practice. Find ways to keep these practices God centered.
    I also have tattoos. Praise God He is a God that looks at the heart and not the flesh alone!

  12. This has been a wonderful article. I was enrolled in a Yoga class at a senior center. The teacher was great, however, each week she began to add a little ‘Sanskrit’ to our class stretches. Each week, I felt uneasy and finally about the 3rd week, she ended the class in a bowing position where she chanted and remained bowing for quite sometime. That is when I felt the Holy Spirit telling me I no longer needed to be in this class. I never went back. I let the senior center know what was going on and why I quit. They were pleased to know why and were very understanding. I’m not sure whether or not the instructor was dismissed.
    The problem is that my youngest daughter began teaching Yoga about 10 years ago. I did not know the history of Yoga. I know that she nor her husband attend church. Should I send this article to her? I have been praying for them for so long. How do I approach them?

    1. Hi, Joyce. You could send the article to your daughter with a note that you’d love to get her thoughts about it. That has the potential for a respectful exchange of ideas that could help her. Most people I’ve talked to about the spiritual aspects of Yoga have been surprised to learn what an integral part Yoga plays in Hinduism. Thanks!

  13. Very insightful. Satan will do anything he can to create a wedge. Jesus is the only true fulfillment, meditation in the form of yoga can be very deceiving.

  14. “Know as much as you can about what your children are involved in and what their instructors are teaching them.” – I couldn’t agree more.

    My son has been taking karate for 8 years, he is now a black belt and volunteers as a teacher for the little kids ages 4 – 9. He began taking karate because he was afraid to be on the playground at school. He hid in the boys bathroom everyday. We tried to teach him how to protect himself but he wouldn’t take part in our instruction. We had to find outside help.

    The gentleman who teaches him karate does not speak about the spiritual (Hindu, Taoism or Buddhism) aspect of karate. He speaks of the inner voice inside, he will talk about your inner energy and he will ask the kids to meditate at the end of class. When my son was little, asked me what the inner voice and inner energy was, I told him it was the Holy Spirit. I believe we need to make sure the adult influences in our children’s lives are in accordance to our beliefs and it is our responsibility to instruct our kids how to apply our faith into our daily lives.

    When it comes time to meditate in his class I explained it as a time to thank God for the day and to take the time to see how He worked in his life that day. This is a good time for a child to be thankful and reflective.

    To dismiss martial arts as a whole is like dismissing another sport because the coach is not a good influence on your child. Please don’t categorize martial arts as a bad thing. There are martial arts teachers out there who do not talk about the spiritual aspect of the sport and there are others who do. That is why you interview the instructor.

    As his parent I took on the responsibility to show him how to be a Christian within the world. I am trying to give him the tools to have an enriched life that includes a heart for God.

  15. Like anything, the devil is able to use it against us if we are not careful. I have seen churches get so prideful in how “spiritually mature” they are that they end up with a sort of elitist mentality in reference to their spirituality which is nothing more than being prideful. Proverbs is pretty clear on Pride and it leading to downfall.

    The point is that whether it be Martial Arts or any other activity, the practioner must stay focused on the Lord. I don’t think the act of martial arts or the stretching poses in Yoga are inherently evil. I think it is what is in the heart of the practioner.

    I could be wrong but I don’t think it seems likely that on my day of judgement God will condemn me to eternal damnation for doing downward dog.

  16. Dear sister in Christ,
    I praise the LORD for your website, and encouraging parents to take an active interest and role in the things our children and young people are involved in !

    I would like to share a link to a film and an online article which I pray will be a blessing to you. May these shine Light from God’s Word as you seek the Truth as it is in Christ Jesus ! – The Dragon Revealed ! disc.1

    I was also actively involved in these eastern arts, for more than 24 years. So the testimony I share is from experience and in Christian love. May the LORD bless and keep you and your family strong in faith, and the unfailing power of His Life-giving Word !

    your brother and sister in Christ Jesus,
    Eric & Sarah Wilson and family – Isaiah Ministries

  17. I just reread this post after learning that my children’s school was going to implement Yoga 4 Classrooms this year. Does anyone know anything about this? Right now, it seems to be mostly stretching. Thanks!

    1. Hi, Wendy. Yoga 4 Classrooms is a method of providing ‘evidence-informed yoga and mindfulness education’ to children. It is a New Age program that Christian parents should investigate carefully before allowing their children to participate. CEO Lisa Flynn is founder of both Yoga 4 Classrooms and ChildLight Yoga and says she uses yoga, meditation, gratitude and positive thinking to maintain balance in her life. Lisa says her intention is ‘to inspire her young students to do the same, providing them with tools they can use for a lifetime of health and wellness.’

      Marina Ebert is the Research Advisor for Yoga 4 Classrooms. She is a researcher at the Harvard Lab for Developmental Studies and is a graduate student at the Harvard Graduate School of Education concentrating on Human Development and Psychology.

      The mission of Yoga 4 Classrooms is ‘to transform educational environments through yoga-based wellness training and support. We empower students and educators to create positive, peaceful, productive classrooms that support exceptional learning and a lifetime of health and wellness.’

      Yoga 4 Classrooms Goals is ‘to create peaceful, learning-ready, productive classroom environment through the systematic use of preventive mind-body tools grounded in yoga and mindfulness practices.’ Yoga and Mindfulness are both New Age practices.

      Yoga 4 Classrooms features ’67 yoga and mindfulness-based activities, divided into six categories: Let’s Breathe, At Your Desk, Stand Strong, Loosen Up, Imagination Vacation, and Be Well.’

      Yoga 4 Classrooms is more than ‘stretching’ for children. It is a method of introducing a foundation of New Age focus and practice to children.

      Here is how Yoga 4 Classrooms explains the benefits of yoga for children. The wording is New Age.

      “Yoga helps children see the beauty and light within themselves, thereby boosting their self-confidence, allowing them to feel more comfortable with their bodies, and helping them get in touch with who they are inside. A child who learns yoga, mindfulness and relaxation will be developing essential skills for a lifetime of health and wellness in mind, body and spirit. (

      Hope this helps!

      Mark McGee

      1. Thanks, Mark! I really appreciate that you took the time to reply. And thanks, Natasha, for your blog. I will be sharing this information with our principal.

  18. This article is so disappointing. First off, I want to clarify, that I am not a troll – I found this article while googling for yoga stretches to help my son with his flexibility in karate. Also, I am a Christian. I practice yoga and meditation and if anything, both of these things have strengthened my faith in God. Learning about the religions and origins behind these practices has strengthened my faith in God. To me, if doing yoga, meditation, martial arts, etc. leads you away from God, then your faith was probably not strong or heartfelt in the first place. When I was in college, I was a features reporter for the newspaper. I wrote an article about all the different religions on campus – I visited a Jewish temple, watched a Muslim man doing his morning prayers in his home, observed a group of Buddhists meditate before dawn… and more. It was such a beautiful experience and only made me love my God even more. It made me see that God really is everywhere.

    Parents who don’t allow their kids to do yoga or karate because they are worried their children will be lead astray… you’re doing your children a huge disservice. Your children will be ‘tempted’ and challenged and faced with demons their whole lives. We all are. So why would you take away from them an opportunity to learn how to deal with those inevitable moments?

    A couple of the commenters mentioned the yoga poses that are actually prayer poses that align Christians with “false gods.” Again, is your faith really so weak that putting your body in a certain position causes you to automatically worship a false god? A pose does not align you with Hindu gods. When you pray to God, do you not align with Him in your heart? Do you not say that prayer with your heart? Perhaps you are mindlessly praying, without any actual thoughts or feelings. It is so easy to memorize liturgy and repeat it like a robot without putting any of yourself in it. To truly align yourself with false gods in a yoga pose, wouldn’t you need to put your heart into it? Just do the poses and pray to your God.

    This article and the comments just show the absolute ignorance, selfishness, self-righteousness, and arrogance that so many American Christians unfortunately display, giving the rest of us a bad name.

  19. Hi, Kristen. I appreciate your sharing your thoughts and would like to respond to one of the them.

    “This article and the comments just show the absolute ignorance, selfishness, self-righteousness, and arrogance that so many American Christians unfortunately display, giving the rest of us a bad name.”

    You are accusing me and others who commented of being absolutely ignorant, selfish, self-righteous and arrogant, and giving American Christians a bad name. That is a strong accusation to make against brothers and sisters in Christ, so you must have strong evidence to support it and believe God led you to share it. Why do you believe my article is a demonstration of “absolute ignorance, selfishness, self-righteousness, and arrogance”? I’m asking for your evidence for the purpose of an informed discussion. If you are correct in your assessment, I need to rethink my beliefs and positions in many areas of my life and ministry. Your evidence will help me in assessing the strength of your accusation. If you are incorrect in your assessment, I hope you will reassess your position on these matters.



  20. Julie Fink/Brantley

    I could not agree more, now after my children are raised in our small community and seeing how these things open the door to our children’s minds even more :o(

  21. Daniel Grosskreuz

    I am Daniel, a child of God our Creator, a disciple of Christ, a born again Bible believing Christian. I think it’s good you warn others about Karate, etc… I am a white belt in Karate, Tae Kwon Do. The Holy Spirit told me to never return to my former dojo, even though I am white belt. When I was an Atheist, and sinner I noticed all the other belt colors above me in the room were taught to be the best, etc… When you’re white belt, you’re just to be modest etc… I am going to teach myself karate, Tae Kwon Do white belt all my life, but I am not going to integrate Yoga, Taoism, Buddhism in with my mind, because as a man thinks in his heart so is he, and the Bible says to think on what’s pure and true etc… In karate, you’re taught to empty your mind of everything so that whatever or whoever is around you can enter your mind: This is highly dangerous, because if the Holy Spirit is not influencing your mind, then demonic spirits are. We can’t see them. I didn’t walk into my dojo and go, “I see demons in those black belt students.” I did “feel” something evil on them though. I can’t explain it. I don’t like Yoga, it comes from Buddhism and Hinduism, and teaches to focus your energies so spirits around you can come in. I never practiced Yoga, and am grateful I never went to a Yoga school because I might not be still living for Jesus today if I did. Karate, Jiujitsu, Aikido, Tae Kwon Do is not the issue, it’s the spirits behind most of the information you’re taught. The stretching exercises, are so your muscles don’t tense up or hurt, the kicks, etc.. are for self defense. Once you go above white belt there’s no longer innocence, or pureness, everything just becomes about being the greatest or being the best. When are you white belt you are clean slate, pure, holy almost, and innocent. When you advance to next belt above that, you lose all that pureness. In fact, it creeps me out to this day that they want you to go for black belt, when black represents darkness. Why go to the darkness to get power, when you can go to God who is all powerful and light?

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