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Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Yoga: It's Not Just Exercise, It's Religious Practice

A lot of people would pooh-pooh the idea that playing with a ouija board or taking the "Charlie Charlie Challenge" are spiritually dangerous and can be conduits for evil spirits. "They're just games," they might say. I was inclined to think that way about yoga until I had a serious conversation with a friend and did a little research. "It's just exercise and stretching." Well...maybe not.

 Some of yoga's practices are clearly dangerous. The whole idea of "emptying yourself" in meditation is the opposite of Christian meditation where you are "filled" with the Holy Spirit. A person who is sitting and chanting a mantra and trying to dispel any thoughts, deliberately empty himself, is like the man in the parable who has a demon which is driven out. The house is clean and swept...and empty. The devil goes out, finds seven devils worse than himself and returns to "fill up" the empty house. [Luke 11:26] 
But you aren't practicing meditation, you say, just doing the exercises. Can they have an impact, perhaps an unintended consequence? Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz thinks so. He doesn't believe one can separate the Hindu religious practice of yoga from the positions (asanas) many of which honor (worship?) animals and nature, e.g., the positions that make up the salute to the sun. Here's what he told the Women of Grace Apostolate:
“Certainly, if one wants to engage in physical exercises to strengthen one’s body, such a practice would be morally neutral, and would not, in itself, involve anything detrimental to our Catholic faith. However, the practice of yoga most often, if it does not begin that way, eventually morphs into an acceptance of points of view, and even doctrinal and moral matters that are distant from Catholic truth, and from genuine and authentic Christian revelation.” 
There is definitely an element of pantheism in the poses. If you read about them, the idea that taking these poses can transform you, make you more confident is definitely a spiritual dimension. My friend made the point that Catholics make the sign of the cross. It means something. It isn't just an exercise. Do you think an atheist who found out what it meant would continue to use it? Bishop Bruskewitz goes on to point out the connection of yoga to New Age practices. He sums up saying:
“In our times, there are innumerable ways and methods by which appropriate and proper exercise of the human body can be undertaken that present no real danger to our faith or to our Catholic beliefs and commitments. It would be most desirable for persons who are Catholic to abstain from the practice of yoga and use other methods to exercise . . . . We are never allowed to place our Catholic faith unnecessarily in any danger, and certainly the practice of yoga could be an occasion of serious sin . . .”
I don't know about you, but yoga's off my list of classes at the gym.  I'd rather walk with Leslie.


Anonymous said...

SUPER article. Thank you for saying it out loud. I know people who go to Yoga at their churches (not Catholic). The more you study about Yoga the creepier it becomes.

newguy40 said...

Wanted to say thanks for highlighting this to Catholics.

I'm very saddened that my company has started pushing "mindfulness" agenda. This seeming innocuous agenda is based on hindu ism and yoga. The company puts on free yoga and guided meditations. The company's management is really pushing employees on this gobbledygook. I've pointed out the dangers of yoga to my co-workers who are Christian. Unfortunately, most reject the info. I point out to the Catholics that living a genuine sacramental life is all the "meditation" they'll every need! Frequent confession and the holy Eucharist are the way to go. It's really quite amazing as their are three Catholic Church within easy walking and driving distances of the work site.

Keep up the effort tho. Instructing the ignorant and counseling the doubtful are vital corporal works for mercy! Especially now during Lent!

Mary Ann Kreitzer said...

Guided meditation is really dangerous. I went to a journal workshop once run by a Jesuit that was based on the Ira Progoff method. Very New Age -- in fact, Progoff was really into Jung. The Jesuit would begin each session with this kind of self-hypnosis thing focusing on your breathing, etc. One session we were taken to a place to meet an "inner spirit guide." It also focused on dream interpretation with Jungian universal meanings, etc.

Fortunately, the Lord protected me during this time I think because I was sincerely seeking His will, but after awhile I realized how dangerous this garbage was and burned the journals. The practice he was teaching us was NOTHING LIKE the traditional practice of meditation!