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What is Yoga? A Catholic Perspective (Part II): gods of Yoga

February 19, 2014 by  
Filed under Fr. Sullivan, Yoga

In the first post on Yoga, we explored studies that showed a couple of important facts:

· Consistent practice of Yoga is correlated with a diminishment of Christian belief.

· Practitioners typically begin Yoga for physical reasons but stick with it for spiritual reasons.

We concluded with a basic definition of Yoga: Yoga is both a comprehensive system of human culture–physical, moral, and psychological–and it acts as a doorway on to the gently sloping paths that gradually lead up to Yoga proper, that is, the spirituality of Yoga rooted in Hinduism.

In this post we will take a look at the Hindu foundations of Yoga in light of the gods found therein. St. John tells us that we should not believe every spirit, but test them to see if they are from God (cf 1 John 4:1). It’s going to be an enlightening experience, so set your intention and come join us as we explore Yoga from a Catholic perspective.

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Part II – The gods of Yoga

I’m not much of an exercise person. The practice of pumping iron or toning my body with a machine has never excited me: it seemed meaningless at best and slightly narcissistic at worst. This is one of the reasons why Yoga appealed to me. It seemed to be exercise with a real meaning. What I didn’t expect was what that meaning actually is.

The word “yoga” comes from the Sanskrit yuj, which indicates “to yoke together,” “union,” “to join, to bind.”[1] Someone who practices Yoga as a way of life is called a yogin or a yogi. Because Yoga indicates binding, we must ask: what does Yoga bind us to?

My jaw almost hit the floor when I found the answer.

To learn about Yoga, at first I avoided classes and went to a local bookstore. I wasn’t ready to squeeze into Yoga pants. The first paperback I purchased, chosen almost at random, was full of helpful photos of postures along with explanations and commentary. It explained what Yoga “yokes” or “binds” us to: Hindu divinity or divinities. “Awaken the goddess within,” it suggested. Frightening for me as a Christian and as a male. It also invited me to consider Ganesh, the “loveable” elephant-headed god, along with his friends who populate India’s pantheon. That sounds pagan, I thought. So I set the book aside and looked elsewhere. To my dismay, I discovered in a local Yoga studio something that confirmed the book’s approach: a little bronze statue of a Hindu god, presiding over the people within. It was too much even for this California boy.

Was my experience typical?

Clearly not every book on yoga promotes Hindu gods, and not every Yoga class has pagan statuary. But many do. The classical Yoga tradition argues that all Yoga should associate with the gods of India. In order to understand why this is the case, we must uncover the Hindu roots of Yoga.

For Westerners who like everything, including religion, neat and tidy, boxed up and labeled, sitting on a shelf ready for inspection from a discerning customer, Hinduism poses difficulties. “What we think of as one religion,” one writer notes, “is a multifarious collection of sects, traditions, beliefs, and practices that evolved from the Vedas, the world’s oldest sacred texts, and took shape across the vast Indian subcontinent over the course of many centuries.”[2] There is real difficulty in pinning down a precise doctrine of universal Hindu belief because “Hinduism has no central authority, no founding figure, no historical starting point, no single creed or canonical doctrine, and many holy books rather than one.” Because of this, Hinduism has been called “the world’s largest disorganized religion.”[3] Nevertheless, Hindus have generally recognized six principle schools that represent authentic developments of the Vedic scriptures. Yoga is one of them.[4]

Yoga, along with the religious beliefs and practices sheltered under the large umbrella called “Hindu,” honors many gods. “Hinduism is a perfect polytheism,” says a highly-respected scholar. In a real sense, this can also apply to Yoga.[5] The gods are the ultimate gurus of Yoga.

Shiva has prominence among the gods of Yoga. He is the “patron” of all Yoga practitioners: “He is the deity of yogins par excellence and is often depicted as a yogin.”[6] Around his neck is a serpent, symbolizing his power over death; on his forehead is a third eye, through which he gains mystical vision and knowledge. His drumbeat is said to create the OM which reverberates in the heart and throughout the universe. In some depictions Shiva assumes the lotus posture in deep meditation. In other cases Shiva juggles fire while he dances with one foot in the air, indicating release from “earthly bondage.”

Some traditions include Shiva in a Hindu triad or trinity of gods, with Brahman as the “creator”, Vishnu as the “sustainer” or “preserver.” Shiva is said to be “the destroyer,” the one who annihilates the illusions of the ego and therefore gains liberation into ultimate reality:

While of course many hindu deities are associated with different paths of yoga and meditation, in Shiva the art of meditation takes its most absolute form. In meditation, not only mind is stopped, everything is dropped.[7]

Vishnu is another important god for Yoga; he is said to preserve and maintain the cosmic order dharma. Like Shiva, he is depicted with blue skin and four arms and is accompanied by serpents. It is said that Vishnu was incarnate nine times, the last two being the most significant: as Krishna and Buddha. Here I will focus on Krishna.

The Bhagavad-Gita, part of an ancient Hindu religious epic, portrays Krishna as the perfect Yoga guru to his disciple, the human hero Arjuna. Chapter 6 of the Gita contains material that would be familiar to many modern Yoga practitioners. Krishna defines Yoga negatively as “renunciation” of illusion and positively as “yoking oneself to the Supreme Consciousness” (6:2). For him, a yogin is one “established in self-realization” (6:8). Through elevating himself through his own mind (6:5), a Yoga practitioner attains the abode of Krishna, perfect happiness, “by cessation of material existence” (6:15). The means to acquire this is by practicing control of the body, mind, and activity with specific postures and meditation techniques (6:11-18).

The Yoga goddesses should not be neglected in our account. Here we can turn to the chief goddess, Shakti or Durga, known under different aspects. Shakti is seen as the divine force that destroys evil and restores balance: she “represents the cosmic energy of destruction of the ego, which stands in the way of spiritual growth and ultimate liberation.”[8] In some instances, Shakti assumes the role of Parvati, the energy and consort of Shiva; in other instances, the role of Lakshmi, the energy and consort of Vishnu. The most fearsome role Shakti plays is as Kali, the “Dark Mother” goddess, who, standing naked, wears a garland of skulls around her neck and a belt of heads around her waist, wielding a bloody sword and clutching a severed head. It is not uncommon for Yoga teachers to recommend tapping into this feminine-divine source of empowerment. Here is one account:

Ellen is a medical student, and thinks of herself as a rational person who doesn’t go in for mystical experiences. But one day as she closed her eyes and relaxed in Savasana, Ellen felt a powerful maternal energy around her and “saw” the Hindu goddess Durga, whose picture graced the yoga studio’s back wall. For a moment, the many-armed goddess’s face lingered in front of her, looking alive and full of compassionate love. Then the image disappeared–though the sweet, strong energy stayed with Ellen for hours.[9]

Later Ellen asked Sally what the experience might mean. Sally replied: “Just sit in meditation and ask the Durga energy to be with you. Then notice how you feel.” This is what Sally calls “deity yoga,” which she claims “isn’t specific to the Hindu tradition.” She says it could be practiced by anyone interested in Yoga, even Christians.

Is Sally right?

What are we to make of the pantheon of Yoga gods?

It seems to me that there are four basic positions:

1. The gods and goddesses do not actually exist. They are only metaphors, imaginative fables meant to inspire the Yoga practitioner. Some people may believe this, but I think it is insufficient and reductive; it does not adequately explain the cultural and experiential data available.

2. They do exist and are benevolent: they may be invoked in order to obtain energy, power, good fortune, etc. This is the position of a number of simple Hindu believers.

3. They do exist but are evil, and should not be invoked. This is the position of traditional Christianity (and perhaps Islam and Judaism). “I am the Lord your God, you shall have no other gods before Me. You shall not make for yourself a graven image; you shall not bow down to them or serve them” (Exodus 20:2-5).

4. They do exist, but not in the way one might imagine. They are all manifestations of the one supreme being, the all-encompassing reality, which one could call “God.” This is the position of the more developed understanding of Hinduism, an understanding that has been adopted by Yoga.

In our next post we will explore the last position: that the gods exist, not in themselves, but as manifestations, personifications, or realizations of the divinity.

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[1] Mircea Eliade, Yoga: Immortality and Freedom, trans. Willard R. Trask (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1969), 4.

[2] Philip Goldberg, American Veda (New York: Three Rivers Press, 2010), 3.

[3] Ibid.

[4] See Georg Feuerstein, The Yoga Tradition: Its History, Literature, Philosophy and Practice, 3rd Ed. (Chino Valley, AZ: Hohm Press, 2008), 72-78.

[5] Jean Varenne, Yoga and the Hindu Tradition, trans. Derek Coltman (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1976), 26.

[6] Feuerstein, The Yoga Tradition, 84.

[7] http://www.sanatansociety.org/hindu_gods_and_goddesses/shiva.htm#.UvpGMLQkgf8 For a retelling of the Shiva legend, see Sadhguru, “Yoga Originated from Shiva,” The Times of India 19 March, 2009. http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2009-03-19/vintage-wisdom/28031005_1_shiva-yoga-intimacy

[8] Feuerstein, The Yoga Tradition, 87.

[9] Sally Kempton, “Oh My Goddess,” Yoga Journal Online. http://www.yogajournal.com/wisdom/1980 See also “Goddess, Where Art Thou?” http://www.yogajournal.com/wisdom/2617

 

Art: Ganesh Idol from Belgaum, Karnataka, 10 September 2013, Kirti Krishna Badkundri, CC, Wikimedia Commons; Shiva (A Gopuram in Karnataka), 23 May 2012, Foliate08, CC; “Vishnu in his form as Pandharinatha or Vithoba worshipped at Pandharpur (Maharashtra). He stands facing to the front, blue-skinned, naked to the waist, wearing a jewelled yellow skirt, royal jewellery and a conical crown. He also wears a garland of tulsi flowers. He is four armed – two hands rest on his hips, whilst the other two hold a disc and a conch (the symbols of Vishnu)”, 1820-1825, author unknown, PD copyright expired; Krishna [Rasamañjarî-Manuskript des Bhânudatta (Erotische Abhandlung), Szene: Liebhaber], ca 1690, PD-Worldwide; idol of goddess Lakshmi Devi, in the temple at Hebbal(N) near Mouje Nandgad, District Belgaum, Karnataka, India, 2 January 2008, own work, Rajivhk; Kali (Shyama at a Sarbojanin Kali Puja pandal at Shakespeare Sarani), Kolkata, 2010, own work, Jonoikobangali, CC; Sculpture of goddess Durga at Durga temple, Burdwan, 3 October 2011, own work, Joydeep, CC; all Wikimedia Commons.

 

What is Yoga? A Catholic Perspective (Part I)

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About Fr. Ezra Sullivan

Fr. Ezra is a Dominican friar of the Province of St. Joseph.

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  • Lisa Pearce

    I haven’t read your post, just the title, as I don’t have time today…however, [Editor – please review both posts and we would be happy to have you’re response to the specific points raised.]

    • p. deubler

      What a wonderful article! I am an Indian and a cradle Catholic who have to my best of ability been
      faithful to my church. I come from Malaysia where yoga is popular among city folks but i have always stayed away from yoga as yoga is Hindu
      spirituality – always understood this even as a child.
      One of my best friend a devout Hindu also told me – yes it is Hindu
      spirituality – you don’t have to do it! I live in Germany now, and wow… westerners love yoga. When asked, i tell my german friends the truth – some accept it, others laugh or get upset….

  • Daniel Davis

    These are pagan practices and lead you to destruction for sure. My only experience was to try out breathing exercises shown by a Student in presentation for Parents of Summer class in Catholic church in Sharjah . That night I had breathing difficulty and almost choked. Lord God doesn’t like we Christains follow these practices which clearly doesn’t Glorify his name.
    Don’t be fooled, the enemy comes in deftly and places confusion in our minds and steals our treasure . Jn 10 :10 -“The thief comes to steal ,kill and destroy. I have come so that you may have life in abundance.”

  • Robym

    I am a devout Catholic and have been doing yoga at various yoga studios for more than 15 years. The practice of yoga has greatly improved my fitness and has resolved several joint issues. Never once has an instructor spoken about the gods of yoga or a union to Hindu divinity. Your articles on yoga lead people to believe that all yoga is about a non-Christian religion, and that has never been my experience. I’m sure that there are yoga instructors out there who subscribe to the Hindu beliefs, and they should be avoided. But Catholics need to know that not all yoga is taught this way and the physical practice of yoga is very good for our physical bodies and emotional stress levels.

    • http://www.spiritualdirection.com/ Dan Burke

      Dear Robym – your comments leave me curious about several things: 1) did you read both posts thoroughly? and 2) what does “devout” Catholic mean to you? – asking with a sincere interest in understanding your position.

      • Robym

        Dan, I did read both articles, and re-read the first one again before I responded to your question. Devout to me is striving for holiness by following the teachings of our Catholic Church and developing a deeper relationship with my Savior. I study the Bible, attend Mass weekly, receive the sacraments, and pray every day. When I don’t believe or understand what the Church teaches I dig deeper and pray until I do. To clarify my comments, I actually disagree more with the first article, in particular the conclusion that many start yoga for physical benefits but continue because of spiritual benefits. That was not the case for me at all, and quite the opposite. My Christian faith has grown significantly over the years I have practiced yoga. My strong faith has kept me out of many yoga studios that are very new age, because these are the places where people risk diminishing their Christian beliefs – the article does a great job of making this point and offering caution. Minor point – Pilates is not interchangeable with yoga, they are quite different in their physical benefits. I greatly appreciate having this opportunity to talk to you about this topic.

        • http://www.spiritualdirection.com/ Dan Burke

          Robym – I am grateful for your spirit of Charity in your disagreement and for your truly devout faith. With respect to your disagreement, please stay tuned and engaged in the dialogue. We need voices like yours to have a level-headed and constructive conversation. Also check out http://pietrafitness.com and let me know what you think.

          • Robym

            Wow, I had no idea something like Pietra Fitness existed, thank you for sharing! And I commit to engage more on your website, I read it daily and love it.

          • Carol Reichart

            Interesting. I haven’t been able to explore the Pietra website fully yet, but the few poses I’ve seen pictures of are identical to yoga poses. Which is good! I had no idea the movements I have engaged in so beneficially for so long had an alternate, evil aspect. As a committed Catholic, of course I want to do only what honors and pleases God.
            Thanks,
            Carol

          • Camila

            Carol,
            How are the pietrafitness poses the same as yoga? Can you have the same poses without all the music and spirituality and call it something else that is actually good for you? (Honestly Carol, I have no clue about Yoga…really but I’m interested in your comment.)
            Is there anything intrinsically problematic with similar/same poses?

            Just really really curious…

          • LizEst

            This will give you a good idea of differences: http://pietrafitness.com/p-f-not-yoga/

          • Camila

            (I removed my previous comment. And here’s why:I was superficial, rash and quick to draw conclusions. Mea Culpa.)

            Fr. Ezra, obviously is working hard on demonstrating the many and varied problems with yoga, even if the poses might be similar, everything else about Pietra Fitness is different and seeks to glorify the One True God we Catholics believe in.

          • LizEst

            No doubt, Fr. Ezra will address this. On the Pietra site, they do talk about positions, chanting, chakras, namaste, etc further on in the article.

          • Camila

            Thanks Liz.

          • Connie

            Liz, would you explain what exactly are the differences in their poses? people who have or are presently doing yoga see the pictures on their site as the same.
            I am not asking about Pietra Fitnesses religious philosophy or written presentation of what they provide for music, prayer etc. while doing the stretching poses. Thank you.

          • LizEst

            Connie–Thank you for your question. I am not an expert on yoga, though I must say when I was young I was taken with the idea of it. Thanks be to God, I didn’t fall into it as, I believe, I would have been very vulnerable to the influences. The only thing I can say is that the link I gave gives very detailed information on differences.

            Philosophical differences between the two are important and do have a great deal to do with the actual differences. “Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters” (Matthew 12:30). Personally for me, I do not want to get anywhere near something dangerous to my faith and my eternal life. Skating around the edges of dubious practices is not a sin, but can be an occasion of sin. It’s not worth the risk to me. Not only that, but when I confess, part of my act of contrition is to avoid the occasions of sin. It’s easier, and wiser, to run away than to fight evil head-on. The devil is a liar and manipulator and seeks to ensnare us while we are unaware, making it much more difficult to extricate ourselves from eternal death-dealing situations. To be sure, disentanglement can be brought about, but only by the power of God and adherence to His Word. God bless you, Connie…and Happy Lord’s Day!

          • Connie

            Liz, the philosophical difference is very important between yoga/ Hinduism / Buddhism and Catholism. It is not just the doctrine that can be dangerous but doing yoga poses themselves. I asked specifically what makes the poses not yoga that look like yoga on the site of Pietra Fitness? Their is nothing about what makes their stetching poses not yoga, Yet as others have mentioned who saw their photos agree it looks like yoga. Being this blog is promoting their site and you said “their was differences,” to Carol in an above comment. Just wondering if you can be more specific. I’m asking you as it appears you help edit this blog and would have knowledge of those details if you are promoting a site. Thanks!

          • LizEst

            Please address your questions directly to Pietra Fitness as Dan has indicated below. He is pointing people to that site because, as he wrote above, “The only group we are pointing to now is Pietra Fitness because I have been able to spend a good deal of time with them.” Have you contacted them personally?

          • http://www.spiritualdirection.com/ Dan Burke

            Dear Connie – this question is really only appropriately posed (no pun intended) to the folks at Pietra. They are the only ones qualified to engage at the level of dialogue that you seek. I am sure they will get back to you shortly.

          • Connie

            Thanks Dan,
            I hope they will follow up with contact and answers. God Bless Roman Catholic Spiritual Direction and all who read it and make it possible.

          • Carol Reichart

            Hi,
            As I said before, I haven’t really explored the Pietra website yet. But it was just so striking that two of the poses are identical to ones I have done for years in “exercise only, non-religious, kinda sorta yoga.” I am certainly not disputing anything Fr. Ezra or the Church says. What I suspect is that controlled stretching with the right intent is good, and that that is what Pietra fosters. I certainly hope so because I tend to be scrupulous — I would hate to find myself in the middle of a good stretch and be wondering if it’s sinful.

          • Connie

            Just noticed, Carol commented that she saw pictures on the Pietra website are identical to yoga poses, is this good?

          • http://www.spiritualdirection.com/ Dan Burke

            It is an inaccurate conclusion.

          • Connie

            Hi Dan, my following comment is based having practiced and taught yoga. When I see the photos of poses on the Pietra website they are no different. I have read the written presentation of Pietra fitness practice and it has added some prayer, scripture, photos etc. and is stated as Catholic, but clearly is still using yoga posses. Based on my knowledge and experience I cannot agree that Pietra is not doing yoga. I believe this site is trying to provide an alternative but I believe it only shows they themselves are unable to let go of their attachment to yoga. Christians need to make concious choices. I know why these postures make one feel good and why no one who does yoga want to let it go, this is a sign of its energetic effect. Its scientific and metaphysical and spiritually Hindu, one can never make these postures Christian. These poses have been in existance for 5000 years with specific effect with or without our knowledge.
            This weekend I listen to an english UTube of Fr. Jacques Verlinde whose artical was on here. Before becoming a priest, had been practicing Buddhism. He had studied with a famous Guru, when he told the Guru westerners were practicing yoga and believed they were not practicing the spiritual tradition, the Guru laughed very hard, then said it was not possible to seperate the two.
            People are not educated on the development of these practices from the basis of which they came into existance 5000 years ago Briefly, in the beginning yogis bodies were energetically moved without personal will into postures by interfacing with gods/diety’s. They repeated them and therefore those were incorporated into their sadhana practice for they received it from the diety/god who they had been praying. The effect of “yoga or union” would then happen on the energetic body simply by performing them. Their is more I could say but will leave that to Fr. Ezra in his articals.
            It is very disturbing to see this site promoting themselves as Catholic.

        • anna lisa

          I pray to God when I do yoga. It is the best, and most relaxing form of exercise I have ever practiced. My temptation to laziness, and various spine issues worry me far more than the origins of yoga. Catholics have been in the business of transforming what is worthy of transformation in the world at large, since St. Paul forced Peter not to be so fearful. On Tuesday, at the end of our class the yogi chanted “I am a person of peace, I am a person of peace.” I thought about this in light of my Christian beliefs and then meditated upon the fact that while Jesus brought true peace, he also brought a sword (we must make war with our fallen nature). I want to be a person of peace, but not just any peace, one that a healthy conscience brings about.
          Also, In many of the classes I have attended the yogi has encouraged us to set an intention for the class, and offer our practice up for another person. This is done in a perfectly secular setting, but I think it primes the soul of a non Catholic to believe in praying for others, and the fact that we are all connected.

    • Sharon

      Hi Robym,
      Thank you for your post as I agree with you wholeheartedly. I do not think that Dan Burke has any idea at all of why doing yoga for health reasons is so beneficial for many of us. I am fortunate in my area to have found Christian yoga teachers and love the classes.

    • MarcAlcan

      Your articles on yoga lead people to believe that all yoga is about a non-Christian religion
      Unfortunately, that happens to be the truth. Yoga is yoga. A yogi said that whether you intend the spiritual side of yoga, you get the effect because yoga is yoga – it is a Hindu worship of false gods. It is idolatry. The moves were specifically designed WITH THIS INTENT – to open the person up to a spirit whether you intend to or not.
      Before this love affair with the self, Catholics managed to be healthy without these eastern practices. Now it seems, they can’t let it go. I wonder if that is not yoga working its power already on the unsuspecting.

  • Beth Williams

    As a personal trainer, I would like to emphasize that strength training through “pumping iron or machines” is highly beneficial for health reasons. It is not necessarily a sign of narcissism any more than earning a high salary is a sign of greed. It is important not to judge the motives of others.

    • Fr. Ezra Sullivan, O.P.

      Beth,

      Thank you for your clarification. I completely agree that exercise can have good benefits on many levels. For myself, however, I knew that it would feel meaningless or be slightly narcissistic. I realize that this is the not the case for many people, who can “pump iron” and exercise with perfectly good intentions.

      God bless you!

      • Camila

        Dear Fr. Ezra,
        I have long struggled in fitting exercise in…. I used to train for and finally did a sprint triathlon and was getting ready for the next step up…. but I had a massive crises. Why on earth am I going to do this? REALLY?
        I loved the workout, I loved the adrenaline, the stretching myself to the limit, for what? A perishable crown…. (so I tortured myself, nah Camila, you’re just being lazy….. or no, you could use the time for prayer…. or study, or, or, or)
        Something in me longs to go back, yet I haven’t and I wish I could ‘baptize’ all that effort. I loved it. Eventually I came to the same conclusion as you did it all felt “meaningless” and “narcissistic”… but boy did I have fun!

        • MarcAlcan

          You and Fr Ezra have encapsulated how I feel about all this. I just felt there is something narcissistic in it.
          I look at the growth of the exercise and fitness industry and it corresponds to the growth of atheism – to the deification of the self.
          Catholics managed perfectly without Yoga way back then but now if you even mention a word against it they pounce on you. They must have these exercises as if it is a matter of life and death. And I suppose it goes down to “feeling good” as usual.

      • Connie

        Fr. Ezra,
        I am so happy to see this information being brought out in the open. Maybe you can answer this, it is clear on the Pietra Fitness site their philosophy is in aliegnment with Catholic doctrine. But specifically, in your knowledge or information what makes their stretching poses not yoga that look like yoga on the site of Pietra Fitness?

  • A. Crawford

    Father Sullivan, I really appreciate these posts, which I am sharing with my catechism students. Such in-depth and well researched treatment is extremely valuable. Thanks for your time and effort!

  • Connie

    Truth is sometimes hard to hear. Fr. Ezra your presentation is revealing thank you! I believe all that you have stated. A former yogi and monastic teacher of Tibetan Buddhism for 35 years, I have joyously returned to my Catholic roots in full communion with the Church and God. For me leaving came suddenly with absolute knowing of the truth and was a radical change. If being really open to truth about yoga I suggest to pray to God for wisdom to see and understand the complete truth. Seeing that, then pray for the fortitude to take the steps to stop the practices and receive Reconcilliation to reestablish your spiritual communion with God. Its a joy in heaven when the Prodical Son and Daughter returns home!

  • nosidam

    Hi! A friend just mentioned to me that an orthodox Roman Catholic pastor who is respected here has used yoga for his back pain and it helped. He had no idea there was a problem doing that. I believe we need to have other classes that stretch ones body to relieve pain to substitute for yoga. We are good at pointing out the bad but we also then must offer a substitute! If we are to combat New Age things we must help people understand the Christian—-Catholic faith practices better. I did not want to look at the pictures in this article. Images stay with us. Even as in sharing info about pornography etc. I do not believe in showing images to prevent people from looking at other images. I think we are intelligent enough humans to have an imagination that can help us understand. Just like in the “old” days—-movies did not show the graphic violence, murders, sex etc. The camera panned away but you can be sure that we all ‘got the picture’! Psycho is a good example.

    So back to yoga. Why even try something so controversial for Christians in the first place? Why even do anything that may ‘lead us into temptation’ ? We all love to push the limits. All the ‘no big deals’ of yesteryear became big deals later. A little bit of this and that got bigger and bigger as we allowed it over time.

    I suggest we delve into the richness of the Catholic faith and go sit in an adoration chapel at least weekly for an hour. Ask God to speak to us!
    He does and will. Listen to the voices of the early church Fathers, the saints and immerse ourselves in the Scripture. Then perhaps go to the gym or Pilates or run or whatever.

    There is really no way yoga is necessary for a Christian since it’s roots are not Christian!
    What is everyone thinking? Maybe people are curious—but then so was Eve!
    God bless you all!

    • Ingrid

      you hit the nail on the head: its roots are not Christian. Scripture MT 9-33 talks about a tree and its fruit. Every tree has a ROOT. If the root is bad, so is the tree and the fruit. One must discern….

      • MarcAlcan

        That summarizes it all very neatly! Thumbs up.

    • ThirstforTruth

      nosidam…you make some excellent points here. We certainly do not want something out there resembling Christian Yoga or copying yoga with Christian overtones. As pointed out here, it would be oxymoronic to offer such a program.
      Personally, I feel more comfortable holding back until we see those actual videos, with real visuals of what Piertra Fitness will actually look like and sound like. I am not sure why but I feel a certain skepticism or reservation about this program until the videos are available. Will it have an endorsement from the proper authorities?
      Meanwhile, there is nothing like a good brisk walk, or a session of weight
      lifting, to get the blood moving and the endorphins flowing. One can say
      a rosary or meditate on a verse of Scripture when doing any one of these practices. Personally, I prefer doing them separately as I can concentrate on only one thing at a time these days. There is a limit to multi-tasking for some of us.
      I have really appreciated all that has been put forth here as I now feel
      I know fully the answers why Christians should not attempt yoga, at all,
      and am able to state the case intelligently as a result of these posts.

  • http://Pameladoiron.com/ Pamela Renée Doiron

    First of all, these posts and the resulting dialogue are fascinating, Fr. Ezra, so thank you. I remember visiting the home of a good friend who owns a popular yoga studio in the city. Her earliest upbringing was catholic but in the 70’s her mom became immersed in yoga and the new age movement and ceased bringing her daughters to church. Well, in this friend’s home, there were many paintings and statues of the “gods” above. They were so colorful and exotic…dancing elephants, jeweled goddesses! Then, I came back to my own house and saw my tiny altar with a weathered antique Jesus dying on the cross hanging on my wall and it made me sad. Since this was before my reversion experience back to catholicism, my heart was heavy that day. I thought, “How come my friend has such jubilation about her “faith” when I am focus on selflessness and suffering? She feels good, she’s in great shape, she doesn’t let her mind go into negativity and she seems like a moral, kind person.” Clearly, I was looking for an easy way out of catholicism when I could no longer motivate myself to get to church or my parish had boring priests. This was all pre-encounter with Jesus who has since filled my cup in every way. And, I think this is the slippery slope. If we are not raised with solid faith and in love with God, our fallen humanity can be easily persuaded by our ego needs, especially that of spiritual self-sufficiency. I have grappled with this one a lot. I’m tired of dragging a diaper bag full of appeasers to mass only to leave feeling very unholy and red-faced. So, perhaps one of the yoga teachers on this blogroll could have a booming enterprise if they they came up with a healthy practice of stretching, strengthening and toning that deviates from the postures of hindu worship. We can listen to Gregorian chant. We can pray. Maybe a catholic version of Praise Moves. I think we all want a means of stress-reduction and we all hope to be in our best physical shape. As someone who has practiced yoga and saw the benefits, I would LOVE another way.

    • http://www.spiritualdirection.com/ Dan Burke

      Pam – great reflections! An organization exists that does exactly what you are calling for. We will talk more about them in the last post but check out their web site – I am sure you will be pleased. http://pietrafitness.com

      • http://Pameladoiron.com/ Pamela Renée Doiron

        Oooooh! Exciting! I smell a franchise of their technique born of these blogs posts alone. Thanks Dan…and Fr. Ezra.

        • LizEst

          Good instincts, Pamela!

    • John Z

      It’s Hindu spirituality, there’s no way around that. If you want to jeopardize your soul you can pursue yoga further. If you need the benefits of stretching and meditation, stretch in your room in front of a crucifix.

      Another unfortunate yoga trend is ./ are the skin tight yoga pants women often wear. Any Christian man here think it’s a great idea to put yourself in close proximity to a woman wearing this outfit? Just keeping it real. Any Catholic woman here think it’s a great idea to have such immodesty to wear these skin tight pants?

      • http://Pameladoiron.com/ Pamela Renée Doiron

        Hi John…When I was modeling, I did all kinds of things to keep in top shape, but since my reversion to catholicism a year ago, my daily exercise routine (rain, shine, heat or snowstorm) is to walk or jog to mass! It is a 5 mile total loop but very hilly and it does the trick and I pray my Rosary along the way. And as for the attire you mentioned, I used to be a fitting model for a yoga line and started noticing the items I was told to try on were getting skimpier and skimpier. My only thought was “How do people exercise in these things??” I never would or comfortably could which introduces another question…aside from the devotional aspects of yoga, in co-ed classes, how might the atmosphere itself serve as a temptation? Good point, John. I never thought about it this way.

        • John Z

          Good info Pamela and interesting about your modeling days. My mom took my sister to some modeling shoots for Saks back in the 70’s. One of the guys then wanted her to wear a tight top and that was the end of her modeling career.:) My mother put the kibosh on that.

          I see the outfits that women wear for yoga and otherwise getting skimpier and skimpier and to be honest there’s no place fort it if you’re a true Catholic. If I can apply it to guys I’ll say guys have no business on earth wearing shorts or tank tops to Church, A man I feel should wear a blazer at Church at least.
          I see this all too often. Here in Florida the skimpier clothes are all too common and I’m sure non Catholics mock my absurd prudishness but who cares. It’s very important to guard the eyes.

      • jack g.

        Strongly agree with you John, because I am a revert whom Jesus saved from the gates of hell. In my many adictions I also have been adicted to porn and those pictures have been imprinted, because they are.
        Holy Spirit has taken the adiction away from me and my purity factor is really high, but the images come back as part of the cross for now. I pray that also the images God will erase one day.
        Because of that it’s part of my cross to experience such visual temptations and I have to turn to Mary and God many times not to be tormented. God helps, Mary helps, but my point is men in general by being visualizing creatures have this weakness to imagine women eroticaly and yoga pants don’t help. That’s why it is very important for women to dress modestly, especially to church. Women don’t realize that, because naturally they are not “visual” creatures, they are emotional much more. It’s not their fault. Eastern Church still has this beautiful practice in place where women have to cover their hair in part to save men the temptation. Women’s hairdo is sexual in nature, it is also beautiful. Don’t get me wrong. I love the beauty of women created by God, but the real beauty is in modesty, and saved for that chosen man, not for all to enjoy.
        With Jesus, jack g.

        • John Z

          Jack, thanks for the feedback, I’m right there with you Catholic brother.From the time of college in the 90’s horribly caught up in sin and addiction to the flesh. God simply knocked me on my backside, I got married and thanks to many Mother Angelica reruns, I started to learn my faith which I had never learned at home or in CCD classes as a kid.. I don’t blame the women of course, It’s up to me to govern my eyes but society, entertainment, media has made this cult of the flesh all too prevalent. Today I was at Church for confession and there was a wedding party taking photos around the alter. Besides the irreverence, laughing, talking and joking near the alter there were brides maids in halter halter or crop top dresses. To me it’s just common sense, if you’re in Church you don’t dress like this and it’s probably not a good idea anywhere outside of Church either.

    • MarcAlcan

      I have been so busy the last couple of months it is not funny.

      My muscles are tight all over and and I was extremely stressed and as a result I have been prone to the common cold. I thought that I would have to endure this until the work overload is over. Until I can find some “me” time.

      But then last Friday on the way to work, I started reading Praying the Scripture for a Change. The introductory chapter spoke of how hard prayer is. But as I read that statement, I thought : No, prayer is not hard, prayer is easy because all I am doing really is just responding to God’s invitation to spend time with Him. And at that moment this incredible relaxation hit my body and I felt overwhelmingly well down to the last cell of my being. Just like that.No amount of stretching could have accomplished that.

      I think the problem with us is that we have ceased to believe that God’s yoke is easy and that God is the only one who heals and so we try to do all these by ourselves. We want control. And yet true healing comes only when we surrender all control to God. Joy and Healing can only ever come from Our Lord Jesus Christ. Everything else is counterfeit.

  • Mary A. Gibson

    There is a popular variation on yoga called ddp yoga. It’s kind of a masculine, if you will, style of yoga started by a former wrestler. I don’t do it anymore but a family member does and I’m trying to discern if it’s really “yoga”.

    • http://www.spiritualdirection.com/ Dan Burke

      Thanks Mary – here’s a better option: http://pietrafitness.com

      • Mrshopey

        I guess you would have to contact Pietra regarding becoming certified for your area, start one up where you are? Thanks for the link!

  • Jeanette

    I checked out http://pietrafitness.com as the better option as Dan has suggested and found it very interesting and probably just what I need. I put my name down for notification when their videos/DVD’s are ready. Thank you Dan. God bless!

  • nosidam

    Yaaay
    I was so pleased to hear of the Catholic exercises! I sent the info around. How about we send to priests and religious also!
    Thank you Dan!

  • Madeline Araujo

    I have a friend who does Holy Yoga. Where they read scripture and mediate on it while doing yoga. Then the instructor who is Christian prays over each yogi and I hear they feel so wonderful. What’s your take on this.

    • jack g.

      Christian faith is not about feelings, but about love and sacrifice. Acquiring good and “holy” feelings through yoga is not what a Christian should look for. It generally takes away from worshiping God, attending Mass and so on.
      In my opinion, when you dilute Christianity with or in other religions, it looses its taste, and salt without taste cannot spice up others to follow Christ Jesus.

      jack g.

    • MarcAlcan

      For a Christian, there is no such thing as Holy Yoga.
      It is an oxymoron. If Christ is the Son of God, then we need no other. How can a practice that is idolatrous be holy?
      We need to remember and practice the First Commandment.

  • ThirstforTruth

    I would assume that the same warnings against yoga for Christians
    also apply to the practice of Tai Chi which seems more directed toward seniors.
    It appears to be a more gentle groups of exercise movements designed to help and improve balance and strength of limbs.
    There is a very active and growing group in our town, mostly seniors, touting the physical benefits of this very ancient Chinese practice which I believe also has spiritual connotations that are not Christian.
    A friend claims to have had major relief from long standing neck pain since she has become involved in the Tai Chi classes. She is not aware of any religious component but on tapes I can see where it does seem to have a non-Christian element of spirituality..
    Having said that, since there is a growing interest in Tai Chi and its health benefits for seniors, can we assume that the same cautions apply as for yoga. If so, what might they be?

    • Kanga 13

      I have been doing tai chi for several years now. It is a martial art, a military discipline showing how to fight. Currently, I am learning how to use a sword. There is no meditation involved. The movements in practice are very slow, but, in competitions, become very fast. It is not at all like yoga.

      • jack g.

        When a young Polish martial art champion, with a triving school, went to Medjugorje and encountered Our Lady. He was called to priesthood but on the condition that he will give up Martial Arts because they do not go in line with Love of God. As Fr. Chmielewski said, he knew he cannot practice arts of killing and be a Christian and a priest. He now is very known and Holy Priest and an exorcist, too.
        All comes down to one question. How much time do we spend with God in prayer and worship and how much time doing other stuff it being martial arts, TV, fishing or else? Who or what is your God?
        May God The Holy Spirit give us Wisdom to choose right.
        God loves you

        • Kanga 13

          Some people find God in fishing… just saying… like the apostles. And think of the times Jesus went fishing. I don’t remember that cutting into the Lord’s prayer time.

          • jack g.

            You know I meant in the disordered way, when our passions, including fishing take over and consume our time and energy

          • Kanga 13

            We are incarnated people, and need exercise to give God glory, and can do it without it becoming a passion. St Benedict understood that in writing his monastic rule. The monks had to work their bodies to balance out their prayer life. An old lady who balances a sword (you could not hurt a fly with these things) during an exercise class is warding off bursitis and osteoperosis and keeping her temple of the Holy Spirit in good shape. St Benedict would approve.

            Plus, if you are experiencing desolation, the first thing you need to check out, according to Ignatian Spirituality, is your health and physical wellbeing. If your desolation is caused by sitting too long in a stuffy room, the solution is a long walk in the fresh air.

            We have to fight gnostic duality, or that perception that we are only spirits and that our bodies don’t matter. We are incarnated. God made us incarnated, and became incarnated so as to become one of us. And, at the end of time, He will resurrect us in our bodies. This means that we have to praise him with our bodies, by praying,and doing those essential good works he describes in Matthew 25.

          • jack g.

            we talk about two different ideas here Kanga
            You are right in what you just said
            But if you wanted to notice I meant passions, as too much of activity of any kind in place of healthy relationship with God

          • LizEst

            “An old lady who balances a sword”?!!! Oh dear, I hope she can find something else to balance!

          • Kanga 13

            Don’t knock it, Liz. It releases frozen shoulder more effectively than 6 months of treatments with a physio-therapist.

          • LizEst

            Ha! Too funny! Hey Kanga! I spilled some refreshment the other day. I don’t even trust myself to balance a sword…and I’m not fond of the idea of being near someone else trying to do that. Only God is perfect.

          • $1650412

            Balance a sword, beat the daylights out of an 80lb hanging bag, pound pavement…I think these can all be in the ‘buffet my body’ category, per St. Paul’s exhortation to mortification, and very useful in a dark alley after I might have offered my other cheek and my shirt in addition to my cloak– but maybe this is the definition of gnostic dualism!

          • LizEst

            You’re offering your hair shirt?

  • Ashley

    Whilst it may interest some to delve into the roots and origins of Yoga and Hinduism, I think it has very little bearing on the western model of Yoga – which is essentially ‘stretching and strengthening accompanied by deep breathing.’ As a catholic and an ex-ballet dancer whom has attended yoga classes, I can say honestly that most (if not all) of the bodily positions performed in yoga are a regular part of warm-up stretches and exercises for ballet dancers. Many of the poses are also reminiscent of the positions/stretches that I performed during my adolescence when I competed in athletics, albeit in a far less calm, controlled manner. None of it was revolutionary – put it that way. So I feel that ultimately, it is all a matter of shallow semantics. Yoga instructors may encourage people to breathe deeply and meditate during the stretches/exercises, however they cannot command control of a person’s mind. As free-thinking people with a free will, we are free to meditate on anything that we wish (i.e. God, the Rosary). Also, many instructors will use terms such as “perhaps you would like to meditate on the great unseen force of the universe, which created each of us”. Sure, the word ‘God’ or ‘Christ’ may not be used, but what the instructor is ultimately referring to is God, but because our western world is such a politically correct opinion-sensitive place, they shy away from using terms that will upset or divide people – preferring instead to remain vague in order to relate to everyone.
    As another poster mentioned, I too have attended a yoga class where the teacher was a devout Christian and had a large crucifix hanging around her neck. She didn’t preach her faith openly, but it emanated in her words, her recommendation that people ‘utilise this quiet time to pray’, her use of gregorian chant and a big picture of the Sacred Heart of Jesus on the wall! As a busy Mum of 6 kids, I felt SO refreshed and re-energised after these classes, (not to mention it really helped my post-birth bladder and lower back issues!) I don’t get much time to pray (and breathe!) at home with peace and quiet like that. It is certainly worthwhile to be cautious, but it is also worthwhile to be slow to judge, especially something you are not experienced with. Ultimately, many teachers out there could change the name of their class from yoga to ‘Christa’ or something, and all of a sudden the Christians would come flocking in for some relaxing stretching and strengthening accompanied by meditative prayer and peaceful music. The term ‘Yoga’ is simply used so often not because the teacher is a bonafide Hindu guru, but because the term yoga is now in vogue, and most people can identify with what it involves.

    • jack g.

      With all due respect towards your opinion, I would like to remind you
      that Voo-doo sects also use pictures of Saints and Our Lady, and that
      many other South American “religions” do. So that is no argument.
      Exorcist said in one testimony that a possessed child used to pray rosary too.
      No one person and no all humans combined will be able to deceive the devil. The important thought here is;
      Do
      you spent more time on Yoga classes or in front of The Blessed
      Sacrament? You answer. I believe that when Jesus told us to bring “all
      the burdens of life and share with Him”, He would make hour crosses much
      lighter, so going to Yoga for that is a sin against first commandment
      for each Christian.
      It all comes down to the lack of real relationship with a Living God. If we have none, than we start looking elsewhere. When one does have a real relationship with Jesus, one does not go look for Him in Yoga classes.

      That is my opinion and you don’t have to like it.
      As
      Christians, we have everything given to us in The Word of God and The
      Mother Church and we do not need anything else, because this “else”,
      whatever it is will rob us of the time we shall spend with Our Father
      through Jesus and His Bride, The Church.
      May God grant Wisdom for all who look elsewhere.
      with love of Jesus in my heart, jack g.

      • MarcAlcan

        Brilliant as usual Jack G.

      • LCP2

        jack g, you seem to have entirely missed Ashley’s point. What she is doing lacks proper matter and intent. She does dynamic stretching, isometrics, and breathing in the style of yoga, not really yoga at all. And, last time I checked, the Catechism didn’t have much to offer by way of resolving bladder and lower back problems, and it wouldn’t be reasonable to expect time with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament to resolve physical ailments that can be resolved by non-miraculous means. When you have a soar throat do you go to the Blessed Sacrament for pain relief, or do you take an Advil? What about if you have appendicitis, would you go to a physician or look to Mother Church for “all that you need”?

        • jack g.

          In my opinion anyone arguing for yoga in any form misses the point LCP2. If you follow the posts and the comments it is obvious that yoga or any other form of spirituality contradicts Christian teaching and sins against 1st Commandment, with or without knowledge.
          Yes, we need to discuss, argue, exchange points, but for the sake of Christian practices not for advancement of other pagan ideas. We need to make each other stronger in faith, not weaker, here.
          I am sure all the exchanges here will be persuasive for the betterment of those lacking understanding of the dangers of all foreign practices.
          God Loves us all
          jack g.

          • LCP2

            Jack g, I have read and commented at length in Part 1. I won’t rehash here what I’ve already argued in Part 1. In short, I agree with what both Part 1 and 2. Regarding “foreign practices”, you need to read Nostra Aetate and Lumen Gentium. Finally, what Ashley is talking about is not a spiritual practice as as, again, it lacks proper matter and proper intent. According to Nosra Aetate, we are to discern in other faiths what is good and benificial from what is misguided. The exercise part of yoga when done without chanting, idols, misguided metaphysics, etc. is arguably good and benificial.

          • Mark

            Good Thursday evening, after Ash Wednesday, LCP2,

            It is my sense of the language of Jack G, that what he is pointing to is the danger which remains immanent from the use of any ritualistic method of a false religion, regardless the intent of the practicioner. We can understand that from the old maxim, “the road to hell is paved with good intentions”. This would be manifestly understood as a matter of degree. Christ commanded that we first commit adultery in our heart, perhaps well before or even in spite of, ever manifesting it in the flesh. The Evil One remains the master of deception and the tempter. Why would we want to beckon him in his spiritual warfare where he remains quintessential virtuoso? That is not our calling as followers of Christ Jesus.

            As it pertains to “Nostra Aetate”, Christians are not called to somehow mimic the false rituals of the false religions, as somehow demonstrative of “seeing what is good in them”. The only purpose for seeing what may be perceived as a due good, is to follow through with that understanding, for the sole purpose of assisting in the salvation of our neighbor’s eternal soul, leading them into a deeper understanding of Truth, found in the Gospels of Jesus Christ and His One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church. What “good” could possibly come of the Christian mimicking the false ritual of the false religion? That practice does nothing to assist in salvific work, but again, it may well indeed beckon the call of the Evil One, looring his prey into his lair of abysmal destruction.

            As for so called “health benefits”, stretch and breathe without any inclining of suggestion that what you do has precious anything to do with what Yoga in truth, is.

            Know the Infinite Mercy of Christ Jesus,
            Mark

          • LCP2

            Hi Mark, may God bless you in this year’s Lenten journey.

            Christianity is characterized by its adoption and conversion of pagan ideas and pagan practices. A few examples are “Logos”, a phrase co-opted by St. John from pagan philosophy for use in the beginning of his gospel; “Easter”, which is, “Old English Easterdæg, from Eastre (Northumbrian Eostre), from Proto-Germanic Austron, a goddess of fertility and spring, probably originally of sunrise whose feast was celebrated at the spring equinox”; The shapes of our traditional Churches, modeled after the pagan Roman temple; “Pontifex Maximus” the name given to the Roman god-emperors; the orans posture, which was popular with pagans (aka Romans) and Jews at the time of Christ, and which is used on our most sacred ritual. There are many, many more. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with this as Christ rules all of creation and these things have been stripped of their previously pagan meaning.

            There is absolutely nothing in Church teaching that prohibits me from doing dynamic stretching, isometrics, and breathing in the style of yoga in the privacy of my home. I find it deeply physically beneficial. And apart from regular walks, 30 minutes of “yoga” twice a week keeps the body fit and strong. In other words, the “yoga” exercise allows me to minimize the time I spend husbanding the gift that God gave me in my body. If you were to ask me, I would say that the thing that is really a problem for Christians is the cult of bodily perfection and excessive exercise, not pseudo-yoga.

            And I think I know what you might say here. That I am deluded and/or playing with fire or perhaps even that I have not had a true encounter with Jesus.

            So, even though I did not want to go there, let me tell you a little bit about myself. I have a BA in Philosophy and an MA in English Literature. I have been a devout Catholic for over 30 years and I have always striven to be perfectly faithful and submissive to the teaching of the Magisterium. In my youth, I was a youth catechist. I never miss Mass. I pray the Rosary regularly. The first thing I do when I wake up is to pray the Our Father, consecrate myself to Our Lady, and ask for the help of St. Joseph; and that is the last thing I do before I climb into bed, but often adding a perfect act of contrition. I am the father of four children, one of whom, at 18, is wise beyond his years and a beautiful Christian attending one of the few truly Catholic Universities in the country. My wife and I would have had more children, but health issues prevented us from doing so. I do everything I possibly can to lobby to protect life from conception to natural death. I don’t have particularly strong feeling about secular gay “marriage” (since Catholics lost the marriage battle when we lost the contraception battle), but I promote only Church teaching on the matter. I have read and continue to read the great spiritual books of Catholicism. I evangelize whenever I can, and have had the honor of God using me as an instrument to truly convert two formerly atheistic friends. I have friends of all creeds, and I strive to love them as Jesus does. And yes, they all know, explicitly, that I am devoutly Catholic and understand that this is what I would wish for them. I very recently sacrificed a very, very well-paying job–with nothing else on the hook–because I could not support a new IVF product that the company recently acquired. With a family to support, I still not have a new job, and while I am crushed, I enjoy daily consolations. My biggest goal, which is stupid to even talk about because doing so belies the end of the goal, is to learn to be as humble as Jesus.

            I have been using videos to do dynamic stretching, isometrics, and breathing in the style of yoga in the privacy of my home for the past 11 years.

            When you say that the mere physical practice of exercise, without proper matter and intent, can invite in the demons, I feel like I am hearing fundamentalism and magical thinking–not the voice of The Crucified One who conquered all of creation and subjects all things to His will.

            With fraternal respect,
            LCP2

          • Mark

            Good Saturday afternoon, LCP2,

            May Almighty God especially bless and keep you and your family. I was with you right up until your commentary on your lack of “particular interest in secular gay ‘ “marriage” ‘. I couldn’t agree with you more, from a philosophical vantage, that “we lost that fight” with the full cultural embrace of artificial birth control. The men of the Church failed us there, notwithstanding Humanae Vitae, which took about 7 years from consideration to proclamation, at which time the horse had already long left the barn. That understood, the full court acceptance, whose wellspring rests from within the deepest interior understanding of this cultural ethos today, of the admixture of sperm and feces, as though it were the spiritual equivalent of the Holy Sacrament of Matrimony, rings our death knoll as a civilization. That remains an inescapable reality. Where Roe v Wade and Doe v Bolton rang the death knoll for innocence, as God’s gift of human life, both freely given and completely undeserved by any and all human persons, was and is literally murdered and offered at the altar of Satan, positive homosexual activism can only ultimately result in death outside the womb. As a philosopher, you follow the line of reason. It remains the literal and metaphysical signature of death, as life (sperm in this reflection) is mixed with literal death (biological end products of digestion), which can only yield death, as a terminal end-point. It was Saint Catherine of Siena who allowed for our knowing, that even the demon, based upon his angelic nature, is so repulsed by the act of sodomy, that he must vacate the confines of its occurrence. Never before in the history of the world, has a culture demanded the proclamation that sodomy is equivalent to marriage. We are indeed testing new waters as this worldwide culture demands the proclamation of literal “death as life” and the “perversion of love”, “as love”.

            You speak the truth regarding pagan artifact, ritual, and structure having been adapted into the Roman Catholic Church. The critical point that you miss there, LCP2, is the truth that it is the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church, who in Her Wisdom, incorporates these “beings” into Her canon. For you or I to simply develop a practice of a false religion and then suggest that because we may be Catholics in the devout pursuit of our One True Faith, striving for the assent into the Humility made perfect in the Divine Person of Jesus Christ alone, it is therefore somehow acceptable as truth, is a leep of faith that is spiritually insurmountable. It can be the judgement of the Church alone to incorporate that practice or other “being”, whose nascent genesis rests outside Holy Mother Church, into Herself. Anything less than that would have the potential for unmitigated disaster.

            Lasltly LCP2, the “intent” or lack there of, that you speak of, can simply rest in the belief that must be present, when one suggests, that which they are doing, is “yoga”, in some form. If that is not an existencial manifestation of intent, then I remain uncertain as to what other “being” that understanding can indeed “be”.

            Know His Peace, not of this world,
            Mark

          • LCP2

            Thank you, Mark, for your kind wishes and excellent insight regarding sodomy. I found your view very enlightening. We still do not see eye to eye regarding the form of exercise I prefer. I would still argue that it remains a prudential matter, but you have given me some excellent food for thought that I will incorporate into my ongoing discernment.

            May God bless you and yous with all good things.
            LCP2

          • Mark

            Praised be Jesus the Christ, Son of the Living God. Hosanna, Hosanna, Emmanuel, God within us.
            Mark

  • Danielle Wagner White

    I am so grateful that someone has done all of the research here and given me a great resource to share! My greatest concern are the children that are being exposed to yoga in the schools as a benign form of stretching and relaxation. Whether it is or isn’t, they are not mature enough in their faith to decipher. I agree whole heartedly that yoga is a slippery slope for someone that is not deeply rooted in their walk with Christ. Many of the comments below are made by strong Christians able to with stand the pagan influence (if not stronger) of yoga. Our faith does not recognize children as full members of the church until after confirmation, so surely we should not be allowing our youth to be exposed to something that could lead them away from our faith.
    A wise priest once told me that Satan is a chained dog, why go near him…

    • MarcAlcan

      Our faith does not recognize children as full members of the church until after confirmation
      I am not so sure about that. Aren’t they already full members at Baptism?

      • LizEst

        They are members at baptism. But, they are not fully initiated members until they have received all three sacraments of initiation: baptism, confirmation and Eucharist. And, one must be confirmed to fully participate in certain things in the Church, such as being godparents, receiving holy orders, etc.

        • MarcAlcan

          Thanks Liz. I think fully “initiated” is the word.

          • LizEst

            You’re quite welcome, MarcAlcan! All the glory to the Lord. May God bless you always!

      • Danielle Wagner White

        You may be right on the verbiage… I guess what I am referring to is that they are not considered adults and mature in the faith until confirmation… Their Godparents and parents are still involved in their faith formation. I will have to look up Specific terminology! Thanks

        • MarcAlcan

          I was thinking of this last night and I think the way to put it is that they are full members, but not fully functioning members.
          They could hardly be called half members, or partial members since once baptized they get the same prize – salvation.
          Their participation in the life of the Church is proportional to their maturity which is also proportional to what will be asked them.
          I was thinking that a baby who has been baptized may be even more fully a member than an adult immersed in mortal sin.

          • jack g.

            I was reading once from a private revelation, an approved one, when Jesus was saying about the souls of the children, and those suffering young too. I’m going to paraphrase; he said that many souls of the children are more mature than adults, because God’s Grace works in mysterious ways and God decides who is called to sanctity or martyrdom, especially when young, and that we would not be able to get it anyway, that is, without special graces.
            So I would just leave the mysterious theological topics to God and wait until we get there, then we can grasp the beauty on an immense greatness of Our Lord, Who can’t be grasped in the most minuscule way, anyway.
            Lets just trust in The Lord that all that He watches over works for the best of souls involved.
            With God’s love in my soul
            jack g.

          • MarcAlcan

            Amen

  • BK

    I completely understand what you are saying about Hinduism and not participating in the spiritual aspects of Yoga. Just wondering here – I am not intending my questions to be argumentative. I am truly seeking clarity. I have no interest in the practice of Yoga. I do not want to empty my mind or worship false deities. I do want to stretch and relax for health. Some of the stretches used in Yoga are very beneficial and people naturally end up doing these stretches spontaneously outside of the context of Yoga. My question is: Is there not the issue of *intent* here? Where does stretching end and Yoga begin? If someone sits on the floor cross legged, are they doing Yoga? If someone gets on all fours on the floor and raises their back end higher than their head so they can stretch their back and hamstrings, (unknowingly “posing in downward dog”), are they doing Yoga? Gestures do not necessarily imply intent. A family member, who is not a Christian, came to Mass for a family milestone. He knelt on the kneeler out of respect for those present, but I can heartily assure you, he was not worshiping God. What about the several Christian programs where stretching is done with scripture, praise music, etc? Some of the stretches are the same as Yoga poses. But these people are not intending to worship false Hindu deities – they are stretching. I am not being snotty, I truly am asking – will Catholics have to ‘ban’ themselves from sitting or stretching in certain positions because they happen to be poses used in Yoga?

    • marykuziel

      I totally agree – I’m a daily Mass goer and have in the past taken Yoga. It’s only ever been stretching, strengthening and relaxation. Those without a strong spirituality could be in danger – I’ve never been anywhere with Hindu statues or pictures. Emphasize has always been on flexibility

  • BK

    The following programs, do you think these are acceptable for Catholics?
    Thanks for your input!

    • http://www.spiritualdirection.com/ Dan Burke

      Dear BK – because of the size of our audience, we don’t typically allow links in our combox that we don’t approve of so we edited them out. The only group we are pointing to now is Pietra Fitness because I have been able to spend a good deal of time with them. http://www.Pietrafitness.com

  • hawc2133

    Another recent revert to Catholicism here, saved from three decades of secular addictions by the Grace of Our Lord Jesus Christ. I have been a devout Catholic for two years but had practiced martial arts (although never yoga) for 20 years prior. What I can offer from my experiences is that while spirituality was never actively pushed in any of the disciplines I studied, it was always there, “lurking” in the background. It seems that these Eastern practices may provide a doorway to wander off of the “straight and narrow path”, the true Faith revealed in its fullness originally by Christ and now through His Holy Catholic Church. The amount of spirituality varied with the discipline: it was virtually nonexistent in American karate and Tae Kwon Do dojos; while studying Aikido we had to bow to and revere the founder, Morihei Ueshiba and elements of buddhism and shintoism were definitely present; in tai chi, taoistic principles of energy transference were definitely pushed, both in the movements and the philosophy; and while studying taijutsu I fell deeply into eastern philosophy, meditation, spirituality, and deity worship. I know realize my experiences in taijutsu were undoubtedly demonic, as I meditated to “gods” and actually experienced their presence – thankyou Jesus for rescuing me from their grasp. So I would just caution anyone considering these activities to be very cautious – they are connected at some level to false gods of the East. Now I just run, lift weights, and box, often while praying the Rosary – it is a great Catholic workout. One other quick observation – I think you can tell alot about something by its fruits. Look at yoga, with its heavy emphasis on female empowerment, feminism and the very immodest clothing. In the West the Church is currently under attack by secular hyper-sexualized forces (led by satan of course – all attacks on the Church come from him) and it is clear which camp yoga adherents fall into. God Bless. NeoCrusader

    • MarcAlcan

      Brilliant!

      Good to see you here, Neo.
      Peace and All Good,
      Marcus.

  • jack g.

    I am bloging on yahoo exchanging comments with a very diversified group of people form all over the secular walk of life. I would like to encourage you, formed Catholics who live in on going conversion mode to participate more in secular blogs. I found it amusing, sad and challenging to exchange swords or words with all kinds of Christians, non-christians and atheists, even Muslim.
    All are lost children of God, some of them seem to be interested, some are arrogant and send Catholics to hell, some know basically nothing about religion but have much opinion. I mean they comment with me and some other Catholics on articles about the Pope. He stirs a lot of attention.
    I believe we have a lot to say to those people who are really in the dark about Catholicism. I also believe that by our presence by commenting the articles on The Pope we have a chance to engage them, educate them, stir up their conscience, or whatever might bring them closer to God.
    Many Protestants still believe we are not Christians, wood, I mean in this day and age of information, maybe we could ouch on this topic and open a discussion to promote being active in commenting, especially where those articles are biased, written by atheists or agnostics who really don’t care much, but Pope Francis “sells” as a good piece of news, and we should take an advantage of that to promote and defend our Church.
    What do you say????????????

  • Connie

    A film-interview with Fr Joseph-Marie Verlinde and his round way to find Jesus.
    Born to a catholic family, a nuclear scientist, in sixties, after searching for meaning of life he found Transcendental Meditation. During that time he met Maharishi Mahesh Yogi (the guru to The Beatles and other celebrities) and became his brahmacharin (student, or something). After leaving his master he returned to Europe and started to study theosophy, anthroposophy, channelling, magnetism and what not.

    He found Jesus in 1975, in 1976 he started seminary and now he is a monk and a scholar in several schools and Universities.
    In the film he speaks about his path from Buddhism to Catholic faith. One excerpt of the film particularly struck me, at video time 10:40. It’s about yoga and its influence on those practising it. Verlinde says: “When I told the guru during the trip to Germany that Europeans practice yoga for relaxation he became laughing furiously. Then he stopped, thought for a moment, and said, very significantly, that that does not prevent yoga from having its effect.”
    Here is the vidio link:
    http://www.netforgod.tv/s/permn.php?dt=11_02&lg=EN

    • http://www.spiritualdirection.com/ Dan Burke

      This is an excellent video. I was also intrigued by his teaching about how engagement in a particular practice requires a willful joining with the demonic force in order for the practice to be efficacious (around 22). This also fits with Fr. Fortea (renowned demonologist) who does not believe, for instance, that incantations or spells are inherently efficacious but only become so in the same manner as Fr. Verlinde illustrates here. This argues against the idea that the poses absent willful intent are powerful in themselves (even though the Guru seemed to think so). Parenthetically, I do believe the Guru was right but not because the poses are inherently efficacious in bringing about false worship. Be careful not to assume that I am thus arguing that his is a good reason to stick with the poses or have any association with Yoga. I am merely making a limited observation about the agreement of two experts.

      • Connie

        Thank you for your reply, I tried the link but its missing some of the end and doesn’t load properly, here it is again. God Bless!
        It needs to have the ending with the EN to play in english.

        http://www.netforgod.tv/s/permn.php?dt=11_02&lg=EN

      • Connie

        If I may say that willful participation occurs by joining classes or if one continues to practice yoga poses even though one has heard the dangers or know of its origins. The book, Light on Yoga, points to poses and their corresponding gods. Particular practices using mantra or incantations or spells is not the same as whats going on in yoga assanas that are without words and frees one of mental activity. What happens in assanas is hidden unseen and has been recognized by the yogis . I believe these are two different topics being brought up at different points in the video and I don’t see any contradiction in either. Both deserve thoughtful concideration.

        • http://www.spiritualdirection.com/ Dan Burke

          Of course you are free to make the assertion that willful participation occurs by joining the class. I am not yet convinced that joining the class = a willful invitation to participate with malevolent forces. Romans 14:14 applies here: “I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself; but it is unclean for any one who thinks it unclean.”

          • Connie

            In true charity in serving our Lord I share this small amount here to inform. The knowledge of yoga is hidden in mystery only understood by accomplished yogis who pass on thoses secrets orally to one another. Yoga assanas is the tool to realizing these Hindu secrets that traditional yogis have used over the past 5000 yrs, it is not through intellectual study that one learns Hinduism it must be experienced. Since the first yogis experience of spontanious poses/kriyas to over time repeating the poses with observable proven results this tradition continues today. A tradition that evolved and become rooted in idolitry of gods and dieties, Yoga assanas are the reason for the Hinduisms existance. The gods/dietys appeared to the first yogis as they experienced the spontanious assana poses/kriyas, so their names are of many of the poses. Other assanas were able to be seen by the yogis to open chakras, straighten nadis and prepare for their spiritual goal; these would be more like stretching assanas all having the same root experience on the subtle and physical body, and mind.

            Man dreams or has experiences and replicates it and creates a tradition as we have seen many others like this. This is a very difficult tradition for westerners to try to understand, as we approach our learning intellectually, Yoga is an experiencial tradition to aquire the yogic knowledge. The mystery is hard to decode without first hand experience of its very difficult journey. The assanas are the Mother that birthed Hinduism, without them their would be no realization of the yogis to have writen the Yogic Theology/ Hinduism, it is through tried and proven results of the assanas that for yogis this 5000 yr old tradition exists today.

            To say that one is only excersizing and has no spiritual link to Hinduism doing assanas is ignoring the truth of assanas in the birth, and creation of Hinduism. To deny its almost unbelievable continuation over 5000 yrs, the repeatable proof of experiences of the yogis, that their testimony of their experiences, knowlegde, wisdom called Hinduism, came only to them as result of performing assanas.

            For most people this information is not completely unknown eccept in inocent children being taught poses. Biblically, as Jesus commanded, we are not to have anything to do with any part of these type of traditions for fear of not entering the kingdom of God.
            It is difficult for Christian to turn completely away from Yoga Assanas for many complex reasons. It will take self conviction, humility, and the power of God.

            I ask, Would Jesus, as we see Him on the cross suffering for our sin, want us to use the core of a yogic tradition to form a Christian excersize out of belief their is no other better alternative and to offer it up to God?

            Lent is powerful, God Bless everyone.

          • http://www.spiritualdirection.com/ Dan Burke

            Connie – good insights that should be heeded. The challenge is that you depart from Catholic tradition with respect to how you argue and apply your conclusions. We are in agreement that Yoga is problematic and far more so than most realize or are willing to admit. Your experience verifies this. That said, I would beseech you, to dig deeper in Catholic tradition regarding how it deals with non-Christian religion and religious practices. Particularly, look to how the Church dealt with the situation of Christians eating meat that came from demonic rituals. Your argument can be much more sound and persuasive if you begin with the teaching of the Church and then apply your experience through that filter rather than the other way around. I believe you have a calling to deal with this but until you set your experience aside and form your conscience according to Church tradition, you experience will be marginalized and this, would be and is very unfortunate.

          • Connie

            Dan, though not included in my writing I am well versed in the scriptures pertaining to false religions and the occult practices though they were not included. So much more could be said, my intent was to write about the truth of the Yogic tradition to inform.

          • $1650412

            Connie, I am very interested in your observation and experience with yoga, and I appreciate your explanation here. I do get balled up in your explanation though, when it begins to sound to me like if I do a yogic pose even just for exercise because I am clueless because I am Catholic then I don’t realize I am engaging demons. And that I am engaging demons even if I have no intention do so. (Ok, I know this has been addressed in here on this topic… but I haven’t read all the posts on this so I am behind the power curve..) It almost sounds as if some form of gnostic Hindu enlightenment [read: demon possession] can jump on you if you accidently bend over and stretch and whoops it happens to be a downward dog! That is where the logic of what it seems like you are saying is going to me- and I don’t think that is what you are saying, so I am hoping you will comment more on this.
            I think we as Catholics need to know what the differences might be in how we receive spiritual influences into our souls- because it is reductionist to say it is only through our intellect in terms of what we think or say we believe, and it is of a lower order to say profess knowledge through how we might feel about something- knowing our feelings can be significantly influenced by the weather, the food we eat, how much sleep or coffee we have had etc. So, I would be even more interested to hear your ideas if you can go back and draw the contrast between some of these foundational things- or refer to them, and then tell more about yoga in relation to these things.
            I think what you are saying is that I could compare participating in yogic poses with viewing certain R-rated movies, I might think this is having no effect on me because in the moment, seeing this R rated movie was an experience of art, and the message was worthwhile etc., but later when x, y, or z, temptation affects me- or I find myself buffeted by the devil through what are clearly side effects of what I have exposed myself to, I learn it is unprofitable for me, a danger to my soul, to watch those kinds of movies for entertainment.
            Now, I think what might be going on here with yoga if I am understanding you could be compared with hypnotism, in that access to the soul is provided passively to demons through the practice- even the benign engagement- and they are more than happy to take that access if offered- and it can happen before you know it, and without the intellectual consent/assent- if we put the welcome mat out for the devil he takes advantage of it- he in no way and on no level cares about whether or not we are willing victims. Our unwillingness only slows down his access- if I tracking with you Connie, yoga is like throwing open the doors of your soul and saying ‘I dare you’ to the enemy-and in the very least and at worst- consorting with him.
            Please anyone clarify and send me back to the other posts if I need to catch up-

          • Connie

            Jo, I don’t know if you have had a chance to read other comments I’ve made on this blog it will help with filling in the gaps and give you some indepth explaination on yoga assanas action in the development of Hinduism. I invite you then to restate any questions you might have for me.

          • Camila

            “my intent was to write about the truth of the Yogic tradition to inform”

            What do you mean by truth?
            Is it just the fact that a human experience is simply repeatable?
            What do you imagine truth to be?

            How do you know truth is truth?

          • Julieanne

            I’ve read this entire conversation and here’s my impression:

            Camila, I think that Connie is just trying to share from the yoga perspective and training/lifestyle that she experienced what it is they believe; what “their truths” are. I don’t think Connie is claiming that they are Truth, with a capital T.

            Camila, I really appreciate the caution you bring up about the conversion experience in general and not confusing it with “having arrived” to the final destination of complete unification with God in heaven. You are so right that it may be just a “scrap” or “crumb” from the table, but to the empty, darkened soul (and I speak from experience, which I’m now paranoid to say-haha) it may seem/feel like the most extravagant feast!

            But on our journey to Him, it’s important to remember the cyclical or spiral nature of the path: learning, relearning more deeply, etc

            Please expand upon or correct anything I’ve stated

          • Camila

            Hi Julieanne,

            Thanks for reading the conversation.

            When you say “the cyclical or spiral nature of the path” I think you are referring to metanioa right? This is definitely one of the most important aspect of our life in Christ.

            St. Teresa talks about the interior castle
            St. Benedict talks about the ladder of humility…
            St. Anthony of the Dessert talks about the inner mountain

            Personally, I don’t imagine this being some kind of self repeating “cyclical” or “spiral” moving upward kind of analogy. I imagine it being more of a mysterious, intimate, deep relationship with God that the soul is brought to an increasingly self-awareness of it’s nothingness and utter dependance on God. A place where she sees how delicate and fragile she really is and how incredibly Loving God Is. An intimate and tender relationship between the tiny creature and the Almighty Creator, between the simple beloved and Great Lover.

            I agree that we learn ‘more deeply’ in a way that we are invited to gaze upon the face of God in ways we are quickly brought to our knees in humility and complete self surrender to Him and His Church, in a way that we are increasingly transformed into a greater likeness of Christ until it is no longer I but He who Lives in me. Until we see and understand and desire the sanctification of His bride – the Church.

            I think that’s the path of conversion.

          • Camila

            Hi Connie,

            I read your response and here’s something I think might help clarify, when you say “This is a very difficult tradition for westerners to try to understand, as we approach our learning intellectually, Yoga is an experiential tradition to acquire the yogic knowledge.”

            There are 2 types of knowledge: sense knowledge and intellectual knowledge. Sense knowledge can be influenced from without since it involves our ‘sense’ that is our body – this can be influenced by the weather, the food we eat and spirits (demonic spirits for example), while intellectual knowledge can not be influence from without. The intellect is a spiritual power, it resides in the soul – that is also the reason why we must form our intellects – to conform it to reality and right reason. You see, we can be fooled to imagine that sense knowledge is superior to intellectual knowledge – this is not so. Or, even to imagine it being more ‘real’ since it is ‘experienced’.

            Further, our imagination is another area that is dependent on the body and can be influenced from without. Unless we have a clear understanding of what reality is – we can be tricked by our imagination.

            Does this make sense?

          • http://www.spiritualdirection.com/ Dan Burke

            Camila – you are right – this is a part of what I mean with respect to understanding and interpreting experience in light of our tradition. The enemy can be just a deceiving with respect to both our experience and our interpretation of experience.

          • Camila

            Yep. St. Thomas Aquinas is a great source to study on this thing. In the summa he explains all this.

            One of the greatest dangers is that westerners are really not thinking clearly. Reason is being lost and substituted for experience (empiricism).

          • http://www.spiritualdirection.com/ Dan Burke

            Exactly

          • Connie

            Reason is the capacity for consciously making sense of things, applying logic, for establishing and verifying facts, and changing or justifying….

          • Camila

            Hmmmm, where did you get your definition from?

          • Connie

            Hi Camila, I looked it up.

          • Camila

            What is the book or source you used? I mean the name of the source.

          • Connie

            en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reason

          • Connie

            The deception in yogic traditions are not recognized immediately as most people start assanas as excercise.

            It leads away from the only Truth, God. John 14:6 Jesus says: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me ….”

            The reason being Yoga assanas are designed to bring out the serpent power in each person. It has unquestionable occult roots and no matter how much we want to paint it up with something that sounds, Christian it doesn’t change the origin and basis of it. Yoga would be looked at by myself and others who teach on this topic as more of an open door for other problems. My advice is just don’t give Satan any room to move or operate in our lives. By not being involved with something that is absolutely, 100 percent, steeped in mystic occultism.

          • Connie

            Camilia and Dan, it is very true the enemy can be just as deceiving with respect to both our experience and our interpretation of experience and man has created many beliefs based on things that are not truths of God.
            Here, the question seems to be where does truth or knowledge come from to form our beliefs or convictions? Two examples, one spiritual the other more relative in nature.
            The way to understand Yoga being an experiencial tradition is that the Yoga assanas were repeated and vividly experienced not by one yogi but thousands over the past 5000 yrs. It is the result of these yogis experiences through the yoga assanas the aquiring of knowledge was gained which became the doctrine of Hinduism.
            In history as humans and in our western culture we do have experience as part of our learning about many things. We intellectually interpret those things. We have with such as simple things as how to ride a bike, to the ingrediants to create a cake, to include the creation of inventions. In all things ultimately concidered truthful in experience they become learned knowledge, they are provable through some repeated experience, practice or test and passed along.
            This was the same process of Yoga.

            Yoga, Buddhism, many religions and things are created by man. Man is not God in his creation of things. Only God creates in His perfection. The Word was made flesh in Jesus Christ, who brought us the truth so we could live for eternity with Him in heaven.

          • Camila

            Connie, I am having a hard time understanding your point.

            You seem to be confusing truth and knowledge. For example you say “the way to understand Yoga being an experiential tradition is that the Yoga assanas were repeated and vividly experienced not by one yogi but thousands over the past 5000 yrs. It is the result of these yogis experiences through the yoga assanas the acquiring of knowledge was gained which became the doctrine of Hinduism.”

            You see we have many problems here:

            The fact that yogis have been experiencing similar things over a very long period proves nothing in regards to actual truth. For example: demons are much more ancient than that – they can be producing the same kind of ‘experience’ or idea in the imagination over all these years and who would know?

            A few questions:
            How can you claim that Yoga, Buddhism are created by man?

            What do you mean by attaining eternity?

            What you say here is false: “In all things ultimately considered truthful in experience they become learned knowledge, they are provable through some repeated experience, practice or test and passed along.”

            For example: Hinduism claims the idea of re-incarnation. This is literally impossible – metaphysically impossible. As far as those practicing HInduism is concerned my grandma can be my neighbor’s cow or the cow the Americans ate for lunch, they pass on this nonsense generation after generation and imagine their idea actually reflects truth, which it does not. So the fact that nonsense is passed on over a very long period of time, while cows keep being born and humans dying, does not prove that the souls of humans are now the cows being born and being eaten by all the western world. Or does re-incarnation only apply to India?

            You see, truth is truth, it must stand any test or any imaginative creative idea the most ingenious human can come up with. Further, as Catholics, and you claimed to be one, we have what is called revelation.
            This is ‘information’ given to us directly from God Himself, so we do not need to look for years and years and years of human nonsense and experiential data (that can be utterly misconstrued, misinterpreted, subject to imagination, and just plain false) we have God to tell us the truth about the world we live in and about ourselves.

            I will believe even the most obscure and outlandish statement from God anytime over the most certain and provable ‘human knowledge’. Why? Because it is God Who reveals truth, the humans are simply not that smart and subject to much error, and prone to much fallibility – as far as I’m concerned.

            I am sure you agree with me, right?

          • Connie

            Camila,
            I have seen that we have all received throughout our life others experience of many kinds as knowledge and accepted it or believed it to be true or truth. Usually our our own experience proves it to be so. It could be something simple to the profound. We sometimes question these at the time or later, or maybe someone else will. My using word ultimately is comes from that generally most people think in terms of all things as ultimately true, yet not in the ultimate God like truth as a christian would use to discern.

            Your comment to me was, that what I wrote to you here is false: “In all things ultimately considered truthful in experience they become learned knowledge, they are provable through some repeated experience, or practice or test and then passed along.”
            Your comment to this: You see, truth is truth, it must stand any test or any imaginative creative idea the most ingenious human can come up with.

            Are we not saying the same thing?

            Then what followed showed what to you was an obvious un truth. You then bring up the belief of reincarnation, I will explain how it came to be understood briefly and what is reincarnation within a yogic spiritual teaching.

            Reincarnation was actually remembered and re experience by yogis and so became a truth or belief, and was not concidered part of their immagination no more different than Catholics believe in revelation. Just a point of difference of beliefs between two traditions.
            Based on your statement you and most everyone have learned a very misunderstood view of what is reincarnation. The use of examples of animals as incarnations has deeper meaning, everything is hidden in layers of meaning in hinduism/buddhism. Animals were used as examples to the people of the culture this was taught to so they could relate to how animals acted, which the people herded or raised so they observed their behavior alot and could relate to their own propensities. In spiritual teachings it was explained further how these behaviors would be states of consciousness, states of mind that the person clung to lived like over their lifetime. Whatever would be the strongest mental attachment, would upon death carry over in their soul or spirit into the next life. These states would be clearly discribed. Reincarnation is believed to be a dropping of the body at death like a cloak and the soul would take another upon seeing the mother and father copulating. How many lives this would go on would be determined how they lived the existing life and if they achieved enlightenment or nirvana. Then it would be their last embodiment, unless they vowed to return to benefit sentient beings. Then we have what is incarnate bodhisattvas or tulkus. Short reply for a deep subject.

            Our Catholic Church explains well its position on this topic in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, along with CatholicAnswers.com and other Catholic sites.

            We as Catholics do not believe the same as people who practice in the Yogic Traditions. They have their own ways of coming to their truths.

            We are blessed as Catholics to have the sacraments especially the Eucharist in which we receive the grace of God daily in our lives, fortified by His word in the scriptures and Gods mercy through the Holy Spirit guiding us.

          • Camila

            Dear Connie,

            You say “We have all received throughout our life others experience as knowledge and accepted it or believed it to be true. Then our experience proves it to be so.”

            Yes, for example, I was taught that Pluto was a planet, but now the NASA scientists decided to change the definition of a planet and so Pluto now can’t be called a planet, and is called instead a dwarf planet. This is what we call sense knowledge. There are other kinds of knowledge.

            For example; God is a Trinity. This is not a pious opinion, nor a nice idea, nor a wonderful insight. This is Reality (with capital ‘R’). It IS. No matter what religion a human might subscribe to, or imagine their truths to be ‘true’ if any of their ideas fall short from this Truth, they are living an illusion. Whether produced solely by the human mind or as an affect of demonic forces I have no idea – but I do know they are not looking or thinking into what is actually Real.

            Here you say a great truth “We as Catholics do not believe the same as people who practice the Yogic Traditions.”However your following sentence is problematic “They have their own way of coming to their truths.”

            Connie,

            With all sincerity and kindness, I am not sure you are convinced of the absolute truth of the Catholic faith. You seem to imagine that contradictory ideas may both be true at once, this can’t be so. What you need is a virtue, called Faith. It is one of the three theological virtues, and it is a gift – it can’t be produced by the human mind. The means to get it is a humble prayer of petition. Your mind needs to be renewed by the truth of the Catholic faith Connie. I say this in all charity. St. Thomas Aquinas explains that truth, that reflects reality, is very very hard to get to and that even if we humans were to get anything it would probably be with an admixture of error. So that is why revelation is SO important.
            God reveals man to himself. I don’t mean this as a pious statement, I mean this as a true statement. We can only know what we were made for and what is our end when we stop and listen to what God said.

            Even if we were to suppose that any of these practices/religions have any slight ray of truth, however small it may be, it is but a fraction of a drop next to the ocean of Truth found in the Catholic Tradition. Its brilliance is dazzling and the encounter with God is sublime. The Catholic Faith doesn’t invite you to ‘know’ truths or to learn beautiful realities, although it does this, it goes WAY beyond this and invites us to have a real relationship with the Creator of the universe, the Almighty God. Who is personally concerned with His little Connie, who was created in His image and made to reflect His glory.

          • Connie

            Camila,

            You ask about my faith, I believe as a returning catholic I am more empassioned about the Catholic Church than most catholics because of where I have been in my life while away from the church and how powerfully God works in my life today since I conciously gave my life to Him.
            This will not be my testimony,
            in a short comment before I wrote ” To those concerned I am fully convicted, redeemed, and a returning Catholic.
            It was after 40 yrs of yogic practices which culminated in being an ordained Tibetan Buddhist nun, spending 10 years daily in training which I did retreats and in teachings from the head Yogis of the lineage in India and Nepal and USA. resulting in becoming an authorized lineage holder, yogi and head of a temple.” My life was full of activities of my duties I held.
            The Lord had different plans for me, and called me back to Him seven years ago. My life and mind was radically changed by the power of God upon me, filled with tremendous joy I praised the wonders of God revealing in detail the truth of these traditions. He then satified my great desire to know His Church in which I am richly blessed to be fully immersed in sacramentally and in formal studies.

            It may be possible you have confused my writing about the Yogic traditions beliefs and their truths as personal when I am specifically writing as statements of their teachings and experience.

            I hope this clarifies the charity in this offering to inform and assist everyone, Blessings in Christ Always!
            Connie

          • Camila

            Why did you leave?

          • Connie

            Camila,
            I don’t know what leaving your refering to can you clarify.

            The Holy Spirit has placed this song in my heart since Ash Wednesday the beginning of Lent, it hasn’t left me.
            Its my song to our Lord! My heart is laid bare… Amen!
            “Amazing Love / You Are My King” by Chris Tomlin
            UTube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=MA_cSFdUMqk

          • Camila

            Why did you leave the yogic practices after 40 years?

            Are you still a Tibetan Buddhist nun?

            If you were an “authorized lineage holder” can you cease to be this or are you?

            You held “duties” are you still responsible for these duties?

          • Camila

            Connie,

            That’s an amazing story. I’m curious, at what age where you baptized?

            What you say here “His radiant grace fully convicted me of my sins and I wept as He revealed His Truth of the yogic traditions” is very important Connie.

            You see, somehow you recognized that the path you were in is not in line with “His Truth” and you desired Him, God, more than you desired to continue a very long practice in which you were committed to and deeply involved. Only God can give this kind of grace.

            Now, this does not mean that your mind is completely formed yet in order to understand the Truths you refer to. Just like you invested time to study the prior ideas (that to you their truth were confirmed in experiences) it will take some time to study and allow yourself to divest of former concepts and re-form your mind to the Truth God has already given you His seal in your heart. St. Paul’s words are very helpful here

            Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect. (Romans 12:2)

            You will need to be docile to the Holy Spirit, and there will be those that will try to keep your mind anchored on what you held to be true for so long. Where I can foresee a special area of struggle is that the Catholic Faith does not guarantee you will have ‘experiences’ that will confirm the Truth.

            Remember,

            we are always courageous, although we know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight. (2 Corinthians 5:6-7)

            The way you know you are growing closer to God is primarily a growth in Charity towards neighbor because of God and towards God for God’s sake, confident in Hope that although difficult to obtain, your final destiny is union with God in heaven, illumined by solid Faith not because of any experience, but simply because of God’s authority. These will be given to you as you make progress and as you humble yourself to receive the Word Incarnate into your mind and heart.

            Finally, I think you will need to hold on to these words from St. Paul,

            It is not that I have already taken hold of it or have already attained perfect maturity, but I continue my pursuit in hope that I may possess it, since I have indeed been taken possession of by Christ. Brothers, I for my part do not consider myself to have taken possession. Just one thing: forgetting what lies behind but straining forward to what lies ahead, I continue my pursuit toward the goal, the prize of God’s upward calling, in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:12-14)

            While protestants talk about ‘already being saved and redeemed’ Catholics don’t. We are part of what is called a Church Militant, this earthly life is a life of exile, of testing and a fight. Yes, Christ merited all graces necessary for our salvation through His passion, and He makes these abundantly available to us, especially through His Sacraments. It is however, up to us to pick up our crosses daily, and participate in His redeeming work while we live on this earth. Until the day we are called to our heavenly home.

          • Camila

            Connie,

            I have no idea what the state of your soul is, neither do you. So, I can’t make any judgments about this. However, I can draw conclusions from what you say (write) and I see you make contradictory statements. I do not doubt that God gave you a beautiful and very special grace that has convinced you that the Catholic faith is where you will find Him. However, this is just the beginning Connie.

            Analogously, I believe that after spending many years in the desert, upon drinking real water, you mistaken a little of the real thing for the whole of it. Your thirst being so great left you dry, and you imagine that the little given was just so much. I believe this is more a consequence of proportion. A hungry man finds even a little crust to be a feast; but a satiated one will not be happy with but a crust.

            Have you read the parable of the rich man?

          • Debbie Aguiar

            Connie,

            As you state “Most any thinking person knows that Yoga Traditions are not in line with the teaching of God” indicating a certain common sense and not necessarily a gift. Personally, I also know the truth about yoga and many other things and I am not well formed, matter of fact, far from it. The education I received growing up as a Catholic has formed me enough for me to use that knowledge in what I see.

            If we did not have room to grow and did not consistently re-evaluate our relationship with God, we would not be human but, well, God, and that just cannot be. We need to form ourselves in order to understand any gifts from God and how to use them. Our pride can sometimes get in the way of that. I can easily jump to the right conclusion about something but use the wrong reasoning behind it. I have learned to slow down and think about it so that I can determine what is coming from me and what is coming from God. And, I have found that most of it comes from me. I am learning though and it will take time.

            No one doubts your conclusion on yoga. You have taken what you have been given and applied it. A lot of people I talk to tend to be pushed towards the scriptures to back up their findings and seem to be guided on where to look. It is an awesome experience to see this in people. Personally, I know you are taking the right steps to further the growth of your knowledge.

            God Bless!
            Debbie

          • Connie

            Hi Debbie,
            I was reflecting back and in my generation as children I never heard of yoga, dangers of the occult or what it was in catholic school or any place else. Today I am very happy to see the education availiable to children and young adults growing up catholic now.
            Few people are able to state accurately yogic teachings, even less have left the tradition completely and are Catholic who will testify to the reality of disceptions in this dangerous trend in our society. I believe ignorance has been satan’s tool here and that the use of accurate knowledge and appoligetics will be key in changing this.
            Since my conversion over seven years ago, in which God brought me freedom from my yogic past, His divine mercy then retored me with His Holy Spirit. I was moved by a great hunger for the Truth, which has been fulfilled with a time of renewal and spiritual formation through many opportunities for personal and formal studies of Church doctrine and scripture.
            The greatest fulfillment in life is to recognize Him, accept and have the willingness to surrender our will to His, that our will be conformed to His, our life and actions and thoughts and speech. To freely be subject to His timing and completion of His will. The saints lives reflect this process so well.
            May the Passion of Jesus Christ be Always in Our Hearts, Connie

          • Guest

            This morning I replied to this but I don’t see it.

          • Connie

            Adding to the above statement, and commenting to your truth is truth statement below. As Catholic Christians we know….what is The TRUTH… God, Jesus is the Word and makes clear the truth. This is when truth is truth.
            Commonly said among people “This is true….” is very much based on someone elses belief that is usually someones elses and so it continues a general sort of truth. Alot is accepted at face value truth for most people.

          • Connie

            Please note for anyones concern, I am fully convicted, redeemed, and a returning Catholic. After 40 yrs of yogic practices in which culminated as an ordained nun, spending 10 years daily in training which I did retreats and in teachings from the head Yogis of the lineage in India and Nepal and USA. resulting in becoming an authorized lineage holder, yogi and head of a temple. The Lord had different plans for me, and called me back to Him seven years ago.

          • http://www.spiritualdirection.com/ Dan Burke

            Connie – no one is calling this into question. The question/dialogue is how we come to know if what we believe to be true is actually true or not. Camila is asking questions related to a Catholic perspective on discernment. If you engage I believe you will learn something that might be helpful in achieving your own goals regarding how to effectively engage with folks on the topic of Yoga or any other topic.

  • $1650412

    This is really helpful!

  • Nicole Rose Tupper-Brown

    I’m not sure how to respond to this. I have taken yoga classes. There were no Hindu statues. There were no ooooommmms or urgings to clear our minds or anything of that nature. We simply stretched our body by adopting the poses, while remembering to breathe (which is something I’m reminded to do when I run, when I lift weights, when I do any exercise).

    I’ve always believed, so long as we divorce the spiritual aspect that we’re just stretching our bodies (some of the poses ARE stretches, that’s all. The warrior stance is really just a fancy lunge. The downward dog is nearly identical to another stretch I do in a fitness class. The cobra isn’t much different from yet ANOTHER stretch I do).

    So… I don’t know. Lots of things have their roots in the spiritual practices of other cultures (the wedding ring, for example). We’ve adopted those things so why is this thing unadoptable?

    • http://www.spiritualdirection.com/ Dan Burke

      Nicole – I would encourage you to read the posts which are offered from an authentically Catholic perspective. Some of the commentary reflects perspective for instance from those who have come out of the false religious practices but still maintain a fundamental philosophy that accepts that is not Catholic or that adheres to a non-Catholic perspective. Thus their judgement comes through a lens that is not Catholic. There is more to come in the series as well.

  • Tybourne

    There are a lot of comments on this thread and I haven’t read them all. One point strikes me though- many of the practises we value as Catholics have pagan origins. The faith helped us to see the reality that these customs pointed too. Here I am thinking of sacramentals such as genuflecting (originally used as a sign of respect in Roman courts), using evergreen branches and Christmas trees to decorate our homes (originally a pagan practice) and eating hot cross buns in Lent (another pagan, Roman practice but without the cross of course). When St Gregory the Great sent St Augustine of Canterbury to evangelise the Anglo Saxons he urged him not to destroy the pagan temples but to convert them to Churches. Surely we could do the same with yoga? There is danger in underestimating the power and wiliness of the Enemy but also danger in over-estimating that power and of confusing faith and culture.

    • http://www.spiritualdirection.com/ Dan Burke

      Your last statement is very important. The challenge is that those who come out of Yoga after deep involvement often have a worldview shaped by their immersion in it. So, when they come back to faith, they interpret their experience through a lens that is yet to be formed by Catholic anthropology, philosophy, and theology. Even so, there is an argument that I believe rises above all of these that points to the most important reason for rejection of Yoga.

      • Tybourne

        Thanks for your reply Dan. Please could you explain what that “most important reason” is, in your view?

        In Our Lord,

        Tybourne

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  • Tina Larin

    Interesting, a slippery slope to be sure. Is it possible to use the postures developed by Tirumalai Krishnamacharya and made popular by B.K.S. Iyengar with a catholic perspective? I find childs pose a comforting, subordinating position to begin my prayer and meditation times. To be sure one must be deeply rooted in the Christian faith using imagery such as the stations of the cross or the five mysteries of the rosary when flowing through a series of yoga postures.

    • LizEst

      Best to not involve oneself in yoga altogether. As indicated, it’s a slippery slope indeed. Here are two other programs that we’ve listed on our site as Catholic alternatives:
      Pietra Fitness: http://pietrafitness.com
      Soul Core: http://www.soulcoreproject.com/ As well, when you finish reading through our current yoga series (there will be more in the future) you may want to listen to two of our Divine Intimacy Radio shows here:
      -http://www.spiritualdirection….
      -http://www.spiritualdirection….

      Hope that helps…and thank you for your question, Tina. And, God bless you!
      Hope that helps…and thank you for your question, Tina.

      • Tina Larin

        Thank you for the links. Pietra Fitness expresses my feelings in regards to yoga postures with catholic meditation. It is wonderful and has extensive clarification when comparing and contrasting yoga and Christianity. I will bookmark that site. I will listen to your suggestions. God bless you!

        • LizEst

          You’re welcome, Tina. Glad you found the information helpful. To God be the glory!

  • Merle Guzman

    my parish priest discouraged me to take yoga exercises which is part of the therapy workout we had at the hospital. i am having therapy as a stroke survivor, and yoga and taichi are among the lessons given to us to improve our flexibility and to firm our core. i am glad i listened to my priest.

  • Julie

    I realise this discussion is old, but I want to ask if the author has considered the scientific research that has been done on yoga as an evidence-based treatment for trauma. I am studying trauma interventions and am interested in yoga from this perspective. I am a practising Catholic.

    • LizEst

      Hi Julie – The author, who is studying in Rome right now, has done extensive research into the field of Yoga. There is no reason to delve into something which has a demonic root to it. Therefore, he is not going to recommend, or promote, Yoga for this type of medical condition. There are many other stretching exercise regimens which can be done as a treatment for trauma, among them: Pietra Fitness – http://pietrafitness.com/ and Soul Core – http://www.soulcoreproject.com/

  • marybernadette

    I have been reading several posts re: yoga and want to refer people to the
    Church’s Document, ‘Jesus Christ, the Bearer of the Water of Life.’ It deals with occult/superstition practices which are opposed to Christianity. Also, the ‘poses’ in yoga, bow to a Hindu ‘god’, so even the poses are not just ‘exercises.’

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