Father, I heard on Catholic Radio that yoga exercises are against the Church. Is this true?
If you heard it on TV or radio, it must be true! Than again, perhaps not. I think it really depends on what you mean by “yoga exercises”. Certainly it is not wrong to stretch and exercise and practice breathing. These are neutral actions. So the physical part of yoga seems innocent enough. In fact, physical exercise that promotes health and well-being is good.
I think what the concern is all about is the spiritual part of yoga which is tied to Eastern spiritualities such as Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism. These, quite obviously, do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as Savior, nor do they have the same concept of God and faith. To that end engaging in the spiritual aspects of yoga (its prayers, theory, meditation, etc.) could actually lead us away from Jesus, who is truly our peace and salvation. That would be unfortunate! Of course there are good and true things in other religions, but there are misleading elements too. And when they are all mixed up together, it is hard to separate the good and the misleading. So, I would not engage in any spiritual practices of yoga.
So the question is whether you can do yoga physically without getting into Eastern spirituality? Some might argue the two are intrinsically linked. I think one can separate the two, if one is careful. We Christians have been doing this sort of thing a long time—taking something from non-Christian culture and “baptizing” it to make it Christian. Just look at the Christmas tree; once a pagan symbol, now a symbol of Christ and hope…at least it should be. So with yoga just do the stretches and breathing. Avoid classes and instruction that get into the spirituality. Instead, bring your own faith into your exercises.
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