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Catholic Spiritual Direction

What is Yoga? A Catholic Perspective (Part I)

January 29, 2014 by  
Filed under Fr. Sullivan, New Age, Yoga

Editor’s Note:  Today, Fr. Ezra Sullivan, O.P.  joins our team of writers.  Father Ezra is a Dominican Friar of the Province of St. Joseph and we are blessed to have his contributions on our site.  Please welcome him warmly.

Yoga is hands-down — toes-up — one of the most popular forms of exercise in the world, including the United States. It is alsoYoga Yogin_with_six_chakras,_India,_Punjab_Hills,_Kangra,_late_18th_century controversial, eliciting strong reactions from enthusiasts and denouncers alike. Among Christians, perhaps the most commonly-heard question is, “Can I practice yoga?” or, said with a different emphasis, “I can practice yoga, right?” With a nod to modern practicality, in order to do justice to the question as well as to the questioner, we ought to consider a number of different issues.

This series is meant to address these issues head on, beginning with the nature of yoga and ending with a discussion of how Christians can exercise their souls and pray with their bodies. St. John tells us that we should not believe every spirit, but to test them to see if they are from God (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.

+++++++

I – What is Yoga?

 

There is something funny about yoga. It is one of those things that can prompt double-speak, as I have found over and over again. Here is a typical conversation:

“So, Father, what do you think about yoga?” Someone will ask.

“Well, I have some misgivings about it,” I’ll say.

“But what’s wrong with yoga,” they will press. “It’s just exercise.”

“Then why not try Pilates?” I reply.

“I wanted something more holistic, something that focuses on body and soul. I like yoga because it’s spiritual too.”

“Then it’s more than physical exercise.”

To get beyond this impasse in the Tibetan peaks and valleys of conversation, let’s begin by analyzing a portrait of the typical yoga practitioner.[1] A 2012 Yoga in America study shows that 20.4 million Americans practice yoga. This was an increase of 29% since 2008. In addition, 44.4 percent of Americans could identify as “aspirational yogis”—folks interested in trying yoga. Among these millions, the most common yoga enthusiast is a youngish, upper-middle class woman.[2] Yoga is a thriving industry: practitioners spend ten to twenty billion dollars a year on yoga classes and products, including equipment, clothing, vacations, and media.

In and around the popularity of yoga stretches and twists, a vocal portion of the population nevertheless regards yoga as a way to become spiritually bent out of shape. Questions and misgivings arise, and people begin to wonder: what is this thing that some of my friends practice and so many celebrities preach – what is this thing called yoga?

At first glance, yoga is simply a great form of exercise. The top five reasons for starting yoga are: to improve flexibility, to aid general conditioning, to further stress relief, to improve overall health, and to promote physical fitness.[3] Doctors and practitioners both agree that, when practiced moderately, yoga can strengthen a person, help her lose weight, and give her more energy. It is also often associated with positive emotional well-being: because yoga calms the body, it often soothes the feelings. Adding on to the individual benefits, there are often attractive cultural aspects of yoga: it helps people meet beautiful people, so that they can become more beautiful themselves; it is often convenient; at a base level, it doesn’t hurt the wallet.

Yoga, however, is more than a physical exercise with social benefits.

One indication of yoga’s spiritual nature is the way it affects practitioners over time. The International Journal of Yoga published the results of a national survey in Australia.[4] Physical postures (asana) comprised about 60% of the yoga they practiced; 40% was relaxation (savasana), breathing techniques (pranayama), meditation, and instruction. The survey showed very significant results: although most respondents commonly began yoga for reasons of physical health, they usually continued it for reasons of spirituality. In addition, the more people practiced yoga, the more likely they were to decrease their adherence to Christianity and the more likely they were to adhere to non-religious spirituality and Buddhism.

In other words, whatever their intentions may have been, many people experience yoga as a gateway to a spirituality disconnected from Christ.

Doing justice to the complete nature of yoga, therefore, requires a more well-rounded definition: “A comprehensive system of human culture, physical, moral, and [psychological], and acting as a doorway on to the gently sloping paths that gradually lead up to yoga proper,” that is, the spirituality of yoga founded in Hinduism.

Its aim is to control the body and the various forms of vital energy, with a view of overcoming physical impediments standing in the way of other, spiritual, forms of Yoga. Its object is to ensure a perfect balance between the organic functions. Its ultimate goal and true end is to prepare man for the acquisition of that repose of spirit necessary for the realization of the “Supreme”, or for “experiencing the Divine.”[5]

Yoga’s religious and spiritual end is often forgotten or denied in a Western context; most people see it simply as a physical form of exercise. Such a simplification is unwarranted and dangerous. As we will see, reducing yoga to a mere beautifying technique frequently creates ugly effects.

Editors Note: We work hard to keep the posts and the comboxes of this site charitable, constructive, and faithful to the Church. If you disagree or struggle with the conclusions of this series and would like to engage to learn more, we wholeheartedly welcome your constructive comments and questions. However, comments that lack charity, attempt to advance teachings that contradict those proposed by the Church, or provide similar links to other sites, will either be edited or deleted. Please review our FAQ page to ensure you understand our comment policies.


[2] The majority of today’s yoga practitioners (62.8 percent) fall within the age range of 18-44. Women compose 82.2 % of the cohort. 68% of all yoga practitioners make more than $75,000 a year.

[4] Penman, Cohen, Stivens, and Jackson, “Yoga in Australia: Results of a National Survey.” Int J Yoga. 2012 Jul-Dec; 5(2): 92–101. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3410203/ The typical Australian yoga practitioner of yoga is comparable to the American parallel: typically a 41 years old, tertiary educated, employed, health-conscious female (85% female).

[5] J.-M. Déchanet, Christian Yoga (New York: Harper, 1960), 31.

Art:  Yogin with Six Chakras, India, Punjab Hills, Kangra, late 1700s, National Museau, PD-US, PD-India, PD-Art; Bhyragai [Vairagya] and”1. Pooruck Pranaiyam [Puraka pranayama]. 2. Kumbuck [Kumbhaka]. 3. Raichuck [Recaka]” (Mirror Image), both Day & Son Lithographer, 1851, PD-US; all Wikimedia Commons.

 

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

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About Fr. Ezra Sullivan

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

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  • http://www.marythedefender.wordpress.com MariaGo

    Our Physical Education teacher taught us a few yoga poses in my high school. I was excused from participating because I had lower back problems and could not do the poses. Looking back, I am really grateful to God that I had an excuse not do yoga. He was protecting me! Thank You Lord!
    Unfortunately, yoga is one of the choices for Physical Education that is still offered in my college.
    Thank you! Will share this post with others.

  • Fr.Neil Buchlein

    Very sad to see this type of article on your website. I would say that you are certainly misleading many of the faithful. In all fairness, after you have finished this series I would suggest posting an article which follows. If your new idea of spiritual direction is New Age. . .then I am more than happy to unsubscribe.

    http://www.catholic.com/magazine/articles/the-trouble-with-yoga

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

      Dear Fr. Neil – Please allow me to be very direct as this is important. If you believe that this article or our position is in any way aligned with the New Age, you have completely misread the piece. As well, it is part one of a multi part series. You might need to re-read it and especially the last line in the post which sets up the next phase of the discussion.

    • LizEst

      Fr. Neil–Dan’s comment is correct. This post merely begins the series and lays the groundwork for it. This site has never been, and never will be, supportive of anything that is New Age. Please re-read the article and read the follow-on posts when they are published. God bless you!

    • RobinJeanne

      Fr Neil,

      Dan is sharing wih us and explaining very well the dangers of practicing Yoga. I have tried to explain it to other that it is a potal/gateway to non-Christian spirits. I too always say… Well then why not practice Pilates? If it’s about stretching and toning…. ay least it has no religious connections (that I know of) I tell people that some of the possitions are syboles false deities…. do they really want to be summoning false gods?

      • Stephanie Carlson

        Pilates is connected .

        • RobinJeanne

          I did some reasearch and there are some simularities but it’s where they differ (the spiritual) that we are speaking of here (right Dan?) one article sums it up well…. “Both yoga and pilates bring an understanding that the mind and body are connected. However, yoga adds an additional element to the mix—the spirit. Exploring spirituality is a huge part of yoga practice, especially through meditation. While pilates focuses on creating an understanding that the mind and body are connected and how this can help in everyday life, yoga focuses on the mind/body/spirit connection.” by Melissa Eisler

    • Geetha Fernandes

      Fr. Neil, I was saddened to see your post about unsubscribing. I have been waiting to find a good article on this issue that lay down the facts about Yoga and am thrilled that I can share this with my friends. I know and believe this fully with my heart but I am no theologian to explain it to my friends. Much research has been done on this topic by priests and religious in the East many years ago and I hope more in the west will be made aware and come to understand the dangers of this. Once we are aware, we have a free will to choose what we decide to do. Thank you Dan Burke for covering this topic.

  • kcthomas

    John Paul II advised that local culture ,if it is not against our faith can be adapted suitably in our style of worship. The yoga has two aspects, one about keeping body fit by prescribed exercises and another keeping the mind healthy by meditations etc. If meditations or reciting the name of God in Hindu pantheon are not favoured it can be ommitted. Also in the place of Krishna we can recite Jesus, Jesus and meditate on him

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

      Dear Friend – you are welcome to this interpretation but we wholeheartedly disagree. Stay tuned for the rest of the series and you will understand why.

      • Fr.Neil Buchlein

        Yes, I am very good at misreading material. . .and according to the last paragraph and not the last sentence there is somethng beautiful in the religious and spiritual end for the Catholic who practices or engages in this type of exercise. If the series concludes that it is okay then you have invited many to get on a train which is on the wrong track. Enough said. . .

        • LizEst

          Here is the last paragraph:
          “Yoga’s religious and spiritual end is often forgotten or denied in a Western context; most people see it simply as a physical form of exercise. Such a simplification is unwarranted and dangerous. As we will see, reducing yoga to a mere beautifying technique frequently creates
          ugly effects.”

          It other words, it says that, in the West, it’s often forgotten or denied that yoga has a religious and spiritual end. It says that this conclusion that yoga is not religious, or spiritual, is dangerous and not justified because, in fact, it is! And, it says that referring to it as just exercise, or toning or a beautifying exercise or technique, is wrong and the cause of ugliness in the soul…and, I might add, very dangerous and can lead a person away from God instead of toward him.

    • Geetha Fernandes

      I was born in India, but am now in the USA. It is easy to confuse Indian culture with hindu spirituality. Yoga has its roots in hindu spirituality and is not a part of my Indian culture. My mother who has had years of spiritual counseling experience in India had warned me about Yoga 10 years ago when I opted for a yoga class after severe back pain. At first I resisted as my yoga teacher did not chant anything aloud. When she started chanting, I started feeling a bit uncomfortable. I prayed at daily mass for guidance. Was that the Spirit of God warning me? After much prayer I felt reassured that dropping that yoga class was what I needed to do. I am sure if you are open to the Lord’s guidance in prayer He will show you the right way. I certainly did not want to open the door even a crack to the evil one getting a foothold on my life. 4 years ago, the Lord chose to miraculously take away my 9.5 years of excruciating back pain during Eucharistic Adoration at a retreat at the Divine Retreat Center in India. The Lord provides what we need in His time, if only we can follow His Will.

      • LizEst

        Beautiful testimony, Geetha. Praise be to God!…and may He bless you always.

  • Lynn

    I am a member of the Dominican Laity so I am so happy to have a Dominican priest added to the site!

    • http://fillingmyprayercloset.com/ Cristina

      I thought the same thing – and tweeted. I am very much looking forward to this series!

  • Bernadette Kusuma

    I’m not into yoga but I’ve just started Taichi, I’m aware of some controversies around this (Taichi) as well. Will Fr. Ezra look into it too?

    • Jeanette

      I have misgivings about Tai Chi. I did it for a year but quit because I was wary of what the moves meant spiritually (especially the bow at the end)…so I’m interested to hear what Fr. Ezra thinks about it. I’ve heard from a friend who takes it that after being proficient, there are times of repeating a mantra…she uses Jesus’ name, but most of the class uses a different formula.

      I’ve always been wary of yoga…someone in our parish wanted to bring yoga into our Church but I convinced our Catholic Women’s League and our priest against it…not that I really knew all the reasons but I knew it had a spiritual base and that it wasn’t Christian.

  • Sue

    There is a Jesuit retreat house by me that has Christian yoga as a class offering…I have never tried it but their description indicates they are sensitive to the real issues at hand with a Christian Catholic performing traditional yoga.

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

      Thanks for your note Sue – stay tuned and let me know what you think at the end of the series.

  • Helen Westover

    I have used the yoga exercises for years. I am a traditional Catholic, and I am fully aware of the so called “spiritual” aspects of it. However, I am able to practice the exercises, ignoring (rejecting) the pantheistic aspects of it. I don’t do the breathing exercises or the meditation. As a Lay Carmelite, my meditation is Carmelite to the core, and profoundly Christocentric. Is this still a problem, in your opinion?

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

      Dear Helen – you are a good and humble woman! My advice would be to stay tuned to the rest of the series. This is an important issue and I believe that Fr. Ezra is one of the most clear, fair, and insightful voices on the topic. I think you will find your question answered in a very clear manner.

      • Helen Westover

        Thank you Dan. I look forward to reading more from Fr. Ezra.

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

        Dear Molly – my compliment was a sincere observation. Please review our guidelines in the FAQ for the kind of environment and approach to dialogue that is acceptable in this forum.

    • Cheryl Fallon

      Helen, I am in the same position that you are in. I just like the slow stretching- and don’t do it regularly to really advance in the positions- and in my opinion it is not at all like Pilates-which at my age I prefer not to do anymore. I have heard the so called instruction on the spiritual and have never embraced it whatsoever however I do know that my involvement in Yoga in any way could confuse those that are less strong in their faith. So, with that I am looking forward to the series on Yoga and the Catholic Faith.

  • Donna-Marie Cooper O’Boyle

    Thank you very much for this post and a warm welcome to Father Ezra Sullivan. I commend you for broaching this sensitive subject. I am looking forward to reading more.
    God bless!
    Donna-Marie

  • patricia

    I am glad for this series as I have been encouraged to practice Yoga or Taichi but I never did and am greatful. Maybe an approach of this is when we exercise we invite Christ with us often when I stretch I pray first for I have hurt myself in just simply stretching. In everything we do we need to include Jesus in it. Any exercise that puts us into a spirituality outside of Christ and our faith is just to me a secular way of living to have purity of heart is to be aware always the danger of potential secular influences or influences from other religions and spiritualities. This I also think follows under practicing the virtues of obedience to God our faith chasity in keeping our hearts souls bodies and minds from possible forms of idolatry and impurity and poverty to keep us ever little and dependent of Gods way of helping us to maintain our health and sanity and not look for a magic technique. This has helped me to discern is this too meaning yoga is this from God. I believe it is not.

  • Thea Palmette

    I once tried Tai Chi and while the exercise was great, there was a goal of a spiritual discipline. As people got more into it, they progressed more or less quickly to the other goal of the spirit.

  • Clinton Lowell Ufford

    Why can’t we meditate with Jesus while we exercise? Do we really need yoga to become fit?

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

      Good question Clinton ­ stay tuned!

    • CatherineA

      We certainly can! It is a misunderstanding that all yoga classes practice non-Christian meditation, or any meditation at all, for that matter. And obviously, no one “needs” yoga to be fit. But yoga stretches can be very helpful for many people who find other forms of exercise too harsh, too high-impact, to difficult, etc. The advantage of yoga as an exercise (I emphasize: as an exercise) is that it can be practiced by people of almost all ages, levels of ability, and health conditions. I say that not to recruit anyone, but to respond to the question so many ask: Why can’t you do some other exercise? The series is supposed to offer us some other options, and I look forward to that, because nothing has helped my back problems the way my yoga class did.

  • Therese Jacobs

    Thank you for your guidance. After working to have the yoga program “Karma Kids” removed from a local Catholic grade school that my children attended, I am saddened to say another Catholic grade school in the area is considering adding yoga classes to their current PE program.. One of the many reasons we have decided that homeschooling our children is a better environment than our local Catholic schools.

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

      Dear Therese ­ thank you for your valiant efforts. Please share this post on Facebook and with friends. It will help with situations like these.

  • CML

    I have tried different yoga classes with different instructors. I find there is 2 types of yoga out there. The spiritual instructor and the exercise instructor. The spiritual type is a complete turn off to me and included chanting and moves that I would only define as yoga. The exercise type mixes it up with athletic moves from Pilates and even kickboxing. These instructors are teaching the class to attract people that want/need the stretching and to fulfill the facilities demand for a yoga. In fact I had an exercise type yoga instructor at a YMCA that would usually play Christian music include Catholic monk chants in Latin. Just because a class is listed as yoga does not mean it will be a religious experience. That is the point of free will you can check out the class and leave if it offends your sensibilities. That said I am no longer into yoga of any type, after bootcamp and high intensity training it is too slow and boring.

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

      Dear CML – I think this series might be enlightening to you. Let me know what you think once it is fully revealed.

  • Stephanie Carlson

    I have done some DVD at home over the years. But the dvd was painfully chosen so that it was just stretching . My problem with Pilates is that many of the movements are the same poses. Sitting criss cross applesauce on the floor is also pose.
    I am wondering why or how a person can stretch with out imitating the yoga poses. I am not arguing, I truly have questions. Even the excises my back doctor gave me were yoga poses. Ay suggestions? Is it really that true that you can not separate the pose and just stretch gently? They fold their hands in prayer just like we do.
    NOW. I am totally in line with what your saying about getting involved in the spiritual side. I would never go to studio or a real life teacher because of that danger. But this silly DVD at home !?!

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

      Good questions Stephanie! – Let me know what you think of the upcoming post.

      • Stephanie Carlson

        Thanks Dan ! So many mainstream back doctors give hand outs that are for poses that help very mild scoliosis and such.

    • Stephanie Carlson

      What I mean by folding the hands. The pose is the same – yet we do that at Mass during prayers. I am genuinely confused. Again – I don’t meditate on that stuff and know TM is not at all something a Catholic can do.
      I don’t even call what I do yoga anymore as I have memorized the routine and its just stretching for me.

      My priest said to just say the Rosary while stretching. I remarked.. If I could remember to lol cause I am just trying not to fall on my fool head lol. But seriously.. If this is something forbidden..

  • John Macias

    Fr. Ezra,
    Thank you for this analysis of yoga and the approaches that individuals may have towards it. A question I have is in regards to the connection between the physical and spiritual. The study you cited from The International Journal of Yoga listed posture, relaxation, breathing, meditation and instruction.

    It would seem that the problematic nature of yoga would be with meditation and instruction. My question is: how necessary are the meditation and instruction to the nature of yoga? Certainly non-Christian yogis might hold that true yoga requires all of these methods, but it seems that an individual could quite easily practice the posture, breathing, and relaxation aspects of yoga with simply no consideration of the meditative or instructive parts (I would certainly agree that it is dangerous to take the meditative aspect of yoga uncritically and without any reflection on precisely what you meditating about and for what purpose). Individuals may state that they practice yoga because they want a more “holistic” experience, but that does not mean that these individuals MUST seek a holistic experience in order to practice certain aspects of yoga.

    Moreover, even if we were to practice the meditative and instructive aspects of yoga, if what we are meditating about and being instructed on are aspects of Christianity, is this going to lead us away from Christ? It might be argued that, at that point, we’re no longer doing yoga but something completely different. If that’s the case, fine. It may be that some individuals should avoid yoga because they have difficulty in recognizing the false aspects. Others, however, who recognize the falsity of certain instructive and meditative aspects (although meditation in itself is not evil, since meditative prayer and contemplation are practices with strong roots in Catholicism…as well as the Dominican Order! :-) ) You mentioned “Why not do Pilates?” I am not well versed with the physical differences between yoga and pilates so I can’t say whether there would be a physical or health difference when one individual were to practice the two.

    Ultimately, my query is it seems that we need not accept the spiritual aspects of yoga while taking in the physical. Certainly many individuals might mistakenly do so, but it does not seem to be inherently necessary.

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

      John – good questions. I don’t know that Fr. Ezra will be able to jump on but I believe the upcoming post will answer your questions.

    • Julieanne

      I agree with you, John. The Church is called to bring the whole of creation to its fullness in Christ.

      This reminds me of the Harry Potter outcry many years back, where I finally came to the conclusion the outcry came mainly from those who’d had direct occult experience. Rightly so, they have a sensitivity to the portrayal of magic, etc., and they should raise a warning flag for others not well formed or vulnerable, however, that doesn’t make it “intrinsically evil” and the prudential judgment of parents for their individually unique children, as well as for oneself, is and should be at play.

      I believe the same applies to “yoga” and other forms of Eastern medicine and/or spirituality. Take what is true and use it, if beneficial, and throw out the rest.

      Some may be in danger, but not all. I hope this is reflected honestly in the remaining series.

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

        Julieanne – you bring up an important point. I have personally had experience in the New Age movement and have seen the power of the enemy at work. Those who have not “smoked it” cannot always “smell it” as Sharon Giganti says. Sometimes there are dangers involved that only those with direct experience can see clearly.

        • Maureen

          Someone said to me once that she was a recovering Catholic and I said I was a recovered Catholic. I was recovered from the lie of the New Age movement, which started with TM. It’s true! I was lost for 35 years and now I’m home by the grace of a merciful God.

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

            I like that.

        • Julieanne

          Thank you for sharing your past involvement with New Age. I understand what you are trying to say, however, sometimes those coming out or away from such traumatic and life/soul threatening experiences may begin living from a place of fear and remain in a state of hyper-vigilance.

          My simple point is this: we each have our own unique set of weaknesses where Satan will attack, should we let our guard down But every person is NOT susceptible to the same attacks, unless officially declared by the Church to be an intrinsically evil act, which has not happened in the case of yoga or Harry Potter etc. .

          BTW- I am not arguing for any spiritual practice of yoga. I DO think it is important to recognize the danger of the doorway; I suspect we may end up disagreeing where the boundary of safety lies. And that’s ok! Because we’re each unique individuals with our own set of gifts, strengths snd weaknesses.

  • Readhed

    I practice yoga 2x/week, and Pilates, too. I have never practiced the “spriritual” side of yoga, and I often laugh internally during any of the silly mumbo jumbo being shared by the instructor(s), which is not often. In fact, during savasanah, my meditation is, “Jesus, Mary and Joseph” or repetitions of the Our Father and Hail Mary. Yoga has brought me tremendous physical benefits and I would hate to give it up. I know this is the first in a series of articles, but I feel more confused than ever. I look forward to the rest of the articles and hopefully some clarity on the matter, and will also speak to my parish priest. BTW, yoga and Pilates, although similar, are NOT the same excercise, but do compliment each other greatly, and my Pilates would suffer without the yoga (as would my shoulders, neck, back…)

    Thank you for your article. God bless.

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

      Thanks for jumping in Readhed – I think you will like the series. We even have a post brewing on a fantastic alternative.

      • Readhed

        I look forward to it.

      • JoeWetterling

        Alternatives are definitely welcome. I think a lot of people don’t know of something that’s as cheap/popular/beneficial/etc.

        I’d like to know what you think of purposefully-stripped-down yoga. For instance, former wrestler Diamond Dallas Page describes (in rather direct and occasionally salty language) that his “Yoga for Regular Guys” has all the spiritual stuff, including the names of poses, stripped out.

        • Steven Farley

          DDP, baby. . ..:D he’s putting me back together again after years and years of blue-collar abuse. I have not found anything else that’s helped and I’m nearly wrecked and pushin’ 5-0. No mumbo-jumbo comin’ out of his mouth, just encouragement to work hard, sweat, and keep coming back.

  • Stephanie Carlson

    Here is a good article about how Pilates is ba also http://www.womenofgrace.com/blog/?p=11396

    • Camila

      Interesting article.

    • Readhed

      It appears as though the author of that article has never taken a Pilates class in her entire life. There has never been even a hint of sprituality in my Pilates class. It is all about exercise: strength, core and physical balance. But I suppose there are as many different Pilates routines as there are Pilates instructors.

      • Camila

        While living in Chile, after having my forth baby, pilates (the kind you use the workout bed thingy) was very helpful in restoring my strength, especially core…I don’t take pilates class anymore but I remember thinking how incredibly easy on my back it was and effective. I didn’t feel spirituality had anything to do… further, on breathing, the instructions were no different than the typically exhale in the effort and inhale in the release part….

        so, I am interested to read the next posts

      • Patti Maguire Armstrong

        I joined in a Pilates class once and agree, there was no hint of spirituality.

  • Camila

    Thanks Father. Looking forward to reading the series.

  • ThirstforTruth

    I think the importance and timeliness of this post cannot be exaggerated as we
    find yoga classes, tai chi, and other aspects of Eastern spirituality being posted in the parish bulletins of Catholic churches.
    It is obviously in acquiescence to what is going on in our culture as well as
    a misunderstanding of the Christian faith To those who comprehend correctly the tone of this series, the position of the church on such practices is clearly and correctly stated. The series is serving the purpose of setting straight the confusion that is rampant on the subject of Eastern spirituality and the Catholic church. I welcome this information as I have run across many people of all ages who seem not to understand WHY yoga is being discouraged as a form of physical exercise. I look forward to its continuation as Father further explains why the practice of yoga is putting oneself in spiritual danger.
    I have a friend who took this popular *benign* attitude toward yoga and without going into all the details, today feels this brought great evil into her life and consequently into her family. Read this series with the seriousness it deserves.

  • sanders13

    This issue comes up frequently in spiritual direction. So glad to have a good
    explanation. Also, when I tried to print this page, it came out with alot
    of words and images missing?
    barbara

  • Karen Guilford

    I remember a Saint saying Love the Lord with your whole entire heart, and then do whatever you want to do! Love, Love, Love,HIM!

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

      Yes – beautiful – and of course a true Love for Him and a true union with Him would never drive anyone to do anything that is contrary to that love.

  • http://laughingjoyously.blogspot.com/ Claire Rebecca

    What if the answer to “Why not pilates?” is that there are no classes offered like “Gentle Pilates” or “Pilates for Arthritis?” I’m 18 and have osteoarthritis, and so I sometimes go to “Gentle Yoga” or “Yoga for Arthritis” group classes at the local YMCA. Is there a point where yoga is truly just stretching and exercise for people who can’t do high-impact or medium-impact exercise? On a slightly different note, are all breathing exercises wrong or just some?

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

      Stay tuned – there are good options.

      • CLudwick

        As you have said this many times, I can’t wait for these alternatives! Thank you, Dan.

  • Annette Hunt

    I agree with the person who commented about there being two different types of yoga teachers. I have seen both at my local gym. The exercise focused yoga teacher is concerned with teaching people how the muscles in their bodies work together. In each class he specifically asks people what area of the body they want to work on that week and then takes us through poses that focus on those areas. The other yoga teacher fits the more traditional model that people think of in a yoga class. Interestingly, her class is sparsely attended but the other is always full.

    Personally, I find discussions about the evils of yoga disheartening and xenophobic, if it’s possible to apply that word to religion. Throughout the history of the Catholic Church, we have taken local religious practices from other cultures and brought them into Catholicism as a way to encourage indigenous people to convert. On a personal level, I’m thinking of my Hispanic mother who burns palms from Palm Sunday to make a storm go away. Rather than attacking yoga, wouldn’t we be better served by finding a way to bring Catholic teachings into it and using it as a way to help others grow in their faith?

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

      Thanks for your note Annette – hang in there for the full series and then you will have a better position from which to judge regarding whether or not this is xenophobic. I don’t think we are “attacking” Yoga here and I suspect you will find our conclusions reasonable and in keeping with Catholic tradition.

      • Annette Hunt

        Dan- thank you for your reply and the respectful nature of it. I am curious to see what the full argument against Catholics participating in yoga is and will continue reading the rest of this series.

    • MarcAlcan

      There has been a lot of superstition that has crept into our Catholic practices. The problem is when the mass evangelization of the America’s happened, not everyone were properly catechized. So we cannot legitimize a practice that is decidedly pagan (and contrary to Catholic teaching) just because there are people who are under-catechized and have developed superstitions around Catholic sacramentals.
      If a practice is definitely idolatry – how do we Christianize idolatry?

      • CatherineA

        Stretching and listening to music (depending on the music) is not “decidedly pagan,” superstitious, or idolatry. Perhaps the yoga which has evolved into nothing more than stretching and breath control needs a new name, since arguably it really isn’t “yoga” at all anymore. The yoga that is being condemned in this series (rightfully so) bears virtually no resemblance to the yoga I and others have experienced. It has no spiritual component whatsoever, and it troubles me that many Catholics (not necessarily you) insist that it does, even though they have no experience of it.

        • MarcAlcan

          There’s only Yoga. What you are practicing is the same yoga that is being talked about here. As Fr Joseph Marie Verlande (who was very much immersed in yoga) said, even those who do yoga for purely recreational reason still get the effect. You do not need to “spiritually intend” yoga. Yoga is yoga, it is a Hindu practice in idolatry to their gods.
          Let me try to explain this a little bit better.
          Suppose there are Satanists who do certain poses and movements in oblation to Lucifer while reciting their praise of him. Suppose someone then found out that these poses and movements are “healthy” and makes one flexible and agile. Suppose still that this person decided to imitate these specific poses minus the chants. Would you do it knowing that these were specifically designed to open your being to satan?
          Our body and soul are a unity. You cannot use your body thinking that it is apart from your soul. If that were the case then we could physically commit sinful acts and say, well its my body that’s doing that but my soul is pure.

          • LizEst

            Excellent points! Thank you MarcAlcan…and God bless you!

  • Terese10

    This is a very timely discussion. I hope the future articles touch on meditation as well. I work at a major US university and have seen how meditation is really taking off. Just this morning I saw a notice in the elevator of a noon meditation in my building. It is being encouraged as a way to stay healthy on the job; people are really talking about it. Also this university just started a degree program in meditation. I have considered going to the noon meditation and focusing on Jesus but have always hesitated because I’m not sure it is wise.

  • BadMF

    I tried hot yoga a few times and loved it. I saw Johnnette Benkovic’s program on yoga, where it was mentioned that the some of the positions themselves were bowing or paying a sort of homage to Hindu deities. That thought is what turned me off to it, and what keeps me away. After all, part of our modern confusion is that we think our mind/soul and body are completely distinct, but in reality, we are ensouled bodies and what we do with our bodies matters. There is a language of the body, a kiss means something, a laugh, the marital act. I would not say blasphemous words in another language, why would I risk saying something blasphemous with my body?  Is it worth it? Absolutely not.  I found that over time, I still had a desire for it, even after such a clear reason to oppose it.  This also makes me suspicious of yoga.  I am not a person who exercises for fun, or who even likes to leave my house unless I have a good reason.  Now I was suddenly motivated to do this thing, which might offend God, was it really because I liked it on its own terms?  I had a perfectly good reason not to leave the house and exercise, did I enjoy it that much?  No.  I think there is a sort of spiritual draw to it.  A temptation.  Why do so many other people feel so compelled to disregard the Church’s caution concerning yoga? There is something else going on.  I could be wrong.   But truly, is it that much of a sacrifice to avoid yoga if there are plausible reasons to think God might be offended by it?  If it is too much of a sacrifice, could it be that our priorities are out of order?  Or that we are being subtly tempted to disregard the dangers?  

    • CatherineA

      The key word here may be “caution.” The Church has not forbidden yoga. Just as pro-yoga Catholics should consider the matter with great caution and seriousness, those opposed should be careful not to condemn those with whom they disagree, or consider them to be less faithful Catholics. We should be careful not to “harden our hearts” toward each other, which is a real danger in any passionate controversy.

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

        Catherine – I really like your statement about hardening hearts. You are right. This is very important. Have you read Jesus Christ the Bearer of the Water of Life?

  • Patti Maguire Armstrong

    Is it all okay or just some of it? Anyone excusing their participation by saying they are JUST doing the exercise part of it, is acknowledging there are parts they should not do. At what point do the other parts slip in? Are you part of a class and think you are astute enough to filter out the spiritual parts? But what are you doing in there participating in something that includes a religion contrary to your own?
    When a Catholic school or Church sponsors a yoga class, it’s scandalous because Yoga is a religion with different parts and levels to it. It gives the impression that Yoga is okay for Catholics. It’s all or nothing. The stretching and meditation is just a part of it. If the whole of something has some bad parts in it, then you reject the whole thing.

    • CatherineA

      I think these are valid questions. I can say, for my part, that these “other parts” never slipped in — at all. It was simply stretching and music, period. Stretching and music are not intrinsically evil. As Christians we are encouraged to take what is good and use it for good, and I think it’s fair to say that some “yoga,” if it should even be called that anymore, is a good example. I am willing to concede, though, that for the foreseeable future there is an element of scandal to be considered, since there is so much controversy and misunderstanding.

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

        You are a wise and good woman.

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

    Welcome, Father, and thank you for tackling what is clearly a touchy topic. As a city girl, I am surrounded by women who consider yoga “their religion”. I even have dear friends who teach or own studios. But, I’ll take a cold, wooden kneeler over a cushy yoga mat any day! When they are planning exotic trips to downward dog paradises complete with hot stone massages and umbrella drinks, I tell them how giddy I am to spend a week with The Sisters of Mount St. Francis and they shake their heads at me. Surely they are more flexible (and pampered) than I am, but many have quietly told me that they envy my faith.

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

      Love that!

    • LizEst

      What wonderful testimony, Pamela. There is nothing like Truth, Christ Jesus who is the Way, the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Him. He is the one who has opened eternal life for us. No one else has.

    • CatherineA

      That has not been my experience of yoga at all. I would not participate if it were. Once again, I think it may be helpful to understand that “yoga” is ultimately just a word, and one which means very different things to different people. Yoga in America has evolved, and in some (many?) cases it is probably almost unrecognizable from its “pure” or original form. For all practical purposes, it isn’t yoga anymore; only the name and a few poses remain. That “yoga” does not deserve to be condemned, in my opinion.

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

        Dear Catherine – the key question is not how we experience something. We can experience very bad things and perceive them as good. The key question is, is the practice contrary to our faith or is the practice problematic with respect to our faith? Thank you for expressing your opinion. If you can keep an open mind (which I am sure you can), I am interested in hearing your thoughts once the series is concluded.

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

        Respectfully, Catherine, I don’t think my words were at all condemning (My DEAREST friends do it and teach it! Heck, I’ve done yoga myself! I was even the fitting model for Christy Turlington’s yoga line, Nuala…who am i to judge?!) I was speaking solely about my personal experience of preferring a kneeler over a mat in terms of where I feel the greatest connection to God. Seeking Him in simplicity and on my knees. My friends don’t necesarily share that but we love and respect each other anyway. So, no need for a cat fight here, although your name is Catherine and do seem to own a beautiful cat. ;-)

        • LizEst

          fitting model…wow! ;o)

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

            Yes, Elizabeth, who is now your classmate at Avila! Two very different worlds (and I have the stories to prove it. I used to work for David Letterman too…) But, this site, the Avila institute, RCSpirituality.org, the guidance of some wonderful priests and God’s grace have totally changed my life. I’m so very grateful…and I’m having a blast! Thank you for all that you do and God bless you!

          • LizEst

            You’re welcome. As always, the glory goes to the Lord. I love conversion stories! And, I’m enjoying having you as a classmate, as well. You are beautiful both inside and out! God bless you, too! Rejoice in the Lord always!

  • disizridic

    Catholic means universal. I don’t see the problem with exercise, breath control and meditation. Many use that time to be faithful to their own belief and delve deep into prayer.I think it is a beautiful thinking that many can gather from all different beliefs and find balance and comfort from the same exercise. No. it yoga is not just exercise, which is what makes it such an incredible and unique practice. This article does not make me want to wait around and see what the next article has to offer, it makes me want to shake my head, and then go practice more yoga after remembering its benefits. If incorporating another religions practice into my own causes peace and truth to be found, and it is still seen as wrong, I don’t want to be a part of this “universal” church anymore.

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

      Dear Disizridic – your comment is sad. You don’t want to be part of the Church if it happens to desire to protect you from a practice that could be harmful to your soul? I suspect you have never really embraced your faith or that you don’t hold it very dear now if the potential of parting from a particular practice means more to you. I pray that you find out what it really means to have a life-changing relationship with Christ in and through our glorious Church.

      • Guest

        Dear Mr. Burke- I’m sorry you find my comment sad, for I believe I am a very happy and open person trying to give my opinion about something that I know myself and many others find very beneficial to their faith. I have a life-changing relationship with God, and do not believe that he sees our church as the one and only correct and “glorious.” If one believes that yoga causes harm to their soul, it is their decision to cease practice. How can you, not Christ, tell me that it does not benefit me or others personally? No, the post does not claim that there is anything wrong with exercise, breath control, and meditation, but because those things are pretty much what define yoga, I thought we all knew what we were talking about there. On another note, try and actually reply to one of the points I made in my original comment next time, instead of just assuming that it’s sad, and my faith has never been embraced, and I don’t have a relationship with God.

        Dear Camila- Thank you. I too think that there is always something new to be learned, and will be sure to read the next article.

        • MarcAlcan

          Guest, I am assuming that you must be disizridic.

          You said, If one believes that yoga causes harm to their soul, it is their decision to cease practice.

          That is true . But how can you tell what is the harm if no one will tell you? That is precisely the point of this article – to point out the harm. People then can make up their minds whether they are willing to risk it or not.

          It seems to me though that you are angry that someone is actually making the effort to explain the harm. It’s like you want to keep others in the dark about the harm that Yoga can do.

          • disizridic

            Not at all, keeping people in the dark is the opposite of what I want to do. I think it is very important to read and inform yourself on things you don’t necessarily agree with, which is why I read through this article. One can always learn something new. Just because you tell me that something is harmful to me, doesn’t mean it is and vise-versa. Am I angry that someone wants to explain why they think it is wrong? Absolutely not, I respect your opinion. But do not tell me that I cannot make the informed realization that yoga practice works very well for me as well as others. Evil and harming the soul plays no part in the yoga I have ever or will practice.

          • Mater

            Dear disizridic,
            What I hear you saying is that if, in theory, the Church were to forbid yoga, you would leave the Church and stick with yoga. Is that correct? If so, then you have actually given support to the position that yoga MAY be dangerous. I don’t think any Catholic begins yoga with the hope that it will become something they value above the Church.

          • disizridic

            I agree that no one begins yoga with the intent of leaving the Church for it. Sorry if my sarcasm came off as literal to you, but I don’t know anyone (myself included) that would leave their faith so that they can practice yoga. Yoga aids me in my faith, it doesn’t take me away from it.

      • disizridic

        Dear Mr. Dan- I am sorry that you find my comment sad. I think I am a very happy and open person who is trying to comment on something that I know myself and many others find extremely beneficial to our faith. I do in fact have a life-changing relationship with God, and do not think that He believes our church is the only correct and “glorious.” If someone believes that yoga is harming their faith, then it is their decision to cease practice. How can you, not Christ, tell me and others that it is harmful to our soul? And no, the post does not claim that there is anything wrong with exercise, breath control, or meditation. But because those things are pretty much what define yoga, I thought we all knew what I was talking about. On another note, try and actually respond to some of the points I made in my original post, instead of just calling it “sad”, and stating that I’ve “never embraced my faith, and that I “don’t have a relationship with Christ.” It’s quite the contrary.

      • Pankaj Saksena

        And So Hinduism can harm a soul? Such racism,in 2014?

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

          Dear Pankaj – there is such a thing as agreeing or disagreeing with someone’s religious practice without being “racist” or anything of the sort. To call disagreement “racist” is irresponsible, foolish, and vacant of any intellectual or moral basis. I don’t mean to offend in my strong response but this kind of comment is really absurd and not helpful to the dialogue in any way.

          • Pankaj Saksena

            Its these small things that lead to bigger inequalities.

          • Derek

            Pankaj,
            Racism involves discrimination (or discriminatory feelings) based on someone’s immutable characteristics, such as skin color, culture or country of origin. That is not what is being discussed here. We are discussing religious/spiritual practices and philosophies. We are not judging people, which is wrong. We are trying to make an informed judgment about religious beliefs and spiritual practices, which is not only proper, but is also necessary. We NEED to make good judgments as to whether a spiritual practice is in conformity with what the God of the universe expects of us for our own good. If it is not, we must reject it.
            There is not racism or inequality intended or even implied in this discussion, and I’m sorry you feel that way.
            Peace, Derek

        • Camila

          if practicing Hinduism would lead someone to be possed by hindu spirits then absolutely it would harm a soul, no?

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

      On another note, the post doesn’t claim that there is anything wrong with exercise, breath control, or meditation (at least meditation in the Christ-centered sense).

    • Camila

      Hi Disi,
      Give Father a chance to explain… If we can’t see why something is wrong doesn’t mean it isn’t wrong. It just means we have more learning to do… I think your input in reconciling the peace you feel in yoga with what Father has to say is extremely valid, I for one would love to hear from you as the posts are unveiled…

    • from a revert

      You reminded
      me of myself years ago

      • disizridic

        Not sure what that means..

  • from a revert

    Find something else to physically lose wt. And ADORE on front of the BLESSED SACRAMENT OR TABERNACLE
    Don’t even dabble on something one is not sure of. There is always a set back life is too short. Develop virtues and a strong prayer life.

    • CatherineA

      Does it have to be either/or? Can we not have a weekly holy hour, develop our virtues and prayer life, AND get some exercise?

  • Kanga 13

    When I did yoga in my 20ies, it was the fascination with an exotic form of exercise, then I was brought into contact with the teachings of Master Subramunya because my yoga teacher was his disciple. Then I graduated from university, left town, and while I kept up the assanas for a number of years was disconnected from any official teaching. Later in life, when researching the Jesus Prayer, I was struck with how the instructions from Orthodox monks warned about following the breath into the body, which is the first thing that one does in yoga meditation. Why not? In reflecting more deeply about it, there are elements of self-hypnosis in yoga breathing and relaxation that does open you up to suggestions. According to Hindu converts to Catholicism who later became priests, this leads to possession by Hindu spirits. I think that they are the real experts, because they have seen it from both sides. Deep yoga practionners that I know personally do say that they come into contact with spirits. So there is certainly something to it.

    Yoga may not be that beneficial to your health. The New York Times has published articles in recent years pointing out all the bad things that can happen when you twist yourself into those poses. Detached ribs was the one that really struck with me. For the others, I would recommend a search on the NYT website for the particulars.

    A lot of the Eastern athletic disciplines seem to have a spiritual side to them. I am presently taking Tai Chi instruction, which I am finding really helps keep me limber, but there is a definite mystical side to things here too. Some of it is based in the Chinese understanding of the body, the ying and the yang, and circulation of the chi. So far, I am treating that as a cross-cultural experience.

    • Camila

      yikes on the breathing thing Kanga, scarry stuff…

    • CatherineA

      What if there were no self-hypnosis? What if there were no meditation or spiritual component whatsoever? (I’m genuinely asking)

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

        This is a VERY good and important question.

      • Kanga 13

        The specific context that I was in, was religious, even though I had not realized it in joining. This was back in 1970, so yoga was not yet taught in every gym and community exercise program in the continent. However if you want to get really good at it, you are going to run into the religious element as you advance and seek more and more expert guidance. It is a very effective way at proselytizing Hinduism because the yoga enthusiast is drawn in very, very subtlely. My advice? Just get informed and be aware. An informed conscience is always the best guide.

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

          A conscience informed by and conformed to the magisterium is the best guideŠ

  • Tena M. Marangi

    I believe your assessments of the spiritual side of yoga are not necessarily totally off the mark. However, I also believe that yoga, along with everything else in life, is what YOU make of it. For example, let’s say a young man joins the local Boy Scouts. There he hooks up with a few other “bad apples” and together they form a destructive, hate-filled gang. So, do you blame the Boy Scouts of America or do you blame the boys themselves for their propensity to violence and how they were raised? Well, that’s how I see guided yoga. I am an avid yoga enthusiast. I have Lyme Disease and yoga has been a life-saver for me and my joints. And, yes, there is a spiritual side to yoga that I just love. But it’s MY spiritual side. It’s MY quiet meditation. And it’s MY prayer time. AND I pray to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, certainly NOT to one of the Hindi gods or goddesses. Nor has anyone ever told me to do so. My yoga instructor merely sets the stage for prayer, devotion and asanas. We, as individuals, choose who it is we pray to or offer up our practice to or devote our struggles to. Our choice, not even their suggested choices. In addition, since I began doing serious yoga back in 2012 (3 times/week), I have felt like so much better of a person, both physically and spiritually. I’m happier, more at peace, loving every day of my life and the beautiful world that God has created for us. I thank Him every day for giving me this wonderful life in this wonderful body on this wonderful planet. With all that in mind, how in the world can it be wrong when I have such a strong foundation in the Catholic Faith and have felt a strengthening in that faith, NOT a weakening?

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

      Dear Tena – thank you for your comments. One thing, we are not (as Christians) relativists. That means that there is such a thing as objective evil or harmful realities that are true regardless of what we “make of it.” Your examples are helpful to a point but the question is one of objectively problematic spiritual practices that may be problematic regardless of the approach. More will unfold in the next post. Also, we don’t judge objective reality based on our feelings… I know plenty of folks who will tell you that witchcraft has “helped them.”

      • Tena M. Marangi

        I look forward to reading further articles on yoga. They definitely are thought-provoking and of interest!

    • Derek

      Hi Tena,
      One problem with the comparison you make is that if those boys did form a gang in that way, that would happen in spite of and in opposition to the principles of the BSA. On the other hand if someone gets into yoga and eventually progresses into spiritual practices that may be problematic or illicit, that would be in conformity with the principles of yoga (at least that seems to be the direction this article is going). That is a big difference and a more pressing concern.

    • jack g.

      Have you tried real personal relationship with Jesus for your ailments instead of Yoga? Yoga is easy compared to having and maintaining relationship with God.
      I hope you find joy with Jesus
      Then you’ll know you don’t need yoga of any sorts

  • Jstbeachee

    I have a real desire to take yoga for the physical benefits. I have recently come across [edited] on Facebook and wondering your thoughts on it. Here is what is on their page… Hot Yoga. Non-Profit OrganizationExperiential Worship. Bold Jesus. Grace-filled Yoga Instruction. Authentic Community.

  • Pankaj Saksena

    If Christianity does respect other religions, then what is wrong with Yoga with a cultural sense of Hinduism? Or Buddhism for that matter? Aren’t you still wound up in the Second Vatican of 1969 which declared Yoga as a demonic practice?

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

      Dear Pakaj – The Church honors all that is true in other religions and rejects those elements that it deems to be untrue. I am not aware of anything at the Council that specifically addressed Yoga so I am not clear what you are referring to. All faithful Catholics, would of course, embrace whatever the Council teaches.

      • Pankaj Saksena

        And if the Council disapproves? Should an individual be so dependent on an institution like that?

        • Camila

          yes, they should

          why?

          Because it is the only institution founded by God Himself… God said follow this institution and you will be saved…. since I want to be saved, then i will follow this institution… and anyone who wants salvation should too

          • Pankaj Saksena

            Good Luck then! Be saved! :) I will say no more.

            And no. No salvation for me. Science is good enough for me.

          • MarcAlcan

            So you do not believe there is such a “thing” as a soul?
            Because if you say that science is good enough for you (indicating that science is all that matters) then there must only be this material world because science is equipped to deal SOLELY with the material world. What then is all this nonsense about spirituality which every Hindu confesses?

    • Camila

      Hi Pankaj,

      what is the reference where Vatican II declared yoga a demonic practice?

    • Richard Grebenc

      There is an exorcist who has been outspoken about yoga as Satanic:
      http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/harry-potter/8915691/Harry-Potter-and-yoga-are-evil-says-Catholic-Church-exorcist.html

      The CDF document referred to in the article is actually from 1989 where yoga is mentioned in a footnote to paragraph 2:
      http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/harry-potter/8915691/Harry-Potter-and-yoga-are-evil-says-Catholic-Church-exorcist.html

  • LizEst

    Welcome to the team, Father Ezra. Thank you for this wonderful contribution. I’m looking forward to your future posts. God bless you!

  • SwordofLogic

    God Bless Father. Keep the Faith!

  • Elf

    Mr. Burke, I agree with what you say about spirituality. However I think it is possible to do yoga moves without doing a yoga class or spiritual part. Do you agree that the moves themselves aren’t themselves evil. If I do a move when I’m stretching before a workout, is that evil? I don’t believe so. Also, Pilates focuses more on your core, while yoga moves work on different parts. Also, some ballet moves are similar to yoga moves. Does that mean those moves shouldn’t be done in ballet, because they are similar to yoga moves? I think the answer to that is no, because the intent isn’t spiritual harmony, but to dance. I’m interested to hear your thoughts!

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

      To be revealed!

  • Rachel Gehring

    Love all the discussion as this topic must be close to many hearts. Perhaps this topic needs to be tackled from several angles: (1) Catholics asking for spiritual direction. Many of the gyms offer yoga classes, which are a mix of stretching and pilates, with deep breathing, though without the other concerning elements. Some yoga positions provide a way to release body stress that other types of exercise and stretching simply don’t. If we believe we are temples of the Holy Spirit and in Theology of the Body, staying fit and serene is a holy thing. How does that work in real life? At what point is the line crossed? (2) Evangelization of the culture. It never works well to go somewhere and claim that everything is “bad,” but it does work to incorporate the “good” elements and reclaim them. It is also true that Christianity has made few inroads among the Hindus and Buddhists. Why? What will work? These folks are not going to listen to someone who is overweight, in ill heath, stressed out, and can’t even touch their toes. What do we offer that is similar but not toxic? (3) The recovery of Catholic mysticism. While we can respect and learn from almost anyone and almost any culture, as Catholics, we have lost a sense of our giftedness, that is, what we offer to the world and each person is the real deal, God himself, who wishes to enter our reality and love us if we let Him. Rather than looking over the fence with longing, we need to inviting others to “check out what we have” instead. As Catholics we struggle with both an “immersion” in Catholicism and “marketing” of Catholicism. This recovery of Catholic mysticism is the key to anything successful in #1 or #2 above. (4) Dan, do you have connections with some Orthodox monks who can comment on Hesychasm (repitition of the Jesus Prayer) in light of Kanga 13 comment below? They’ve been dealing with this topic for a lot longer than we have. I look forward to the rest of this series by Fr. Sullivan and related comments. God bless.

  • ThirstforTruth

    All Catholics who *think* yoga is acceptable as simply an exercise program?
    How do you avoid giving scandal to other Catholics? How are they to know
    that you are only physically participating, not spiritually engaged ? Do you wear a sign proclaiming your “innocence”; that you are spiritually uninvolved?
    Admittedly you can do all that type of exercise and gain those benefits without
    ever stepping inside a yoga class and certainly without risk to your eternal soul. Are you sure you are not proclaiming your cultural coolness louder than your Catholicism?
    If you are attending a yoga class sponsored in your church bulletin, did that
    same announcement carry such disclaimers? Why or why not? Have you engaged your pastor regarding the questionability of this announcement?
    If you have the misfortune of belonging to a parish such as this, consider
    copying these articles and placing them in a prominent place, such as a
    announcement bulletin board. Or even approach the pastor about placing
    in your bulletin. Properly accredited of course.

    • CatherineA

      Dear Thirst: I participated in a yoga class (exercise only; no meditation) before I was aware of any controversy about it. I liked it because it helped my back problems and was not loud, harsh, and raucous like aerobics and other classes. I don’t participate anymore only because the class is no longer offered. Otherwise, I would continue, because I have yet to be convinced I should not. I am open to being persuaded, but so far all the arguments I have heard have been based on fear and misunderstanding, and often seemed mean-spirited (“Do you wear a sign proclaiming your innocence?”). As I said, I am open to being persuaded, and I think Catholics of good will on both sides of this controversy need to be careful that we do not harden our hearts against each other. It may help us both to bear in mind that the Church has not forbidden all yoga (so let’s not condemn our neighbors who participate) but she has urged caution (so we need to take that very seriously, and anticipate that if we are eventually forbidden, we must be obedient). “In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity.”

      • ThirstforTruth

        Dear Catherine,
        I apologize if my comments came across to you as “mean-spirited” as such was certainly not my intent. I really agree with you and the quote you repeat about ” In essentials, unity, etc”.
        My point was that those Catholics who participate in yoga and
        feel it is only exercise, and not spiritually intended might very
        well be giving scandal to others not informed about the spiritual
        dangers and pitfalls Fr Ezra is pointing out to us. Even without
        knowing they are giving scandal. The tendency for those participants is also to “extoll” the physical benefits to others while not realizing the spiritual dangers to which they might expose themselves. As Scripture points out, what does it profit a man to gain the whole world ( i.e. an improved back ) if it costs him his immortal soul.
        Keep In mind that while you may not have anything spiritual in mind, the vast majority of yoga teachers do! And sometimes it may be so subtle, that the calling in of false and evil spirits might not be at first discernible. but will appear elsewhere in your life.
        Let us listen to the words of wisdom that Father Ezra is
        proclaiming here …and not harshly criticize each other.
        Again, my apologies for what you perceived as “mean-spirited”.
        God bless!

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

          Well said ­ you have pointed out a key issue with regard to scandal. I hope to write a post about this soon.

  • http://catholiccoffeeklatch.wordpress.com Jen S

    Great article. I can’t wait to read the rest. I know a lot of people are attracted to yoga because they want to get healthy but are really out of shape or need gentle exercise because of painful joints. I just thought I’d throw out there, for people looking for an alternative – please consider rebounding. There are several good ones out there (Cellerciser, Urban Rebounder, just to name two). I was rapidly becoming way overweight but couldn’t exercise because I had terrible back and foot pain and unexplained painful joints. I lost 20 lbs just doing bouncing and gentle movements and paying more attention to my food choices. Even better, ALL my pain was gone within a couple of weeks. There are definitely good alternatives to yoga available. Deo Juvante, Jen

    • Connie

      This is great information I hope everyone reads about Rebounding!

  • Carlene

    (This is the 3rd time I’ve tried to post. Hmmm… so now even more determined! Dan, I remember your recent issues in doing the same so trusting I’m to share….) A few years ago I quickly became enthralled with hot yoga. Tried it for a few free sessions & was hooked. Funny to be so on fire for something so quickly with not being a huge fan of exercise & I was surpirsed by this but addicted quickly to my new found energy, how I felt after the amazing workout & enjoyment of the fellowship there. Anyway, as soon as the free sessions ended, I bought the “unlimited package” & even the expensive mat too. I am Catholic, a Bible study leader and active in our parish & had not come across much on yoga. That night, about 7 days in to this new endeavor, (how good is God?) by the grace of God, I awoke in the middle of the night & was convicted to research more on Yoga & then saw/envisioned an icon/image of some kind of yoga pamphlet. I knew the next morning, first thing, I had to research this more. That research eventually led me to the Catholic “Women of Grace” webite & there my heart pounded when I saw that same image that came/was sent to my mind in the middle of the night! I believe the Holy Spirit woke me & led me there and I began to read about yoga from a Catholic perspective & was soon convicted not to return. It was not easy. (and I had only been in it for 7 days!) I had just paid big bucks for the sessions, loved the “feeling” & was excited to try my new expensive yoga mat too. I really liked how I felt after a Hot Yoga workout and enjoyed seeing many of the ladies in my community there, ladies that were also part of my parish too. But this deep gnawing conviction would not go away. I had to choose and here’s the thing…at least for me. Certain poses pay homage to gods & I learned other things most of which have been mentioned here. I don’t want to pay homage to gods even if just by a pose. I don’t need to please myself in this way. God alone is my God. Christ wants all of me. All of my heart, soul, mind and body. If my husband was hanging in places or participating in anything that was offensive to me, our love, our marriage & sacred relationship, would that be ok? No way! We are called to set boundaries around our marriage, our love and honor that with how we live and the choices we make. Same in our relationship with Christ. Maybe some justify like I thought, envoking the Holy Family, the name of Jesus or praying the Rosary at yoga, but still, it’s flirting with something that is not all loving & honoring of God & of the Catholic Church’s teaching. So, to me, it is almost adulterous in my relationship with Christ. I realized that as a Catholic, I’m called to pick up my crosses and follow Jesus. Is it easy? Crosses are heavy and require self denial and self sacrifice. It’s uncomfortable and heavy and then by God’s grace it is light and we are free. For me, it was tough to walk away. I liked how I felt but knew “feelings” could not govern my decision & choice. So, I prayed for wisdom, discernment and then the strength to walk away and was given it. It tore at me for awhile & the temptation arose back to again justify yoga was just excerise & I wasn’t doing anything bad. (Again, how could something so new in my life have such a pull?) Then, I’d remember that the enemy is cunning and disguises as an angel of light & so subtly wants to lead us away from God. In my love for God, even if I don’t 100 percent understand all this, I want to please Him alone, obey Him, surrender to him & His Church’s teaching and want nothing to do with what offends Him & our relationship or flirt with dabbling with anything that could lead me away from Him. So, if you’ve “stumbled” upon this artcile, maybe there’s a reason? Maybe the Holy Spirit is calling you to discern and to choose? The effects of my choice still arise. Recently, I was snubbed after seeing someone from the Yoga studio and my Church. I’ve shared with a few friends about my journey with this. People talk and it’s ok. I share this because it’s not always easy & there are effects of our choices too. Yet deep within, beyong pleasing myself or others, my desire is to please, love and live for God alone. God bless you on your journey.

    • Caroline

      I DID just stumble by this article, totally by accident after juuust confirming with a friend that I would start yoga with her and get into shape!! Thank you for reminding me thay the Holy Spirit walks with me and helps me to discern and choose God!

      • Carlene

        Caroline, God bless you & to God be the glory for leading you here! No coincidences! I am praying for you!

    • Connie

      Carlene, you are very blessed to have followed the Holy Spirit guiding you. It takes tremendous strength of mind and spiritual conviction in the truth that Jesus gave us to do what you did to not return. So much is not understood about hindu and buddhist practices. I did Kriya Yoga, Zen and was a practitioner, teacher and Nun of Vajrayana Tibetan Buddhism. I left it all behind seven years ago, after 40 years away from the Church I am joyful to be home in the Catholic Church.

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

        Connie – it would be interesting to hear your entire story. Have you ever written it out or shared it with anyone from beginning to end?

        • Connie

          Dan – I found my way here as a result of hearing a talk about this artical on Patrick Madrids Right Here Right Now talk program on Immaculate Heart Radio. I never post in blogs. But I was moved to respond to a few comments on his facebook regarding this artical, and gave a very brief background so others would better understand my comment. I have never written it out or shared it from beginning to end. In the context of this artical I feel what I’ve experienced could become of benefit for others.

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

            Would you be interested in writing it up for me? If so, you could send it to me in a word or pages doc.

          • Connie

            Yes I would.

      • Carlene

        Connie, thank you for sharing here & look what has come of it! I too would be blessed by your testimony and with joy welcome you back home to the Church! I am touched by your reminding me that this was/is a great blessing. By it, feeling God’s love, so thank you! May God bless you & may the Holy Spirirt work in & through you as you share your testimony! Blessed by you!

  • Lovedapups

    I went on a retreat last summer and before the Priest (who had done many exorcisms down in South America) would even hear my confession; he told me to sit down and answer a few questions. Was I into New Age? Did I practice Yoga or Rekai etc. Since I had been to a spa a few years back where I was to get a simple back massage but the woman (RMT) started doing weird things which turned out to be Rekai…barely touching my skin and holding her hands an inch or so above my back….and according to her…she was “rearranging my energies”…my bad energy and good energy. Well this just freaked me out and I told her to quit it and by that time I was afraid of her and wanted out of that room. So…I renounced Rekai and Yoga etc.(I have never practiced Yoga but I wanted to be darn sure there was no residue so I renounced everything I could think of) The point I am making is that you can get into situations that you think are innocent, like me thinking I was just going for a back massage; or some sweet lady thinking she will get exercise by doing some yoga but you can’t control what the teachers/leaders are praying or chanting. They are so deeply into whatever it is they practice that they are not even consciously aware that it may be bad. They think they are doing something good for you but they are actually opening up doors to things you don’t want around. Jesus Christ is the way, truth and life. Anything that doesn’t line up with the Bible is always a good thing to avoid. Jesus didn’t do Yoga…instead, he walked everywhere he went which was good exercise!
    And to those people who think they can pray the rosary while in a downward dog pose or some other Hindu god pose…I liken this to kneeling before a statute of the fake god Bael and saying the Our Father…some how I think our Heavenly Father would not be pleased.

  • jcmeg56

    Thank you, thank you, thank you, Father! This teaching is SO needed. I will share this with family and friends on FB as soon as the series is complete. It sounds like you will be confirming the resistance in my spirit against yoga.

  • Mjacob

    Here’s what I posted on Catholic Answers in response to the Michelle Arnold article espousing yoga for “well formed” Catholics. Michelle is on the staff of Catholic Answers

    Let me start by saying that I’m from India and I was surprised by the poor scholarship and naviete in Michelle Arnold’s article on Yoga.

    Yoga has been one of the most effective ways that the Hindu faith has used to spread its set of beliefs. It is merely a doorway into a whole world of experience and beliefs around “inner silence”, “self-divinization”, syncretism and for those who’ve had any experience with deliverance and exorcism – deep problems in that area. Clearly it looks good and tastes good, and over time leads one to the doorway that says “you shall be as gods knowing good and evil”.

    Michelle, by quoting secondary sources on yoga, you completely miss the point. Go to the original Hindu scriptures and read what it says about yoga. Let just say that the gurus didn’t wake up one day and say,..”hmm..we need do do something about the flab that’s accumulating with all this meditation, and we do need a way of stretching and strengthening our core, lets create a system of physical postures that will help us do that”. No they didn’t – every posture was a spiritual act. This funny separation between physical and spiritual that Michelle creates is false dichotomy. I might as well say chanting Om is only a meaningless sound – its a physical vibration of certain vocal chord and perhaps is good for strengthening one’s vocal chords. Well, read what the Hindu scriptures say about Om. Every physical act has meaning – that is not superstition. I assume that attributing spiritual value to making the sign of the cross or all the gestures that go with mass have no inherent value according to Michelle. Scripture is full of physical expression – bowing, kneeling, falling on one’s face, raising one’s hands in prayer all have inherent spiritual value.

    Yoga often comes as a package. And I’ve seen this pattern in almost every catholic who gets into yoga. The first attribute that emerges quite strongly is self-absorption, soon followed by the denial of the power and the name of Jesus as the one before which every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord, – syncretism seems a natural step. And then comes the emergence of moral relativism – which is an age old Hindu idea. One of the things I’ve looked at is the values and moral profile of yoga advocates – and let me say as a Catholic that there are problems.

    Michelle somehow differentiates between someone well formed in the Catholic faith and someone who is not. The former apparently can practice yoga. I wonder when “well-formed” happens? I look at the saints as the great examples of well formed – however from Michelle’s definition most of them would better fit the definition of fundamentalist.

    As someone from the Eastern Church tradition and from India let me say that the Eastern church is much more cautious of yoga than the western church. Of course there are fringe priests and bishops in the eastern church who support this – however anyone who has studied original sources of Hindu teaching will steer clear.

    I’m disappointed that Catholic Answers has lacked the discernment necessary around this area and published this article. I’ve always hoped for a higher standard of orthodox Catholicism than Michelle’s article.

    • EILEEN ASKEY

      Sir, you have really nailed it, good articulation and perhaps you would be of real use to Father. I would submit to a recommendation! Thank you for your even mindedness

  • Fr. Gashwin

    Very timely! I’ve had a number of inquiries from parishioners just last week. (All Spanish-speaking women incidentally). I’d never given it much thought. I grew up in a Hindu family but yoga was never a part of my life. I look forward to the subsequent pieces!

  • Bon Marie S

    Thank you for informing many. It amazes me how many do not know that yoga is a part of the Hindu religion. You cannot separate the two. And for some to say that they can incorporate it into their Catholic faith, such as praying while doing yoga. Wow! Fr. John Hardon (RIP) wrote a short article on why yoga is incompatible with Catholicism in 1998, way before its popularity peaked. It can be found online. Your website is sorely needed. There are way too many Catholics who do not know their faith. I thank you for your effort! And will do my part with prayer and penance.

    • CatherineA

      To me this argument is similar to the New Testament dispute about eating meat which had been sacrificed to idols. If I am taking a yoga class that has only exercise, and no spiritual component whatsoever, the only real concern is that it may confuse or scandalize others (and that deserves serious consideration). But it’s also worth considering that Catholics have borrowed many pagan (or simply secular) practices over the centuries, such as Christmas trees, and incorporated them into our own cultures. We have even taken pagan temples and turned them into churches.

      I believe we should not allow the word “yoga” to confuse us; not all “yoga” is the same. What many Americans are practicing today bears little resemblance to the original, genuine spiritual practice of yoga. We have taken what is good and useful and are using it for a good purpose, and have dropped what is bad. I think it’s good to be aware of the background and history of yoga, and to proceed with caution. But we should be careful not to demonize (pun slightly intended) all yoga or persons who practice it, quite literally, in good faith.

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

        Dear Catherine – thanks for your notes. Stay tuned – we have not made this argument in this post… There is far more to the discussion than this very narrow aspect – don’t close the book on us yet!

      • MarcAlcan

        But we should be careful not to demonize (pun slightly intended) all yoga or persons who practice it, quite literally, in good faith.
        Indeed. But we should expose the fact that while they may be practicing it in “good faith” they are actually exposing themselves to harm.

        To proceed with caution ? or maybe not proceed at all.

  • LizEst

    Hmmm…when the apostles asked Jesus to teach them HOW to pray, He taught them the Our Father. During His time with them, He also taught them the importance of praying always. I don’t find anything in Scripture that tells us to contort our bodies in bizarre ways in order to pray, or in order to grasp for union with God. The closest thing is probably the lifting of our hands (and hearts) and bowing down before God. “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6). Humility draws God, not posturing of any kind whether it be physical, mental or spiritual.

    • Bryan Rodriguez

      Do you only pray the Our Father, then? Scripture tells us many things, it also doesn’t tell us many things.

      • LizEst

        Great question Bryan! The Our Father is both a prayer and an exemplar of how to pray…and we are to pray always, filially, with thanks and praise and with faith, from a position of humility, apart from others and, as well, in the hidden mountain of our hearts and souls, and together with others, in our community of faith, before meals, in making intercession for people, and even on our own crosses…just like Jesus did.
        Hope that helps, Bryan…and God bless you!

        • Bryan Rodriguez

          My apologies for the sarcasm in my previous comment. I understand the our father and all that it entails (As best as my mortal reasoning can). My point was, you mentioned that Jesus does not tell us to contort our bodies in order to pray, that is correct, Jesus also never says, “use incense before exposing the blessed sacrament” but as a tradition, we do that. Many of the teachings/traditions that we have are not made explicit by Jesus, but rather, implicitly through prayerful discernment of the scriptures and the guidance of the church. My disagreement is in referring to the Our Father as the sole method on how to pray. Furthermore, there are many ways to pray. Many on this thread have commented about the pagan traditions the church has adopted for the mission of the Church so I won’t add to that. Now I say this very hypothetically, but if a practice like “Holy yoga” were to lead a person to Christ, would that be such a way to pray? Surely the focus of the Gospel teaching is not focused on how we come to know Christ (with reasonable boundaries of course), but the actual knowing of him. There are many who pray “as they should” but do not know Christ.

          • MarcAlcan

            Isn’t Holy Yoga an oxymoron?
            As for the actual knowing of Christ, I don’t see how Holy Yoga can do that considering that Yoga is Hindu and is not even remotely about Christ.

          • LizEst

            Brian- You are right. Not everything is explicitly contained in Scripture or explained by the Church. But, evil has a way of slithering into our lives. It’s not explicit either, or no one would fall into its traps. Unlike God, the devil is a liar and a deceiver.

            Jesus came to fulfill the law, not abolish it. Thus a lot of what we have in our liturgy has its roots in Judaism. And, through the years, the Church has continually reformed our liturgy to bring it in line with both Scripture and Tradition (both big T and little T). Things that are not in conformity have been weeded out and will continue to be weeded out as they work their way in. The Church does not put its seal of approval on things that come from religions that are not of God and not in line with her theology, though we acknowledge that many people in other religions seek God with a sincere heart. And, although a few in the Church may be confused about some things, God is the ultimate victor. Christ already saw Satan fall from heaven. God permits some things in order to bring a greater good from the situation.

            When one has the fullness of Truth, why go anywhere else? Why introduce something into one’s life that has the potential to lead one astray, and, in many cases, has done so? Why go after rumors and rumors of rumors? The Creed came about because of heresy. There is so much that is good and beautiful and true in our faith. It makes no sense to go elsewhere.

            Jesus taught us HOW to pray. If it’s good enough for Him, it’s good enough for me. I follow Him, and not everything and anything else, because I believe in one God, the Father almighty and in Jesus Christ His Son, our Lord, who won salvation for us by His obedience to the Father, and in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and giver of life.

            Liz
            ps. There are many references to incense in Scripture. It comes to us from our Jewish heritage. Here is an excellent video on Jesus and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B38z9jN94ww It’s lengthy but worth it.
            pps. When you say “holy yoga”…does it begin and end with the sign of the cross?
            ppps. Oh yes…and your apology is accepted. God bless you!

  • macdonald@alphacomm.net

    I’m a devout Catholic and have been doing yoga for several years using videos. None of those workouts have anything resembling spirituality on them. I’m 54 years old and probably in the best shape I’ve been in decades. I think before condemning this form of physical exercise, do a little more research. Observe a class, look at a youtube video. In fact, check out one of Jillian Michaels yoga video. Nothing ‘dangerous’ on there except some sore glutes and obliques the next day. Remember, our body is our temple and we should take care of it.

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

      Dear Friend – thanks for your note. I suspect you might be appealing to the folks commenting regarding condemning. As far as the post is concerned, we have not done that and the research is and will be impeccable. Stay tuned. I am grateful for your commitment to your faith. Please keep an open mind. Yours in the faith…

      • macdonald@alphacomm.net

        Thanks, Dan. I’m looking forward to reading the rest of the series.

  • BarefootnRhythm

    Dear People- I am a Catholic and a Yoga Instructor! I do not practice or teach yoga as a religious/ spiritual tool to reshape Christian thought!!i do meditate but it is for knowing God of Heaven more deeply not to sit and chant to Shiva this Shiva that! I do practice yoga because it is a physical attribute to lengthen strengthen elongate and tone therefore yes, many of us especially in The Americas utilize yoga as a physical body shaper! Have any of you ever done Inversions ( asanas/ poses) like headstand, handstand, dolphin etc— well if not , try it & then see if you have time to think of any religion while doing these poses— instead, you will find a physical mindset comes into play just to keep power to hold the pose!!

    • David Kingsella

      I believe you and others on here who state that the Yoga they practice is only for the physical benefit of which I am sure there is. That said, I think another problem with Catholics practicing Yoga is that it sends very mixed signals to others both outside our faith and those within our faith who do not clearly understand. I believe people understand that Yoga is both physical and spiritual and so it can create the sense that we as Catholics condone the participation in spiritual practices which fall outside of our faith. It is one thing for the practitioner to understand what they are doing, but that doesn’t speak to the message we are giving others…and that I’m sure you would agree is important as well. The parish I belong to actually offers Yoga classes in the Parish Hall each week and this offering is printed in our weekly bulletin…it concerns me what those who are visiting Mass must think when they read this and the confusion and even scandal it could cause. It seems there are all sorts of physical exercise options available that one would not need to practice Yoga.

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

        You are on to what might be on the top of the list of concerns David.

        Sent from my iPad

    • jack g.

      Dear Bearfoot
      Maybe for now in your case this might seem right and safe. But most people are not “devout Catholics”, but people on a journey and if you infest their spirituality with yoga or anything else, they will be slowed down or maybe even separated from the possibility of finding out what real personal relationship with Christ is. Therefore Yoga is promoting separation from Christ or His Body, The Church and if so it is not recommended for Christians. The Church in official document condemns many practices, including yoga as dangerous. That should be enough for a devout catholic or any catholic or christian to loose interest in yoga. here is a link to Vatican document treating on a lot of it.
      http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/pontifical_councils/interelg/documents/rc_pc_interelg_doc_20030203_new-age_en.html

      2. NEW AGE SPIRITUALITY: AN
      OVERVIEW

      May God Bless you allwith Jesus in my heart jack g.

    • Aldo Elmnight

      Some resrouces on the effects of yoga:
      http://www.womenofgrace.com/blog/?cat=11

  • http://contemplativehomeschool.com Connie Rossini

    Thanks, Dan and Fr. Ezra, for this series. Since
    i blog on Carmelite spirituality, I often have readers who are confused about the differences between supernatural contemplation and eastern meditation techniques. I’m looking forward to the rest of the articles.

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

      Connie – I have seen your site – feel free to offer the link.

      • http://contemplativehomeschool.com Connie Rossini

        Thanks, Dan. It’s http://contemplativehomeschool.com
        I have been thinking about writing my own series on yoga, Zen, etc. and how they’re different from traditional Christian prayer. You’re saving me some work–for now, at least. I’ll just send people here.

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

          Great to have you with us. Feel free to jump in on the conversation any time.

  • DSW4Christ

    Fr. Ezra is my parish priest. He single-handledly steered me away from my DAILY practice of hot yoga. To say that I haven’t looked back would be a lie because I LOVED the way I felt after leaving each class. I am a devout Carholic and I have had the distinct honor of growing up Italian and Catholic in a little ethnic town of Pittsburgh where we paraded the Blessed Mother through the streets on her feast days with the Italian Sons and Daughters of America. Long before I “loved” yoga, I loved and still love my faith. I am one of the folks writing who never succumbed to the spiritual practices of yoga, but I watched as the owner of the studio, also Catholic, began to invite us to workshops on the weekends that began to feel a bit “sketchy”; like “Course of Miracles”. While I knew that I would never attend such a seminar, a brief, after-mass encounter with Fr. Ezra prompted myself and a friend to set up a meeting with him to discuss the dangers of practicing yoga. I have never been back to that studio since our meeting. While I never completely understood why I could just immediately stop doing something that I loved, the God of the past, present and future has other plans for me and each day that plan becomes clearer and clearer. If we just let go of what we want and what we think is best for us and truly let God work in our lives, He reveals Himself to us and the truth is what is made known. I am up for some reason in the middle of the night on the first eve of Fr. Ezra’s blog. I have never even written on anyone’s blog before and I’m not sure who will even see this, but I now know that I am witness to the power of what God can do in your life if you would just let Him in. When in Rome, I thought, “should anyone doubt that God sent His only Son to save us, a trip to Italy would unquestionably solve that.” I look at Fr. Ezra’s perspective on yoga in much the same way…should you have any reservations about yoga or even if you don’t (like me at one time), ask the Holy Spirit to only open you mind to what Fr. Ezra has to say, not just because he’s a priest, but because he has the courage and the knowledge to stand firm on the slippery slope of today’s culture and speak the truth, the truth that God is calling all of us to.

    • LizEst

      Thanks for your testimony and your witness. It’s great to hear from one of Father Ezra’s parishioners. God bless you…and welcome to our site!

  • Hearin in da Boro of NYC

    Sad to say I recently read a Catholic Parish Seasonal Newsletter listing
    PARISH MINISTRY COORDINATORS and included in the listings Yoga, woman’s name and phone number. When I researched the Church website I found their bulletin announcement stating: “WINTER YOGA CLASSES Begin Thursday, January 9th in the Old Church/Chapel 10:00am – 11:30am. It is amazing what a simple Yoga class can do for your body & mind! Relax and rejuvenate in a Christian atmosphere of quiet beauty and peace. Classes include: warm-up stretches, yoga postures, breathing techniques & deep relaxation with time for prayer and meditation. This is a yoga class for all levels with variations taught for beginners to advanced. Registration is a for 10 classes ($100). A make-up class will be provided free of charge. You are welcome to come to the first class and try it out! To register or for more information, please contact: ****** *****, RYT 500 hours, at ***** or via email at ******. ” This same “teacher” also advertises in local community periodicals with “Class is offered in a beautiful art nouveau church and is structured with gentle warm up stretches, classical yoga asanas, deep relaxation, ranayama (breathing exercises) and time for silent meditation/prayer and short meditative readings from the great christian mystics such as Hildegard of Bingen, Meister Eckhard, Teresa of Avila, etc. Teacher is certified for teaching beginner, intermediate, advanced and cardiac yoga by the Integral Yoga Institutes, a RYT and hold a M.A. in Comparative Religions.” This
    is a sad example how a Roman Catholic parish bulletin would present the
    “class” one way and the secular publication another. The Rockville Center NY Diocese is like the spiritual wild west at times. Mercy! Thanks for the resource. I will try to forward the complete article via email to the Pastor when available unless someone knows him personally. That way it may be better received.

  • Mary A. Gibson

    First, when is part 2 coming?!! Secondly, I read something about yoga in a good spiritual warfare book that said, whatever you do with your body, you do with your soul because you can’t separate the body from the soul. Each yoga pose has a spiritual meaning and purpose for worship of a certain deity. That’s how it was designed. You did not invent yoga, so you can’t split it or assemble it as you like.

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

      ASAP!

    • LCP2

      You aim a gun and pull the trigger to stop an assailant who is about to harm an innocent child. Or, you aim a gun and pull the trigger to shoot a shop keeper who refuses to hand over the cash. The physical action and even proximate end is identical: to shoot another person. The spiritual states are worlds apart. An understanding of connection between soul and body needs to taken intentionality into account and cannot be reduced to a simplistic one-to-one correlation. Or here’s a better example: The orans posture was practiced by both pagans and Jews before it was adopted by Christians.

      • LizEst

        The earliest Christians were Jews. The orans posture did not get adopted by Christians, it was already practiced by the followers of Christ because they were Jews, just as Jesus was. It took quite a while before a complete split from Judaism occurred. And, the earliest followers of Christ kept the orans posture; it was already part of their Jewish heritage and worship.

        • LCP2

          According that bastion of academic credibility, Wikipedia, “The orans posture was practiced by both pagans and Jews before it was adopted by the earliest Christians. Christians saw the position as representing the posture of Christ on the Cross.” I’ve also read that it is was the posture preferred by the (pagan) Romans. In short, it once had pagan (and/or Jewish) significance, and we took it and made it our own. Again, the meaning of the gesture comes not from some magically infused spiritual power but from idea and intention. Similarly, when kneel and bow before the toilet (because of stomach flu), the gesture has a much different meaning from kneeling and bowing before Jesus. You can’t draw a one-to-one correlation between posture and spiritual meaning.

    • Stephanie

      It is not true that yoga postures each have a spiritual meaning and purpose for worship of a certain deity. This statement has no foundations whatsoever within any reasonable, historical, or contextual study of India or Hinduism.

    • Stephanie

      It is not true that “Each yoga pose has a spiritual meaning and purpose for worship of a certain deity.” This is a false representation of yoga. If this blog intends to conduct a meaningful reflection on the function of yoga in Christian contexts, it is wrong to promote superstitious, historically, and factually ungrounded information. There are many traditions of yoga. Most of what we see in this country is related to a modern innovation of posture practice that is largely derived from a combination of hatha yoga postures and European calisthenics.

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

        So are you saying that there is no form of yoga where each pose has a specific meaning and purpose for worship?

        • Stephanie

          There is no form of yoga based in any kind of historical yoga tradition that identifies each pose with the worship of a certain deity. Specific meaning for various postures are more often linked to, for example, elimination of bodily waist so that the mind can achieve better concentration. Yoga in the form of the physical exercise we see in this country is not linked to worship as we think of it in the Christian context. It is not a part of temple worship or ceremony. Yoga in the Bhagavad Gita does promote a practice of repeating the name of God to keep the mind attuned to God, but this is obviously very different from associating forward bends with deity worship. Modern postures are largely a modern invention (of the last 100years), so there is no historical basis for meaning and purpose for worship other than whatever a particular teacher wants to claim and promote. A Christian yoga teacher can promote Christian worship through postures with as much authenticity as a Hindu. Yoga in a Hindu context is a much broader category that is largely unrelated to posture practice.

        • Stephanie

          It is clear that you are not open to dialogue or meaningful understanding of what Yoga actually is when you ask a question and refuse to post the response.

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

            Dear Stephanie – you have judged incorrectly. I looked back and determined that your comment was improperly handled. We are imperfect here – just humans – especially me. Regarding your claim that the poses have no spiritual worship component, I will leave it to Fr. Ezra to answer once he returns. Please review the FAQ’s on our posting policies. If you follow them, it will increase the likelihood of posts going through. Sincere yours in Christ.

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

            On another note – just out of curiosity. You strike me as an intelligent person Stephanie. How would you describe your relationship with the Catholic Church? Are you in full agreement with the magisterium or are there some teachings you disagree with?

  • vicki

    just do the exercise and enjoy the yoga. Catholics go halloweening and we dont think about the devil or evil so parents let their kids go I did yoga and I am not a different person spiritually. I just enjoy yoga.

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

      There are many Catholics who rightly reject hollowed actives and instead focus on the lives of the saints. The foolish embrace of foolish activities is not a good argument for the embrace of Yoga.

  • LCP2

    What it the difference between a Buddhist chanting “Om” on his prayer beads and a Catholic praying Hail Marys on his “prayer beads”? The physical action, breathing, (and probably, in terms of brain waves, even the mental state) is very similar if not identical. The difference is in intention, and Jesus tells us that the intention behind prayer is a crucial determinant of the value of prayer. For example, if you make a show out of praying to impress others, you have already received your reward.

    What if the Hindus were on to something when they spoke of energy flow in the body and were mistaken only in their understanding of metaphysics? If that is the case, granted what Nostra Aetate and St. Paul teach (see below), why should we constrain ourselves from benefiting from Yogic breathing (not chanting!) and physical exercise–while disregarding the metaphysics? If you are going to convince me that I should stop doing “Yoga”, you need to demonstrate that the physical practice is inseparable from Hindu metaphysics.

    I have been doing “Yoga” for a decade, and I can tell you that—divorced from its metaphysics and the intentionality to achieve enlightenment–it is nothing more than a highly evolved form of exercise technology. Along these lines, many Yogis claim that if you remove the spiritual aspect from the practice, what is being done should no longer be called “Yoga”. (I’ll continue to call it “Yoga” for the sake of convenience, but you could just as easily call it “dynamic stretching combined with isometrics”.)

    How is Yogic exercise different from other forms of exercise? Jane Fonda arguably developed Jazzercise in her worship of the self. Does her impoverished motivation and misguided metaphysics mean that I also shouldn’t do Aerobics? How is Aerobics different from Yoga?

    What about other technologies that are not mentioned in the Bible, Sacred Tradition, or tradition, from which you benefit, that were invented from less than pure motives, and which lead many into perdition? Take the internet for example. Many people use the internet to view porn. You should argue, then, that we should avoid the internet because so many people who start using it end up addicted to porn (or shopping, or gambling).

    Please see Nostra Aetate. Among other things, it states: “The Church, therefore, exhorts her sons, that through dialogue and collaboration with the followers of other religions, carried out with prudence and love and in witness to the Christian faith and life, they recognize, preserve and promote the good things, spiritual and moral, as well as the socio-cultural values found among these men.” Along complementary lines, St Paul States, “All things are lawful for me, but not all things build up” (Cor 10:23).

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

      You make many good points but Nostra Aetate has been grossly misinterpreted. It clearly states that we should honor the truth in other religions but it also clearly states that these truths are only “reflections of a ray” – the true source and full ray of truth is found in its fulness in the Catholic Church. We need not look outside of our faith for insight into how we might come to union with God. The purpose of Nostra Aetate had nothing to do with seeking spiritual insights outside of our faith but of healing the belligerence between Catholics and other faiths by fostering a more charitable stance toward them so that we can love them, and thereby bear witness to the fullness of the faith found in the Church.

      • LCP2

        Thanks, (Father/Brother?) Dan, for posting my comment and responding. I agree wholeheartedly with you when you say, “We need not look outside of our faith for insight into how we might come to union with God.”

        And to be clear, I should add that I do “yoga” using videos at home, and the videos are secular; there is no chanting, any other type of “worship”, nor an explicit or implicit intention to worship. The videos really are focused on just the physical exercise, including breathing. In contrast, I am not sure that you could find a studio that would consistently draw a clear line.

        Regarding Nostra Aetate, I would not argue with you. I would add that the Church has nothing to teach us about gaining the type of core strength and long, strong muscles that prevent one from becoming prematurely debilitated due to “age”. Any Christian who is looking for more than that from “yoga” is starting down the wrong path. Similarly, anyone who thinks that they can chant “Om Namah Shivaaya” without spiritual effect would be deeply misguided. On the other hand, what about chanting “Aum” (which I am told is analogous to “Amen”)? I really don’t know. Nevertheless, I see no need for it, and if I am going to engage in any type of repetitive prayer, it’ll be the Rosary (which I pray four times a week).

        While I wonder about energy flow in the body, I don’t think there is any scientific research on the subject, so I keep that in my “maybe; maybe not” box. But again, we are talking about physiology, not spirituality.

        What I struggle to understand is what Yoga means to a Hindu or neo-pagan who was not raised with a sound understanding of the gospel. It is fine to quote exorcists who say that Yoga leads to demonic possession, but do we really want to say that the entire non-Christian world or “natural religions” is either possessed or on the threshold of demonic possession?

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

          No

  • jack g.

    Dear Bearfoot
    Maybe for now in your case this might seem right and
    safe. But most people are not “devout Catholics”, but people on a
    journey and if you infest their spirituality with yoga or anything else,
    they will be slowed down or maybe even separated from the possibility
    of finding out what real personal relationship with Christ is. Therefore
    Yoga is promoting separation from Christ or His Body, The Church and if
    so it is not recommended for Christians. The Church in official
    document condemns many practices, including yoga as dangerous. That
    should be enough for a devout catholic or any catholic or christian to
    loose interest in yoga. here is a link to Vatican document treating on a
    lot of it.
    http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/pontifical_councils/interelg/documents/rc_pc_interelg_doc_20030203_new-age_en.html

    2. NEW AGE SPIRITUALITY: AN
    OVERVIEW

    May God Bless you allwith Jesus in my heart jack g.

  • Aldo Elmnight

    Women of Grace radio program had a good call on this today. It was stated that many exocists (priests) state the most common way for oppression/possession to occur is via Yoga and the demons brought in via yoga are the hardest to expell.

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

      Though many in this thread will not like to hear this, it is true.

    • Camila

      Whoa! s c a r r y!!!!!!!!!

    • LizEst

      Not only that, did you see this: http://www.womenofgrace.com/blog/?p=27570

      • Camila

        Yikes! …..you got to be kidding! right?!…..

        • LizEst

          No, she is not kidding. This stuff is actually going on. It’s not everywhere but it has happened…and, in some cases, lawsuits have resulted.

          • Camila

            C R A Z Y!

  • jack g.

    Hi Everyone,
    I have read some of the comments and I also wanted to comment on it using Vatican document I mentioned before. Here is an excerpt of it;
    Some of
    the traditions which flow into New Age are: ancient Egyptian occult
    practices, Cabbalism, early Christian gnosticism, Sufism, the lore of the
    Druids, Celtic Christianity, mediaeval alchemy, Renaissance hermeticism,
    Zen Buddhism, Yoga and so
    on.(15)
    Really, this I hope will be enough for all. I have investigated and argued the New Age including yoga with others and there really is no point, because a lot of people aren’t humble enough to just believe what The Church teaches, but rather go after their relative ways and philosophies.
    When I argued all or most were offended that I dared criticizing yoga. See yoga and New Age is by now deeply anchored in western society and the real dangers of it are hidden; therefore it is very difficult to prove or argue anything to those promoting yoga, because they themselves have no idea what yoga is. To be able to argue a point both sides need to be educated on the topic with an open mind, otherwise it won’t work. Best is to pray for those individuals who we know fall into New Age trap and present them with Church’s teaching on it. As far as I know, there are also priests who, I believe unknowingly promote yoga and/or other NA practices. I hope that this series and the Vatican documents will help others to finally realize the that these are not trivial matters, but matters of life and death of our brothers and sisters in Christ. Eternal life and death.
    jack g.

    • LizEst

      Indeed! That quote you mention is the last line of paragraph 2.1 of this Vatican Document: http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/pontifical_councils/interelg/documents/rc_pc_interelg_doc_20030203_new-age_en.html

    • LCP2

      Jack, I don’t think you are reading, “…flow into….” the right way. The phrase simply means that New Age draws on these “faith traditions”.

      You might as well criticize Catholicism for “flowing into” Arianism as criticize Zen Buddhism for “flowing into” New Age. The point of the passage is that New Age is a hodgepodge of different and often incompatible faith systems. It says nothing about those faith systems in and of themselves. Some, such as Zen Buddhism, are merely natural; others, such as Druidism, are arguably demonic.

      It is worth noting that some of the traditions are better than others. I don’t think we’d would want to put Zen Buddhism on the same level as Druidism.

      • jack g.

        to give you one example of a demonic spin to yoga, please check out the testimony of Fr. Jacques Verlinde on this Catholic site ;

        http://www.michaeljournal.org/verlinde.htm

        and read him talking about his experience as a yoga master. He met the Devil at the end of a yoga chain of command and then asked God for help and was given the grace of profound conversion.
        He became a priest and has been testifying about New Age and yoga since then. Great conversion story.

        • LCP2

          Jack, Thanks for sharing the great article. It gives a very good example of the dangers to any baptized person who abandons his or her faith and becomes involved in paganism. (I wonder if devout, non-baptized Hindus experience demonic influence or possession.)

          Notice the progression of Jacques’ spiritual decline: 1. Rejection of Christianity; 2. Seeking God/Truth apart from His Son and His Church; 3. Explicitly adopting occult practices. All thee steps were arguably necessary for him to end up as he did before returning to Jesus.

          This is a far cry from someone who is doing “yoga” for exercise, who doesn’t chant, and who explicitly rejects the metaphysics.

          • jack g.

            this article is only a few translated words.
            Fr. Verlinde has a 2hr documentary where he talks about New Age, Occult and also Yoga. He has told a Hindu Yoga Master about Westerners who take up yoga as exercise only. He responded that they are foolish.
            Many people here and all over the world are proof, a testimony to yoga dangers. Yoga as it is practiced in the western culture is a gateway to the Occult kingdom where souls are lost. It is like children playing with matches or teenage boys with porn sites.
            Yoga takes over slowly leading people away from God and Christian values and morals. This is evident here on this site when people share their experiences.
            Yes, one can spin anything into anything, we call it relativism, ant JPII warned about that.
            We are not smarter than Satan, he was the most intelligent of angels. Think about that, he has a web of disguises for few thousand of years now, he always fools humans, easily.
            To play with fire is dangerous.
            Yoga is an Occult kindergarten as halloween is one for witchcraft. People think it’s fun, no its not. It is foolishness, not even close to The Kingdom of God.

  • Catholic Marine

    Outstanding article! Wholeheartedly concur with you Fr. Sullivan. God Bless You!

    • LizEst

      Catholic Marine–thank you for your service! God bless you!

  • Elizabeth517

    I definitely think the danger for Westerners adopting yoga is not so much that they will somehow unknowingly pay homage to a fictional Hindu god, or something, but that yoga was intended for meditation and worship and it must have something to replace the original theology: this has easily been done in the West by simply replacing it with the false god of Self. This dovetails nicely with the interests of the various lifestyle industries that tie in with what secularized yoga is selling, namely that we can purify and perfect ourselves by the force of our own will: remove all negative things from our life purely by the force of channeling our energy through yogic discipline, align our chakras by wearing the right color and fabric or using the right expensive essential oil, etc.

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

      Insightful

  • Kirry

    I like to use this analogy: Trying to separate Hinduism from Yoga is
    like trying to take Christ out of Christmas. You just cant to it.
    Additionally, I would like to point out to those who say Yoga is
    innocent and this is making a big deal of nothing….the devil works in
    insidious ways. He never tries coming into your life in an obvious way
    because you would then immediately reject him. He sneaks into our lives
    and souls in cunning subterfuge. To say yoga is innocent exercise
    without a GREAT deal of discernment is irresponsible to your immortal
    soul. There is also the aspect of those who already practice it, enjoy
    its “benefits” and therefore don’t want to have to give it up so they
    defend it without any reflection. We see this in any assortment of
    “justified” behaviors. There is always a good excuse for behaviors
    people don’t want to give up from overeating to contraception. We can
    justify anything in our minds if we want to. If there is even a
    question as to its spiritual nature, I would think anyone even the least
    bit dedicated to God would immediate cease and desist until its
    spiritual effects are clearly discerned.

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

      Dear Kirry – it appears you may have cut and paste your content from another application. As you can see, this causes havoc with the system.

      • Kirry

        So sorry. Didn’t know that would cause and issue. I use that application so often I don’t even think about it. My apologies!

    • LCP2

      Kirry, Our secular society has done the very thing that you say is impossible. I know many people who celebrate a “Christmas” in which Christ is not present.They put up the tree and lights. They exchange gifts. They bring their kids to see Santa. They say “Marry Christmas”. Yet, they remain thoroughly neo-pagan. There is no sense whatsoever that they are celebrating the birth of the savior or the universe. There is no spirituality (except perhaps a sort of negative spirituality consisting of materialism and natural affections).

      • Kirry

        No, they haven’t. They TRY and take Christ out of Christmas but He cannot be removed. He is there whether people realize it or not. Same with His grace and His love. Although we may not perceive with out senses He is there. I think there is a lack of understanding of the supernatural on the part of people who think this. We has humans cannot change the supernatural simply by choosing to pretend it isn’t there.

        • LCP2

          You seem to be confusing the real presence in the Eucharist with a mostly secular holiday that happens to have the Greek word for “anointed” as part of its name. Jesus is objectively present in the Eucharist. He says that he is present whenever two or more are gathered in his name. He also says that he stands and knocks at the door of every man’s heart. However, he says nothing about showing up and hanging around uninvited–except at the Last Judgement. Certainly, he is omni-present as the Logos, but this is different from being present as savior, king, and friend in a gathering from which he has been deliberately uninvited.

          Interestingly, if I invite Jesus and the Blessed Mother into my “dynamic stretching with isometrics”, I can count on them being there.

          • Kirry

            It doesn’t just happen to have “anointed” in the name. It mean “Christ mass”. The mass of Christ for a celebration of his birth. Jesus went many places where He was not welcome so He could bring the good news to all. As a parent I would go where I was not welcome to save my children and I think God would do more than I.

            I can see this discussion will go nowhere as long as you see life through physical lenses and not supernatural ones. I have been there so I know where you are coming from. However, I lack the ability to show/tell you how to change the way in which you perceive this life and what is all around us that we cannot see with eyes of the world. That is the work of the Holy Spirit. God be with you.

    • John Cox

      Further to your point, the physical exercises of Yoga are complimentary to the spiritual exercises of Yoga. The Yogi masters in their writings will admit that certain postures stimulate various parts of the body with the purpose of awakening kundalini energy. It’s not just “conditioning and strengthening” exercises.

      Although purely speculative on my part, it would not surprise me if demons possess or attach themselves like a leech to people who practice Yoga to feed off that energy.

      This and similar willful deviations remind me of Signorelli’s painting “Deeds of the AntiChrist” in the Orvieto Cathedral. The Devil manipulates the person’s actions while simultaneously whispering indifferentism in their ear to lessen their resistance. Why else would we hear “Witch Hunt” over-reactions as one poster above if not the product of a guilty conscience?

  • Kirry

    I was reading an article by Fr. Dwight Longenecker about the recent demonic possession instances in Indiana and they also seemed to be pertinent to this topic of yoga. He commented: “What can we draw from these shocking and dramatic stories? Firstly the remembrance not only that Satan and his minions are real, but also a reminder THAT MOST OFTEN THEY HIDE. Satan is a liar and usually comes disguised as an angel of light. He tempts us not first with horror,
    blasphemy and violence but with the a twisted form of the beautiful,
    good and true.” He concludes with ‘ “The truth is that Satan is real. If you are a Christian he hates you. He wants to destroy you. He wants to devour you.
    Finally remember the words from Sacred Scripture: “Brothers be alert
    and awake for your adversary the devil is like a roaring lion stalking
    about seeking whom he may devour.” ‘

    Like I said cunning and quite. Not in your face and obvious. Satan doesn’t hide out in the open, he hides behind things that seem innocent, beautiful and true like perhaps yoga.

    • tanyahe

      innocent looking, but not true, he is always hiding wait for someone to devour

  • Kronk

    This article seems like another Witch Hunt, to me. If I want to ask Christ for his healing and Guidance, and pray to him to seek him daily. If I hold a downward dog or a pigeon stretch to improve flexibility and static strength, I am not opening myself up to the devil. As a personal trainer and purveyor of many forms of strength and conditioning training, I can say that “Yoga” (which if you workout or have ever stretched, have probably done some), or using isometric muscle tension to increase strength, is an awesome form of training. Another sad witch hunt……

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

      Dear Paulio – how is it a “witch hunt”? What exactly do you mean?

  • Erasmite

    It depends on what you mean by “Yoga.” Stretching exercises are fine. Breathing in and out relaxes you. But “yoga” can mean much more than that. I can’t see any harm in starting my day by doing “yoga” and calisthenics. When people start using Sanskrit and talking about auras. I get worried.

  • $2435278

    It takes a long time to cut through all the new age spirituality and get to the root of whether it is harmful or not which is why I am thankful for the church to decipher. Thankfully the priest put an end to yoga in kindergarten at my daughter’s school. I believe there was also an article by JPII on the new age spirituality and health treatments. Now if someone would just clarify the occult influences in video games, I’d appreciate it.

  • jack g.

    Some of the comments prove my previous point that most people treat yoga now as an innocent household pet. We have been greatly desensitized to the dangers of New Age philosophy over last few decades. We all need more straightforward and critical catechizes.

    to give you one example of a demonic spin to yoga, please check out the testimony of Fr. Jacques Verlinde on this Catholic site ;

    http://www.michaeljournal.org/verlinde.htm

    and read him talking about his experience as a yoga master. He met the Devil at the end of a yoga chain of command and then asked God for help and was given the grace of profound conversion.

    He became a priest and has been testifying about New Age and yoga since then. Great conversion story.He is a living proof that yoga is dangerous. Jesus Himself has told us that whoever is not with Him, is against Him. My guess is that there is only good and evil in the spiritual world, and Jesus is on the good side. All else falls into the other basket.

    • LizEst

      Fascinating story. Thanks for sharing, jack g. …and God bless you!

      • jack g.

        he is known in Poland and Europe, he said much more about yoga and an occult

    • Terese10

      If you read his story, it is very clear that he “broke his covenant with God” long before he got into Hindu practices. So though there is spiritual danger in yoga, his life doesn’t really prove the point that one can never do the physical (not spiritual) parts of yoga if one is firmly grounded in faith and is doing only the physical parts.

      • jack g.

        yes, you are right
        He also said many other things about yoga in a documentary in French and Polish. He got to be one of yoga masters and he knew it wasn’t of God.
        As you know what is not of God in the Eternal realm, is from the Devil. God warns us in Old Testament a lot, of all other spiritual practices that are not from God.
        Our God is also jealous for love.
        Father Verlinde said a lot about dangers of an Occult kingdom, and yoga, he said, is one of the roads there.

  • Marta_Goodwin

    There is a great discussion going on here and many resources about Yoga from Catholic resources. People for yoga are claiming they only practice the physical side of yoga so my question is to those defending yoga as a type of exercise only:

    Do you know what yoga is?

    Take a look at Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yoga

    Take a look at this one: http://www.abc-of-yoga.com/beginnersguide/whatisyoga.asp

    When you look at these articles in favor of yoga or simply explaining what yoga is, do you read anywhere where it does not have to do with spirituality or philosophy? When practicing yoga, you are practicing the rituals of another religion.

    @LCP2:disqus – when you are kneeling over a toilet vomiting, you are not practicing the rituals of another religion.

    Jazzercise is not a spiritual ritual – it was (hopefully) simply a fad.

    Do you not see this? Why take a chance when there are so many other forms of exercise out there?

    • LCP2

      Marta, tell me, what is the difference between me kneeling and bowing in front of a toilet, ill, and me kneeling and bowing in prayer? Only one thing: intentionality. The meaning in the physical posture comes entirely and exclusively from what I intend. Now, lets take it one step further, if I am ill in front of a toilet, and I offer my suffering up to Jesus, my pain and vomiting itself arguably becomes a prayer of sacrifice. Will and intention are (almost) everything.

      In the military or gym class, a person is sometimes disciplined by being compelled to remain in push-up position. In Yoga, this position is commonly called “plank.” Similarly, several postures in Pilates are identical to poses in Yoga. If I am ‘taking a chance’ by working through Yoga poses, this can only be because the poses have power in and of themselves apart from idea and intention. If this is the case, however, then everyone who has ever held plank position or done Pilates has ‘taken a chance’.

      Why “yoga”? Because it is perhaps the most evolved and physiologically balanced and comprehensive form of exercise out there. In terms of just exercise, there really is nothing else like it.

  • Mary

    Well….I’m getting deja-vu. Haven’t we heard all this before, about (wait for it)…. Harry Potter? Also, I want to point out that Pilates uses some yoga moves in their exercises.

  • jofm1

    Father needs to stop spreading misinformation. As a priest he should know the dangers of New Age practices of which Yoga is one. The Vatican even has a document on it warning us to avoid it. Also, exorcists who know spiritual dangers first hand are warning that these practices–Yoga included, folks–are not acceptable and are responsible for an increase in demonic oppression and possession. We have one God, and Yoga was meant to call down the gods with its various postures. Those gods–demons–still respond to those postures that most people believe is just exercise. Beware, and be obedient to the Church you love. This site is called “Spiritual Direction.” What spirits are you directing here?
    Please see these articles. There are more than these out there. Reject these practices and confess them. And Father, take up jogging please.
    Exorcist says New Age Practices Lead to Demonic Possession
    http://www.womenofgrace.com/blog/?p=2476
    “No part of Yoga can be separated from the philosophy behind it.”
    http://www.michaeljournal.org/reiki.htm
    Why is Yoga incompatible with Catholicism?
    http://www.catholiceducation.org/articles/religion/re0275.html
    JESUS CHRIST,THE BEARER OF THE WATER OF LIFE
    http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/pontifical_councils/i

    • LizEst

      jofm1, my sense is that you have misread the post. Please go back and reread it, slowly and carefully, without jumping to conclusions. This is the beginning of a multipart series and this first post sets the stage for the rest of the series. As well, one of Father’s parishioners, DSW4Christ, has written in (below) explaining about her discussion with him. I think you will be greatly relieved to read that comment. This site is, and always has been, 100% faithful to the Magisterium of the Roman Catholic Church and never will be unfaithful to it.
      Happy reading jofm1…and God bless you!

      • jofm1

        Gosh, LizEst, I did do that didn’t I? Please forgive me. And I hope the moderator and Fr. Ezra forgives me in my rush–you got it–to read and comment. I know there are too many Catholics who believe in Yoga and other New Age practices as harmless. I did re-read it and realized Fr. Ezra wasn’t praising it or promoting it. Thanks for the correction. I look forward to the next par.
        God bless.

        • LizEst

          You’re welcome…thanks for rereading. You are forgiven!…and we appreciate your public retraction. It’s a wonderful example for others. God bless you.

    • jack g.

      Hi there
      if you are talking about Fr. Ezra, you got it wrong, because Fr. Ezra seems to be on your side here and this is only first article in a series

    • LCP2

      In the military or gym class, a person is sometimes disciplined by being compelled to remain in push-up position. In Yoga, this position is commonly called “plank.” Similarly, several postures in Pilates are identical to poses in Yoga. By your reasoning, that poses have power in and of themselves apart from idea and intention, everyone who has ever held plank position or done Pilates has called down a Hindu deity.

      Yoga dates back to 500–200 BCE. It is not “New Age”. “New Age” is a product of modernity. New Age does attempt to incorporate Yoga–just as it does Jesus and Christianity. That a religion has been partially co-opted by New Age says nothing about the religion that is being misused and misrepresented.

      The reasons that Christians should avoid New Age and natural religions isn’t necessarily because other religions have powerful demonic forces at play in them. The reason is that Jesus is THE way, THE truth, and THE life. A baptized Christian seeking God apart from His Church is like someone who blindfolds himself before attempting a military obstacle course that features live fire.

      You are absolutely correct to say that Yoga–in the sense of a set of physical exercises, breathing, chanting, and meditation intended to bring spiritual benefit–is incompatible with Christianity. When you start talking about just the poses or breathing as being New Age (aka Demonic), you are entering the realm of superstition.

      • kolibri1011

        oh my… I had no idea plank position was yoga…it is in some exercise videos I have and I honestly had no idea.. there were other poses that I knew were yoga poses and if they come up in the workout, i don’t do them… I just didn’t know plank was one of them too. this is terrible.. just awful. thanks for letting me know LCP2.

        • LCP2

          I pray to God that New Age or some other religion doesn’t co-opt “Sitting in recliner with TV remote in hand” as a posture.

      • Paul Baylis

        Yes, yes, one-off postures innocently performed in isolation with a complete lack of intention or even any knowledge of yoga, we all understand as probably not being dangerous. Otherwise, the way I push myself up and out of bed sometimes would get me into trouble. There has to be a foreknowledge and a participation of the will, OR … having received a warning but continuing to regard it as an innocent “grey area” and continuing the practice through beligerence, stubbornness or lack of trust of Church authority.

        • LCP2

          Paul, people are talking about the postures themselves as having magical, demonic powers, so according to what some have “warned” about in these blog comments, you are “taking a risk” even if you unwittingly assume plank position. According to some people here, plank position–in and of itself–calls down pagan deities (aka, demons). But I agree with you; “There has to be a foreknowledge and a participation of the will”.

          The videos that I do are strictly limited to postures and breathing. Most of the poses are even called by their Anglicized names. I am not sure what deity (if any) “downward dog” is associated with, and I don’t care. I have been doing the videos for ten years, and in the time I have grown tremendously in my Catholic faith (although certainly not because of yoga!) and, as you might guess to be the case, have become increasingly less interested in the wisdom to be found in natural religions.

          I don’t consider Yoga proper to be a gray area. It would be naive for a Christian to seek “enlightenment” in any natural religion. However, there is good to be found in the discipline and ascetic practices, both physical and mental, that some non-Christian natural religions teach, and these faith traditions can give even Christians–even those who have had a “substantial experience with Christ”–a new way of seeing what they have failed to see in Christianity. Thomas Merton, for example, was very interested in eastern ascetic practices. I have found meaningful truths in the Bhagavad-Gita, Buddhist scriptures, Sayings of Confucius, and the writings of Lao Tzu. I should add that IF I had to choose one or the other, I would, hands down, choose a’Kempis, Liguori, or DeSales over any pagan text. But I do not have to choose, and those who are insisting that I do are falling into the trap of fundamentalism. To the contrary, a solid understanding of the wisdom and foolishness in non-Christian religions is very helpful and arguably essential for effective evangelization.

          While I have seen authoritative teaching warning us about “New Age” (which, when I read it, confirmed what I had already long thought and felt in my heart), I have NOT seen any Church document with Magisterial authority that explicitly or even tacitly forbids Christians from doing even Yoga proper (which I emphatically do NOT do)–let alone dynamic stretching, breathing, and isometrics in the style of yoga (which is essentially what I do). Here, you are sure to evoke the 1st Commandment. However, if one does not believe in pagan deities, it is not possible for one to worship them by doing Yoga. If the Magisterium were to release such a document, warning against dynamic stretching, breathing, and isometrics in the style of yoga, I would be the first to shred my videos. Until such a document is forthcoming, I will exercise my prudential judgement in the matter.

          One last thing, now that you know that Pilates systematically uses several of the exact same postures found in Yoga, which is more than just a one-off accident, will you also avoid Pilates?

  • jack g.

    So much about yoga,
    the more I read the more I see that yoga became sort of god for some people, people who cherish their bodies and looks more than what Jesus teaches.
    Our bodies became gods for lot of people in recent decades, starting with sexual revolution, big lie, all will pass and rot and we will become spiritual in an essence so why bother with some yoga, where we have to practice spiritual relationship with Our Living God in Jesus Christ.
    I wonder how much time people who practice yoga spent on practicing real relationship with Jesus?
    Will He have to say, “go away, I don’t know you”, because you chose other gods, like body, tv, sports, image, yoga, fishing or pilates, ONE BIG SELF GOD
    God Bless all on a journey

  • Bill Cloonan

    The main problem I have heard of regarding yoga is the question of the spiritual focus on the ego as the source of spiritual power. That is, for one to gain enlightenment or overcome a difficult obstacle, one needs to make a concentrated efforts into tapping into one’s qi. The true life-force or energy is the Supreme Being that we cannot just tap into and control for our own benefit.

  • Alicia

    Fr. Ezra and Dan, I’m curious as to what your thoughts are on this: http://www.soulcoreproject.com/ I guess my question really is whether or not the pilates poses themselves are harmful. Thanks!

  • Bob Bowe

    So where is Part II? Saving my comments for when I can read the entire article.

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

      It will be a few weeks. Fr. Ezra is traveling.

  • Maria

    Very thankful for this , esp. the study results on those who practice such ..

    unsure if there would be enough truth and strenght among certain Church institutions, esp. in The East , under the guise of ecumenism, that sponsor Yoga !, to recognise its effects among those who are to preach the word – such effects , may be more noticed by those to whom they supposedly minister !

    May The Lord have mercy on us and The Holy and Adorable Face , that took on the enemy deceptions in the desert and there after , casting off the spirits from Magdalene and others ,The Face that is hidden in The Eucharist , may He set many free , as we repent for such !

  • bluesuede

    Kneeling and praying the rosary with meditation has both physical and mental total relaxation and uplifting benefits. Spiritual graces to the soul is something that Yoga can’t offer.

  • Sharon

    As a woman with heart disease, I highly recommend Christian yoga if you can find one in your area. Not only does it strengthen the body and help with internal organs, in a Christian setting the leaders read biblical passages to help us focus on Christ and calm our mind thereby reducing stress.

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

      Thank you for your note Sharon. I am grateful that your heart is drawn to Christ in these matters. Out of curiosity – if the Church were to condemn Yoga as incompatible with the Catholic faith in any form (including “Christian” yoga) would you abandon the practice?

      • Sharon

        I do not believe that the Catholic Church would ever be that narrow minded because there are too many consecrated religious that practice yoga postures for exercise, arthritis, and various diseases. I don’t believe in condemning what God has put on this earth for all of us to learn from as long as we focus on the God who lives in each of us.

        • Mark

          Hi Sharon,
          Know the Truth that is Divinely Personified within the Second Divine Person of the Holy Trinity, as our Blessed Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ, Son of the Living God. He proclaimed Himself as, “I am”, and as the following: “I am the Way and the Truth and the LIfe. No one comes to the Father except through Me. It cannot be about what you or I believe, rather it must be what the Truth indeed is, as Jesus Christ Himself. The Catholic Church is the Mystical Body of Chirst in this world and our Blessed Lord is its Head. When you speak of the Church and in the same sentence you even utter the words, “narrow minded”, know about Whom it is that you are speaking. The Church is not “…too many consecrated religious that practice yoga postures for exercise, arthritis, and various diseases.” The Church is the Body of Christ in this world. If there are “many consecrated religious” that are practicing Yoga as you claim, then they are woefully misguided in their understanding of the One True God and His One, True Church, and they are in dire need of our prayers. Because Sharon, the Protestant denies the True Presence of our Blessed Dominus and Savior as being really and truly present, in His Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity, under the species of bread and wine, after the Consecration, invoking the Transubstantiation by the priest in Persona Christi, has precious no bearing on the Truth of what has miraculously and mysteriously taken place there, in the Consecration. Because many spiritually benighted religious may not believe that through their Yoga posturing, they are invoking dark spirits, has precious no bearing on the truth of who it is that they are invoking. You cannot have it both ways Sharon. If you believe in the True Presence of our Blessed Lord and Savior, then you must believe in the perversion of the Holy Rites and Rituals of the Holy Catholic Church, that the Evil One, through his profound deception, invokes not only upon the followers of the pagan and pantheistic religions, but now upon his real prize, people who claim Catholicism as their faith.
          Know His Truth in Caritas and Mercy,
          Mark

          • Sharon

            You have twisted what I said. I never said that I did not believe in the Catholic Church, its teachings or Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. You seem to have a lot of head knowledge, but it is the heart that God looks into.

          • Mark

            Hi Sharon,

            What you said is, and I quote you in your entirety:

            ” I do not believe that the Catholic Church would ever be that narrow minded because there are too many consecrated religious that practice yoga postures for exercise, arthritis, and various diseases. I don’t believe in condemning what God has put on this earth for all of us to learn from as long as we focus on the God who lives in each of us.”

            In your words, you have conflated in your own understanding, and in complete error, that the “Catholic Church” is somehow defined by or understood to be equal to, or precisely represented by, “…many consecrated religious that practice yoga postures for exercise, arthritis, and various diseases.” Those are your words, Sharon, not mine. You have, using the terms of logic, created a textbook understanding of the non-sequitur, whereby you connect the Infallible and Inviolate Truth of Holy Mother Church with miserable human creatures, who happen to be “consecrated religious”, in your words. Whatever “consecrated religious” happen to do or not do, has precious zero bearing on what the Truth of the Mystical Body of Christ proclaims within Her Infallible Magisterium. The Church has proclaimed the Hindu religion to be a false religion, of course. Therefore, it can be understood using the light of reason, that any ritual practice of a false religion, remains an instrument of that false religion. Know that, as the Consecration of our Blessed Dominus and Savior, Jesus the Christ, Son of the Living God, is Truth certain, the rites and rituals that pay homage to the dark and deprived spirit world are also truth certain. Just whom might you understand those spiritual entities to be? Anyone who is priideful enough to practice what they refer to as yoga, in any of its manifestations, is spiritually blinded to the reality of what it is that they are doing and just whom it is that they are dealing with. Satan’s intellect is beyond the sum of human personhood’s from the Garden until the end of time. That comes from Saint Thomas Aquinas’ intellect, not mine. Do you really believe it to be somehow virtuous to involve oneself in the art of deception with the “ravaging lion”, as Saint Paul refered to him? Lurking, awaiting the eternal consumption of any soul who dares challenge him in his quintessential game of deception. Nowhere does the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church teach that we should somehow “tempt” the Evil One, as he could destroy the entire world in an instant were it not for God’s Mercy and the Perfect and Holy Redemption of the Cross. To dabble in anything that can be construed as the dark arts and the occult with the presumption of pride that “I can handle this”, is the belief of an unmitigated fool tempting eternal perdition.

            Lastly Sharon, you had this to say:

            ” I don’t believe in condemning what God has put on this earth for all of us to learn from as long as we focus on the God who lives in each of us.”
            God does not place spiritual privation on this earth. That is the doing of the miserable creature, man, under the influence of the demonic. God, in the Second Divine Person of the Beloved Son, our Blessed Lord, Jesus Christ, is Truth Himself, Divinely Personified, as He proclaimed Himself to be “the Way and the Truth and the LIfe”. Truth cannot be at the same time the absence of Truth. God only places Truth into His world. False religion and its attendant false rites and rituals are the lie. Understand just what it is that you are saying when you say it, Sharon. These are your words. But for the Grace of God, I am simply clarifying them for you. I am and can only remain a miserable creature and as such, I approach my Blessed Dominus and Savior, cum amore ac timore, as Dominus Est. When we are practicing the lie, we cannot be at once focused “..on the God who lives in each of us.”
            May God bless and keep you and yours, all the days of your life.
            Mark

          • Connie

            Well stated fact…
            “The Church has proclaimed the Hindu religion to be a false religion. Therefore, it can be understood using the light of reason, that any ritual practice of a false religion, remains an instrument of that false religion.”
            What is their to augue for the practice of yoga in light of the Churches position? One cannot say that yoga is not part of the Hindu and Buddhist religions.

      • LCP2

        Certainly, Dan, I would, and with one caveat–The document would have to speak to what I do. Most if not all yogis would agree that I don’t really do yoga. I do dynamic stretching, breathing, and isometrics in the style of yoga. In other words, if the document were to say that even working through the postures and breathing, with no intent, is offensive to God, I would be the first to abandon the practice.

  • Boots Hapenny

    In agreement with Bob Bowe, when dealing with such a hot topic in the arena of apologetics and for the good of souls, a complete and concise answer would be appreciated. When one has the attention of an audience be as thorough as possible in the time given,,,This crew walks away from this article with questions and will more than likely not be back…….Learn from a kid from the street…

    • Mark

      Hi Boots,
      We are called to deepen our intellects, as it is the intellect that must inform the free will. It is only after the intellect informs the will, through the Virtue of Grace, that the free will can choose the good over the evil. That is the teaching of Saint Thomas Aquinas in Summa Theologiae. That understood, we miserable human creatures cannot somehow bring the Divine down to earth, we are called to elevate ourselves up to the Divine, as Jesus the Christ, Son of the Living God, commanded us to, “…Be perfect as your Father in Heaven is perfect.” We must never be content with that which we think we know, rather we are called to seek Truth, as Truth Himself; Jesus the Christ is indeed knowable, as Jesus commanded in the Gospel of John, chapter 14. He told us that the Almighty Father would not leave us alone, rather He would send the Blessed Advocate, the Holy Spirit, Who would remind us of all that Jesus taught us and teach us so much more. If someone pretends not to have the time to invest for the salvation of their eternal soul, well then, we the faithful need to pray, fast, and sacrifice for them, as we are commanded to love our neighbor as ourself, which can only mean that we have the same zeal for the eternal salvation of our neighbor’s soul as we do for our own.
      Lastly, know the Gospel of John, chapter 6, “The Bread of Life Discourse”. In the New American Bible, that chapter, verse 66, it is said infallibly, that many of His disciples then left Him and no longer accompanied Him. Why? Because His Truth, was too hard.
      Know His Truth in Caritas and Mercy,
      Mark

      • Boots Hapenny

        This was not a theological debate as you seem to be making it. My last comment to reword it is…….Get the 2nd part out quick or you will loose interest in this topic and page…….BE REAL

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

          Ah well – no magic wands here. Those who have the patience and interest to learn will stick around. This is why we have over 19,000 subscribers. Fr. will be back on it soon. Thanks for the concern though…

  • Meg Koss

    I am Catholic, I go to mass everyday, I recite the rosary twice a day, the Chaplet of Divine Mercy and the Stations of the Cross at 3pm, I go to adoration at least once a week and try to live my life as a reflection of the Lord. I also do Yoga. You are correct that yoga engages both mind and spirit so when one does yoga they must be mindful of both their mind and spirit. Based on some of the comments I read about those who do yoga are self absorbed and do not spend much time with the Lord I felt the above information was important.

    I feel that many people have a deep misconception of yoga. it can be a very moving and prayerful experience. It is not about letting the mind go but about focusing the mind. I choose to focus my mind on Christ when doing yoga and pray with mind and body. I do flow yoga to the Chaplet of Divine mercy sung it is very moving and powerful. My spiritual director was skeptical until I showed her the way I did it. She was moved to tears. I also focus on the passion or mysteries of the Rosary. Jesus’s life, death and resurrection were both physical and spiritual. During His passion He pushed Himself physically and spiritually beyond all understanding to save us. I cannot think of a more beautiful way to glorify Him than pushing myself both physically and spiritually to grow in what I hope will always be a deeper and closer relationship.

    I think there is a place for the practice of yoga in the Catholic Church and that it could bring many to a deeper relationship with the Lord as it has done for me. If the Catholic Church were to condemn yoga I love and am faithful to my Church so I would stop doing yoga. Remember In the Old Testament they prayed with word and body to glorify and praise God!

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

      Thanks Meg – check out Pietra Fitness here – http://pietrafitness.com

      • LizEst

        Thanks for that link. Pietra also has a video with Fr. Ezra speaking…and it is excellent.

      • Melissa

        Thanks for the link! I am so excited. As someone who gave up Yoga after much reading and spiritual discernment, I appreciate this alternative. I gave up the yoga kicking and screaming, so to speak because some parts I really loved, but felt it was the right thing to do. Thanks again.

      • Meg Koss

        Thank you Dan for sending this! This describes much of what I do. I was not aware that there were others and I am excited to learn more!!

    • Mark

      Hi Meg,
      As a frequent, Holy Mass attending and prayerful Catholic, you have and do contemplate the True Presence of our Blessed Lord and Savior, really and truly present, in the species of bread and wine, everytime you bear witness to the Consecration. You know, from your deepest interiority, that our Blessed Dominus is indeed present there in His Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity. You know that, by virtue of Mysteria Fide, and you believe that by virtue of the Supernatural Faith, given you by the Holy Spirit, that which is at once freely given and completely undeserved by any and all human persons. You, of your own free will, fully accept the miracle of Transubstantiation, whereby Jesus the Christ, Son of the Living God, removes the “being” of bread and wine and replaces it with His own Supernatural Being, fully present then as His Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity, mysteriously, in the species of bread and wine. Sensually speaking, it remains in the appearance of bread and wine, at once in its taste, look, touch, sound, and smell. Consider now the “atheist” who presents himself to Holy Mass, posits himself as a Roman Catholic in the state of Grace, and receives our Blessed Dominus in Holy Communion. He then leaves the church and tells all his friends that the Catholics are stupid and superstitious because he “knows” that to be true now, as he has tasted and seen Holy Communion himself and it is “just bread and wine” he declares.
      Now the reality of Yoga. The metaphysical “law of contradiction” allows us to know that “being” cannot both “be” and “not be” at the same time and in the same respect. Knowing that as truth, “Yoga” cannot both “be” a “specific spiritual exercise” and “not be” a “specific spiritual exercise”, at the same time and in the same respect. You, Meg, and every Catholic or separated Christian brethren who practices what you may refer to as “Yoga” or “Christian Yoga”, or whatever nomenclature you may choose to give it, are the “atheists” of the truth of Yoga. Because you or anyone else may lay claim to renaming “Yoga” does not, because it cannot, change just what Yoga in truth is. Only God Himself, as Deus Caritas Est, the un-Created Creator of all else that is, has the power to change the nature of “being” and our Blessed Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ, Son of the Living God, does that everytime the Consecration is offered to the Almighty Father.
      As you know, Lucifer presents himself as the “bearer of light”. His intellect is beyond the sum of human personhoods’ imagination to contemplate, as he was given the direct intelligence of God. As Saint Thomas Aquinas, in his, but for the Grace of God, brilliant theological treatise, Summa Theologiae, allowed for our knowing, Lucifer lost none of his preternatural gifts in the fall. Know that Lucifer, in his malevolent contempt for the human person, sneers everytime a Christian embraces Yoga. Under his veil of deception, rests the cause for anyone to believe that Yoga, in any of its manifestations, can somehow bring anyone closer to our Blessed Dominus, our Almighty God, who the Evil One hates with all of his very being, damned to eternal hell.
      Lastly, there should be no Catholic who somehow thinks that Yoga has not been “banned” by the One True Faith. Yoga, as an instrument of a false religion is of course banned, as is the false religion. The One True God commanded that no false gods be brought before Him.
      The Grace and Peace of God the Father of our Blessed Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ, be with you.
      Mark

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

        Well said Mark – please stick around and continue to engage.

      • Melissa

        Thanks so much for your reply. I loved it. It gave voice and words to my sentiments about yoga that I couldn’t seem to articulate. I used to do yoga. I loved it, but I gave it up because I realized the danger. I have seen good Catholic and Christians get very involved with this, and then suffer in their personal and spiritual lives. Can I definitely pinpoint yoga as the cause? No. But the Holy Spirit is telling me that it is not something to play around with. I also realized it was kind of egocentric to think I was somehow immune to Satan and his web. I mean that is how we all got here in the first place. Why as a Christian would i want to pay money and thereby indirectly contribute to the propagation of this false religion and spirituality? There are plenty of other stretching programs out there. Well done, Mark

        • Mark

          Hi Melissa,
          Praise be to God.
          Mark

      • Meg Koss

        Mark, Thank you for your comments. Dan sent me a link to Pietra fitness which describes much of what I do. I in no way do I try to achieve spiritual enlightenment but for lack of a better term I have always described my program as yoga. It is a practice to care for my body as a temple for the Holy Spirit and to glorify God by taking care of the body he has given me. For me all exercise is a way to glorify God and I try to always keep my focus on Christ and incorporate prayer into any exercise I do. I am excited to learn more about Pietra fitness and to spread the word as I think many people may be doing something similar but for lack of a better term refer to it as Yoga.
        May the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary protect and guide you.

        • MarcAlcan

          For me all exercise is a way to glorify God
          But what about exercises SPECIFICALLY DESIGNED for idolatry?
          There’s a French Priest by the name Joseph Verlinde. He was very much into yoga. He once told a Hindu master that most people in the west engage in Yoga without the spiritual side to it. The Guru laughed. He said, regardless of what you intend, yoga is yoga, you get the spiritual effects by the mere fact of performing the poses.

          As I asked another person earlier in this thread. If you know that specific poses were crafted to glorify Satan and to open your being to his power, would you do it?

          • Meg Koss

            Here is the problem with calling yoga moves idolatry and with the Guru’s comment. Many yoga moves are also Pilates moves, gymnastic moves, dance moves or basic stretches for exercise. Infract, most movements we make are incorporated into yoga. The act of holding my hands in front of my heart in prayer at mass could also be called a yoga pose. Yoga can stake claim on the most basic moves we make like opening and closing our hands in stretch, opening and closing our eyes, a forward bend, the act of sitting and standing, squats and lunges are all aspects of yoga moves yet I do none of these to worship anyone other than the Holy Trinity as I take care of my body. The basic art of flow movement can be considered yoga but it can also be considered dance or exercize. If it is considered idolatry to do any of these moves because they are considered yoga moves and if changing the name to something else such as spiritual dance does not change the fact that it is still yoga we are all stuck becauseYoga can stake claim to most movements made. The act of lying on ones back on the floor in a relaxed manner is a yoga pose, it is called corpse pose. The act of standing errect with your hand at your side is a yoga pose.

            If you found that those who worship satan kneel and hold their hands in prayer as we do when we glorify God at mass would you stop kneeling and holding your hands in prayer?

            The muslim and Hindu religions say prayers on beads much like a rosary yet it is not idolatry to say a rosary because they are similar but different. Why is it idolatry to do movements in prayer that may also be considered yoga movement? It is similar but different. Can God not see the difference and the intent? I think there is a great danger if one is attending spiritual new age yoga classes but if one is attending a Catholic or Christian class that uses movements that may also be considered yoga there is no idolatry as most movement can be considered yoga but ultimately all our movements were created by God.

          • Mark

            Hi Meg,
            It would seem that “Yoga” is a combination of the formation of body postures, breathing patterns, and the chanting of certain words. When one practices the specific tripartite combination of movements, breathing, and chanting, all at once then simply choosing to call it something other than “Yoga”, he is a fool. If it looks like a duck, sounds like a duck, and walks like a duck, it is a duck. That is tantamount to the “reality” that God has Authored for us. As the Evil One influences God’s human person creation mysteriously, by virtue of his masquerade of unsurpassable, but for the Grace of God, deception, and injects ideas into our imaginations with his cunning, we are qunitessential fools if we somehow believe that we can beat him at his game. He still enjoys the “direct intelligence” of Almighty God, even since the fall from Grace. We are not called to play with the devil in any way, especially using his rules. When someone “just pracitces” the posturing and breathing, he remains ever so close to that dark art of Yoga. Why would anyone, yet alone a faithful Catholic, wish to toy with Satan?
            We are commanded to love God with all our heart, all our soul, and all our mind, using all our strength. Then, to love our neighbor as ourself. All the rest of God’s commands come after these. This precious life is ever so short. How we exercise, apart from invoking the Evil One in that action, matters not a thing in the scope of this life. Can you imagine Jesus the Christ, Son of the Living God, at your final judgement, allowing you to know how pleased He is with you for the matter of exercise or no exercise that you spent time on during your short life here?
            Know His Truth in Peace, Caritas, and Mercy,
            Mark

          • MarcAlcan

            But Pilates moves were not created as idolatrous movements. As I explained before, if a move was SPECIFICALLY created not just to worship a demon but to allow this demon entry into your being, would you still use this pose. How do you know that the demon did not particularly instruct the one who originated these moves? How do you know that the mere fact of doing does not in fact open you in a very subtle way to the demonic.
            There are many who were deeply into Yoga who counsel against it even just as a recreational activity.
            Fr Joseph Marie Verlinde was told by a guru that regardless of whether you intend the spiritual aspect of yoga, you get the effects because yoga is yoga. Mark explained this very well.
            I would suggest googling Fr Verlinde and also Claire Myrkle McGrath. She was in an interview at EWTN and she counselled against yoga even just as an exercise. I think we need to trust the wisdom of those who have really been there and done that.

          • Meg Koss

            if a pilates move, a dance move or a runners stretch…, is IDENTICAL to a yoga move, Because many are, Is it Idolatry? That statement indicated that when I go to mass and hold my hands in front of my heart in prayer I am committing Idolatry because that is also a yoga pose. Don’t you think our beautiful loving Lord can tell the difference?

          • MarcAlcan

            Holding your hands in prayer was something only co-opted by Yoga. It is not a specifically Yoga move.
            And it is not about whether our loving Lord can tell the difference but whether your movements open you up to the diabolical. I find this defence of Yoga perplexing when there are other exercises out there that are probably better.
            I wonder if this is not a case of the spiritual intent already taking hold even though one does not intend it. It becomes like an addiction and in fact enslaving. Some have mentioned withdrawal-like symptoms when they stopped. So how can that be a good thing?
            The devil is very subtle. He will make you pray rosaries if he can get you in the end.
            Trust the wisdom of those who have abandoned this practice. As I said before google Fr Verlinde. He has a youtube video called A Guru or Jesus. Google Claire Myrkle McGrath. You can buy her conversion story from Lighthouse Catholic Media.

          • Meg Koss

            Marc, Thank you for sharing all of your thoughts. I am not defending yoga what I was trying to point out is that saying all yoga moves open you up to evil is a very strong statement. Statements like this can lead to scrupulosity. Father Sullivan suggested in this article that those interested in yoga should try pilates so I am assuming that pilates moves are ok. Many pilates moves are also yoga moves but they are not performed with any Hindu spirituality.

            Thank you Father Sullivan for this article as it has opened my eye’s to the danger of yoga. I am legally blind and have never been to a yoga class because I do not drive. We recently moved and there is a yoga studio down the street that I could walk to. I was considering joining but have since changed my mind. I have put together an exercise program for myself based on moves i have learned through out my life in dance, cheerleader, pilates, as a runner streching… When I do this particular exercise I do it to the Chaplet of Divine Mercy Sung. Since the only exercise that I knew of that was similar to this is yoga I have been calling what I do yoga. I will no longer refer to my practice as yoga. Thank you Dan for the link to Pietra fitness. I have already been in contact with them to learn more.

          • Connie

            Good point on the comment made by a teacher / Guru of Yoga “whether you intend the spiritual aspects of yoga, you get the effects because yoga is yoga.” right from one who knows what he is teaching, what is not common knowledge of many who are practicing yoga. Pilates, and many other excersizes are created based on other forms, its interesting to look at who created them, their background and the sources they drew from to develop what they teach. Yoga has been in existance 5000 yrs.

      • Mark

        Hi Molly,
        Know who Lucifer is, as the “first revolutionary”. In your naievete, simply because you do not want to bring revolution to Lucifer, while you engage him by your own admission of performing the dark art of yoga, know that he is certainly and truly most interested in bringing his revolution to you. That revolution is perfectly beyond your or any human person’s wildest imagination to contemplate. Know the Peace of Jesus Christ, that which is not of nor known to this world. If you “practice” something, in your vernacular, and you proclaim that it does not bring you closer to our Blessed Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ, why would you waste your precious time on it??? This life is but an instant. We have precious no time to waste. We are commanded to love God with all our heart, all our soul, and all our mind, with all our strength. Then, to love are neighbor as ourself, which can only mean, we are called to assist in the salvation of our neighbor’s soul with the same zeal that we have for the salvation of our very own.
        May the Light of the Blessed Advocate, the Holy Spirit, enter into your heart, enlightening then your mind. Know His Truth in Caritas and Mercy.
        Mark

      • MarcAlcan

        That post deserves one word. WOW!
        Praise be to God.

    • jack g.

      Why in God’s Grace would you want any other spirituality in your relationship with God?
      I would ask God what He thinks about it.
      I do what you do daily and I have great relationship with Jesus on an daily basis for last few years, but when I think of Yoga and eastern spirituality it brings really bad feelings about it.
      I believe that you have fallen in the trap of good feelings instead of real relationship with God.
      I am sorry to say that, but no other spirituality goes well with Christianity. You can’t spice the salt if it looses it’s taste.
      Once you find taste in Catholic spirituality offered by thousands of saints and find nothing, then maybe, I would go looking, but at the foot of the Cross contemplating my nothingness, not Yoga,
      Confession is a great way to start, humility is the key.
      That means that listening what Church teaches, and Church has a say about yoga and eastern spirituality.
      May God give you Wisdom

    • MarcAlcan

      I think there is a place for the practice of yoga in the Catholic Church and that it could bring many to a deeper relationship with the Lord
      Sorry to have to say this but this is just downright absurd.
      How can poses that are designed to glorify the pagan gods lead one to Christ?
      That is similar to saying that lying will lead to virtue. Or that idolatry will lead one to keep the First Commandment.

  • Camille Kunde

    Hi I thought I might share my story. I’ve just returned to the Church after 12 years of atheism, Buddhism, and the common, weak spirituality of accepting that there is some overarching power – The Universe.
    What began this time away from God which subsequently brought on a lot of physical and emotional pain – was yoga.
    I have been raised Catholic, had a brief rebellious time in my teens away from God and then experienced a deeper faith, became involved in the Church and even spent a year sharing my faith and giving retreats to high school students. I thought my faith was unassailable. Unfortunately, the catholic group of friends I prayed with and shared faith with were going through division and discord, at university I studied medieval history which exposed me to a lot of the brokenness of the Church at that time, the man I was dating at the time was also going through a crisis of faith – and on top of this iwas getting a lot of back ache and headaches and at the suggestion of my physiotherapist I decided to start yoga.
    Initially I still went to Church but after a few months i stopped. I was captivated by yoga – here was a physicality and spirituality that really was about delivering peace, well being and helping me to be the person that I was meant to be.

    • Melissa

      Thanks for sharing. I agree with you whole-heartedly. Yoga was pulling me away from my faith, as well. Luckily, I realized what was going on before it was too late(and thanks to my husband he kind of pulled me back to reality and towards Heaven). But I have seen yoga have negative effects in the lives of others around me.

  • Camille Kunde

    Cont from part 1
    During yoga class we would practice the physical postures and then have a teaching/discussion from our yoga teacher, who was a practicing psychologist, on how to become a more peaceful, less angry more constructive person. I felt that finally I was receiving truth and answers and in such a holistic way. Their philosophy was to take responsibility for yourself and through your own choices heal your mind and body. This was all based on the teachings of the yogi, Vijayadev Yogendra, who came from India to Australia. His father before him was a yogi who founded the Yoga Institute in Mubai. In order to discern his mission, he received a vision of three dark beings with flaming red eyes which led him to come to Australia and share real, unwesternized yoga. Actually in order to correctly give you the details of this man I have just sadly stumbled on a site which talks about Vijayadev : http://guruphiliac.blogspot.com.au/2005/06/guru-left-lives-made-and-broken.html
    I wish I had known then what I know now. My heart is sad. Following yoga led me to abandon friends, family, God. I ended up having a breakdown trying to follow the yogic path.
    Thankfully God is lovingly, mercifully and compassionately bringing and restoring me

  • Camille Kunde

    Part 3
    I now see God’s loving plan to bring me to wholeness and life can only be achieved through Him and through the Cross . He is the Way the Truth and the Life. There is no other way but through Him.
    Yoga is a spiritual exercise. It is not developed or formed in Jesus. It comes from meditating and receiving insight from spiritual powers as the yogi Vijayadev and followers attested. You cannot dip your toe in and not eventually be misled and cut yourself off from the True Vine Jesus.
    I have come to experience more peace, more love, more strength, more wholeness in Jesus than I ever had in yoga.
    I pray that everyone experiences True Life in Jesus.
    God bless.
    Yours in Christ

  • Camille Kunde

    Part 4
    Sorry I had to add one more link: http://www.theage.com.au/articles/2005/06/25/1119321938877.html
    This is published by a reputable Australian newspaper. Such needless pain and destruction.
    God’s peace.

  • http://catholicspiritualhealing.com/ Natalie Anne Paradis

    There are so many rich Spiritualities in the Catholic Church, it’s hard for me to understand why someone would go to an Eastern Spirituality.

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

      NATALIE! You are dead on target. When we have a seat at the banquet feast of Christ, why would we forage in the dumpster of the local dive? The answer is that most have yet to have any real or substantive encounter with Christ and thus attempt to fill that hole with things of this earth that will never satisfy.

      Pax Christi,

      *Dan Burke*
      Founder/President
      Avila Institute for Spiritual Formation
      http://www.Avila-Institute.com
      Roman Catholic Spiritual Direction
      http://www.RCSpiritualDirection.com

      • http://catholicspiritualhealing.com/ Natalie Anne Paradis

        And it seems like it’s becoming harder and harder to convince people that Christ is the answer. Most want a “magical formula” to tap into their inner strength when all it takes is Confession and the Eucharist to “tap into” true strength, wisdom and power. God have mercy on those trapped in those lies.

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

          Lord have mercy is right.

          Pax Christi,

          *Dan Burke*
          Founder/President
          Avila Institute for Spiritual Formation
          http://www.Avila-Institute.com

      • LCP2

        I tend to agree, Dan, but wow, talk about judgmental. Are you really comfortable saying, “most have yet to have any real or substantive encounter with Christ”? Isn’t it an objective fact that every Catholic who has received Our Lord in the Eucharist has had a “real or substantive encounter with Christ”?

        A follow-up question, whose fault is it if some do not recognize the real and substantive encounter that they enjoy in the Eucharist and instead go out into “the world” looking for “enlightenment”?

        I’ve seen quite a bit of head shaking and finger waving in the comment responses to this blog, and it has all been directed at those who would presume to do yoga. It has been suggested that these people are ignorant, obstinate, and willful. Forgive me if I presume to remind you and everyone who has taken this tone that the reason that some poor souls go seeking Truth outside of Mother Church is because, after Vatican II (though through no fault of Vatican II), many shepherds abandoned their apostolic duty and even encouraged the flock to play with the wolves. Many unholy innovations were introduced, especially in the realm of liturgical music, and the Novus Ordo was used as an excuse to aesthetically rape the liturgy. If people can’t hear Christ in the Mass and go seeking Him elsewhere, it is because in many places pastors allow the Mass to remain homocentric instead of insisting that it be Christocentric.

        There is lost of fear and ignorance about Yoga in this blog, but Yoga isn’t really the problem. The problem is modernism and poor catechesis.

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

          PCP2 – it is not judgmental for a physician to tell a patient that he has cancer – it is just a matter of what is. This assessment doesn’t bring me joy and it is not a condemnation of others in any sense. It merely is a reflection of my experience and it is either true or not. Just because someone consumes Jesus in his body and blood does not mean they have had a “real or substantive encounter with Christ” in the sense that I mean it. Many take the body and blood to their eternal damnation because they do so in mortal sin. Based on recent data about the beliefs of most Catholics, this is far more likely the case than not. If we don’t recognize, name and deal with this reality, we will politely help people to hell – what we are about here is the exact opposite.

          To answer your question – when the folks you describe stand before God at the last judgement, they will not be able to point a finger of blame at anyone else. Yes, those who lead in the Church often fail – but this is no excuse.

          • LCP2

            Dan – I write a small pro-life section in my Parish’s weekly bulletin, and understand and agree with what you are saying about the beliefs and practices of many Catholics. I would agree that we can judge the objective meaning of behaviors and the orthodoxy of beliefs, and I think that you and I are fighting the same fight for the same motives (love of God and neighbor, in that order). Nevertheless, I can’t imagine anything more real or substantive than receiving the Eucharist, perhaps especially if in eating one is “eating condemnation to himself”.

            A real and substantive encounter with Christ happens in the soul, and we ourselves are often not the best judges of what is happening in even our own souls, let alone in the souls of others. In what sense do you mean “real and substantive” if not in the sense of the inevitably and invariably real and substantive encounter that someone who receives the Eucharist has with Christ in the soul?

            More to the point, how do you, a layman, discern if someone (other than yourself) has had real and substantive encounter with Christ to the point that you, a layman, can say with so much conviction that this person has and that person hasn’t?

            Please don’t get me wrong. I am not trying to bait you or impugn your character or motives. I love what you are doing with Avila Institute. And yet, something about your words or tone seems to me to be missing the mark. On the other hand, it is all too possible that I am missing the mark, and I appreciate the time you are taking to correspond.

          • Camille Kunde

            Thanks for your input LCP2. I’m afraid Dan sometimes it does come across as judgemental. I would have to say that in my life I had real experiences of Jesus in my life – however maybe my soul was like the soil that bore fruit but then withered once hard times came. Also I feel that faith in Jesus is totally gift. Nothing we have said or done warrants Gods love or the amazing mercy he has shown us. I would be cautious Don in claiming to know what goes on in people’s hearts as only God sees into the heart – and your faith as it stands now is total gift from God.

          • Camille Kunde

            Apologies Dan (sorry for calling you Don!!!) if I have misread the situation. I think I feel a little vulnerable after sharing my story. It saddens me that I walked away from God who is Life.
            I guess it is difficult to balance God’s Justice with His Mercy. Only Jesus was able to both exhort us to leave our sinfulness behind yet in the same breath shower us with His Mercy.
            I think I’m finding it difficult to discuss things online – much better face to face.
            I appreciate all the hard work that goes into this site Dan and especially that the site warns people about the risks and damage yoga can cause.
            Peace in Christ.

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

            Dear Camille – love your spirit. No offense taken. It is good to be opposed and even better to be misunderstood or even insulted. God is good. Let’s keep striving together to turn our hearts to Him.

          • jack g.

            Hi LCP2
            I believe you are right in many ways, but also Dan is right. He talks about statistics from Catholic circles who receive Communion. Saint Paul said that if you receive Jesus without faith, means worthily, then you you receive Him for your own condemnation.
            This is The Word of God in The New Testament JCP2
            It’s not a joke.
            Many Catholics do not believe in Real Presence, per statistics, and yet the receive Jesus.
            Yes, you are right about catechizes, great need for it and it is Churches fault. Meaning yours and mine when we didn’t pray enough for our priests on a daily basis.
            Having said that, it is also important to recognize sinful practices and drag them out to the LIGHT, because in the LIGHT Devil runs.
            That is our responsibility, not a choice.
            Being politically correct, especially when it comes to Real Presence and worrying about peoples feelings is going to make it worse.
            In the past centuries Catholics were and are still dying for Jesus, and He is being received unworthily daily around the world.
            Think about that
            What would the Saints say about confession and Eucharist practices of today????????????

  • GregCz

    I’m Catholic i was thinking of trying yoga but after reading this article i will go with pallates. Jesus I trust in you.

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

      Good move Greg (no pun intended)

      Pax Christi,

      *Dan Burke*
      Founder/President
      Avila Institute for Spiritual Formation
      http://www.Avila-Institute.com

    • macdonald@alphacomm.net

      Many of the pilates moves and poses are taken from and identical to yoga. I’m still not seeing where yoga is dangerous except for sore muscles the next day, and that’s a good thing.

  • Pan Hu

    Not sure about yoga, but as a Chinese-American convert to Catholicism I’ve recently looked into Catholic attempts to integrate Zen Buddhism (Japanese but originally from medieval China) into spiritual practices. Thomas Merton is an obvious name, of course, but over the years books like “Zen Catholicism” have also appeared and liberal orders like the Jesuits seem to have been at the forefront of this fusion movement.

    The East presents very subtle – therefore powerful – challenges to Catholic evangelization. Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila – a good candidate for the first Asian pope, in the unlikely scenario that he is a successor to Francis – has said that the Church has to get better at listening to the world it resides in, which I take partly to mean people of other faith traditions, of which the Eastern faiths that neighbor his native Phillippines are rising in appeal to traditionally Christian populations. I also think that this is crucial: the Church must understand faiths like Buddhism better, especially their apparent strengths, and be able to ask anyone who might flirt with them: “What is it that you feel is missing from Catholicism that makes you seek other traditions?” And in reply, must be able to clearly and succinctly state the very practical consequences of going in that direction.

    To do this, though, I think the Church needs a less judgmental attitude toward these faiths than it is naturally inclined to. We can’t deny that these faiths have brought good to the societies in which they originated, that they’ve formed part of the social foundations and fabric of the ancient cultures which to this day are known for traditional family values and communal spirit. Too often, when one hears something like, “You’re being deceived by false religion and the cleverness of the Devil,” it sounds like a broad swipe against an entire race of people – a manifestation of intolerance and racism. Especially when some of the most moral and upright people one knows may belong to these other peoples.

    When the Church comes across as close-minded and ethnocentric, the Devil can have a field day.

    • http://contemplativehomeschool.com Connie Rossini

      Pan Hu, I agree we need to do a better job here. This is a fine line to walk. When I blog about the differences between eastern spiritualities and Catholicism, I find that people who grew up Buddhist (in other countries, say) are very respectful of the Catholic position and understand the differences between the religions pretty well. Catholics who have fallen into these practices for whatever reason tend to be the ones who see no conflict between Catholic and other religions. They are not well enough formed in their faith to know how, for example, Teresa of Avila is different from Buddha.

      I don’t think most Catholics intend to be racist when they criticize eastern religions. I spent time as a lay missionary in Japan and that time only taught me more about how we need to be cautious about eastern meditation and the like. At the same time, I love so much about Japanese culture.

      It would be wonderful if everyone had the time and the interest to get to know what other religions teach, but that’s unrealistic. We need to first do a better job of teaching Catholics about our own faith. Personally, I’m still struggling with how best to warn Catholics against practices that could lead them away from Christ and yet not be critical of people from other countries who are doing the best they can. I guess the rule is charity.

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

        Well said

      • Connie

        Yes, its is charitable to want to help inform and if one has knowledge it is morally important. I feel as Catholic’s the honoring of other Buddhist traditions to have philosophical diolog is giving the wrong message of acceptance, its only touching the surface of those traditions. Its the beginning facination with philosophy and new beliefs that prepares one for yoga and mediation practices It has been my experience with westerns who were catholic and others who became involved in eastern traditions as common practioners, had no real depth of understanding of their catholic faith. In other Buddhist based countries many are buddhist because their family attends a local temple, or as westerners become drawn to social moral philosophy, then eventially yoga and meditation. Some of these societies have a long history which people were subject to domination. Our society is so stressed it gets drawn to the meditation to fix it, already being distant from an earlier childhood religion or none at all. Very high percent are not advanced practitioners or teachers of the eastern traditions have no way to view what they are practicing and just follow. The spiritual esoteric secrets of the practices, yoga, vows, empowerments received are usually not told but are to be realized. In the openness to diolog with other faiths philosophically, never have I seen mention what exactly are the dangers of the different eastern Buddhist traditions, that is for ones soul. I’ll mention a few dangers are: the philosophical indoctrination is absent of the truth of God and the Trinity, no reading of the gospel of Jesus; a preoccupation with idolization of self, Gurus, Rinpoche’s; the taking of vows and promises made to teachers to perform practices; receiving metaphysical empowerments for practices of mantras that bind one to gods / diety’s to become one with them and attain their powers or siddhis’, opening oneself to endangerment of the soul by spirits and satan. Each Buddhist tradition, but not indicated specifically here, has its own set of esoteric rituals to become a practitoner. These are not deeply understood by both the people of their own culture or others interested, many make the mistake and take part in these traditions without this prior knowlege. Even though in some cases, not all, their appears no adverse experience in the societies of these traditions in the outward signs but the same is not true for the destiny of the soul.

        • http://contemplativehomeschool.com Connie Rossini

          Connie, to put this as succinctly as possible, the main difference i see between Catholic and eastern types of spirituality is, we focus on the person of Jesus. As Pope Francis likes to say, Christianity is an encounter with Jesus. Christian meditation is not about feeling good, removing anxiety, or even about detaching ourselves from the world. It is about knowing and loving Jesus.

          • Connie

            I agree completely as you have discribed well the difference between what is Christianity and eastern spirituality. The point I was making is their is an element of acceptance by stating we must honor other faiths including Buddhist traditions. This appears through participating in philosophical diolog and debates that actually generates interest and further involvement without actually revealing in these debates the real dangers to the soul within those traditions.

        • Mark

          Hi Connie,
          I agree with your premise, as we consider “dialogue” with persons of other religions, it remains paramount to know/remember how the Church understands the term. There is in truth no room for true dialogue between a Catholic Christian and a person who espouses belief in a false religion; take your pick. The cunning of the Evil One surpasses our imaginitive capacity to contemplate and as thus, if a “dialogue” were to take place between a Buddhist and a Catholic, where can one suppose that “common ground” would be met, and at once yield an understanding that would lead the Buddhist into the Truth versus cause a drift of the Catholic from the One True Faith? There can be precious nothing anticipated for the Catholic to somehow gain from the dialogue, in matters of faith, as the subscriber of the false religious doctrine remains deeply, spiritually darkened, and as thus unreceptive to the Truth, by virtue of his rejecting the fullness of Grace. Therefore, the Buddhist (for purposes of this discussion) can only remain completely incapable of somehow strengthening, through witness, the faith of the Catholic person. Yet, in that attempt at “dialogue”, the Catholic remains utterly vulnerable to the deception of Lucifer, who remains unimaginably beyond the human persons capacity to compete with. The Catholic must engage in a profession of the Faith and his faith in action must speak into the Truth of just what the ineffable Gift of the Supernatural Faith indeed is. That is the witness that the devout Catholic emits. The Truth that is Jesus the Christ, Son of the Living God, Divinely Personified. Once that Catholic engages in “dialogue” with the non-believer in the Trinitarian God, he has already set himself up for the deception of the Evil One, who, if even unbeknownst to the non-believer, may well have demons attached, and as Saint Paul said, awaiting as a ravenous lion, to tear through the flesh of his prey.
          Know the Peace of Jesus the Christ, completely blinded to this world.
          Mark

          • Connie

            Hi Mark,
            People get into religious diolog at various levels all the time, it happens at coffee shops, radio Q&A, religious leaders, and others. I commented bringing up philosophical dialog but really it had to do with the Churches position to honor other faiths. This I have a problem with. I respect the individual person in all charity, but I cannot accept the practices of their spiritual tradition. My concern is what people don’t know about that they are getting involved with, the example here is Yoga. Tied to roots in Hinduism and other Buddhist practices there are parts of these traditions that clearly seperates one from Gods grace, usually because one is so removed from Christianity one no longer has a clear understanding of the faith to judge what they are doing. This is like slipping into a muddy pit. It will take alot to come back out. It can happen but its a choice. The problem is usually the faith is weak and obscurred. It takes people of strong Catholic doctrine and sound faith to have knowledge of both sides, to clearly know what the dangers actually are of the particular tradition. This is the spiritual person with Gods grace to help those pulled in and delusioned to hear the truth of what they are involved with. They have to unemotionally present clearly the truth. That whats so great about his artical series, it will reveal the truth about Yoga. I’d like to see the same done with the various Buddhist traditions, actually yoga is practiced in most of them. I happen to be concerned with peoples involvement in Buddhist traditions. Take care, God Bless!

    • Sharon

      Wow! This is not the site for me. Now someone is knocking the Jesuits? What kind of people are you?

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

        Sharon – I do hope you stick around. Things are usually not quite so heated. As well, if you are looking for spiritual truth from the heart of the Church, this is a good site for you or anyone else with that same desire.

    • MarcAlcan

      the Church has to get better at listening to the world it resides in

      The problem with our Church is not that it is not listening, but rather that some quarters have been listening far too much and that has resulted in the abandonment of her teachings.

      The root of the word obedience is obedere – to listen.

      The question is who do you listen to? Who has the right to your ears? If we listen to paedophile and we become sympathetic at the way he spins his sin, we could end up being one.

      Adam and Eve listened to the devil who happened to be part of the world they resided in. True listening leads to obedience. That is why the Shema is phrased the way it is – Hear Oh Israel. it is a call to obedience.

      Indiscriminate listening is not a virtue. It is foolishness. What we need is a well grounded faith, that listens to the Magisterium that listens to Christ.

      • Camila

        A M E N !!!!!

        “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.”
        The Word was made flesh!
        The Word was with God, and the Word was God!

      • Camila

        Jesus said “blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it.” (Luke 11:28)

    • Pan Hu

      That’s not the kind of listening I was referring to. I meant more along the lines of Sun Tzu in The Art of War: “Know yourself, and know your opponent, and in one thousand battles you will never be shaken.” There is no sympathy here for an opponent – only a determination to defeat him.

      Especially in the postmodern 21st century, we will defeat the Devil not by outfighting but by outsmarting him. To do so, we would do well to acquaint ourselves with his methods.

    • http://www.marythedefender.wordpress.com MariaGo

      I’m from the Philippines and though we’re a Catholic country, Confucian/Buddhist cultures have their influence. Particularly on those coming from a Chinese ancestry, like me. I can’t speak for China, Japan etc. but in the Philippines the greater danger here lies in following our ancestors’ traditions without realizing their dangers to our soul. Like Westerners, they might also conflate their Catholic faith with these practices. Many people read Chinese horoscopes, practice feng shui (superstition that arranging furniture can increase good luck) etc. Others mix-up their Catholic faith with the pagan practices of pre-colonial times. But for most, its cultural not a religion. Still no less dangerous. People here need to be more educated. They need to know where to draw the line between tradition and their Catholic faith.

      I am glad you espouse recognizing the good in other faiths and cultures as well. We need to learn to keep the good from our ancestry and throw out the bad. For instance, Chinese give a lot of importance to their ancestors. So when we visit the cemetery, though we light incense sticks, (kind of like lighting candles) we pray Catholic prayers for their souls and the souls in purgatory.

  • jack g.

    Exactly Dan,
    I am a revert to Catholicism since 5 years ago, and I
    was riding the wave of pagan lifestyle. Really no religion. Didn’t
    bother with any. EGO-religion. Then Jesus in His Mercy found me and
    since I am growing in real relationship with God.
    That’s the key.
    Many
    Catholics go to church every Sunday, sometimes even more, sing and
    enjoy the Communal Penance Service without confession, receive Communion
    casually, but what they miss is constant prayer life, One on ONE, where
    you get to meet your God.
    I know of Two instances where parishes
    give Penance Service and general absolution. These absolutions are not
    valid and when you practice something like this for years, you kill
    peoples consciences.
    How can you have a real relationship with a Living God?
    I
    believe this is a common practice in American Church. This way parishes
    become Protestant, Heretical and offend Jesus in The Eucharist on daily
    basis. The real faith in The Eucharistic Jesus fades and dies.
    That
    is how Catholics loose their faith and go around like chicken without
    head looking for something to fill the VOID in their hearts.
    Sorry to
    be so blunt but I have experienced this in a couple of parishes. All go
    to Communion, but mostly none sins and goes to confession. I am writing
    a letter to our Bishop to report this, but for decades the damage was
    done and now in the parish there is this fake joy and communal feelings
    instead of Sacrum in the church.
    I believe the devil is most joyful here.
    It is so sad and demoralizing.
    With love of Jesus I keep on praying “always”
    jack g.

    • LizEst

      jack g–thank you for your witness and make the Lord be with you as you write your letter to the bishop. You are very correct. General absolution can only be given in very dire circumstances (as prescribed by Canon Law), such as on the battlefield or when an airplane is going down, and, even then, it carries with it the obligation to confess all mortal sins as soon as the opportunity presents itself. So, good for you in writing that letter!

      As an administrative point, please type your response directly into the “combox” (communication box) in the future. Otherwise, your response shows up a little disjointed. If that happens, you can always go back and use the “edit” button to fix it (just remember to save your edit). Thanks…and God bless you, jack. Keep the faith!

  • MarcAlcan

    Jesus always forces a choice. Either we are for Him or against Him. There is no middle ground. There is no “I love Jesus” but will do my idolatrous poses as well. We need to make a choice.

    • LizEst

      Actually MarcAlcan, Jesus invites but never forces. He has that much respect for our free will because it is one of the ways in which we most image God. So, he will never violate that. However, our choices–and in this you are very correct–our choices effectively put us on one side or the other. Either we are for Jesus or we are against him. And, we do need to make the choice. Many have been confused by the cacaphony of voices which claim they possess the path to true happiness. Once we know, once we truly know, it would be great folly to follow any other except Jesus. He alone is the Way, the Truth and the Life. He alone is the way to the Father. He alone has opened the way to eternal life for us through His passion, death and resurrection. God bless you, MarcAlcan.

      • Camila

        Liz, You bring a good point that Jesus’ persuasive power if you will is His goodness and meekness and humility – but He IS God. When He invites, He’s not doing so just as and added plus, or as an equally good alternative in comparison to all other ‘options’ out there. His invitation is the only real invitation and our acceptance is the only exercise of our freedom. All other choice is some form of slavery. An exercise of our free will for Christ is the freest act we can possible do with our free will. So, the ‘forcing’ I believe MarcAlcan is referring to is the fact that we must choose. There is not sitting on the wall nor epicuriously collecting interesting philosophies.

      • Camila

        Jesus said “Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.” (Luke 11:23)

      • MarcAlcan

        I did not mean that Jesus FORCES us to make a choice. Free will is a gift that He has given us.
        What I mean here is that when we are confronted with the reality that Jesus is God, then we are compelled to make a choice. We either believe He is indeed God and thus owe all allegiance to Him or He isn’t in which case He becomes one more god in the many gods in our life.
        In this sense Jesus – the Person of Jesus – forces a choice. There is no fence sitting or swimming in different rivers. Either He is it or He is not. But He will not force you choose Him, but the force of the choice itself is there. When we look at salvation history and how time and again Israel succumbed to the idolatrous practices of the surrounding countries and how they are exiled to reflect their spiritual state, then I think we come to realize how we cannot equivocate.

  • Sharon

    What does it mean to be a Christian?

    When I say that ‘I am a Christian’, I am not shouting that ‘I am clean living.

    I am whispering ‘I was lost, but now I am found and forgiven.’

    When I say ‘I am a Christian’, I don’t speak of this with pride.

    I am confessing that I stumble and need Christ to be my guide.

    When I say ‘I am a Christian’, I’m not trying to be strong.

    I am professing that I am weak and need His strength to carry on.

    When I say ‘I am a Christian’, I am not bragging of success.

    I am admitting I have failed and need God to clean my mess.

    When I say ‘I am a Christian’, I am not claiming to be perfect.

    My flaws are far too visible, but God believes I am worth it.

    When I say ‘I am a Christian’, I still feel the sting of pain.

    I have my share of heartaches, so I call upon His name.

    When I say ‘I am a Christian’, I am not holier than thou,

    I am just a simple sinner who received God’s good grace, somehow!

  • jack g.

    I agree with Liz and Camila.
    I also agree to the point with Marc.
    See, when I was by the gates of hell, I only asked one question. What do
    YOU(God), think about it? He didn’t force me, but I really didn’t make a
    good choice.
    He showed me more hell and the wrong I would do if I chose to follow on my wrong way, being already in hell.
    So He offered hope and I grasped with Grace of God to that hope, unknowingly and with none real awareness.
    Pure Grace, just like St. Paul fell from the horse he didn’t have.
    So
    in a way He forced me into accepting Grace, wasn’t my choice, because I
    was too much in hell in my life to really make a good choice.
    I
    guess what I want to convey is that it is enough to show just a little
    of good will, and open door of our will, and He in His great Mercy, will
    put His foot into the door of our hearts.
    Glory to God Merciful,
    The best Daddy ever
    I
    need to mention Our Lady, because I know that She was the ONE Who,
    asked for that grace, and my mothers lifetime of prayer life.
    God loves us all, with and without yoga

    • MarcAlcan

      I guess what I want to convey is that it is enough to show just a little
      of good will, and open door of our will, and He in His great Mercy, will
      put His foot into the door of our hearts.

      That is simply beautiful. Very well said.
      I often say that the closeness with which the Hound of Heaven hounds is like this: you only have to turn around and you will bump in to Him :-)

  • Pan Hu

    If Jesus were really forceful, He would have ended the world a long time ago. Every day He doesn’t end the world now – and we’d probably all agree that the Final Judgment is long overdue, considering the level of immorality in the contemporary world – is another evidence that His Divine Mercy trumps His sense of justice, strong and truthful though the latter may be.

    He has chosen to remain in the Eucharist for some two millennia after His Passion, thus continuing to bear the five wounds of His passion even in all His Heavenly glory, only to give sinners countless opportunities to repent.

    But then again, if you ask me, that’s not really Jesus but Mary. That’s how much influence His Mother has over Him: who else could convince Him to be so patient?

    • jack g.

      Jesus IS God,
      He doesn’t need to be persuaded
      He allows it to seem this way because He does not need to prove anything, because He loves us more than we can imagine
      He chose to have a Mother out of motherly love for us so it would be easier for us to love Him and understand His love to us
      And so He chose in His Divine Humility to show us how to be humble in His Eucharistic Presence, but that does not give us right to abuse His Presence, like St. Paul warned
      Just my thoughts
      God Bless all

  • LCP2

    Let’s do a little thought experiment. Let’s say that there is a priest who has had an unfortunate accident that has left him with severe amnesia, to the point that his understanding of Christianity and his own identity as a priest is almost completely obliterated.

    All that the priest remembers is the physical movements of the ritual of the consecration of the Tridentine Mass. He also knows that the consecration is somehow sacred to Catholics, but he is not sure how, and quite frankly, he is not at all interested.

    In his accident, he has also sustained upper body injuries, and it turns out that one of the best physical therapies happens to be the enacting of the postures, hand movements, and arm movements of the consecration, in other words, the physical “ritual” of the consecration.

    Once a day, then, he stands before a table, takes a chocolate chip cookie or whatever else is handy, and he goes through the physical motions of the consecration. Since he remembers practically nothing about Catholicism or his identity as a priest, he does not intend to consecrate anything. He performs the whole physical ritual flawlessly, but again, he has neither spoken a single word nor mentally prayed a single prayer. All that he thinks about is his breathing and the physical movements.

    Has this priest successfully performed the consecration? The answer is obviously, “no, he has not”. The exercise is devoid of spiritual value or meaning.

    If the physical movements of the consecration can be performed with no spiritual benefit, how then can it be argued that the mere physical movements of a pagan religion carry spiritual peril? Are false and natural religions really so powerful?

    Granted my will, knowledge, and intent are focused exclusively on physical fitness–and I am not performing or witnessing any sort of mental or verbal chanting or “prayer”–why then should I fear the physical movements and breathing of “yoga”?

    • Mark

      Good Sunday morning, LCP2,

      As you may know, what is NECESSARY for the valid Consecration of bread and wine into the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of our Blessed Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ, Son of the Living God, is proper matter, proper form, and proper intent. Satan as mere creature, as unimaginably intelligent as he is compared to the sum of all human personhood from the beginning until the end of time, remains mere creature before our Blessed Dominus, and as such infinitely less than Almighty God, with no capacity to create anything. As thus, in his inability to create anything, he can only ape the creation of God, Who is the uncreated Creator of all else that is. The Creator of all “being as being”.

      Know then, the same requirements remain for the Satanic rites and rituals masquerading within the false religions, as Satan has no capacity to create any “being as being”. As the “priest” in your example has no capacity to know, consequent to the brain injury that you proffer he has suffered, he cannot have proper intent, as he remains mentally incapable of having proper intent, and as thus he has no capacity for peforming the Consecraton in persona Christi. This character that you have established as “priest” therefore, is different than you, in your mental capacity, as it relates to your performance of the dark ritual of Yoga. Otherwise stated, and metaphysically understood, you have “potency” to “act” in performing the dark ritual of Yoga, whereas your fictitious priest has “no potency” to “act” in the capacity of performing the Consecration.

      With that understanding as our foundation, know how unutterably foolish that it is to play Lucifer’s game with him. In other words, do you for one iota of one instant believe that the Evil One does not have the capacity to “lull you to sleep” in his art of deception, as you or any other human person “toys” with him and his dark ritual of Yoga? Do you believe for an instant that he does not take SPECIAL INTEREST in those who are enticed into his deception in whatever form it may take; for the purposes of this discussion, in the form of Yoga? Know the truth of how previously innocent youth, for instance, have been loored into overt satanic obsession and even possession, by playing what they initially believed to be “just a game” in “Ouwigi Board”, for instance.
      For someone, who truly in their mind and heart, unknowingly stretches in a similar fashion as Yoga, they are paying no allegiance to Lucifer. To someone who stretches as Yoga, breathes as Yoga, and chants as Yoga, but claims they are not performing Yoga, they are a quintessential fool, playing a game with an opponent whose intellect they have no capacity to even imagine the comprehension of. Lastly, the closer one comes to “matching” the rites and rituals of Yoga, at once identifying what they are doing as “some form of Yoga”, or even as they believe they “reject Yoga” yet follow in lock step what it is that Yoga is, they are paying allegiance to Lucifer and he indeed pays full attention to them.
      Know the Truth, in Caritas, Mercy, and Peace, of our Blessed Dominus and Savior, Jesus the Christ, Son of the Living God. Amen.
      Mark

      • LCP2

        Hi Mark,

        Thanks for supporting my argument regarding the consecration.

        You speak much of Satan the deceiver and accuser, and yet your argument has many of the hallmarks of his work.

        First, you are begging the question of whether Yoga in demonic or merely a natural religion. In fact, you conflate the two even though they are–according to the Church–much different. You did not take the time to demonstrate that Yoga it is demonic–but that is the very issue at the center of this discussion. Far from being demonic, Yoga is arguably morally good as it seeks to free man from suffering while it also improves his physical health.

        People who do what Yogis would call “Yoga” are seeking enlightenment. Enlightenment is “the final extrication of the soul or consciousness (purusha) from samsara and the bringing to an end of all the suffering involved in being subject to the cycle of repeated death and rebirth” (Wikipedia). In other words, these people are seeking a good. More importantly, they are doing so in a way that does not contradict the natural law–as they understand it.

        This is far different from the Ouwigi Board, about which there are explicit Biblical prohibitions: “There shall not be found among you … anyone who practices divination, a soothsayer, or an augur, or a sorcerer or a charmer, or a medium, or a wizard, or a necromancer” (Deut 18:10-11). It is also far different from offering human sacrifice to Moloch or even eating food offered to idols. (But please see what St. Paul has to say about eating food offered to idols (1 Cor 8)).

        So what does the Church have to say about authentic (not as part of New Age) Yoga (which you, apparently based entirely on only your own authority, call a “dark ritual”)? Nothing. However, the Church does talk about Hinduism, of which Yoga is a part. Nostra Aetate states, “From ancient times down to the present, there is found among various peoples a certain perception of that hidden power which hovers over the course of things and over the events of human history; at times some indeed have come to the recognition of a Supreme Being, or even of a Father. This perception and recognition penetrates their lives with a profound religious sense.

        “Religions, however, that are bound up with an advanced culture have struggled to answer the same questions by means of more refined concepts and a more developed language.

        “Thus in Hinduism, men contemplate the divine mystery and express it through an inexhaustible abundance of myths and through searching philosophical inquiry. They seek freedom from the anguish of our human condition either through ascetical practices or profound meditation or a flight to God with love and trust” (2).

        So how are we supposed to relate to these men? Are we to believe that they are worshipping demons? No, to the contrary, Nostra Aetate states, “The Church, therefore, exhorts her sons, that through dialogue and collaboration with the followers of other religions, carried out with prudence and love and in witness to the Christian faith and life, they recognize, preserve and promote the good things, spiritual and moral, as well as the socio-cultural values found among these men” (2).

        Let’s look at that last bit again: “preserve and promote the good things, spiritual and moral, as well as the socio-cultural values found among these men”.

        Second, you are arguing against a straw man. I explicitly precluded chanting. I spoke of physical actions and breathing explicitly and exclusively. I specifically excluded “proper matter, proper form, and proper intent”.

        Having said that, I nevertheless agree with you that it would be foolish FOR A CHRISTIAN to seek enlightenment through Yoga. I do NOT think that a Christian can, in good conscience, participate in rituals that involve vocal or mental prayer in the form of chanting or anything else. When A CHRISTIAN starts chanting the chant, A CHRISTIAN arguably cannot help but be caught up into (im)proper matter, (im)proper form, and (im)proper intent.

        The problem with your approach, Mike, and the approach of several others here is that you seek to demonize and prohibit something that is not evil in and of itself and which you apparently do not even begin to understand. As an evangelist, your misguided view makes any outreach to Hindus (or those who have found much good in Yoga) impossible. This is unfortunate, as we are called to “make disciples of all nations” and if a Hindu or an American New Age neo-pagan is to be saved, it will only be through Jesus. By condemning that in which people have found much good–an entire culture and religion none the less–you drive good people in need of a savior away from Jesus.

        Far from condemning Yoga, you should, “preserve and promote the good things, spiritual and moral, as well as the socio-cultural values found” in it while, as St. Paul did with the Athenians in Acts 17, leverage the good that is to be found so as to bring people the Good News: You don’t need Yoga to find enlightenment and happiness, for Jesus alone is THE way, THE truth, and THE life.

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

          Dear LCP2: Your interpretation of Nostra Aetate – reflects a common and serious misinterpretation of the purpose and emphasis of the document. I don’t have time to go into it now but plan to write a post about it another time. Here’s a quote from Pope Benedict that reveals the problematic developments in interpretation “a weakness of this otherwise extraordinary text has gradually emerged: it speaks of religion solely in a positive way and it disregards the sick and distorted forms of religion which, from the historical and theological viewpoints, are of far-reaching importance; for this reason the Christian faith, from the outset, adopted a critical stance towards religion, both internally and externally.” Vatican Radio 2012

          • LCP2

            Dear Dan,
            I look forward to your article. I think I understand the limitations of Nostra Aetate, but perhaps I have not represented those limitations well here. Here is what I understand. Some natural religions are far worse than others, and I would consider any that feature human sacrifice or ritual prostitution as demonically influenced. The religion of the Aztecs, for example, was nothing if not demonic. These religions are different from the great Eastern faith traditions. Nevertheless, while the great Eastern faith traditions all contain praiseworthy ideas, such as the Buddhist idea that one should recognize one’s solidarity with all sentient beings, there is no salvation in Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism, or Confucianism. The truth that they contain is along the same lines as the truths in Ancient Greek philosophy. It is limited to what can be understood through the exercise of reason. They also fail to recognize Jesus as the savior, and they contain a fundamentally mistaken understanding of metaphysics, and this arguably leads many astray.

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

            Ah – well said. I may be selling you short!

            Sent from my iPad

          • Philip Sieve

            Certain moves in Yoga lead to opening what the Eastern religions call “chakras”. After all are done, some snake spirit goes up the back to the brain somewhere. Those who have allegedly reached that point have become very ill What of the rest who didn’t. Have they “bonded” with the spirit? Even if one never intended to go this far, no one in Hollywood intended to become a heroin junkie and no one with a ouija board actually expected it to open something up in the soul, either. Reiki sounds positive, but isn’t either. Some innocently-performed actions, like good intentions, can be the road to Hell.

            We get our spiritual upgrades from Christ directly, but, more successfully through the influence of prayers of the intercessors he’s gicen us–especially his mother, as at Cana.

        • Mark

          Good morning, LCP2,
          I attempted no conflation of the demonic ritual and Yoga. There are two kingdoms in this world and two alone. There is no “third rail”. Extra ecclesia nulla salus. One, the Kingdom of God and the other, the kingdom of Satan. The premise of this entire discussion is not directed at the Hindu performing Yoga, rather the Christian. It is not principally about so called “evangelization”. WIth that in mind, there is precious nothing to be gained by the Christian performing Yoga, in any of its manifestations or forms. Yoga is not principally a means of exercise and any Christian who sees it that way is simply spiritually blinded. For a Christian to stretch and breathe in a fashion that is compatible with relaxation is one understanding. For that same Christian to believe he is simply performing Yoga “his way”, is a completely different understanding. For you to suggest that you are performing Yoga your way, LCP2, and in that performance to suggest that you are somehow adding to the Church’s capacity for spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the Hindu, is simply an absurdity. Further, for you to suggest that LCP2’s performance of Yoga is “Yoga” but yet “is not Yoga” because you choose to leave out the chant, defies the law of contradiction. “It”, your performance of Yoga, simply cannot both “be Yoga” and “not be Yoga” at the same time and in the same respect. So which is it, LCP2, are you performing Yoga or aren’t you? You simply cannot have it both ways.
          Know HIs Truth in Caritas with Mercy,
          Mark

          • LCP2

            Mark,

            I am not sure if you deliberately or unintentionally misrepresent what I say. I seriously doubt that you understand “Extra ecclesia nulla salus” or the fact that what you say directly contradicts even a strict reading of what the Conciliar Fathers wrote in Nostra Aetate. I also marvel at your ignorance of Yoga.

            For the record, I did not say or even imply that my doing a Christian doing yoga helps the Church in her evangelical mission. To the contrary, I said that a Christian necessarily needs to avoid yoga.

            I speak of what I do (in the privacy of my home) as “yoga” for the sake of convenience because saying, “dynamic stretching and isometrics in the style of yoga” is verbose (but I have used this phrase in my other comments–which you obviously did not take the time to read).

            I did imply that if Nostra Aetate exhorts us to “preserve and promote the good things, spiritual and moral, as well as the socio-cultural values found” in natural religions, then whether I choose to pull something praiseworthy out of Hinduism is a prudential matter.

            I did say that understanding yoga and Hinduism–and not considering either demonic–would help me to talk to Hindus.

            Finally, in all honesty, I don’t have any more time to spend on this discussion with you and am writing this note only so any reader that may come along doesn’t confuse my silence with consent.

            I won’t pretend that I have enjoyed our correspondence or your arrogant and patronizing tone. There is a passage in the Bible with which I am sure you are familiar. (Whether or not you can understand it, who knows?) It has to do with straining out the gnat and swallowing the camel. There is another one about first removing the plank from your own eye. I think you’d have something to gain by meditating upon these.

          • Mark

            Good evening, LCP2,
            In caritas, as Deus Caritas Est:

            It would seem that my reading into your words has caused you a significant degree of consternation. We are called to read into words and not simply read words, as meaningful discernment can only require. At the same time, you have chosen to read “around my words”, which can only lead you into the ad hominem assault, which you characterized in your prose, in quite a text book understanding. Allow me to quote you as demonstration of same:

            ” I seriously doubt that you understand “Extra ecclesia nulla salus” or the fact that what you say directly contradicts even a strict reading of what the Conciliar Fathers wrote in Nostra Aetate. I also marvel at your ignorance of Yoga.” You also had this to say: “I won’t pretend that I have enjoyed our correspondence or your arrogant and patronizing tone. And then you closed with this: “There is a passage in the Bible with which I am sure you are familiar. (Whether or not you can understand it, who knows?).”

            As I trust you know, LCP2, the ad hominem approach, as a linguistic endeavor, leads the user finally into a true understanding of the arrogant use of patronization, that which you overtly accused me of. In your final appeal, you have submerged yourself into the attack of character, which is the antithesis of perspicacity, as it rests in the passions, not the intellect, where the ad hominem, from its deepest interiority, reveals itself, all at once subordinating intellect, in favor of placing passion in the ordinate position.

            You demonstrate a distorted understanding of the application of Nostra Aetate, an exhortation. Perhaps you would be more in line with the light of reason if you studied carefully, that VCII document which has the more meaningful weight of the Magisterium, in lieu of the musings of the Conciliar Fathers in Nostra Aetate. Lumen gentium and in particular Lumen gentium 16, which has this to say about those who have not yet received the Gospel of Jesus the Christ.

            “….Whatever good or truth is found amongst them is looked upon by the Church as a preparation for the Gospel. She knows that it is given by Him who enlightens all men so that they may finally have life. But often men, deceived by the Evil One, have become vain in their reasonings and have exchanged the truth of God for a lie, serving the creature rather than the Creator. [Cf.Rom. 1:21, 25]. Or some there are who, living and dying in this world without God, are exposed to final despair. Wherefore to promote the glory of God and procure the salvation of all of these, and mindful of the command of the Lord, ‘”Preach the Gospel to every creature.”‘ [cf. Mark 16:16], the Church fosters the missions with care and attention.”
            What you accomplish in calling your form of stretching and breathing “yoga”, in the “privacy of your own home”, to quote you, is a “vain reasoning” and in that understanding, you “exchange the truth of God, for a lie, serving the creature rather than the Creator.” Precious nowhere are we told by the Gospel of Jesus Christ to “take on” the spiritually benighted practices, in any form, of the darkened religions, with some hope that we achieve anything other than serving our miserable creatureliness, all at once ever vulnerable to the inexplicalbe deception of the Evil One. It is one understanding to search for the good in the ideological, false religion of our neighbor, in an effort to bring them into the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It is a completely different understanding for a Christian to accept the darkened practices unto himself, for the purpose of achieving some creaturely pleasure.
            Know His Truth in Caritas and Mercy,
            Mark

          • LCP2

            Mark,

            An ad hominem argument is only fallacious if it is unwarranted. You still have not demonstrated that the physical aspect of Yoga is demonic. This is the ONE AND ONLY material issue in this discussion–and that is somehow lost on you. Instead of proving this central thesis, you arm wave while writing in a florid and verbose sophomoric style, all the while couching your “argument” in pious niceties. This is why I question your understanding of the matter, not because I am frustrated or have some other sort of animus against you. I do not “read around” your words; I read your words and find them seriously wanting in substance.

            While what you quoted from Lumen Gentium proves nothing about Yoga, my reading of Nostra Aetate in no way contradicts Lumen Gentium. If you read my post to Dan Burke, immediately below this one, you will see that my understanding of Nostra Aetate is sound.

            In place of a discerning view of what is good and bad in natural religions, you propose a dualistic view of the world. Your assertions reek of the heresy of Jansenism.

            At this point, you are merely repeating your original, unsupported claim that Yoga–and all other non-Christian faith traditions–are entirely demonic. You can repeat an unsupported claim until you are blue in the face, and that does not make it any more cogent.

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

            LCP2 – Ad hominem is never welcome here because it exceeds the bounds of charity. With respect to your point about the demonic – I know you recognize the impossibility of actually proving something is demonic in origin. Just curious – would you accept the testimony of an exorcist with respect to Yoga?

          • LCP2

            Thanks, Dan, for the kind correction. I hope that you and Mike will accept my apology.

            You ask an interesting question.

            What would convince me is evidence that a natural religion–by its nature–tends to lead to sin and violence.

            We see this in the Aztec religion. Only slightly more subtly, we see this in Islam, which Hellare Belloc called, “The great and enduring heresy of Mohammed”. St. Paul also talks about this in Romans.

            In contrast, a mere correlation would not be sufficient. Many things can cause demonic influence and possession.

            Having said that, I do not doubt that the practice of genuine Yoga can lead a Christian into dark places (to say the least). A Christian who turns to other faith traditions to find Truth and Life is like a dog returning to his vomit. Dynamic stretching, isometrics, and breathing in the style of yoga, however, is not even close to genuine yoga. As Mike could say, it lacks proper form and proper intent. Proper matter alone does not a sacrament make, nor does it make for a demon evoking pagan ritual. At the least, you would need proper form.

            In direct answer to your question, if an exorcist could tell me why dynamic stretching, isometrics, and breathing in the style of yoga in the privacy of my own home is dangerous, I would take him very, very seriously. Similarly, if a Magisterial document were written that condemned even the mere physical exercises that are performed in yoga, I would drop it like a hot potato.

            Here is another question: do Christians need to avoid the Japanese tea ceremony?

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

            Thanks LCP2 – good thoughts as always and more kindly spoken which I appreciate. Regarding the Japanese ceremony – I did smile at the suggestion. There will be at least three more posts in this series so it will be interesting to see how you respond to them. In the end, I believe the strongest argument against engagement with the practice emerges out of Romans 14. Pax

          • LCP2

            Thanks, Dan. I appreciate the blog and discussion. It is really forcing me to take a good, hard look at what had been my unwarranted assumptions. I am admittedly tenacious, and I hope and pray that I am not obstinate.

            You mentioned scandal in an earlier post, and Romans 14 has been foremost in my mind. This is why I have started adding the caveat, “in the privacy of my own home” to description of what I do. Apart from that, I do not have a well-formulated response, and I very much look forward to the additional posts.

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

            Ah – that says a lot about you that is positive and I very much appreciate your honesty about wrestling. We may be alike. Sometimes when I struggle I argue my point as strongly as I can because I really do want to abandon my position if it is not in keeping with truth. If I am not moved off of my mark by a sound counter-argument, then I stand firm and confident.

          • LCP2

            You hit the nail on the head: “We may be alike. Sometimes when I struggle I argue my point as strongly as I can because I really do want to abandon my position if it is not in keeping with truth. If I am not moved off of my mark by a sound counter-argument, then I stand firm and confident.” In the case of dynamic stretching, isometrics, and breathing in the style of yoga, I don’t find the gratuitous claim of some contributors cogent, that merely standing in “tree pose” and breathing deeply through my nose, while thinking about balance and how much dust there is on the fireplace mantle, is going to cause me to be exposed to unwanted demonic influence.

          • Mark

            Good morning, LCP2,

            In caritas:

            I accept your apology written to Dan, on my behalf, as “Mike”, although I am Mark. In that understanding, we pursue the Truth, One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic. The “ad hominem” is always and finally an appeal to the passions, LCP2. It is never a rebuttle from the intellect, albeit, to use your vernacular, it can be “couched” in the intellect, depending upon the savy of the user of this dialectic. It sets one up for conflict, assaulting at once, and finally, the character of the human person or persons at which it is directed. That known, it offers the receiver of the attack, a greater opportunity to love, as Christ Jesus commanded, to love neighbor as self, even and especially when in the midst of persecution. The ad hominem “argument”, as it is deeply understood, can only descend into derision, in its appeal to the emotions and prejudice, all the while subjugating “right reason”. As Saint Thomas Aquinas (in his Summa Theologiae) allowed us to know, when we rightly reason, it can only be by virtue of our “participating in the Mind of God”. Any endeavor contrary to caritas cannot somehow be participating in the Mind of Caritas, as Deus Caritas Est.

            It is not as though the “physical aspect” of Yoga, in and of itself, can somehow be “demonic”. If that were the case, it would have to contain the essence of intellect and free will. That is tantamount to the understanding that the hand gun is from its deepest interiority as creature, somehow demonic, because it can be used by the human person to commit the privation of a due good. Of course, that is an absurd conjecture. Another analogy would be the Crucifix of our Blessed Dominus, as used in the Satanic mass, inverted, suggesting that the Crucifix is somehow “demonic” then. The demonic understanding has to come from the human person’s intellect and free will. As Saint Thomas allowed for our knowing, the intellect must first inform the free will, then and only then, by virtue of Grace, can the free will choose the “good” over the “evil”. The Christian willingly rejects Grace when he chooses to invoke the pagan, pantheistic, or other ritual “exercise” of any and all false religions. The demonic deception rests in the so called “good intention”, which the road to hell is paved with. The deceived Christian will claim many justifications of good, re:” I just do it for my arthritis and as it makes me feel so much better, it can’t be evil in and of itself?” The final part of that statement remains true, “it can’t be evil in and of itself”, and at once the willful choice of the Christian to invoke the ritual of the false religion, which can only be a spiritual privation, is indeed an evil. It is an evil because it uses an instrument of an evil ideology, as the ideology can only be evil when it remains as a spiritual privation, as it cannot both be a “good” and a “privation” at the same time and in the same respect, as that defies the law of contradiction. Further, as Lumen gentium 16 speaks to, in light of the understanding of Saint Thomas Aquinas that I have noted, the Hindu, who if, through no fault of his own, in his spiritually darkened understanding, accepts his religious ritual as a “good”, remains faultless.

            Lastly, as it relates to your comment about Lumen gentium 16 not speaking to “Yoga as demonic”, of course it does not, as it speaks to the writ large understanding of those who are spiritually darkened in their ideological, religious beliefs and practices. Lumen gentium 16 does however speak to a Christian and Catholic who through “vain reasonings”, choose to follow a practice proferred by a religion whose understanding and pracitce can only remain a spiritual privation.

            In the Peace of Christ, unkown to this darkened world.

            Mark

          • LCP2

            Mark,

            Thanks for accepting my apology and I also apologize for getting your name wrong. I have no contest with anything that you wrote in your most recent message. Thanks for your patience and willingness to take the time to refine your argument. With kind regards, LCP2

          • Mark

            Praised be the King of Glory, LCP2, our Blessed Dominus and Savior, Jesus the Christ, Son of the Living God. Amen.

            Mark

          • MarcAlcan

            there is precious nothing to be gained by the Christian performing Yoga, in any of its manifestations or forms.
            And might I add great risk of losing much and even losing All.

        • MarcAlcan

          In other words, these people are seeking a good.
          What was it someone said? Sin is seeking the good in all the wrong places. What you are describing there is seeking salvation by one’s self. Very similar to what Adam and Eve did.

          • LCP2

            Hi Marc,

            I am not sure if you are trying to agree with me or contradict me. I have said several times in my comments that there is no salvation in natural religions. I think we agree about this.

            I would also add that the actions of Adam and Eve are far different from the actions of someone who is raised Hindu and who strives to be a good Hindu. For starters, Adam and Eve arguably had infused knowledge and perfectly free will. Their minds had not been darkened and their will had not been weakened by the fall. This is precisely why their sin was so grievous and abominable.

            Regarding what pagans do by way of worship and other moral actions, we need to turn to Nostra Aetate and Lumen Gentium (quoted elsewhere). The Catechism also has something to say on the matter of conscience:

            IV. ERRONEOUS JUDGMENT
            1790 A human being must always obey the certain judgment of his conscience. If he were deliberately to act against it, he would condemn himself. Yet it can happen that moral conscience remains in ignorance and makes erroneous judgments about acts to be performed or already committed.

            1791 This ignorance can often be imputed to personal responsibility. This is the case when a man “takes little trouble to find out what is true and good, or when conscience is by degrees almost blinded through the habit of committing sin.”59 In such cases, the person is culpable for the evil he commits.

            1792 Ignorance of Christ and his Gospel, bad example given by others, enslavement to one’s passions, assertion of a mistaken notion of autonomy of conscience, rejection of the Church’s authority and her teaching, lack of conversion and of charity: these can be at the source of errors of judgment in moral conduct.

            1793 If – on the contrary – the ignorance is invincible, or the moral subject is not responsible for his erroneous judgment, the evil committed by the person cannot be imputed to him. It remains no less an evil, a privation, a disorder. One must therefore work to correct the errors of moral conscience.

          • MarcAlcan

            The only thing I will reply here is to give you a link to Ratzinger’s explanation of conscience.

            http://www.ewtn.com/library/curia/ratzcons.htm

            On second thoughts, I give this other example.

            If I am seeking the good (personal happiness) by having sexual liaisons with a married person, I suppose that is okay because I am after all “seeking the good”

            And if we should accept all forms of ‘seeking the good” without any basis in truth, what is the whole point of Christ’s incarnation?

          • LCP2

            Thanks for the great article, MarcAlcan.

            I was sloppy in my verbiage, and I think you may be reading something into what I said that I did not intend. I intended to say “THE good”, not “A good”.

            This is a very important distinction. According to Plato, The Good “is the ultimate object of knowledge, although it is not knowledge itself, and from the Good, things that are just, gain their usefulness and value”(Wikipedia, Form of the Good).

            In contrast, “A good” is merely a single instance that, as you know, needs to be assessed in terms of its relationship to the natural law. According to Augustine, any sin can be defined as the act of choosing a lower good over the higher good.

            Consequently, while you would be seeking “a good” in the act of adultery (pleasure, bonding, excitement), you could not possibly be seeking “the good” as adultery defies that natural law.

            The following passage from Cardinal Ratzinger, a passage from St. Paul, sums up what I had in mind:
            “When Gentiles who have not the law do by nature what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that what the law requires is written on their hearts while their conscience also bears witness …”

            As far as I know, good, yoga practicing Hindus live in accord with the natural law. Enlightened only by human reason, they nevertheless have a mistaken understanding of who God is and how He has given Himself to man. Nevertheless, as Pope Pius IX tells us, “while no one can be saved outside the Church, God would not punish people for their ignorance of the true faith if their ignorance was invincible. In the second statement, Pius went further. He declared that persons invincibly ignorant of the Christian religion who observed the natural law and were ready to obey God would be able to attain eternal life, thanks to the workings of divine grace within them” (http://www.firstthings.com/article/2008/02/001-who-can-be-saved-8).

            I pray for the conversion of the Hindus. However, I do not think that yoga is particularly a problem for them. We must strive to evangelize them while assuming that they do the best they can granted the light that they’ve been given. This, at least, seems to have been the approach of Blessed Teresa of Calcutta.

            In contrast, a Christian puts himself in great spiritual danger should he or she practices yoga with proper form and matter–even if proper intent is not technically present. Once you know the One True God, you can’t chant the praises of a fictitious pagan deity without violating the first commandment.

          • MarcAlcan

            Very well said!
            It should be stressed that pagan religions are idolatrous and when we look at salvation history, we see how over and over again the Israelites fall into idol worship whenever they become involved with the pagan nations that surrounded them.
            Unfortunately, this is what I see in Christians who dabble in the practices of these religions. I think a misreading of the Lumen Gentium post VatII is the source of this problem.
            I too pray for the conversion of Hindus. I am currently doing a Bible Study with an Indian youth group and they are on fire for Jesus. I think of how they have abandoned Hinduism (some at a cost) to become Christians and yet here we have so many who are dabbling in Eastern religious practices when they have already had the priviledge of knowing the Source of All Goodness.
            BTW, “Will Many Be Saved?” by Ralph Martin is an excellent book on this topic (if you have not already read it).

          • Mark

            Hi MarcAlcan,
            Indeed, Dr Ralph Martin’s book is a provocative view of Lumen gentium 16. The annotations alone are worth the read. His emphasis rests mostly on the last few sentences of LG 16.
            Praised be Jesus the Christ, Son of the Living God.
            Mark

          • MarcAlcan

            Forever and Ever, Amen.

  • jack g.

    Many intelligent people of all ages reasoned themselves out of Faith. For a true Christian with real relationship with a Living God, the argument is pointless and useless time wasting, for not yoga or anything else will be able to satisfy thirst for God. Talking about postures and arguing its influence is also pointless for there is no “grey area”. Satan wants the “grey area” to exist. Only two kingdoms, just like Marks said in his posts.
    Satan does his job better then we can comprehend.
    I think we shall concentrate on finding ways to help others in establishing a relationship with the Lord, so they don’t have to turn to yoga or similar practices.

    One can do it by witnessing this connection with a Living God in many ways of everyday life. Leave the reasoning out for if one wanted to justify murder it wouldn’t be hard doing it using the Bible. (an eye for an eye rule).
    Hopefully this post and others coming soon will expose the dangers of “grey area”, and help others to embrace the black and white distinctions in our true faith and Catholic teaching.
    With Love of Jesus, jack g.

  • The Truth

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  • James

    Since when did Catholics become Puritans?

    If Catholics could “baptize” pagan symbols of winter and spring as Christmas trees and Easter bunnies, why can’t Catholics “baptize” Yoga?

    If Catholics are so lacking in spiritual imagination that they can’t figure out how to combine prayer and stretching-and, in fact, run away from it in fear, then no wonder so many Churches are so empty!

    So why not Pilates? Because it’s a completely different exercise system.

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

      James ­ Not responding directly to puritain comment (I am a convert from Calvinism so I understand dead orthodoxy quite well) but regarding your comment as to why some Catholic Churches are empty. In fact, those Catholics and priests/parishes that embrace the world and thereby shift their emphasis away from what it means to truly be in relationship with God and engage in this transcendent reality with faithful liturgy and worship etc. are the reason parishes are closing. You will find the opposite happening with those who embrace their faith and are living the dynamic reality of God among us. Check out Pietra fitness ­ good alternative that is true to the wisdom of the ages. http://www.Pietrafitness.com

      • James

        If Pietra is the exercises of yoga combined with Catholic spirituality, then that’s EXACTLY what I am talking about with “baptizing Yoga” and exactly what would like to see more of!

        I’ve seen my share of both dead orthodoxy and deader heterodoxy in the Catholic Church. As different as they are, both lack this sort of spiritual imagination.

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

          James ­ the good news is that Pietra is not a blending of Yoga and Catholicism. It is better ­ it is an integration of the Catholic faith and a healthy treatment of the body so that we can better serve Him with it. There is nothing lacking in our faith tradition that requires that we seek to integrate the faith of other traditions (however good they may be in some respects) in order to achieve holy or effective ends.

          • James

            I think there is some confusion here: Are the exercises in Pietra comparable to the exercises in yoga or are they not? Do the same muscle groups get worked? Would one get a similar physical workout? If so, then that’s fantastic.

            No, there is nothing lacking in the faith-I did not mean to imply that there was-but Catholics shouldn’t feel like their souls are in peril from having a good stretch.

      • Cathy

        Hi Dan,
        I’m just wondering if you still would recommend Pietrafitness as a good alternative? I’ve been searching for a good stretching program, and recently ordered the Pietra DVDs. I’m hoping I didn’t make a mistake?

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

          Without question – I wholeheartedly recommend them.

          • Cathy

            Thanks for your quick response Dan. God bless you and your wonderful work here.

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

            You are welcome and thank you for your encouragement. Please keep us in your prayers.

      • Marc Grey

        That is correct Dan. I definitely agree. The number of Christians specially catholics are becoming thinner and thinner in number in almost all countries of the world. However, in our country, about more than 80% are devoted Catholics and the figures remains the same until this time. In fact, it is the only Catholic country in Asia. The Philippines. Thanks a lot Dan..

    • MarcAlcan

      I think you need to read up more on Christmas trees and Easter Bunnies are not Christian symbols. Bunnies were not baptized as Christian symbols.
      And no, there is no need to combine prayer and stretching although one may do so.
      But can one make idolatrous movements Christian? No. Not if they were specifically created to allow spirits entry into your body.
      The fierce defense of yoga (which is hardly necessary for health) to me sounds like it has already worked its spiritual effects on the practictioner.

    • Clinton Lowell Ufford

      James – Im not 100% sure what your getting at here friend. As Catholic’s, we believe in one good spiritual being, that being the Holy Spirit. All other’s can be said to be demons. That may sound “crazy,” but nonetheless, true. The mantras in yoga are what is “wrong” with them. Anything that alters the mind without God at its center is false.

    • Marc Grey

      Spiritual imagination is hayward. Specially not knowing what to imagine..There must be a guide .

  • Themar

    I totally fully agree that yoga is TOTALLY incompatible with christianism especially catholicism ;
    All the people I know that started practicing yoga while being christians , little by little , slowly , they left away the christian practices , prayer and sacramental life , several years later ;
    Yoga drives imperceptibly to exactly THE OPPOSITE direction than the catholic spirituality does ; YOGA IS A TRAP for Christians and may lead to demonic possesion ; Yoga uses the natural powers that lie in every human nature corrupted by the original sin; (those who practice magic use the same natural powers) ;
    While the Christian (esp Catholic) is called to live the life of Jesus Christ which is a life of Supranatural Grace and this can be accomplished only by a constant opposition or fight against the human nature of ones own… through christian dévotions and intense sacramental life especially Eucharistical life that give Grace
    The feelings of goodness and peace that yoga bestows come from natural sources, and are NOT of divine source, i.e. not from God Almighty ;
    The peace and joy that come from catholic devotional life is supernatural and beyond compare and comes from Christ through the Holy Spirit
    The way to Christ and in Christ is extremely narrow , that is all who want to find it and KEEP it …MUST give up all other practices no matter how innocent they may seem… like yoga
    I hope this may be of some help

  • Marc Grey

    While a lot of people are practicing yoga and from other religious belief, there may be some issues which requires full understanding. In the aspect of meditation for example, I believe that when one opens his mind and spiritual wellbeing the body becomes a portal. And from there, it is easy for any spirit to enter the temple (body) good of evil. I am a well devoted Catholic person and though I do not hate or dislike hindu faith, I certainly will never subscribe to yoga for relaxation or for physical fitness. I would rather buy an exercise machine or join a body fitness club for that matter. After all, joining a tennis club would be more enjoyable beacause of the friends and socials that you can get. It is more fun than yoga. I can guarantee that. And most importantly, NO issues.