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Yoga: What is So Bad About Feeling Good?

YogaI’ve always had some sort of exercise routine—even if it wasn’t much of a “routine,” per se.

Eating well and staying fit has been part of my life more out of necessity than desire. It rises from chronic illness rather than vanity. The catalyst for me “working out” has been my calling to live out my vocation as wife and mother and never how I look in a bathing suit.

In fact, I use the term “working out” rather loosely since the same chronic illness that requires me to monitor my bodily well-being hinders my ability to really drill down and push myself to any physical limits. It’s not that I haven’t tried. I have—but there are always severe consequences. So I’ve had to find that balance between “working out” and not killing myself in the process.

Enter yoga.

Or the idea of yoga.

The appeal of the gentle movements and stretching of yoga really drew me in as I searched for the perfect exercise routine that would tend to my body but wouldn’t break me, and so I began researching it. I am a fairly grounded Christian but it was easy for me to see—rather quickly—that as a Catholic, yoga was a practice that I couldn’t or wouldn’t engage in. But a lot of Catholics do practice yoga. Each side—those Catholics who practice yoga and those who don’t—can make its case rather successfully. However, I found some points against yoga for Catholics to be noteworthy and determining.

For instance:

This is from the Hindu American Foundation: “Yoga is a combination of both physical and spiritual exercises, entails mastery over the body, mind and emotional self, and transcendence of desire. The ultimate goal is moksha, the attainment of liberation from worldly suffering and the cycle of birth and rebirth.”

As a Catholic the term “rebirth” in this excerpt should be very disconcerting. Catholics simply do not believe in rebirth. As Catholics we believe you are given one lifetime. You are baptized and will live your life as a believer in Christ as your Savior. You aren’t given multiple lives to work out your final destiny.

Additionally, Catholics “get” suffering. Maybe sometimes too much; but nonetheless, we don’t—as a group—run from suffering. We understand its redemptive value. While we may wish to be liberated from it and can certainly pursue that through Christ, we don’t see it as our “ultimate goal.” Our ultimate goal is to unite our lives with Christ, the Suffering Servant.

Or there is this from the Hindu American Foundation: “There is the concerning trend of disassociating Yoga from its Hindu roots. Yet, even when Yoga is practiced solely in the form of an exercise, it cannot be completely delinked from its Hindu roots.”

Many yoga-practicing Catholics say, “Yes, yoga may be of a different religion but I believe in Christ so I will be fine.” However, the above statement should quickly negate that false sense of security. In essence it indicates that even if the person practicing yoga sees it only as exercise, he or she is mistaken—and sadly misguided—since yoga cannot be completely separated from its Hindu roots. We—as Catholics—don’t even have to understand the implication of what that statement means (that it can’t be completely delinked from its Hindu roots) for it to have relevance in our lives as Catholics. The statement in and of itself ought to give us pause.

To reiterate the importance of the link between practicing yoga and its Hindu roots, here is another statement from the Hindu American Foundation: “One does not have to profess faith in Hinduism in order to practice Yoga…Yoga is an essential part of Hindu philosophy and the two cannot be delinked, despite efforts to do so.”

These are things that should matter to Catholics. This isn’t an indictment against those who practice the Hindu faith; rather it is a reminder that those who practice the Catholic faith ought to be aware that even their exercise program is a facet of their faith journey.

 

Note: For Catholics interested in health and wellness Catholic style, The Rosary Workout by fitness expert, author and speaker Peggy Bowes is an excellent resource. www.RosaryWorkout.com


Cheryl Dickow is a Catholic wife, mother, author and speaker. Cheryl’s newest book is Miriam: Repentance and Redemption in Rome. It is the sequel to her first fiction book Elizabeth: A Holy Land Pilgrimage. Both are available in paperback, Kindle, or Nook format. Her company is Bezalel Books where her goal is to publish great Catholic books for families and classrooms that entertain while uplifting the Catholic faith and is located at www.BezalelBooks.com. To invite Cheryl to speak at your event, write her at Cheryl@BezalelBooks.com or phone her at 248.917.3865.

 


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  • TK

    I understand these concepts. The part that gives me trouble is differentiating between some stretches I have used in the past that help my back stay limber (and pain-free) and yoga poses. I got the regimen out of a book that calls them “yoga”, but I spoke briefly with a deliverance counselor (yes, yoga is a hook for demonic harassment) who said that much of what I was doing was /not/ yoga, but rather just stretching. The regimen really helped my back stay healthy, but I’m kind of afraid to keep using it.

  • Cheryl Dickow

    TK,
    I understand your concern on all counts. It sounds like you’ve shared your questions with someone knowledgable in the subject but if you still aren’t comfortable with proceeding with those particular stretches you may want to ask a physical therapist for a regimen of back-specific stretches.
    I wish I could offer a better, more specific suggestion for you.
    Maybe someone else on CL has some thoughts?

  • Katherine Anne McMillan

    My yoga instructor, did not do any chanting or Hindu stuff. He is Christian. Once I did a workshop and they started chanting and I got up and left the room. This turned out to be a gret opportunity to evangelize and explain why, I as a devout Catholic cannot ever do anything pagan. God gave us the 10 commandments in order of importance to him. It is more important to God that we have no false Gods before Him then we not murder anyone. Moses murdered a man. I pray the Rosary while I exercise, it doesn’t matter if I’m walking, biking or torturing my body with power yoga. Yoga is an awesome way to suffer for Christ. The more I push myself the more I suffer.

    The reason I do not practice in a yoga studio is because of modesty. Catholic women are incredibly immodest today. Modesty is a virtue, vanity is the opposite of virtue.

    We are to be holy as our Father in heaven is holy. Catholic women have to stop dyeing their hair, wearing makeup, expensive jewelry, manicures, pedicures, massages, revealing clothing especially shorts, pants, and mini skirts.

    Where is your blog against all of these vices?

    • Mary Kochan

      First of all, this is not a blog. This is an online magazine. It is very rude to ask an author why she did not write an article about your personal hobby horse. Are you always such a joy to be around?

      • goral

        You’re funny, Mary. You would make a great trainer of some catholic exercise program, were one to be invented.

        • Cheryl Dickow

          Goral,
          If you are looking for an incredible Catholic exercise program, look no further than Peggy Bowes’ The Rosary Workout. It is an incredible understanding of the physical and spiritual.
          This isn’t just a “walk and do the Rosary” type program. Peggy is a certified trainer (flew for the Air Force for 8 years) and really knows her health and wellness stuff.
          For anyone looking for a great speaker who will truly “work her audience” this gal is for you!
          http://www.RosaryWorkout.com

          • goral

            Imagine that, I’m always one step behind in my exercise program. Actually, as a gymnastics coach, I’m quite athletic. It’s the info., that’s where I lag.

            I just finished a three day seminar here in Hartford.
            USA Gymnastics held their major Convention here.

            I will check out the Rosary walk.
            Thank you so much, Cheryl.

      • Chris

        Do you always talk down to people like this Mary? Condescension isn’t a Christian virtue, you know …

        • Mary Kochan

          Chris, you must be new around here. Thanks for showing up. But I started this site with a hundred writers several years ago. Many of them, like Cheryl, friends of mine for years. You will not meet a sweeter, harder-working woman. Not only is she a writer — and she doesn’t get paid for articles, so it is a labor of love — she started her own publishing company to help other Catholic writers. Even the most cursory look at her bio would show she did not deserve the slam this commentor put on her. I am an editor who defends her writers and I don’t suffer gratuitous obnoxiousness toward them. Welcome again.

          • Cheryl Dickow

            Fun news Mary!
            Sacred Heart radio producer Matt Swaim just emailed me and said he read this article on CL and invited me to speak on Brian Patrick’s show on the subject. I thought you would love to know that CL is being read and shared and making a difference! Keep up the great work!

          • Mary Kochan

            That is great Cheryl. This site would not exist without the generosity of so many writers who are so passionate about our faith and so generous to share with others. Thanks for all you do.

        • goral

          Where is your blog against condescension?

          The correction, clarification and necessary rebuke
          of the Editor is just her job, done quite well, I might add.

          • goral

            I told you she’s good. Before I could make my own correction of changing the “of the Editor” to BY the Editor,
            Mary already welcomed you. Nice!

    • Cheryl Dickow

      Katherine,
      I appreciate your passion for modesty although I feel that there is a balance between caring for yourself and vanity. And so wearing a minimal amount of makeup doesn’t fall into the same category as, for instance, immodest clothing.
      While I respectfully disagree with your reasoning that it doesn’t matter if you are walking, biking or torturing your body with power yoga, I am glad you were provided the forum at CL to share your thoughts. It is only in charitable exchanges that we can root out the truths in all things.

      • Katherine Anne McMillan

        You are rationalizing that because you wear little make up, it’s ok. That’s like saying it’s ok for me to be a little prideful. It’s okay for me to be a little evil. We have to stop lying to ourselves and stop looking at ourselves the way the world sees us and we have to see ourselves as God sees us. I can only imagine how disgusting Catholic women have become to God. Bishop Sheen said, “what are you hiding in the corners of your heart.”

        You imagine that you are okay because you are less evil than other women who wear more make up. You are in error. To those who are given more, more is required from them.

        I will pray for you, please pray for me. pax, Kathy

        • Cheryl Dickow

          Katherine,
          I truly don’t know how to respond to your anger and hate and misunderstanding of the Truths of Christ and our beautiful and majestic Catholic faith.
          You certainly are in my prayers as you have asked.

        • CDville

          1Corinthians 13. You are young; you will learn over the years. I was once as legalistic as you. Now I am less legalistic. Still learning, though!

          • Katherine Anne McMillan

            Why doesn’t anyone take sin seriously anymore? I was a bad Catholic for 42 years blindly supporting the sins of my brothers and sisters in Christ. I will be judged for those sins and the good I do not do.

            Sin, pride, is serious it separates from the love of God. We should be helping each other get to heaven not hell.

          • CDville

            Your recent posts are full of pride, condemnation of others, and self-righteousness. Massages, pedicures, and makeup are not sins. Yoga exercises are for some, but not all. Do not presume to know the hearts of the people around you.

          • Mary Kochan

            For someone who wants to keep others from sinning, she sure is tempting me! LOL. CDville, thanks.

          • CDville

            Clarification: Just like alcohol and my Baptist friends, massages, pedicures, and makeup are not sinful, but my attitude toward them can make them sins. Ditto almost anything else. Even the young woman who gets an abortion does not sin if she is forced into it. I have heard of girls tied down when they tried to flee the abortionist’s table.

        • enness

          So, why bother wearing anything nice at all? Shouldn’t I wear the dowdiest sack I can find to Mass to prove how humble I am?

          • Katherine Anne McMillan

            We are to judge each others actions, not each others souls. I am my brothers keeper. In the Old Testament the Israelites take pagan wives and become pagan, God punishes them and they come back.

            All the Catholics that left the church since VC II, I am responsible for doing everything I can to bring them back. There are 2 judgements at the end of time. My particular judgement and societies will also be judged. Our Catholic culture is in the toilet and no one is doing anything. As a the body of Christ on earth we should be begging our fellow Catholics to do penance and pray.

            Yes “a humble contrite heart God will not spurn.” When a Catholic woman dresses for mass we should wear clothes that are not distracting to our brothers and sisters in Christ. That is why women cover their heads before the Throne of God, because a woman’s hair is her pride.

            In the Old Testament when Moses is bargaining with Pharaoh for God’s people, sometimes God hardens Pharoah”s heart and sometimes Pharoah hardens his own heart. If I do nothing when abortion is made a right, I do nothing when millions of Catholics have left the church, I do nothing when pedophilia has shamed our priesthood, I do nothing when Catholic women and men are sterilizing themselves so they will not conceive souls for God what am I?

            You all may hate me, but I want to be with God for all eternity, so I will endure your wrath, and if anything I have written makes one woman stop and think or go talk to her priest about what I’ve written, then God is glorified. I want souls for Christ and I don’t want just one, I want them all.

            Bishop Sheen said, what ever you think about, that is what you worship. If all you think about is making money and spending money, you worship mammon. If all you think about is being pretty, you worship yourself.

    • Cathi M.

      Watch it – that sounds like there may be some scrupulosity there.
      Clothing issues? Most definitely, we all need to tread carefully there.
      A LITTLE makeup and hair dye? So long as your’re not spending money for your family’s basic needs or flouting society’s limits with fashion extremes, go ahead and gladden your husband’s eyes.
      Jewelry? Ditto. Besides, some cultures store the family’s savings around Mom’s neck, not in a bank.
      Pedicures? Try having an aging diabetic family member?
      Massages? Ditto. It certainly depend on the technique, but they can have great theraputic effect if used with discernment.

      • Katherine Anne McMillan

        Read the above post and I’ll add 2 quotes:

        “A man who loves sin does not wish the Gospel to be true, and therefore is not a fair judge of it.” Cardinal John Henry Newman

        “The Sermon on the Mount is so much at variance with all that our world holds dear that the world will crucify anyone who tries to live up to its values.”

  • Anabelle Hazard

    Thank you Cheryl for shedding light on this issue. Your article is spot on what Ive heard from former yoga practitioners and Fr. Crotty from the Fathers of Mercy.

  • Cheryl Dickow

    I do want to thank everyone for taking the time to offer thoughts on this important topic. It isn’t easy to address something that is surrounded by controversy but, like Sunday’s Gospel (Luke 12:49-53), we are reminded that following Christ sometimes causes us to take on the difficult issues.

  • Laura

    “Everything is lawful for me,”* but not everything is beneficial. “Everything is lawful for me,” but I will not let myself be dominated by anything.” – 1 Cor. 6:12

    Yes, as Catholics we have the “freedom” to do yoga yet let us not fool ourselves: not everything we have the freedom to do is necessarily a good thing for us spiritually. Some things, like yoga with its polytheistic Hindu roots (which the Hindu American Foundation itself says can not be “delinked”), may actually involve a secret servitude, albeit perhaps an unconscious one, in conflict with the lordship of Jesus. Being a Catholic requires some responsibility to understand Who Jesus is and what we believe. Jesus is Lord.

    Catholics should be concerned there is so much controversy regarding their practice of yoga; that is in and of itself a red flag of sorts. Find a work out routine other than yoga — there are thousands out there, like the Rosary Workout suggested above — and be at peace.

    • Cheryl Dickow

      Laura,
      Thank you for helping shed light on this topic. I agree that finding an alternative like the Rosary Workout is just a better, safer way to go!

  • Michele

    OK. I am going to try to be calm here. You are speaking as if the Hindu faith is THE TRUTH. It isn’t. How can a falsehood, and assuming you are not a relativist, which you cannot be if you are a believing Catholic, how can a falsehood effect your spiritual life? If you believe in and practice the philosophy behind Yoga, yes, of course, it will harm your spiritual life. But if you are just “going through the motions” it will not and indeed CANNOT harm you! And the only reason it would harm you if you practiced the philosophy underlying Yoga would be because you would be open yourself to evil influences through an intellectual, emotional and spiritual “faith” in the beliefs of those who developed Yoga. Just as all foods are licit for those who have faith in Christ, all exercises are licit for those who have faith in Christ. It is the faith in Christ that matters, and the fact that you DO NOT put your faith in the philosophy advocated by those who developed Yoga that matters, not what those who developed Yoga say you are supposed to believe and practice. An exercise system can’t take over your mind, no matter what a Hindu believer might tell you. You have to make a consent of the will in order to open yourself to evil influences. Absent that, and you will not experience ill effects from a mere exercise system, any more than you will experience ill effects from eating meat and dairy together, or pork.

    • Cheryl DIckow

      Michele,
      It might be helpful to consider, say, the way the Catholic Church teaches against a Ouiji board. It isn’t about the user of the board, and it isn’t about needing to believe in the board or the game. And yet the Catholic Church says “No Ouiji boards!”
      The fact remains that there are countless areas of darkness that exist and to which we can open a door whether we are in agreement with them or not. These things do not need our agreement, our permission, or our acceptance.
      You might also liken the powers or ability of a system in which you have no belief to our very own faith. In other words, Jesus Christ does not need anyone to believe who he is to make him so. Likewise, the system from which Yoga is derived exists whether you believe in it or not.

  • noelfitz

    Cheryl,

    Many thanks for this article and all your others.
    Your articles are always positive and encouraging, and not only for
    women.

    I thought of you today at Mass when the priest said that St Bernard recommended that we acknowledge our sins, thank God and encourage others. You certainly encourage others by your sound, solid, positive and uplifting articles.

    • Cheryl Dickow

      Today happens to be one of those days when kind words have a doubly wonderful impact. Thank you!

  • Catherine

    Thanks, Cheryl for addressing something that’s been on my mind for some time.
    I have a few problems with my balance and stiff joints, and have been told that T’ai C’hi or Yoga would help, but have been skittish about the philisophical part of the packaging. I’m not looking for a tough ‘feel the burn’ regimen, but something slow that concentrates on balance, flexibility, stretching, and posture.
    I’ve asked around about a program that would present these exercises without the philisophical baggage – videos with Christian/Secular/ or simply Music would be great, but haven’t found anything so far.
    If it’s not possible to excise the philisophy from Yoga, does anyone know if the same goes for T’ai Chi?
    I’ll look at Peggy Bowles’ system.

    • Cheryl Dickow

      Catherine,
      You are in my prayers.
      I do believe it is better to go with something like Peggy’s routine since we know that the Rosary is tried and true and what Peggy is able to bring to that is really beneficial.
      She’s such a genuinely kind and charitable person, I would even suggest contacting her through her website to see if she can offer other ideas on a more personal basis.

    • Mary Kochan

      Check out this piece of equipment called a Bosu. I had an ear infection that caused balance issues that lasted several years. Just a few months of training on the Bosu made a dramatic difference in my balance.

      • goral

        Does that mean that now you can do the Bosu Nova?

        • Tomas Tesla

          Grrrroan!

      • Cheryl Dickow

        Great suggestion! I have a Bosu ball, too, and have found it to be a great piece of exercise equipment.

    • CDville

      I am a fan of Fred Hahn’s Slow Burn Fitness. I bought his book, but there is a little bit of information on his website. Some gyms use a similar method, like the Plano, TX gym that teaches Slow Fit. His method is to lift weights (or milk jugs) using a metronome to keep your movements very slow, reducing the risk of injury from momentum. You use as much weight as you can control, not one ounce more, and it’s totally secular.

  • Joe

    Father Gabriel Amorth, who was head exorcist in the Vatican, warned that yoga was satanic, that it lead to false eastern religions. I’d listen to someone that knows the workings of the demonic pretty well. How low have we become when we take up and defend paganism?

    • Cheryl Dickow

      Joe,
      Thank you for sharing that about Father Amorth.

      Sometimes I am truly afraid that we–none of us–seemed to have really learned much from the garden/apple/warning escapade.

  • retiredconservative

    Cheryl, I stopped doing yoga for the very reasons you cite in this essay.

    If I may be so bold, I would like to recommend Classical Stretch as a much better alternative to yoga. You can push yourself as hard as you want or you can do it gently–either way, your body will benefit.

    I don’t know your physical limitations, but another great exercise program is t-tapp.

    No–I get no remuneration from either program, but both are an integral part of maintaining my physical health. And I’m probably much older than you.

    • Cheryl Dickow

      Thank you for the suggestions!
      And let’s not compare ages because I may not win! LOL!

  • J. Danabal

    Dear Brethren in Christ, I am from India and hearing lot of discussions about the Yoga. Long back I was taking physio therapy for hip pain and the paramedic after my physio session taught me an exercise to do which I later found out to be an Yogic posture also. that exercise was beneficial to me and I got great improvement in my pain alleviation. I find no reason to stop doing that exercise because it is a yogic posture it would amount to me over scrupulosity. You take that as an exercise for your physical improvement, that’s all nothing more than that, the problem arises when you take seriously and believe in Karma, re birth , attaining nirvana through Yoga and start practicing yoga towards that end as advised by the yogic gurus , that is to be avoided. St. Paul was very pragmatig when he advises about eating the food offered to pagan gods .pl. read that passage and you can understand that the food is not sinful, likewise the physical exercise is not sinful whether be it yoga or aerobic or gym work outs but with what intention and beliefs you are into it is important. For us catholics Christ is Important than everything else.

    Let us pray for enlightenment in front of the tabernacle to get answers in times of dilemma and trouble so that he may illuminate our conscious.

    • Cheryl Dickow

      J. Danabal
      You have not indicated what Scripture verse you suggest we read. If you are able to, please share it with us.
      I know that in Acts 10, we find the vision of St. Peter wherein he is hungry and wondering what to eat since there is only non-kosher food available. I believe it is critically important to take this verse in its entirety in that BEFORE St. Peter will eat something against his dietary laws, he prays and in a trance is told that what God makes clean, is clean. Notice in this exchange that St. Peter still questions because he isn’t going to take a chance. He doesn’t decide on his own but through the authority of the Spirit–and with a few confirmations at that!
      While I completely disagree with what you have taken away from what has been shared here, I respect your free will to do just that.
      As someone who sufers from physical problems for decades now, I know how important finding an answer is and while my desire is to be well physically, my bigger desire is to be well spiritually and have determined that yoga is not for me.

      • Tabitha

        That vision was about food- yes but it was even more than that- As God was asking Peter to go and share the gospel with gentiles- who were thought of as unclean. The food part is only the surface. God was opening the way for Christ to be shared with the gentiles. It’s not always easy to see the inner meanings and that’s why Christ is the Mystery of God.

    • CDville

      When I was a newly-enthusiastic Christian in my late teens, I kept company with Baptists and members of the Assembly of God church, the only other committed Christians I knew. As a lifelong Episcopalian (until the late 70’s) I “knew” they were wrong about the use of alcohol and argued with them. The Lord upbraided me through 1 Corinthians 10. Over the decades, especially and most recently in the Harry Potter controversies, I have learned that what is harmless to some is a true danger to others. Those of us who are not tempted or endangered by whatever it may be must be careful not to scandalize or tempt those who are endangered. Likewise, those who are susceptible must not declare those things off limits to all. A worldly example: the people with celiac disease can’t outlaw wheat, and churches have a responsibility to accommodate them with low-gluten hosts or access to the chalice.

  • anna lisa

    I have been using my yoga practice as an hour to meditate. I worship the one true God when I do it. At the beginning of class I “offer my intention” as the yogi recommends, and so while suffering the heat and the sometimes painful postures, I know there are blessings on many levels. I love the humble words the yogi offers at the end of the practice. If more people took seriously that prayer to love and honor the dignity of the person in front of them, this world would be a better place.
    Sisters, please resist the sinful inclination to fear and scrupulosity. It is not of God, and it hinders evangelization.

    • Cheryl Dickow

      Anna Lisa,
      While I have shared my own conclusions about yoga and have tried to bring in what I feel are good points for a Catholic to consider, there is simply no fear in my conclusions.
      Wisdom should not be confused with fear. Being wise, seeking truth and knowledge, these are all things we are encouraged to do. From there we are able to use our free will to make our own decisions.
      I completely respect your own decision even while I disagree.

  • Carolyn

    Father Jacques Verlinde who has a You tube video entitled “Guru or Jesus” based upon his life and experiences as a TM teacher living in India, states clearly that …
    “there is no such thing as Christian Yoga, only Christians who practice it.”

    Eastern mysticism and Catholicism are not compatible with each other and I am grateful to Cheryl Dickow for this excellent article. I pray thousands read it and are helped in their discernment..

    • anna lisa

      Carolyn, all people who seek goodness and Truth are compatible. St. Paul speaks of these noble ones who while *savage* in some ways ( I too can be “savage”, when I am rude or unkind) are children of God, who should be regarded as such. Sometimes people who are converts from error become over zealous, to the detriment of ALL men of good will. God help us from this painful zealotry.

    • Cheryl Dickow

      Carolyn,
      I’ve been invited on Sacred Heart radio today to talk about this and appreciate what you’ve shared here. Thank you!

  • Anthony

    I am interested what you think about Zumba?
    My girlfriend adored it (she had the XBox Kinect camera version) even wanting to lead a class at her church but then oddly felt spiritually hurt by it and ended up throwing it away.

    There was no spirituality being promoted however some of the (optional) dance workouts are Bhangra style and thus sung in a foreign language – want to say Hindi.

    What would be your view on listening to music in a language not comprehensible to the listener? Can this ever be spiritually harmful if there is no intention or thought to take beyond the rhythm ?

    Pax Vobiscum!

    • Cheryl Dickow

      Anthony,
      I have never done any research about Zumba so I really can’t speak to the topic. Sorry. Maybe another CL reader is able to help out with some information.

  • Trill

    Could you not just have kept to yoga for keeping fit and healthy ?

    This is one reason I believe Paul said women should be silent in ‘Church’. Cause you don’t half talk a load of BS at times.

    I thought the goal of Buddhism was to get beyond fear and desire. The goal of Christian life – perfect love, is the casting out of fear, and to a degree the desire that brings us fear. I don’t believe Buddhism teaches running away from suffering – but the alleviation of suffering and compassion.

    So does Christianity and Catholicism. And yes I go to Mass daily too. Helps me not ‘see the devil everywhere’ to such a degree I end unable to see God anywhere. Americans. You’ll be the ruination of the Catholic Church.

    • Cheryl Dickow

      Trill,

      What I’ve tried to point out is that the answer to your question is actually “no.”
      Of course this doesn’t stop you from choosing to practice yoga. And that is totally up to you.
      This is good, relevant information about yoga. I did not make up those statements from the HAF; I am just sharing them. If you want to direct your comments about “BS” to the HAF, that would make more sense.
      What anyone chooses to do with all this is what free will is all about.
      That’s the beauty of our faith!

  • George R

    I appreciate what you are trying to do here. But, I feel there are a few things being overlooked:

    1. It is superstition to assign a supernatural value to a merely natural thing, e.g. a body position, a rabbit’s foot, walking under a ladder.
    2. “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” If I were to stretch before I run today and happened, unknowingly, to find myself in a yoga position, would I be opening myself to evil? If so, then who can be safe? If not, what precludes me from doing it when I know it is a yoga position? My purpose and intentions have not changed.
    3. A corollary to (2) is that when someone like Fr. Gabriel Amorth says, “Yoga is dangerous,” we have to be aware of the “rose” about which he is speaking. It isn’t de-spiritualized yoga positions. It is the full-blown thing.
    4. An ouija board is in a different category. If you happened upon it and used it without instruction, it would be a silly child’s game with no danger. The problem with it is that the instructions for the game require its play to be inherently spiritual. You can’t escape the spiritual nature of the game. Hence, its greater danger.
    5. If yoga is practiced with the spiritual element, then (and only then) it is like playing with an ouija board.
    6. God gave us free will. If we don’t freely open ourselves to external spiritual influences (by playing with an ouija board with the intention to communicate with spirits or by practicing yoga with non-Christian spiritual goals) they will have no power over us. We have to open the door. Stretching or breathing in a certain manner is not opening the door.
    7. Catholicism has “Christianized” many pagan practices. Christmas used to be a pagan ritual celebrating the Winter Solstice. St. Valentine’s day used to be a pagan version of spin-the-bottle. I’m pretty sure there are others (St. Patrick had to deal with this too). If yoga is so dangerous because of its non-Christian roots, we would need to similarly ban these other Christianized pagan practices.
    8. A statement from a Hindi organization has no bearing on the truth as Catholics see it.

  • Nancy

    Thank you, Cheryl, for this very insightful article. I can relate because I was once a Catholic who practiced yoga. I sat on the mat and obediently emptied my mind like the yoga instructor taught us. Physically, it was relaxing. Spiritually…there was a feeling deep inside I tried to ignore, to push aside. Then I realized that God would not have given me these uneasy feelings unless I was meant to learn from them, to find out more. I began to investigate. For instance, why were we all bowing to each other and saying “namaste”? Here’s what I found, from Yogajournal.com: “The gesture Namaste represents the belief that there is a Divine spark within each of us that is located in the heart chakra. The gesture is an acknowledgment of the soul in one by the soul in another. Nama means bow, as means I, and te means you. Therefore,namaste literally means “bow me you” or “I bow to you.”

    As a Catholic Christian, this concerned me, First, Christians don’t believe in chakra, in the heart or anywhere else. This is a Hindu belief. Second, I was emptying my mind of everything…even God. What happens when you completely empty your mind? Things can get in…bad things and bad spirits. And third, I was bowing to people, instead of God. I did not realize this or even give permission to do so, but as you said so clearly during your wonderful radio interview this morning, some of us don’t exactly understand how a cell phone works or electricity, but that does not mean that it is not working. People believe that because they are strong in their faith and don’t give permission to bad things to come in, they won’t. Well, just because I don’t give permission to electricity does not mean that it is not going to work. It is the same with yoga. How do I really know how all of this was all working on my soul? I don’t.

    My faith tells me about faith in what I cannot see. Think of Jesus present body, blood, soul, and divinity in the Eucharist. We as Catholics believe in the graces that exist in the Eucharist…given freely by God. Just because we cannot see things does not mean they do not exist–good and bad. l I am just grateful that God gave me the grace to research what I was actually doing and find out that as a Christian, it had to stop. No matter how good it felt, it simply is incompatible with my Christian beliefs. I sympathize with those who enjoy it, I really do. It is very obvious to me, Cheryl, that you are speaking from the heart and have prayed over this many times. You are not out to destroy what makes people feel good! There are many things out there that make us feel good that are not good for us. I won’t go into all of those, because they are very obvious.

    At first, I tried to think about God, Jesus, the Blessed Mother, and the saints while I practiced yoga. I still felt uneasy. I quit saying “namaste” to others in the class. It was a start, but still the prickly feeling remained. So in the end, I threw away my punch card that had several unused, pre-paid sessions on it. People did not understand, but I do now…and I am so blessed. And the prickly feelings vanished.

    • cheryl dickow

      Nancy,

      This is so perfectly said and I appreciate you taking the time to help flesh this all out! I was particularly affected by the picture you drew about “completely empyting your mind” as that gave me chills.
      Very powerful.
      Thank you.

    • George R

      Nancy, your response to your experience of yoga was appropriate. Your experience of yoga included the spiritual dimensions.

      However, we have to be careful not to confuse this with a very different form of “yoga” that has been divorced from its spiritual roots. Using a particular position which happens to be a position used in yoga is not going to open one up to evil influences.

      I do not begrudge anyone the choice to swear off yoga completely, but we must be careful of accusing others of doing something they are not. Yoga positions are NOT equal to yoga, despite being named the same thing. Therefore, those who do “yoga” where “yoga” is just a collection of physical positions are not doing anything spiritually harmful.

      • Nancy

        Thank you for your response, George. I agree with you to a point, but the problem lies with people (like myself) who do not/did not know. You are correct that positioning your body in certain stretches or poses is not harmful in and of itself, but we must look at the root of yoga and where it comes from. Before I joined the yoga studio, I went to a class put on by the public school district. The class description said absolutely nothing about spiritual leanings or teachings. It claimed all of the health benefits of yoga. Yet even these beginner, basic classes on the floor of a high-school cafeteria talked of emptying of the mind, chakras (which I had never heard of until then) and the bowing and “namaste” term. So you see, it can leak in–and confuse people. I am just cautioning people that this can and does happen, even when we do not expect it. God bless

        • George R

          I have no qualms with your thoughts. It is definitely appropriate to warn people off yoga if we know nothing more about what they are doing. If someone offers a yoga class, I too would be skeptical of its contents.

          My only point is that not everyone that says s/he is doing “yoga” actually is. Many people, people I know, and people like Sean, above, practice “yoga” without the spiritual baggage.

          Thanks for your kind response. God bless.

      • Cheryl Dickow

        George,
        I couldn’t disagree more; but that is why I wrote this article. It seems like this entire topic is something that really needs our attention and understanding.
        By your logic–and choosing to ignore the statements made by the HAF–then a non-Catholic could consume a consecrated host and it would be nothing more than eating a wafer since the person consuming it does not believe in it so that changes the entire structure of it (which of course it doesn’t!).
        Or if someone who does not believe in Christ makes the sign of the Cross and says whatever they want–or says nothing at all–will that change the fact that the sign of the Cross is a sacramental?
        I just see a lot of flaws in what you are trying to put forth while I do appreciate you sharing your thoughts because I think this is how we ultimately get to the bottom of all this!

        • George R

          Cheryl, the Catholic worldview says that bodily positions have no inherent spiritual value. It also says that a consecrated host is sacred and sets certain limitations regarding its consumption. If we subscribe to the Catholic faith, then we are choosing to believe in this worldview over and against other worldviews (e.g. the HAF).

          It is, therefore entirely consistent for us to believe that no harm can come of practicing a collection of bodily positions that happens to belong to yoga and simultaneously that the host ought not be consumed by those who do not believe in the true presence of Christ therein.

          It is equally consistent for a member of the HAF to believe that yoga positions are inherently spiritual and that the consecrated host is merely a wafer. That arises from their worldview.

          Both parties are consistent in their beliefs. My argument rests not on consistency, but on reality. What is the reality of the situation? Is the host actually a host or just a wafer? Is the bodily position actually a spiritual conduit or just a position? The reality is of ultimate importance here.

          The answers to these, for the Catholic, must arise from our worldview, which we believe to be informed by reason. We believe reality is consistent with our worldview OVER AND AGAINST the worldview of HAF.

          So, with respect to your particular points: from our perspective as Catholics (which we ought to be championing) the consecrated host is Jesus Christ. Consumption by a non-Catholic is wrong. A member of HAF might consume it and believe it to be a mere wafer. They would be doing so in good conscience (with good intentions) since it is within their worldview to believe so. (Keep in mind that while it is an imperative to follow your conscience, your conscience can be ill-informed.) However, from our Catholic perspective, they would be committing an illicit act. It would be our duty to inform them; to correct their conscience.

          The reverse of the analogy would be someone from HAF correcting us about our belief in the ability to divorce the spiritual from yoga.

          The crux here is that from our worldview, their correction of us is wrong and it would be inconsistent for us to cater to their beliefs when we think reality is otherwise.

          Your point about the Sign of the Cross actually serves to bolster my argument. From our perspective as Catholics, bodily positions have no inherent spiritual value aside from those we give them as part of our faith. Others may take the Sign of the Cross and use it wrongly, but it does not change our dedication to it. Indeed, if others were to take our Sign of the Cross and turn it into a gesture of satanic worship, we would NOT be required to abandon the gesture. Why not? Precisely for the same reason that we are not required to abandon bodily positions just because another group has chosen to use them for an incompatible spiritual aim. (Not because “we were here first”.)

  • Sean Alderman

    I think I heard Cheryl Dickow discuss this article on the Son Rise Morning Show today. I’m not a yoga practitioner, but I do find this discussion interesting.

    In thinking about this topic, I wonder if you aren’t giving too much power to a pagan tradition that we Catholics profess to be false. I think you said on the radio that the Hindu American Society says this or that about yoga and accept it as truth. It would seem that if we know that this “faith” is false, then we should not elevate their statements about their integration of this faith and this exercise to be a truth, right? I don’t think that we are required to accept that what an organization says is the Truth, just because they believe it to be the truth.

    To make a parallel to this with how we understand that God created the universe versus the atheistic science crowd like Stephen Hawking. We know the Truth of creation, these atheistic scientists build their version of the truth through theory and experiment. Their truth is an incomplete version of our Truth, but just because they think/believe/understand their truth to be full does not mean that it is or ever can be because it lacks the source of all Truth, God.

    I have used the Biggest Looser’s Yoga for weight loss dvd and it kicked my butt on easy mode, but the exercise was good and there was no spiritual or meditative aspect. It is just exercise. What you said on the radio today sounds like superstition – to believe that this exercise has some spiritual component even with out the cooperation of the person doing it. This is like saying that if an atheist kneels, clasps his hands and bows his head, he is somehow praying.

    Our faith has the fullness of the Truth revealed by God. Other faiths have only pieces of the Truth, and often misunderstand those pieces. God has not fully revealed himself to them, but yet they live in His created world and come to understand and misunderstand God through the His creation. Practitioners of those faiths cooperate with God’s plan for salvation in ways we would consider to be incomplete. God gives each of his creations the grace sufficient to have salvation if they choose to cooperate with Him.

    • George R

      Sean, thanks for your comments. I’ve made similar ones below, including the remark about superstition, which seems to be at the heart of this.

      The problem is, we are using one word to describe at least two very different things: (1) Yoga as it was originally designed (which is spiritually dangerous) and (2) a modern “yoga” (which is just a collection of positions).

      It does seem like there is perhaps even a third thing being labeled “yoga”: Christianized yoga, which involves replacing the spiritual components from the original thing with Christian spiritual components. I have no experience of the spiritual components of yoga, so I cannot say how readily this could be accomplished. It does seem reasonable to expect this to be possible though.

    • Cheryl Dickow

      Sean,
      I understand your position even while I disagree.
      I would never have the hubris to say that because my faith is the “truth” than other faiths aren’t entitled to my full respect in what they claim. If there were no powers or principalities other than our own then Ephesians 6:12 makes no sense and the thousands of volumes of books on deliverance and spiritual warfare and exorcism and breaking bondage would not be necessary since none of these things come from our living out our lives as faithful Catholics.
      In our knoweldge we become wise and make good use of our free will.

      • George R

        Cheryl, when we claim to be Catholic, we are making a truth claim. We are claiming that Catholicism’s version of the truth is “the” Truth. We are setting our truth over and against other versions. We are called to boldness here, not a false irenicism that seeks to “live and let live.” We have the Good News! Let’s proclaim it.

        Those who practice Hinduism are certainly entitled to respect, but one can (and must, as a Catholic) respectfully disagree with their truth claims.

      • Sean Alderman

        Thank you for your kind response. I didn’t at all mean to suggest you have hubris or lack of respect for others, please forgive me. I hope you do understand my point and can see why your presentation on the radio today could be problematic. I don’t at all mean to twist your words, but I do my best to interpret them as they are. I have no advanced education or credentials in theology, philosophy, science and so forth, perhaps that’s exactly what I’m doing. I do try to look at these things in terms of theology and philosophy and what is the whole Truth as the Church teaches it.

        The way you presented your argument on the radio sounds like you’re suggesting that because Hindu’s believe that these exercises are spiritual (according to their false pagan theology) that we not only are subject to those spiritual effects, but also must believe and respect that there exists spiritual significance in yoga. Quoting Ephesians above suggests that Hinduism and other non-Christian religions manifest from the evil one. I’ve not seen the Church teach that either. I have seen the Church teach that God gives sufficient grace to all creation to achieve salvation. There are people in the Catholic Church who are not “in the Church” every bit as much as there are people who are not in the Catholic Church who are “in the Church” it’s all about cooperation with that grace.

        You also said or at least implied that there is spiritual danger here even if we don’t understand such to be the case. You made an analogy to how cell phones or electricity work and do their designed job whether the user understands how these things work. Again, my previous reference about an atheist or hindi kneeling in the form of prayer does not equate to prayer. Likewise a Christian standing on a rubber mat with arms extended and knees bent does not equate a spiritual meditation any more than playing a game of twister would – which I assume is not spiritually dangerous, though in my simple description sounds a lot like yoga. Both of these analogies must be true or false, unless the analogy breaks (A is to B as X is to Y). Electricity works whether or not you understand it because it is part of the natural world and you need not cooperate with it in order to turn a light on or be zapped when you touch a live wire. We could make other natural analogies and still not make one that equates to the supernatural analogy you attempt to create. For example, shall we ask the question about whether a tree falling in the wood makes noise?

  • Julie Gill

    When in doubt, leave it out. If there is even a possibility that participating in this practice offends God, then do something else instead. Do you NEED to do it? No. A woman called into Relevant Radio recently who tried Yoga. Her very first time, she kept seeing a serpent. It frightened her so much, she never went back. Upon further reading, I discovered that every pose in Yoga is an act of worship to a Pagan God. I forget the name, but one of them is the god of destruction. And interestingly enough, one of these “gods” is a serpent.

    • George R

      “When in doubt, leave it out.” I have no qualm with this. If you are concerned that yoga could lead you away from God, please leave it out.

      I do disagree with each pose being an act of worship. That may have been the original design of yoga. However, an act of worship requires the complicit intention of the actor. If one has no intention to worship, then one’s actions do not, in fact, worship.

      What if I said that sitting was an act used to worship satan by certain cults? Would that mean that every time you sat, you worshipped satan? No. Yoga positions, in themselves, apart from any spiritual dimension, are not an act of worship, unless you intend them to be.

      • Julie Gill

        And when you stand before God, and it turns out to be true, you won’t be able to say you didn’t know, that no one told you. Satan is the father of lies and always makes evil appear to be good. Forewarned is forearmed. Tread at your own soul’s risk.
        I don’t say this to judge anyone but to, hopefully, wake people up to the danger. No one NEEDS to do something they’ve been told could be a wolf in sheeps clothing. They are plenty of other ways to exercise without endangering our souls. Why take the chance?

        • George R

          When my back goes out, I often place my hands on the floor, arms perpendicular to the floor, and let the rest of my body sag onto the floor. This alleviates tension in the spinal column and allows the muscles to relax and the bones to realign as they ought to be.

          It so happens, that that “position” is called “cobra” in yoga. One of maybe 3 that I know of and can name.

          I do it because it helps my back, not because I want to worship a false god. I have great difficulty in imagining that God would judge that to be an evil act on my part.

          The danger here is more along the lines of scandal. If I were to do this position in a public setting, or perhaps recommend yoga to a friend, it could bring scandal to others, unless I am willing to enter into a long discussion about the need to excercise prudence and not engage in the spiritual dimensions of yoga they are liable to discover. Hence, I myself do not recommend yoga to others, in general. There’s too much baggage with the term. That said, my point here is merely that we need to be careful to define what we mean when we say “yoga is dangerous.” What “yoga” do we mean?

          St. Paul speaks directly about the need for prudence in just this scenario. He has a great passage which supports my point that yoga positions are in themselves harmless, but that we must exercise prudence lest we cause scandal or lead others into sin. The passage is chapter 8 of 1 Cor. Here’s a link:

          http://usccb.org/bible/1corinthians/8

          Note, in particular, the footnote for 8:8-9: Although the food [sacrificed to idols] in itself is morally neutral, extrinsic circumstances may make the eating of it harmful.

          We might say “although yoga positions in themselves are morally neutral, extrinsic circumstances may make their use harmful [to others and hence be immoral].”

          • Julie Gill

            I know a little about pain, and I am so very sorry that you have this problem. I pray that Our Lord will provide you with a way of dealing with this pain. The fact that you know the name of the demon, Cobra, scares me. Dearest Lord, please plunge George into the abyss of your unfathomable Mercy and may, Mary, on this, the Feast of Her Queenship in Heaven ask Jesus to help you in all your needs.

          • George R

            I sincerely appreciate your prayers and concern for me, but a name is just a name. The reality behind the name is what we should be concerned about.

            If I were to invent a form of devil-worship which involved, in part, sitting as an act of worship, would you stop sitting?

            Just because yoga calls a bodily position “cobra” or any other name does not make the position itself an act of worship. Assigning spiritual value to the merely physical is an act of superstition.

          • anna lisa

            Julie, it is called Cobra because you tuck your hands beneath your shoulders, and press your legs and pointed toes together, and LIFT head and feet. “Cobra” is the shape you look like, it is NOT a demon!
            God made Cobras btw.
            It’s a fantastic back strengthener too.

    • cheryl dickow

      Julie,
      The woman you mention probably has the gift of discernment of spirits. Very telling!

  • Tabitha

    I
    am not Catholic, but I am Christian and have read this type of article in
    Christian blogs as well. I think that our bibles are the same enough to make this point. Here is my take on it: God is the creator of all, as
    the creator of all- all belongs to Him. Another religion taking certain words
    and putting their meaning on them does not faze Christ- so I don’t let it faze me. It doesn’t suddenly make the meaning different to Him and those who
    believe in Him. When I am doing something- no matter what it is it is my Faith
    in Christ that dictates the meaning that
    is placed on what I am doing. The article says that believing in Jesus we do
    not believe in rebirth but don’t we believe in rebirth? 1Peter 1:3 states that
    Jesus Christ has caused us to be born again. And in 1Cor 15:52 we will be changed yet
    again. You can take each part of the article and the beliefs behind yoga and
    bring it back to the One True God- as everything will be brought back to Him in
    the End. The article also states that one cannot separate the hindu religion
    from yoga because it is the root of yoga- but I disagree because God is the
    root of all things and what the hindu religion and yoga might not know is that
    they cannot separate themselves from the True Root and they will all be
    kneeling before Him in the end regardless of what they believe now…but I know
    it and so with all faith in Jesus Christ and while honoring the Holy Spirit I
    stretch with thanksgiving that He has given me a way to keep my crooked body
    moving. We have no need to fear demonic possession when we are completely
    possessed by Christ- We need only Fear the Lord Himself.

    • anna lisa

      Amen.

      • anna lisa

        If we rejected everything which had pagan roots, without caring to sanctify it, we would end up in a dark room huddling in a corner. Courage sisters!

  • David

    The Catholic faith for years adopted and Chistened pagan faiths and absorbed parts of their practices into ours. Yoga is no different, all things Christ does triumph over. Yoga could easily be adoped and Christened as a Catholic exercise. However, that has not happened. Until it does Yoga for yoga sake poses a spiritual risk.
    That being said when we apply logic, many sports do stretches that yoga does, and not because yoga does it. Atheletes do these unknowingly and even though Yoga does them, Athletes are not doing them for Yoga and no matter what Hindus or yogis claim, they can claim nothing with any authority.
    Hence the detatchment can and does exist as you cannot claim ownership over human movement like the hindus have claimed, especially when you grow up playing sports like basketball, hockey, football that utilize stretches pre and post work out in similar fashion.
    If Hindus can randomly claim ownership of human movement to worship satan, then I as a Catholic have the ace up my sleeve. I claim all human movement in the name of God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and all stretches will be done while praying the rosary in good faith to build this temple.
    Hmm both claims sound ludacris no? Albeit the Catholic option has authority as it is actually GOD who does own all human movement. The fact that Hindus worship Satan in their movement would seem to be their confusion.

  • Cbigskies

    I think this is an interesting piece on two subjects that happen to be very close to my heart. I am a registered yoga instructor, and a recent Catholic convert. Interestingly, my yoga practice is one of the things I credit with bringing me back around to Christianity. The thing about yoga for me is that it is all about a physical practice that helps to unite one’s mind and body in order to be fully present with oneself, or mindful of the temple. I believe that mindfulness is an important part of life. Being mindful of my temple has helped me find my way to the one true Church. In the quiet moments in my yoga practice is where I sometimes encounter Christ. I don’t expect everyone to understand it that hasn’t walked in my shoes, but I’d be surprised if I were the only person who felt that way. I pray before every one of my yoga classes that my voice and actions will be used to the Glory of God and help my students find their way to God.

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