CF writes: “I am shocked over the ‘A Different Kind of Yoga’ article published this week in the Arlington Catholic Herald! It even states that ‘because of its foundation in Hinduism, yoga can be a controversial topic in Catholic circles’! This article also quotes from Father John Hardon calling yoga ‘incompatible’ with Catholicism due to its pantheistic origins. Just what about the First Commandment “I am the LORD thy God – thou shalt have no strange gods before Me’ does our diocese not understand?”
Readers of this blog are advised to take a quick look at the article CF sent. When you do so, notice how conflicted the author of the article seems to be. He/she repeatedly brings up the incompatibility of Christianity and yoga. I was also saddened by the number of people interviewed who discovered yoga when they were hurting. A wise priest who has ministered to many people caught in Wicca/witchcraft once told me that people are intensely hungry for God and “whoever gets there first, gets the soul.” I couldn’t help but wonder what I could do better to “get there first” for those around me who are suffering.
You can find the article here.
The author’s misgivings about this topic become apparent right away with the suggestion that Christian yoga might be an oxymoron (ya think?). He/she goes on to say that a quick Google search of Christian and yoga “presents a clear divide between believers and non-believers of blending prayer with exercises with an Indian origin.” (No surprise there.)
The teacher of this class, Donna Kocian, says she wants to help people pause and find themselves in today’s frenetic world, “to pray within themselves, to pause, to reflect, to give thanks and to heal.” (Why do we need yoga to do that when we have Eucharistic Adoration, an opportunity to sit for as long as we want in the sacramental presence of the greatest healer who ever walked the earth?)
Kocian “Christianizes” her yoga class by incorporating Gospel readings and Christian music with yoga postures that are designed to give worship to any one of about 3 million Hindu gods. (What’s wrong with this picture?)
She claims her students leave feeling “like they’ve been to church and yoga in the same session” (and no doubt utterly confused about both).
The story goes on to say that Kocian became intrigued with the idea of Christian yoga after her brother was killed in a car accident in 2005. It was yoga that “helped bring her back to life.”
Later in the article, Kocian acknowledges the controversy about trying to blend Hinduism and Catholicism, but says we’re all permitted to use our bodies as an element of prayer. “If you can pray the rosary while walking, why can you not practice yoga and have the intention of prayer at the same time?”
Because people who are walking and praying the rosary are not also posing themselves in positions of worship to foreign gods! (This is what some might call a mighty big difference.)
Another person is quoted in the article who also found healing and hope in yoga after becoming a widow in her early 20’s. This person claims that growing deeper in faith is something she strives for all the time. “Yoga assists me in that,” she says.
What really makes me sad is not just the fact that Christian yoga is being allowed in Catholic churches and a diocesan newspaper is praising it as if it were some kind of ingenious invention, but that so many hurting people found the hope and healing they were looking for in Hinduism rather than in their own faith.
Is there something we faithful Catholics can do better to show them the abundant treasures of our own faith? Maybe we get too hung up on what our priests and bishops are doing (or not doing) and forget that we too have an obligation to evangelize. Jesus wants our lanterns to shine for all to see – especially those who most need to see His light.
Lord, give us the courage to overlook the occasional awkwardness that accompanies evangelization in this day and age. Help us not to be discouraged by the hostility, resistance, and even mockery we might encounter. Instead, let us see your face in every soul you need us to touch and reach out to them exactly as we would to you. Amen.
For more information about why Christianity and yoga don’t mix, read Christian Yoga is Syncretism.