Many Catholics who insist that they’re “just doing the exercises” in their yoga class and therefore aren’t guilty of worshiping the Hindu gods those “exercises” represent often stop here when searching their conscience for any evidence of sin. Unfortunately, intending to worship Hindu gods isn’t the only way a Catholic who practices yoga can sin.
Take the sin of scandal, for instance. Romans 14 clearly tells us “do not be a stumbling block to your brother” whose conscience may be pricked by something you are doing.
“I know and am convinced in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself; still, it is unclean for someone who thinks it unclean. If your brother is being hurt by what you eat, your conduct is no longer in accord with love. Do not because of your food destroy for whom Christ died” (Rom 4:14).
This Scripture isn’t just about food – it’s about anything we do that might scandalize another’s faith.
“Scandal can be provoked by laws or institutions, by fashion or opinion” (Catechism No. 2286).
This means that even if you disagree with the position that yoga is a Hindu spiritual practice that could lead people into the practice of Hinduism, for the sake of charity, you should stop participating in these classes if it causes others whose faith is weaker than yours to take up yoga and then be led away from Christ.
Scripture is full of examples of this teaching. Look at the way Eleazar acted in 2 Maccabees 6: 18-31. He was being ordered to eat the pork which was against his religion. Refusing to eat the pork was punishable by death. His friends who took him aside and said, “Look, just eat this beef – we’ll pretend it’s pork – that way you won’t be sinning against your God.” What did Eleazar say? “No, because they could still be led astray by me.” They wouldn’t know he was eating beef and therefore could be led to believe it was okay to eat the forbidden pork because they saw Eleazar eat it. He cared more about not leading others into sin than in preserving his own life!
Yoga is not – and never will be – an exercise regime. In reality, and in the eyes of most people, it is intimately associated with the practice of Hinduism. Your participation in it could make it seem as if the practice of yoga, and therefore Hinduism, is okay for Christians – which it is not.
Are you willing to take such a risk with another person’s soul just for the sake of an exercise class?
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