The recently retired Bishop Fabian W. Bruskewitz of Lincoln, Nebraska, sent a letter to our ministry in which he advised Catholics to steer clear of yoga because of its basis in Hinduism and to take up other methods of exercise that don’t place the faith in unnecessary danger.
Even though many people claim to use yoga as an exercise regime, Bishop Bruskewitz warns that yoga’s background is much more complicated than that because it has “the intention to strengthen and expand human consciousness and the rational and mind level of the person who engages in Yoga.”
He correctly points out that yoga originated in, and is an important part of, various forms of the Hindu religion which is, in the Catholic perspective, “a pagan religion based on heathen beliefs and false doctrine of revelation involving such things as transmigration of souls, and so forth.”
In his view, it’s impossible to separate the Hindu religious aspects of yoga from the practice itself. “Certainly, if one wants to engage in physical exercises to strengthen one’s body, such a practice would be morally neutral, and would not, in itself, involve anything detrimental to our Catholic faith. However, the practice of yoga most often, if it does not begin that way, eventually morphs into an acceptance of points of view, and even doctrinal and moral matters that are distant from Catholic truth, and from genuine and authentic Christian revelation.”
He also warns about the dangers of its association with the New Age movement. “It is also well known that many proponents of what is called ‘New Age Religion’ use yoga and yoga practices, and instruction in these practices, as doorways in which to enter into people’s consciousness and wean them away from the truths which the Catholic Church preserves in the Deposit of Faith . . .”
Bishop Bruskewitz concludes with some very practical advice. “In our times, there are innumerable ways and methods by which appropriate and proper exercise of the human body can be undertaken that present no real danger to our faith or to our Catholic beliefs and commitments. It would be most desirable for persons who are Catholic to abstain from the practice of yoga and use other methods to exercise . . . . We are never allowed to place our Catholic faith unnecessarily in any danger, and certainly the practice of yoga could be an occasion of serious sin . . .”