Should Christians Practice Yoga?



What is Yoga?

According to Iyengar Yoga Resources, yoga comes from the Sanskrit word yuj meaning to yoke or unite.
In India, yoga is considered one of the six branches of classical Hindu philosophy and is referred to in ancient Indian scriptures, the Vedas. Its goal is to reach kaivalya — "ultimate freedom" — by releasing the soul from the chains of cause-and-effect [karma] which tie the person to continual reincarnation. Yoga uses physical exercises, powers of concentration and breathing techniques, as well as meditation, to achieve that end.

Father James Manjackal, a popular retreat master in India, described yoga to Catherine Maria Rhodes of the Catholic Media Coalition in this way: It is a spiritual discipline purporting to lead the soul to samadhi, the state in which the natural and divine become one.
"It is interesting to note that postures and breathing exercises, often considered to be the whole of yoga in the West, are steps three and four towards union with Brahman in the East," Father Manjackal said.

Ignorance of the non-Christian religious disciplines and beliefs that underpin the practice of yoga can lead to further variance from Catholic teachings. In fact, the Vatican document, "Jesus Christ the Bearer of the Water of Life," lists yoga as one of "the traditions that flow into New Age."
According to Johnnette Benkovic, in her book, "The New Age Counterfeit," a number of yoga variations have gained popularity in the United States, including Hatha yoga, which professes salvation through physical exercise, and Japa yoga, which employs the repetitious use of a mantra — often the name of a Hindu god — to create an altered state of mind called pure consciousness or transcendental consciousness. More bizarre forms of yoga include Tantra yoga, which means salvation through sex, and Kundalini yoga, which means salvation through the serpent [life force].



Many Western yoga practitioners claim yoga transcends religion and can be practiced independent of its Hindu roots — or that it can even be "Christianized," becoming, in effect, "Christian yoga."But many experts don't believe such a thing is possible.
"Yoga renamed is still Hindu," said Subhas R. Tiwari, a professor at the Hindu University of America, who holds a master's degree in yoga philosophy.
Tiwari finds "Christianizing" yoga suspect, as well as wrong-headed. "This effort to extricate yoga from its Hindu mold, and cast it under another name, is far from innocent. Newly minted 'Christian yoga' is really yoga," he said.
"The simple, immutable fact is that yoga originated from the Vedic, or Hindu, culture," Tiwari added. "Its techniques were not 'adopted' by Hinduism, but originated from it."

Attempts to 'Christianize' practices that are fundamentally incompatible with Christianity are never successful, says Archbishop Norberto Carrera.
"The result is always a hybrid form with a slight Gospel basis," the archbishop writes in "A Call to Vigilance: Pastoral Instruction on New Age."
"However much proponents insist that these techniques are valuable as methods, and imply no teaching contrary to Christianity," he writes, "the techniques in themselves . . . in their own context, the postures and exercises, are designed for their specific religious purpose.
"Even when they are carried out within a Christian atmosphere, the intrinsic meaning of these gestures remains intact," Archbishop Carrera said.
(This article originally appeared in The Catholic Standard and Times, the Philadalphia archdiocesan newspaper.)



What is true Christian meditation

The word meditation comes from the Latin word meditari which means to concentrate. Christian meditation is the process of deliberately focusing on specific thoughts (for example a biblical scene involving Jesus and the Virgin Mary) and reflecting on their meaning in the context of the love of God. 

Christian meditation contrasts with cosmic styles of eastern meditation as radically as the portrayal of God the Father in the Bible contrasts with discussions of Krishna or Brahman in Indian teachings.[85] Unlike eastern meditations, most styles of Christian meditations do not rely on the repeated use of mantras, but are intended to stimulate thought and deepen meaning.

In Aspects of Christian meditation, the Catholic Church warned of potential incompatibilities in mixing Christian and eastern styles of meditation.[88] In 2003, in A Christian reflection on the New Age the Vatican announced that the "Church avoids any concept that is close to those of the New Age".[89][90][91]

Christian meditation is sometimes taken to mean the middle level in a broad three stage characterization of prayer: it then involves more reflection than first level vocal prayer, but is more structured than the multiple layers of contemplation in Christianity.[92]


What does the Vatican teach about yoga?

The Vatican released a document called " Jesus Christ, the Bearer of the Water of Life:A Christian Reflection on the New Age." It lists yoga as one of the traditions that flows into the New Age .(See #2.1) The document also states, "Yoga, Zen, TM and tantric exercises lead to an experience of selffulfillment or enlightment" according to New Agers. It adds that they believe that "anything which can provoke an altered state of consciousness are believed to lead to unity and enlightment" (# The document goes on to say , "It is therefore necessary to accurately identify those elements which belong to the New Age Movement, and which cannot be accepted by those who are faithful to Christ and his Church." (#4)

Fr. Amorth, who is the Vatican exorcist, says "Yoga, Zen, and TM are unacceptable to Christians. Often these apparently innocent practices can bring about hallucinations and schizophrenic conditions."


Cardinal's Exorcist...Father Jeremy Davies on Yoga

It is a physical workout enjoyed by millions and its devotees include Madonna, Gwyneth Paltrow and Sting. But yoga enthusiasts have been warned by a leading Roman Catholic clergyman that they are in danger of being possessed by the Devil.

Father Jeremy Davies, exorcist for Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, the leader of Catholics in England and Wales, says that activities such as yoga, massage therapy, reiki or even reading horoscopes could put people at risk from evil spirits.In a new book, he also argues that people with promiscuous lifestyles could find themselves afflicted by demons. And he says that the occult is closely linked to the scourges of 'drugs, demonic music and pornography' which are 'destroying millions of young people in our time'.

The 73-year-old Catholic priest, who was appointed exorcist of the Archdiocese of Westminster in 1986, was a medical doctor before being ordained in 1974.He has carried out thousands of exorcisms in London and in 1993 he set up the International Association of Exorcists with Fr Gabriel Amorth, the Pope's top exorcist.

He adds that 'perversions' such as homosexuality, pornography and promiscuity are contributing to a growing sense of moral unease.He writes: 'Even heterosexual promiscuity is a perversion; and intercourse, which belongs in the sanctuary of married love, can become a pathway not only for disease but also for evil spirits...young people especially are vulnerable and we must do what we can to protect them.

'The thin end of the wedge (soft drugs, yoga for relaxation, horoscopes just for fun and so on) is more dangerous than the thick end because it is more deceptive – an evil spirit tries to make his entry as unobtrusively as possible.'Beware of any claim to mediate beneficial energies (eg reiki), any courses that promise the peace that Christ promises (eg enneagrams), any alternative therapy with its roots in eastern religion (eg acupuncture).'

Fr Davies argues that occult practices such as magic, fortune-telling and holding seances to contact the spirits of the dead are 'direct invitations to the Devil which he readily accepts'. But the Oxford-educated priest, who is based in Luton, Bedfordshire, says there are different degrees of demonic influence, and the most extreme forms occur rarely.

(Extract from The [UK] Daily Mail reported on May 24, 2008 on Yoga)


Why is Yoga incompatible with Catholicism?

Yoga is incompatible with Catholicism because the best known practice of Hindu spirituality is Yoga. "Inner" Hinduism professes pantheism, which denies that there is only one infinite Being who created the world out of nothing.

Yoga is incompatible with Catholicism because the best known practice of Hindu spirituality is Yoga. "Inner" Hinduism professes pantheism, which denies that there is only one infinite Being who created the world out of nothing. This pantheistic Hinduism says to the multitude of uncultured believers who follow the ways of the gods that they will receive the reward of the gods. They will have brief tastes of heaven between successive rebirths on earth. But they will never be delivered from the "wheel of existence" with its illusory lives and deaths until they realize that only "God" exists and all else is illusion (Maya). To achieve this liberation the principal way is by means of concentration and self control (yoga).

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According to renowned psychoanalyst Carl Jung:

"One often hears and reads about the dangers of Yoga, particularly of the ill-reputed Kundalini Yoga. The deliberately induced psychotic state, which in certain unstable individuals might easily lead to a real psychosis, is a danger that needs to be taken very seriously indeed. These things really are dangerous and ought not to be meddled with in our typically Western way. It is a meddling with Fate, which strikes at the very roots of human existence and can let loose a flood of sufferings of which no sane person ever dreamed. These sufferings correspond to the hellish torments of the chönyid state..."   C. G. Jung, Introduction to The Tibetan book of the Dead *


The Exercise of Religion: Yoga

Susan Brinkmann (EWTN Women of Grace womenofgrace.com)
bbc.co.uk/news/magazineto use yoga as part of an exercise program.
A simple and concise answer to this question was given by the apologists at Catholic Answers.
"Two factors are relevant here: First, it depends on whether the yoga is being presented in a manner that is free of religious elements — that is, purely as a system of physical exercise.
"If it is coupled with elements of Hindu spirituality — talk about moving kundalini, or energy, around your body — it is not appropriate for Catholics to use it as part of their exercise routine."

The reason for that caution is because, in real life, yoga classes often go beyond simple exercise routines. They are likely to be similar to what one blogger describes on Amy Welborn's popular site, "Open Book":
"I have been practicing yoga for two years now and I absolutely love it!" the blogger states. "Yes, my teacher drops little hints now and then about Hinduism and Buddhism, but nothing overt."

Some yoga instructors, themselves, acknowledge that fact.
"There are so many little seeds of doubt and suggestion that you can plant in a yoga class," said Laurette Willis, a former Hatha yoga instructor who left the practice after a powerful conversion experience.
"I used to do it all the time," Willis said. "That was my opportunity to proselytize. I'd say things like 'All is good — all is God,' or 'get in touch with the god within.'"
This seems to be borne out by Swami Sivasiva Palana writing in the January 1991 issue of Hinduism Today: "A small army of yoga missionaries . . . beautifully trained in the last 10 years, is about to set upon the Western world. They may not call themselves Hindu, but Hindu knows where yoga came from and where it goes."
An adult who is firm in his or her faith might be able to go to an "iffy" yoga exercise class without danger of being attracted to Hindu spirituality, Catholic Answers advises, but notes that not all Catholics are firm in their faith.
That is why the best way to approach yoga is to learn as much as possible about the exercise you are considering in order to make a fully informed decision.



Does doing yoga make you a Hindu?

As yoga is part of the Hindu religion and all the exercise are connected to it should Christians be using it as an exercise or do we enter into another religion by doing so .William Kremer BBC World Service has written an interesting article on "Does doing yoga make you a Hindu"?.






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