To Yoga or not to Yoga?

I consider myself flexible.  But if you are talking about physical flexibility and the ability to cross my legs and the wrap them around my head, well, that’s not going to happen!

Yoga is not my sport. But my aversion to it is not a matter of disdain for the lean and limber who stretch into unnatural poses.  Stretching is legitimately good for the body. Yoga, however, is more complicated than physical fitness.

My first introduction to yoga came when I was in high school living in Dearborn, Michigan. My friend Denise and I took an evening class at a local public school.  We went to the Catholic school and were looking for something adventurous to do while we scanned the list of community education classes. Denise’s mother nixed the belly dancing class (bless her) so yoga it was.  We did a lot of harmless balancing and stretching such as “The Tree” in which we stood one-legged with the foot from the other leg pressed on the opposing inner thigh while holding our arms outstretched.  We wobbled and struggled to stay upright and felt very un-tree-like.

One day, the instructor brought in a picture book of yogis in advanced poses.  Good heavens, I’ve bet you’ve never seen the likes of such contortions outside of a circus—and even then…  The various Gumby-like yogis looked bizarre; bending and twisting in ways I never imagined possible.

Now, fast-forward thirty-some years. I’ve grown in knowledge and experience and have ten kids.  Where once my faith was shallow, it now goes to the core.  And I’ve learned some things about yoga along the way.  Many years ago I read a book by a Christian and former new ager previously considered an authority on spiritual power though crystals. Once converted, he warned of the danger and actual demonic influences in new age practices, which had become clear to him after a difficult but major awakening to Christianity.  This man had personally explored a number of new age practices in depth, including yoga.  He had attended a special center for Yoga in California and reached a high level. The author claimed that at the upper levels, practitioners are actually inviting the serpent into their bodies during advanced relaxation poses and meditations. Hint:  the serpent is not God.

Not one to spread rumors that cannot be verified, I went to the Internet and put in the words Yoga and Serpent.  Lots of entries popped up.  Some of it was Christian-based warning against yoga.  If you are a yoga enthusiast, you could easily brush these sites aside as fanatical.  But you can’t brush aside the fact that actual yoga sites, announce the power of the serpent as part of the attraction. Here is an excerpt from one of many sites:

  • Kundalini (Divine Serpent Power) is a super power of our life.
  • Over here lies focused all energies of the body and mind.
  • Great Yogis, Rishis, Munis had discovered it.
  • They all proclaimed that Kundalini is the supreme energy.
  • It is the final step that helps us unite with God.
  • Divine Serpent Power is the super power of our life.

As a Christian, this should shout out… False god! One book on yoga sold through Amazon is even called The Serpent Power.

On “The Lighthouse” website, self-described as a Christian Bible Based Cult Awareness Center, people are warned that Yoga is not in harmony with Christianity:

“Yoga, in the Indo-European language, the ancestor of English, Latin, Greek, Sanskrit and many others, had a root meaning ‘to join,’ according to Webster’s Dictionary of Word Origins. In the English word, borrowed from Sanskrit, yoga means literally ‘union’ (with deity), and is used specifically to refer to a program of spiritual discipline to attain this union. Christian understanding is that the goal of uniting with an alternate spirituality to God is to be united with a demonic being. 

“Harper’s Encyclopedia of Mystical & Paranormal Experience by Rosemary Ellen Guiley, describes yoga as “Various systems of spiritual discipline and liberation from the senses.” This is an interesting way of saying that yoga is designed to separate one from their mental faculties by creating an altered state of consciousness…. 

“In Asia, Yoga is also found in Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism, and Bon (the early religion of Tibet) and has evolved into different systems, but all share the common goal of “union with the Absolute,” or divine, and are spiritual practices inseparable from the Eastern mystical religions that spawned them. 

“To the Christian, the greatest danger is the spiritual idolatry, before God, in engaging in practices devised thousands of years ago by pagan experts or “adepts,” to become “united” with spiritual deity, they believed to be the ‘Absolute,’ or ‘Ultimate Reality,’ but which the Bible calls ‘fallen angels’ or demons.”

Is yoga rooted in the demonic?  Some say yes, while others say it’s merely an Eastern religion.   To make the demonic connection automatically puts the naysayer in the light of fanatic.  But even if it’s nothing more than an ancient religion, how should Catholics view it?  Is it harmless physical exercise when just the stretching is used?

There is another, very surprising aspect behind those stretches. Yoga’s historical roots as a sex cult was reported in an article in New York Times this year.

Reporting on a sexual scandal of a well-known leader in yoga, the Times reported that the frequent scandals common among yoga devotees should come as no surprise.

“Yoga teachers and how-to books seldom mention that the discipline began as a sex cult – an omission that leaves many practitioners open to libidinal surprise.

Hatha yoga – the parent of the styles now practiced around the globe – began as a branch of Tantra. In medieval India, Tantra devotees sought to fuse the male and female aspects of the cosmos into a blissful state of consciousness.

The rites of Tantric cults, while often steeped in symbolism, could also include group and individual sex.”

Yoga is offered far and wide from gyms to schools and church activities.  Isn’t it going overboard and becoming a troublemaker if we object to the practice of Yoga?   But even in a yoga class where you evaluate it as mere stretching and balancing, are you astute enough to understand any and all terms that might be thrown out there in languages you don’t understand?

Looking at an excerpt from The Power of the Serpent, it’s easy to see that you could unwittingly participate in a class without understanding what is really taking place.   Do you know what it means to pierce the Six Centres or regions (cakra) or Lotuses (padma) of the body?  I don’t, but based on what I know, I think we should abstain. Here is an excerpt from the book:

“The power is the Goddess (Devi) Dundalini, or that which is coiled; for Her form is that of a coiled and sleeping serpent in the lowest bodily center at the base of the spinal column until by the means described She is aroused in that Yoga which is named after Her. Kundalini is the Divine Cosmic Energies in bodies…” 

Does it strike you as odd that the author capitalizes pronouns “she” and “her” when referring to this serpent?  A footnote on the page explains, “Devi is Bhujagi, or the Serpent.”  So if your yoga instructor mentions Bhujagi during class, will you recognize the serpent being called on? Many people like exotic, exciting things.  Different languages and cultures are interesting but yoga is not like a trip to a Chinese restaurant.

In Fr. Mitch Pacwa’s book, Catholics and the New Age, he describes Yoga as the general category of various kinds of Hindu disciplines meant to unite a person with the divine. He states: “Yoga can refer to physical (hatha) mental (raja) sexual (tantra) or other discipline to achieve enlightenment.” Fr. Pacwa’s book was written to alert Catholics of new age influences that hamper Catholic practices and traditions. It is highly regarded and is cited in the magisterial document Jesus Christ Bearer of the Water of Life: A Christian Reflection on the “New Age”.

On the Catholic Answers website, a mother wrote wondering what her response should be to Yoga being practiced at her daughter’s Catholic elementary school during religion class.  Here was their response:

“Particular physical exercises that are common to yoga and that help improve one’s health are perfectly fine. The problem is when a Christian participates in non-Christian Eastern spirituality. If your church is sponsoring an exercise class, it should call it simply an exercise class and omit confusing and possibly scandalous terminology such as yoga. If the church is sponsoring classes in non-Christian Eastern spirituality that is a serious problem that should be discussed with the pastor.”

My kids have been to a Catholic vacation Bible school that had yoga.  My high schoolers were in sports that had a class in yoga as part of their conditioning. (It’s not a part of the program any more, thanks to solid, Catholic influences.) I figured it was just the exercise part of yoga – no religion involved.  Since they were not rising to the upper levels, I did not imagine their stretches were anything more than harmless exercise.

But recently I reconsidered this issue. In the future, I plan to gently but firmly protest such practices.  I don’t like being a thorn in the side to anyone. However, I am willing to be a thorn for the One who wore a crown of thorns for us.

Yoga is an ancient pagan religion.  There are many parts to it such as stretching and meditation but they are all connected.  Therefore, even if we don’t consider the serpent, why is it okay to take a part of a pagan religion and sponsor it and even force participation of it in schools and sports?  My contention is that even in a public school, forced participation falls under the definition of pushing and proselytizing children into a religion. Certainly in a Catholic school, a pagan religion – even a part of it – should not be required.

“For crying out loud,” the reply may be, “we’re just talking about some simple stretches and relaxed breathing techniques.”  Well, fine.  Then why not simply have stretching exercises?  Yoga is a religion with different parts and levels to it.  The stretching and meditation is just a part of it. I am raising my kids Catholic.  They can learn about other religions, but practicing it goes beyond learning.

As Catholics, we should not be put on the defensive if we don’t want our children participating in an Eastern religion.

Patti Maguire Armstrong is a speaker, Catholic author of nine books and winner of the 2011 “Reader’s Choice Award”.

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  1. After reading this article, I am really grateful to God that I did not join my high school Physical Education class when they had yoga lessons. I fell on my lower back twice when I was a tween and so I could not join them for fear of my bad back. Thank You Lord for protecting me!

  2. Patti, this is a very thoughtful article. I appreciate it most and agree with your final discernment on the matter because of the progression of your learning and the in depth nature of your personal inquiry into the matter. Well done. Thank you.

    < Heidi

  3. Thanks for your comments. I hesitated writing this article. My concern was that I did not come across as paranoid or accusing people who attend an exercise class of being bad. However, it has connections to religion that is not Christian so we really do need to consider the ramifications.
    I am aware that the article is generating many discussions on Facebook pages–not all in agreement. My hope is that more people consider yoga in light of their Christian faith. It’s not always easy to speak up against something or choose not to participate, but martyrs have had to show much greater courage than rejecting yoga. In the end, it’s about our faithfulness to Jesus Christ so it’s best to error on the side of caution?

    1. You have written an interesting article which gave me pause for thought. I must disagree with you concerning Yoga being a religion. I have taken Yoga classes at various places for over 5 years and never has the subject of religion in any form been mentioned. What has been taught is physical fitness. Having several health problems that leave traditional exercise difficult if not impossible I have found that I can practice Yoga and help my body in several physical ways. Many times I have been told by an instructor to relax, empty my mind of day to day stress and concentrate on the various positions and the correct breathing technique. None of this even remotely resembles a religion! I think most folks are intelligent enough to look for Yoga classes which focus on bettering their health. To join a class that also teaches Hindu beliefs would be, in my opinion, intentional. i.e. there is a choice in class content. I will continue with my choice by doing Yoga and practicing my Catholic faith as I totally believe the two go together quite well!!

    2. Hello my name is ann,
      For years I have been in martial arts and I have been approached to consider Reike and YOGA.
      When I participated in a Tai Chi conditioning class a guest came to indroduce ways to body conditioning by implementing yoga to your workout.
      I never felt right about yoga. My spirit always kept me from it, I believe it was The Holy Spirit ministering to me but not paying attention to what my spirit was telling me Because I practice tai chi.
      There has and is always A prayer I say before doing any martial art meditation my God is my God the most High and I belong to God and no one else. Cover me Jesus with your blood that no spirit world or familiar spirits, presence, or other kind of worship to other spiritual beliefs will come into my my channel of meditation to My God the Lord my God!!!!
      God separated me from yoga and I know why now I have a unserstanding of the history behind it all. Thank you God for keeping me and bless the one who brought this to the many people who need to know the truth in Jesus Name Amen

  4. I am adding additional information to this article, so if you’ve already read it, you will have missed it. I just learned that yoga’s historical roots is as a sex cult. Many of it’s leaders are often involved in sexual scandals so this NY Times article, reports that no one should be surprised give the history.

  5. I have always had an uneasy feeling about Yoga. I love to exercise but have steered clear of it, first of all because it’s boring to me and then of course there was that nagging feeling uneasiness about the whole system. Thanks for this article!

  6. I understand completely what you’re saying about false idols and other gods. There is something YOU need to understand though. (And I don’t think you sound like a fanatic) This world does not revolve around Christianity. There were 100s of other religions before Christ came to Earth. To be a Christian is to realize this, and to acknowledge other faiths. Acceptance and understanding are key in maintaining a great relationship with Him. To not do a silly sport because it was bred from another religion is ridiculous. I practice Yoga, I’m Christian. I’ve never seen sexually fused yoga, and I’ll never practice this. My faith is stronger than my ignorance and I wish people would cut the fat from their religious persecutions. Focus on the angry Bible Belt. There’s enough ignorant Baptists down here to keep all of the world busy in prayer for a decade. Yoga?! Really!?

    1. We know that there are hundreds of of other false religions, but we know that Chriat church (the Catholic Church) is the true faith. We also know that yoga was/is a religious practice for Hindus. If I showed you the movements and poses that people do when they are at black masses, would you do them? No! Of course not! But if I showed you movements and poses that Hindus use as part if their religion, you would think that’s ok? Is it possible to separate a religious pose from it’s true purpose and meaning? Would you really want to take the risk, because you might not be participating in something bad? Why would you even take the risk of letting bad things enter your life, of hurting God? I don’t think that Catholics should even test the boundaries, and take chances like that. If you want to strech, just strech, no yoga. If you want to meditate, pray the rosary and meditate on Jesus Passion.

  7. While this is a good article, I do think Christians and Catholics need to remember that most of our holydays/holidays and many of our now Christian rituals have their origins in pagan practices or practices once associated with “false gods.” But with the advent of Christianity, even as early as the apostles, the Church wisely “baptized” and Christianized many of these practices, rather than doing away with them totally.

    Think Christmas. It was celebrated by pagan cultures for eons before the birth of Christ. Google it and you will see that your Christmas tree is pagan in origin as are almost all of our other Christmastime traditions! Early Christians took this pagan celebration and gave it new meaning –instead of worshipping the Sun, believers now worshipped the Son on Christmas.

    Western culture is the only culture that compartmentalizes our faith from the rest of our lives, whereas other cultures have faith aspects woven into all of their daily activities. Anytime a person chooses alternative healing practices, or even natural childbirth, one is bound to come across non-Christian philosophies mixed in with many of the practices.

    A Catholic or Christian who is rooted in his/her faith can safely use yoga to exercise—just choose to avoid the philosophies that are a part of some yoga classes. All the while I am stretching and strengthening my injured back by using yoga stretches, I am praising Jesus Christ. I do SON SALUTATIONS instead of sun salutation, and I do it all for his glory!

    1. I like what you have to say. I struggle sometimes with the fact that Catholicism is devoid of guidance on how to live in one’s physical body. I practice yoga and one of my favorite instructors frequently mentions God in his classes.

  8. Some very good thoughts. But as you stretch and exercise, you aren’t really doing the classic yoga, just the exercises while you praise Jesus–which is my point. Since yoga exists on a continuum of levels, why even mess with the lower levels of a religion that seeks to unite with an entity that is not God? Since we ARE Christian, we need to stay away from false gods and anti-God. Exercising with Christ is a perfect way of undoing the pagan practice and making it a good activity–but then, I’d not call it yoga, given what yoga actually is.

  9. Great article Patti,

    I can never understand why with 2000 years of spirituality in the Catholic Church people feel a need to try something “new.”. You can’t go wrong if you use the many techniques already available to us. In regards to Christianity not being the center of all things that is simply hogwash. St. Paul says, “15 He is the image of the invisible God, the first-born* of all creation;
    16 for in him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or authorities — all things were created through him and for him.
    17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.”

    If all is created for and through Christ then he is the center. That does not mean we are disrespectful to others, but invite them to share in the glory of divine sonship we are called to in Christ Jesus!

  10. I appreciate the great thought and research for this article. I also do not see you as a fanatic. I would ask you to consider this:
    I have recently continued some yoga for some sports-related injuries. The instructional video has no chanting. No music. No discussion about the serpent energies or the hindi-related names of poses. The coach does not discuss meditation. No pagan information. Warm up. Perform the moves the best way you can to affect certain muscle groups. Things to avoid to not get hurt. Go home.
    Now-the argument could be made that by just doing the poses constitutes worship. I believe one has to have a knowledge about what is being worshipped. To follow the logic that merely performing the acts without the faith would mean that a person practicing Hindu participating in the sacraments of which he has no knowledge would prove to be an effective act of Catholic faith. It would not. Perhaps a little more extreme, that allowing children to participate in Halloween makes them pagan. While many fundamental Protestant churches forbid this holiday as an act of paganism, most Catholics do not. Why? Because the act is now so far removed from the faith and changed to be totally different from it’s origins.
    Finally, an interesting documentary on yoga suggested that eastern yogi do not really identify with western teaching of yoga. Two of the founders of different styles actually said they had little in common now.
    One thing I do agree on: yoga practiced for religion or enlightenment can be dangerous. People need to be aware and make informed decisions.
    Keep writing such thought-provoking articles.

  11. I agree with you, Lisa. It sounds like you are doing physical therapy and it’s called yoga in a way that has just become a catch word for stretching and using muscle groups. God is the creator of your body and you are in possession of it. Standing a certain way does not mean it is handed over to the Serpent. You are informed and reject any part of actual yoga. I suppose the way in that you are doing physical therapy is the same as someone eating devil’s food cake. It’s food with a name you had no part in and that has nothing to do with the cake.

    From what I know now, I would personally look for exercising and stretches that don’t have the name yoga, but from what you say, you are not practicing it.

    In the bigger picture however, since yoga exists on a continuum, I still say that Churches and schools should not offer it or have exercise classes that they call yoga. If it’s wrong at the top levels, it’s wrong at the bottom levels which lead up if one chooses that route. It’s the same as saying a Catholic can’t be Mason as long as they stay at the lower level of the Shriners–not to open another can of worms. Even if they had your same instructional video for people to follow, for a Catholic organization to offer yoga, it gives the impression of approving of it in it’s entirety.

    Thank you for your very thoughtful comments and may God bless you and strengthen you.

  12. I do agree on what you say here about the larger continuum of the practice can cause some serious problems. I think that one of the greatest things you point out is that eastern religion of the practice as religion. It can be a door that, once opened, will not close as easily as one would like.
    A little of topic: It is that way in many occult practices as well-body movements done in precise fashion to obtain a desired result. Again, it all seems harmless at first. Most people get out before it gets out of hand. I find that many people want an easy and fast fix to all their issues. In fairness, the Church has often been reluctant to discuss these things for concern of getting people INTERESTED in them. The problem now is that with social media and movies, people see all sorts of things and they are already interested. Now, there is no informed Catholic opinion so they go elsewhere, either to other Christian teachers (not naming names here but they are fundamentalist) or occult. Thanks again! Keep it up!

  13. As a cradle catholic who has practiced yoga for decades, I am dismayed to see fear and lack of understanding persist in regards to yoga. I have found my yoga practice to be a tremendously helpful preparation for and opening to prayer. The fact is that during our time on earth we live in our bodies.We are body mind and spirit all together. The denial of the body has been promoted to some degree throughout the history of Christianity. Yoga postures calm and open my mind in a way that makes attentiveness in prayer come much more readily. I see this as a grace.
    I think that as Catholics in an increasingly small world we are treading on dangerous ground when we refuse to see evidence of God’s manifestation in other religious traditions.

    1. Helpful Not Helpful
      Hebrews 13:8-9 ESV / 27 helpful votes

      Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. Do not be led away by diverse and strange teachings, for it is good for the heart to be strengthened by grace, not by foods, which have not benefited those devoted to them.

      Do not be lead away by strange teachings… Just saying.

  14. I see your point, “God Believes in Love.” However, you cannot ignore the links to pagan worship and separate one part of yoga from another. I respect that other people can seek to love and serve God and not be Catholic. i do not think that only Catholics will be saved. I agree that our bodies are connected to our spirit in this world while still being separate. I have not doubt that yoga postures can calm and have benefits. However, you cannot take a part of yoga and say this part is okay, but the other part–the serpent, the goddess Devi, the sex cult origins, etc. are not okay, but I’m not doing them. I also recognize that many people are stretching and calming their minds and bodies simply through exercise that has taken on the label yoga in a generic sense.

    Given that yoga is used generically but that it is also an ancient religion with teachings opposed to Catholicism, there is good reason for caution.

  15. Your article has a few problems with it. First, you make a huge and unfounded leap by equating the serpent of one culture to the serpent in christianity. It simply doesn’t work that way.

    Of course it sounds strange to you. Think of how strange it sounds to other cultures or religions that every Sunday Catholics believe we literally eat the body and drink the blood of Christ. To the outsider a serpent entity may make more sense (or at least be less offensive) than the seeming cannibalism and blood-thirst Catholics take part in each week.

    Yoga is a form of exercise that’s an adjunct to meditation. I’ve done it for years and I’ve never heard of anything you described Yes, there was an article in the NY Times about a version of yoga that was developed as an adjunct to the Kama Sutra. But that’s someone co-opting one thing for a different purpose. It doesn’t render the original practice immoral or satanic.

    Some Catholic priests (far too many, actually) have used Catholicism and the church as a means to practice their pedophilia. They co-opted the religion as a vehicle to pursue their own sick sexual perversions. Does pedophilia define Catholicism by extension? I think you’d say that was a gross and extreme generalization.

    You’ve even questioned that while yoga is a good form of exercise, why even practice it since it could lead one into these supposed “higher levels” of the practice? That’s some level where you fear the really dark things take place. However you haven’t given any support for that other than citing some whack-job who followed New Age crystals before he switched to his next thing. You treat yoga as some kind of “gateway drug”.

    The priests who used the Catholic church as a vehicle to pursue their sick sexual perversions aren’t even at the “highest level” of the organization. By extension of your argument about the supposed “higher levels” of Yoga, what kind of horrible things could be going on at the executive level if child rape is practiced by middle management?

    It’s complete nonsense. You might as well speak out against “play acting” as some christians have in the past (as in John Steinbeck’s “The Grapes of Wrath”.) Why not call on a ban against dancing? Dancing is an adjunct to achieving a trance-like state in many cultures and pagan religions. Doesn’t it have the same pagan worship and gateway-drug-like properties as yoga?

    There’s another comment suggesting meditation supports a trance-like state and seems to suggest that it’s an emptying of the mind which leaves a back door open to Satan taking over your thoughts and your soul. Another absurdity. It shows you have no real understanding of meditation. Meditation isn’t intended to make you mindless. The intention, as I understand it and as I practice it, is to clear your mind of all the incessant chatter that goes on in one’s head so you can focus on an useful intention in your life.

    Get some guided meditation CDs and follow them. They focus on exploring and experiencing love and kindness and on controlling your negative thoughts and seeing them as just thoughts. Doesn’t that support Christ’s message?

    Meditation makes more sense to me and is a hell of a lot less dangerous than what our conservative hero Ronald Reagan did which was to consult an astrologist.

    It’s very narrow minded to look any anything foreign or outside your sphere of experience and label it as evil. Taken to a greater extreme, it turns into an irrational fear that feeds hatred and retards cultural and scientific progress. Which brings me back to meditation and emptiness and the fear of satan invading your thoughts.

    The Catholic church has a long institutional fear of ‘nothingness’ and not just as a way for Satan to steal your thoughts. If you’re that weak-minded then no amount of religion is going to help you. Read the book “Zero: The Biography of a Dangerous Idea”. The church abhorred the idea of the concept of zero or nothingness. God is supposed to be everywhere so the concept of zero was directly at odds with the church. To accept the idea of zero, or so the thinking went, one would have to accept that there are parts of the universe that are empty and, by extension, devoid of God.

    This isn’t a nut-job comment. This was a well documented position of the Catholic church that church leaders deliberated and debated. One might go as far as to say they “meditated” on the concept intensely. (Of course, they also held onto the concept of the earth being the center of the solar system and that any other ideas were heresy).

    Zero or nothingness was foreign and scary and a potentially evil concept – just like yoga is to you. However, without the concept of zero we wouldn’t have math and science as we know it today. We wouldn’t have the ones and zeros that let you post your blog on a computer.

    Without zero we wouldn’t have algebra… from Arabic al-jebr meaning “reunion of broken parts”. For that we owe a debt to our Muslim brothers who weren’t retarded by ignorance or succumbed to a fear of the concept. We owe a debt to the same Muslims who advanced science and culture and maintained great libraries of antiquity while other religions sought to burn them.

    Sure, the zero story is a little far to go to make the point, but before you label something you don’t understand as evil or heretical or un-American, maybe it would be best before you spread your thoughts across the internet to stop and consider whether you’re simply struggling with a concept that you’re just ignorant of or unfamiliar with. Again, think of how absurd it sounds that as Catholics we believe we literally eat the body and drink the blood of our savior Jesus Christ. Sounds crazy and disgusting – my inner serpent tells me so.

    Maybe something to meditate upon? A message brought to you by the numbers 1 and 0.

  16. Thank you, Lucretius, for taking the time to share your thoughts. Your arguments, however, are not comparable.
    Yes, Serpent could mean something different to Yoga devotees than to us. Either way, it involves worship. Gods and goddesses are mentioned. Call them serpents or call them Devi or Bhugahi, either way, they are not are the God of the Bible, the one that the First Commandment tells us to have no false gods before him.
    Comparing priests who have betrayed their position and committed pedophile is a case of a priest failing this religion. It does not represent the religion but rather a betrayal of it. Using such an example would be like saying Judas co-opted Jesus’s teachings. He did nothing of the sort. He rejected and betrayed Jesus.
    How is that comparable to yoga? I put forth what yoga says it is, not some sort of betrayal of yoga. I am not “spreading my thoughts” across the internet, but referring to others who have authority in religion.

    From the article “NEW AGE: Catholic Faith and Yoga – Incompatible” by Catherine Marie Rhodes: “There are those who claim there is nothing wrong with practicing Yoga for exercise purposes only, but even the teachers of Hindu have stated that the philosophy and the practice of Yoga are inseparable. From Johanna Michaelsen’s book “Like Lambs to the Slaughter” (pp 93-95) she states, “You cannot separate the exercises from the philosophy… The movements themselves become a form of meditation.”

    JPII spoke about Yoga in the “Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on Some Aspects of Christian Meditation,” October 15,1989 and it was signed by the present Pope Benedict XVI.
    It stated that “spiritual restlessness of modern life” was leading people to “seek interior peace and psychic balance in religious movements and techniques which are not of the Christian tradition.” The document explained: “Human experience shows that the position and demeanor of the body also have their influence on the recollection and dispositions of the spirit… But to take such feelings for the authentic consolations of the Holy Spirit would be a totally erroneous way of conceiving the spiritual life.”

    In his book, On the Threshold of Hope (1994), Pope John-Paul II condemned the incorporation of yoga practices in the spiritual discipline of Christian clerics and laymen.

    Yoga’s teachings are not from the Bible. They are based on the philosophy of “monism”, or “all is one”: Creator and creation are one. I maintain that regardless of the details of Yoga, it exists on a continuum so either it’s all okay for Catholics to practice or none of it is. You can’t pick out parts of it because it is part of a whole.

    As for your zero explanation—interesting, but again, that has nothing to do with whether Yoga is okay or not. I will not insult you for your opinions, but I disagree based on Catholic teaching.

  17. In Fr. Mitch Pacwa’s book, Catholics and the New Age, he describes Yoga as the general category of various kinds of Hindu disciplines meant to unite a person with the divine?

    The knowledge of, and especially the personal experience of, states of consciousness, or levels of being, or aspects of reality, beyond normal human perception, sometimes including experience of and even communion with a supreme being. (Mysticism)

    The Dark Night narrates the journey of the soul from bodily home to union with God: John of the Cross and Saint Teresa of Ávila both used Meditation to reach higher consciousness, as well as Jesus Christ.

    How beautiful that one could reach UNION with God. It seems to me, that not all “Yoga” call it…”Meditation”,is bad. I’d like to think that the above mentioned individuals, if were given a chance to comment, would not have such an “all or nothing stance”.

    And I am a devout Catholic and a former Priest Secretary, whose Boss (Padre) spent some time in a Trappist Monastery meditating(Yoga), with the Monks!

    Peace to you and may God Bless your day

  18. Dear Truth, I love your examples of St. John of the Cross and St. Teresa of Avila–two saints who were contemplatives. Contemplative prayer is not Yoga. Yoga has been around a long time but there’s no record of any canonized saint having used it. JPII stated more than once that religious and laity should stay away from Yoga. Our current Pope signed a letter “Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on Some Aspects of Christian Meditation” warning that Eastern mysticism and meditation was not Christian. And it’s not.
    I am not judging individual prayer lives. IF you are connecting with God, our God, then wonderful.

  19. I love your example of the Trappist monks. They make great beer. Did they wait for a canonized saint to drink or make beer before they adopted brewing in the middle ages? Anyone know when Saint Augustine of Hippo was made the patron saint of brewing? The Trappists are heretics if they started brewing beer before they got a green light from Hippo.

    There’s no mention of a patron saint having used antibiotics or monoclonal antibodies or genetically engineered food or medicine. Should we wait for documentation of a saint using chemotherapy or antibody-based drugs before it’s ok to try it? Who is the patron saint of biotech anyway?

  20. Dear Lucretius, we are speaking two different languages. Brewing beer, antibiotics….these are not religious issues. And as for waiting for a canonized saint to do something first….no one claimed anything of the sort. Yoga was condemned by our Popes as not a Christian way of prayer and meditation. I look to our Popes to lead me on religious issues. Using examples of priests using yoga or saints medicating does not invalidate that. I pointed out that no canonized saint is recorded as using yoga so using examples of saints who meditated is hardly a defense of yoga. At any rate, there is no point in arguing. There are people who did not know the religious controversy involved with yoga. Once people know the facts, they can respond however they choose.
    The fact that some priest and nuns are participating in activities our Holy Father has taught against is nothing new.

  21. Meditation is a part of yoga, which deals with mental relaxation and concentration. Here, attention is focused on thoughts and breath. Being aware of breathing automatically controls the thought process and thus relaxes mind completely. Yoga promotes the unison of body and mind and envisages wellness of human beings both physical, mental and spiritual. Contemplative prayer is reached through meditation. You decided to write about yoga and contemplative prayer, not me. And back to my original post, “one cannot take an all or nothing approach or one risks offending those who came before us and those who are still here with us.”

    As with everything in life, we have been blessed with free choice and at times the choices we make can injure our life or another’s life. This is how it is and how it will always be. Simple example, if you ignore the health warning labels on food products and you also overeat….you risk health related problems, etc. Does that mean food is bad or evil? NO…simply means one was not careful and used food destructively.

    Meditation or yoga has wonderful health and spiritual benefits, but with everything in life, some people will use it the wrong way and risk opening a door to satan.

    And your mention of saints; I believe that many who have died before us are saints, but we just know about them.

    I can see your passion in your article, as I am very passionate as well about the teachings of the church and helping to bring others forward.
    James 5:20: let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.

    I applaud your efforts but, always remember that when one takes such an “all or nothing stance”, the other side of the spectrum will be voiced, it happens every time and in every circumstance.

    Peace to you

  22. Dear Truth, I always welcome differences of opinion. My opinion is based on JPII’s and the fact that Yoga is a religion. I never said that it might not have some health benefits but that was never the issue.
    As I quoted in the comments above, even teachers of Hindu have stated that the philosophy and the practice of Yoga are inseparable. “You cannot separate the exercises from the philosophy… The movements themselves become a form of meditation.”

    JPII spoke against Catholics using Yoga several times including in the “Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on Some Aspects of Christian Meditation,” October 15,1989 that was signed by the present Pope Benedict XVI. That influences my opinion. You state (and I appreciate how you do so respectfully) that parts of it are okay. I have no doubt that many people are practicing their Catholic faith and also yoga. But like I’ve said before, it has to be all or nothing. Is all of yoga okay? If yes, then we should all be able to practice it. If no, then who separates and determines which parts are fine to practice? And if a church or school offers a yoga class, that gives the message that yoga–all of it–is okay.
    I knew I was not going to change everyone’s mind. I never presented myself as an expert but as one disseminating information from those that are–including practicing yoga experts. May God bless you and thank you for your thoughtful exchange.

  23. Nam veluti pueri trepidant atque omnia caecis in tenebris, sic nos in luce timemus interdum, nilo quae sunt metuenda magis quam quae pueri in tenebris pavor tenuit finguntque futura.

    Pax et lux.

  24. I know I’m arriving late but just wanted to mention – Patti, can you provide the quote where the 1989 Vatican letter “condemns” yoga? Because the way I read it, there was nothing there that said you can’t practice yoga, you just mustn’t buy into the eastern theology that poses communicate with the “god” in you, which is incorporated by some instructors but not all.

    Honestly… if we wrote off everything that we considered had “pagan” roots we’d be Jehovah’s Witnesses, not Catholics.

  25. Dear Greenkiwis,
    Try looking this up on the internet for additional information on yoga and the Vatican.

    What Does The Catholic Church Say About Yoga …File Format: Microsoft Word – Quick View
    They say that anything that is non-Christian can be “brought under the Lordship of … A POPE SPEAKS, AND TWO DOCUMENTS OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH. The first is the ‘Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on Some Aspects of Christian Meditation ‘, October 15, 1989, signed by the present Pope Benedict XVI.

  26. Thanks for the link Patti, but I prefer to read the document myself rather than someone else’s interpretation. Also, I don’t know why you would consider that link to be of any value to you. It seems far more relevant for a Catholic living in India having to distinguish themselves apart from Hinduism. I imagine there’s a lot of Hindus taking Catholic sacraments or sacramentals inappropriately and kind of mixing religions, which is probably pretty comparative to Santaria in the Caribbean.

  27. This is wrong article about provides benefit to minds and soul even many scientist proved it but some fanatic church people oppose it bcz yoga is from eastern religion or hinduism

    1. You are missing the point, Gary. Stretching and relaxation are good. For that matter ALL exercise has benefits. But even leaders in Yoga have stated that you can’t separate the physical from the spiritual, so either it’s all okay or none of it is okay. The point is, that it does involve pagan worship of other supposed deities. So if religion matters and if you are Catholic, then you should exercise without the connection to an Eastern religion. If following the First Commandment and advice of our last 2 popes makes us fanatics, then so be it.

  28. A number of Benedictine monks (eg. Fr De Chanet, Joe Pariera, Bede Griffiths) have all written books on yoga. They are/were practitioners (De Chanet & Griffiths now deceased). Bede Griffiths was a great mystic. He opened himself to the truths that the Eastern faiths have to offer and established a Catholic ashram in India, all this with the support of his Order.

    I see absolutely no issue with Yoga as a physical and spiritual tool. Swami Satyananda taught Fr John Main meditation with the use of a mantra (John Main then introduced the Christian Meditation Community to the world).

    These are just some thoughts for you to consider.

  29. As for being called a religious idiot by Adam–way to have a mature discussion. I’m following our previous 2 Pope’s advice and taking Yoga leaders at their word. People make a lot of choices for religious reasons that you may not agree with, so area they all idiots too?

    Tom, I’m aware of monks and others within the Catholic Church that have embraced New Age and Eastern religious practices such as Yoga. Fr. Pacwa and others have written books and articles warning against this. You can find Catholics doing and proposing many things that go against authentic Catholic teaching, so while that certainly gives the impression that it’s okay, there are Catholic leaders that preach against it. Yoga includes the worship of other deities. So, it’s not Catholic. Some people say it’s no big deal to do some of their exercises. I think no one has exclusive control over certain kind of exercises as being bad, but under the title of Yoga, it represents more than just exercise.

    I’ve read both sides of the issue and even took yoga myself. I don’t think people who do yoga are bad, but for me, it is not consistent with my faith.

  30. I think it may be important for Catholics to “Yoga” as a way of taking the “serpent” out of Yoga. We are the light and we need to shine the light on the darkness. Early eastern philosophy was developed before Christ brought the good news, and the people’s hearts yearned for their maker. They wrote many beautiful philosophies about what the nature of god must be that took on the persona of the vast deities in Hindu today. When early Christians evangelists brought the good news to other cultures they did not do away with their rituals but instead encompassed the ritual with the Trinty. Could yoga be become a holy act as well?

  31. Here is a good article from Catholic Answers. It gives a very balanced view of this debate. There is nothing inherently wrong with stretches–exercise and stretching are good for you. The point is that as a spiritual path, yoga is incompatible with Christian spirituality. If someone is participating in it, then it requires for them to be astute and insure nothing of the spirituality is part of their yoga. For Catholic schools and churches to sponsor yoga classes, it presents the message that Yoga is okay. So why not simply do exercises, why do Yoga given that it’s attached to another religion?

  32. This was a well researched and informative article. Thank you Patti for posting.

    As someone who had no early formation, here is my story for what it’s worth. I basically went to yoga classes in the late 70′s/early 80′s. They were given by a modern dance instructor, who basically did a melange of yoga, Pilates, and stretching exercises. I was single, had a boring, stressful job, and I liked how I felt during and after the classes. At that time, I did not associate yoga with religion but with exercise.

    A little further down the road, later, but still early 80s I moved to a big city and would take yoga classes at a yoga studio. These classes were exercise classes, but focused more on yoga breathing, and they were more focused on yoga practice, and therefore more religious. The instructor would end of each class with some Sanskrit word, and then I’d go and eat lunch. Again, being totally clueless, I felt that this was okay, because I felt more relaxed, more focused, and “more spiritual.” In other words, I liked how I felt after I got out of class. You notice this pattern of me-centeredness versus God-centeredness… which lies at the heart of new ageism. I would attend these classes randomly.

    About six months of so, maybe more or less after this, a friend invited me on a weekend at a yoga center in western MA, which was basically a weekend dedicated to practicing yoga, walking outside, healthy eating, etc. For whatever reason at the time, which now I call grace, the experience, which was pumped up as like the most wonderful thing you can do for yourself, fell flat. On Sunday morning when everyone was up early doing their yoga practices, I became aware of an emptiness… that this was just another form of materialism.. that walking in the woods and doing yoga exercises and eating healthy were no substitute for worshiping God, like, i.e., something was missing and it was not to be found in a yoga center. This was not verbalized just quickly intuited. I went home from the weekend and did not really think much about it. In my mind I still associated yoga with eating right and being healthy and staying fit and learning to relax, but I also had this other awareness that it was not enough.

    Then, I had to move, and in my search for a place to live, I answered an ad basically advertising a live-in yoga community. The place was small, dark, cramped and distasteful to me. The woman running the place said, “if you really wanted this, these things would not matter to you.” I thought to myself. “You’re right. I don’t really want this.” So I left. Never came back, and never attended another yoga class. I eventually entered the Catholic Church many years after these experiences.

    At the time I went on my little journey I was a baptized Episcopalian, and basically had not been told that there was any conflict of interest between Christianity and Yoga. I did not go out of my way to ask this question either to my pastor.

    What you will notice with this is that I went from taking occasional modern dance studio yoga classes to actually thinking about moving into al yoga community (were it not for the grace of the Holy Spirit). This was not conscious. It was not a decision, I am going to get more involved with this.. It was the promise (never stated, which is similar to what I think gets promised to drug users), if you do this, you will feel really good. It was self-rather than God centered, and ultimately addictive (without one’s knowing that it was addictive).

    I think the clearer the lines are drawn around things, the easier it will be for Catholics and all Christians to discern the differences between religions. When people are left to their own devices, disaster sometimes follows. We have to rely on grace, but we also have to be able to articulate truths, problems, shortcomings etc. The truth will only set us free, if we know what it is.

  33. Prejudiced !!!
    You deprived yourself from the supreme knowledge and like the next generation as well to stay away from it? All comments related to the physical exertion, the serpent in your body and all is absurd. What would you call the football lady? Some morons running after a inflated object to put it through some bracket and rejoicing, is that your definition of that sports? You are more intolerant that the folks in arabia. When are you going to go beyond the boundaries and see there are fascinating things experienced by others. If you cannot experience, at least do not stop the seekers to make their own judgements. Afterall, no one is sending Hindu or Buddhist missionaries to spread it. It is available for everybody to explore themselves. Afterall did you forget, Luke 13:21 “Kingdom of god is within you”. Don’t you want to find what is the way to experience it?

  34. I have first hand experience with yoga as well, and I chose, after reading your article, to discard the yoga tapes that were giving me relief. I have fibromyalgia and they gave me wonderful inner relief, like an inner massage. But Patti you are dead on about what it can lead to. This whole discussion reminds me of the first “debate” about good and evil when Eve chose to eat the forbidden fruit, and paid the price. Satan cleverly said “surely you will not die.” Yes, it doesn’t “hurt” me to practice yoga in the here and now, but in the hereafter it will.

    As I began to do yoga again recently, I started having visions, and this coupled with inner twinges, led me to seek out info on it and I found your article. When you work with the inner system you are opening up channels in your body to demons. All you have to do is look at Madonna’s face to see that this is true. She is demon possessed, a long time yoga practitioner. I have personally had visions that went away after I threw out everything connected with new age in my home. So if you have never experienced this you may think it couldn’t happen to you. But there are spiritual consequences to disobedience to God, and most people never connect the bad things that happen to them in their lives with their spiritual tepidity, rebellion, or idolatry.

    All the knowledge and good intentions towards a particular practice cannot save you before the serpent who is wise, crafty, and well practiced at leading people astray. And if you reject God’s word, then you cannot expect to enjoy his protection either. A woman in my complex was a new age practitioner. One day she opened her door to a man who punched her in the stomach and then began to beat her and rape her until she was almost dead. She finally managed to escape and suffered greatly from the experience. She moved out the next day. When you play with Satan’s toys, you play with fire, here on earth, and eternally in hell. Another woman I knew is into Feung Shui and told a story of one night at home she looked out her window to see 3 men with guns approaching her house. She called the cops and was saved. Yet she never saw the connection between her occult practice and this event. It’s real, and it happens every day. We cannot disconnect ourselves from the spiritual consequences of living outside of God’s word.

    No one wants to hear this, but when they cross over no amount of tears will save them from burning eternally in hell. We must stand strong for God here and now, no matter what the personal cost to ourselves. Martyrs gave their lives so that the faith continued. What is pain or inconvenience compared to giving your life for God?

    We all want our particular sin excluded so we can continue to practice it. I did this myself as I “wandered in the desert” for 30 years after leaving the Church after H.S. Thankfully God brought me all the way back home through a series of remarkable events.

    I am a cradle catholic born in 1953, who grew up with only the Latin mass until about 1965, and before all the “innovations” which have destroyed the faith and the Church. BTW, this was predicted by Our Lady of LaSalette in the 1850s. There is no salvation outside of the Church which Jesus Christ founded, because only Jesus can make us whole before God. He paid the price for us. Good deeds avail us nothing before God. If we do not belong to the true Catholic Church, then we are not in the “body of Christ” who saves all. I know this is a very politically “incorrect” statement, but it is the truth which the V2 church chooses to ignore by embracing all religions, which the “popes” do year after year in the “celebrations” at Saint Francis of Assisi, a Saint who shunned all to serve God in a most humble way.

    Jesus said “Wide is the gate, but narrow is the way, and few will find it.” This is because few WANT to find it. They want a comfortable faith, an easy faith that fits in with their “lifestyle.” None of the saints and certainly not the Lord himself lived an easy life. There is a price to pay, and few wish to pay it.

  35. The so called serpent is not a serpent but a energy called shakti or prana,yoga has nothing to do with serpent worship.forms of yoga have been practised all around the world,as a way to become a better person and spiritual.

  36. I am Catholic. When I read the article about can Catholic do Yoga and there’s a little debate about it. I practice Yoga because I have emotional problems and Yoga helps me with that and I want to improve my postures so that it won’t be a problem much when I get older (I’m almost 22). I believe that as long as we separate from yoga exercises and yoga philosophy and religion. I am just interested in yoga where came from it doesn’t mean I want to change my religions. That scared me. I believe in one God and I am aware that in one of the commandments it said you shall not have other gods have. When I do yoga exercises all I think about is the postures, relaxing my mind but I do not worship what Hinduism. But this article got me thinking because I do stretches that’s similar to yoga. But that’s questionable. I did not even know this was an issue in Catholic practicing yoga(it’s a form of exercise) but I’m aware that it has a meaning behind to it that goes a long time ago in India.

    Please let me know if you have any advice and suggestions.

    1. Hi Joy,

      If you need yoga for emotional issues, then I’m wondering if there is something else that can help. Counseling, spiritual reading, time before the Blessed Sacrament, getting a spiritual director…etc. The physical poses and stretches by themselves are not a problem. You can exercise your body but the problem is if you are participating something as a group then how do you know for sure if there is even the smallest part of something connected to the religion? Pilates is a good form of exercise. I hesitated writing this article but once I got into it and did the research, I realized that I’m not being an alarmist. Neither am I trying to say all people who practice Yoga are pagans. But even the leaders of Yoga have been quoted as saying you can’t separate the physical from the spiritual elements so that is something that must be seriously considered.

  37. As much as I enjoyed this article, I must remind you that so many things in your life, not just holidays, have pagan roots. There are several catholic churches who have incorporated yoga with scripture and hymns in order to strengthen that bond with Christ and God. It is our (Christians) in ability to be open and loving about so much in the world that will ultimately be our demise.

  38. Oh and do some research on Pilates, it’s based on yoga. Running was a way to give tribute to certain Gods. The winged foot you see to symbolize track and field events? Look up the origin. I’m guessing we Christians can’t do any form of excerise.

  39. I’ve taken yoga and pilates before. Pilates was 100% exercise, nothing else. If there is something else going on, I have never heard of it. It doesn’t include mediation and has never been considered having a religious aspect to it. There’s nothing wrong with exercising.

  40. Hey Patti, I totally agree with you on yoga. And I’m really interested in this book that you read, I would like to read it as well, because I may have meet the author. His story and the summery you gave are VERY alike. But do you by any chance remember what the book is called?

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