Ask a Priest

No Yoga?

Sep 14, 2014

Father Flynn: I have been practicing yoga for the past 9 years to treat my arthritis, which bothers me excruciatingly if I don’t do my yoga at least 2 hours a week, every week. Nothing else works on my arthritis as well as yoga. Not pills, not walking, not anything. I do not follow the Hindu spiritual side of yoga. No chanting or anything like that.

Now Christ is definitely the center of my life. Yoga is not. I attend mass every morning. I pray the Divine Office morning and evening, and also the rosary, plus other devotions. I’m a Benedictine Oblate. I’m the vice-president of my Legion of Mary senior presidium, and the secretary of our junior presidium, I attend an adoration hour once a week. I participate in our parish’s ‘right to life’ activities at times. I say all of this not to brag, but to demonstrate that Christ is the center of my life and that yoga is not the center of my life, as so many yogini’s make yoga out to be. I have zero interest in the spiritual side of yoga. Period.

My problem comes in when I revealed to my confessor that I practiced yoga. Father Harrison then told me to ‘out and out’ quit practicing yoga! He said that even though I did not believe in the Hindu religion, that the poses were simulations of Hindu gods, and therefore violations of the 1rst Commandment. I kinda always knew this but, somehow, never thought twice about it.

Now, I know that my confessor is God speaking in the guise of the confessor, so I need to obey him. But, other Catholics are out there happily practicing yoga. Why do I have to quit?

(I have a few western style stretches, that I got off of the internet, that I’m ready to do, but they don’t seem as satisfying as yoga. But, I will do them, if need be.)

Asked at 02:47 pm on September 14th 2014

Dear Gina:

The spiritual side of Yoga is certainly contrary to Christian beliefs and can pose a number of dangers to people who may not be strong in their faith.

Used as merely a physical form of exercise the postures adopted are not in themselves problematic. Especially for someone like yourself who has a strong spiritual life and is not interested at all in the spiritual side of Yoga I do not see a problem in your continuing this form of exercise.

I recommend you read this article which I think gives a very balanced point of view on Yoga. I think it is correct in saying that it is important to avoid the extreme of not seeing any problem at all with Yoga, or on the other hand demonizing it. I agree with the conclusion of the article when it says:

“Should you take up yoga? As a spiritual path, yoga is incompatible with Christian spirituality. But if you can separate the spiritual/meditational aspects of yoga from the body postures and breathing techniques common to yoga, then you might be able to use those postures and techniques beneficially for health. If you’re at all unsure of your ability to do so, you may well be advised to find another form of exercise.”

Replied at 12:46 am on September 15th 2014

Dear Father. Flynn:

Thank you so much for your answer. You clarified things so much for me. I was really confused for many years, reading Yoga Journal magazine, which featured articles on the Hindu and Buddhist religions, and pictures of Buddha’s and Hindu gods and goddesses. I don’t know what I was thinking. I was really confused. One thing that my confessor, Father Harrison, at St. Gerald’s, in Omaha, NE, told me to do was to cancel this Yoga Journal magazine, which I did immediately. Now that I see the light, I will never order it again. What was I thinking? I never let any of this material affect my Catholicism and my Catholic beliefs, but, why was I reading this stuff?

Thanks to your wonderful guidance, I will continue to do yoga, but with the full realization of what it is, and I will do it only as a form of physical exercise for the purpose of supporting my physical health. And I know that I can’t take yoga classes either because a lot of classes push Hindu and Buddhist religions too. So, I will continue to do my yoga at home, like I have always done.

Thanks again.

Gina Love-Aguilar

Replied at 12:21 am on September 18th 2014