Catholicism and yoga: defined
*Both definitions are quoted from the Merriam-Webster dictionary.
The surface level of the relationship between Catholicism and yoga begins with the structure of each word. Catholic means “universal” and Yoga in Sanskrit, its native language, means “union” or “to yoke.” The prefix to both words is “uni-” meaning "made one."
One of the reasons Catholicism is considered the universal church because the practices are consistently the same throughout the world. This is one of my favorite things about Catholicism. I can go to a Catholic church in Louisiana and a Catholic church anywhere in the world and hear the same readings! That makes every inch of my organized mind rejoice. No matter where you go in the world you can find a Catholic brother or sister in Christ that you have a deep understanding and a sense of connectivity to.
I relate this a lot to being a Red Sox fan. My dad loves the Red Sox even though he's not from Boston. Every time he sees someone who has any kind of Red Sox memorabilia it's like he sees an ally in the middle of a war. By the time he's finished talking to whoever it is, he has a new friend. When a Catholic goes to church in a different area or a conference like Steubenville, it's like going to Fenway park with thousands of your best friends. That is what universal means. Honestly, many who practice yoga may meet strangers and instantly connect with them on the shared, positive experience of yoga.
In yoga, "union" can mean many things. The practitioner can become one with nature, one with the universe, or, most commonly, one with the Divine. This is why yoga is more of a philosophy than a religion because multitudes of ways to view the Divine exist. Others can define the Divine as a Hindu god, Allah, or Mother Earth. For me the "Divine" is Jesus or God. Whoever you want to union with or worship is up to you. Seeking a higher connection with God is the basic concept of most religions, especially Catholicism. As Catholics, the most glorious way we become one with Jesus is by receiving the Eucharist. Our relationship with him does not stop there. We need to be spiritually fed throughout the week too by praying to God, meditating on the rosary, attending Bible studies, etc. We pray to build our connection with the Blessed Trinity.
Notice how in both definitions, there is a definition that is specified as capitalized. I am intentional when I am using those terms. I will always use "Catholic" because I am referring to the Catholic Church. I will always use "yoga" because I am referring to a practice separated and secularized from its Hindu practice.
Peace and namaste,