I have received A LOT of criticism lately about how Catholics should not be exposed to yoga. I can tell you all day that Catholics practicing yoga is acceptable and good for the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being of a person. As Heidi Schlumpf said, "yoga makes me a better Catholic." But don’t just take it from me.
I wanted to write this post to show that although this may seem really far-fetched, people have been practicing this all over the world for years. If you cannot find any positive opinions of Catholic yoga on Google, it’s not your fault! Websites like Google and Facebook follow your activity on the web to give you more tailored content. In other words, if you are giving your attention to things that may be considered more conservative then you will only receive conservative content. This post is beat the system and show you some of the many positive views of Catholics practicing yoga.
So let’s begin with other Catholics practicing yoga.
The first one being my personal favorite scholar of this time, Francis X Clooney. He is a Jesuit priest and has been for roughly 50 years. As a scholar of religion, he studies comparative theology between Catholicism and Hinduism objectively. This meaning that although he is an insider of the Catholic faith, he is able to study many faiths including his own from an outside point of view. He also teaches at Harvard Divinity School in Cambridge, Massachusetts and has written for a popular Jesuit-based magazine called America. To find out more about him, click here.
The next example is Father Tom Ryan who is a Paulist priest. He was a part of the founding of Christians Practicing Yoga, a website community for just that. He has written many posts for their blog that give insights to the limits of a Christian yoga practice. He also has a DVD called Yoga Prayer which you can find on Amazon. To learn more about Father Tom Ryan, click here.
The last is Thomas Merton. He was a Catholic monk who lived in the twentieth century. He was a pioneer of inter-religious dialogue and was fond of a particular form of Mahayana Buddhism known as Zen Buddhism. I learned about him through a conversation with one of my own students. I recently purchased his book, The Seven Storey Mountain, which is waiting for me on my shelf. To find out more about Thomas Merton, click here.
There are also many Christian-yoga organizations. The first being Ignatian yoga based especially on the Catholic teachings of St. Ignatius Loyola. Their core pillars are “community, spirituality, embodiment, and social justice.” Next is the Assisi Institute based on using the Catholic teachings of St. Francis of Assisi and kriya yoga. As mentioned earlier, Christians Practicing Yoga is a network of many Christians who have found yoga to be a beneficial practice to their physical and faith life. Lastly, the most popular organization is Holy Yoga. This is a Christian-based yoga training and movement that offers a variety of Christian-based yoga practices.
One thing I must say, go into your yoga practice with a strong foundation on Catholic teachings. The negative feedback from many Catholics is not because yoga is intrinsically evil but because people were weary and lukewarm in their faith to begin with. My yoga practice enhanced my faith, it certainly did not change it. You can find similar cautionary (but not condemning) articles about Catholics practicing yoga on Catholic Answers and EWTN.
Catholic yoga should not be a foreign and taboo term. If the Catholic Church is inline with science, we should embrace the possibility of receiving the many benefits a yoga practice has to offer.
Peace and Namaste,