A Catholic Yogi might often receive a lot of criticism about how Catholics should not practice yoga.
Catholic and yoga practitioners have always received A LOT of criticism about how Catholics should not be exposed to yoga. Anyone can say all day that Catholics who practice yoga benefit from physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being. But don’t just take it from me.
As Heidi Schlumpf said, “yoga makes me a better Catholic.” Despite the recent criticisms, Catholics have been practicing yoga all over the world for years. Websites like Google and Facebook follow activity on the web to give more tailored content that may be skewed to not find any positive opinions of Catholics who practice yoga on Google. This post hopefully “beats the system” to show you some of the many positive views of Catholics practicing yoga.
So let’s begin with just a few Catholics who are associated with 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. The subject matter he studies is closely associated with yoga due to its historical tradition. He also teaches at Harvard Divinity School in Cambridge, Massachusetts and has written for a popular Jesuit-based magazine called America and Christians Practicing Yoga (see below). 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 and benefits of a Christian yoga practice. He also has a DVD called Yoga Prayer and many books 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 between the East and West. He was particularly fond of Zen Buddhism and meditation practices that mirror yoga. 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-based yoga organizations:
Ignatian yoga based especially on the Catholic teachings of St. Ignatius Loyola. Their core pillars are “community, spirituality, embodiment, and social justice”
Assisi Institute based on using the Catholic teachings of St. Francis of Assisi and kriya yoga
Christians Practicing Yoga is a network of many Christians who have found yoga to be a beneficial practice to their physical and faith life
Always go into your yoga practice with a strong foundation on your personal Catholic faith. The negative feedback from many Catholics is not because yoga is intrinsically evil, but because people may be weary in where their faith resides to begin with. My yoga practice enhanced my faith, it certainly did not change it to something else. You can find similar cautionary (but not condemning) articles about Catholics practicing yoga on Catholic Answers and EWTN.
A Catholic who practices yoga should not be a foreign and taboo phrase. If the Catholic Church is inline with science, we have the potential to embrace the possibility of receiving the many benefits a yoga practice has to offer.
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