Yoga - Is it Permissable for Christians

The Church distinguishes between physical postures and the philosophy or religion underlying them (cf: Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, On Christian Meditation). The adoption of a particular physical posture, even if originating in a religious or philosophical system foreign to Christianity, is permissible provided the posture is severable from the religion or philosophy that first motivated it. Its use then becomes possible in Christian freedom (cf. 1 Cor. 8), and indeed the Church has "baptized" even pagan practices that were not intrinsically linked to paganism.

The question of yoga, therefore, becomes "to what extent can yoga postures be independent of non-Christian religious motivation, as well as any intention to manipulate forces or energies described within a non-Christian worldview?" This is the same question which arises with respect to Reiki healing practices, which also depend on a non-Christian, indeed an occult, worldview.

If it is a matter, therefore, of simply using yoga positions for relaxation in preparation for Christian mediation, while not embracing to any degree the philosophy or explanation behind the posture, their use is theoretically possible.

However, many Christians who are former practitioners of yoga argue that it is not possible, that the dangers of the occult remain, especially by efforts to manipulate internal forces in order to achieve a particular physical state. That, while natural causation is claimed, in fact achieving the result depends on the existence of the very forces which the non-Christian philosophy teaches. Separating the philosophy from the posture makes possible the posture’s Christian use, but removes any value of it over any other physical posture. On the other hand, retaining the posture and seeking its purpose necessarily adopts a non-Christian worldview, opening the individual to spiritual forces, as opposed to simply material ones, who are opposed to their salvation.

While the question of yoga has not been definitely answered by the Magisterium, Christians who are considering its use, or the use of any practice derived from non-Christian philosophies or religions, should be familiar with two documents: the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith's On Some Aspects of Christian Meditation, and thePontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue's Jesus Christ, The Bearer of the Water of Life. They should then scrupulously apply the principle of the necessity for the complete separation of a practice from any religious or philosophical system which is contrary to Catholic teaching or the practice of the faith.

 

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