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The Southampton priest was right to ban yoga classes

Yoga is more than just exercise

By on Monday, 1 October 2012

No yoga here Chris Ison/PA Wire

No yoga here Chris Ison/PA Wire

“Catholic priest bans yoga classes” was a small item in the Telegraph last week. It seems that Fr John Chandler of St Edmund’s Church, Southampton, is in trouble for cancelling yoga and Pilates classes which had been booked for his church hall. He says that at first the hall had been booked only for Pilates, but classes were later advertised for “spiritual yoga” as well. According to a spokesman for the Portsmouth Catholic diocese, “It’s not possible for Catholic premises to be used for non-Christian activities and there is a dilemma with yoga as it can be seen as Hindu meditation or as relaxation.” Mrs Cori Withell, who was to lead the classes, insisted that “Yoga is not religious: spiritual but not religious.”

Who is in the right here? Decisions are left to the local priest’s discretion; he has to discern whether parish premises are being used merely for exercises such as Pilates, a physical fitness system developed by a German called Joseph Pilates in the early 20th century, or for offshoots of Eastern religions, with all their non-Christian assumptions and beliefs. But even Pilates is not entirely innocent, it seems; a later hybrid development is “yogilates”, combining aspects of yoga as well as Pilates, so perhaps Fr Chandler is being sensible here, rather than over-cautious.

Also, although Mrs Withell makes a distinction between what is “spiritual” and what is “religious”, there is too much overlap to separate them where yoga is concerned. According to Wiki, “yoga” means “union” and true yoga is union with the Divine i.e. it is not just a set of physical exercises. It is a comprehensive system lasting a lifetime if practised properly, all about achieving spiritual enlightenment. But such “enlightenment” and “the Divine” are far from the Christian concept of the Trinitarian God, repentance or sacramental grace. Fr Jeremy Davies, the official exorcist for the Westminster archdiocese, warns against the practice of yoga: “Beware of any claims to mediate beneficial energies (e.g. Reiki)…any alternative therapy with its roots in Eastern religion… They are not harmless”, he insists.

When I was at my convent boarding school I was briefly interested in yoga. I found a book called “Christian Yoga” written by a French Benedictine who believed yogic exercises and breathing techniques could be harnessed for Christian meditation; instead of intoning Sanskrit words you invoked the name of Jesus and so on. Perhaps something similar is taught at certain Catholic retreat centres where yoga is advertised? My own youthful involvement was curtailed by a friend who insisted on barging into my room whenever a “session” was in progress. I also got bored; yoga, like youth, is wasted on the young.

But Fr Davies’s reference to Reiki did bring me up short: not long ago I won a raffle prize – which turned out to be a free Reiki session with a local practitioner. I went along out of mere curiosity, ignorantly thinking I might get a foot massage which might be quite pleasant. All the practitioner did was stroke my toes, at the same time solemnly telling me she could sense a build-up of “toxins” in my body which she hoped to “expel”. I seem to recall scented candles and low “meditative” music in the background. What she said was ridiculous and I felt ridiculous. Are people actually gullible enough to pay for this mumbo-jumbo?

Later, I checked out Reiki on wiki: a Japanese technique for stress reduction that also promotes “healing”. It is administered by “Laying on hands” and is based on the idea that an unseen “life force energy” flows through us; if one’s “life force energy” is low, then we are more likely to get sick. Its adherents believe it is “effective in helping virtually every known illness and malady and always creates a beneficial effect.” Further, “Because Reiki comes from God many people find that using it puts them more in touch with the experience of their religion.”

As with yoga, one has to point out that this is not the Christian God. It is trying to achieve spiritual wholeness on the cheap, by following a technique, and through a sentimental feeling of “spirituality”; there is no Way of the Cross here. I subsequently noticed two advertisements in our current local directory: one offers “Healing, with energy, light and love”, offered by an “intuitive life coach, Energy Healer and Reiki Master”; the other offers a range of “wellbeing therapies” which include aromatherapy, holistic massage, Indian head massage, reflexology, Reiki, Pilates, acupuncture and hypnotherapy. Whew.
I think Fr Chandler would be well advised to avoid booking any of these practices in his parish hall. Satan is real and he is devilishly clever.

  • Peter

    Satan likes it even more when people are nasty.

  • karlf

    Why does he?

  • Cliff Surtees

    I find that most Christian organisations are pretty tolerant and accepting of others views but whenever they draw a line on something, the so called enlightened Atheists start screaming and crying. Its usually, in my opinion these people who are the most intolerant.

  • Anne

    And the rest of the world is not? Don’t go looking for some ecclesiastical Utopia. You will end up with some evangelical church which claims to be such, then you will become disillusioned with it, and leave it. The Catholic Church is flawed, yes. So is the world. The Catholic Church is part of the world. And yet I love it, and I remain in it.

  • karlf

     Why? What did the atheists do Cliff?

  • Anne

    My own experience with Yoga is that the bit I liked best about it was the relaxation at the end, where we concentrated on our breathing and tried to empty our minds of unwanted thoughts. This experience led me eventually to Catholic, Christian, contemplative prayer.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/PWZKI7JBARE4DDT3NQ22RWMOJE Benedict Carter

    What on earth does that MEAN? It has no meaning at all.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/PWZKI7JBARE4DDT3NQ22RWMOJE Benedict Carter

    To those who have posted about ecumenism. Here are a couple of quotes for you:

    “There is no greater enemy of the Immaculata and her Knighthood than ecumenism, which every Knight must not only fight against, but also neutralize through diametrically opposed action and ultimately destroy.”

    (St. Maximilian Kolbe, O.F.M. Conventual)

    “Such attempts can nowise be approved by Catholics, founded as they are on that false opinion which considers all religions to be more or less good and praiseworthy, since they all in different ways manifest and signify that sense which is inborn in us all, and by which we are led to God and to the obedient acknowledgment of His rule. Not only are those who hold this opinion in error and deceived, but also in distorting the idea of true religion they reject it, and little by little, turn aside to naturalism and atheism, as it is called; from which it clearly follows that one who supports those who hold these theories and attempt to realize them, is altogether abandoning the divinely revealed religion.”

    Pope Pius XI, Encyclical Mortalium Animos, par. 2, January 6, 1928

    “But God forbid that the sons of the Catholic Church ever in any way be hostile to those who are not joined with us in the same bonds of faith and love; but rather they should always be zealous to seek them out and aid them, whether poor, or sick, or afflicted with any other burdens, with all the offices of Christian charity; and they should especially endeavor to snatch them from the darkness of error in which they unhappily lie, and lead them back to Catholic truth and to the most loving Mother the Church, who never ceases to stretch out her maternal hands lovingly to them, and to call them back to her bosom so that, established and firm in faith, hope, and charity, and ‘being fruitful in every good work’ [Colossians 1:10], they may attain eternal salvation.”

    Pope Pius IX, Encyclical Quanto Conficiamur Moerore, par. 9, August 10, 1863 (Denzinger 1678)

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/PWZKI7JBARE4DDT3NQ22RWMOJE Benedict Carter

    It is not the accusation that is untrue, Jabba, but the entire premise upon which he bases his post.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/PWZKI7JBARE4DDT3NQ22RWMOJE Benedict Carter

    No, it is NOT about Christian humanism, Patrick. It is about the worship of the Holy Trinity as the Holy Trinity wants to be worshipped, and all geared to the Eternal Salvation of the Elect.

    The “humanism” thing is one of THE prime causes of the Church’s utter destruction in the last fifty years.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/PWZKI7JBARE4DDT3NQ22RWMOJE Benedict Carter

    The Catholic Church is the Body of Christ and is the “perfect society”. It is NOT flawed in any way.

    The people who are in it certainly are. 

    Sorry for the pedantry but the distinction is very important.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/PWZKI7JBARE4DDT3NQ22RWMOJE Benedict Carter

    Didn’t you know, Elizabeth that the building up of the Kingdom of Christ, Sovereign King and Priest, has long been abandoned, in favour of merely human-related endeavour and brotherhood (pure Masonry)?  

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/PWZKI7JBARE4DDT3NQ22RWMOJE Benedict Carter

    In wonderful ways. And I will say nothing else.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/PWZKI7JBARE4DDT3NQ22RWMOJE Benedict Carter

    I applied, was turned down for being too old. Thirty-five is the Canonical limit I think; I was in my mid-forties. And I would only apply to one of the Traditionalist groups or Orders. The modern Church is mostly manned by apostates.

  • awkwardcustomer

    Because it helps him claim their souls.

  • karlf

     Why would he want them? wouldn’t he be happier just being good and not claiming souls?

  • karlf

    Why won’t you tell me? I would like to know what you believe about prayer.

  • Lefty048

    benedict we have devils and demons in america to.   we call them republicans.  

  • Peter

    Would the same priest ban a private Halloween party in the Church hall?

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/PWZKI7JBARE4DDT3NQ22RWMOJE Benedict Carter

    There should never BE a “Halloween party in the Church hall”, private or otherwise.

  • C_monsta

    unbelievably these sorts of attrocities are on the increase in Britain in the 21st century! Truly shameful

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/PWZKI7JBARE4DDT3NQ22RWMOJE Benedict Carter

    This board is no place for private things.

  • karlf

    Surely you would want to share these wonderful things and demonstrate the power of prayer?

  • Realitybites

    That’s right Patrickhowes.  The next logical step to doing yoga is obviously euthanasia. 

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/PWZKI7JBARE4DDT3NQ22RWMOJE Benedict Carter

    The devil hates the human race with all his being and particularly seeks the loss of the eternal souls of as many people as possible.

  • Lefty048

    oops  that boat has sailed many times.   this is really funny.   this is actually what you do with your day?   don’t worry we will smite the devils and demons on election day november 6th.  4 more years! 

  • karlf

    Why? Why? Why? Wouldn’t he have found something better to do after all this time? It’s all such nonsense!

  • Fides_et_Ratio

    Ms. Francis Phillips, thank you very much for having the courage to write this article.
    These days, it is extremely politically incorrect to state that pagan religious practices may cause harm, and that the devil exists.

    Thank you
     

  • Daniel_Borsell

     It be witchcraft! Aaah, that it be!
    The devil is such a ridiculous and pagan concept in itself. Whenever will he tire of roaming the earth for thousands of years in search vulnerable human souls for his bulging collection?

  • Patrickhowes

    You mean you would scatter all the “call me Pete and Mike” brigade like ashes!?

  • Patrickhowes

    Depends if you are trying to wrap your leg around the teacher´s neck?

  • Peter

    The greatest harm caused by Satan is not through pagan religious practices, nowhere near.

    A far greater harm committed by Satan is to cause people, especially practising Christians, to be complacent in thinking that they’re doing right and are saved when in fact they are not.

    Jesus made it clear.  Ignore the poorest and we’re damned.

    Irrespective of how much of our time and money we give for the upkeep and running of our parish, if we ignore the poorest we are damned.

    Irrespective of how often we go to Mass and Holy Communion, if we ignore the poorest we are damned.

    There is a systemic failure in the English church to get the severity of this point across, which is crucial to our salvation.

    Meanwhile Satan is rubbing his hands with glee at the prospect of all those lost souls who thought they were saved.

  • tbittan

    That is quite breathtakingly arrogant considering you know absolutely nothing about me.

  • tbittan

    this site doesn’t work well on a mobile. but anyway Mr Carter, that is an extremely arrongant and rude statement considering you do not know me at all, or anything about me.

  • JabbaPapa

     I agree

  • JabbaPapa

    I have literally NO IDEA how to respond to this DISGUSTING statement of apostasy…

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/PWZKI7JBARE4DDT3NQ22RWMOJE Benedict Carter

    Some of us are well-used to the atheist trolls who come onto Catholic sites. 

    Your reaction now is entirely in keeping with the usual practice. 

    Another one outed.

  • JabbaPapa

    You haven’t the faintest idea what you’re gibbering about.

  • Richard Collins

    It is a requirement of the one true Church that you believe in God and also, the existence of Satan or, whichever name you choose to give him and his evil spirits.

  • JabbaPapa

    To be fair, dear Benedict, you are 10 times better as a lay man than you could ever be as a priest.

  • JabbaPapa

    Yep.

  • tbittan

    it may be politically incorrect. it’s definitely extremely silly.

  • tbittan

    thank you for your kind and completely ignorant words.

  • tbittan

    actually i didn’t find it incredibly welcoming at all. perhaps i was expecting too much.

  • JabbaPapa

    The greatest harm that Satan does is to convince people that lies are truth.

  • JabbaPapa

    Dear Benedict, you are confused in these matters.

  • JabbaPapa

    Look in your mirror.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/PWZKI7JBARE4DDT3NQ22RWMOJE Benedict Carter

    “Call me Dorothy” is the modus operandi of too many of them.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/PWZKI7JBARE4DDT3NQ22RWMOJE Benedict Carter

    No. 

    The greatest harm Lucifer and his demons do is their usual work of temptation, which leads souls into mortal sin and hell. 

  • Sweetjae

    So following your logic, we should accept adult-senior people  having sexual intimacy with minors as loving?