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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.

  • JabbaPapa

     Dear Ben, of COURSE the Earthly Church is flawed !!!!

  • Sweetjae

    Nice, big distinction.

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

    Agreed. Another good article from Mrs Phillips.

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

    I’m not, nor was St. Maximilian Kolbe nor Popes Pius IX, Leo XIII, Pope St.Pius X, Benedict XV, Pius XI and Pius XII. 

    The confusion lies entirely on the side of the Vatican II Revolutionaries and the post-Vatican II Magisterium.

  • Sweetjae

    I apologize for my fellow Catholic’s behavior but Tony, why blame the Catholic Church for the principle that she doesn’t agree with then expect her to accept it? You wouldn’t like that if it happened to you, right?

  • Fides_et_Ratio

    Please be more intellectually deep. Saying something looks silly is nearly meaningless.

  • JabbaPapa

    That was a statement of fact.

    You have provided some sources of difficulty concerning the doctrines in question, but you have not refuted them in the slightest.

  • Sweetjae

    Benedict, Benedict, you have to distinguish between FALSE ecumenism and an AUTHENTIC ecumenism (as false and true repentance). St. Maximinian Kolbe had pursued ecumenism of the true kind through dialogue and  evangelization of other non-catholic and pagan traditions in Japan and other parts of the world, meaning planting seeds. 

    What St. Kolbe was condemning is ecumenism that is apart from the Catholic Truth. Read the acts of the Council of Florence where the Catholic Church invited the Orthodox Churches to heal the rift and division between the West and Eastern Churches.

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

    The modern Church has turned its back on Catholic teaching AS THIS POPE HAS ADMITTED MORE THAN ONCE. 

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

    You are completely wrong Jabba. I’m too tired to continually correct the ignorance shown here by so many Catholics. When I find my references I will post them. It’ll be on a future thread. 

  • Patrickhowes

    Well as you are sharpening your pencil to score my homework,how about this.Yes the cause is to worship the Trinity but the effect is that we should be Christ-like.

  • Adsum

    Thank you, Anne.  A gentle corrective in the midst of so much aggressive and unattractively bitter comment.  It just might be the case the Holy Spirit guides into new pastures which immediately are not comfortable underfoot for they lead to new paths and new possibilities. I appreciate Peter’s lone voice too “a voice crying in the wilderness’ of this rather narrow thread.

  • Patrickhowes

    Have him subjected to a name change Fr Poopathinkal

  • Dcollin

    Very sorry to hear that. We ( my fellow Catholics and I) have a lot to learn with regard to making others welcome, but there are plenty of parishes were there is a real attempt to provide that welcome.

  • Adsum

    Thank you, Sensible One.  We need here a return to ‘sensibility’ in its original sense.  A sensitive wisdom aided by discernment enlightened by the Holy Spirit would allow us to see that evil loves a narrow focus.

  • Adsum

    In no way is he implying this!  Let’s avoid such imputations in our discussion …….

  • tbittan

    I think that is all the intellectual depth it needs.

  • tbittan

    not sure what principle you mean

  • JabbaPapa

    WRONG

  • NewMeena

     Is this possibly because the Devil is in the Vatican?

    The late Christopher Hitchens once said that if the Devil existed, he would be a Catholic. Do you think this is possible?

  • Fintan

    Thirty five the ‘canonical limit’?  Not at all.  Maybe they wanted an excuse rather than tell you why you were turned down.

  • NewMeena

    It looks as if this anti-Satanic luminary retired 12 years ago.

    See:   http://articles.nydailynews.com/2011-11-29/news/30456529_1_father-gabriele-amorth-chief-exorcist-subtle-seductions

    “The Vatican’s former chief exorcist says yoga and Harry Potter are tools of the devil.
    “Practicing yoga is Satanic, it leads to evil just like reading Harry Potter,” Father Gabriele Amorth said this week.”

  • NewMeena

     Maybe this is only a relic of bicameralism, which virtually all of us might have to a greater or lesser extent.

    The psychological theory of bicameralism is something that religious people should know about, and consider.

  • Patrickhowes

    Recrown Him Fr Poopathinkal

  • Another Pete

    I’m with tbittan I’m afraid. It’s a very silly way to behave. But I can live with silly. Its when a person starts to look down upon another group because of an activity which does them no harm whatsoever I get concerned.

    This article didn’t take courage to write. It took cowardice. It took fear of the unknown, that somehow ones own beliefs might be so precarious that those of someone else could undermine them by their very presence. It’s a terrible thing, is cowardice and fear – because the closest thing I’ve ever seen to a goblin once said something very wise – fear leads to hate, and hate leads to suffering.

  • SM

    Right on!
    Yoga led me in the wrong direction. The Yogi I used to follow taught me that there really is no God, that we are all one with nature. Stand your ground, Father!

  • karlf

    Won’t somebody help me and explain then? 

  • C_monsta

    How exactly do these demons go about their usual work of tempting people?

  • C_monsta

    Did Satan convince William Oddie that Jimmy Savile was a “truly innocent man”, or was Dr Oddie simply misinformed and misled?
    Time for a reality check I think.

  • Jeannine

    What are you saying in your 2nd paragraph? Can I pray a Hail Mary while in the cobra pose? (Not trying to be funny.)

    Any Catholic who takes up yoga for meditation or for stress relief is not very knowledgeable in the Catholic faith’s sprituality.

  • Jesus Pal

    OK, you are hillarious! Thank GOD that he was in such an inspired mood when he made you. 

    However, have you tried yoga? or are you just talking from your own interpretation of what you believe in?

    It sounds to me that your words come from your intellect instead from your heart as Jesus taught.

    What yoga does? it takes away a man’s ability to be used by another man. It makes you love everyone and everything, even your enemies just as Jesus said:

    “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.” Matthew 5:44

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

    Your claws are nowhere near sharp enough. 

    The seminary to which I applied has hundreds of 40 year + applicants each year and they are ALL turned away. They aren’t needed: the seminary is full.

    It’s a Traditionalist seminary of course. 

  • scary goat

    Do you really want help or are you just going to trash whatever anyone says?  

  • Peter

    “From some crevice, the smoke of Satan has entered the temple of God”  Pope Paul VI 1972

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

    Yatta yatta yatta. 

    Very bad news if the Catholic Herald pages are being invaded by the intellectual worms of the militant atheist set and the Dawkins supporters club.

    They’ll be coming out with their “Bronze Age Sheep Herders” and “sky fairy” lines soon. 

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

    New paths, new possibilities, new faith?

    How very Vatican II.

  • scary goat

     LOL. Aww that’s mean.

  • Peter

    It is the most harmful because it leads souls unwittingly to damnation.

    We are aware of sins we commit, especially mortal sins, and we can seek to avoid them, but we are not aware of the sins of omission.

    We can go through life avoiding committing sins and think we are saved, but if we ignore the least of Christs’s brothers – not hurt them but simply ignore them – we are guilty of a grave sin of omission and will be damned.

  • Fides_et_Ratio

    I’m with tbittan I’m afraid. It’s a very silly way to behave. But I can
    live with silly. Its when a person starts to look down upon another
    group because of an activity which does them no harm whatsoever I get
    concerned.

    Where did you see “look down” here?

     

    This article didn’t take courage to write. It took cowardice. It took
    fear of the unknown, that somehow ones own beliefs might be so
    precarious that those of someone else could undermine them by their very
    presence. It’s a terrible thing, is cowardice and fear – because the
    closest thing I’ve ever seen to a goblin once said something very wise -
    fear leads to hate, and hate leads to suffering.

    You simply made that up.  Ms. Phillips said nothing about “fear of the unknown”. You simply imagined what might have caused Ms. Phillips’ worldview, and considered your imagination to be objective fact. It is not.

  • Oconnord

    err… it’s Yada, Yada….

    but the bad news of course is that, a correction like that, would make me an  intellectual worm who has just invaded the pages of the CH.

  • Fr. Thomas Poovathinkal

     
    1.SOME OF THE SOME BIG CHRISTIAN CHURCHES ARE FULL OF CLEVER MEN WHO ARE NOT TRUE APOSTLES.

    THIS IS WHY EUROPE IS  APPARENTLY LOST TO CHRIST THE LORD. WHAT HAPPENED TO EUROPE IS HAPPENING ALL OVER EXCEPT FOR THE WORD OF GOD BASED APOSTLES.

    2.”WHATEVER YOU DO TO THE LEAST OF MY BROTHERS, YOU DO UNTO ME”. SO VERY TRUE. HELPING THE POOR IS VITAL; THROUGH THEM JESUS THE LORD COMES TO US.

    ONCE A UNIVERSITY PROFESSOR IN NORTH INDIA, A HINDU BRAHMIN, JUST- GOING -TO -BE -RETIRED PROFESSOR OF ANCIENT HISTORY DEPARTMENT TOLD ME ABOUT HOW JESUS THE LORD APPEARED TO HIM ON THE ROADSIDE WHEN HE HELPED A MISERABLE LOOKING BEGGER. IT HAPPENED ABOUT ONE YEAR AGO – A LONG STORY.

    CHURCHES DOING BIG BUSINESS INVITE MANY SUB-STANDARD VOCATIONS TO PRIESTHOOD, AND ALSO TO OTHER FORMS OF FOLLOWING CHRIST.

    THOSE JOINING PRIESTHOOD FOR EARNING THEIR BREAD AND BUILDING THEIR HOMES NEVER GET PROMOTED TO APOSTLESHIP LIKE THE 72 (AND OTHERS TOO) WHOM JESUS SENT OUT TWO BY TWO TO PROCLAIM HIS WORD.

    ONLY TRUE APOSTLES CAN BRING SALVATION OF THE LORD TO THE LOST WORLD.

    APOSTLESHIP IS THE KEY – ITS PROMOTION IN ALL THE PEOPLE ARE OPEN TO  FOLLOWING CHRIST THE LORD. IN THE PRIMITIVE CHURCH EVRY CHRISTIAN WAS AN APOSTLE, DUE TO THIS FACT THE CHURCH WENT ON GROWING AND GROWING.

  • Fr. Thomas Poovathinkal

     ON BLOGS HE HAS MANY APOSTLES.

  • Another Pete

    For the benefit of Fides_et_Ratio this is where I see looking down. “Intellectual worm”?!

  • Another Pete

    No, she didn’t say anything about fear, but why would she? That was the distinct impression I got though. She didn’t like Yoga because it wasn’t Christian. There was nothing to back up her position as it being harmful, only that it wasn’t Christian. Not Christian equals bad, and the comments on this page have slowly equated “not Christian” into the work of Satan. And what is Satan if not something to fear and hate?

    Reiki is dragged into her argument for no other purpose than its something else which isn’t Christian (though of a completely different origin than Yoga) and perhaps it is easier to demonstrate that that particular practice serves no real purpose. There is no scientific evidence that Reiki works at all,  something Ms. Phillips alludes to in her description of the “ridiculous” stroking of her toes, whereas Yoga does have tangible benefits alleviating stress and helping posture for just two. Why take that away just because it comes from a different culture? What people do in their own geads during such a session is entirely up to them – if people want to use the time for praying too, then all the power to them.

  • JabbaPapa

    It is the most harmful because it leads souls unwittingly to damnation

    The most harmful is in fact the witting leading of souls away from God to damnation.

  • JabbaPapa

    What are you saying in your 2nd paragraph? Can I pray a Hail Mary while in the cobra pose? (Not trying to be funny.)

    Saint Mary can of course intercede with God to help protect you from the dangers of that pose :-)

    No, I’m talking about some specific regimens that deliberately attempt to imbue yoga with a “Christian” “spirituality” as a form of structured practice, taught to others. Can’t give any specific examples, it’s a long time since I read about these, and details are fuzzy — but such attempts have in fact been made.

  • Peter

    If a pastor encourages his flock to fund his own parish and ignore the poor, then that pastor is not only condemning himself to damnation but also his flock.

    That indeed is the most harmful situation of all, which is people who entrust themselves to a pastor in the hope of salvation are in fact led by that pastor to damnation.

    That is the most damaging of all.

  • C_monsta

    I’m guessing that JabbaPappa is just arguing for the sake of his bank balance

  • C_monsta

     I’m guessing they’ll hardly need their sky fairy/sheep herder lines once they find out that you believe in devils and demons Benedict

  • Adsum

    Vatican II, although inevitably imperfect in our mortal hands, is a result of the breath of the Holy Spirit.  Holy Church has discerned this – and thanks God for this gift. We need to be careful lest we are too dismissive in our reaction.  To reject the gift is to sorrow the Giver.  Yes, there are imperfections – of our making, but out-weighed by the fresh vision enabled by the Spirit. “How very Vatican II” Yes! New faith?  Faith of the Fathers regained.