Monday, September 24, 2012

Catholics and Yoga

It’s not officially in the Ten Commandments but most people know it’s wrong to gatecrash someone’s wedding.  I’m aware, of course, there are some who find it harmless fun to sip bottomless fizzling Moscato pink champagne, dig into the rosemary chicken, finish off the raspberry swirled wedding cake, shuffle to We are Family next to tipsy ‘ole Uncle Ben, and bring home the exquisite souvenir hand-painted glass coasters (–or maybe they weren’t meant to be souvenirs?)

 But I’m not one of those.  And the day you’ll find evidence of me at an unknown bride and groom’s special wedding memories is the day you’ll catch me in a pretzel-yoga pose.
Yoga, I am told by the internet is for purposes of finding “healing, enlightenment and self-awareness”.  But according to Fr. Cristopher Crotty from the Fathers of Mercy, the poses of yoga (asanas) are prayer positions which trace its roots to finding union with and healing from a pagan Hindu goddess.    His take on Catholics and yoga is this:  when a yoga practitioner engages in the prayer-poses of a pagan religion (with or without knowing it), it is much like a person genuflecting before a tabernacle of Our Lord Jesus Christ (with or without knowing it.) 
Moira Noonan (former new ager/yogist revert to Catholicism) in her book Ransomed from Darkness, makes a point that mixing the Gnosticism of yoga (chakra energies and all) with Catholicism is the error of syncretism.  Fr. Gabriel Amorth, Chief Exorcist of the Vatican, warned that yoga is among the new age practices that open a gateway to the occult and demonic obsession and possession. Which is probably why the Vatican cautioned against Eastern religious practices in a document written by Pope Benedict as Cardinal Ratzinger.
Since I’ve never been to a yoga class and have no interest in signing up for one, I’m going to approach the question of “to-yoga-or-not-to-yoga” using what I do know about the Catholic religion. 
The history of genuflection, writes my Catechist instructor bloggie friend Gina from is as follows:
            “…lowering your gaze signifies humility in the presence of someone superior.  To conform your entire body to reflect the downward cast of your eyes highlights the significance of your humility that much more.  Thus, high-ranking leaders like kings, emperors and dignitaries required (by custom and law) that their subjects genuflect or kneel in their presence. 
“This reverence translated well into Christianity which was already rich in the tradition of showing humility courtesy of its Jewish roots.  It was (and still is in some customs) Jewish tradition to kneel before the Word of God to kiss the scrolls in order to show reverence to the Divine.  The Levites were also known to “fall on their faces” before God in the Holy of Holies in order to show humility and reverence while asking God for His mercy and blessings.  To this day, there are some Orthodox Jews who hold fast to the practice of full prostration in prayer to order their bodies after their hearts so that they can reflect the utmost humility before the Throne of God.
Thus, this practice translated into the first Christians kneeling to kiss the epistles of the apostles before they were read… to kissing relics… to kissing the rings of the bishops and popes in authority.  We Catholics do not simply stoop.  We are ordering our bodies after the humility in our hearts so that we can properly pay homage to the God of the Universe….

Also, this sign of humility is also a sign of subjugation. For example, way back when, high ranking officials in armies were given foot soldiers who served as human stools (for lack of a better term).  They would genuflect before their leader’s horse to allow themselves to be used as a stepping stool so their commanding officer could easily take to the saddle and lead a charge. 
When we genuflect before Christ in the Blessed Sacrament, we not only order our bodies after what’s in our hearts… we’re also offering ourselves to Him for whatever services He may ask of us.
So that, my friends, is why we genuflect upon entrance into a church.  That is why we kneel before the Blessed Sacrament during Adoration.  That is why the priest and ministers genuflect (or deeply bow) when crossing the front of the tabernacle.

            In essence, if I wanted to meditate, I’d genuflect at Eucharistic Adoration, and contemplate the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, regularly.  To find self-awareness, I’d examine my conscience, acknowledge my faults and kneel before the Confessional monthly. When I need healing, I beg the Divine physician in the Eucharist daily to heal my soul from all it’s sins and scars. “Peace, I give you,” said Jesus.  “Not as the world gives.”
Then I’d watch my diet: eat healthier foods, veer from the over-processed, hormone-induced and the unnatural. I’d fast on home-made bread and water or abstain from meat on Fridays to train my body to obey my spirit. Finally, to keep my body in shape, I wouldn’t pay to attend a worship service to a pagan Hindu goddess and imitate their poses.  I would spontaneously bike with my children, swim with them, push them on swings, carry babies on slings, hopscotch, twirl them in the air, scrub floors, rinse windows, weed the garden next to them, and even chase free-range chickens with them.  
But that, like they say, is just me.   And since I am no-one’s spiritual director, self-enlightenment guru or fitness instructor, you are free to choose which path to take without my condemnation.  I would hope though that if you are a baptized Catholic, you take your Church traditions and Sacraments as a clue to how God intended for you to practice contemplation, discover self-awareness/humility, find healing, and grow in wisdom and sanctification.
The way my Catholic eyes see it, the Wedding Feast of the Lamb is far more reverent, more beautiful and meaningful than a fun, sequined Bollywood party.  Or any fly-by-night trend imported and popularized by Hollywood.

Update:  Read this highly informative, eye-opening article on Catholic Lane.
Another great article by Patti Mc-Guire from Catholic Stand.

1 comment:

Gina said...

:) Thanks for the nod. As I already told you - this is a great comparison. I'd never thought of yoga much in the ways of aligning the body to match something deeper, but you're entirely correct.

VERY good food for thought. :)