Catholic faith and yoga? They're incompatible

EDITOR'S NOTE: At we do our best to pr0vide our readers with articles and materials that we feel are relevant to our everyday practice of our Catholic faith. This article below was originally published in May 24, 2007. As you can imagine, it generated some comments and questions from our readers who are practitioners of Yoga.

We invite you to read this article throughly - including the comments from our readers and from our Theology editors. Please share your thoughts with us. It is our hope that through this blog post we can enlighten you on the merits and pitfalls of the practice from a truly Catholic perspective. We also pray this article gives you a clearer guideline on what the Catholic Church teaches about the matter.

Blessings to you all. Enjoy the article below.

~ Wally Arida, Publisher and Editor in chief


Experts on cults and Catholic spirituality agree that yoga cannot be divided from its own spirituality.

FORT MYERS, FL., May 24, 2007 ( - As a Catholic contributor, I never write for human respect. If that were my purpose, I would have already curtailed writing. Because my intent is to speak the truth, I never expect a pat on the back. But I maintain it pleases me to learn that my work does not always fall on deaf ears. Like most Christian writers I have encountered admirers and detractors. The positive feedback has been rewarding, but one specific incident is prominent amid the others.

One morning while checking my message machine, I heard a female voice announce, “I’m searching for the woman who writes for Catholic websites.” From her amiable tone, I sensed she was not a detractor and I returned her call.

When I phoned her, she introduced herself and will be referred to herein as “Mary.” She indicated she had read some of my articles and wanted to ask a question about the “New Age” dilemmas prevalent in her hometown. Though Mary and I had just met, it was soon apparent our passions were considerably alike!

Next, Mary shared a very inspirational story with me. She had discovered that a nearby Catholic parish in Fort Myers, Florida, was offering Yoga classes in the Chapel that surrounded the main altar. Mary and a few friends including a relations manager from Relevant Radio, arrived at Pope John XXIII parish on the morning of February 5, 2007.

After arriving, Mary proceeded into the church and lightly sprinkled holy water and blessed salt in the church before the Yoga classes commenced. Then she entered the parking lot to distribute leaflets about Yoga, to approximately 25 women as they arrived for the classes. Mary reasoned the women probably did not understand the dangers inherent in Yoga and she wanted to offer guidance. While distributing the literature Mary was confronted by the Yoga teacher (the Deacon’s wife). The Yoga teacher told Mary, “I wish that you would leave Church property.” Mary in turn professed the same wish to the instructor.

A few minutes after the guru re-entered the church, Mary recited the Blessed St. Michael’s prayer and re-entered the church as well. She slowly opened the door to the Chapel and was horrified by what she witnessed. The Chapel was dark with the exception of a few dimly lit recessed lights. Mary thought, “I’ve never seen an aerobics class like this before near a consecrated altar.”


Please post a comment below after you have read the full story.


Kathy Saigeon said...

Hello Wally, I read your article about Yoga.

I respect the views of the author. I do not agree with them. Occult is real, for sure and can be dangerous. I believe and trust in our one Holy God the Father through Christ. I also am a big fan of Yoga. Several years ago the Vatican issued a 60+ page document on New Age Practices. In it, they concluded Yoga could be OK, as long as meditation was directed in Christian thought. The paper used to be posted on their web site- may be it still is available.

The Vatican paper concludes and makes a distinction about keeping our true heart for Christ as the Living Water, and how that can permeate and cleanse current culture and even ancient practice-such as Yoga. The Christian evangelist might use such activities to teach. It would be a real service to the Kingdom to create meditation and prayers that a teacher could use in Yoga, consistent with Christian values and belief. That priest had people in the church, in your article. A great moment of teaching could have been to welcome and embrace their quest to find their creator and know him. It could have been a time to gently teach the sacredness of the Catholic altar, and how it is reserved for only certain acts. The fellowship room might be better for their class. Yogi’s are taught to respect and honor all of the peace-loving faiths of the world.

Blessings to you for keeping your newsletter relevant.

Thank you.
Kathy Saigeon Theology Editor said...

Kathy: thanks you for your sincere expression of faith. In the next few paragraphs will express its position regarding Yoga and its relationship with the Catholic Church. You will find that our position differs from yours, based on the teachings of the Vatican document which you mentioned and first and foremost with a comment about a statement of yours.

Before we venture into the document from the Vatican, wishes to point out that you yourself have made an argument that places Yoga at odds with the spirituality of the Catholic Church. You say that the priest could have taken the moment to teach the members of the class the sacredness of the Catholic altar and how it is reserved for only certain acts.

The Catholic Altar is the symbol of the New Covenant between God and His People as delivered to us by His Son Jesus Christ. The Catholic Altar presides over ALL Catholic acts, not just certain acts. If an act, ritual or not, is performed by Catholics as a Catholic act worthy of its source, Jesus Christ, it may be performed before the altar. Yoga teachings are not Catholic Acts, ritual or not, which are worthy of the spiritual teachings of Jesus Christ. They are therefore not to be performed before the altar in the house of the Lord. Because they are not Catholic Acts, they should not be supported and abetted by official agents of the Catholic Church (Bishops, priests, seminary directors, etc. )who should be presenting the teachings and the spirituality of Jesus Christ alone to His disciples.

You remind us that Yogis are taught to respect and honor all peace-loving faiths of the world. Let us remind you that the Catholic Church teaches all its people the same thing. The Vatican document that you alluded to without naming it does in fact saY that there are several positive elements of Yoga that can and should be respected. This does not mean that they can be accepted by Catholics. The Catholic Church is always very careful to adhere to its teaching that nothing in this world is either totally bad or totally good. It therefore makes it a point to name the positive elements of all things non-Catholic. This does not indicate acceptance and permission to Catholics to adhere.

The following few lines will present the position of the Vatican Document, "Jesus Christ the Bearer of the Water of Life" dated February 3, 1003.

This is not a document from the infallible fount of Catholic Teaching. It is a document that has been presented to the Holy See for its consideration. These are the central points that it makes:

1. Even if it can be admitted that Yogic religiosity in some way responds to the legitimate spiritual longing of human nature, it must be acknowledged that its attempts to do so run counter to Christian revelation.

2. Some of the traditions which flow into New Age are: ancient Egyptian occult practices, Cabbalism, early Christian Gnosticism, Sufism, the lore of the Druids, Celtic Christianity, mediaeval alchemy, Renaissance hermeticism, Zen Buddhism, Yoga, Esotericism and so on.

3. Yoga may well be one of the signs of a “return to religion”, but it is most certainly not a return to orthodox Christian doctrines and creeds.

4. Yoga teaches the perfectibility of the human person by means of a wide variety of techniques and therapies (as opposed to the Christian view of co-operation with divine grace).

5.Yoga teaches that there is no alterity (separateness) between God and the world. Christianity teaches that God and His creatures will always be separate.

We could go on for a long time analysing the Vatican document, but the bottom line will remain that Yoga spirituality and Catholic spirituality are mutually exclusive. Yoga finds its sources in ancient eastern and Asian theosophies and Catholicism has one Source, the Personal God Creator who is our creator and our perfector because of His eternal love for us. Everything that makes us more and more perfect comes as an unconditional gift from Him, and not because of the refinement of our human efforts through pratice and control of our human being.

Kathy, you are right. The document can be found at It does say that Yoga and New Age have some positive elements. But, nowhere does it say that it can serve as a complement to Catholic spirituality.

We thank you for your comment. And we hope we have shed some light on this topic. God's blessings be upon you.

Paul Dion, STL Theology Editor

Anonymous said...

Nice article. Actually enlightening! Thanks for drawing the line. With the so many modern beliefs being spread now, a strong emphasis and conviction on our Christian faith is very timely.

ParishWorld Theology Editor said...

By Paul Dion, STL, Theology Editor

Let me start by quoting from this Feb. 3, 2003 Vatican Article on New Age and Catholic Faith:


February 3, 2003

1.4. The New Age and Catholic Faith

"Even if it can be admitted that New Age religiosity in some way responds to the legitimate spiritual longing of human nature, it must be acknowledged that its attempts to do so run counter to Christian revelation. In Western culture in particular, the appeal of "alternative" approaches to spirituality is very strong. On the one hand, new forms of psychological affirmation of the individual have become very popular among Catholics, even in retreat-houses, seminaries and institutes of formation for religious."

"Even if it can be admitted that New Age religiosity in some way responds to the legitimate spiritual longing of human nature, it must be acknowledged that its attempts to do so run counter to Christian revelation."

"An adequate Christian discernment of New Age thought and practice cannot fail to recognize that, like second and third century Gnosticism, it represents something of a compendium of positions that the Church has identified as heterodox. John Paul II warns with regard to the "return of ancient Gnostic ideas under the guise of the so-called New Age: We cannot delude ourselves that this will lead toward a renewal of religion. It is only a new way of practicing Gnosticism – that attitude of the spirit that, in the name of a profound knowledge of God, results in distorting His Word and replacing it with purely human words."


The article and the comment that published last week about Yoga have caused some questions to be raised. The comment that was published used as its sole source the document that is named and some parts of which are quoted at the head of this comment.

What published is a straightforward, orthodox position that defines the Catholic Church's teaching about Yoga for many centuries. ParishWorld sees no reason why it should walk away from this tradition.

That being said, we further clarify that defined its position following the strict definition of Yoga as being a centuries old spirituality that tends to make humans strive to be one with the divine forces of the universe. This is incompatible with the Catholic spirituality which encourages human beings to respond to the love of the Father Creator, Master of History, through the grace of faith.

This is the difference between Yoga and other New Age movements and Catholicism. Catholics therefore, should not give themselves over to the
practice of Yoga.

What are some of the questions we received from you our readers?

1. "Yoga and New Age methods are just ways to relax, so what's wrong with that?"

It has to be said that every word has to be defined. When you get right down to it there are Catholics who could be mistaken for pagans, too. So Yoga in its pure definition is more complicated than learning a series of gyrated physical positions meant to promote relaxation.

2. "I'm Catholic, I'll know when Yoga is no longer simple physical positions."

That is the insidious part of the practice. It is difficult to know when the line has been crossed from innocent body positions to spirituality of another kind. It is not always easy to know just how close to get to the flame before the fire takes hold. Reread the quote in the first paragraph.

3. "So do I have to stop frequenting my "Yoga" class at "24 Hour Fitness?"

That's between you and God. You might not be in front of a true Yogi at "24 Hour Fitness". Is there one in your future? Maybe yes, maybe no. Only you can tell.

4. "Even if it is an alternative spirituality, in the spirit of ecumenism I should be able to participate, right?" has an article about ecumenism in another section of this week's edition. There it is said that ecumenism is not to be mistaken for equilateral participation in other spiritual systems. In ecumenism we do not
give up our Catholic identity and dogmatic convictions in favor of another system or organization.

5. ?That doesn't sound very welcoming."

Ecumenism is based on respect and seeking of unity. It is based on cordial relations the ones with the others. It doesn't require total welcoming. It requires total respect.

Lenora Grimaud said...

I realize that this is a very long letter, but I hope you will indulge me by reading it. I have been studying the document, "Jesus Christ The Bearer of the Water of Life" for several months, so I want to make it clear that I agree with you, in that Catholic faith is incompatible with Yoga. However, I was very disturbed by the course of actions taken by the woman, “Mary” at Ft. Meyer.

It appears that the world is much more adept at evangelizing Christians than Christians are at evangelizing the world. Why is that? Could it be that we lack the one indispensable ingredient—the love of God? St. Paul warns us that knowledge of the truth is not enough—without love we are nothing; merely a “noisy going.” If I have the gift of prophecy, understanding all the mysteries there are, and knowing everything and if I have faith in all its fullness, to move mountains, but without love, then I am nothing at all. (1Cor.13:2). It is not enough to have the truth, we must live it. We are all prone to sin and need to discern what our true motives are—whether our ego is moving us to do something, or whether it is the love of God—the Holy Spirit. If we are motivated by our ego, we are not living the truth, and not motivated by the Holy Spirit. St. Paul counsels Timothy: a servant of the Lord is not to engage in quarrels, but has to be kind to everyone, a good teacher, and patient. He has to be gentle when he corrects people who dispute what he says, never forgetting that God may give them a change of mind so that they recognize the truth and come to their senses, once out of the trap where the devil caught them and kept them enslaved. (2Tim.2:24-26).

Click here to read the entire letter