Ask a Franciscan

What Is the Church’s Teaching on Yoga?

Q: Last May, Christopher Heffron’s article “Holistic Care: Treating Mind, Body and Spirit,” cited the benefits of yoga. Speakers whom I greatly respect have said that Catholics should not do yoga or Pilates™. Does the Catholic Church allow this?

A: Although some Catholics consider yoga as “New Age” because of its pre-Christian origins in Hinduism, the Catholic Church has not forbidden it because it does not require a single religious meaning. Pilates™ is an exercise program, not a religious statement. Indeed, there are agnostics and atheists who use yoga and/or Pilates™ to improve their breathing, posture, coordination and concentration.

Yoga began among people who believed in many gods and had no contact with God’s revelation contained in the Bible. When Catholics meditate and pray, they do so as members of a faith community that recognizes Scripture as the word of God and that celebrates the sacraments given to us by Jesus.

Possible misuses of yoga and other non-Christian forms of meditation and prayer are addressed in the October 15, 1989, “Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on Some Aspects of Christian Meditation.”

That document cites Vatican II’s Declaration on the Relationship of the Church to Non-Christian Religions that the Catholic Church “rejects nothing of what is true and holy in these religions” (#2). I think most Americans who use yoga or Pilates™ do so for exercise. There is nothing wrong with that.

Ask a Franciscan


4 thoughts on “What Is the Church’s Teaching on Yoga?”

  1. What is the only approved apparition in the United States and what makes something approved by the Roman Catholic Church? In order for true worship to occur does there need to be sacrifice such as we have in the Roman Catholic Church?

  2. I practiced yoga for 28 years, even became certified to teach but always felt conflicted about it, in Truth, dedicating so much time to the practice and development and workshops and retreats. -a lot of the yoga philosophy and spiritual practices that go along with it as well as the deities associated – in truth learning about those things took me away from my Christian/Catholic spirituality which has so much richness. If I was studying or learning or being open to all of the yoga philosophy, it was inviting other areas of spirituality that weren’t Jesus. Weren’t the Holy Spirit. Weren’t God the Father. I think there’s a fine line between practicing an exercise and embracing another spirituality that takes you away from Christianity. Especially if you are a Luke warm Catholic.

    It was beneficial for mindfulness and for exercise and stretching. But you have no way of knowing what the teacher is planning to teach you when you are in a vulnerable position (savasana) and you are open to suggestion.

  3. I have known no other God except the Christian God. If Yoga is religious I personally dedicate it to this God and therefore cannot be said to worship another. But I see no religion in Yoga.

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