Can Christians Practice Yoga, Catholics Ask

Published 24 October 2017  |  
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A debate on the practice of yoga by Christians reemerged in Mumbai after a church in Andheri started yoga classes in its premises.

Yoga is a larger term for a wide range of exercises. Yoga provides physical fitness, mental well-being, and spiritual help, some physical educators have said.

After church in Andheri offered yoga courses in its premises, some Christians wanted clarifications: "Is yoga fine as an exercise and are we not supposed to go beyond that?"

Fr Charles, the head priest at the Andheri church, said, "I have no views on yoga, but in our parish we are offering (yoga) courses to senior citizens. There have been no objections to the courses and I have not received any complaints."

Early this month, Vice President M. Venkaiah Naidu inaugurated the two-day 'International Conference on Yoga for Wellness' in New Delhi. He said, "Yoga has nothing to do with religion. Some people unfortunately attribute religious overtones to this ancient scientific system. Those who do this are causing immense harm to humanity."

Fr Joe Pereira, founder and managing trustee of Kripa Foundation, a group that helps people with drug addiction said, "The church in India has never looked at Yoga as wrong."

"It is a fundamentalist view," he added.

Yoga has been adopted and practiced by various groups, but not everyone. Among Christians, the practice of yoga has received mixed responses. While most of the church run institutions, including a drug de-addiction centre in Mumbai run by a Catholic order, use yoga as a part of the therapies, others have opposed it.

Some Christians believe that yoga has to do with the unity of the human mind with supernatural power, a practice which is against the Bible. "We are taught to pray outward to god, whereas yoga asks its practioners to look inward," said a church member, according to Hindustan Times.

In August, the Nagaland Baptist Church Council (NBCC) had asked Christians in Nagaland to abstain from practicing yoga, saying it is "a spiritual and physical discipline deeply rooted in the religious beliefs and practices of Hinduism, and hence it is not compatible with Christianity."

"Any form of meditation, philosophical thinking and transcendental meditation tied to any religion, contrary to Christian world is viewed seriously by church," said Zelhou Keyho, general secretary, NBCC.

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