Friday, January 22, 2010

Yoga and Pilates - honoring non Christian gods?

I just read an interesting blog which said that Christians should not do yoga because "every posture is designed as a position of worship to a Hindu god!" Aside from the fact that Hindus have been monotheists for centuries i.e. students of comparative religions tell us that Hindus kind of morphed into monotheism - their God is considered a tri-une God - God the Creator, God the Preserver and God the Destroyer - we should probably take a moment to clarify this issue of doing yoga or pilates etc.

First of all, if we think of it, many common practices can be traced to pre Chirstian times - even those we use in our sacred liturgy like lighting candles for example, and didn't they kneel in pre Christian times? Does that mean by kneeling in church we are honoring a pagan god because kneeling was a posture, originally designed to honor pre Christian deities?

Secondly, many customs we enjoy to celebrate Christian holidays come from pre Christian customs. For example the Christmas tree, that we all love - that comes from the practice of decorating a tree for the drunken debauchery known as "Saturnalia". Santa Claus who bears little to no resemblance to the Catholic Bishop, St Nicholas, is actually, a variation of the Norse god, Thor, who wore a red suit and rode around the sky in a chariot pulled by goats and dropped gifts down the chimneys of "good" children, at Saturnalia time. Also true of the Easter Bunny (and Easter eggs) and more. All of these customs are things we could omit from our celebrations without any medical or physical repercussions but far as I know, most Christians would not feel like Christmas without the decorated tree -- even the Vatican has a Christmas tree. And although we have not put up a Christmas tree in our home for many years, I did very much enjoy the exquisite decorations we had in our parish this year which included several Christmas trees.

I can see where a Christian might not want to do the meditational part of Yoga i.e. the "OM" mantra's etc. But then, I suppose if one were to use that as a launch into a prayer meditation about Our Lord, that might be ok also. I like to do the Divine Mercy Chaplet when I'm doing yoga.

This isn't an original idea with me. There is a physician, Dr Anne who practices a form of TAI CHI combining it with signing the words (deaf sign language) of the Divine Mercy Chaplet. I've done this with the DVD (she is a devout Catholic - this physician) and it's a very touching prayer experience.

Fact remains, medicine recognizes Yoga as an EXTREMELY healthy practice to maintain muscle tone, avoid contracture and even to treat or minimize arthritis (see for example, Arnot, Bob, MD "WEAR AND TEAR",NY 2001, in which he points out that studies have suggested that in countries where folks do Yoga, knee replacement surgery is almost unheard of).

As a person who does yoga 4 times a week or more, I can attest to the fact, that it's a very healthy practice. I don't take a class but I have watched classes on TV to learn the poses. I have a routine I do which takes about 15-20 minutes depending on how long I hold each pose.

Catholics are often accused of "formal idolatry" (worshipping statues) when we pray the "Hail Mary" but the bottom line is that few if any folks, even folks who belong to non theist religions, practice formal idolatry any more today. However, as I point out to those who thus accuse Catholics, "Practical idolatry" i.e. considering money or career or a person more important than God, is COMMONLY practiced in our society today and yet, while being so fearful of "formal idolatry", Christians are seldom even warned about "practical idolatry".

Apparently those in the early church even Jesus' disciples may have been confused about things which is probably why Jesus told us in Mark 7:14-15 " Nothing that enters one from outside can defile that person; but the things that come out from within are what defile."

In other words, with neutral things like Yoga, Pilates etc, it may be true that "it's not what ya do but the way that ya do it!" :)

God gave us all these things to enjoy. And practices like Yoga and Pilates, besides being wonderful for the physique, can also SIGNIFICANTLY reduce stress, which medicine has long recognized as a prominent player in all types of illness and heart disease.

This sounds more to me like being nice to our "Temples of the Holy Spirit" which IS honoring OUR God.

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