In follow-up of our post several days ago, Boston Archdiocese Offers Yoga, we learned yesterday that the Boston Archdiocese is proceeding with the yoga class, despite concerns and complaints raised.
Below is the email message sent out by Vicar General, Msgr. Deeley:
Message: Dear Friends:
After listening to many of you after our Staff meeting on Tuesday, I thought I would follow up with this note so that we are all clear about what we are doing, and what is involved with the health and wellness program, including the yoga stretching technique. First of all, I want to thank all of you for your feedback regarding this initiative. I continue to encourage you to share your opinions and ask the questions you think are important, so that we can strengthen our ability to collaborate with each other.
I also want to acknowledge that there are definitely potential problems involved when Catholics engage in spiritual exercises involving the practice of yoga. The Holy See has articulated those concerns in two important documents which caution against using these Eastern Spirituality methods for prayer. As noted in the documents, Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on Some Aspects of Christian Meditation, issued by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith* and Jesus Christ The Bearer of the Water of Life, issued by the Pontifical Council for Culture and The Pontifical Council For Interreligious Dialogue**, the primary concern is the proliferation of various types of new age spirituality and erroneous forms of prayer.
While recognizing the dangers inherent in some spiritual practices of yoga, particularly those that incorporate eastern philosophy, we are in no way promoting a false religion, pagan worship, or narcissistic spirituality. What we are offering here at the Pastoral Center, quite simply, is a stretching and fitness routine for those who would find it helpful. This is one activity within a health and wellness program that we have developed for the Pastoral Center community. I am told that many good and faithful Catholics incorporate this simple and useful form of physical exercise into their workouts. This type of yoga is apparently also a common part of many physical therapy routines and can offer positive physical results.
This program is a voluntary one which will be held outside of work hours. Those who suggested it thought it would be a good way of gathering some people together for a common exercise as another means of building relationships within the Pastoral Center. It is a health and wellness program. Those who have chosen to do this do so in good faith and with good intentions. I hope they find it helpful.
I thank you again for your feedback. At the same time I encourage us all to be supportive of each other as we work together to serve the people of our Archdiocese.
Sincerely yours in Christ,
Msgr. Robert P. Deeley
That is what the Vicar General has said. BCI respectfully disagrees and takes issue with what he has written in more ways than time permits us to express today. Here are a few:
- If the archdiocese wanted to offer a ” stretching and fitness routine” then they should simply offer a “Stretching and Fitness” class that does not have any roots or connection to Eastern spirituality. There are hundreds of such classes offered in gyms, corporations, and non-profits across the country which are not “yoga.”
- That “many good and faithful Catholics incorporate this…exercise into their workouts” is not a reason to consider it right, appropriate and justified for the Pastoral Center to promote and encourage it. BCI is aware than many solid Catholics do yoga for fitness purpose, and each person has their individual reasons–rehabilitation from injury, arthritis, pain, etc. Several have written to BCI, and posted comments, and we know some Catholics on a personal basis who do yoga. One person who does yoga for health reasons commented on the health benefits but also said, I “have always found that on my lunch hour, daily Adoration and Mass — which the Pastoral Center offers IN HOUSE — to be by *far* more beneficial than the exercises.”
Each person, including good and faithful Catholics, has free will to make their own individual decisions. If you want to stretch doing yoga routines in your personal life, BCI is hardly in a position to stop you. But that does not mean that every single thing good and faithful Catholics do–BCI included–is consistent with the will of God or praising and glorifying God–or more important, necessarily appropriate for the Pastoral Center to be sponsoring and endorsing. Furthermore, we are aware that one of the two Pastoral Center employees who took their own lives in 2011 was a part-time yoga professional, so yoga, even in the Pastoral Center, is not without some controversy–justified or not.
- Beyond the spiritual concerns we raised in our last post and which many readers raised in comments, the NY Times reported a few weeks ago about a sexual scandal associated with yoga: “Yoga fans sexual flames scandal” (Feb 28, 2012)
- Beyond that, the NY Times also reported in January on some of the possible negative physical effects of yoga: “How yoga can wreck your body” (Jan. 8, 2012)
Regardless of all of the above, critics of BCI will say, “See, the Vicar General says it is just stretching and fitness–BCI has over-reacted. The Vicar General says yoga is fine.”
Before you comment and say that, consider doing a quick Google search on “stretching routine,” “stretching class,” or “stretching exercises” and see how many millions of results you get that do not have yoga as a part of them. And before you comment, do us a favor and answer this one question:
If the goal is just offering a “stretching and fitness routine,” why in the world would the Catholic archdiocese not just offer a “Stretching and Fitness” class such as those offered in gyms across the country that is free from any controversial connections to paganism or non-Catholic spirituality. Why not just offer an exercise class totally free from any spirituality, modernism, and the legitimate concerns raised in the Vatican documents referenced and by dozens of people who have written about their personal experience with yoga?
Regardless of the health and wellness benefits touted by the archdiocese as the basis for the yoga program, BCI maintains our position that the Eastern spiritual roots of yoga make it inappropriate for the Pastoral Center to offer.