Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Yoga, Anyone?

When it comes to deliverance ministry, as far I can see, there is very little grey.   As the Church tries to live with various pastoral difficulties and reach out and tolerate, when it comes to the spirit world, the demons tend not to be so pastoral in their approach and use every opportunity, regardless of intention, cause or situation, in order to take up residence.   Many exorcists tend to be very black and white, certainly the ones I know, and I suppose this comes from having to work at the coal face knowing that pastoral niceties and subtleties don’t actually work when it comes to expelling a demon, only tough love and Christian integrity. 

That is why, when a person is being exorcised, or in the process of deliverance, they will be urged to live a sound Christian life, adhering to the Commandments – in particular the moral teachings of the Church, and have to attend the sacraments regularly – Mass every Sunday (at least – daily Mass is often recommended) and frequent confession.  Like a physical ailment, neglect to take the medicine and the condition will not only not heal, but in fact will probably get worse.   In terms of deliverance ministry, if one refuses to begin living a virtuous life then the demon will borrow himself (or themselves if there is more than one) in even deeper.  Hard things to hear, but experience has shown them to be true.

Why this reflection on deliverance?  Well I am prompted by a recent news story about a priest in Southampton, Fr John Chandler, who has banned yoga classes from the parish hall.  It goes without saying that the priest was absolutely correct: in charge of the property he has to ensure that no practices which are contrary to Catholic teaching go on there, and that is what yoga is. 

Now I may have a load of apologists on to me telling me that yoga is perfectly okay, it is purely exercise and many people benefit from it.  Well, people might like it, but does not mean it is sound.  As for it being just an exercise, well we need to remember that posture in prayer and meditation is important: yogic exercises have significance for a particular occult practice and they cannot be divorced from it.  Besides, when people practice yogic exercise there is a form of meditation and ritualistic breathing that goes with it and experience has taught that that opens people up to forces.  As one of its apologists said in response to the priest’s actions: “yoga is spiritual, not religious”: there it is: can you hear the warning bells? 

Yoga means “union” and it is orientated towards union with a force which some consider divine, and in that way achieve enlightenment.   The exercises are not just there to keep you fit and make your muscles supple, or help you relax, they are a means of attaining this union.  What we do with our bodies is significant – if I give someone the two fingers that sends a message – I might intend it to mean something different, but those who see the two fingers draw on the general understanding of the gesture and interpret it accordingly and correctly; I am the one who, in trying to reinvent the gesture, is mistaken, not them.  So too with yoga – the exercises and positions send a message and the force they are designed to invite in interprets them as they are to be interpreted.

“But surely, Father, if we approach it intending it to be open to God, then it’s alright?”  Well, no, you can approach a Ouija board intending to contact God and the angels, but that will not redeem it and the ones who contact you through it will not be God or the angels.  There are some things which channel forces not of God and regardless of good intentions they cannot be transformed into instruments of God.   Yoga is one of these, as is Reiki, Tarot Cards, fortune telling, “Psychics Live” and other New Age practices.  And if anyone should doubt me, talk to an exorcist or someone involved in deliverance ministry and they will put you straight.  Working at the coal face they deal with people who thought these practices were innocent, good, and they even benefited from them – for a while; but they opened a door and the forces they were dabbling with entered in, and soon enough they discovered that these forces were not as friendly as they first thought. 

Dabbling in the occult is contrary to God’s law and Church teaching, not only can they not be redeemed, but in engaging in them one is in rebellion against God whether one realises it or not.  The Lord will never bless such a rebellion, and so these instruments of the occult can never be used to come closer to God no more than one can say adultery can bring someone closer to their spouse.

So, if you are doing yoga, stop it and go to confession.  If you are engaged in Reiki or other New Age practices, stop it! Well done to Fr Chandler; he had the courage to take on what is becoming a serious trend, even among Catholics, one which is producing disastrous results.   Speaking just of Ireland, the few that are involved in deliverance ministry here are run off their feet dealing with cases, some of them pretty difficult, and many of them are the result of people practicing yoga, Reiki, fortune telling and other New Age practices.  They do not have enough priests to deal with them (there only a few priests in Ireland working in this area).  So pray for these dedicated people who work in silence at a hidden ministry which is demanding and dangerous. 


  1. Thank you, Father John. That is what we are starved of - clear, responsible direction from our spiritual leaders.

  2. Thanks Fr. John. I also agreed with what Fr.Chandler did. So many Catholic Retreat centres now unfortunately have new age retreats and even Shamanism which is of the occult. I just don't understand why people opt for these things when we have so many treasures in our Catholic Faith and the Presence of Christ in the Eucharist above all.

  3. From Teresa Tomkins

    Dear Fr. John,

    I was really heartened to read your recent blog, "Yoga Anyone" which set me thinking. However it was not until I read the various responses that I decided to reply.

    In the past I have been to a course of yoga lessons and thought at the time that it was relaxing but never had the discipline to continue with the practice. Your comments have made me at least consider how yoga may make a person vulnerable, by inviting spiritual influences into our lives, which may not be Christian. These influences could effect us in ways that we had never intended (a sort of happy ignorance).

    In recent years I have noticed, with some disquiet the increasing popularity of alternative therapies (including Reiki) being offered in parish centres. I have wondered if the Priests know or are concerned exactly what is offered to parishioners. Therefore I was glad to see you, Fr. John writing on this subject and lending your support to Fr. John Chandler of Southampton, England.

    When it comes to the spiritual realm it seems to me that many people are delighted to talk about angels and pray to them etc. (as I do myself to God's Holy Angels) However they can get quite upset if there is any mention of the devil or his insidious involvement in our lives.

    I believe that in writing this article you have endeavoured to share your well researched Catholic teachings and beliefs. I would like to commend you for this as there are few with your courage. Im sure it can be a lonely place - Jesus said "Feed my sheep". God bless you and pray continue.

    Rock on Fr. John!


  4. From Imelda Duggan

    Dear Fr. John,

    Wow! what a reaction Fr. - unbelievable. It is very sad that you who always treats every man, woman and child that you encounter with respect, dignity. empathy and kindness had to be subjected to such written abuse from the Christian community and even some "decent anonymous people".

    Wishing you God's choicest blessings.
    (you are certainly not getting them at the moment but they are on their way)!


  5. Thanks for your article,
    While you are right that Yoga is not a Christian practice (it is from Hinduism) and could it be at odds with the teachings of the Catholic Church, it is not true that it is a New Age practice, and it is dishonest of you to say so, given that the first archaeological evidence of yoga's existence in the scriptures of the Vedas, date from 3000BC. If you did some research into Yoga, or read up on it's philosophy texts, for example the Bhagavad Gita (circa 550BC), the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali (circa 200AD), and the Hatha Yoga Pradipika (circa 1500AD), then you would have something to back your opinion up on, which might be the reason why people responded so negatively to your article, however well intentioned you were, the article showed a lack of research and knowledge on your part.
    To me, terms such as demons and exorcists remind me of Hollywood Horror Films from the 80's and sound very New Age, whereas Yoga sounds like a Hindu physical practice and philosophy of life. Indeed the Yamas and Niyamas of Yoga are very similar to our ten commandments. I don't know much about Reiki or alternative therapies, but I wouldn't presume to comment on something that I haven't tried or know nothing about.
    Incidentally my aunt is a nun of the Presentation order and she is a Reiki Master, and I have another aunt who is a nun also of the Presentation order, and she practices Iyengar Yoga in a weekly class. Both aunts enthuse about their practices, but I've never heard them mention demons or exorcists.
    Thanks and keep up the good work,
    Kind Regards,