Practicing yoga has been proven to have significant health benefits — reducing stress while enhancing strength and flexibility.
But for one Catholic college in Kansas, those positives can’t mitigate the risk of “eastern mysticism” that comes with the fitness and meditation practice.
Benedictine College has recently banned yoga classes due to worries within the Catholic Church.
“Yoga as created has some potential for eastern mysticism which has caused concern among members of the Catholic Church,” Stephen Minnis, the college’s president, told the campus newspaper.
“[Kansas Archbishop Naumann] has expressed his concerns and the issues surrounding that. We asked ourselves if there was a way to bring those yoga benefits to our students and faculty without the possible effects of eastern mysticism and are currently investigating other alternatives.”
Starting in the fall 2017 semester, courses involving “stretching and breathing” will be renamed “Lifestyle Fitness.”
Though yoga has been around for many millennia and is commonly practiced by people spanning the religious spectrum, its roots in Hinduism frightened Kansas Catholics.
John Riley. the chancellor for the Archdiocese of Kansas City, said that Christians should try Pietra Fitness instead — which is basically doing yoga while praying to Jesus.
“One cannot regularly practice yoga without some spiritual effect,” the Pietra website claims. “Therefore we recommend that Christians stop the practice of yoga and seek alternatives consistent with Christian philosophy and spirituality.”
One of the instructors at the school firmly objects to the move.
“I have a moral objection to taking something that people spent thousands of years working on and calling it something else,” Julie Romano said. “I don’t see a conflict in yoga and Catholicism and I don’t see why we should call it something else to appease others.”
The mental effects of yoga are half of the benefit, she said. Why would you want to strip those away?
“Especially on this campus,” she added. “People should be confident enough (in their faith) to know that a pose isn’t going to open you up in any way to other powers.”
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