Yoga ‘in­com­pat­i­ble’ with Chris­tian­ity, Catholic cen­ter warns

The Daily Star (Lebanon) - - LEBANON - By Ti­mour Azhari

BEIRUT: The Le­banese Epis­co­pal Com­mis­sion for So­cial Com­mu­ni­ca­tion Thurs­day warned Chris­tians against prac­tic­ing yoga, ac­cord­ing to a state­ment from the or­ga­ni­za­tion.

The state­ment was is­sued by the Catholic In­for­ma­tion Cen­ter, a sub­di­vi­sion of the com­mis­sion.

“The spir­i­tu­al­ity of yoga is in­com­pat­i­ble with the spir­i­tu­al­ity of Chris­tian­ity and this is con­firmed by [a Vat­i­can re­port] from 2003, which stated that the be­liefs of the new age, in­clud­ing yoga, are in­com­pat­i­ble with Chris­tian faith,” the state­ment read.

The doc­u­ment ref­er­enced a state­ment made by Catholic bishops in 1989, which warned against “mix­ing Chris­tian and non-Chris­tian modes of med­i­ta­tion, in­clud­ing tran­scen­den­tal med­i­ta­tion,” and said the “Church rec­om­mends that be­liev­ers avoid prac­tic­ing yoga and ev­ery­thing re­lated to it.” The com­mis­sion could not be reached for clar­i­fi­ca­tion be­fore print. Its state­ment comes one day be­fore Beirut’s third an­nual Yoga Fes­ti­val takes place at the Beirut Hip­po­drome.

The Syn­di­cate of Yoga Teach­ers in Le­banon was formed in 2015 in an ef­fort to, among other things, de­bunk var­i­ous mis­con­cep­tions about yoga and de­fine the dis­ci­pline.

“Due to the opac­ity of the judg­ments on yoga today, the Syn­di­cate of Yoga Teach­ers in Le­banon finds it nec­es­sary to clar­ify the ba­sics of yoga in its prac­ti­cal, ob­jec­tive and philo­soph­i­cal di­men­sions,” a state­ment on the syn­di­cate’s web­site said.

“Yoga is a plat­form for di­a­logue and tol­er­ance, it de­serves re­spect con­sid­er­a­tion and knowl­edge,” the state­ment added.

Ac­cord­ing to the syn­di­cate’s head, Carla Moukarzel, yoga as many prac­tice it today is gen­er­ally no longer at­tached to its re­li­gious ori­gins. “[The type of yoga we prac­tice] has noth­ing to do with re­li­gion, nor with sport for that mat­ter, it’s a dis­ci­pline of life, it’s a state of be­ing,” she told The Daily Star.

“We could not place a dis­ci­pline that is thou­sands of years old, that emerged three cen­turies be­fore Je­sus Christ was born, crudely into the 21st cen­tury [in its orig­i­nal form], it’s not log­i­cal,” she said. “Al­though yoga stems from a long tra­di­tion, it has to be per­ceived today through a 21stcen­tury lens. Though it was linked to Hin­duism, the mod­ern trends of yoga have no re­li­gious im­pli­ca­tion.”

‘The mod­ern trends of yoga have no re­li­gious im­pli­ca­tion’

Moukarzel added that many Chris­tians and Catholics prac­tice and teach yoga.

“We have a sem­i­nar Mon­day evening with the pres­i­dent of the French yoga fed­er­a­tion and a phi­los­o­phy pro­fes­sor from a Catholic cen­ter in Paris, and our sem­i­nar will be held in a con­vent,” Moukarzel said.

“There is noth­ing to fear, with yoga we are go­ing in­side of our­selves, to our core,” she added.

Founder of the Beirut Yoga Fes­ti­val Dalal Harb told The Daily Star that the fes­ti­val has grown since its launch in 2014 and ex­pected high turnout this year, as per pre­vi­ous years.

“[Our theme] is very straight­for­ward, trans­par­ent and con­sis­tent. Since 2014 it’s been “Khod Nafas” (Take a breath), which is a Le­banese ex­pres­sion to tell a per­son who is in an ag­gra­vated state of mind to calm down and just take a breath and leave room for di­a­logue,” Harb said.

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