Yoga ‘incompatible’ with Christianity, Catholic center warns
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.