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Yoga: Harmless Exercise or New Age Sex Cult?

Lyn-Tally-CC
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Recent expose of Bikram yoga founder prompts questions.

Is yoga rooted in the demonic?  Some say yes, while others say it’s merely an Eastern religion. To make the demonic connection automatically puts the naysayer in the light of fanatic. But even if it’s nothing more than an ancient religion, how should Catholics view it? Is it harmless physical exercise when just the stretching is used?

There is another, very surprising aspect behind those stretches. Yoga’s historical roots as a sex cult was reported in an article in New York Times this year.

Reporting on a sexual scandal of a well-known leader in yoga, the Times reported that the frequent scandals common among yoga devotees should come as no surprise.
 

Yoga teachers and how-to books seldom mention that the discipline began as a sex cult – an omission that leaves many practitioners open to libidinal surprise.

Hatha yoga – the parent of the styles now practiced around the globe – began as a branch of Tantra. In medieval India, Tantra devotees sought to fuse the male and female aspects of the cosmos into a blissful state of consciousness.

The rites of Tantric cults, while often steeped in symbolism, could also include group and individual sex.

Yoga is offered far and wide from gyms to schools and church activities. Isn’t it going overboard and becoming a troublemaker if we object to the practice of Yoga?  But even in a yoga class where you evaluate it as mere stretching and balancing, are you astute enough to understand any and all terms that might be thrown out there in languages you don’t understand?

Looking at an excerpt from The Power of the Serpent, it’s easy to see that you could unwittingly participate in a class without understanding what is really taking place.  Do you know what it means to pierce the Six Centres or regions (cakra) or Lotuses (padma) of the body?  I don’t, but based on what I know, I think we should abstain. Here is an excerpt from the book:
 

The power is the Goddess (Devi) Dundalini, or that which is coiled; for Her form is that of a coiled and sleeping serpent in the lowest bodily center at the base of the spinal column until by the means described She is aroused in that Yoga which is named after Her. Kundalini is the Divine Cosmic Energies in bodies…” 

Does it strike you as odd that the author capitalizes pronouns “she” and “her” when referring to this serpent?  A footnote on the page explains, “Devi is Bhujagi, or the Serpent.”  So if your yoga instructor mentions Bhujagi during class, will you recognize the serpent being called on? Many people like exotic, exciting things.  Different languages and cultures are interesting but yoga is not like a trip to a Chinese restaurant.

In Fr. Mitch Pacwa’s book, Catholics and the New Age, he describes Yoga as the general category of various kinds of Hindu disciplines meant to unite a person with the divine. He states: “Yoga can refer to physical (hatha) mental (raja) sexual (tantra) or other discipline to achieve enlightenment.” Fr. Pacwa’s book was written to alert Catholics of new age influences that hamper Catholic practices and traditions. It is highly regarded and is cited in the magisterial document Jesus Christ Bearer of the Water of Life: A Christian Reflection on the “New Age”.

On the Catholic Answers website, a mother wrote wondering what her response should be to Yoga being practiced at her daughter’s Catholic elementary school during religion class.  Here was their response:
 

Particular physical exercises that are common to yoga and that help improve one’s health are perfectly fine. The problem is when a Christian participates in non-Christian Eastern spirituality. If your church is sponsoring an exercise class, it should call it simply an exercise class and omit confusing and possibly scandalous terminology such as yoga. If the church is sponsoring classes in non-Christian Eastern spirituality that is a serious problem that should be discussed with the pastor.

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