Some Christians think that yoga can help them grow spiritually. But is it possible to combine yoga and the Christian faith?
It starts out the same as with Christian prayer: there’s a desire to break with a superficial, scattered, and disillusioned life and find peace and meaning. In both cases, there’s a great desire for the Absolute. But right at the beginning of that interior journey, the routes diverge. In Eastern techniques, it’s all about retreating more and more into oneself, through one’s own efforts, until a sort of fusion with All is felt. In this practice, there’s no room for “the other.” You are more and more centered on yourself and you alone. With Christian prayer it is the opposite: the goal is an encounter with the Other, with God who comes to us.
A serious risk for confusion
That’s the big difference between a natural mysticism, which relies solely on natural means and leaves us alone with ourselves, and a supernatural mysticism that turns me to a personal God, who offers Himself to me in a dialogue of love. In Eastern techniques, I am the master of my interior life, while in Christian prayer, it is God. What’s more, Eastern techniques aim at the absorption of the “I” into the great All, while a relationship with Christ respects my otherness: Christian prayer is a communion, not a fusion.
Of course, techniques that arise from a natural mysticism—such as Eastern meditation techniques—can lead to very powerful experiences. But that has nothing to do with the supernatural peace of the Holy Spirit. There is a great risk of confusing the serenity born of some breathing exercises or certain postures with the real presence of the Holy Spirit. It’s a risk to take seriously for it can lead to a dead end and distance us from the goal of a personal encounter with the living God that reveals Jesus Christ to us.
Father Joseph-Marie Verlinde
If you’re reading this article, it’s thanks to the generosity of people like you, who have made Aleteia possible.
Here are some numbers:
- 20 million users around the world read Aleteia.org every month
- Aleteia is published every day in eight languages: English, French, Arabic, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Polish, and Slovenian
- Each month, readers view more than 50 million pages
- Nearly 4 million people follow Aleteia on social media
- Each month, we publish 2,450 articles and around 40 videos
- We have 60 full time staff and approximately 400 collaborators (writers, translators, photographers, etc.)
As you can imagine, these numbers represent a lot of work. We need you.
Support Aleteia with as little as $1. It only takes a minute. Thank you!