Is Yoga Okay for Catholics?

It’s a hot topic among Catholics today—can a practicing Catholic, in good conscience, practice yoga? Whenever the question arises, people tend to dig in their heels with their firmly rooted convictions. Depending on whom you ask, the answers can vary from “it’s harmless” to “it’s absolutely forbidden!”

Fr. Richard Simon recently addressed this controversial question on Father Simon SaysTM. If you’re confused by the mixed messages, like Luz was when she asked this question, see what Fr. Simon had to say.

“I will give you my point of view—I think the stretching is fine. However, there are people who say even the yoga positions are named for Hindu gods and you’re invoking them,” he explained.

In true Fr. Simon fashion, he broke down the meaning of the word behind the popular fitness trend. “The word yoga is related to the English word yoke or the Spanish word yugo. You know, you’ve got a yoke on an ox, and that’s important because you’re yoking yourself to some god.”

Man stretches outdoorsThere’s nothing wrong with stretching and strengthening one’s body—in fact, physical fitness is great—but you might want to be leery of yoga classes. Many include meditation, prayer, and spiritual philosophies that are not compatible with Catholicism.

“If you can kind of do stretches that are yoga-esque, that’s fine, but you’ve got to be very careful when you go to a yoga class because there are some people who are really into the yoga thing,” warns Fr. Simon.

“If there is a definitive declaration that yoga is forbidden to Catholics, I would love to hear it, but I have never heard that,” he continued. “But on the other hand, it makes me nervous.”

Since the Church doesn’t have a decisive teaching on it, it’s up to you to use your best judgment. But as you do so, consider that many clergy warn against it. Bottom line from Fr. Simon: it’s not worth the risk.

He counseled Luz: “Stretching is great but when you go into some yoga class, you never know what you’re getting into. I would come down on the side of, I’ve got enough trouble; I don’t want to risk that.”

If you’re looking for a replacement for yoga in your fitness routine, there are several Catholic alternatives to try that replace Hindu poses and meditation with Christian prayer and exercise.

Listen to the full segment:

Tune in to Father Simon SaysTM weekdays at 2-3pm ET / 11am-noon PT only on Relevant Radio®.

Lindsey is a wife, mother, and contributing author at Relevant Radio. She holds a degree in Journalism and Advertising from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Lindsey enjoys writing, baking, and liturgical living with her young family.