'Christians Must be Vigilant': Kerala Catholic Body Stirs Row After it Says Practising Yoga is Unacceptable

The guidelines issued by the Kerala Catholic Bishop Council said that although some might claim Yoga to be secular, Christians should be careful that they are not embracing another religion.

Thiruvananthapuram: Almost a week after the fifth celebrations of the International Day of Yoga, the guidelines issued by Kerala Catholic Bishops Council (KCBC) have triggered a debate on the religious implications of yoga.

“Though it may be claimed that it is secular, Christians must be vigilant against the fact that they should not be embracing another religion (Hinduism in this case) while practising meditation,” cautioned the guidelines prepared by the Theology Commission of KCBC, six months ago. It, however, suggests that Yoga can be practised for a calm and peaceful life.

“Religious practices which do not accept the fact that Christ is the path to salvation are not acceptable to Christianity. It is Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who sacrificed himself on the Cross, who is the only path to salvation,” reads the 27-page guideline. “Chanting prayers of other faiths and meditating on religious icons of other faiths by Christians while practising yoga is undesirable and unacceptable," reads the guidelines which was made public a week ago.

It is a non-issue, said Sr Infant Tresa, a Catholic nun, who is practising yoga for the 35 years.

“I started practising Yoga when I was 34 as I was suffering from wheezing and back pain. In 1985, I met a yoga guru who came to the institution where I was studying. I told him about my health problems. He advised me to do yoga and taught me to do it. I began to feel better after doing yoga. I also got relief from both the illnesses. I then decided to make yoga a part of my life. Nobody advised me against it,” said the sister who started Nirmala Teacher's Training Yoga Centre at Muvattupuzha in Ernakulam district following her retirement from the state health services.

The nun’s students, numbered in 5000, come from all walks of lives. “There are doctors, priests and nuns. I am taking classes to students from Seminary as advised by a Bishop. If you take it religion-wise, there are Hindus, Muslims and Christians, said Sr. Tresa who manages two centres which offer five courses on Yoga under Tamil Nadu Sports University at nearby towns Moovattupuzha and Thodupuzha.

According to Sr Tresa, perhaps the only one of her kind to teach yoga, a person's religious belief has nothing to with the practice of Yoga. “I spent a month in Bangaluru to learn yoga. It was a Hindu Ashram. However, it did not affect my religious belief. Nothing can touch your belief as long as it is deeper," she said.