Christian Yoga and John Paul II’s Theology of the Body


According to rabbinic tradition, the first commandment God gives Adam and Eve in the Garden is to have sex: Pru vehravu, “be fruitful and multiply.” It’s little wonder then that Christian theology has pondered for centuries the place that human sexuality and bodily existence have in God’s plan for the universe. On the one hand, anyone familiar with the Jewish testament knows that sexual attraction (and sexual sin) permeate virtually every book. What’s more, two centuries of crusading secularism has exaggerated Christian pruddery in the early centuries of Christianity and in the Middle Ages.

On the other hand, it’s also true that the monastic movement that led to so many cultural and educational achievements in the West did tend to emphasize the negative aspects of human sexuality and bodily existence — if only because vowed celibate monks and nuns inevitably saw sexual feelings as temptations to be avoided at all costs.


Into this tangled history stepped the late pope John Paul II. Raised by his widowed father in Poland during the nightmare of World War II, Karol Wotylwa was a working man, athlete and actor before he became a Catholic priest and a philosopher. His experience with young married couples during his early years as a pastor — combined with his in-depth study of early 20th century phenomenologists — allowed the young priest to see the sexual embrace and life in the body in an entirely new way: as quite literally a way to God.

When he was elected pope, John Paul delivered a remarkable series of 129 lectures during his Wednesday audiences on what has become known as the Theology of the Body (TOTB) — a very traditional, very radical teaching on human embodiment and sexual attraction that papal biographer George Weigel has described as “a kind of theological time bomb” that will have dramatic consequences …perhaps in the twenty-first century” (Witness to Hope, 343).

John Paul’s argument, in essence, is that both secular libertines and Christian pruddery have missed the point. Human beings are radically, essentially physical. Human beings are not “ghosts in a machine,” as Descartes described it.

In a dramatic way, the entire Christian understanding of the incarnation means that Christians are and must be “pro-sex” and must celebrate the body generally. I would even say that Christians take the body at least as seriously as the devotees of most religions, including even Hinduism. The doctrine of the bodily resurrection reflects the Christian belief that we are our bodies — that if we are to survive death then it must be a physical survival. A disembodied spirit would not be a human being.

In the Baghavad Gita, Krishna teaches Arjuna the exact opposite of the Christian view of our essentially bodily natures:

As a man discards his threadbare robes and puts on new, so the Spirit throws off its worn-out bodies and puts on new ones… The Spirit in man is imperishable.

While Christianity agrees with the Gita (and with yoga!) that there is an imperishable, immortal essence of the human being, which, for lack of a better word, the west has traditionally called the “soul,” it does not agree that the physical body is merely incidental to that essence — something that can be “thrown off” for a new one.

Rather, in the Christian view, we are embodied spirits or spiritual bodies — and thus it is our bodies themselves that are (or will be) immortal. Thus, the Christian hope is even more absurdly optimistic than people give us credit for: We actually believe that we will live forever… in glorified “resurrection” bodies, not as disembodied spirits. I’ve never been the least scandalized by those radical yogis who claim that yoga can lead to physical immortality of a sort or at least extreme longevity: it seems perfectly plausible to me given the Christian revelation.

That is why St. Paul tells the (male) Corinthians that they should take good care of their bodies and not defile themselves with prostitutes — and why Christian practitioners of yoga celebrate the body and do what we can to maintain good health. That is also why Pope John Paul II, in his teachings on the Theology of the Body, emphasized how incarnate human beings come to God in and through their bodies — and that sex, far from being inherently sinful, is actually a way to God. In John Paul’s teaching, sex (for non-celibate “householders”) is a sacrament (a “sign”) of divine presence because it is the preeminent example of that spiritual intimacy that is the birthright of all human beings.

Evangelicals Try Yoga with a Twist

April 6, 2011 by  
Filed under Yoga

Christians stand on mats at a church hall, stretching their arms to the heavens and bending to their toes. They lay their palms on the floor, the soles of their feet perfectly flat. Chants spill from a stereo.

It looks as though the group is doing a yoga pose called Downward Dog – but it isn’t. Group members, who meet weekly in Roanoke, bend into postures they call the Tallit, not the Big Toe, and the Dove, not the Pigeon.


They are participating in a program called PraiseMoves, not yoga.

The name changes are a subtle indicator of the sometimes tenuous relationship between the Eastern discipline of yoga and Western religions. While many Christians have practiced yoga for years, some Christian leaders have denounced it as pagan and demonic.

“Everybody has their own path that they have in terms of their spiritual journey, and my point of view is that I would want everybody’s path to eventually merge into the Christian path,” said Nancy Harvey, who leads the PraiseMoves group at Huntington Court United Methodist Church in Roanoke. “But it’s not my judgment to make one way or the other.”

To read more of this article, click here.

A Beginner’s Guide to Christian Yoga

January 17, 2009 by  
Filed under Christian yoga, Relaxation, Yoga

Many people are crazy about yoga. The reason most people practice yoga is that it makes them feel better and feel more in shape. The different poses and postures make their body flexible and healthy. Yoga for most is the best natural way to relax and unwind. If you are interested in keeping your body
in shape, this might be the best exercise for you.

Did you know that yoga could help fight certain illness that may come your way? There has been research that proved yoga helps you to control anxiety, reduces asthma, arthritis, blood pressure, back pain, multiple sclerosis, chronic fatigue, epilepsy, diabetes, headaches, stress, and more.

Yoga has a lot of benefits and advantages. All in a day’s work, it can reduce tension and stress. Of course, after a heavy day, you will feel that your muscles have been stuck up and you will feel wasted.

If you do practice yoga, you may see an increase in your self-esteem. It is important to gain confidence so that you may face people without worry. Yoga is good for the body in increasing your muscle tone, strength, stamina, and flexibility. If you are too heavy, or conscious about your body shape, yoga can help you lower your body fat and help you stay in shape.

Yoga exercises can also burn excess fat and give you the desired figure that you want.

If you need time to relax and forget your responsibilities, then yoga will be good for improving your concentration and can enhance your creativity. Yoga helps you to think positively because it can help keep you free of your anxieties. If you have a fresh mind, you can easily think good thoughts.

Your body needs to relax often. Sometimes, at the end of the workday, you an feel exhausted. After some of the hardest days, we may not find time to unwind because troubles at work are still on our mind. Yoga helps you to clear your mind and create a sense of calmness and well-being.

Yoga exercises help you improve your blood circulation. Your organs and veins need to be exercised for them to function properly. Yoga can help stimulate your immune system, which can help keep you free from diseases.

Some people practice yoga to get enlightened. They believe that yoga will help them lift their spirit and keep them relieved. Yoga works differently for people, be it spiritual, emotional, psychological, mental, or physical.

Many people think that yoga is only for spiritual, or religious, people. But that myth is wrong. Even if you are not religious, you can do yoga. You will see and feel the difference, and at the same time find out how it works for you.

Due to the pressure and demands of life, we are stressed out and forget the essences of our lives. We tend to lose touch with the ones we used to spend time with, even ourselves.

We find ourselves rushing most of the time with deadlines and hassles at our jobs. This leaves us little time for our minds to wander and have that physical awareness.

These are a few things that yoga can provide. Occasionally, dedicate some time to relax and unwind, which only yoga can do.

Article Source:http://www.wearticles.com

If You Want to Start Practicing Yoga, Here’s What to Do!

December 21, 2008 by  
Filed under Beginning Yoga, Yoga

Yoga has been practiced for thousands of years in India but it has taken the attention of the west only in the late 19th century. Before it became popular, people in the United States thought that yoga was a mere peculiar activity invented to distort the body to come up with different positions for some strange reasons. Even until now, some people are still skeptical about yoga and refuse to undertake it. Sad to say, these people do not know the benefits they are missing.

If there is anytime that is best to begin a yoga practice, it is now. There are so many reasons why it is important for you to relive your life this very instant and yoga can be that ultimate solution.

First things first, not all myths about yoga are true. To set things straight, yoga is not a completely religious practice so you could set aside the religious issue right at the start. Yoga is also not about mind over body; it is about their “unity”, which is in fact the literal translation of the word “yoga” itself. The practice is not about repetitively reaching your toes as many times as possible; it is about proper breathing and mental focus while maintaining a certain position. There is nothing superstitious about it. In fact, modern science has already long confirmed the benefits of practicing yoga and the list becomes longer as more researches are being conducted year after year on the benefits of yoga.

Yoga is not only an art and a science. It is a lifestyle, an exercise, a therapy, a preventive cure and a medical treatment all rolled into one. Yoga is a complete way of living that can improve your life and you as a person. It is the perfect physical and mental therapy to have the most blissful life you once thought you could never experience. That is why beginning yoga now will bring you that much closer to reaping the benefits of the practice as early as possible.

Yoga has a many physical benefits to offer. It increases the flexibility of the joints, tendons and ligaments of the body. It also tones your body absent the dreadful lifting of weights. The most apparent effect of yoga on the body is loss of weight that is why yoga is also a popular exercise. Yoga is in fact the most holistic form of exercise. It exercises those body parts that are not consciously worked out upon even by gym addicts.

Another revolutionary advantage of practicing yoga is its health benefits to the body. It massages and stimulates all organs of the body. It in effect becomes the perfect preventive measure to avoid diseases, including the life-threatening ones. By becoming more attuned to the body and what the body is telling you, some yoga practitioners have also attained a heightened awareness to impeding illnesses. Yoga also detoxifies the body because all the stretching makes the blood circulate to every part of the body, so every part of the body gets the right amount of oxygen supply. In fact, it has been known to relieve or improve different kinds of medical conditions like high blood pressure, asthma, diabetes, arthritis, heart diseases, varicose veins, obesity, respiration problems, body pain and chronic fatigue. Of recent, researchers have found incredible effects of yoga on HIV-diagnosed persons and the benefits are truly promising.

Most of the prevalent diseases in urban areas originate from a common problem and that is stress. Yoga can help to alleviate stress that work or school may bring you. It also has other mental benefits such as reducing body tension and boosting self-esteem. It increases self-awareness, focuses attention and relaxes, calms and clears the mind. It is because it allows the mind to concentrate on the self and the body, which brings about positive effects including improvement of mood and attitude to a better you. As a whole, it brings your emotions into equilibrium, giving you a more positive disposition in life.

But the truth of the matter is that these are mere “side effects” of the real benefits of yoga. Yoga makes you learn more about yourself, your mind and your body. It will give you a sense of enlightenment, where every inch of you meet in a dimensional space where everything is ecstatically immaculate. Its goal is to fuse every part of you, the physical, mental, intellectual and spiritual levels. In fact, it is no secret that yogis are generally happy people with a zest and appreciation for life.

The world is a busy place. Busy people usually live a routinary life that sometimes, they forget to take care of themselves. In fact, modern day diseases are mostly caused by lifestyle and work. Most people who acquire these illnesses are too busy to exercise and give time to themselves. To become a better person, you must act on it and the best time to do that is right now.

Change your life by changing your lifestyle and the best beginning could be through the practice of yoga. So, before saying “no”, try giving yoga a shot and you may realize that it is the final answer you have been unknowingly searching for all along.
Article Source:http://www.wearticles.com

Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Yoga Therapy and a Return to Eden

I just finished reading Leo Damrosch’s magisterial 2005 biography of Jean-Jacques Rousseau (Jean-Jacques Rousseau: Restless Genius) and I’ve been thinking a lot about how Rousseau’s vision ties in neatly with what Christian Yoga is all about. (Full disclosure: My wife hates Rousseau because he forced his lifelong mistress, Therese Levasseur, to give up their five children to foundling homes and then had the temerity to instruct women on why they should breastfeed their children and raise them according to his precepts.)

Rousseau, born in Switzerland in 1712, was basically a professional vagabond and loafer who ran away from his home in Geneva at the age of 16, was almost entirely self-taught, and who earned his living through menial jobs, copying musical manuscripts and writing books that both titillated and outraged most of Europe. Rousseau’s basic argument is that “civilization,” far from being an engine of progress and advancement, is actually a corrosive, even destructive force. Read more

Anthony De Mello and Christian Yoga

demello1.jpgAnthony de Mello, SJ, was a famous Jesuit priest, psychotherapist and seminar leader who sought to fashion a “Christian spirituality in Eastern form.” Anyone interested in Christian Yoga should definitely check out his many books — especially his seminal and fascinating text, Sadhana: A Way to God.

He was born in Bombay in 1931 into a large Portuguese Catholic family whose ancestors were converted by the early Jesuit missionary St. Francis Xavier. He attended a Jesuit high school and joined the Society of Jesus in India in 1947. Following a typical Jesuit course of studies that included philosophy in Spain, theology in India and psychology in the U.S., De Mello was ordained a Jesuit priest in 1961. Read more

What is Yoga Anyway?

February 1, 2008 by  
Filed under Hatha Yoga Pradipika, Patanjali, Yoga

Yoga is a system of physical postures, breathing techniques, and meditation exercises that promote bodily health and mental control and well-being.

Yoga is an an ancient spiritual path, originating in India but also practiced and refined in many places in Asia, including Tibet, that aims to achieve the union of the individual with the Supreme Consciousness that lies at the very heart of reality itself. A practitioner of Yoga is called a Yogi (male) or Yogini (female). Outside India, yoga is mostly associated with the practice of asanas (postures) of Hatha Yoga or as a form of exercise.

The majority of practitioners of yoga outside India are primarily interested in improving physical health and flexibility. The ultimate goals of Yoga for the spiritual inclined range from reaching liberation from all suffering to extended longevity.

In Indian philosophy, Yoga is the name of one of the six orthodox philosophical schools. The Yoga philosophical system is closely allied with the Samkhya school. Unlike Buddhism, classical Yoga is theistic and realist in its metaphysics. Many Hindu texts discuss aspects of yoga, including the Vedas, Upanishads, the Bhagavad Gita, the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, the Shiva Samhita and various Tantras.

Classified by the type of practices, the major branches of yoga include: Hatha Yoga, Karma Yoga, Jnana Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, and Raja Yoga. Raja Yoga, established by the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, and known simply as yoga in the context of Hindu philosophy, is one of the six orthodox (astika) schools of Indian thought.

The Sanskrit term yoga has many meanings. It is derived from the Sanskrit root yuj, “to control”, “to yoke”, or “to unite”.[5] Common meanings include “joining” or “uniting”, and related ideas such as “union” and “conjunction.” Another conceptual definition is that of “mode, manner, means” or “expedient, means in general”.

The Indian sage Patanjali is widely regarded as the founder of the formal Yoga philosophy. The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali are ascribed to Patanjali, who, as Max Müller explains, may have been “the author or representative of the Yoga-philosophy without being necessarily the author of the Sutras.”

Patanjali’s yoga is known as Raja yoga, which is a system for control of the mind. Patanjali’s writing also became the basis for a system referred to it as “Ashtanga Yoga” (“Eight-Limbed Yoga”). This eight-limbed concept derived from the 29th Sutra of the 2nd book became a feature of Raja yoga, and is a core characteristic of practically every Raja yoga variation taught today.The Eight Limbs of yoga practice are:

(1) Yama (The five “abstentions”): nonviolence, truth, non-covetousness, chastity, and abstain from attachment to possessions.
(2) Niyama (The five “observances”): purity, contentment, austerities, study, and surrender to god
(3) Asana: Literally means “seat”, and in Patanjali’s Sutras refers to seated positions used for meditation. Later, with the rise of Hatha yoga, asana came to refer to all the “postures”
(4) Pranayama (“Lengthening Pr?na”): Pr?na, life force, or vital energy, particularly, the breath, “ayama”, to lengthen or extend
(5) Pratyahara (“Abstraction”): Withdrawal of the sense organs from external objects.
(6) Dharana (“Concentration”): Fixing the attention on a single object
(7) Dhyana (“Meditation”): Intense contemplation of the nature of the object of meditation
(8) Samadhi (“Liberation”): merging consciousness with the object of meditation

They are sometimes divided into the lower and the upper four limbs, the lower ones being parallel to the lower limbs of Hatha Yoga, while the upper ones being specific for the Raja yoga. The upper three limbs practiced simultaneously constitute the Samyama.

In the west, the type of yoga best known and most widely practiced is hatha yoga, a system of physical exercises, stretches and postures. Hatha Yoga is a particular system of Yoga described by Yogi Swatmarama, a yogic sage of the 15th century in India, and compiler of the Hatha Yoga Pradipika (a “bible,” of sorts, of hatha yoga). Hatha Yoga is a development of — but also differs substantially from — the Raja Yoga of Patanjali, in that it focuses on shatkarma, the purification of the physical as leading to the purification of the mind (ha), and prana, or vital energy (tha). In contrast, the Raja Yoga posited by Patanjali begins with a purification of the mind (yamas) and spirit (niyamas), then comes to the body via asana (body postures) and pranayama (breath). Hatha yoga was greatly influenced by the esoteric system of thought known as Tantra and marks the first point at which the concepts of energy centers (chakras) and a mysterious evolutionary bodily energy known as kundalini were introduced into the yogic canon. Compared to the seated asanas of Patanjali’s Raja, yoga which were seen largely as a means of preparing for meditation, hatha yoga also marks the development of asanas as full body ‘postures’ in the modern sense.

Hatha Yoga in its many modern variations is the style that most people actually associate with the word “Yoga” today. Because its emphasis is on the body through asana and pranayama practice, many western students are satisfied with the physical health and vitality it develops and are not interested in the other six limbs of the complete Hatha yoga teaching, or with the even older Raja Yoga tradition it is based on.