Is Yoga okay for Christian Catholics?

I got an email from a reader:

... It was Yogananda who had me considering that the ancient Hindu scriptures were describing an ageless spiritual Truth that ultimately is the same Truth Christian traditions are pointing to  ...I find myself enjoying Bhakti Yoga as it reinforces my devotional attitude towards Christ / God – or Krishna (whatever label chosen). The asanas are good for keeping my lower back in place and the breathing / singular concentration good for deeper prayer or union (yoking) with God ... So – I was wondering if you completely shed the “yogic mantel” ... and have solely dedicated yourself to the path of Christianity as laid out by the Catholic religion or do you see the truth expressed in both... mutually exclusive or ultimately supporting the same deeper Truth? ... While I’m currently sure the concepts expressed in the Gita support my willingness to deepen my relationship with Christ – I know from past experienced I can be deluded even when I feel sure about a thing. You know – it’s the whole veil of delusion/ignorance within duality thing … it’s so easy to become caught up in delusion.

Are Catholicism and Yoga mutually exclusive?

I don't want to sound fundamentalist, but I think the short answer is it is inconsistent to have an authentic conversion experience to Christ, and persistently follow Yoga.
 
Although any philosophy can catch glimpses of the Truth, including many great perspectives that Yoga has to offer that are authentic snips of the Truth, I have to say that I'm grateful to have "shed the Yoga mantle" after following Swami Satchidananda, the founder of Integral Yoga for 4 years, almost moving to their town called "Yogaville", and considering becoming a sannyasin. My New Age testimony is here.
 
I think the evil one knows that we are drawn to Truth, and therefore entices us away from the fullest manifestation of the Truth, which is Christ and his Church, toward other disciplines that are very attractive and contain SOME truth. Every heresy has much truth in it. In fact it could be 99% Truth. A glass of orange juice can be 99% pure juice, and have only 1% arsenic, and still be deadly.

The founders of "Traditional" Yoga were seeking truth long before the birth of Christ, and were not sinning very bad when they meditated and experienced the chakras, meridians, etc, because they were on an honest search for Truth, and did so long before Christ and they didn't know that there was one God, and they didn't know about the Jewish people.

But Saint Thomas was in Southern India in 50-72AD and was martyred there in service to the Gospel that he preached in those regions. There were many converts, but the multi-deity philosophies of Hinduism persisted in most of India. These are incompatible with Christianity. In a post-resurrection world, it is a profound sin to persistently follow any path except that of Christ. And I'm not talking about "Christ-Consciousness" that New Agers flog, where they think anyone can achieve what he did. I'm talking about the resurrected man, Jesus Christ who IS God.

Within those other disciplines, a seeker's individual search for Truth might be honoured by God if they don't know better, but an authentic search for Truth always leads to Christ and his Church.

I know that western Catholicism can seem really superficial and stiff when compared to the organic feeling of Yoga. Of course the Church has had many failings, but underneath the surface of these cold stone Church buildings, is the richness of Christ in the Eucharist, and you need nothing else. Jesus knows every spiritual button in your body. There are some fantastic Christ-centred Catholic communities springing up, that blow the doors off the mysticism found in Yoga. Try a monastery.

What about just doing Yoga exercises?

Every Asana (position) in Yoga has a name, and each name is associated with its underlying philosophy, or deity. It's really tough to separate the philosophy from the exercise. Every Yoga class mentions dozens of heretical names, and concepts. This is a subtle and seductive link into the spiritual side of Yoga, even for those just wanting to do the exercise. The whole idea of an Asana (position) is to relax into it and open up emotionally and spiritually as the body relaxes. This comes to a head during the Pranayama (breathing) and meditation at the end of the class which opens the person up spiritually and is a gateway into the spiritual side of Yoga. Even without the Pranayama and meditation, the exercises are like a giant funnel guiding the follower toward a spiritually warped and flawed reality. In order for a Christian to maintain his or her identity, he/she would have to stiffen up and try to ignore or resist that pull, and that defeats the purpose of the "relaxation and strengthening" exercises.

For exercise, I recommend "core" exercises from the Mayo clinic, which is purely exercise, and not associated with deities, and is not taught in ashrams, and is not a gateway to a dangerous path the way Yoga is.

Also there is a Christian alternative to Yoga called Praise Moves http://praisemoves.com/

See also:
David's testimony of the New Age
Relativism
Vatican position paper on the New Age (opens to a new window)
In depth article on Yoga in Catholic Culture
The Catholic Church is totally into relationship and religion.

Lord Jesus, let Your prayer of unity for Christians
become a reality, in Your way.
We have absolute confidence
that you can bring your people together,
we give you absolute permission to move.
Amen